Smart animals (Animals)

by dhw, Friday, September 23, 2016, 12:53 (361 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: Good just-so story. Might be correct.
dhw: Certainly no more “just-so” than your God teaching weaverbirds to build a nest, or monarchs to migrate in order to provide a balance of nature allowing time for humans to evolve - though apparently they didn't “evolve” as such anyway, because God had to intervene in order to produce them.
DAVID: Your comment is not at the level of just-so stories (Kipling), which are made up tales to explain evolution, like the giraffe stretching its neck to eat tree leaves.

This is a linguistic digression. You have used the expression to suggest that Darwin's explanation is pure fiction. The claim that your God taught the weaverbird to make its nest in order to balance nature in order to leave time for humans to evolve strikes me as considerably more “just-so” (fictional) than my Darwinian-type suggestion that an avian tap-dance originated as a way of impressing the female of the species, and survived because it worked.

DAVID: I won't because I don't believe early life can invent intelligence by itself.
dhw; My hypothesis does not entail early life inventing intelligence. It entails the possibility of your God inventing intelligence, and intelligence working out means of communicating etc.
DAVID: I like the way you use your agnostic position to blithely drag God in when you need him!

The issue is whether evolution is run by divine preprogramming/dabbling, or by the intelligence of organisms. This is not an issue concerning God's existence, because God fits in with either proposal. I do not think that as a theist you have any more ability to interpret God's modus operandi than I do when I put on my theist hat. And once more, I have never claimed that early life or cells invented intelligence.

DAVID: I see nothing wrong with looking at it as activating a mechanism with guidlelines, the activation being triggered by the organism under their own volition. This is how 'they work it out for themselves'. They have the choice of triggering the mechanism or not.
dhw: So God supplies the first cells with computer programmes for weaverbird nest-building, tree communication, monarch migration, cuttlefish camouflage, and these get passed down till there are weaverbirds, trees, monarchs, cuttlefish, and then they all decide whether to switch the programme on or not, and if they do, we can say they worked out for themselves how to build the nest, communicate, migrate, camouflage themselves. And you think the survival of advantageous behaviour is a just-so story.

DAVID: Advantageous behavior is not a just-so story. It is necessary for life to survive. It is the convoluted contorted explanations of how the behaviour might have developed which are the just-so stories.

And your just-so explanation is that God preprogrammed the first cells to pass on the behaviour, or personally intervened to teach the weaverbird, tree, monarch, cuttlefish, so that they would provide a balance of nature, leaving time for humans to evolve. My suggestion is that these organisms worked out for themselves forms of behaviour that suited their own special needs. However, this is a diversion from the point at issue, which is that choosing whether to switch on God's computer programme giving instructions on how to build a nest is not my idea of the weaverbird working things out for itself.


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