This is the second and final part of my series post on conversations with a creationist. If you haven't already, I would suggest you read yesterdays post first and then move on to this one. I appologize for the length, we just had a lot to say.
K.S.: It's really an interesting hypothesis since no such actual gene for altruistic behavior has been discovered to my knowledge, tho I know it has been discussed. Even if there was one, who's to say it is something that would have been conserved over time. Regardless, the idea really just goes back to the believer's problem with the theory of evolution altogether. As an atheist, your faith unquestionably surpasses mine. I've never been able to figure out how evolutionists can ignore basic scientific laws we hold true, such as entropy. If we as scientists agree all things in nature go to a more chaotic state, how then do we have single celled organisms becoming increasingly complex multicellular organisms. Not to mention that we hold true that mutations always result in a loss of function...unless of course we're talking about evolution. The astronomically astounding odds of what you hold to be true requires a faith beyond any other.
P.A.: You are correct...almost. They have not discovered an altruism gene in humans (but we are complex beings and it isn't surprising that we haven't found one yet) but we have found an altruism gene in volvox and also in chlamydomonas that causes self sacrifice for the better of the population. Entropy? Seriously? Entropy and the laws of thermodynamics say that the amount of order of the universe will decrease over time but not that local increases are impossible. Of course to counteract entropy and build structure we would need a LOT of energy. Well...its a good thing we have the sun to allow that to happen. The constant influx of energy is literally TRILLIONS of times the energy required to explain the changes we see in evolution or the development of any living thing for that matter.
K.S.: I am hard pressed to think of anything within our natural realm not moving constantly toward a state of destruction. You didn't answer the other point either, how is it we hold true that mutations always result in a loss of function, but that is thrown out the window in terms of evolution?
P.A.: Furthermore...the odds (which we can reasonably calculate with rational mathematics) of the theory of evolution which is perhaps the most scutinized of all scientific principles being proven false is far far less than the probability of their being an invisible omnipotent creature controlling the fate of humanity. Just a thought. While I can never prove to you that your god doesn't exist, I can show you gobs of evidence that evolution DOES EXIST. We hold true that mutations always result in a loss of function? I don't...and you shouldn't either because its not true. Not only is it not true...it happens a lot. Grow up some e.coli in the presence of low concentrations of antibiotic and eventually (less than a week) you will get a great deal of mutations conferring resistance where at once there was none. And as far as something not moving towards a state of destruction...what about the growth of a child. Starting as a single cell and moving towards an adult. Looks to me like they got more complex...assuming they ate their veggies.
K.S.: I believe after having been calculated, the odds that everything in history would have taken place so perfectly for as evolution to occur would be so great that it is more likely I would win the lottery seven days in a row and subsequently be struck by lightening each of those days. BTW, you still didn't answer the loss of function question. There was a joke I once heard, that comes to mind. A scientist was telling God that he didn't need him because with a small amount of earth and other essential elements, he could make all the basic components necessary for life. God told the scientist to go ahead, by all means. As the scientist scooped up some earth from which to work with, the Lord interrupted and said, "get your own earth." More than likely I find that more amusing than you.
P.A.: I'm not sure who calculated your odds but I don't think thats the case...of course if you would like to supply the data I can try and refute it. My first inkling would be to guess that they have misjudged the age of the earth by a few million years or so. Your joke is amusing but also misleading...it is true that there have been experiments to verify that all the basic chemical components of life can be synthesized through natural processes irrespective of any other life. Have we ever observed abiogenesis...of course, no. But if we waited long enough...it might happen. We gave this earth a few billion years to figure stuff out on its own. I think i did answer your loss of function question with the statement that no one studying evolution believes that all mutations lead to a loss of function. Furthermore, we observe microscale evolution that shows gain of function mutations.
K.S.: You shouldn't assume eating veggies makes them more complex if said veggies came from a mexican farm fertilized with the wrong kind of feces! And I will give you the gain of function with E coli, however gain of function in a signigificantly more complex multicellular organism becomes exceedingly difficult to pass on as this gain would be heterozygous in nature and a recessive trait.
P.A.: OK...again, half right. Multicellular doesn't really matter here. What we care about is a mutation that eventually finds it way to the germ line cells so the number of cells in the overall organism is irrelevant. Mutations would be heterozygous thats true. They would not be recessive...in fact quite the opposite. A gain of function mutation would as a matter of definition of the terms be a dominant trait. A loss of function mutation might be recessive but it also might not if it was also a heterozygote so that argument doesn't fly.
K.S.: In all seriousness, I pose a question to you. You honestly find it far more likely that nature in it's whole, the entire universe, our own galaxy, planet, ecosystems and all the plants and animals therein, not to mention the insane complexity that is the human eye, let alone the human body on the whole (there's a lil Darwin for you) was all a product of chance? That our very habitat, let alone our very beings, with the undeniable level of scientific and mathematical perfection are in your eyes more likely explained by a series of what would unquestionably be explained as the greatest case of blind dumb luck than a higher power? If you can, then that is your decision, but for me, I cannot look at nature or ourselves and glory in something as simple as "amazing timing"
P.A.: The short answer is...YES. Our universe functions with a set of usable laws that allow for the formation of galaxies and planets of which ours is just one. Evolution functions perfectly and measurably within that particular framework and there is no structure so complex (not even the human eye) which is beyond its scope. Furthermore while mutations are an issue of chance...natural selection which is the driving force of evolution is quintessentially non-random. Thus, evolution is NON-random but it is also NOT designed. To quote Richard Dawkins directly, "Design is as bad an explanation as chance because it raises bigger questions than it answers. Evolution by natural selection is the only workable theory ever proposed that is capable of explaining life, and it does so brilliantly." Thats what i believe.
K.S.: With all due respect to Mr. Dawkins, as you yourself stated, you cannot disprove the existance of God, therefore I must object to his statement that evolution is the only theory capable. In the end, we are where we started and I still hold your beliefs require a greater faith then my own.
P.A.: Dawkins is referring to scientific theories. We can not include the supernatural because I could propose all sorts of crazy theories to explain the existence of everything I see but they would of course all be false. My beliefs require only adherence to the principles of evidentiary science, and reason...no faith at all. Nothing I believe is based on simple conjecture without either evidence of precedent. Evolution just works here...and we have yet to find an example of something that could defy the principles of evolution as we know them today.
K.S.: Since you're missing a clear evolutionary link between species...evolution remains theory. Since theories are unproven, it is faith that is required to believe in it.
P.A.: we may be missing links here and there but we also have lots of transitional fossils and the like that clearly make a case for evolution as fact