Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Climate Change and Evolution

[the result of global warming – evolutionary progress]

One of the most urgent priorities today is preventing global warming. Nearly all governments have ratified a treaty to prevent global warming. The effects of global warming are expected to be devastating and halting global warming is considered to be basically as important as achieving world peace. Al Gore in fact received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to stop global warming.

What’s interesting is that presumably the vast majority of people, who are combating global warming, also believe in Darwinian evolution. According to evolution, in the past mass extinction events have supposedly resulted in the acceleration of evolution. Considering this precedence, there is every reason to suppose global warming would lead to a mass extinction event, followed by a vast improvement in terrestrial life. We might be replaced eventually by super-intelligent frogs with an IQ hundreds of times that of humans who would go on to conquer the galaxy, in the same way humans eventually replaced the dinosaurs following an asteroid strike. So what exactly is the problem in that case?

Some evolutionists might answer, that yes, of course life on earth might eventually be improved by a catastrophe like global warming, however our own descendents would suffer and die out and we as humans do not want to see that happen. To me, that seems like a bizarre answer. We should be willing to accept temporary suffering and some personal sacrifice for the sake of the ultimate betterment of all life. At least this is something which should be considered. Instead, no scientists or government leaders are even questioning the importance of preserving the present climate.

Bear in mind that scientists have determined that earth will become uninhabitable in about a billion years in any case. We had better evolve out of here before that.

I think that the answer to this question is clear: no one really believes in evolution. Evolution is simply used as an excuse to deny God.

“The Darwinian revolution was not merely the replacement of one scientific theory by another, as had been the scientific revolutions in the physical sciences, but rather the replacement of a world view, in which the supernatural was accepted as a normal and relevant explanatory principle, by a new world view in which there was no room for supernatural forces.” Ernst Mayr (1904 – 2005) Professor of Zoology at Harvard University Nature magazine March 22, 1974 p.285

No one would ever dream of relying on evolution to save and improve upon life on earth following a global catastrophe. Evolution is like the suit in the The Emperor’s New Clothes. There really is no suit, however everyone is too afraid to be called stupid if he says so. So with the theory of evolution; everyone realizes that there is nothing there but everyone is afraid to say so because that would mean an end to atheism.


Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight:

1. Global warming is a problem
2. Some people are fighting that problem.
3. Many of the people fighting the problem believe in evolution.
4. In the past mass extinctions have caused acceleration of evolution for surviving species.
5. Therefore there is every reason to believe that global warming will lead to a mass extinction which will lead to an improvement of life on Earth.
6. Therefore humans might be replaced by super intelligent frogs with extraordinarily high IQ’s.
7. Therefore the super intelligent frogs could go on to conquer the galaxy in the same way humans replaced dinosaurs.

You ask what exactly is the problem? Your logic, for one. I’m not sure how your conclusions follow the premises outlined above. Second, the very link you included confirms what I believe to be your hypothesis by saying “When dominance of particular ecological niches passes from one group of organisms to another, it is rarely because the new dominant group is "superior" to the old and usually because an extinction event eliminates the old dominant group and makes way for the new one.

No where does it state that acceleration of evolution produces better organisms. It produces only a new hierarchy of dominant traits and species arises, regardless of whether they are “better”. Lastly, explain how the rise of the intelligent frogs and their eventual galactic dominance is even remotely parallel to the rise of humans and the fall of dinosaurs. Also, please explain your conclusion that global warming will lead to a mass extinction. I have no idea how you arrived at that conclusion based on your preceding statements.

Moving on:

1. “Some evolutionists might answer” that life could be improved by global warming even though humans may die out, and we as humans would not want that. (Straw man argument).
2. You do not understand the straw man’s point and find it bizarre.
3. We should be willing to accept temporary suffering and personal sacrifice for the sake of bettering all life. (Are you arguing that we should accept extinction of our species? That is how I interpret your sequence of reasoning. If so, that is hardly temporary or personal, it is permanent and universal).
4. No governments or scientists are questioning the importance of preserving the present climate. (Again, you have lost me. Kyoto is all about capping emissions in order to preserve the climate and prevent further deterioration.)
5. Therefore no one really believes in evolution.
6. Evolution can not be relied upon to preserve or improve life after a catastrophe.

Well, we agree on the very last point, as would any evolutionist. As I said, that conclusion is supported by your Wikipedia link as well. As for all the gyrations you went through in order to arrive at that conclusion, I am really left scratching my head. You could have simply cited Wikipedia and stated "Evolutionists and I agree that evolution cannot be relied upon to improve life in a catastrophe" and been done with it.

Please let me know where I have gone wrong.


jewish philosopher said...

So if they could have, the dinosaurs should have prevented the asteroid strike?

Baal Habos said...

> To me, that seems like a bizarre answer. We should be willing to accept temporary suffering and some personal sacrifice for the sake of the ultimate betterment of all life.

I'm quite surprized at you. Evolution means adapt to the environment. If we're gone and something else moves in it's not guaranteed to be an improvement over us. It could be polar bears.

jewish philosopher said...

As I point out, considering earlier precedence, there is every reason to suppose global warming would lead to a mass extinction event, followed by a vast improvement in terrestrial life.

DrJ said...

JP, you are confusing social Darwinism, which is a defunct racist philosophy, and the scientific theory of evolution, which is VALUE NEUTRAL. "Nature" doesn't give a crap whether one species dies out and another takes over, nor one species being "improved" in comparison to another (whatever that means). Each species attempts to adapt to its environment, and thats all. For example, on the ocean floor, the pipeworms are vastly "improved" in comparison to humans. Our big cerebral cortex would be of no use to us down there.

Your supposition that people just pretend to believe in evolution but really don't is without any basis at all.

jewish philosopher said...

Improved means more intelligent.

jewish philosopher said...

Bottom line: Everyone actually realizes that God created us and a global catastrophe will not lead to anything except devastation.

DrJ said...

"Improved means more intelligent."

Only by standards which value intelligence above all else. Perhaps the ability to fly, swim, or see via sonar are "improved"

In the line of genus homo I would agree with you, but not among all species.

"Bottom line: Everyone actually realizes that God created us and a global catastrophe will not lead to anything except devastation."

Except the 100s of millions of Hindus, Taoists, Budhists and atheists in the world.

Anonymous said...

Well, that wasn't much of a response. I'll move on from your blog as clearly you're not interested in any kind of philosophical debate and are more interested in propagation of your religious views via logical fallacies.

I'll leave you with this:

1. The Hebrew people believe the Torah is the word of God
2. The Torah prescribes death for homosexuals.
3. No one actually goes out and kills homosexuals.
4. Therefore no one really believes that Torah is the word of God.


jewish philosopher said...

DrJ, in this post, I use the word "improvement" to mean "greater intelligence". As I point out, considering earlier precedence, there is every reason to suppose global warming would lead to a mass extinction event, followed by a vast improvement in terrestrial life.

"Except the 100s of millions of Hindus, Taoists, Budhists and atheists in the world."

Has one of them protested the Kyoto Treaty claiming that mass extinction would lead to improvement?

Again, it's like the Emperor's new clothes. No one wants to state the obvious, but on the other hand no one will volunteer to put the "suit" on because there is no suit. Likewise, no one wants to state the obvious, that evolution has never and will never happen, because that would invalidate atheism and we would all be forced to believe in God whether we want to or not. However, no one would dream of relying on evolution to improve life after global warming either.

JTD, I'm glad you brought up one of my favorite topics. I have long advocated death for homosexuals!


DrJ said...

Your "vast improvement in terrestrial life." is not a value, and not something that humans necessarily strive for. Darwinian evolution says nothing about what man should strive for. So why should we strive for our extinction? The fact that we exist now, and the dinosaurs are extinct, is neither good nor bad from an evolutionary point of view. It just happens, an accident, via natural and sexual selection.

One could even argue that the evolution of man is "bad", in that with our large cortexes we have figured out ever more creative ways to massacre each other.

Perhaps a post human world would be inhabited by peaceful and flurry little flying ball creatures that lived off of hydrogen in the air and produced no waste. No need for intelligence.

Secular humanism and your religious philosophy share the concern about the future of humanity. So how exactly does that contradict evolution as a mechanism?? Somehow you see a contradiction between humanism and evolution, by misrepresenting both of them.

jewish philosopher said...

"The fact that we exist now, and the dinosaurs are extinct, is neither good nor bad from an evolutionary point of view."

Fine, so what's the problem with global warming? Bring it on!

"Secular humanism and your religious philosophy share the concern about the future of humanity."

I assume that Darwinists would support the Mediocrity Principle, which states that man is nothing special.

Anonymous said...

I'm calling Poe's Law on Jewish Philosopher!

jewish philosopher said...

I would do that on Darwin. If you ever actually read Origin of Species, the book is so stupid, it's probably a parody of atheism.

Child Ish Behavior said...

I just want to point out that it is precisely the people that don't believe in divine intervention that worry about the problems of global warming. The worry of global warming comes from a sense that humans are in control of their own destiny no matter what the will of God might be. The will of God might yet be some sort of evolutionary changes which humans would like to prevent out of a misplaced haughtiness in their own self importance.

jewish philosopher said...

I think that we should try to avoid damaging the world unnecessarily.


Anonymous said...

I got a bit exhausted reading Philosopher's thoughts. However I would like to tell the Philosopher how I view this. I don't think humans have any better value that dinosaurs. Evolving is random but due to natural selection the species that have poorly RELATIVE to their environment die and better evolved survive RELATIVE to their environment and proliferate. Man has adapted well to environment because of intelligence but that doesn't make him a better species. Other species have used different ways to adapt better to their environment.

But from our point of view we want to survive and live and climate change is a threat. That's why we want to combat climate change. If we view objectively, from not-human- point of view, this climate change thing and the survival of humans doesn't matter at all. Climate change would just kill some species and others that can adopt better to the new climate would survive. The nature "is" neutral about what species survive and die. But to us as one of the species it really matters.

And finally, as evolving and accumulating mutations is totally random, after our death the next ruling species could or could not be intelligent. I understood that you thought that as the last time a mass extinction took place and an intelligent species evolved so after next mass extinction (us dying) there would be another more intelligent species. But this is not the case and you will surely understand why after reading carefully all the comments!
I wish you all the best and more understanding!

jewish philosopher said...

Ilona, first of all most likely you and I would survive global warming. I think it's more a question of our descendants in future generations dying off.

Secondly, mass extinction has always caused an increase in intelligence. The trilobites were more intelligent than bacteria, dinosaurs more intelligent than trilobites and we more intelligent than dinosaurs. Therefore, presumably, the next mass extinction will have similar results.

The fact that this question is not even being debated by a single scientist or statesman proves to me that in reality everyone understands that God created us and if we kill ourselves then intelligent life on earth will end forever. On some level, we all know that nothing ever did, can or will "evolve".

Beast said...

Erm, dude, I don't just believe in evolution. Evolution is fact.

You know the HIV virus? And why so far no drugs have been invented to cure it? Yes, these things can mutate.....real quick too....evolution, dreads.

Beast FCD

Beast said...

Well, mass extinction might create more life, or obliterate life completely.

What is worst, to us is, our human race will go kaput. Extinction to the homo sapiens.

Good for the planet maybe. But not good for us.

Beast FCD

jewish philosopher said...

Mutation is not evolution, dude. The appearance of new organs and limbs is.

"Good for the planet maybe."

So why doesn't anyone suggest it then?

DrJ said...

JP, you repeatedly and deliberately confuse a scientific theory with a value system. What does not wanting to hasten our own extinction have to do with the truth or untruth of evolution? Threre is no connection.

For the sake of argument, lets say that you're right that annihilated humans would be replaced by something "improved". Where in "Darwinism" does it say that we are supposed want that? The fact that we don't want our extinction "proves" that we really believe in God??

I suppose that this proves that the dinosaurs, struggling to survive, must have believed in God as well.

I expect better from a MENSA member.

jewish philosopher said...

I don't think that Al Gore is worried that climate change will kill him personally. Instead he is worried about the future of life on earth. Why worry? We'll evolve and, if the past is any indication, actually improve!

DrJ said...

You touch upon an interesting point and a clarification is in order.

In any value system, the rules and codes take on a "moral" overtone--meaning that even if the original source of the rule is strictly pragmatic, and even selfish, the rule takes on a "higher" ethereal quality of ethical and moral significance.

For example in Western societies littering is considered dispicable and immoral. Its as though you are disrespecting the earth. The "environment" is like an organism that must be protected, respected, and "hurting" it is wrong. But behind all of that lies simple mutual self-interest: we all don't want to live in heaps of garbage, so we agree not to litter. But the moral overtones have moved way beyond that when it comes to environment, even though simple self interest belies it.

So when Al Gore claims to be concerned about the future of the earth, he's really concerned about people. Its really just enlightened self interest for humanity, that is transformed into a "higher" cause. Similarly one who pirates software is now considered immoral ("stealing"), but only because society (as represented by government) has decided that developers profits deserve protection. (Even though it is hard to see anything inherently immoral in copying optical blips from one place to another). Ditto for illegal drug use (as opposed to alcohol and tobacco, which are actually much more harmful)

IMHO many (but not all) religious precepts started out this way as well. So even many basic ideas such as charity, prohibition against slander, visiting the sick, and mourning practices are just societal self-interest, shrouded in "Godly" significance. Its not altruism, its truly agreed upon, enlightened, and mutual self interest.

jewish philosopher said...

However, 150 years ago Darwin taught us, and it is now universally accepted by scientists as a fact, NOT A THEORY, that life is not static, species are not immutable, on the contrary life is infinitely adaptable and apparently even thrives on global catastrophes.

No one really believes it, that's all.

Anonymous said...

Dr. J writes that you are a MENSA member. When I read this, I burst out in laughter. Is it possible for an ostensibly smart person not to know the difference between "Evolution" and "improvement"?

Over and over people are trying to tell you that Evolution describes "changes" not "improvements" in the genome of species. Animals, plants, etc. change in response to pressures exerted on them. For example, if you have a garden full of trees and you suddenly let loose a cow in your garden, it stands to reason that the short trees will be eaten and the tall ones will now remain and dominate. Does this mean that the remaining tall trees are now "improved"?

If you let loose a nuclear holocaust, only things that are relatively resistant to radiation will survive. Who knows, maybe the cockroaches will inherit this earth after such a cataclysm. Does that mean that the cockroaches are somehow "improved" compared to, say, chimps?

Cockroaches taking over the Earth after a nuclear war is not "progress". Yet it is "Evolution". After a nuclear event, the remaining cockroaches would not suddenly become smarter! Rather, Evolutionary processes would favor creatures (such as the now dominant cockroaches) to become more and more resistant to radiation's effects. In fact, Evolutionary processes would highly favor animals that can adapt and harness the high levels of radiation. I would predict that long after a nuclear cataclysm, cockroaches (or other surviving organisms) would evolve to feed on radiation much as plants feed on light energy of the sun through photosynthesis. In an environment where nuclear radiation permeates, a frog hardly needs more brain power. Instead, maybe a tougher skin more resistant to radiation would be more helpful. An Evolutionist would believe that the latter is more likely than the former.

Similarly, if scientists are right about global warming, then the average temperature of the Earth will increase. The oceans will warm and rise. Coastal plains might submerge underwater. If this happens, some marine animals will be severely stressed. Other animals, such as polar bears, who depend on polar ice may become extinct. No one predicts extinction of humans, but mass extinction of other animals is possible.

But why would all this lead to a super smart frog? An Evolutionist would predict that if global warming truly occurs, then vulnerable animals such as polar bears may become extinct and that animals that used to be preyed on by the bears, such as seals, might have increases in numbers. An Evolutionist might predict that surviving polar bears may adapt to higher temperatures somehow; that the surviving bears will have such characteristics as to allow them to survive in these new conditions. Perhaps the polar bear will evolve to become smaller; maybe its color will change. Whatever the adaptation, it would be in favor of its survival under the new conditions.

If you have not been able to understand, then either you are not a MENSA member or your brain is deliberately obfuscating.

jewish philosopher said...

In the past mass extinction events have supposedly resulted in the acceleration of evolution. Considering this precedence, there is every reason to suppose global warming would lead to a mass extinction event, followed by a vast improvement in terrestrial life.

[Why do I have to keep repeating the original post? Perhaps a future less lazy species will evolve.]

Joshua said...

Nothing in evolution says that any life is better or worse than others. There's no Great Chain of Being or anything like that. Evolution is simply what happens in response to environmental changes. Life that has evolved due to environmental pressures isn't any better or worse than other life. The theory of evolution doesn't make judgment calls.

Moreover, this is a very silly argument to make. The probability that humans will be caught in a mass extinction event due to global warming is astronomically small. But in the mean time, disruption to other species, and to our food supply will be massive. That's not fun.

jewish philosopher said...

"Nothing in evolution says that any life is better or worse than others."

It seems like Darwin would disagree on that.

"It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life." The Origin of Species Chapter 4: Natural Selection

Joshua said...

JP, please reread the passage you just quoted. The passage is talking about what is good "in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life." That's not some objective good. That's just making things more fit relative to the current environment. If the environment changes, then living things evolve to better match the new environment. Nowhere is there any object good coming into that.

Incidentally, even if this weren't directly in the quote in question, whether Darwin would agree isn't terribly relevant by itself. Science doesn't work off of quotes from scientists who have been dead a 150 years. Science changes and adapts. A quote from the Ksav Sofer might have halachic value due to it being from 150 years ago. A comment by a scientist from 150 years ago carries no real weight whatsoever.

jewish philosopher said...

I'm just pointing out that the language I am using is consistent with Darwin's. I agree with you of course that he was wrong about everything.

Anyway, the main point of this post is that according to evolution, life is extremely flexible. For example, if someone would throw a ball of clay out of a third story window, no one would shout "Stop! You are going to smash the clay!" Clay will not smash; it will change shape a little, but it will remain just fine. By the same token, even if the earth's environment goes through a major, sudden shift, life may change in some ways but it should continue just fine. So what' s the big fuss?

Joshua said...

Gah. I didn't assert that Darwin was wrong about everything. He was correct about a large amount in fact. But his opinion still has close to zero weight for talking about the modern theory of evolution. Moreover, you are using the same words as Darwin but in a manner consistent with him. Again, the entire statement Darwin is making is consistent with a given environment. Nothing ever becomes objectively better in any moral or philosophical sense.

As to your other point, even if life can adapt to a changing environment that doesn't mean we want to force it to do so. Many species will die out and many humans will have a pretty miserable time. No one wants that.

jewish philosopher said...

So life would have been better off if we had remained trilobites?

No pain, no gain.

Joshua Zelinsky said...

I don't know what it means if life would have been better off. Better off for whom? Obviously not for humans since we wouldn't exist? Better off for trilobites? Presumably. Better off for life on the whole? I'm not sure that's a meaningful question. But as a human and as an intelligent life-form I'd prefer things to be well-off for humans and intelligent life. Even before we get to the fact that species dying out makes the world a less interesting place.

jewish philosopher said...

I don't think evolutionists can really have it both ways. Either you believe in evolution, adaption and improvement or you don't. And if you do, why be in a big panic about freezing the earth's environment at the point which it is at this moment?

Joshua Zelinsky said...

This isn't that complicated. Evolution says that things will adapt and will improve their fitness relative to their current environment. It doesn't make any claim about that being a good thing, and it certainly doesn't make any claim that changing the baseline environment is a good thing. Evolution is completely descriptive; there's no moral statement going on here at all.

jewish philosopher said...

OK, so what you're saying as I understand it is "Yes, of course life could adapt and evolve in response to climate change. It might become more complex and intelligent as well, as we see following all previous mass extinctions. However I just don't like that idea. I like the way things are now."

Fine. However why doesn't anyone, for example a few of those eminent scientists who know that evolution is "a fact not a theory", even suggest that climate change and mass extinction might be a great idea?

Answer: Because they don't really believe in evolution.

Joshua said...

No. That's not what I'm saying at all. Life will evolve in response to climate change. There's zero reason to think that such life will be more intelligent than current life at all. For all we know, the adaptions will make life less intelligent. This is a basic point you seem to not understand about evolution; beings become more fit relative to their environment. If dumber individuals are more fit (that is will produce more offspring), and their intelligence level is inherited, then the species will evolve to become dumber. This is completely indepdendent of whether becoming intelligent is a good or a bad thing.

Moreover, even if life would become more intelligent that wouldn't make it necessary a good idea. No one wants humans to suffer and species diversity to plummet. We like a nice stable world very much thank you.

jewish philosopher said...

Following every mass extinction event in the past diversity and intelligence have increased.

Again, anyone who truly believes in the Darwinism and in the Mediocrity Principle (which states that man is nothing special
http://skepticwiki.org/index.php/The_Mediocrity_Principle#Religion) should logically welcome global warming. But no one is, because no one believes.

It's kind of like taking a group of people who claim that they love let's say Islam more than they love life itself. But then, when someone comes along to destroy their mosque, they all take the first bus out town. So where did the love go?

Actions speak louder than words.

Joshua said...

The claim about mass extinctions is simply wrong. There has been a general trend for life to increase in diversity and intelligence but mass extinctions don't have anything to do with that.

Moreover you again seem to not understand that even if evolution sees nothing biologically special about humans that doesn't mean we don't like humans thank you very much. There's no reason to try to cause human extinction or anything similar. I'm a bit perplexed at how you think that acceptance of evolution would cause that.

jewish philosopher said...

"The claim about mass extinctions is simply wrong."

No it's not. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extinction_event#Evolutionary_importance

I think evolution is like some sort of magic which mysteriously worked in the past, until the beginning of recorded history when for some reason the magic stopped working. Therefore it is understood that if today we would have a mass extinction event, it would simply mean death not improvement.

I prefer saying "God did it" rather than "magic did it".

Joshua said...

The section of the Wikipedia article doesn't say what you seem to think it says. It doesn't state that mass extinctions lead to smarter more diverse life. Indeed, if anything it is saying almost the exact opposite:
"When dominance of particular ecological niches passes from one group of organisms to another, it is rarely because the new dominant group is "superior" to the old and usually because an extinction event eliminates the old dominant group and makes way for the new one."

You also seem to still be hung up on this notion of evolution improving things which it doesn't do in any objective sense. Life evolves to become more fit to the current environment, not in any cosmic sense.

In any event, you are now apparently attempting to turn this into a general discussion about evolution (in which are you wrong, evolution never stopped and can be seen in many different ways today) but that's a side issue from the fundamental point which you still seem to not be getting.

jewish philosopher said...

So people who are concerned about climate change are simply sentimental, stodgy people who don't like change, period. It's similar to people who want to preserve Irish because they just like Irish.


Somehow, the urgency involved in stopping climate change seems a little more serious than that.