Book review 5) The Blind Watchmaker

Hi,
just few minutes back I finished the book Blind Watchmaker, here is the review. (Also do not forget to check out my second blog!)

Book: The Blind Watchmaker

Author: Richard Dawkins

Genre: Science

Pages: 332

Rating: 8.1/10


Ok so compared to the first book I read from Dawkins, the Selfish Gene, this one was a bit weaker. Maybe I rated it lower because I expected something different from the book but anyway there were parts which were for me kind of boring.

This book is about the Blind Watchmaker which is natural selection. Blind because evolution does not plan ahead, it just selects the fittest.

In first chapters which were very very good Dawkins talks about probability and ireducible complexity which are favorite arguments by creationists and other anti-evolutionists. The point is that organs like eye are extremely complex, too complex to appear by chance. This should be the argument against evolution and for intelligent design. It is shown that as long as you can imagine something just a little less complex and then something just a little bit less complex than that, you will after lot of steps get to no eye at all and at all times bad sight is better than none at all, by this you can explain how complicated organs evolved over long period of time.

There is lot of text only for the echolocation of bats which is very interesting topic I recommend you to read.

Pictures from Dawkins’s simulation

Dawking puts an images of what his old computer produced when he let him run a program that changed a simple ornament into various complicated structures via simple “mutations”. He illustrates on this how species may be created.

At one point there comes a huge “disappointment”. Author is saying that the event of statue waving on you is improbable though it can happen. If all the atoms in the hand moved at the same time back and forth. He even says that his friend calculated for him the probability, and then he does not mention it!!!
What was he thinking about? That the reader would not want to know what is the probability of statue waving?! I mean, my life wont make any sense until I will found the probability somewhere… -_-

At around the page 200 it gets somewhat boring because he talks about all the schools of evolution and what all of them think, and what is right, and what arguments are good and which are not. This continues almost to the end until in last chapter he puts down creationism, lamarckism and other so called “doomed rivals” of evolution.

The start of the book was very good but the end was boring as I said. At the same time I would not want to be influenced by the effect of “peak-end” so I give 8.1/10.

Dragallur

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Altruism does not exist

Hi,
the title is pretty self-explanatory but I can expand it. What I want to write about today is the theory of selfish gene and how it interacts with selfishness and altruism. (Btw. do not forget to check out my second blog!)


So altruistic act is the act that helps others while giving you to worse position, by this I mean that it costs you some energy for example.

What I want to say that there is apparently altruistic behavior towards those who are similar to you. Who is that? Your family.

Over all you share 1/2 of genes with your siblings and with your parents and also children, nobody can get closer to you if you wont make a copy of yourself or you have twin.

From the point of the selfish gene which is in you, it is important to stay in population and not die out [1]. This means that the gene is trying to safe other genes which may be riding in different bodies.


How does he know that there is his identical gene twin in other individual? Dawkins says for example in his book The Selfish Gene, that when there is gene for altruism in your body you will know that this same gene appears in somebody else who is also behaving altruisticly. While it is always from evolutionary point of view best to safe yourself, it is also good to safe others because they may contain the same stuff as you and that is what is important, not the outer shell which is anyway just a vehicle which will disappear after few years.

To enhance this argument I will just add: if gene is able to recognise himself in other “survival machines” then it will be more often present in future generations which is basicly natural selection.


 

You can not apply this for human behaviour because we are no longer bound only by instincts and this surely is not a way to live a life. At the same time, think over your past days about you and also people around. Do you behave altruisticly or are you hiding your selfishness behind altruism? What I see often is that people do “good” things just because they want to look like doing good things over all being selfish, what do you guys think about this?

Dragallur

[1] It is of course not important for the gene. Genes are not thinking. If the gene would not be good at staying in population it would not be there.

 

 

 

How did life arise?

Hi,
I bumped into this question when I was arguing over evolution and creationism. It is very favorite claim that life had to be made by God because humans were not able to create it from dead matter, rocks for example.

This is famous problem. It is true chemists were not able to create life when simulating the early time on Earth 3.6 billion years ago (this is for simplicity, it is kind of difficult to say when exactly life arose).


Now of course there are theories and one of them is the theory of primordial soup. This is theory that in the ancient ocean there were dissolved some basic molecules which we can find even on other planets (so we have proof for them that may have been here (and almost surely were)).

So as they are floating in the dead ocean there is some great radiation coming down and hitting these molecules. Also there is what is called “primordial lighting” which is the lighting that should be able to create more complicated molecules only by hitting ammonia, hydrogen and other stuff. It was proved that there should be monomers too. Those are simple organic compounds, such as lipids or proteins.

Chemists were able to create with some radiation and electricity even amino-acids. The last step was that we were able to create purines and pyrimidines, those are building blocks of DNA and RNA which is kind of important.

RNA and DNA, key components for modern living.

Nothing more, we were not able to create life, yet. What would the next step be? Something that is called replicator.

Replicator is any molecule or lot of molecules that are able to replicate itself. This is key. If we are able to create some kind of replicator from the primordial soup, we will take a giant leap forward, because then onwards evolution takes a place.

When replicator replicates it should make exact copy of itself like in asexual reproduction. But as good secretary makes roughly one mistake per page, even the replicator will eventually make a mistake. This is called mutation and it is either helping the organism or not. This process drives evolution even that only small part of all mutations may be helpful. Those who have good mutation will have more replicas of itself and eventually there will be only those which are better, this process will repeat in what is called evolution when after hudreds of millions of years you are standing here, originating from one simple replicator, as well as me, your class mates all other animals, bacteria and viruses. This was never observed but it should work like this.

In bottom you can see the LUCA, first original organism from which we originate!


 

So will we be able to create replicator? The problem with that is that only several laboratories over world are working on this. They are working on it only for about 100 years which is not much considering geological time.

While I did not see their laboratories I bet that they are working on small areas, maybe area of swiming pool and I found, I cite:

Liquid water covered much of the Earth’s surface by 3.6 (or 3.8?) Ga, but when before that it condensed from a dense atmosphere is undefined.

We can of course speculate on what “much” means though I would guess that we can start on reasonable 50% of Earth’s surface which is 255,036,000 square kilometers. When speaking about swimming pool I will take olympic swimming pool though I guess that the chemists work with much much smaller, they would not be able to control such a big area.

Imagine controling experiments on this thing!

It means that the Earth was able to use roughly 204,028,800,000 times bigger area than chemists not talking about the fact the oceans are deeper.[1] At the same time, there were couple of millions of years for this to happen compared to 100 in laboratory.

My point is that we maybe should not expect the life to rise in our laboratories, because if it does, life is much more probable that we thought[2].

Dragallur

PS: Do not ever argument by saying that Pasteur proved that life can not rise spontaneously, because he did not.

Read more: 1) 2) 3)

[1]Of course you could argue that in laboratory you can use lighting all the time and be purposeful with your selection of molecules.

[2]Maybe we should since our techniques improve and we are getting better in simulating and controling the environment of primordial soup.

Book review 3) On the Origin of Species

Hi,
this time I will make a review of another book I just finished:

Book: The Illustrated Origin Of Species

Author: Charles Darwin (Richard E. Leakey)

Genre: Science

Pages: 220

Rating: 9/10


I started to read this book last week so I have completed it pretty quickly which is a bit suprising on my manners.

I decided to read it because my mum said that I should read it before I continue on Selfish Gene by Dawkins, so I know the basics of evolution. You probably heard about the original book: On the Origin of Species purely written by famous founder of evolution: Darwin.

This is sixth edition or so with foreword by Richard E. Leakey who is apparently paleoanthropologist and politician. Not only foreword but also several paragraphs in the book and also the illustrations are added by him. This version is shorter than the original.


The book is very good but still there are some things which I would change. There were some passages where the book was written too simply and sometimes you had to go once or twice over it. Also one or two chapters seem to be kind of weird since they start with paragraph saying that Darwin is wrong in this chapter because now we know that it is different. Those were sometimes a bit boring but I can understand that still at least it meets the “historical” value that Darwin himself wrote it.

What I found really interesting is that there were probably only few sentences where he mentioned God and Christianity, while you may remember that this book was and is often used as argument against creationism.

It simply seems that he is trying to avoid it. In one part where he talk about how cuckoo lays her eggs in nests of different birds and then the young throws brutally all the other eggs and youngs out of the nest because she needs more food, Darwin says that he does not think that God would create something so brutal and that it had to be because of uncompromising natural selection. He says the same thing about one kind of insect that lies his eggs into caterpillar which is then eaten from inside.

I really like the chapter about ants. Darwin explains their verious behaviors and I found very interesting those slaver ants. Also cool is the part where he writes that seeds can for example spread through mud that is sticked to birds leg. One of his friends even sent him a leg of a bird with dirt sticked to it to prove it!

If you want to get such an introduction as I did or you just admire Darwin, go on read the book, you will like it a lot!

Dragallur

 

Creationism vs Science: Should we teach it in schools?

Hi,
yesterday I wrote kind of prologue to those series about science and creationism. I talked about looking on the other side and not just staying on your opinion. Now as I promised this post will be about the learning of creationism in schools. I also noticed that you guys actually commented on my post which I am very happy about, so thanks again!


It has already been few months but after having the discussion about creationism I remembered it again. In our biology class in autumn we were starting to learn about the life on Earth.

My teacher said that there is an evolution and there are also other version about how it happened, creationism for example. But she said that she wont be learning us about creationism and will left us with the knowledge about evolution (we learned just few basic stuff anyway).


Now when I think about it, this sounds to me kind of unfortunate[1]. Why? Because those people who wont happen to think about it in soon future will at some point get the information, but from what source? Will it be objective (not saying that teachers are always objective, but they should be)? Plus, creationism is such an important thing from the matter that so many people believe in it and in past 99% of people thought it to be true, so how should the class look like?

I think that the teacher should explain on what creationism stands. Seven day creation, how Earth is only 6,000 years old and the Great flood. Then she/he should let the students think about this. I think that on this you can so well show how argumentation work, for example student just can not say that he thinks that seven day creation is stupid. This could learn them a bit of critical thinking and argumentation, though there is one problem.

What if in the class were some people who actually belived in creation? I mean they were surely learned by their parents about creation. Of course it would be in their greatest “benefit” to tell them about evolution and why some things are simply made up about creation, but if I think about how groups of people think in classes maybe it would be kind of like showing all the other students who were taught about the “scientific way” that those two or three students are stupid. This seems to me how it could end and there would be no benefit in it at all, I can imagine how those kids could be kind of stressed if they should trust in evolution or creationism.

What to do with it? Well you could probably pretty much eliminate the problem if you would teach it in higher classes for older students when they are more self-confident and so on, but I do not have the right experience with teaching to really tell how it would end up, still I think that it is important to learn about creationism because then later when those people who did not ever bumped into such thing could easily “convert” to creationism, and as Mike M. quoted Bill Nye, it is not beneficial for the perspective of humanity to have people believing creationism because “nature and the universe can be dismissed by a few sentences translated into English from some ancient text, you’re not going to continue to innovate” (Thanks Mike.) And trust me, if you do not know anything about the facts that creationists are using it is extremely persuasive. And yes, large percentage of population, even adults just do not know about those things as far as I know [2]. This is because it was seemingly never important to them, this leads to distrust to science and people not supporting it. Take NASA for example, just because of landing on Moon, one of the most amazing achievments of humanity, it is by part of USA population hated, just because there appeared a group of people, who were able to create arguments, which are easy to understand, but they are not true at all. Those are for example flag flapping in the breeze or blast crater under module and so on, this is practicly the same case.

Thanks for reading, next time on those series I will probably “touch” God a little.

Dragallur

[1]Of course there is limited time in class so learning about creationism would take probably two classes, maybe three depending on the teacher.

[2]I must admit here that I do not have representative sample to tell such a thing but when I see my fellow classmates I am sure that they do not care about science at all. Plus I just found out about some people who think that Earth is flat, so thats it 😀 .