The impossible question about evolution?
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21-12-2013, 10:05 PM
RE: The impossible question about evolution?
(21-12-2013 07:03 PM)slimlover360 Wrote:  I've never understood the underlying reason for evolution, or even the underlying reason for life itself to exist.

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21-12-2013, 11:15 PM
RE: The impossible question about evolution?
(21-12-2013 08:32 PM)slimlover360 Wrote:  Still, I can't agree that evolution or more specifically the existence of life doesn't want anything, because it doesn't seem logical that the universe invented competition for resources and the resulting survival of the fittest purely by chance. (I hope I'm not clouding the issue by suggesting the existence of a God or Gods in any sense of the word us humans could understand it.)

If it helps to view the issue from a gene-centric level of analysis then do so. I will use your teleological terms in the same sense as you use them but will put them in quotes.

Genes "want" to reproduce despite the problems the universe "presents" to them.

Life evolved because a living high-fidelity self-replicator has more degrees of freedom than a non-living self-replicator. That is to say it has more behavioural options, e.g. it can seek its molecular building blocks and avoid hazards. If this were not the case then life would not have evolved and Earth would contain only non-living self-replicators. Instead the non-living self-replicators (peptides) would have become food for the living self-replicators that are able to seek them out and avoid hazards.

This dovetails nicely with the discussion on free-will and determinism in the other thread. Life evolved to produce the intelligence that you refer to as a "by-product" of the evolution of (compatibilist) free-will. The environment wasn't selecting for the ability to do differential calculus or play guitars. The environment was selecting for more mundane things as hazard avoidance, planning, social co-operation etc. and these represent behavioural possibilities--i.e. freedoms--that are unavailable to non-living things and living things with lesser brains.

Intelligence is associated with more behavioural possibilities that is why it has been repeatedly (indirectly) selected. The ability of humans to do pure mathematics was never specifically selected, the natural world doesn't present problems of survival that are contingent on solutions to problems in abstract algebra (e.g. Prove that a finite group whose only automorphism is the identity map must have order at most two or die). Rather, it appears that mathematical ability is an evolutionary spandrel associated with the evolution of our linguistic ability. Linguistic ability too was not directly selected, it appears to have been selected at the level of the benefits of social co-operation, planning and knowledge storage and transmission.
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22-12-2013, 06:54 AM
RE: The impossible question about evolution?
(21-12-2013 08:32 PM)slimlover360 Wrote:  Slowminded seem to touch on common arguments about evolution. To a large extent I would agree evolution doesn't have a plan, if the famous asteroid hadn't struck 65 million years ago whose to say we wouldn't have sentient descendants of dinosaurs ruling the earth instead of us. Still, I can't agree that evolution or more specifically the existence of life doesn't want anything, because it doesn't seem logical that the universe invented competition for resources and the resulting survival of the fittest purely by chance. (I hope I'm not clouding the issue by suggesting the existence of a God or Gods in any sense of the word us humans could understand it.)

I think you are looking at this wrong way round, it's not the universe who invented competition for resources, it is the form of life that competes for resources who managed to survive and thrive, the life forms that don't compete for resources don't survive.
You are looking at the winner thinking that the race was fixed for his special abilities, instead of looking at the race and understanding that the winner won because his abilities were best suited for the race.

I don't know if you get what i mean, it's not the universe/god/deity that "picks" a certain life form and then makes the rules in order for that life form to thrive.
It's the other way around, the life form that is capable to survive in accordance with universes laws survives and thrives. There is no chance in "survival of the fittest" it's the only way that's possible.

It's like a lottery, the drum doesn't pick the numbers and the winner in advance, yet, some combination of numbers has to come up. You are looking at the winner of a lottery busting your brains on what were all necessary conditions for that person to pick winning numbers, and looking at it from that perspective it seems almost impossible and against all odds, but you disregard the fact that somebody winning was insured at the very moment the drum was set in motion.

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28-12-2013, 08:40 PM
RE: The impossible question about evolution?
The underlying reason for evolution is the nature of DNA. DNA by its nature changes over time, hence you get evolution. As to how life came about, scientists don't yet know. They have shown that many of the steps that are thought to be required for a very simple cell to form, including spontaneous formation of RNA from precursor molecules, can happen spontaneously in nature, but science is a long way from being able to say "it happened like this". They probably won't ever know exactly how it happened.

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04-01-2014, 04:26 AM
Re: The impossible question about evolution?
I guess you could boil it down to living/being.

Life came to be, and it's intent is to keep being, that's what evolution is based on. Altering to keep existing in the scenario of change.

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04-01-2014, 06:17 AM
RE: The impossible question about evolution?
(21-12-2013 07:03 PM)slimlover360 Wrote:  Hi everyone,
For many years I've thought about the question of evolution. I can understand that it does happen, and I can understand the mechanics of allowing the fittest of every generation to procreate.

However I've never understood the underlying reason for evolution, or even the underlying reason for life itself to exist. I suppose it's the age-old question of what is the meaning of life, albeit from a scientifically-minded curiosity. Why did life start, and why did evolution bring us to today -- where we can look up at the stars and dream about reaching them, where our brains can study other brains to try and understand how they work, or where the subatomic particles in our body can work together to try and understand what subatomic particles are.

I see myself as an atheist, but over the years this question has caused a growing feeling that there might be more to it than that. Certainly not religion in any form humans have imagined, but what secret is there about the universe that ultimately brought about the existence of human beings? What made the universe bring about the spark of life to begin with, and what made the universe seem to favor evolution to the point where we can consciously observe that universe and try to understand it.

I think there has to be a reason, albeit shrouded in mystery from us. In my opinion the pursuit of that reason would be a fruitful endeavour for atheists to explore, because theists certainly wouldn't -- their view of the meaning of life seems to be about pleasing God in some fashion, making it a moot point. At the same time it's a question everyone can relate to in some way, since almost everyone has or have had the urge to pair up with a wife or husband to raise a child -- we can all think of a lot of reasons why we do that, but the basic question of "why" seems to elude us.

I wouldn't dare to begin speculate about the underlying reason, but sometimes I like thinking about the basic urge of organisms to spread to new areas and consume new resources to create more offspring and the way us humans are on the verge of taking a major new step in "spreading our genes" to other worlds in the solar system. Isn't that the ultimate victory of evolution, to escape the bonds of the origin world? And as we continue to spread out, perhaps the veil of mystery behind life will be lifted one step at a time.

Looking forward to hearing your own thoughts and theories on this subject Smile

There is no reason outside of cause and effect for life to exist, it was just a 'lucky break' as some might be inclined to put it and there is no 'reason' for evolution. Evolution is the mechanism by which species change through ways we very well understand, it exists and there is no reason why outside the fact that is it didn't life would have stopped existing; Evolution is nothing more than a name we humans gave to something we observed, it's not an entity in and of itself, it has no victories outside what we assign it, nor goals nor achievements nor pinnacles nor reasons.. Also, there is no meaning to life outside what you create for yourself. We know for a fact that life exists, how we have some good ideas on but nobody is exactly sure, but asking "why did life start" brings nothing as it (to my reading) implies some form of out-side desire for it to be so, and asking why evolution brought us here is to me shear arrogance; if any one of a million species were wiped out instead, humanity would not exist. We exist by fluke alone, there is no reason to ask a question which implies that evolution desired us as an eventual outcome, species will continue to go and continue changing long after humanity dies out (unless we take everything with us) just as they did before anything even remotely ape-like existed. We can ask questions like yours only because we are naturally biased to the idea that we would come to be like this as an inevitability. I wager that if any other creatures exist which are on par with humanity, that they think in the same biased way.

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04-01-2014, 07:36 AM
RE: The impossible question about evolution?
There is no reason for it.

It is simply how it is.

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04-01-2014, 09:26 AM
RE: The impossible question about evolution?
(21-12-2013 07:03 PM)slimlover360 Wrote:  I think there has to be a reason, albeit shrouded in mystery from us.

Conservation of entropy. Big Grin

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15-08-2014, 02:45 AM (This post was last modified: 15-08-2014 02:54 AM by phil.a.)
RE: The impossible question about evolution?
(21-12-2013 07:03 PM)slimlover360 Wrote:  However I've never understood the underlying reason for evolution, or even the underlying reason for life itself to exist. I suppose it's the age-old question of what is the meaning of life, albeit from a scientifically-minded curiosity. Why did life start, and why did evolution bring us to today -- where we can look up at the stars and dream about reaching them, where our brains can study other brains to try and understand how they work, or where the subatomic particles in our body can work together to try and understand what subatomic particles are.

Remember "meaning" is a human concept, so there's a risk of getting into a circular argument if you attempt to define the meaning of life in purely objective terms (e.g. it resolves unhelpfully to "what is the meaning of meaning").

However, because you are life, the "meaning of life" is in fact (essentially by definition) whatever gives your life meaning! And there will be as many valid but different perspectives about this as there are different human beings.

I think that people who go looking for transcendentals tend to find that the meaning of life is contained in Beauty, Goodness and Truth. In the sense that when we come into contact with these transcendentals, we experience meaning.

You see this idea all over the place, from Plato to the Bhagavad Gita to Thomas Aquinas. But more important than what they say, what do you find when you enquire into it for yourself, and reflect on your own life experience?

Phil
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15-08-2014, 03:27 AM
RE: The impossible question about evolution?
The only reason that question seems impossible is because it's nonsensical, as others have pointed out. It'd be like asking what's the color of time.

The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
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