SETI [Fwd: Sagan: Fwd: Evolution: Fact or "Fiction?"]

Robert Owen (
Tue, 28 Sep 1999 03:57:12 -0400

Larry Klaes wrote:

> >Date: Sun, 26 Sep 1999 19:19:47 -0700
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> >Subject: [META] [Fwd: Evolution: Fact or "Fiction?"]
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> >From: (Richard Harter)
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> >Subject: Re: Evolution: Fact or "Fiction?"
> >Date: 26 Sep 1999 16:09:27 -0400
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> >"Al Colombo" <> wrote:
> >
> >>If there is an ultimate Designer/Creator behind all of this, and given the
> >>fact that He made the ape so close to the same design of man (minus the
> >>intellect), wouldn't it make sense that their genetics would be similar to
> >>that of man? Again, it appears very easy to talk about how, but no one
> >>really addresses they why? What motivates genetic changes? Who provides
> >>the blueprint? Unless it alreay exists elsewhere, in some manner, how could
> >>the little genes know what these changes look like? We can talk about how
> >>this and that works all day long until the cows come home, but why, and who
> >>provides the blueprints?
> >
> >The answer to your questions is simple but it is not one that you want
> >to hear: There is no "why", not in the sense that you think has to be
> >there. The simple answers to your questions are:
> >
> > Nothing motivates genetic changes.
> > Nobody provides the blueprint.
> > The genes don't know what the changes look like.
> > There is no why and there is no who providing blueprints.
> >
> >Life is structured so that it runs by itself and doesn't need an
> >intelligence intervening and making things happen. This is, if you
> >like, a miracle but that's the way it is.
> >
> >Now the obvious question, the one that you are asking, is how can we
> >have what appears to be purposeful change without there being someone to
> >have the purpose. The answer, very roughly, is that all living things
> >have an implicit purpose, that being to live and reproduce. This
> >purpose comes from necessity rather than conscious decision.
> >
> >Organisms, even the simplest living cell, are complex collections of
> >chemical reactions that effect organized functionality. I will give you
> >an analogy which may serve as explanation.
> >
> >Imagine a small walled town. Within it there is a diversified
> >population of people performing different tasks. There is a butcher and
> >a baker and an undertaker, guards at the gate and a refuse collector.
> >The people in the town are good at their tasks but they are quite stupid
> >so anything novel is a real problem for them. Fortunately there is a
> >library in the town, a library which contains instructions for dealing
> >with unusual situations. Whenever one of the residents runs into a
> >problem they can't handle they send a runner to the library to find out
> >what to do. There is a catch; there is no librarian and the runners
> >aren't very smart either. There is a solution; the books in the library
> >have tokens stamped on them. The runners carry tokens; they search the
> >library until they find a book that matches their token; they then make
> >a copy of the book (these are very short books) and bring it back. The
> >whole system is a little bit more complicated than that but it is all
> >organized around the principle that the residents are good at their
> >tasks but that they are very stupid.
> >
> >Now it happens from time to time that some towns fail - the crops fail
> >in the surrounding countryside or a plague sweeps through - and that
> >other towns prosper. The towns that prosper have a problem; the
> >population becomes too great to hold within the walls. They have a
> >solution; they divide the town up into two towns with separate walls and
> >separate communities. This is a special situation and a very
> >complicated task. In the library are a set of books devoted just to the
> >instructions for how to divide the town into two towns. One of the
> >things that happens, and this is important, is that each town gets a
> >copy of the library.
> >
> >Now it happens to be the case that the copyists, although they are very
> >careful, sometimes make mistakes. This makes for a problem; if there is
> >an error in a book in the library then there will be a problem when that
> >book is called upon. Fortunately, and this is critical, there is a lot
> >of slop in the system. Just because the people in the town are doing
> >things one way doesn't mean that they can't do it some other way that is
> >slightly different; it may be better or it may be worse but it is
> >different. The key is that the library doesn't tell people what to do;
> >it only supplies pieces of information that people need. They do the
> >work; if the information is slightly different then they do things in a
> >different way. Sometimes the altered information is useless; some towns
> >die because one little piece of information about one little task is
> >gone. Most of the time, however, things go on as they always have, only
> >in a slightly different way. Over time these differences accumulate.
> >The way of life centuries ago is quite different from that of today.
> >
> >My analogy is a bit long winded for which my apologies. The whole point
> >is that genes are not blueprints; they are little how-to manuals. There
> >is no blueprint in the sense that we think of blueprints. The cell
> >itself is the blueprint for itself, a case of the territory being the
> >map, so to speak. Cells replicate by making copies of themselves.
> >
> >
> >Richard Harter,, The Concord Research Institute
> >URL =, phone = 1-978-369-3911
> >London was like a beautifully dressed woman with dirty underwear.
> >-- Mary Brown, _Dragonne's EG_
> >

Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA

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