David's theory of evolution Part One (Evolution)

by David Turell @, Saturday, November 09, 2019, 19:02 (9 days ago) @ dhw

GEORGE: I looked up what Shapiro is saying about Evolution. The Amazon advert for his book says:
"Shapiro integrates advances in symbiogenesis, epigenetics, and saltationism into a unified approach that views evolutionary change as an active cell process, regulated epigenetically and capable of making rapid large changes by horizontal DNA transfer, inter-specific hybridization, whole genome doubling, symbiogenesis, or massive genome restructuring."

GEORGE: This all fits in perfectly with my own understanding of the present state of Evolutionary theory, taking into account all the new discoveries since Darwin's time.
There is nothing here that talks about "intelligent cells or cell communities" that have "their own special form of consciousness". This is an interpretation or overlay put on his work by proponents of Intelligent Design or Universal Consciousness ideas.

dhw: Like David, you are ignoring Shapiro’s own words – that opposition to his theory of cellular intelligence is due to “large organisms chauvinism”? (And I must emphasize that my interpretation of this theory is strictly neutral in relation to the existence of a God or a Universal Consciousness.) Why don’t you look beyond Amazon? Here are extracts from a detailed review of Shapiro’s book (my bold), to be taken in the context of the reviewer’s criticism:
James A. Shapiro: Evolution: a view from the twenty-first ...
europepmc.org/articles/PMC3425741

QUOTES: …the bottom line of Shapiro’s book is (biological) evolution itself IS an ‘intelligent’ (‘cognitive’, ‘sentient’, ‘thoughtful’ are the words he uses) process. In the words of the first paragraph “life requires cognition at all levels” and in the concluding paragraphs: [21st view of evolution implies] “a shift from thinking about gradual selection of localized random changes to sudden genome structuring by sensory network-influenced cell systems…. It replaces the ‘invisible hands’ of geological time and natural selection with cognitive networks and cellular functions of self modification.

The reviewer, however. doesn’t like Shapiro’s emphasis on cellular intelligence:
However, unfortunately, Shapiro tends to grossly oversell his case, which I find irritating. Calling evolution (and cells) ‘cognitive’, ‘sentient’ and ‘thoughtful’,is in my opinion not very illuminating, nor does it set a clear research agenda.

I certainly agree with the reviewer, and I've read the book! He only studies bacteria which as freely living, must make responses, that obviously could be built-in automatic.

DAVID: I do not interpret Lieff as you do. See my comment
John Lieff: The Emperor of Cells – How intelligent are Cancer Cells?
Microbes have abilities to make decisions, communicate, and solve problems.
While microbes appear to have a type of cognition, the neuron has been observed to be vastly more complex with its own intelligent activity, an entire civilization by comparison to a microbe.

dhw: Your comment was: "The bold comment makes sense."

DAVID: Lieff's point is that neurons are vastly different, a difference you are trying to smudge.

dhw: Lieff’s point is that microbes are intelligent but neurons are vastly more intelligent – a difference in intelligence which you are trying to smudge.

No smudge. Of course neurons are vastly superior. Remember cell responses may be automatic.


dhw: Environmental change may well result in major necessity, but opportunity may also be a factor that leads organisms to a new form of behaviour.

DAVID: Go on dreaming that a change in behavior creates new species. That is your implication and it comes from pure Darwin.

dhw: A change in environmental conditions will inevitably lead to a change in behaviour (entailing adaptation and/or innovation or death), which in turn will lead to anatomical changes to enable the organism to function in the new environment (e.g. flippers, bipedalling legs). Pure Darwin or not, why do you find this illogical?

There is no proof changes in behavior cause speciation, which is your Darwinian point.


dhw: Even now, certain activities can change both the body and the brain – obviously not to the extent involved in speciation (which nobody can explain), but the principle is the same. God does not come down and expand the body-builder’s muscles or change the brain of the pre-taxi-driver, the pre-musician, the illiterate learner before they can drive, play or read. It is activity that causes the changes.

DAVID: These minor changes are built in to life's abilities to adapt, and as you say as a theist, perhaps a mechanism given by God.

dhw: Nobody knows how speciation comes about, but adaptation provides us with a clear example of a mechanism for change which works IN RESPONSE to new demands and not in advance of them. If you now concede that these minor changes are NOT preprogrammed or divinely dabbled, but are produced by an autonomous mechanism “perhaps given by your God”, you are halfway to conceding that the mechanism for innovation (often hard to distinguish from adaptation) may also be autonomous and “given by your God”.

Remember the adaptations we see are minor and don't lead to speciation. Note the bold above.


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