The relationship between biology and geology

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The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#1  Postby Greta » August 22nd, 2017, 7:39 am

Ever since seeing a remarkable demonstration of lifelike qualities in nonliving chemicals by Martin Hanczyc (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dySwrhMQdX4) I have wondered about abiogenesis and the emergence of the first living cell from nonliving geology, at least by today's definitions.

To some extent I find the concept of evolution misleading because it only applies to biology, siloed from the chemical evolution that lead up to the emergence of life and subsequent biological evolution. It might not be practical due to the special complexity of life, but in terms of ontology, geology and biology are not separate fields but parts of a continuum separated by abiogenesis.

Current understanding of chemical evolution is that amino acids would have formed in energetic environments such as those affected by lightning and meteor strikes, volcanoes and underwater volcanic vents (which of course are believed to have triggered abiogenesis due to the abundant combination of organic chemicals, water and heat).

Over time these complex organic molecules assembled into proteins and then into polymers, such as sugars. Polymers gradually aggregated into protobionts which, as the name suggests, were precursors to life, having some of life's qualities, but not all. The first replicator may have been a complex sugar, but the first robust replicator appears to be RNA, and its more complex successor, DNA.

Prior to abiogenesis the Earth was have been covered in rocks and water, with inorganic and, increasingly complex organic chemicals that spilled from volcanoes. Once biology emerged it essentially began to turn the formerly exclusively geological and hydrological surface of Earth into itself, into biology. Thankfully this is still largely the case (although it seems that non human life is increasingly being broken down into simpler "components").

Obviously the first organisms were autotrophs. Simply, they ate rocks, chemicals. As they replicated, turning geology into itself (and its many following generations of cells), they were effectively turned rocks into life like a slow motion organic King Midas.

However, while autotrophic archaea were turning geology into biology, commencing the biological food chain, other entities emerged - viruses. This was both a new evolutionary line and a balancing agent. In essence, viruses do the opposite of autotrophs - they turn life back into dead chemicals again, even closer to the King Midas myth. There would have been a time in the primitive Earth where archaea were basically the bringers of life and viruses the bringers of death, but today that picture is not only too simplistic, but simply not the case. Rather, viruses have become essential agents of complex life, which contain a fine balance in its competing microscopic communities, eg. benign viruses were essential in the evolution of the human brain (sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/17011 ... 110840.htm).

If anyone else finds this basic area of nature interesting, or has some thoughts on the above, or refinements or critiques to make, by all means feel free.
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The relationship between biology and geology



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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#2  Postby -1- » August 22nd, 2017, 9:11 am

Since you asked for opinions, pro or con,I have the following to say:

First of all, I find the things you wrote believable, and reasonable, and most likely (99.99999%) the case of how life started on Earth.

Secondly: this what you wrote was 60% of the curriculum in the Grade 13 biology class in 1974 in Canada, and I studied it in a private Catholic school, almost verbatim, and with chemical formulae and stuff thrown in to spice it up with more decent knowledge.

I should have thought that mankind would have progressed this basic knowledge in figuring out how life forms came to being. But I guess research was not getting funding in this area.
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#3  Postby Greta » August 22nd, 2017, 6:51 pm

-1- you refer only to the supporting details that back up of my point and appear to have missed the actual points I was making about the broader dynamics of archaea and viruses.

You may find it dull, but I had to include the technical side to support the broader ideas.
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#4  Postby Steve3007 » August 28th, 2017, 7:24 am

Greta:

I love the moving protocells exhibiting "behaviour" as populations in the lecture that you posted. One of the main messages appears to be that movement in various forms is essential to life, hence the importance of water for life on Earth. Because movement means the ability to make use of different parts of the environment, including other living things. Another thought I had was that it would be interesting to create a computer simulation of the the physical, chemical experiment that was shown here.

(I also like the suggestion that making experimental proto-life can be essentially like making toffee.)

Your central point seems to be that Geology and Biology are two aspects of the same subject because there is no objectively existing hard dividing line between biological life as we know it today and pre-biological "life", or more generally, any complex chemistry. I agree, and I think this is true of many other divisions which we often think of as existing in an objective sense but which are actually created by us as a convenient way of dealing with the complexity of the world by compartmentalizing it.

-- Updated Mon Aug 28, 2017 1:05 pm to add the following --

That was an interesting article about the role of retro-viruses in our DNA. It seems to me to show that among the divisions in nature which we think are objective but which are really created by us for our convenience is the division between different living creatures. Those retro-viruses, when they "infected" our ancestors millions of years ago became us, similarly to how mitochondria possibly did before them.

I'm also constantly struck by the (often cited) similarities between DNA code and computer code. It's sometimes been jokingly suggested that the so-called junk-DNA is God's comments in his code. I can easily see lots of parallels. Like most programmers, when I write code, especially when the code is inherited from another programmer, if there is a section of code that I don't want right now I almost never delete it. I comment it out. You never know when it might be useful in the future. You often end up with far more commented-out code than active code. The trouble is, as soon as code is commented out it obviously has no further effect on the running of the program until it is re-instated. So it stops applying evolutionary pressure. If it doesn't work, it doesn't matter. So, just like genes which are not crucial to the survival of the organism, it degrades over time. If you accidentally change something in the commented-out code it doesn't affect the "survival" of the computer program. It still compiles and runs as before. So there's no pressure to fix the change. Try uncommenting some code that's been commented out for months. It will rarely work without alteration.

Also, of course, computer viruses are not so-called without good reason. There are also computer retroviruses.
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#5  Postby Atreyu » September 6th, 2017, 8:33 pm

My view is that abiogenesis is simply inherently false. Life only comes from other life. That's simply how it works, and it's what we see in nature today. And the laws of nature are generally constant. There is no reason to think that life "arose from the muck" so to speak, when it is painfully obvious that it never does, just because we are desperately searching for an explanation for the origin of the first cells on Earth. The only thing necessary is to acknowledge that we have no idea of the nature of the life which the first cells originated from. That's all.

To me, what's interesting in the relationship between geology and biology is considering that the Earth Itself might actually be a living organism, albeit one not recognized or defined as such by science. I mean, we cannot say that the Earth is "carbon based" life, such as we know and define "life" today, but it may be "alive" in the sense of being a sentient being - having awareness, intentions, goals, a birth and death, aging, growth, thought, etc.

What is interesting is seeing if we cannot broaden our conception and definition of life beyond the "carbon based" model of it...
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#6  Postby Steve3007 » September 7th, 2017, 3:29 am

And the laws of nature are generally constant.


The laws of nature are generally constant because we define them as such. Constant-ness is what we're looking for when we make them. So I think to propose that it is, as it were, a law of nature that the laws of nature are constant is to make a logical mistake, perhaps similar to the "no true scotsman" fallacy.

-- Updated Thu Sep 07, 2017 8:52 am to add the following --

There is no reason to think that life "arose from the muck" so to speak, when it is painfully obvious that it never does, just because we are desperately searching for an explanation for the origin of the first cells on Earth.


I wouldn't say we're "desperately" searching for the origin of life on Earth. It would just be interesting to find out how it all got started. I'd use the word "desperately" more in contexts such as: "I am starving to death and am therefore desperately searching for food."

You may be right that there is precious little evidence to indicate to us how life got started, but that doesn't mean that there is no reason to believe that life started from non-life. The reason to believe it stems from the basic fact that at some point in the past there was no life and now there is. If you don't believe that, then I guess you must believe that life has existed since the Big Bang, in which case you're using a different definition of the word "life" to the one with which I'm familiar. That's fine, but you're going to have to define your terms. It's always difficult to talk when the speakers disagree as to what the words mean.

-- Updated Thu Sep 07, 2017 11:06 am to add the following --

A bit more:

My view is that abiogenesis is simply inherently false.


Judging from your other words, this doesn't actually appear to be your view. You view appears to be that we don't know whether abiogenesis is true or false and should content ourselves with declaring that fact.

Life only comes from other life. That's simply how it works, and it's what we see in nature today.


Yes, it may be what we see in nature today. But do you think that every pattern that we spot in nature today must be a universal pattern that has persisted since the beginning of time? As I've said, science is all about spotting constants, i.e.patterns, in nature. But spotting a pattern does not automatically mean that the pattern is universal and timeless. It just means that we've spotted a pattern in what we've observed so far. If we use Inductive Reasoning to go from the specific to the general and propose that the pattern is universal/eternal then we have to be aware that a future observation might always show us to be wrong. So if your particular Inductive generalisation is "life always arises from other life" then we need to try to falsify that hypothesis. One of the tests could be the question: "Where was the life before any planets or stars existed from which the life on our planet arose?"

The only thing necessary is to acknowledge that we have no idea of the nature of the life which the first cells originated from. That's all.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the impression that you don't think we should even be attempting to fill this gap in our knowledge? You seem to think that all we should do when we are ignorant on a subject is declare our ignorance. Why? What's wrong with trying to find stuff out? Isn't it fun? I don't think anybody would deny that trying to come up with viable theories about the origins of life is difficult due to the timescale and the sparsity of evidence. But I don't see how it follows that we should stop trying and simply declare ignorance. Once we've finished congratulating ourselves on our humility, that would be a bit boring wouldn't it? It is possible to declare ignorance and also try to combat that ignorance at the same time.

To me, what's interesting in the relationship between geology and biology is considering that the Earth Itself might actually be a living organism, albeit one not recognized or defined as such by science.


If you want to do that then I don't see why "science" shouldn't be able to recognise it. So long as you can state your modified definition of the word "life".

I mean, we cannot say that the Earth is "carbon based" life, such as we know and define "life" today, but it may be "alive" in the sense of being a sentient being - having awareness, intentions, goals, a birth and death, aging, growth, thought, etc.


OK. So if we define the word "life" such that the Earth as a whole can be regarded as "alive" then presumably the abiogenesis came in when the Earth first formed, yes?

What is interesting is seeing if we cannot broaden our conception and definition of life beyond the "carbon based" model of it...


I agree it's interesting to consider non carbon-based life. Silicon has often been considered before. To me, though, it stops being so interesting if we start to widen our definition of a word (e.g. "life") so far that it encompasses everything and/or becomes just a vague metaphor. We then might say that there is a sense in which the whole universe is a living thing. I don't find that idea holds my interest for very long unless it results in some genuinely new way of interpretting existing observations and predicting future observations.

I prefer words to distinguish one thing from another.
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#7  Postby Atreyu » September 11th, 2017, 11:07 pm

Steve3007 wrote:The laws of nature are generally constant because we define them as such. Constant-ness is what we're looking for when we make them. So I think to propose that it is, as it were, a law of nature that the laws of nature are constant is to make a logical mistake, perhaps similar to the "no true scotsman" fallacy.


That's absurd. The laws of gravity do not change over time. Neither do the laws of biology, geology, or anything else. In fact, laws are defined to be constant truths which can be used to predict outcomes in specific scenarios.

If we don't see cells 'arising from the muck' today, we have every reason to think they did not a few billion years ago. Otherwise, we might expect that the orbit of the Earth might change for some unknown reason, or that someday in the future humans will be able to grow back amputed limbs (without the aid of technology, of course).

No, laws are universal and constant, hence their designation as laws in the first place.

You may be right that there is precious little evidence to indicate to us how life got started, but that doesn't mean that there is no reason to believe that life started from non-life. The reason to believe it stems from the basic fact that at some point in the past there was no life and now there is. If you don't believe that, then I guess you must believe that life has existed since the Big Bang, in which case you're using a different definition of the word "life" to the one with which I'm familiar. That's fine, but you're going to have to define your terms. It's always difficult to talk when the speakers disagree as to what the words mean.


That line of reasoning is atrocious. Yes, at some point there was no life (as we know it) on Earth, and then there was. That doesn't mean the laws of nature were different back then. There are plenty of other explanations. Migration is the first that comes to mind.

Judging from your other words, this doesn't actually appear to be your view. You view appears to be that we don't know whether abiogenesis is true or false and should content ourselves with declaring that fact.


No, we don't know. But we should regard it as highly unlikely that the basic laws of biology were radically different in the past. We should stick with the basic premise that life only comes from other life, and see where that takes us in our search for the origin of life on Earth.

Yes, it may be what we see in nature today. But do you think that every pattern that we spot in nature today must be a universal pattern that has persisted since the beginning of time? As I've said, science is all about spotting constants, i.e.patterns, in nature. But spotting a pattern does not automatically mean that the pattern is universal and timeless. It just means that we've spotted a pattern in what we've observed so far. If we use Inductive Reasoning to go from the specific to the general and propose that the pattern is universal/eternal then we have to be aware that a future observation might always show us to be wrong. So if your particular Inductive generalisation is "life always arises from other life" then we need to try to falsify that hypothesis. One of the tests could be the question: "Where was the life before any planets or stars existed from which the life on our planet arose?"


Sure, we should try to falsify propositions, but if abiogenesis were true, why can not science prove it in the laboratory by creating life from non-life? That would be an excellent way to falsify it. But it cannot be done. More evidence that life can only come from other life.

Atreyu wrote:To me, what's interesting in the relationship between geology and biology is considering that the Earth Itself might actually be a living organism, albeit one not recognized or defined as such by science.


If you want to do that then I don't see why "science" shouldn't be able to recognise it. So long as you can state your modified definition of the word "life".


Science could never recognize it because any recognition is beyond empiricism. There is no way to verify the Earth is alive because there is no way to make any sort of psychic connection with it.

My "modified" definition of life is an entity with awareness and an ability to react to changes in its environment, i.e. a sentient being. Armed with that basic definition of non-carbon based life will in no way help us to recognize it, beyond the life forms in which we already do. What we call "life" is the sentient beings which we can recognize as such, all of which happen to be carbon-based, as we are. Sentient beings which we might not recognize must be so much different than life which we do recognize, that they must not be 'carbon-based'. The Earth, if it is indeed a sentient being, would be one of those entities.


I agree it's interesting to consider non carbon-based life. Silicon has often been considered before. To me, though, it stops being so interesting if we start to widen our definition of a word (e.g. "life") so far that it encompasses everything and/or becomes just a vague metaphor. We then might say that there is a sense in which the whole universe is a living thing. I don't find that idea holds my interest for very long unless it results in some genuinely new way of interpretting existing observations and predicting future observations.


I defined "life" above, in a more broad and encompassing way, but not in a way in which it becomes just a "vague metaphor". There is nothing vague or metaphorical in my definition of a sentient being.

However, I'd like to give you an example, since you brought it up, of how considering the Universe as a gigantic living thing could explain one of our observations, and one which perplexes the scientific community. What if the reason why the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, beyond what it should without inventing "dark matter", is because the Universe Itself is willing it to happen? Thinking of the Universe as a living being gives us a new force with which to explain phenomena - Will or Intention (in the "cosmic" sense of the terms). Things can happen not just because of an interaction of mechanical laws and forces but also because conscious entities intend them to. We can try and reduce those conscious tendencies to mere mechanical laws, or we can acknowledge that they are beyond them....
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#8  Postby Steve3007 » September 12th, 2017, 6:45 am

Atreyu:
That's absurd. The laws of gravity do not change over time.


They most certainly do. We went from Aristotle, through Kepler to Newton, to Einstein and beyond. The law of gravity has indeed changed to fit a wider and wider set of observations. Each law subsuming the previous one as a special case, for a particular subset of observations.

Neither do the laws of biology, geology, or anything else. In fact, laws are defined to be constant truths which can be used to predict outcomes in specific scenarios.


As I said, they are arrived at by Induction. They are generalisations from a specific finite set of observations. We see a load of white swans. We haven't yet seen swans of any other colour. So we pronounce "all swans are white". So it is one of their most important characteristics that they are always provisional - always subject to possible falsification. The proverbial black swan.

If you look around you and observe that you never see a living thing emerge from anything other than another living thing, you may quite reasonably pronounce "living things always emerge from other living things". But that is provisional.

If we don't see cells 'arising from the muck' today, we have every reason to think they did not a few billion years ago.


How about, say, 10 billion years ago? Before the Earth existed?

No, laws are universal and constant, hence their designation as laws in the first place.


As I said, they are provisional. Revisit the basics of the scientific method and Inductive Reasoning.

Steve3007:
The reason to believe [that at some point in the past life came from no-life] stems from the basic fact that at some point in the past there was no life and now there is.


Atreyu:
That line of reasoning is atrocious. Yes, at some point there was no life (as we know it) on Earth, and then there was. That doesn't mean the laws of nature were different back then.


I didn't say that it did mean that. I have no reason to believe that the laws of physics were different back then. But the line of reasoning is about as simple and sound as it gets: if life didn't exist at one time and did exist at a later time, then at some point between those two times it came into existence.

There are plenty of other explanations. Migration is the first that comes to mind.


That's not another explantion! It just shifts the question of the origin of life to a different location! Yes, it's perfectly possible that the elements of life, or even simple life forms, came to Earth on meteors or whatever. But then you have to admit that at some point in the past those meteors did not exist, just as at some point in the past the Earth did not exist. So where did the life on the meteors come from?

If you think that life could not possibly have developed from non-living matter then you really do only have two options:

1. It has existed forever.
2. It was created ex nihilo. Maybe by a Deity.

Which is it?

No, we don't know. But we should regard it as highly unlikely that the basic laws of biology were radically different in the past.


I agree that it seems probable that the physics of the universe operated the same in the past as it does now. The evidence for that is such things as the formation of stars. That doesn't mean that life has always existed. If you don't believe that life has always existed, then you believe that at some point in the past there was no life. Therefore there were no "laws of biology". There were laws of physics, on which the laws of biology rest. Do you think that the laws of biology do not rest on the laws of chemistry and physics?

We should stick with the basic premise that life only comes from other life, and see where that takes us in our search for the origin of life on Earth.


You're free to stick with that premise. The only two possible conclusions are the ones that I listed above. The only place it takes us with regard to life on Earth is that it was carried here from elewhere. But, as I said, that just shifts the question of the origin of life to elsewhere.

Sure, we should try to falsify propositions, but if abiogenesis were true, why can not science prove it in the laboratory by creating life from non-life? That would be an excellent way to falsify it. But it cannot be done. More evidence that life can only come from other life.


Yes, it would be an excellent way, and yes it has not yet been done, although a lot of progress has been made. Some of the fundamental chemical building blocks have been made.

If you think that it is fundamentally impossible, no matter how hard anybody tries, then presumably you think there is something about the particular molecules that are associated with living things (DNA, sugars, proteins etc) which makes them completely different from other molecules and impossible to construct from anything other than other biological molecules? If so, what is it? What is it about DNA, for example, that would make it impossible to construct, even in principle, from its constituent atoms?

Science could never recognize it because any recognition is beyond empiricism. There is no way to verify the Earth is alive because there is no way to make any sort of psychic connection with it.


I've no idea what you mean by a "psychic connection", but clearly the question of whether Earth is a living thing is an empirical one, so long as you define what you mean by the words that you're using. That's where the debate comes in, it seems to me - the defintion of words. For example, is a colony of ants a living thing? Or is it a collection of living things? Is the Earth a living thing, or a collection of living things? What's the difference?

My "modified" definition of life is an entity with awareness and an ability to react to changes in its environment, i.e. a sentient being.


OK. fine. So you take the abstract concept of sentience as defining life and take away the specifics of the hardware. A bit like considering computer software without caring about the physical medium in which it is stored. That's ok with me, as long as you state that this is your understanding of the word "life", as you have done here. So other people can be clear that it differs from their definition.

The next problem, then, is defining and identifying sentience.

Armed with that basic definition of non-carbon based life will in no way help us to recognize it, beyond the life forms in which we already do.


It sounds like a definition of life that could be carbon based but isn't necessarily. The chemical medium (the carbon) is not relevant to you. OK.

What we call "life" is the sentient beings which we can recognize as such, all of which happen to be carbon-based, as we are.


Yes, obviously we generally tend to define things by example. The only way we can define life, and indeed the only way we can define sentience, is by pointing to examples of it and trying to capture what properties those examples have in common.

Sentient beings which we might not recognize must be so much different than life which we do recognize, that they must not be 'carbon-based'. The Earth, if it is indeed a sentient being, would be one of those entities.


I don't see how they must not be carbon based. But I take the point. They need not be carbon based.

If you define life as "that which is sentient" and you also define Earth as sentient, then clearly Earth = life. you don't even need to know what "Earth", "Life" and "Sentient" are to see that. It's a simple syllogism.

I defined "life" above, in a more broad and encompassing way, but not in a way in which it becomes just a "vague metaphor". There is nothing vague or metaphorical in my definition of a sentient being.


So how do you define sentience? You've already proposed that it's difficult to spot - difficult to tell whether any given entity has the property "sentience".

However, I'd like to give you an example, since you brought it up, of how considering the Universe as a gigantic living thing could explain one of our observations, and one which perplexes the scientific community. What if the reason why the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, beyond what it should without inventing "dark matter", is because the Universe Itself is willing it to happen? Thinking of the Universe as a living being gives us a new force with which to explain phenomena - Will or Intention (in the "cosmic" sense of the terms). Things can happen not just because of an interaction of mechanical laws and forces but also because conscious entities intend them to. We can try and reduce those conscious tendencies to mere mechanical laws, or we can acknowledge that they are beyond them....


So the universe is expanding because it wills it to happen? Perfectly possible, but not very interesting unless it is possible to, as it were, psychoanalyse the universe! If it is part of the definition of the free-will of a sentient being that it has no underlying mechanism, then what you're saying is really no different from saying that everything happens in the universe because it is the will of a deity that it should happen. It is not for us to question why. It is His will.

You can say that about the expansion of the universe if you like. You could equally say it about everything else for which we have no idea of an underlying mechanism (yet). A sort of "will of the gaps". Just not very interesting, in my opinion, because it shuts down any further enquiry. I quite like enquiry.
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#9  Postby Greta » September 12th, 2017, 9:35 pm

Atreyu, I feel your issue is with the semantic around "life", as though the intimation is that other living systems such as viruses and stars are dead. Steve did address that in his reply to me:
Steve wrote:Your central point seems to be that Geology and Biology are two aspects of the same subject because there is no objectively existing hard dividing line between biological life as we know it today and pre-biological "life", or more generally, any complex chemistry. I agree, and I think this is true of many other divisions which we often think of as existing in an objective sense but which are actually created by us as a convenient way of dealing with the complexity of the world by compartmentalizing it.


Maybe your differences here are largely epistemic?

I would not see the universe as "willing" anything - not yet! That could happen if a species evolved to the point of being, if not ubiquitous in the universe, at least being omni-influential (just as we animals' conscious and unconscious minds are to our bodies). At this point in time the universe is not even integrated enough to be a simple nerve net. There is still a preponderance of chaos, which will decrease as the universe cools further.

Further reducing the chaos will be the apparent separation of galactic clusters into effectively their own smaller, universes.
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#10  Postby Steve3007 » September 13th, 2017, 3:41 am

Greta, yes I think a large part of the difference is linguistic and epistemic - the definition of "life" and how we can know that something is alive. Differences of opinion which turn out to be simply differences in the definitions of words seem quite common. On another thread right now there is a difference of opinion centring on the definition of the word "cause". And on yet another thread right now the definition of the headline-grabbing term "zombie parasite" seems to be causing some friction.

In trying to define words, if all else fails I fall back on the idea that a word (or more specifically a noun) should at least divide the universe into two (except, of course, if that noun is "universe"). i.e. if I propose a definition of noun X then there should be some things in the universe which are X's and some things that are not X's.
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#11  Postby Ranvier » September 13th, 2017, 4:01 am

Steve3007

I think the problem is, in not understanding the context in which a specific words are used.
Example:

Atreyu:

That's absurd. The laws of gravity do not change over time.


What Atreyu is stating:[ Gravity doesn't change... the force itself ]

Steve3007:

They most certainly do. We went from Aristotle, through Kepler to Newton, to Einstein and beyond. The law of gravity has indeed changed to fit a wider and wider set of observations. Each law subsuming the previous one as a special case, for a particular subset of observations.


Your understanding: [ The description of the concept "gravity" changes with time in how it's described mathematically ]
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#12  Postby Steve3007 » September 13th, 2017, 4:39 am

Ranvier, yes that's a good point. Context is crucial. But in that case, the wider issue I was touching on there was the nature of physical laws and the question of whether it makes sense to think that there is some kind of final, immutable law of gravity (or more generally, set of laws of nature) out there of which our successive attempts are imperfect reflections.

If this is true, then I think we'd have to conclude that our various attempts over the years will one day come to an end. We will "finish" physics. And, I guess, go and do something else. My hunch is that that isn't how it works. I don't think we will ever finish. But that's just a hunch. Admittedly a hunch is a pretty vague concept!

-- Updated Wed Sep 13, 2017 9:55 am to add the following --

On reflection, I probably shouldn't have thrown that in at the start of that post to Atreyu because it is the root of a whole different subject of discussion and so probably just acts as a confusing distraction. (Like fractal geometry, these discussions often tend to sprout numerous "off topic" offshoots.)

The "whole different subject of discussion" that I'm talking about here is the question of whether the laws of physics are things that exist independently of us and which we strive to discover or whether it is just the events that we observe that can be regarded as existing independently, in which case the laws of physics are not things that we discover. They are things that we create in order to describe various patterns that we've noticed in those observations.
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#13  Postby Ranvier » September 13th, 2017, 4:30 pm

Steve3007

Humans are rational beings, at least most of the time, presumably. This is what rational beings do, they find patterns in nature to make sense of "things" in order to find a way to relate to the reality in a strive to survive. Someone who lived their entire life in the "country side" and visits a large city for the first time, they might look for patterns in the traffic while crossing a busy street to prevent getting killed. Some people will gaze at the sky and see an "elephant" shape in a cloud, while someone else will see a "children's slide" or someone else will perceive a "water pump", yet still someone else will see nothing but a cloud.

The "reality" that we perceive is "real" to each subjective individual perception. In actuality, "reality" most likely or even certainly is NOT what we perceive it to be. However, in order for human mind to make sense of things we must find patterns or otherwise the "reality" is "random" and unpredictable or "chaos". To emerge from the randomness of chaos, humans invented different ways of "perception" of the "reality": Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Metaphysics, Biology, Art, or even Psychology to create a "framework" or a reference point for a given perception. Only in the context of such "perception" the reality can make any tangible predictions or offer "empirical" evidence for their conclusions. A bunch of physicists will get together to describe "energy" from a specific point of view, wheres some other group of people will get together and describe "energy" as God. All different points of view are rational and offer a new valuable perspective on the "reality", yet none of such points of view alone fully describes the "reality" sufficiently. To fully appreciate the "reality", we must use a "rainbow" view in wide range of perceptions.

However, persistence in viewing the external environment "only" from a single point of view, renders the "observer" dependent on that specific framework, unable to perceive anything else. This is "why" some physicists can't see beyond their own "box" of perception, deceivingly seduced by the "accuracy" of their own perception. Richard Dawkins is one of such famous examples of the "narrow minded" or fixated point of view, unable to even comprehend the "validity" of other perceptions. It's extremely difficult to debate such people because regardless of how accurately one attempts to define the words used in a different perception of "reality", such people simply can't comprehend anything outside of their own "framework", where a common sense propositions become impervious to such fixated logic This is why I had remarked in the past that debating an ultra Atheist is similar to debating with a radical Theist, in a torture of Sisyphean polemic with a rigid and fixated mindset.

I'm not sure if there is a "remedy" for such myopic mindset, even when other people suggest to "educate" self on a specific topic in the "framework" of another field of study. Once someone can see nothing but "red", there is no obvious remedy for them to "learn" to perceive different colors to enable them to fully appreciate a given "picture".

BTW:
I use the quotation marks ".." on words that may be subject to different interpretation, just to stress that a given word should be especially referenced by the context.
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#14  Postby Steve3007 » September 13th, 2017, 5:11 pm

Ranvier:
Humans are rational beings, at least most of the time, presumably. This is what rational beings do, they find patterns in nature to make sense of "things" in order to find a way to relate to the reality in a strive to survive.


Indeed. It's the only way to survive. We start doing it almost from birth when we come up with our first great "scientific theories", such as the one that says if an object goes behind another object it hasn't ceased to exist. It will appear again at some point. (As demonstrated in the "peek a boo!" experiment conducted by infants and their parents.). I still find that rule useful when I go to find my car to get to work in the morning.

Incidentally, I think one of the great lessons we can learn by studying modern physics is to recognize that all such things are mental models. Even the ones that we learned at such a young age that we would never normally think of them as that, and instead we think of them as a fixed and eternal property of Nature. You have to put to one side these learned models and observe without prejudice. Just create the mathematical relationships that describe the patterns in observations. This approach to physics was summarized by the well-known phrase "Shut up and calculate!" although I've never been quite sure who first said it. Possibly Richard Feynman.

The "reality" that we perceive is "real" to each subjective individual perception.


Yes.

In actuality, "reality" most likely or even certainly is NOT what we perceive it to be.


I can't 100% agree with this. If you are saying that some other, or later, perception might reveal a different reality than the one that we had previously theorized to exist from our current perceptions, then fair enough. But I see no use in imagining there to be some kind of reality that is forever beyond any possibility of perception, in principle as well as practice. I'm not really convinced by the Platonic idea of a reality independent of any possible perception. It doesn't seem to work in practice. It's not useful.

However, in order for human mind to make sense of things we must find patterns or otherwise the "reality" is "random" and unpredictable or "chaos".


Yes, we are hardwired to find patterns because it is essential for survival. Anybody that didn't do that in the past would have quickly died and left no offspring. But, as you've suggested, a bi-product of that pattern recognition, particularly in the visual field, and particularly with faces (because they're so important to us) is what is sometimes called the "faces in the fire" phenomenon. We spot the kind of order that we're used to looking for even if it isn't always there.

To emerge from the randomness of chaos, humans invented different ways of "perception" of the "reality": Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Metaphysics, Biology, Art, or even Psychology to create a "framework" or a reference point for a given perception.


Yes. Although I wouldn't necessarily say that all of those disciplines are different ways of perceiving reality. Some are just the same form of perception of different aspects of reality.

A bunch of physicists will get together to describe "energy" from a specific point of view, wheres some other group of people will get together and describe "energy" as God.


In that example, I think the two groups are simply describing different concepts but using the same word. In the English language there are loads of words that have many different meanings. "Energy" appears to be one of them.

All different points of view are rational and offer a new valuable perspective on the "reality", yet none of such points of view alone fully describes the "reality" sufficiently. To fully appreciate the "reality", we must use a "rainbow" view in wide range of perceptions.


Yes, and the challenge is finding a form of language in which those different perspectives can all be meaningfully discussed.

However, persistence in viewing the external environment "only" from a single point of view, renders the "observer" dependent on that specific framework, unable to perceive anything else. This is "why" some physicists can't see beyond their own "box" of perception, deceivingly seduced by the "accuracy" of their own perception.


Quite possibly. As I said above, I think that one of the lessons of modern physics is learning how not to do this, possibly more so than in any other discipline. But if you can think of an example of this blinkered vision to illustrate your point it would be interesting to examine it.

Richard Dawkins is one of such famous examples of the "narrow minded" or fixated point of view, unable to even comprehend the "validity" of other perceptions.


He's an Evolutionary Biologist. As I've said elsewhere, I like his insights into Evolutionary Biology but I'm not as interested in his views on the existence or otherwise of deities.

It's extremely difficult to debate such people because regardless of how accurately one attempts to define the words used in a different perception of "reality", such people simply can't comprehend anything outside of their own "framework", where a common sense propositions become impervious to such fixated logic This is why I had remarked in the past that debating an ultra Atheist is similar to debating with a radical Theist, in a torture of Sisyphean polemic with a rigid and fixated mindset.


I think some people are simply more difficult to have a rational discussion with than others. Attempting to agree on the definitions of words is always a good start though, I think.

I'm not sure if there is a "remedy" for such myopic mindset, even when other people suggest to "educate" self on a specific topic in the "framework" of another field of study. Once someone can see nothing but "red", there is no obvious remedy for them to "learn" to perceive different colors to enable them to fully appreciate a given "picture".


The only thing you can do is try to state your case, and define your terminology, clearly. And be open to questions that are honestly attempting to clarify these things.
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post Number:#15  Postby Ranvier » September 13th, 2017, 6:15 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
Ranvier
The "reality" that we perceive is "real" to each subjective individual perception.


Yes.

Ranvier
In actuality, "reality" most likely or even certainly is NOT what we perceive it to be.


Steve3007

1. I can't 100% agree with this. If you are saying that some other, or later, perception might reveal a different reality than the one that we had previously theorized to exist from our current perceptions, then fair enough. 2. But I see no use in imagining there to be some kind of reality that is forever beyond any possibility of perception, in principle as well as practice. I'm not really convinced by the Platonic idea of a 3. reality independent of any possible perception. It doesn't seem to work in practice. It's not useful.


1. I welcome disagreements, otherwise there would be nothing to talk about...
2. This is not what I said. "Reality" is not "beyond the possibility of any perception". What I said, was that the "actual" "reality" will always be "limited" to subjective individual human perception. Example: Gravity doesn't "care" how we describe or perceive gravity. It "exists" independently of human perception. However, "how" we describe gravity isn't "actually" the way gravity "is", and hence it's not understood very well. Our perception of gravity will improve with "time" but it will "never" be completely "accurate".
3. In fact, the "reality" is independent of human perception, the premise that this may not be "practical" doesn't change that fact. Particle accelerators or gravity wave detectors may not be "practical", yet it's a worth while human endeavor to spend billions to achieve new insights about our reality.

Ranvier
To emerge from the randomness of chaos, humans invented different ways of "perception" of the "reality": Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Metaphysics, Biology, Art, or even Psychology to create a "framework" or a reference point for a given perception.


Steve3007
Yes. Although I wouldn't necessarily say that all of those disciplines are different ways of perceiving reality. Some are just the same form of perception of different aspects of reality.


Each perception describes multiple aspects of reality differently, and are not the same form of perception. Obviously mathematician will perceive and describe an "object" such as a painting, differently from an artist's perception.

Ranvier
A bunch of physicists will get together to describe "energy" from a specific point of view, wheres some other group of people will get together and describe "energy" as God.


Steve3007
In that example, I think the two groups are simply describing different concepts but using the same word. In the English language there are loads of words that have many different meanings. "Energy" appears to be one of them.


An interesting assertion... please offer a justification for such conclusion. How "energy" and "God" are different "concepts"? Beside of course the difference in the point of view.

Ranvier
All different points of view are rational and offer a new valuable perspective on the "reality", yet none of such points of view alone fully describes the "reality" sufficiently. To fully appreciate the "reality", we must use a "rainbow" view in wide range of perceptions.


Steve3007
Yes, and the challenge is finding a form of language in which those different perspectives can all be meaningfully discussed.


Sure, in the debate on "reality" we should try to define parameters of "reality" first... Philosophy is mostly about that.
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