Evolution

Technological Evolution Prize Competition — ANNOUNCEMENT

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Comment #2 is the winning entry. It’s the closest to what I was looking for, though it’s still a long way from the indirect Darwinian pathways that supposedly led to the highly integrated molecular machines of the sort described by Michael Behe. Most of the entries focused on evolving a structure to improve a given function. The point of this exercise, however, was to document evolutionary pathways in which functions and structures change over time. I awarded the winning entry $150.

Biological evolution is supposed to describe a gradual process that can produce marvelous adapations from simple precursors (e.g., the mammalian eye from a light-sensitive spot). But what about technological evolution? In the history of human technology, what is the longest chain of gradual changes that transforms one system into another.

I’m not talking about hypothetical histories in which it is imagined how some final piece of technology might gradually have evolved from simpler precursors (for such a bogus hypothetical history, consider John H. McDonald’s evolving mousetrap: go here — McDonald is responding to Behe’s use of the mousetrap as an example of irreducible complexity).

I’m talking about an actual history of invention in which an initial technology does A, and then a small change allows it to do B, after which a further small change allows it to do C, after which co-opting an existing system (without extensive modification) allows it to do D, etc. The evolution of a motorcycle from a motor and a bicycle is not a good example in this regard because the motor and bicycle require extensive design-work to adapt them to each other.

Thus, I’m looking for

  1. An actual case study from the history of human invention.
  2. At least five steps in the specific case of technological evolution being proposed.
  3. Each of the steps must be gradual in the sense that no extensive change of the immediately succeeding system(s) was required (in the case of co-option, no extensive retooling or adaptation of parts was required).
  4. At least five contestants.
  5. Example of technological evolution must be submitted as comment to this blog entry by December 1, 2005. (Note that a simple link to another webpage is sufficient.)

If these conditions are satisfied, I’ll award a prize of not less than $100 and not more than $1000 (the amount will depend on how interesting I find the winning sequence). Note that I am the sole judge.

63 Replies to “Technological Evolution Prize Competition — ANNOUNCEMENT

  1. 1
    cogzoid says:

    If things like a motorcycle from a motor and a bicycle are not allowed, then what types of things are allowed? Any examples of things you’re looking for? It seems that most human inventions involve alot of design-work. “Invention is 99% perspiration…”

    [I’m not saying they’re not allowed. I’m saying I’m uninclined to give them a cash prize. Show me what you’ve got. I’m clearly trying to see how close technological evolution can get to something like Darwinian evolution. –WmAD]

  2. 2
    earthenvesselmz says:

    I have an entry for you:

    http://www.walkfaithsline.com/?page_id=11

    WINNING ENTRY:

    The Evolution of the Stagecoach

    original item: pumpkin

    (people put food on top of large pumpkins to keep it off the ground–okay, it’s a stretch, but it’s the only creative license I’ll take, I promise)

    -co-opt- (man notices that pumpkins rot, and boards don’t–at least, not as quickly–so he replaces the pumpkin with a board, which he holds on his lap)

    balance board on a stump (more stable)

    balance board on two stumps (even more stable)

    attach board to stumps (more durable)

    replace stumps with pairs of sticks (lighter)

    –MAJOR SPECIATION EVENT– (dinner table diverges from potter’s table)

    -change in function- (specialized for a certain function, so you don’t have to clean your workbench off at dinnertime)

    POTTER’S TABLE (WHEEL)

    reduce number of legs (allow for easier turning when making large pots)

    remove corners (keeps them from hitting the potter)

    add second wheel (allows turning with feet, increasing effeciency)

    –MAJOR SPECIATION EVENT– (wheel and axle diverges from potter’s wheel)

    -change in function- (a man moves his potter’s wheel, and decides that when he turns it on its side, it is a lot easier to move than, say, his basket of grain, even though the wheel is heavier)

    WHEELS AND AXLE

    add handles to axle (allows person to put weight across the handles for transport)

    add platform to handles (allows more variety for cargo, and better load distribution)

    add sides to platform (allows more cargo, cargo doesn’t fall off)

    cut holes out of wheels (reduces weight, increases moment of inertia, allowing the wheel to keep rolling longer)

    -co-opt- (a man is tired of pulling his own cart, so he makes his donkey do it, probably riding the donkey at first, and holding on to the cart himself)

    attach a rope to the donkey (probably doesn’t make the donkey happy, but you don’t have to ride him any more)

    replace the rope with a harness (better donkey performance, due to greater comfort)

    attach another cart (allows for more cargo, better stability)

    consolidate the handles of the two carts (even better stability)

    consolidate the two platforms (we’ll call them a “cart” now, and this allows for more cargo as well)

    replace holey wheels with spoked wheels (better load bearing)

    add a bench to the cart (allows the man to ride on the cart, rather than walking or riding on the donkey–better comfort, more secure cargo)

    add a canvas top to the cart (allows all-weather transport)

    exchange the donkey for a horse (more power)

    change canvas top to hard wooden top (better all-weather performance, and your cart is now a coach)

    add metal straps to the joints in your coach (more durable)

    -co-opt- (steal the design of the door from house-builders, to let people and goods in and out of your coach more easily, and better secure the goods inside)

    –MAJOR SPECIATION EVENT– (cargo vehicles diverge from passenger vehicles)

    add more benches (allows you to take people more comfortably)

    put blankets on the benches (even more comfortable)

    staple blankets to the benches (more durable)

    put fabric over the rest of the inside of the carriage (more attractive, meaning people will now pay you to ride in your coach)

    cover the windows in your coach with glass (better all-weather performance)

    oil the wood (lubricates joints, preserves wood, makes the whole thing more attractive)

    This leaves us with a rather nice stagecoach.

    In a sense, we have followed the full historical evolution of the pumpkin to the stagecoach

    In the historical sense, we’ve gone from the table to the stagecoach (intermediate steps are all documented, though the order I have them in is almost certainly a little off, and may even vary from place to place depending on the materials available), but I figured that as long as I’m going for a stagecoach, I might as well start with a pumpkin.

  3. 3

    Intelligent Design Scholar Putting His Money Where His Mouth Is

    My guess is that it’s going to be very hard to find such an example. As an engineer, I can tell you that oftentimes, mechanisms, contrivances, and entire systems are conceived whole and functional in the designers’ head.

  4. 4

    Don’t know if this comes anywhere close to fitting the bill for you, but here is a lurch at it 🙂

    1. Lawn edger.

    2. Lawn edger becomes weed whacker c. 1971.
    “In 1971, George Ballas sought a better way to trim around the trees in his yard. After visiting an automatic car wash and noticing how the bristles stood out straight as they swirled, Ballas had a brainstorm. He went home, found a tin popcorn can in the trash, punched holes in it and inserted knotted fishing line to simulate the car wash bristles. He then attached the string-and-can to his rotary electric edger and tried it. It worked.”

    3. The weed whacker was first used for light duty trimming, but quickly evolved to heavy brush with the addition of a saw blade.

    4. Users quickly realized the need for a shoulder harness, to avoid strain.

    5. The rigid drive shaft was replaced with a flexible shaft by Echo in 1977, allowing the mower head to parallel the ground.

    6. First trimmers used individual, short pieces of string.

    7. Spool added to head, user still had to stop machine and manually pull string from head.

    8. “Bump-N-Go” head introduced.

    9. Automatic feed head introduced which relies on the centrifugal force of the string to initiate feed with no user intervention. (hah!)

    10. Standard color coding introduced, corresponding with string diameter – blue, green, and orange.

    11. The first weed whackers had few safety features. A guard was added to the part of the head facing the user to improve safety, and functionality (the guard doubles as a string cutter.)

    12. Hose and bag added, allowing the cooler impellers to double as a vacuum.

    13. By directing leaves and small brush through sharpened impellers, the weed whacker can also serve as a mulcher.

    14. Wheels added to weed whacker, see picture here: http://www.popularmechanics.co.....3&c=y

  5. 5

    I think I might have found what you’re really looking for here:

    http://www.history.rochester.e.....index.html

    A HISTORY OF THE GROWTH OF THE STEAM-ENGINE.
    by
    ROBERT H. THURSTON, A. M., C. E.,
    PROFESSOR OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING IN THE STEVENS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, HOBOKEN, N. J.; MEMBER OF INSTITUTION OF ENGINEERS AND SHIPBUILDERS OF SCOTLAND, ASSOCIATE BRITISH INSTITUTION OF NAVAL ARCHITECTS, ETC., ETC.

    NEW YORK:
    D. APPLETON AND COMPANY,
    549 AND 551 BROADWAY.
    1878.

    http://www.history.rochester.e.....pter1.html

    It’s a fairly detailed record of the evolution of the steam engine. It’s an old book and it details the evolution of the steam engine from Heron in ancient Greece to the locomotives of the Northern Pacific railroad.

    For $100 I’d write a small essay and incorporate more sources for you and give you publication rights.

    I started taking notes here:
    http://www.geocities.com/normdoer/EvoInvent1.htm

    Try link later if it doesn’t work yet.

  6. 6
    Charlie says:

    The mimicry of biological evolution exhibited by my television, in six steps
    #1 I purchased a wonderfully complex television capable of receiving over 50 channels of programming in 1989 .
    #2 The channel selector failed in 1997 and my television adapted itself into a discriminating receiver, accommodating only one channel. (the remote, or clicker, to the layman, had been lost several years earlier due to disuse)
    #3 In 2000 the picture tube went out, and my discriminating receiver evolved into a radio.
    #4 When the power cord was severed in 2003 the radio became an end table/spare change caddy.
    #5 Selection pressures caused the end table to migrate to the porch where it filled an empty niche and became a archaeo-doorstop – until November of 2004.
    #6 Competition posed by a newer, more streamlined doorstop (an iMac with a fried hard-drive) once again forced the migration of the one-time complex television – this time to the curb. A department of sanitation worker, after receiving a severe poking from the vestigial antenna, refused to have any further contact with the television cum radio cum end table, etc.
    It has since further mutated into a full-time eyesore and sometime garbage stand.

  7. 7

    Charlie wrote: “The mimicry of biological evolution exhibited by my television.”

    That’s only natural selection, not evolution.

  8. 8
    James Taylor says:

    The Toilet.

    The first archeological information on toilets was the Roman toilet where running water ran below benches.

    Later in England the toilet was improved by adding a flushing mechanism to reduce the need for a large volume of constant running water.

    Later again, a small bend was made in the outflow pipe to trap sewer gases.

    The flush mechanism was then greatly improved and viola the modern toilet.

    But why stop there, the modern toilet was still inefficient about water usage, so the low-flow toilet was invented and used less than half of the water of its precursor.

    Currently, the Japanese are improving upon the current design with more innovation and technology such as a heated seat, built in bide and various other modernities.

  9. 9
    jayinbmore says:

    1. Stick
    2. Club
    3. Spear
    4. Combine with grass to make a fence

  10. 10
    James Taylor says:

    The clock

    The first archeological evidence for measuring time are sundials found dating back to Ancient Egypt.

    A second more effective attempt to measure time orginated in the water clock developed in ancient Greece necessitated by the need to keep time at night.

    Later entrepreneurs realized a need for less messy time keeping and so developed a mechanism which works fundamental the same as the water clock, but utilizes weights and counterweights instead.

    Later again, enterprising technologists realized that the same potential energy required for the gravity clock exists in a wound spring so moved to the smaller compact mechanism found in mechanical clocks.

    Still later, once physicists established that quartz resonates at a known frequency, the time keeping mechanism was altered to work off the oscillations of the crystal and the potential energy was supplied by a battery.

    Now, more branches of the time keeping mechanism have taken root and now we have atomic, kinetic, spring driven, gravity driven, quartz, water clocks and the lowly sundial which are all used for specific purposes.

  11. 11
    curtrozeboom says:

    Software is the example you are looking for.

    Software evolves by slight mutations which are then selected against in various enviroments. Successful mutations succeed and are seen as released versions of the product. These undergo even more selection in the “real” world scenarios their purchasers subject them to, through bug-reports.

    Obviously, there are some aspects of software design that do not fit the analogy. Life doesn’t have a test/release/maintenance cycle (don’t we wish?) But that aspect can be ignored for this example. Also, there is the argument of human beings coding for an express purpose and introducing sub-systems wholey formed differing from evolution’s purposelessness and gradulism.

    However, changes introduced to a system are still random with respect to the environment they are tested in and they can be random with respect to the original purpose of the product (Software engineers like to call it feature-creep).

    Bug fixes tend to fill the bill of gradualism being at work as they can involve very slight, but important changes. And sometimes fixing a bug for one OS causes another one in a different environment in the same way that mutations can cause an organism to become more/less fit for differing enviroments.

    There is also a development method called “Agile” development which takes a more gradual approach to introducing new features in order to allow the test-phase to select out newly introduced bugs.

    I don’t know if you want 5 examples from actual software products or if software development would only satisfy as one example, but you can find plenty of examples of this sort of process at work in the open-source community (i.e. Linux/GNU). I suspect my use of technical jargon may need to be refined further in order to meet your expectations, but if this analogy interests you, that can be done.

  12. 12
    James Taylor says:

    The Gun

    The first incarnation of the gun (a variant on the bow but to be simplistic assume gun is defined as gunpowder-powered) appeared in China around thousand years ago. It launched tiny arrows fitted with gunpowdered filled bamboo (yes technically missles, but once again gunpowder-powered).

    European traders brought back the secret of gunpowder and immediately developed a crude gun featuring a muzzle and powder hole. These were very dangerous to the shooter due to the poor refining techniques of the time. They often exploded in the weilders hand, so were rarely employed unless the ruler had disposable manpower or was significantly desperate.

    This crude weapon changed once refining and metal working techniques improved. It evolved into the arquebus and eventually the musket. However, without appreciable knowledge of ballistics, this incarnation lacked accuracy and was significantly slow to reload, but this did not outwiegh the intrinsic power and capability of the tool, so it became bow, sword (when with bayonette), and club and displaced all manner of weapons and tactics.

    Immediately after the gun’s capability was realized, heavy artillery was developed as a specialized version of the gun. Heavily artillery is just a big gun that has to be trucked around the battlefield.

    At the dawn of the technological revolution, during the US civil war, the gun was further refined. This era displaced the muzzle-loading flint-lock smooth-bore rifle (this had undergone a significant evolution from arquebus to musket) with the semi-automatic cartidge-fed rifle and witnessed the specialization of artillery in the form of a mortar/howitzer and direct fire artillery guns.

    Following the Civil War, artillery was further specialized due to the resurgence of anti-gun technology e.g. armor. Naval doctrine changed, so forced the development of large sea-bourne weapons capable of penetrating and sinking other heavily armored naval ships. Army doctrine changed and required lighter more mobile varieties of artillery, mortars and the now specialized howitzer to defeat land based armored systems. A significant study could be launched into the development of armor and fortifications at this point.

    The machine gun was then invented which changed the nature of warfare forever. One of its first incarnations was a bulky towed unit called the Gatling Gun. It was treated conceptually as an artillery piece instead of the usage it eventually became but it was no less a machine gun than today’s assault rifles. This gun design still exists for various specialized purposes and it is used on all military fighter aircraft as a defensive weapon because it fires super fast and the plane can handle the weight burden. I am specifically thinking of the A-10 Warthog, but it also is used on F-16s, F-14s, etc.

    The machine gun diverged into small portable weapon systems e.g. the Maxim and Browning heavy machine guns during WW1 and the advent of a new gun system appeared called the tank. The tank is simply an armored gun married to another technology, the car. The tank now gave land forces a way to quickly move heavy guns around the battle field thus stimulating a whole new focus for the technological development of the gun as well as readoption of cavalry tactics and strategem.

    After WW1 further refinement increased the efficiency of the concept and reduced the size and weight for small arms enabling the introduction of the sub-machine gun and the assault rifle. Both were used extensively in WW2 as they are today.

    WW2 also witnessed the development of another useful technology to integrate into gun design, e.g. radar. Guns were more accurate and therefore more useful and desirable. Less waste of missed rounds and a higher effectiveness.

    WW2 and the ensuing Cold War stimulated the development of rocket research which brings us back to the Chinese. A rocket is just a big bullet attached to a barrel that fires backward and carries propellant onboard. Now several new technologies are being incorporated into rockets and they will most likely supplant almost all of the existing guns in the world armory today.

    So now here we are. People still use muskets for reenactments and hunting, the Gatling Gun is still in use as an aircraft weapon, the heavy machine-gun is at the core of modern squad tactics, every soldier is issued an assault rifle or sub-machine gun or some other more specialized gun, e.g. sniper rifle, AT-Rockets, the howitzer, mortar and direct-fire artillery are valuable tools to commanders, tanks rule the open battlefield, and naval ships still mount large guns but are being rapidly displaced by missle technology.

  13. 13
    James Taylor says:

    The Auto

    The first incarnation of a car was farm tractors that utilized bulky steam engines for a powerplant. These vehicles were powerful, but very dangerous because they suffered from all of the perils of steam power, e.g. prone to overpressure from irregular heating and subsequent explosion.

    With the advent of the internal combustion engine, several enterprising technologists took the same tractor concept, but replaced the steam powerplant with the safer, more compact, lightweight internal combustion engine and started showing off their work by driving around town and scaring all the horse carriages with a few backfires. These were fairly dangerous vehicles in themselves because many lacked effective braking systems, wheels and suspensions and used a hand crank starter. Wheels were solid rims and there were no springs, so a rider felt every bump in the road.

    The first truck emerged. The truck quickly became adopted for commerce because it reduced the dependance on quartering, forage and caring for draft animals. These trucks were very unsafe. They suffered from the same problems as the first automobiles but more accutely due to bad dirt and gravel roads and significantly harder work environments or tasks.

    Henry Ford attempted to create the car market. His attempt was partially successful in introducing the “car” to the average population, but at the time it was very expensive and a luxury item to most. It was extremely uncomfortable, hard to start and potentially dangerous to start, and a handful to maintain in a reliable condition. This is partly due to the state of gasoline and oil refining at the time and partly due to the incomplete development of the technology package.

    Better breaks were developed to reduce the number of accidents. The electric starter was introduced and drastically reduced the occurances of Chauffeur’s Fracture. Rubber Tires were introduced and helped deal with traction and suspension. Suspension was improved to enhance the ‘feel’ of the ride thus reducing discomfort.

    There it was, the car as we recognize it. All of this developement applied to the car was also applied to the truck so two seperate technological branches underwent the same refinements because of similar selective pressures, but the truck is a specialized tool and so has undergone significant specialization depending on application from flatbeds and tankers to tractors and all manner of construction equipment. Oh yes, and then there is the tank and all other specialized military equipement.

    But they weren’t done. Brake lights, headlights, automatic transmission, power steering, spedometers, tachometers, intermittant windshield wipers, radios, air conditioning, CB radio, fuel injection, on-board computers, gps, lcds, hydrogen powerplants, hybrid powerplants, jet turbines, nitrous injection, etc.

  14. 14
    Qualiatative says:

    Large software products generally evolve gradually over time until the final product is virtually indistinguishable from the original software package. There are plenty of examples, the problem is iterating them in a palatable fashion.

  15. 15
    Qualiatative says:

    I meant *unrecognizable as the same product* as opposed to *indistinguishable*!

  16. 16
    ajl says:

    Following up to Qualitative’s idea:

    1. I might have a computer program that sorts a bunch of numbers and then sorts a second set of numbers and then prints out the result
    2. Later, I realize that rather than writing the entire sort routine twice in the main part of the code, it would be better to write a separate function for sorting and then call that function.
    3. Later still, I realize that rather than have the sort code in my original code at all, it would be better to create a DLL and then call the DLL from my code.
    4. Now, the DLL is available for any program I write, so if I ever have to sort data, I co-opt it from the DLL. Therefore, the new program doesn’t have to know anything about sorting. It just calls the sort.
    5. In fact, I start to think: “this isn’t such a bad idea”. Why don’t I create an entirely new object of type mydata. Then, I don’t have to know anything about arrays, but rather just declare something as type mydata.
    5. As for printing, in the object mydata I can give it some properties:

    mydata.sort
    mydata.print
    myobject.item(i)

    6. Now, this ‘class’ can be part of the entire object model, so if I ever want to work with an array of data, I can just declare an object as type mydata. Any new programs I write don’t have to know anything about arrays, sorting, or printing. They just need to co-opt the DLL that I created to make the class.

    Only problem is I wrote the first part of the code, and have now used a random generator to add the other parts of the code. Turns out it no longer compiles 😉 If anyone can create a random code generator to automatically write and compile code, and then generate DLLs overnight I would be willing to pay for that!!

  17. 17
    curtrozeboom says:

    ajl, if we could be as good at explaining the problem as we are at coming up with a program to solve it, it could be done. Evolution has an advantage over human designers in this respect, because it does not need to describe its problem environment, artificially. Human designers, however, have the advantage of being able to use harmless and cheap virtual models and learn from experience to reuse a previously successful solution from another completely different design. Both run into situations when overlapping dependencies force systems to be unable to function without each other, i.e. they become irreducibly complex, you could say. Software designers call this spaghetti code. Maybe they are pastafarian? 😉 Annoying FSM, mucking up my code with his noodly appendage! 😉

  18. 18

    Dear ajl,

    You wrote: “I might have a computer program that sorts a bunch of numbers and then sorts a second set of numbers and then prints out the result…”

    Do you use that sorting example because Danny Hillis, according to the book “Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World” by Kevin Kelly, did evolve sorting code on his special computers?

    See here:
    http://www.kk.org/outofcontrol/ch15-d.html
    http://www.kk.org/outofcontrol/index.php

    To sum up:
    In the mid-1980s Danny Hillis began building the first massively parallel computer to breach the von Neumann bottleneck. The problem is, the more knowledge you gave a computer, the slower computers got. Yet with a person, the more knowledge you give him, the faster he gets. So we were in this paradox that if you tried to make computers smart, they got stupider.

    This is a questin in artificial intelligence and trying to build a thinking computer. Using John Holland’s design notions for a swarmy, thousand-headed computing beast. Hillis invented the first parallel processing computer, the Connection Machine. In 1988 it sold for a cool $1 million apiece, fully loaded. Hillis the took up computational biology in earnest.

    “There are only two ways we know of to make extremely complicated things,” says Hillis. “One is by engineering, and the other is evolution. And of the two, evolution will make the more complex.”

    Hillis’s inoculated his computer with a population of 64,000 very simple software programs. As in Holland’s “genetic algorithm,” each individual was a string of symbols that could be altered by mutation. But in Hillis’s Connection Machine, each program had an entire computer processor dedicated to running it. The population, therefore, would react extremely quickly and in numbers that were simply not possible for serial computers to handle.

    Each “program” was initially a random sequence of instructions, but over tens of thousands of generations they became a program that sorted a long string of numbers into numerical order. Such a sort routine is an integral part of most larger computer programs and over the years many hundreds of man hours have been spent in computer science departments engineering the most efficient sort algorithms. Hillis let thousands of his sorters proliferate in his computer, mutate at random, and occasionally sexually swap genes. Then in the usual evolutionary maneuver, his system tested them and terminated the less fit so that only the shortest, the best, sorting programs would be given a chance to reproduce. Over ten thousand generations of this cycle, his system bred a software program that was nearly as short as the best sorting programs written by human programmers.

    The next time Hillis ran it, he evolved a sorting program previously unknown to computer scientists. Most humbling, it was only a step short of the all-time shortest algorithm engineered by humans. Blind dumb evolution had designed an ingenious, and quite useful, software program.

    Hillis learned some surprising things about evolution that many biologists still don’t know. It could be used to fool educated people into accepting ID. Present tactics only seem to full the seriously ignorant.

    Danny Hillis believes that evolution on computers could eventually surpass ordinary human skills. But his work never managed to create an algorithm that bettered the best human found one. It did, however, prove the usefulness of coevolution as a viable programming technique. Hillis found that his evolution on a computer was getting stuck in “local optima.” It’s a little factoid that could be used to mislead in an ID argument.

    You just have to leave out the fact that he looked into the idea of coevolution using a host-parasite analogy. The host would be the sorting algorithm, and the parasites would be group of test cases for the algorithm to sort. The fitness of the host was the percentage of the test cases sorted, the fitness of the parasite was the percentage of test cases that stumped the algorithm. Therefore, when the GA was run, the parasites and hosts were locked into a spiraling arms race, with the sorting algorithms becoming more efficient, but the test cases becoming harder and harder to sort. With coevolution in place, the evolutionary computer technique managed to find an algorithm that only required 61 comparisions – just one step away from the best so far discovered.

    You also asked: “If anyone can create a random code generator to automatically write and compile code, and then generate DLLs overnight I would be willing to pay for that.”

    They exist, but how much are you willing to pay? A couple million dollars?

    Hillis has a company, “Applied Minds,” with Bran Ferren that provides technology and consulting services to entertainment firms (including Disney), Herman Miller, and Harris Corporation. The company’s headquarters are in Glendale, California, and it maintains an office in San Francisco.

    It supplies products and services in software, entertainment, electronics, biotechnology and architectural design.

  19. 19

    Well, Mister Dembski, are you going to let your web site visitors know about Danny Hillis?

    I’ve been told by someone at Panda’s thumb, James Taylor, that his entries are being filtered. They were saying his posts were not there, then they are. After checking, they say, it seems the IP is the key to the filtering. That means that you are a pompous, lying, unethical charlatan, Mister Dembski. Either that are they’re lying at Panda’s thumb.

    I have yet to check from different systems or connections myself. But I have reason to suspect you tune what is displayed based upon the IP of the computer accessing the site. I will confirm this later.

    You have some nerve offering an open challenge and then cheating like that. So, what other smoke and mirrors do you have Bill?

    If you remove entries from the view of everyone except the objectionable poster that would be, well, pretty weasely. It is an excellent indication of your compromised ethics, lack of credibility and authoritarian polical alignment.

    If filtering posts via IP address is what you are indeed doing, it’s insidious. It’s the worst kind of censorship, where the censor is covering up the fact that he is even doing any censoring. It means anyone who posts to uncommon descent, what they see is not necessarily what the rest of the world sees.

    So, am I writing nothing more than a private email to you Mister Dembski – one you will probably never read?

    If anyone else sees this post here — please write me at:
    zarkoff33@yahoo.com

    I’d like to share some information about IP addresses and such.

  20. 20
    Heffe says:

    The evoution of a product came to me while looking out my window. Car tires are mounted on wheels. We can trace the evolution of the car tire and the wheel from way back. I’ve just highlighted some steps here.

    1) Purportedly ancient egyptians used logs to roll great stones into place while building the great pyramids. This would probably be the first use of a wheel, even though it’s more like a big axle.

    2) Eventually, someone figured out that it was easier to make a fixed axle and attach wheels to this. The first wheels were cut from solid blocks of stone, or from a slice of tree trunk.

    3) Later, someone figured out that bent wooden wheels with spokes and hubs were easier to make. The first wheels may not have fit together very well, but later people figured out how to steam bend wood. These early wheels would have had to have been fitted tightly together and lashed.

    4) Later wheels would have been wrapped in metal to hold their shape. Wheels probably existed in this state from the time of the roman empire until the conestoga wagons of the 19th century. There were improvements in the hub system (from simple greased hubs to ball-bearings), but let’s just focus on the wheels and tires.

    5) Also in the 19th century, bicycles where invented. Now the wheels were entirely made of metal with metal spokes. The metal wheels were later wrapped with rubber for a smoother ride.

    6) Somewhere in here, tires were invented to fit on the wheel rims.

    7) The invention of the automobile in the late 19th and early 20th centuries meant better wheels were needed. The wheel size shrunk and was made entirely of metal to support more weight. Rubber tires were fitted to the wheels. The drive wheels also needed to be locked to the drive axle, rather than free-floating.

    8) Tubes where added into the tires for a better ride.

    9) Tubeless tires were invented, the tire now sat on the rim and was inflated from the inside.

    10) On-board tire inflation systems were invented in the 40s for wwii amphibious vehicles.

    11) Run-flat tires were invented.

    12) Modern vehicles have tire pressure sensors built into each wheel to inform drivers when their tire pressure
    is low.

    13) Over the last 100 years tire tread has made evolutionary improvements independently of all other improvements listed above.

  21. 21
    Charlie says:

    “That’s only natural selection, not evolution. ”
    Hmm, looks like change over time to me.

  22. 22
    James Taylor says:

    Amazing how many entries appear after Norman pointed out to you what we had already discovered. Bill, it appears that you had suppressed entries 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. Care to explain why you were stacking the deck? I will be submitting additional entries in the future and I intend to set up a website dedicated to oversite of this “competition”. I don’t care if my entries are the most effective; however, I really do care about your attempt to obfuscate and deceive. Please anticipate additional entries on may part so that I might educate you and your readers about the historical application of evolution by the human mind. Topics will include The Lens and a much more detailed historical evolution of the longest running technology, The Spear (please refer to The Gun for a more contemporary analysis). My thanks to Norman for publicly challenging your unethical deception.

  23. 23
    James Taylor says:

    Charlie, evolution only applies to multiple generations of television. Televisions have evolved from black and white to color, from mono to stereo, from analog to digital, from analog dial to digital infra-red remote, from UHF and VHF to cable and satellite, single tuner to multi-tuner, CRT to modern CRT, plasma and LCD. The television has definitely evolved from generation to generation. Your TV is an example of a single generation undergoing its life cycle. Evolution does not operate on a single generation. It is natural selection by that it is weeded out as a poorer model. Did you replace it? Did you buy a better model? The television is an excellent case of evolving technology, but your example is an instance of a single generation. You must sample multiple generations to describe evolution. Evolution does not mean change over time. Natural selection means opting for something that serves its purpose better and evolution is the accumulation of those selections over generations.

  24. 24
    jboze3131 says:

    james taylor- my personal opinion is, dont bother posting any comments to “educate” us about anything. your arrogant tone exposes you as a name caller and a bully who has no interest in debating any issue involved here. you sound like a bratty child who just wants to whine about nothing. heck, you claim bill is conspiring to suppress comments, yet youve posted a thousand times in this post alone!

    you attack dembski with (so far) unfounded accusations, and then belittle the rest of us by telling us youre here to educate us. you then tell us youre going to set up a website to oversite bills contest (yes, because youre so much smarter than the rest of us [including bill himself] that oversite is needed.)

    so, lets summarize- bill is “unethical”, practicing “deception”, “stacking the deck”, attempting to “obfuscate and deceive”, and since youre here, youre going to “educate” bill and the rest of us on the matters our small brains cant possibly understand. have i missed anything?

    ill go out on a limb and guess that no one is going to take any of your comments seriously from this point on.

    is anyone else tired of the arrogant tone that the other side seems to ALWAYS have? like they need to educate us, because were not smart enough to understand the concepts involved, and theyre the only ones who could possibly be smart enough to teach us how dumb we are?

  25. 25
    James Taylor says:

    Thanks jboze3131 for confirming my comments are visible to others. And thanks Bill for the change in policy.

  26. 26
    Charlie says:

    I must have had the wrong evolutionists in my last debate if evolution does not mean change over time.
    But then, my dictionary also offers as definitions 1) a continuous change from simple to complex 2) a gradual development. Well, I can’t claim my television got more complex, so I may be disqualified after all.

  27. 27
    Charlie says:

    Oh dang, I did say biological evolution though, didn’t I?
    Point conceded.
    And I so wanted that $100.

  28. 28
    bastiaan says:

    Here’s my ideas:

    1. Languages / Certain words in languages. (like the way proto-IE has developed over time into various languages with words slowly evolving, changing their meaning or even their class)

    2. Various Alphabets. (clay obejct, pictograms, ideograms, alphabets)

    3. The numeral system.

    They are not physical objects but they most certainly are human inventions and they have all three changes and developed over time. Languages / words especially are a good analogy since they change (meaning and spelling) and develop according to their enviroment. And I’m pretty sure the speakers of proto IE never ‘intelligently designed’ the words like ‘computer’, ‘satellite’ or ‘quarter’, not 5 or 10 thousand years ago, yet we still have a unbroken line of usage of these words going back hundreds of years…changing spelling, chaning meaning etc. Take ‘ewe’ for example and ‘ooi’ (Dutch), they more or less mean the same thing (a female sheep) yet look only faintly alike, still they share a common ancestor many centutires ago.

    Should I give it a shot?

  29. 29
    bastiaan says:

    In fact I might use the letter ‘A’. First little clay figurines of oxens where used to denote the number of cattle. After that little pictures of the same oxen where drawn in clay (to denote the same), after that it slowly evolved into the oxens head which evolved into the letter aleph/a/alpha which started to denote a sound (a vowel) not just an oxen. After some time the letter lost it’s meaning as a oxen but retained it’s use to denote sound. The sound changed from ‘ah’ to ‘e’ (as in cat) and many other sounds. Some a’s evolved into those a with dots on them the swedes used. The shape of the letter changed over time too and anyone with word can browse through hundreds of offspring. The meaning of the letter a changed too over time: it could mean just a sound, or ‘the beginning’ (alpha omega), it could also be an enitire word (‘a cat’) and it can be used as a numeral (a = 1)…in modern days a’s function to rank students or to tell people that their fridge is very energy efficient. All these steps are incremental and nobody in their right mind can reject the notion that the ‘A’ was once just a small clay oxen.

    Should I eleborate on this one?

  30. 30
    bastiaan says:

    Why were my two entries deleted?
    I thouht my ox, aleph, alpha, a etc. and my language example were pretty good.

  31. 31
    bastiaan says:

    Oh wait…they’re back again. That’s weird. My bad.

  32. 32
    Charlie says:

    I know absolutely nothing about such things, but is there a less nefarious and more generous explanation for the non-appearance of comments?
    Could it be that Dr. Dembski is not currently blogging, and that his site has a filter which is automatically capturing comments, which then need to be individually released upon approval?

  33. 33
    bastiaan says:

    No, it was weirder: there were there this afternoon and I couldn’t see them at home at my pc, until I logged on. After I posted my comment I saw them.

    I apologise if my question about their appearent deletion sounded rude or offensive to Demski or anybody else.

  34. 34
    jboze3131 says:

    that could very well be the case, charlie. i use wordpress (which is what bill uses to post to this site) to run my website, and it often times blocks various comments for unknown reasons. some comments go thru fine, yet other people comment and they have to be moderated and “approved” or deleted.

    i know that wordpress moderation works off of various items- including IP addresses, keywords you want to block, banned e mail addresses (which you can set up yourself) etc. some of the moderation tools are automatic from wordpress without you doing anything.

    sometimes, someone will comment to my site and not use any banned words (the 4 letter variety) and not be on my personal banned IP list, but they get blocked nonetheless. no idea why it works the way it does, but it does- its much better than movable type which means a daily attack of hundreds of spam for most sites!

  35. 35
    Charlie says:

    More education for me.
    Thanks, jboze

  36. 36
    curtrozeboom says:

    I think most of you missed Dembski’s counter-example of a motorcycle. Most of the posts I’m seeing are treating technological evolution like a sparse fossil record. Lots of examples of improvements, but no details on how those improvements came about, other taking a wild “just-so” stab at some of the motivation.

    Maybe Dembski will correct me if I’m wrong about this, but I get the impression he wants a more detailed explanation of a single technological innovation to a particular object. I’d encourage you to take 2 of the steps of your examples and break down what happens in between them. In order to do this you will have to actually get into the mind of the engineers and explain what causes them to utilize a particular approach. We design by brainstorming many possibilities and “selecting” them by their usefulness. The usefullness of a change is judged by the environment it is meant to “survive” in. We need to understand the environmental “forces” that drove the acceptance of the innovation and the rejection of the other ideas.

    It may not be possible to do this for something you were not personally involved with, so perhaps drawing on personal experience would be better, the way ajl did. Norman Doering’s example of Hillis does this better than anyone’s, so far, and not because the innovation in question was about an evolving algorithm, but about the evolution of an evolving algorithm.

    I think if you do this exercise, you will see that evolution does not create an illusion of design, but rather that design itself is an illusion created by the environmental constraints placed on the evolving process, regardless of whether you are human, computer, or biology. What separates the three is the techniques and tools available to them. Computers can only use bits and mathematics and the test-cases given them. And their products reflect this. Biology can only use amino acids and sugars and the selective forces of nature. And its designs reflect this. Humans can use both of these (although we are still learning how to use biology’s tools) and our designs reflect our limitations. Hence, a watch is not distinguishable from a blade of grass because the watch is designed and the blade of grass is not, but by the tools, techniques and the unique environments available to their designers.

  37. 37
    dougmoran says:

    James Taylor wrote: “The television is an excellent case of evolving technology”

    My random though about this:
    It is not the television or it’s underlying technology that has evolved at all. Iterative change in technology is driven by deliberate, focused, planned effort by human beings. We do this to increase our collective knowledge about how to improve underlying technology and apply it to better meet existing demands. Some would argue that such change in collective knowledge comes about as a result of evolutionary improvements in underlying mental capacity. But there seems to be no evidence of such evolution, so we are forced to accept that without our innate, God-given drive to learn, improve, work, be safer and enjoy life more (or be more destructive), technology would not exist and indeed would not change. As opposed to being a great example of evolutionary change in technology, I contend that television is only an example of the power of intelligent, intentional, purposeful change enabled by an existing, unevolving but learning organism.

    It is sometimes argued that technological innovation has happend by random change – such as when a scientist is experimenting with a compound and finds by accident that it is useful for something entirely different. But even this is not random – first, it took the creative intelligence needed to make the compound to begin with, and second, it took an intelligent observer to recognize the alternate use and “select” it for such.

    Perhaps I’m not delving deep enough. If not, I’m sure someone here will help me see the light. But it seems to me that nothing we create evolves over time without either (a) intelligently designed improvements, (b) intelligently recognized unintended consequences, or (c) intelligently designed systems that are actually designed to learn and improve over time (such as fuzzy logic systems and AI, but even these are limited by underlying hardware and algorithmic capacity and are ultimatly reduced to (a)).

  38. 38

    curtrozeboom wrote: “Most of the posts I’m seeing are treating technological evolution like a sparse fossil record. Lots of examples of improvements, but no details on how those improvements came about, other taking a wild ‘just-so’ stab at some of the motivation.”

    Yes, most of them are simple “just so stories.” However, I’m still working on my entry — which is here:

    http://www.geocities.com/normdoer/EvoInvent1.htm

    I had originally been working with the steam engine, but as I studied more I found I had to limit myself to the stean piston.

    It looks like a just so story when I sum it up this way:

    1) Heron introduces the principles of using steam within enclosed areas to do work moving water and ropes. The precursor to the steam piston is, at this stage, nothing more than a semi-enclosed metal container that lets escaping steam do some work.

    2) Thomas Savery uses a metal chamber and creates a vacuum pressure to draw up water out of mines. The precursor is now a semi-enclosed metal container with piping that begins to resemble a steam piston.

    3) Thomas Newcomen creates a primitive piston from Savery’s metal chamber to drive a pump. The semi-enclosed metal container becomes a primitive piston but it’s very slow and uses vast quantities of steam because the pistons were cooled during every stroke, then reheated.

    4) James Watt improves Newcomen’s primitive piston with valves and clockwork controls. The primitive steam piston of Newcomen nearly reaches its final form in Watt’s mind. Watt adds a separate condenser, the condensation process would take place constantly and the steam cylinder could be pulled to a vacuum while remaining hot. The vapor would rush into the condenser.

    5) James Watt with Matthew Boulton convert the linear motion of the piston to a rotary motion to drive the wheels. The primitive steam piston is given a method to convert pumping motion into rotary motion.

    6) Richard Trevithick and Oliver Evans use higher pressure, higher speed, lighter parts and wider expansion strokes. Through evolutionary trial and error, other inventors blow up a lot of boilers trying to push the steam engine to its optimum.

    However, on my site I’m starting to record some of the twists and turns and why people had the ideas they had. It’s still unfinished.

    There is a symbiotic evolutionary mechanism in the evolution of the steam piston when you get to Watts and Boulton. Matthew Boulton, owner of the Soho Engineering Works at Birmingham, became a partner with James Watt in the manufacture steam engines and of ornamental metal-ware including clocks both astronomical and valuable ornamental clocks. Things, like crank-shafts and gears appear on the steam engines and they start to resemble large clockworks — because the regulatory mechanisms Watts invents are giant clock-work mechanisms.

    And, curtrozeboom, thanks for the idea about doing something on the evolution of evolutionary programming. That will be my next project for this contest.

  39. 39
    bastiaan says:

    “I’d encourage you to take 2 of the steps of your examples and break down what happens in between them. In order to do this you will have to actually get into the mind of the engineers and explain what causes them to utilize a particular approach.”

    Why should I have to do that in my example? Letters and words changed their meaning and their shape because of their use, (mis)copying and (mis)interpretation. I personally think no real engineering went on during the proces.

  40. 40
    Charlie says:

    Hi bastiaan,
    Your comments on disappearing comments didn’t seem rude or offensive to me at all – I never saw them.
    My query about the issue only coincidentally followed what I now see you wrote, but didn’t know about then.
    In fact, on my display I know they were not there as of midnight last night, but are this morning.
    Go figure.
    I thought your example pretty good too.

  41. 41
    Charlie says:

    Another question:
    Is it possible that activity on another thread, like, oh say, the one immediately preceding this one, has any effect on the filters?

  42. 42
    curtrozeboom says:

    dougmoran, good comments. You talk about, “evolutionary improvements in underlying mental capacity”, but tech-evolution progresses more rapidly than any human mental evolution, making our mental capacity seem static by comparison, so that’s not what I’m getting at.

    When I think of intelligence as a factor in evolution, I see it as providing the selective force for a set of ideas, regardless of where the intellect initially came from (God-given, etc..). An intellect that is able to describe a problem with greater detail, drives the evolution of an object to be able to function in more complex environments. The better a problem is defined, the easier it is to narrow down the field of possible ideas and innovate. This happens in nature, e.g. an “evolutionary arms race” takes place between competing species.

    So, as you pointed out in your example of a chemist, intellect takes the randomness out of brainstorming, the same way that natural selection (et al) takes the randomness out of genetic mutation.

    Of course, what we’re really getting at here is “meme” evolution.

    P.S. bastiaan – missed your example earlier. Language change has definitely been a good analogy for evolution. Most may not be engineered, unless you consider Esperanto, but lingual-evolution is an example of less focused intellectual forces at work. Your post may be a little “just-so”, but linguists have already filled in many of the details, so I see where you’re going with it.

    P.P.S. Norman, go for it. My area of expertise is software, but there are bound to be many examples to draw on. I intend to illuminate how engineering in general is evolutionary, as you can see from the gist of my posts.

  43. 43
    bastiaan says:

    Can I enter twice? Will multiple entries from a single person count towards the 5 contestant minimum rule?

    [Entering more than one entry is fine. –WmAD]

  44. 44
    DK says:

    The Shoe
    One of the longest standing evolving technical innovations in human history is the shoe.

    “All people living in very cold climates had to wear some kind of thermal protection on their feet, including Neanderthals and their predecessors,” said Trinkaus. “(Supportive footwear) was part of a major explosion in human technology and cultural complexity, especially after 30,000 years ago.” 1

    On the surface this seems too simple of an example for a question about the development of a technology. The temptation is to look for something complicated like an engine or computer, but their historys are too short to see where they will end up and they do not contain any abstract concepts, they are simply machines. The shoe is truly long standing and most closely matches a slow evolutionary change brought about by environment and small design innovations. It is a strange example in that it also demonstrates seemingly unexplained strange species and embodies abstractions such as status and wealth. I do not claim that the shoe contains much irreducible complexity; in fact it is the opposite and can remain functional via simple variation.

    Emergence.
    Evidence of early shoes is found in every culture on earth coincident with the emergence of civilized groups.
    “There is much evidence that a foot covering was one of the first things made by our primitive ancestors. Necessity compelled them to invent some method of protecting their feet from the jagged rocks, burning sands, and rugged terrain over which they ranged in pursuit of food and shelter.” 4
    Some of the earliest solid evidence of shoes can be found in Spanish cave paintings, (dated to about 15000 years ago 2). Here humans are painted with what appear to be feet wrapped in animal skins. We can guess that these underwent some very simple transformations, which we can surmise by our knowledge of our own feet. Simply wrapping a single skin around the foot it would be difficult to keep it on the foot for any length of time by wrapping on itself or tucking it in too itself. We can conclude that therefore that anything wrapped about the foot will not stay on the foot unless there is a second component. A second piece of material either animal skin or plant fibers would need to be employed to tie the skin to the foot if there is any hope of keeping it on the foot. This component is the strap or lace. In it simplest form therefore; the shoe needs at least two components; a skin and a strap. The strap is interesting in that in order to be effective it must be formed into a particular shape. If the strap is not wrapped around the ankle and then knotted in some way then it would simply fall off and be ineffective. We would then be back to square one and the entire shoe falls off. Here we have the first real evidence of design emerging at the same time as the base object. The strap requires an external force to be employed and effective, the force must be exerted in the correct fashion and in the correct place to wrap around the upper shoe and around the ankle and form a knot. Interestingly it accidentally forms a complex mathematical shape but employs knowledge of friction or knowledge of a similar use elsewhere and requires some intelligence to be useful. The relationship of the strap to the skin of the upper shoe is in this early version of a shoe is a simple example of irreducible complexity neither part works properly without the other.

    Improvement
    Nothing is known about very early shoe development but the problem is not difficult to imagine. Somebody would have to try different methods to improve a simple shoe. So here is a theory of how a designer might go about finding a solution. (The next paragraph surmises that the upper wrapping skin is first, and the sole follows but it is equally likely that the sole might have come before the upper skin!)
    The disadvantage of a simple animal skin wrapped around the foot is the weakness of the sole. Very quickly a material designed to comfortably wrap around the foot will wear out when in use for any length of time on rough terrain or with vigorous activity. Nor is a single layer very effective at protecting the foot. This problem required innovation, the result of which was the Sole. The Sole can be made from the same material as the Upper Shoe. The Sole has an evolution of its own and undoubtedly went through a few revisions beginning as simply another layer but evolving to be either thicker material or multiple layers of the same material. It is just as likely to have been an extra layer on the inside as it was on the outside. It is interesting to note that many materials were employed to make early soles in different cultures, including wood, bark, thick leaves etc., but the superior material was leather because of its durability and flexibility.
    An exterior Sole is attached to the Upper Shoe using a variant of the Strap, thinner pieces of strap are used looping thru holes punctured in the Upper Shoe . The result is a much more wear resistant shoe that has better survival characteristic than its predecessor and also provides more protection for the foot. Furthermore we have the opportunity to recognize the first species variant. The Sole can be attached directly to the Strap, the Upper Shoe can be discarded and we now have a Sandal. That is not to say that a species that keeps the Upper Shoe cannot survive with the competition of the new Sandal species, it instead continues its development and in fact it will return and become the dominant species.
    Species Variation
    The Sandal under went various design innovations. Including variations in the strap. It was now possible to discard the knot by looping the strap back to the sole. In various cultures a toe loop was employed and the heel strap was discarded creating a slip on sandal. Various cultures put the toe strap between different toes.
    “The Greeks for example made use of the great toe; the Romans, the second digit; and the Mesopotamians, the third toe” 2
    It is important to recognize that at the time of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans that we can see that shoes have become more than a simple foot covering. Not only do we see different variations of shoes for men and women but we also have shoes designed specifically for the different classes, shoes in fact become a symbol of status and wealth in a society. In Rome a soldiers status could be judged by his shoes, “The higher his shoe top the higher his rank.” 4 Furthermore shoe designs have superfluous elements incorporated into them to support this need for differentiating the classes. An example might be sandal worn by pharaohs and priests in Egypt around 1200BC, which incorporated a curling, peaked toe, a completely nonfunctional element in the design of the shoe. We also see shoes designed for a specific requirement such as a rugged sandal for warfare, a flexible sandal for running, formal dress shoes or slippers for casual indoor wear.

    Co-Option
    What is important to note is that at various times parts of the original design are suppressed and seem to disappear only to reemerge at a later date with the same but improved function. For example the Sandal loses parts of the upper shoe but makes use of the strap as its main functional component. But in later designs the Upper shoe reemerges in various designs and the strap seems to disappear, but is in fact always present. A shoe, which appears to not have a strap, needs to have something else to keep the shoe on. In the case of a strapless shoe, the upper Shoe must be stiffened such that it forms around the heel of the foot and over the top of the foot. Stiffening the Upper Shoe is not an extensive modification because it employs design already evident in the Sole of the shoe (stiffer material).
    This in affect merges the two concepts; the strap is now embedded in the Upper Shoe and to the casual observer is gone. This dual purpose both of being a strap and an upper shoe is a simple but very effective design innovation and is an example of internal co-option, it also shows how the complexity although appearing to be simple is actually more complex. Where two parts that used to be separate now co-exist.
    However this design is flawed. A shoe held on strictly by a co-opted heel will fall off in vigorous use. It is also difficult to put on and pull off the foot.
    There are two solutions to this, either make it a tall boot. Or split the front add a tongue and laces. A tall boot might hold the shoe on but it will rarely fit as snuggly as a shoe with laces up over the top. Notice that the laces are actually a reemergence of the strap.
    Of all products shoes are among the first to incorporate new materials as they emerge. Eyes make use of metal, Soles make use of rubber, petroleum, plastics, foams, and the uppers make use of nylons, plants fibers, corks etc. Almost every new material that is developed has been tried in the shoe to help improve its function. It even has a special material named “balance, man made material” which no one can identify.

    Strange Mutation and Specified Variation
    Shoes exhibit artistic expression way beyond their original function. These can only be explained as a designed mutation or experiment. We end up with completely impractical shoes, which do the opposite of the original intention of protecting the feet. Many shoe designs do the opposite and can only be worn for a short time without a great deal of pain and damage to the foot. High platforms, high heels, pointed toes all fall in this category. But they are still worn for entertainment, status or pleasure!
    “The high heel came into fashion with Elizabeth’s reign in the late 16th cent. and was worn by both men and women; the shoe was colorfully decorated with rosettes, lace, and embroidery.” 5
    The high heel is particularly popular and though completely impractical they have a hidden function… that of attracting the opposite sex! It is a incredible to think about what that means. The design of a shoe can actually contain the concept of beauty. In particular the enhancement of beauty; the most impractical design is designed to aid in pro creation. Because of this these type of shoes win out in the economic survival battle, they are by far the most coveted and most expensive shoes of all.
    Running shoes, Tennis shoes, Walking shoes, Dress Shoes, Hiking Boots, Bowling shoes Golf shoes, Ski boots. If you name an activity we have a shoe for it. Each one carefully designed to maximize comfort during the activity and using special materials and shapes to improve the design for a specific use. The complexity is not as evident in the shoe itself as is in the research behind the shoe. Human motion is carefully studied during each activity, feet are carefully measured, bones are x-rayed and analyzed, athletes are questioned, test shoes are made and discarded and reworked. All this knowledge is applied to the choice of material to shape and pad a shoe for use for the mass market. The designs continue to be incrementally improved year by year as new methods of feedback and measurement is devised.

    Conclusion

    “The Modern shoe can be broken down into four parts: “The Outsole, the Midsole, the Insert and the Upper” 3 ,

    In this definition the Upper also has the laces, and the Outsole, Midsole and Insert are basically a layered Sole. Shoes still are made from the same basic components but have undergone rigorous yet subtle design changes. In fact for most shoes the same materials are employed as the shoes made 30,000 years ago, Leather and Laces. There are literally thousands of shoe designs all with various functions and ye thte sandal survives to this day, improved but still basically the same. Who would of guessed however that shoes could contain hidden meanings such as, status, wealth, attractiveness and boldness. All abstract concepts but basic reflections of their designers. The shoe of all technologies thru the ages expresses all the traits of its designer. The strangest of all being designs we can’t explain. Just like the world around us we can find designs that can only be explained as expressions of humor or experiments gone awry but we also find beauty, usefulness and comfort.

    Bibliography
    1 http://dsc.discovery.com/news/.....shoes.html Erik Trinkaus, professor of anthropology at Washington University, Journal of Archaeological Science
    2 http://experts.about.com/q/2041/3486667.htm
    (note this source is questionable)
    3 http://www.scire.com/sds/Pages/design.html
    4 http://www.shoeinfonet.com/abo.....0shoes.htm (this is a great website with good pictures of early shoes)
    5 http://columbia.thefreedictionary.com/shoe

  45. 45
    DK says:

    The Shoe

    One of the longest standing evolving technical innovations in human history is the shoe.

    “All people living in very cold climates had to wear some kind of thermal protection on their feet, including Neanderthals and their predecessors,” said Trinkaus. “(Supportive footwear) was part of a major explosion in human technology and cultural complexity, especially after 30,000 years ago.” 1

    On the surface this seems too simple of an example for a question about the development of a technology. The shoe is truly long standing and most closely matches a slow evolutionary change brought about by environmental need and small design innovations. It is a strange example in that it also demonstrates seemingly unexplained strange species and embodies abstractions such as status and wealth. I do not claim that the shoe contains much irreducible complexity; in fact it is the opposite and can remain functional via simple variation.

    Emergence.

    Evidence of early shoes is found in every culture on earth coincident with the emergence of civilized groups.

    “There is much evidence that a foot covering was one of the first things made by our primitive ancestors. Necessity compelled them to invent some method of protecting their feet from the jagged rocks, burning sands, and rugged terrain over which they ranged in pursuit of food and shelter.” 4

    Some of the earliest solid evidence of shoes can be found in Spanish cave paintings, (dated to about 15000 years ago 2). Here humans are painted with what appear to be feet wrapped in animal skins. We can guess that these underwent some very simple transformations, which we can surmise by our knowledge of our own feet. Simply wrapping a single skin around the foot it would be difficult to keep it on the foot for any length of time by wrapping on itself or tucking it in too itself. We can conclude that therefore that anything wrapped about the foot will not stay on the foot unless there is a second component. A second piece of material either animal skin or plant fibers would need to be employed to tie the skin to the foot if there is any hope of keeping it on the foot. This component is the strap or lace. In it simplest form therefore; the shoe needs at least two components; a skin and a strap. The strap is interesting in that in order to be effective it must be formed into a particular shape. If the strap is not wrapped around the ankle and then knotted in some way then it would simply fall off and be ineffective. We would then be back to square one and the entire shoe falls off. Here we have the first real evidence of design emerging at the same time as the base object. The strap requires an external force to be employed and effective, the force must be exerted in the correct fashion and in the correct place to wrap around the upper shoe and around the ankle and form a knot. Interestingly it accidentally forms a complex mathematical shape but employs knowledge of friction or knowledge of a similar use elsewhere and requires some intelligence to be useful. The relationship of the strap to the skin of the upper shoe is in this early version of a shoe is a simple example of irreducible complexity neither part works properly without the other.

    Improvement

    Nothing is known about very early shoe development but the problem is not difficult to imagine. Somebody would have to try different methods to improve a simple shoe. So here is a theory of how a designer might go about finding a solution. (The next paragraph surmises that the upper wrapping skin is first, and the sole follows but it is equally likely that the sole might have come before the upper skin!)

    The disadvantage of a simple animal skin wrapped around the foot is the weakness of the sole. Very quickly a material designed to comfortably wrap around the foot will wear out when in use for any length of time on rough terrain or with vigorous activity. Nor is a single layer very effective at protecting the foot. This problem required innovation, the result of which was the Sole. The Sole can be made from the same material as the Upper Shoe. The Sole has an evolution of its own and undoubtedly went through a few revisions beginning as simply another layer but evolving to be either thicker material or multiple layers of the same material. It is just as likely to have been an extra layer on the inside as it was on the outside. It is interesting to note that many materials were employed to make early soles in different cultures, including wood, bark, thick leaves etc., but the superior material was leather because of its durability and flexibility.

    An exterior Sole is attached to the Upper Shoe using a variant of the Strap, thinner pieces of strap are used looping thru holes punctured in the Upper Shoe . The result is a much more wear resistant shoe that has better survival characteristic than its predecessor and also provides more protection for the foot. Furthermore we have the opportunity to recognize the first species variant. The Sole can be attached directly to the Strap, the Upper Shoe can be discarded and we now have a Sandal. That is not to say that a species that keeps the Upper Shoe cannot survive with the competition of the new Sandal species, it instead continues its development and in fact it will return and become the dominant species.

    Species Variation
    The Sandal under went various design innovations. Including variations in the strap. It was now possible to discard the knot by looping the strap back to the sole. In various cultures a toe loop was employed and the heel strap was discarded creating a slip on sandal. Various cultures put the toe strap between different toes.

    “The Greeks for example made use of the great toe; the Romans, the second digit; and the Mesopotamians, the third toe” 2

    It is important to recognize that at the time of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans that we can see that shoes have become more than a simple foot covering. Not only do we see different variations of shoes for men and women but we also have shoes designed specifically for the different classes, shoes in fact become a symbol of status and wealth in a society. In Rome a soldiers status could be judged by his shoes, “The higher his shoe top the higher his rank.” 4 Furthermore shoe designs have superfluous elements incorporated into them to support this need for differentiating the classes. An example might be sandal worn by pharaohs and priests in Egypt around 1200BC, which incorporated a curling, peaked toe, a completely nonfunctional element in the design of the shoe. We also see shoes designed for a specific requirement such as a rugged sandal for warfare, a flexible sandal for running, formal dress shoes or slippers for casual indoor wear.

    Co-Option
    What is important to note is that at various times parts of the original design are suppressed and seem to disappear only to reemerge at a later date with the same but improved function. For example the Sandal loses parts of the upper shoe but makes use of the strap as its main functional component. But in later designs the Upper shoe reemerges in various designs and the strap seems to disappear, but is in fact always present. A shoe, which appears to not have a strap, needs to have something else to keep the shoe on. In the case of a strapless shoe, the upper Shoe must be stiffened such that it forms around the heel of the foot and over the top of the foot. Stiffening the Upper Shoe is not an extensive modification because it employs design already evident in the Sole of the shoe (stiffer material).

    This in affect merges the two concepts; the strap is now embedded in the Upper Shoe and to the casual observer is gone. This dual purpose both of being a strap and an upper shoe is a simple but very effective design innovation and is an example of internal co-option, it also shows how the complexity although appearing to be simple is actually more complex. Where two parts that used to be separate now co-exist.

    However this design is flawed. A shoe held on strictly by a co-opted heel will fall off in vigorous use. It is also difficult to put on and pull off the foot.

    There are two solutions to this, either make it a tall boot. Or split the front add a tongue and laces. A tall boot might hold the shoe on but it will rarely fit as snuggly as a shoe with laces up over the top. Notice that the laces are actually a reemergence of the strap.

    Of all products shoes are among the first to incorporate new materials as they emerge. Eyes make use of metal, Soles make use of rubber, petroleum, plastics, foams, and the uppers make use of nylons, plants fibers, corks etc. Almost every new material that is developed has been tried in the shoe to help improve its function. It even has a special material named “balance, man made material” which no one can identify.

    Strange Mutation and Specified Variation
    Shoes exhibit artistic expression way beyond their original function. These can only be explained as a designed mutation or experiment. We end up with completely impractical shoes, which do the opposite of the original intention of protecting the feet. Many shoe designs do the opposite and can only be worn for a short time without a great deal of pain and damage to the foot. High platforms, high heels, pointed toes all fall in this category. But they are still worn for entertainment, status or pleasure!

    “The high heel came into fashion with Elizabeth’s reign in the late 16th cent. and was worn by both men and women; the shoe was colorfully decorated with rosettes, lace, and embroidery.” 5

    The high heel is particularly popular and though completely impractical they have a hidden function… that of attracting the opposite sex! It is a incredible to think about what that means. The design of a shoe can actually contain the concept of beauty. In particular the enhancement of beauty; the most impractical design is designed to aid in pro creation. Because of this these type of shoes win out in the economic survival battle, they are by far the most coveted and most expensive shoes of all.

    Running shoes, Tennis shoes, Walking shoes, Dress Shoes, Hiking Boots, Bowling shoes Golf shoes, Ski boots. If you name an activity we have a shoe for it. Each one carefully designed to maximize comfort during the activity and using special materials and shapes to improve the design for a specific use. The complexity is not as evident in the shoe itself as is in the research behind the shoe. Human motion is carefully studied during each activity, feet are carefully measured, bones are x-rayed and analyzed, athletes are questioned, test shoes are made and discarded and reworked. All this knowledge is applied to the choice of material to shape and pad a shoe for use for the mass market. The designs continue to be incrementally improved year by year as new methods of feedback and measurement is devised.

    Conclusion

    “The Modern shoe can be broken down into four parts: “The Outsole, the Midsole, the Insert and the Upper” 3 ,

    In this definition the Upper also has the laces, and the Outsole, Midsole and Insert are basically a layered Sole. Shoes still are made from the same basic components but have undergone rigorous yet subtle design changes. In fact for most shoes the same materials are employed as the shoes made 30,000 years ago, Leather and Laces. There are literally thousands of shoe designs all with various functions and yet the sandal survives to this day, improved but still basically the same. Who would of guessed however that shoes could contain hidden meanings such as, status, wealth, attractiveness and boldness. All abstract concepts but basic reflections of their designers. The shoe of all technologies thru the ages expresses all the traits of its designer. The strangest of all being designs we can’t explain. Just like the world around us we can find designs that can only be explained as expressions of humor or experiments gone awry but we also find beauty, usefulness and comfort.

    Bibliography
    1 http://dsc.discovery.com/news/.....shoes.html Erik Trinkaus, professor of anthropology at Washington University, Journal of Archaeological Science

    2 http://experts.about.com/q/2041/3486667.htm

    (note this source is questionable)

    3 http://www.scire.com/sds/Pages/design.html

    4 http://www.shoeinfonet.com/abo.....0shoes.htm (this is a great website with good pictures of early shoes)

    5 http://columbia.thefreedictionary.com/shoe

  46. 46
    DK says:

    What’s up with the disappearing comments? I can see them from computer A immediately after I post but if I go to computer B they are gone. I posted the example of the Shoe twice. But each time the post dissappears.

  47. 47
    earthenvesselmz says:

    I do believe we have at least five entrants (many more entries):

    myself
    Jeff Blogworthy
    James Taylor
    bastiaan
    Norman Doering
    Heffe

    (From a cursory lookover)

  48. 48
    Irving says:

    Other than bastiaan, I don’t see any of the submissions having the C to D jump in the requirements.

  49. 49
    ChrisLind says:

    Here is my submission into the Contest:

    From Barter to Banking, the Evolution of “Honey into Money”.
    By Chris Lind

    This paper is at http://www.ChristopherLind.com.....anking.htm

  50. 50
    jeffwilson says:

    I’m assuming that the point of the exercise is show (apparent) subtle changes are possible (even expected) with the involvement of a Intelligent Designer?

    Okay, to jump in then, how about Intel Microprocessors:

    They progress from the 4-bit 4004 in 1971 to the 64-Bit Pentiums in the present.

    Actual Progression:
    4004: 4-Bit
    8008: 8-Bit
    8080: 8-Bit
    8085: 8-Bit
    8086: 16-Bit

    80386: 32-Bit
    et cetera

    For the full progression, see:
    http://www.i-probe.com/i-probe/ip_intel.html

    In this analogy, the silicon-designer’s database is analogous to the DNA in an organism, which is successively modified for new microprocessors. While the silicon is the organism itself.

    An item that was co-opted in later designs (Pentiums onward) was the instruction-cache (memory), that previously existed externally.

    I’m not sure that this qualifies for:

    “Each of the steps must be gradual in the sense that no extensive change of the immediately succeeding system(s) was required (in the case of co-option, no extensive retooling or adaptation of parts was required).”

    As each chip is redesigned into a new floor-plan on the silicon, but no analogy is perfect. At least you can show the architecture is progressive.

  51. 51
    mentok says:

    From a blanket to a poncho, to a shirt, to a sock to a glove.

  52. 52

    What that should have said was …..

    myself
    Jeff Blogworthy
    James Taylor
    bastiaan
    Norman Doering
    Heffe

    Sorry, was that another example? Looks a bit biological to me.

  53. 53
    russ says:

    DK: Your shoe evolution seems more akin to dog breeding (microevolution) than macroevolution. The same things said about evolved shoes (i.e. shoes are art objects) could be said about various dog breeds. For example, some breeds like poodles, are ornamental, while others are more functional—bloodhounds, retrievers, sheepdogs. But they are still dogs. They still “evolved” differently in order to perform some function for humans.

  54. 54
    Aquinas says:

    1. A pole that is sharpened at the end, used to throw at potential prey.
    2. A pole with an arrowhead at the end, also used to hurl at potential prey.
    3. A pole working in conjunction with another pole(ish) giving the primary pole greater distance and speed (i.e. atlatl).
    4. A pole and a slightly modified pole(ish), attached at both end by a string, allowing the pole to be propelled by the string on the pole(ish), giving it yet more speed and accuracy (i.e. bow and arrow).

    Hence, the evolution of a primitive spear to a bow and arrow.

  55. 55
    Aquinas says:

    1. Scraps of animal hide used to jot symbols down on.
    2. Replace animal hide with papyrus, giving the medium a longer life and making it easier to jot things down on it.
    3. Take the papyrus and sew many pieces of it together, creating a primitive Emily Dickinson-esque fascicle.
    4. Replace the papyrus with paper.
    4. Add a cover, making the booklet much more durable and allowing it to last much longer.
    5. Replace sewing with glue attaching the paper to the spine of the cover, stablizing the entire setup.

    Hence, the evolution of the animal hide slip of “paper” to the book.

  56. 56
    Aquinas says:

    I posted a submission (not the spear one) that doesn’t appear to be showing up… so, test.

  57. 57
    Red Reader says:

    Did anyone look at McDonald’s hypothetical evolution of the mousetrap at http://udel.edu/~mcdonald/mousetrap.html ? It was referenced in the announcement for the technology competition.

    It is supposed to refute Professor Behe’s illustration of “irreducible complexity” that uses a mousetrap. But it is completely laughable. Eleven animations are shown. The 11th is the final form of the mousetrap.

    But, if anything, it illustrates how irreducibly complex a real moustrap is. None of the first 10 “stages of evolution” would trap and hold a real mouse. Not only that, but for such stages to occur, there would have to be created a fossil record of them. Not only that, but even the very first stage had to be designed. The whole attempt is ludicrous.

  58. 58
    late_model says:

    It appears there are semantics in play here! In each of these descriptions it appears progress is the more appropriate term than evolution (as defined by neo-darwinism). Why? Neo-darwinians keep reminding the public that there is no teology in the proces but an end goal is inherent in engineering.

  59. 59
    Aquinas says:

    Second submission

    1. Take a scrap of animal hide used to jot symbols down on.
    2. Replace animal hide with papyrus, giving the medium a longer life and making it easier to jot things down on it.
    3. Take the papyrus and sew many pieces of it together.
    4. Replace the papyrus with paper.
    5. Add a cover, making the booklet much more durable and allowing it to last much longer.
    6. Replace sewing with glue attaching the paper to the spine of the cover, stablizing the entire setup.

    Hence, the evolution of a scrap of animal hide to a modern book.

  60. 60
    Romanized says:

    I agree late model.

    I may just be missing it, but what people are describing has nothing to do with darwinian evolution. A) these are hardly slight modifications being proposed, or B) the modification are obviously chosen with an end in mind, not based on usability (the intermediate steps have no independent function, but to eventually get to the end product).

    The exercise is a good one for darwinist, since it shows how they take for granted how difficult it is to get things to work in real life, not in theory.

  61. 61
    aldo30127 says:

    Personally, I think the ice cream cone is the best example of a technology that mimics evolution by co-option. Like evolution it’s clear that the ice cream cone evolved over time and like evolution it is unclear if there was a real beginning. The most popular beginning of the ice cream cone is the 1904 Worlds Fair in St. Louis, although people eating things out of cones (metal and paper) was established the century before. As the story goes, an ice cream vendor was running out bowls and so the vendor next to him, who sold zalabia, a crisp, thin waffle, helped him out by rolling the still warm waffles into cone shapes so that they would hold ice cream, like a bowl. The ice cream cone caught on. Cones were first rolled by hand and then hardened. After that they were rolled mechanically. A second, faster type of cone was then made wherein batter was poured into a mold, rather than pressed between two irons and rolled. But it wasn’t until the late 1950s when oil, sugar and chocolate were added to the inside of the cone in order to solve the rampant problem of the cone going soggy. More recently the cone has been reworked into an edible bowl, more like the original bowl the zalabia was co-opting, only tastier.

    I’m not sure if that is long enough or gradual enough to satisfy the contest, but the history of food in general is a great illustration. I haven’t done it, but I’m sure that if you trace the evolution of the first bread like food (mixing grains and dairy) to the Twinkie you’d pretty much match the transformation of a light sensitive spot into the human eye.

  62. 62
    jay says:

    Edison cylindrical phonograph
    78 rpm shellac record
    45 rpm shellac record
    33 rpm vinyl record
    compact disc
    add string
    yields ornament 😉

    animal skins
    papyrus
    paper
    printed paper
    newspaper
    add to bird cage
    yields toilet

    projectile thrown by hand
    projectile thrown with sling
    projectile launched with catapult
    projectile launched with cannon
    cannon miniaturized to become rifle
    bayonnet added to end of rifle
    yields lance

  63. 63
    pmob1 says:

    Evolution of our calendar technology through incremental changes, consisting of simple arithmetic, rudimentary counting, table keeping, that sort of thing.

    Lunar calendars are the earliest on record. Lunar days were described in sets of symbols (around 25 to 30) that were in wide use in ancient times and perhaps informed the first alphabets. However, as time-keeping devices, they were notoriously eccentric even within societies; moreso between societies.

    An early innovation was the subdivision of lunar periods into weeks, which stabilized lunar calendars somewhat. Numbered dates retained their previous status as lucky or unlucky, initiating or terminating, hot or cold, etc., but religious and market activities could now be organized around the week system. This allowed greater coordination in business and in social rituals, a huge change from a minor arithmetic convention. These calendars remained very localized, usually city-specific.

    The calendar attributed to Romulus (700’s B.C) was a lunar calendar, derived, no doubt, from a Greek lunar calendar. It consisted of 304 days in 10 months (December signifying 10th). The 61 remaining solar days fell at winter’s end. Apparently, they were ignored or indifferently marked. The Romans ran an 8-day week until the Imperial period and this allowed regular scheduling of “market days” in the city. Since they counted from “1,” (0 hadn’t arrived yet) the week was called the nundinae (“nine days.”) Each month was tabulated from its 3 fixed points, the Kalends, Nones and Ides. Their numerical positions varied with different months (which were of different lengths). Dates were reckoned by counting backward from these points, and in Roman numerals no less. It is a wonder they were able to find their way out of one month and locate the next.

    The Greeks were more advanced mathematically and astronomically but, oddly, they continued to use ad hoc lunar calendars, loosely bound to the solar cycle. The Athenians called their annual scheme the “festival calendar” but muddled onward in months that varied in length, adjusted by whim or as occasions demanded. Concurrently, there was the “conciliar year,” divided as per number of phylai (classes) of Athenian citizens. Until 307 B.C. there were 10 phylai. Thereafter there were 11 to 13 (usually 12). Then there were eponymous “eras” of archons and kings. All this confusion persisted even though Meton had figured out (or learned of) an accurate, intercalated 19-year solilunar scheme by at least 432 B.C.

    The last 2 paragraphs are meant to illustrate the primordial confusion in simple, ancestral, 12-celled lunar calendars prior to powerful, if incremental, modifications reviewed below. But first, the Greeks should be given credit for a minor innovation, the institution of the Olympiad every 4 years (or “5” as they would say in pre-zero times). The games were scheduled for every 48 to 50 lunations, adjustment being necessary to keep the festivities in summer. (Opening ceremonies came to be set for the 1st day of Hekatombion—Athenian). The Olympiad had two important calendrical effects. It forced different city-states to be more mindful of the solar cycle. More importantly, it joined different governments into a single time scheme. This sort of coordination becomes more important later.

    Calendar technology advanced when the solar cycle was absorbed into the old lunar month system. This synchronization, (however rough), yielded calendars with a (supposedly) set number of months and days. Activities could be annualized in a more dependable way, including religious gatherings, memorials, taxation periods, the taking of inventories, shipping, the mustering of the guard, the commencement of irrigation and so forth. Furthermore, this model, with its modest mathematical constancy, was transferable to other cities. It could provide the basis for regulating relations within a league of cities, for example.

    Such a modification occurred in Rome, either under Numa Pompilius, or possibly in 452 B.C., the year Roman citizens agreed on a 10-man commission (the decemviri) to write up new civil and administrative codes. This was a definite attempt to reconcile solar and lunar cycles. January and February were added to the calendar and Rome’s year was rendered in 355 days. An intercalary leap-month was scheduled for every other year. In years when it was inserted, Intercalaris added 22 or 23 days to the year. However, the leap-month appears to have been observed somewhat “casually.” The modified calendar drifted out of sun-moon agreement. Nevertheless, the increasingly complex affairs of the Republic were recorded and scheduled in a unified scheme. There was such a thing as Roman time and it was an expanding in an organized way.

    A modification of this modification was implemented when Julias Caesar reformed the calendar after conquering Egypt in 48 B.C. A synchronization of dials was needed to rationalize administration of the burgeoning Empire. The new calendar reached beyond Latin tribes in the peninsula. The “calendar gene” had now to regulate an immensely complex collection of peoples with all their peculiar festivals and month-schemes and reigns and Olympiads. Caesar took counsel of the Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes, who presented a model that, though quite modern-looking, was, in fact, the old Aristarchus calendar dating to 239 B.C. The intercalary month was abandoned for a standard 365-day year, plus a leap day every 4 years. The intitializing correction to solar was accomplished by a one-time 445-day year, such that dawn of March 1, 45 B.C. was declared to be Jan 1 around the Empire. Due dates could then be issued on a grander scale, shipments coordinated, armies deployed, delegations received. It was not the first time (nor the last) that a Greek astronomer in Alexandria would tune civilization’s metronome.

    The moon was now on a much tighter solar schedule although careful regards were given to the old festivals as adjustments were made. For instance, Julius had wanted New Year’s to be on the winter solstice or spring equinox but the Senate, which had long opened sessions on Jan. 1, insisted on that date. Caesar’s power was, of course, under siege. He would be knifed to death the following Ides of March at a Senate meeting—not in the Curia (then under repairs for fire damage), but in their temporary quarters at Pompey’s Theatre. Record keepers promptly botched the 4-year leap convention, implementing a 3-year model instead. The resulting lunar drift was taken up by the next Emperor.

    In another minor adjustment, Augustus Caesar suspended leap years from 10 B.C. to 4 A.D. to correct for the error. He also renamed July and August eponymously and awarded 31 days to each, in honor of respective Emperors, that the number of their days should not be inferior to any month. The Calendar was restored to reasonable solunar stability. Revenues flowed. A great census was taken. Roman time was approaching its greatest breadth and magnitude.

    The next modification was of a different sort and under much different circumstances. The Russian monk, Dionysius Exiguus, (some call him Denis the Small), was asked by Pope John I to establish Easter dates for the years 527 to 626. The setting of Easter was a serious—even defining—issue for the Church. Exiguus took this opportunity to compile a unified system of year-numbering. At that time, the Empire was nearly gone. Years were counted in many different ways: by reign of local soverigns, by Roman imperial reigns, by Roman consular terms, by tax eras, from the foundation of the city of Rome, from the foundation dates of other cities, from the foundation of the world, (anno mundi), and so on. Christians counted years in these many ways as well. There was no standard time.

    Exiguus had no desire to number years by the reigns of Emperors who had killed many Christians. His idea was to establish a definitive year-count from what he considered to be the year of Jesus’ birth. Exiguus understood the Incarnation to have occurred on March 25 in the year 753 a.u.c., (after founding of Rome). He designated Jesus’ 1st birthday (late in 754 a.u.c. as 1 A.D. in the new system. The year of Jesus’ birth was a year with no number. (Zero still hadn’t arrived in the West yet.)

    Anno domini took awhile to get established. Venerable Bede used the dating system in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, finished in 731. Alcuin popularized the convention in Charlemagne’s court just a few years later. Over the next hundred years or so, the custom took hold.

    This modification was a mere naming convention. It didn’t speak to the math and astronomy issues at all, and yet it had profound effects. There were not yet any “world religions” and certainly no world time. Even Roman time was disintegrating. But Christendom was moving in to the abandoned Roman infrastructure and assembling its own “Holy Roman Empires.” Christian time replaced Roman time but on an even grander scale, for Exiguus’ calendar co-opted an entirely different existing system. Without any modification of the Julian solilunar scheme whatsoever, Julian time became World time.

    This also had an effect on Christianity per se. From antiquity, Easter had been the reigning Christian ritual. This changed with the institution of Anno Domini. Since March 25th + 9 months = December 25th, Exiguus and John I shifted much of Christendoms’s ritual attention from Easter to Christmas, by adoption of the epochal birth date and the literal “beginning of time,” or at least the counting of same. It is true that some Christians had already celebrated the birth on December 25th. Christians in Rome had been doing so for about 200 years. (The date commemorated the birth of Mithras for about 100 years before that.) But Christians elsewhere observed other dates. Antioch celebrated Christmas on Jan 6. Some Christians did not observe the birth at all or had begun only recently to do so. Easter was everything. Doctrinal arguments revolved around the setting of Easter dates. Bede wrote repeatedly about a dispute between Irish and Roman authorities over this matter. From 527 on, however, Christmas rose to a position of equal importance as it was standardized in time for celebrants around the world. Ritual attention was shifted from death and resurrection to birth and incarnation, with important consequences for Christian theology.

    The next tiny modification of a modified modification came a thousand years later. Since the Julian calendar loses a day every 131 years, by the 1500s Easter was drifting toward summer and the Church felt it necessary to set that holiday aright. A reform, declared by Gregory XIII, was drafted by Christopher Clavius, S.J, building on previous work by the astronomer-physician Luigi Lilio. Initial lag correction was accomplished by following Thursday, 10-4-82 (Julian) with Friday, 10-15-82 (Gregorian). Subsequent leap years were ignored on century years not divisible by 400. This brought the leap-year-induced lag under control.

    The Gregorian reform was taken up much faster than previous adjustments. Several kingdoms switched over immediately. However, areas of Protestant Europe resisted the change out of religious principle, (never mind the science). We may note that Martin Luther had been dead for 36 years. In other words, the Protestant Reformation was well underway. Incensed anti-papists shouted that they wanted their stolen “10 days back.” In England, Elizabeth considered the change but the Church of England successfully fought it off. The Gregorian Calendar was adopted in Britain (and the colonies) only in 1752, with Wednesday, September 2, 1752, being followed immediately by Thursday, September 14, 1752. (By that time, an 11-day correction was required.)

    Until that year, New Year’s in the American colonies was celebrated on March 25th, the 24th being assigned to the old year and the 25th to the new. After implementation of the reform, the year of George Washington’s birth changed from 1731 to 1732. In the Julian Calendar his birthdate was Feb 11th, 1731, but in the Gregorian Calendar it is Feb 22nd, 1732. Ben Franklin’s nativity was knocked about in the same way.

    ***

    Here then are the incremental improvements: weeks, a sports festival, crude attempt to reconcile lunar and solar cycles in tabular form, minor solilunar adjustment, adjustment to this adjustment, cooptation of Christmas-based time, very small solilunar adjustment.

    Here then is an example of the evolved calendar: look at the calendar nearest you and meditate on current challenges to Christmas

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