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Re: Climate change: the debate is over

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  • khunsinger33
    ... Kurt: Perhaps climate change could possibly threaten reproductive success in some future scenario, but since it is not actually doing so now I think your
    Message 1 of 43 , Dec 12, 2012
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      --- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com, "gluadys" <g_turner@...> wrote:
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      > --- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com, Kurt Hunsinger <khunsinger33@> wrote:
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      > > Kurt: so true: Growing up in Detroit I was a youngster among racial bigots. Identifying and overcoming bigotry in myself is to this day an ongoing effort if I’m honest about it. I believe I am a better man for the effort but only in terms I deem separate from the concept of natural selection . An unbigoted view of others feels more an artificial selection, an effort of the mind not the brain. Addressing global warming I think will require a similar distinction. Why would our naturally-selected selves care?
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      > Why would they not? Under natural selection, fitness is defined as reproductive success. Climate change threatens reproductive success. Add in the conscious awareness of the threat to reproductive success, and concern would seem to be logical naturally-selected stance.
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      > Selves that did not care would tend to have lower reproductive success, and that portion of the population would tend to contract.

      Kurt: Perhaps climate change could possibly threaten reproductive success in some future scenario, but since it is not actually doing so now I think your point is a stretch. Maybe you mean that we are concerned for the reproductive success of our progeny, but Natural selection does not rely on the conscious awareness of future reproduction in other creatures so why assume that that is the case for us? Of course conscious awareness is only an issue for those who are conscious. Now that I think of it, we are the only creatures we know of in all the universe that are conscious of natural selection. That seems a little suspicious to me. We ask questions that are interesting only to us, frame them in a fashion that only we can answer, answer them with means that only we possess, and assign meaning to our own answers in terms that only we can understand. You had asked me once about solipsism. Looked into that a bit. It is not an attractive notion, scary for those was suffer it as a syndrone and terrible lonely as a possible philosphy. But in a manner of speaking, when we look at humanity as both the only generator and only recipient of its own knowledge, are we not collectively a sort of solipsist species? I wonder if faith in a creator might be our only means of not being a solipsist species.

      > > >Gluadys: Still, we have a capacity no other species has: we can supplement living memory with recorded memory and teach new generations based on experience of human society as a whole, not just that of family or tribe. So, I don't think a return to form is inevitable.
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      > > Kurt: This is such a remarkable capacity. Not only can we integrate new information with memory and experience but we can do so while we retain the identity of our former selves throughout the process, both as individuals and as societies. We can “teach ourselves”. For a species to teach itself something formerly not in evidence to its own species seems terribly unlikely. For a species to generate conditions, such as global warming, that the species itself is unequipped to address seems equally unlikely. A naturally selected species can do this?
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      > It would seem so. Of course, the initial development of greenhouse gas emitting technologies occurred when we had no information about the potential effects. Just as smoking was popularized well before the data on the negative health effects were known.
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      > And, we are far from being unequipped to address the problem. We are not at all lacking in alternate technology. And the public is now largely on board, calling for action. It is only the political will to defy the big oil corporations that is lacking.



      Kurt: Yes, unequipped was too strong a word. I've read that even the weapon making of ancient Rome shows up as lead deposits in cores of ice in Greenland. Still, it would seem we do have a choice in the matter; we can choose new habits for ourselves. What does it say of natural selection when a species must consciously call upon itself, because of its own behavior, to select a course of action to ensure its own survival? If a species can decide how to engage it's habitat in a manner of it's own choosing, where is natural selection? Apparently natural selection and consciousness can become co-workers in shaping future generations. I'm gonna add this to my list of unlikely things, especially since consciousness cannot be acounted for by natural selcetion.


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      > > >Gluadys: Why would evolutionary theory have any role here at all?
      > > When will people start to realize that the theory of evolution is not a theory of everything?
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      > > Kurt: This is odd to me, Gludays. In an earlier post you said, “natural selection begins with the self-replicating molecule--well before there was anything most people would call "life". I trust you have good reason for saying this, but really, this a substantial statement. It asserts that life without evolution is simply not life as we know it.
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      > That's correct. One can say of a certainty that anything which does not evolve via Darwinian mechanisms is not living. One can also say of a certainly that anything living does evolve via Darwinian mechanisms. There is a bit of a grey area between these statements for it leaves open the possibility that there are non-living things (as well as living things) that also display Darwinian evolutionary processes. An example would be the evolving entities in computer simulations. They are not alive in any meaningful sense of the word, but they do reproduce, mutate and, under the pressure of selection, they do evolve.
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      > >Well, life as we know it includes global warming. If your statement is true how could evolutionary theory not have any role here? Would you not agree that saying “natural selection begins with the self-replicating molecule--well before there was anything most people would call "life" and “When will people start to realize that the theory of evolution is not a theory of everything?” are two statements that just don’t jive?
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      > First, I think you need to understand the difference between "evolution" as a broad term which simply means "change over time" and "evolution" in the phrase "theory of evolution" which always refers only to change by Darwinian means i.e. via descent with modification under natural selection. Evolutionary theory does not apply to climate change, because climate, although it changes, does not do so via Darwinian mechanisms. There is no base of genetic information in climate. There is no method of inheritance or replication. There is nothing for natural selection to act on. Therefore there is nothing in evolutionary theory to apply to climate change.
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      > Life does not include global warming. Life experiences global warming. Life experiences global warming as something setting the conditions within which it must try to find a way to live—just as it experiences air pressure, gravity, precipitation, and so on. And just as the theory of evolution has nothing to say about these non-living things, so it has nothing to say about global warming.
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      > > > Gluadys: Climate change is mostly a matter of physics and chemistry. There is nothing to inherit here, nothing on which natural selection can have an impact. So evolutionary theory has zilch to say about climate change.
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      > > Kurt: I disagree. Of course global warming is our designation for the human influence on climate, not the climate in general. So it is not a matter of physics and chemistry but rather a culmination of the relationship between a species and it’s use of it’s own environment. How is that not an evolutionary issue?
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      > No, global warming is the actual rise in mean global temperature. Global warming has occurred in the past without human influence (because humanity did not exist yet.) In our day, human activity is one significant cause of global warming, but let's not confuse cause and effect. The effect of human activity is still an impact on physical and chemical environments. Global warming is a result of changes created in atmospheric chemistry. Those changes are not an example of evolution. They do not involve reproduction, inheritance or selection. So, no, it is not an evolutionary issue.
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      > It is very much a social issue though.
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      > > >Gluadys: That, I think, is what evolutionary theory can tell us about the consequences of climate change. I don't think it tells us anything about the causes.
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      > > Kurt: Evolutionary theory is pretty big on telling us how we got here, molecule to man, over a centuries worth of volumes, our best info on why and how the environment of this particular planet shaped us into what we are, but on the real-world issue of global warming, something that actually matters about our relationship with the planet, it becomes mute.
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      > The theory of evolution can tell us a lot about ourselves because we are living (and therefore evolving) creatures with the characteristics of inheritable information, imperfect (though nearly perfect) replication, and responsiveness to natural selection.
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      > None of this is true of climate.
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      > Science has a lot to say about climate change—but it is a different field of science, not evolutionary biology.
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      > > >Gluadys: …Our genes really don't force us to act in any one way. So, why does it matter if we are solely the product of evolution from self-replicating molecules to our present form?
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      > > Kurt: It doesn’t matter at all, if it’s true. Is it true?
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      > Yes, it's true. Too many genes have pleitropic effects for them to dictate specific actions in specific circumstances. A hypnotist may be able to get you to do something on command. Genes don't.
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      > > >Gluadys: Those same genes have provided us with the intellectual capacity to analyze, understand and learn and to base decisions on what we know and hope for. Is that acting outside of nature, when these are nature's gifts to us?
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      > > Kurt: Natures gifts. Not sure how to respond to this. Because of course a gift requires that the giver has the desire to give and the recipient a need of the gift.
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      > Does it? The second part is certainly not true. Have you never received a gift you did not need? Maybe one that got stuck in the back of the cupboard because you had no use for it?
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      > In any case, consider it an analogy. We have capacities because of the historical effects of natural selection on our ancestors. Good enough reason to call them nature's gifts even if there was no desire to give nor any perceived need on our ancestors' part to acquire them.
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      > Is it your intention to assign such a persona to natural selection and it’s accidently generated selections?
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      > Natural selection, by definition, is not accidently generated. (The other selective process, genetic drift, is--not so much accidently generated--but simply an ongoing random selection.) But natural selection is a non-random differential success in reproductive success. Since it is non-random, it is not a matter of chance. There is always a reason why some traits are favoured by natural selection over their alternatives. Even if we don't always know what the reason is.
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      > That doesn't mean assigning a persona to natural selection, except as a poetic whimsy.
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    • gluadys
      ... My God, where have you been? This is no future scenario. This is happening right here, right now. For over two decades now we have seen the disappearance
      Message 43 of 43 , Dec 14, 2012
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        --- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com, "khunsinger33" <khunsinger33@...> wrote:
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        > > Selves that did not care would tend to have lower reproductive success, and that portion of the population would tend to contract.
        >
        > Kurt: Perhaps climate change could possibly threaten reproductive success in some future scenario, but since it is not actually doing so now I think your point is a stretch.
        >
        >

        My God, where have you been? This is no future scenario. This is happening right here, right now.

        For over two decades now we have seen the disappearance of species at the rate of 300 per week. That is more than 1000 times the normal rate of extinction. Nothing has been seen like this since the last mass extinction 65 million years ago. And at the rate we are going, it could be even worse.

        And there are huge reductions in some species. Coral is dying all over the globe due to increases in ocean temperature. Polar bear populations across northern Canada are decreasing with the decrease in sea ice. Also in Canada, vast pine forests are being decimated by the pine beetle which used to be controlled by low winter temperatures, but is now able to incubate through milder winters. Alana Mitchell in Sea Sick speaks of an aquarium at a natural history museum in England, dubbed the Mediterranean aquarium, for when it opened, it displayed species indigenous to the Mediterranean sea. Most of those species are no longer Mediterranean. As the ocean warmed, they moved north and are now commonly found in English waters. But they didn't just move north. The global level of these populations is down by 75%. These examples can be multiplied a hundred-fold.

        Or are you being species-istic and thinking only of the human population? Well don't forget that we depend for our survival on the survival of other species. Any person who dies prematurely (before reproducing) reduces the fitness of the species. Who do you think the primary victims of drought-induced starvation are? Babies, that's who. And Africa is experiencing much drought and desertification, with loss of forest cover and drying up of wells.

        This year there was vast drought across the U.S.A. That means both less grain for export and higher prices for grain world-wide. That will bring more starvation. Last year saw huge forest-fires across Russia, with loss of life. Then there are floods,tornadoes, etc. and water-stress.

        What makes you think none of this is affecting even human reproductive success right now? Birth rates have been going down for some time (not due to climate change, but to birth control) although population is expected to rise to about 10 billion by about mid-century and then stabilize. But that is in a stable environmental condition. It can turn around in a blink of an eye with significant climate change impacts. And by the time it can be measured, it will probably be too late to recover.






        >
        >Maybe you mean that we are concerned for the reproductive success of our progeny, but Natural selection does not rely on the conscious awareness of future reproduction in other creatures so why assume that that is the case for us?
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        >

        Of course. If you don't have kids, you don't have grandkids. If you don't have grandkids, the species is on its way to extinction.

        And you are right; the process of evolution does not depend on our awareness of this fact. If we relied on evolution alone, without using our conscious foresight, we will simply go extinct along with all the other species destroyed by climate change.

        Our advantage here is that we do have consciousness, we do have foresight. We can manipulate both our present and future environment to favour our continued reproductive success.


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        > Of course conscious awareness is only an issue for those who are conscious. Now that I think of it, we are the only creatures we know of in all the universe that are conscious of natural selection. That seems a little suspicious to me.
        >

        I am puzzled by your use of the word "suspicious" here.


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        > We ask questions that are interesting only to us, frame them in a fashion that only we can answer, answer them with means that only we possess, and assign meaning to our own answers in terms that only we can understand. You had asked me once about solipsism. Looked into that a bit. It is not an attractive notion, scary for those was suffer it as a syndrone and terrible lonely as a possible philosophy. But in a manner of speaking, when we look at humanity as both the only generator and only recipient of its own knowledge, are we not collectively a sort of solipsist species? I wonder if faith in a creator might be our only means of not being a solipsist species.
        >
        >

        One thing I like about you is that you ask good questions. Faced with the trap of solipsism, Descartes could only conceive one exit. That God existed and is not a deceiver. Therefore the world he conceived around him is real and reason is a reliable means of knowing it.

        George Berkely, who favoured an idealistic philosophy, held that all we know is what can be thought. But we are saved from solipsism by the fact that God thinks of all things. His view was satirized in this poem:

        There was a young man who said, "God
        Must think it exceedingly odd
        If he finds that this tree
        Continues to be
        When there's no one about in the Quad."

        REPLY
        Dear Sir:
        Your astonishment's odd:
        I am always about in the Quad.
        And that's why the tree
        Will continue to be,
        Since observed by
        Yours faithfully,
        GOD.






        >
        > Kurt: Yes, unequipped was too strong a word. I've read that even the weapon making of ancient Rome shows up as lead deposits in cores of ice in Greenland. Still, it would seem we do have a choice in the matter; we can choose new habits for ourselves. What does it say of natural selection when a species must consciously call upon itself, because of its own behavior, to select a course of action to ensure its own survival? If a species can decide how to engage it's habitat in a manner of it's own choosing, where is natural selection? Apparently natural selection and consciousness can become co-workers in shaping future generations. I'm gonna add this to my list of unlikely things, especially since consciousness cannot be acounted for by natural selcetion.
        >
        >

        I don't think it says anything of natural selection. When we move into conscious choices we move out of Darwinian selection into a different mode of making change. The only role natural selection had was in the evolution of the capacity for conscious thought and forethought in the first place. Consciousness can be accounted for by natural selection, at least on the basis that any sufficiently complex brain will produce consciousness. But how that consciousness is exercised to produce more change takes us beyond natural selection.
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