For Uncommon Descent Question 12: Can Darwinism beat the odds?, we have declared a winner, and it is Philip W at 11.
Philip W must provide me with a valid postal address* via firstname.lastname@example.org, in order to receive the prize, a free copy of the Privileged Planet DVD.
Philip W tells me that he is a pilot, and I liked his analysis of issues around flight:
Darwinian evolution can not possibly explain the life which we find on this planet. Let’s explore one of these methods by asking the question “How, and why, did flight originate?” Before any creature took to the air there was nothing there to eat and so why would any creature, even an intelligent creature, want to fly. There could have been no powerful survival benefit in flight beyond perhaps escaping a predator to recommend it. Also, there are many other and far simpler ways to escape a predator. Flight is perhaps the most complicated and sophisticated activity that any creature possesses which means that it would have taken an extraordinary number of attempts by random evolutionary methods to make it a reality. There is another and even more fundamental question which underlies biological flight. Did nature, completely unguided by intelligence, just somehow know that flight was even possible or achievable? Humans, with their intelligence, were able to make gliders and toy airplanes long ago but they had an objective and they also had the model of the birds to follow. Even at that it took a long time to achieve human flight despite the huge cost in time, effort, and treasure which they were willing to expend. No amount of tinkering, especially without a conscious objective, could possibly account for biological flight. There are simply too many things which would have had to happen all at once for that to be possible. Remember that nature had no way of knowing that flight was possible and it certainly had no previous conception of flight. Without having an objective how can random tinkering achieve anything?
Even now, with considerable human intelligence, we have limits. Science does not try to achieve anything, on a serious level, which cannot be demonstrated to be achievable. Once we find clues that give us a ray of hope the situation changes drastically; and at that point we feel certain enough of eventual success to justify pouring money and effort into a project.
In other words, there are very good reasons why Boeing is not trying to develop an anti-gravity transportation device. They do not know whether or not it is possible and thus are unwilling to devote resources into the search.
That is where nature would have been so far as flight is concerned. Where was the incentive to try to fly?
Adding intelligence to the question changes the chances for success. We add many trials and failures specifically designed to find better answers and eventually it became simple for us to fly, and quite well thank you. We invented the wind tunnel and added mathematics and found more efficient airfoils through long tedious experiments and we are now able to easily fly. A home built ultralite glider (part 103) is simple to build and fly. They are so efficient that they virtually leap off the ground and they can soar for hours on a good day. Birds do that with no designer? The Arctic Tern does very well and it did it without a designer? Hundreds of things have to be just right for the Tern to fly as well as it does and all of those things have to have flight controls too. It is not enough to just fly. That is only the beginning of the complex activity.
The Arctic Tern has a complete navigational system built in. It must maintain the proper airspeed and altitude and it must account for wind drift and a hundred other things of migrate as it does. The Tern flies over uncharted oceans in its migration and all the flying ability in the world would do it no good if it could not navigate.
To those of you who are pilots; how would you like to be in a low flying aircraft flying at 20 – 30 knots and have a landing strip no longer than the width of a telephone wire?
To those of you who design and build model aircraft; could you build a model which would be capable of landing on a telephone wire, even with solid state accelerometers and advanced computer controls? What about mimicking a woodpecker which lands with complete confidence on the trunk of a tree? Could you build a model airplane that could do that? After all, the modest little woodpecker does it hundreds of times a day. Surely with your intelligence and the powerful tiny computers at your disposal it should be a cinch.
How does a hummingbird which weighs less than your thumb migrate across the Gulf of Mexico on 2 grams of fat?
I happen to be a pilot so these questions come naturally to me as regards flight but there are hundreds of other examples in nature which are so advanced as to constitute “miracles of evolution.” Do you evolutionists believe in miracles?
The evolutionist sees a tree growing and says it happened all by itself with no designer. If that same evolutionist traveled to Neptune and saw a computer controlled, operating automobile running around he would instantly ask “Who built it?” Yet, the automobile is a far simpler mechanism than is the tree. Only the fact that the automobile is made of metal and plastic instead of carbon based molecules would tell him that it was made by an intelligence. That is not a rational assessment of the true situation. The smallest insect is far more advanced a mechanism than an automobile, yet one just happened and the other MUST have been manufactured by an intelligence.
Darwinist s believe that just because they can not see and touch or perceive the intelligence which built all living things that it must not exist. They are willing to ignore the whole body of evidence which clearly reveals a design, and thus a designer, preferring rather to depend on a whole gob of atoms and molecules to form themselves by random chance into the constituents of life. In other words they prefer to believe in miracles of chance rather than to believe that there is an intelligence in the universe which built this place and everything in it.
There is another obvious and pressing question. What exactly is life? What is the measurable difference between a living cell and a freshly dead cell? Does the dead cell weigh less? Have the chemical constituents been altered beyond what killed it? In other words, if a cell requires oxygen to live and it is deprived of oxygen it will die and it can not be resurrected. This is in stark contrast to a computer which requires electricity to function but when the electricity is restored, after being shut off, the computer again functions as it did before. Why is one condition not reversible while the other one is?
Yes, it is impossible to understand life forms without taking into account the information that keeps them in motion, and when that information flow ceases, the life form’s physical parts become available to other life forms.
By the way, I especially agree about trees. Trees are the foundation of ecology in many habitats. I am not surprised that in the ancient world, people who cut down a tree felt that they must placate its spirit. They did not feel the same way about quack grass. As a modernist, I would be inclined to say that the best way to placate the tree is by planting another tree.
We do a lot of that here in Toronto. Sometimes trees must retire to the fireside. At times, you may see a big X on a tree, in fluorescent paint – it is condemned by the city forester’s office, most often due to instability of branches, due to age and size – and you can guess what happens next: New tree later.
Hey, around here, you really can’t see the forest for the trees.
Further comments on other posts:
About lotteries in general: I don’t oppose them for specifically moral reasons. If a local church wants to raffle off fruitcakes, I don’t care. It all feels like
… a bore
… like someone banging on my office door.
supporting a cause
for which I don’t give a buzz
But I tend to buy a ticket, if they are doing any noticeable good works around town. If I had the misfortune to win, I might not get around to picking up the winner’s pile of fruitcakes. The church can always serve them at the free Christmas lunch, right?
Fine, now everyone is happy. And I can get back to work.
My main objection to lotteries is when they are used to support causes like hospital beds and scanners that should in fact be supported by – for example – taxes, insurance plans, bequests, etc. These are matters of public business, and should not be left to the vendors of “lucky” nonsense, in systems that – by their very nature – are highly susceptible to local corruption.
JamesBond at 2 writes:
While abiogenesis might still be something of a work in progress, cosmology and galactic astronomy have both given us a fairly good indication that the conditions for the formation of an earth-like planet are not unreasonable.
Well, nothing is unreasonable until you look at the constraints. I would say there are very serious constraints re abiogenesis. Overcoming them points to design.
Not sure how this became relevant, but … I agree with Nakashima at 5 and disagree with GodsiPod at 3: Taxation is not necessarily theft. The fundamental question is, what are our taxes buying? Police and fire services? Basic education? Efficient garbage pickup? National defense? Prevention of looting and poaching of common goods like our national forests? Forest fire fighting? Paramedic services after highway accidents? Clean water? Meat inspection? Almost all reasonable citizens will agree that these types of causes are worth funding, whatever the formula. Even if the service is contracted out privately, some government expense must be sustained in order to do that, and to monitor the outcome.
The problem – in my experience – is that unless government itself is closely monitored, it risks adding a bundle of causes that are either of no interest to most citizens or actively opposed by many. For example, a Canadian city might choose to issue a statement on some issue in Middle East politics, and all I would say is: “Settle your snow shovelling strike first! And while you are at it, do something about the shortage of civic nursing home beds.” (Of course, that would take up all the city councillors’ time and force their retirement from international politics, which is okay with me, because they have no business in the international arena anyway, and are not wanted there.)
Jgold at 8 has a really good point: The big problem with Darwinism is that you can’t just get lucky once or twice. You must get lucky so many times that, if you were the head of the Ontario lottery commission – and didn’t suspect something – you’d be fired.
Thanks to all contestants! If you didn’t win, try again … more contests coming up soon.
* No one’s address is ever added to a mailing list. If anyone receives solicitations, they did not come through us.