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WaterMasterAdministrator
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Loc: Southeast Idaho, USA
Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: Ravenous]
      #5941252 - 06/26/13 11:06 AM

Quote:

First you need to define "improvement". Without bias to what you, as a human, regard as improvement.

Difficult, isn't it...




Well said. Evolution is directionless.

Quote:

I am curious; would you imagine evolutionary development is capable of a quantitative improvement over or compared to human mind, or do you imagine evolution is capable of a qualitative improvement over human mind?





That depends.

Evolution is not causal, it's the result of mutation and ecological factors which drive differential reproduction. That being said, if we substitute the word 'change' for 'improvement', I can address your question from an evolutionary biologist's perspective.

Quantitative change is, perhaps, easier to deal with. I can imagine that there might be circumstances wherein larger (or smaller) brains might be selected for, though as addressed so ably by UND previously, larger brains come with a substantial energy cost. Brains might also become more (or less) complex, in any of dozens of physiological or morphological ways (neuron density, increased cortical area, etc.). Qualitative change may also be considered in physiological terms. For example, a change in neurotransmitter efficiency might be considered qualitative (although it would also be quantitative).

If you're asking whether I think we might evolve to be smarter (or whatever term you wish to apply to describe 'improvement'), I would have to say, 'That depends.' Physiological and morphological changes might very well 'improve' the phenomena you're calling 'mind', but what form that improvement might take is the realm of science fiction.


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Pess
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: shawnhar]
      #5941260 - 06/26/13 11:10 AM

Quote:

Quote:


One on one a human would have no chance against a Tiger competing over a slab of meat.




You would have no chance against a squirrell! (and they are small, cute n furry with bushy tails) When we were kids I saw my friend grab one, he went to the hospital. We are nothing without our tools compared to anything with claws and teeth.




Yeah, squirrels are good with nuts.

Pesse (I sometimes wonder why they don't try to collect my neighbor) Mist


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Pess
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: Pess]
      #5941285 - 06/26/13 11:28 AM

Quote:

Well said. Evolution is directionless.




Not sure I agree with the totality of that statement. Evolution encompasses a number of subset rules.

Random genetic mutation is directionless. The mutations occur spontaneously without reference to the outside environment. (Although I could argue about certain environmental exsposures causing organisms to suffer specific higher probability mutations..but that's another argument).

However, Natural selection IS directed in that forces actively select which mutations are passed on.

We even have directed artificial selection that has lead to a new species of Fruit fly.

So, I would say, genetic mutation is non-directional but evolution as a whole does tend to be directional--in the direction best suited for a particular niche.

Just saw World War Z with Brad Pitt last night, While I rated the movie 'D' for dumb, it did kinda touch on this aspect of selection as the way the Zombie virus was 'particular' about the way it spread..and also which turned out to be its Achilles heel.

Pesse (It was still a dumb movie though.....) Mist


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ColoHank
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: Pess]
      #5941636 - 06/26/13 03:40 PM

Pondering the imponderable...

There's a cartoon in the current (7/1) issue of The New Yorker which somehow reminds me of this thread:

Two Buddhist monks are seated side-by-side in a monastery courtyard, and one asks the other, "Would you rather be attacked by a horse-size duck or fifty duck-size horses."


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ColoHank
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: ColoHank]
      #5941641 - 06/26/13 03:44 PM

Except the second monk doesn't respond to the query by asking the first to define what he means when he says "attacked, or "duck," or "horse."

Or "fifty," for that matter.


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Otto Piechowski
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Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: ColoHank]
      #5941693 - 06/26/13 04:14 PM

"Pondering the imponderable", so you said, Hank.

Interesting, is it not, that this imponderable thread has generated over a thousand views and over a hundred replies.

"I realized science couldn't answer any of the really interesting questions. So, I turned to philosophy. I've been searching for God ever since." Bud Chantillas, mission surgeon, Red Planet.


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Pess
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5941798 - 06/26/13 05:29 PM

"One bright day in the middle of the night,
Two dead men stood up to fight.
There were forty mutes to yell 'Hurray!'
And six blind men to see fair play.
Back to back they faced each other,
drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise
and ran to save those two dead boys.
And if you don't believe it's true,
go ask the kangaroo, he saw it too."

Pesse (eom) Mist


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ColoHank
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5941840 - 06/26/13 05:57 PM

Quote:

"I realized science couldn't answer any of the really interesting questions. So, I turned to philosophy. I've been searching for God ever since." Bud Chantillas, mission surgeon, Red Planet.




Fictional characters say the darndest things.


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Otto Piechowski
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Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: ColoHank]
      #5941982 - 06/26/13 07:00 PM

You are, of course, correct. Movies can not be used as proof of anything. At best, occasionally, they illustrate, illuminate, explain ideas or the conflict of ideas, and on occasion, display a new idea from the contrast of two conflicting ideas.

One of the best examples I have seen of a new idea created by the portrayal of two other contrasting, but related, ideas was the montage of scenes from Battleship Potemkin of the crew writhing in protest on the deck and the maggots feeding on a rotted carcass.

Edited by Otto Piechowski (06/26/13 08:39 PM)


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llanitedave
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: Pess]
      #5942709 - 06/27/13 09:13 AM

Quote:

Quote:

Well said. Evolution is directionless.




Not sure I agree with the totality of that statement. Evolution encompasses a number of subset rules.

Random genetic mutation is directionless. The mutations occur spontaneously without reference to the outside environment. (Although I could argue about certain environmental exsposures causing organisms to suffer specific higher probability mutations..but that's another argument).

However, Natural selection IS directed in that forces actively select which mutations are passed on.

We even have directed artificial selection that has lead to a new species of Fruit fly.

So, I would say, genetic mutation is non-directional but evolution as a whole does tend to be directional--in the direction best suited for a particular niche.

Just saw World War Z with Brad Pitt last night, While I rated the movie 'D' for dumb, it did kinda touch on this aspect of selection as the way the Zombie virus was 'particular' about the way it spread..and also which turned out to be its Achilles heel.

Pesse (It was still a dumb movie though.....) Mist




I'd go with "yes and no", and the current favorite, "it depends" on direction in evolution. While there's no denying natural selection, it's not the totality of evolutionary change. Many mutations are detrimental to an organism, a few are beneficial, and a great many (perhaps the majority, but certainly a significant percentage) are neutral. These neutral mutations, not being eliminated by selection, tend to randomly accumulate in the gene pool, and can lead to not only genetic diversity, but in small isolated populations can drive speciation events as well, as they become fixed in the population under no other influence but that of chance. Genetic drift is probably behind as much if not more evolutionary change as natural selection itself.

Over time, some of these formerly neutral mutations can become beneficial or detrimental as the outside selection environment changes, but many of them are simply invisible to selection.


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Pess
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5942722 - 06/27/13 09:20 AM

Quote:

.... but many of them are simply invisible to selection.





Pesse (Until they get their turn at bat...) Mist


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shawnhar
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: Pess]
      #5943056 - 06/27/13 12:46 PM

Quote:

Quote:

.... but many of them are simply invisible to selection.





Pesse (Until they get their turn at bat...) Mist



Or their turn at the teet!
I heard being able to digest cow's milk was extremely rare back in the day.


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scopethis
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: shawnhar]
      #5943226 - 06/27/13 02:36 PM

evolution is caused by the environment

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EJN
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: scopethis]
      #5943423 - 06/27/13 04:55 PM

Quote:

evolution is caused by the environment




Not necessarily. Mutations can be caused by substitution of different
tautomeric forms of the bases (purines & pyrimidines) in DNA when
replicating, as well as replication errors which involve the addition
or deletion of a base in the sequence.


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llanitedave
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: scopethis]
      #5943708 - 06/27/13 07:48 PM

Quote:

evolution is caused by the environment




As EJN said, not necessarily. Evolution can occur in the absence of environmental change, via genetic drift. Further, even when a species is forced to adapt to a changing environment, it's not always predictable what direction that adaptation will take. For example, consider a mammal in a tropical environment that grows colder. To adapt to the cold, there are several solutions to the problem available. The population can grow longer warmer fur. It can grow fatter for insulation. It can grow physically larger. It can increase its metabolism to generate more body heat.

None of these potential solutions is exclusive to the others, and all of them are going to carry incidental consequences -- which adds to the unpredictability of the future.

So what IS the relationship between the environment and evolution? Exactly how do you define *cause* under such conditions? It's there, but it's not amenable to glib or simple statements.


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WaterMasterAdministrator
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5943797 - 06/27/13 08:49 PM

Well, to be precise, mutation and genetic drift are the grist upon which natural selection works, over generations via differential reproduction, to result in evolution. Certainly, neutral genes get carried along, but they, too, are grist - waiting for their turn at bat, as Pess put it (and with my apologies for mixing metaphors).

Earlier, when I spoke of evolution being directionless, I was referring to the evolutionary biology paradigm of n-dimensional ecological space. Since evolution is a destination, the 'direction' it has traveled can only be determined by looking backward. We can examine physiology and morphology and make hypotheses about why a particular adaptation might have resulted in differential reproduction (w, Haldane's quantification of 'fitness'). See this for a cool new example of this.

And, of course, evolution can occur without changes in environment (sexual selection is a good example of this). Actually, this can bring us back on topic - what might be the selective advantages of 'mind'?

Edited by WaterMaster (06/27/13 09:11 PM)


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Otto Piechowski
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: WaterMaster]
      #5943891 - 06/27/13 10:11 PM

This is not a response to anyone in particular, thought the use of "quick reply" always seems to get attached to the last to post.

Anyway, you "pointy eared *BLEEP*" are so good at parse-ing words and focusing on the connotative and secondary words stated; let's try this one...are there any quantitative or qualitative changes in human-kind you would not expect to see from the parameters and limitations you are aware of in evolutionary biology.

Drawing, seriously now, on your scientific acumen, I would be very interested to hear if there are specific quantitative and qualitative changes to human-mind you would suspect are never possible; changes which others who haven't thought much about it, like myself, would be surprised to hear and then, once we get the gist of it, would say, "yah, that makes sense".

Otto


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WaterMasterAdministrator
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5944007 - 06/27/13 11:29 PM

Quote:

Drawing, seriously now, on your scientific acumen, I would be very interested to hear if there are specific quantitative and qualitative changes to human-mind you would suspect are never possible...




Otto, you're asking us to speculate on the impossible. I don't think I can do that 'seriously'.


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llanitedave
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5944043 - 06/27/13 11:56 PM

Quote:

This is not a response to anyone in particular, thought the use of "quick reply" always seems to get attached to the last to post.

Anyway, you "pointy eared *BLEEP*" are so good at parse-ing words and focusing on the connotative and secondary words stated; let's try this one...are there any quantitative or qualitative changes in human-kind you would not expect to see from the parameters and limitations you are aware of in evolutionary biology.

Drawing, seriously now, on your scientific acumen, I would be very interested to hear if there are specific quantitative and qualitative changes to human-mind you would suspect are never possible; changes which others who haven't thought much about it, like myself, would be surprised to hear and then, once we get the gist of it, would say, "yah, that makes sense".

Otto




As for natural-type impossible changes, I'd say there are quite a few. One would be for feathers to sprout from our limbs. Remember, evolution can only work with the genes it already has, and it doesn't go back to start with a state that has been long left behind.

I would also expect that our broken vitamin C gene will never mutate back into a functional state. At least not a state of producing vitamin C.


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Otto Piechowski
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Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5944061 - 06/28/13 12:14 AM

Now that's cool. The human genome once made it possible for the human being to produce its own Vitamin C?

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