The Problem of Complexity.

Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution.
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Frank Hoffman
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The Problem of Complexity.

Post by Frank Hoffman » Tue Jan 14, 2014 3:17 pm

Please recommend additional reading I might do. I am currently reading Leslie Valiant's "Probably Approximately Correct: Natures Algorithms for Learning and Prospering in a Complex World". In Chapter 2 he touches upon adaption and indicates that currently we don't completely understand how classical evolution (selection within a population) really leads to complexity. He points out that it is simplistic to contend that the only process is chance genetic change which survives and reproduces in spite of the complexity of an active life ecosystem, even over geologic time. One problem that comes to my mind is that as organisms become more complex, their number of individuals decreases, and with a lower population there is less opportunity for chance-change selection to act. Also, I read somewhere that there might be some low-level learning which is transmitted to offspring, perhaps by changes to the chemical environment which accompanies the chromosomes in sexual reproduction. What books can you recommend to bring me up to date on evolution and complexity?

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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by kennyc » Tue Jan 14, 2014 3:36 pm

There is no 'problem of complexity'
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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by Frank Hoffman » Tue Jan 14, 2014 3:48 pm

OK, instead help me with MY problem understanding how evolution leads inevitably to complexity.

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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by OlegTheBatty » Tue Jan 14, 2014 4:03 pm

Frank Hoffman wrote:OK, instead help me with MY problem understanding how evolution leads inevitably to complexity.

Sexual reproduction adds a whole lot of mixing to the pot. Vastly more changes available per mutation, plus you get the added bonus of dominant and recessive alleles.

Sexual reproduction evolved. It isn't independant of evolution.
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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by Frank Hoffman » Tue Jan 14, 2014 5:24 pm

OK, there is a whole lot of mixing, most of it like-with-like (so no change); the vast majority of what changes did occur, by probability, would have no effect on fitness, some of the little that remains of that would likely have a negative effect on fitness, what remains of that (which has a positive effect on fitness) would have to survive not only that effect and whatever negative effects which happen to occur simultaneously to the same few individuals, but also the uncontrolled effects of the specific environment. Just as a thought experiment, let's use my backyard sparrows. I have a feeder near the rear of my property, a few meters past that is a railroad track. There are a few flocks of house sparrows (all same species) which frequent the feeder (a total sometimes over 100 individuals). The more sparrows which are at the feeder, the more often one of them startles and causes (nearly) the whole flock to take flight… it is very common for them to spend less than 10 seconds feeding before one individual startles and sends everyone flying. There are a few individuals who do not startle easily, and therefor are more successful feeding. In this very limited situation, the tendency to not startle easily is positive, but on a larger scale, it may not be. The relationship between a physical or behavioral change (an increase in complexity) and an increase in fitness is not straightforward.

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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by OlegTheBatty » Tue Jan 14, 2014 5:50 pm

Frank Hoffman wrote:OK, there is a whole lot of mixing, most of it like-with-like (so no change);

Do you know anyone with two or more kids? Are the kids identical? No? Maybe there are some changes, hmmmmm?

the vast majority of what changes did occur, by probability, would have no effect on fitness,

So what? They are still changes. Evolution doesn't care if they are good bad or indifferent.

some of the little that remains of that would likely have a negative effect on fitness,

Let us consider a gene with a single mutation; some people have the mutation (r), some people don't (d). In the people with the mutation, the gene doesn't express properly; that is, it doesn't work right.
When two people mate, there are 4 possibilities: rr, dd, rd, dr. Three of the four possibilities have a functional gene, one in four do not. The rr person may not survive long enough to reproduce, yet the malfunctioning gene will persist in the population because it is carried along by the dr and rd people. In common parlance, we call the functional gene 'dominant', and the nonfunctional gene 'recessive' (r and d).
A real life example is malaria resistance (d) and sickle-cell anemia (r).

Through asexual reproduction, the offspring only inherit one set of chromosomes, so changes are few. Sexual reproduction means two sets, which don't match up exactly the same way each time, and the number of viable changes is orders of magnitude higher.
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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by kennyc » Tue Jan 14, 2014 5:50 pm

Define complexity.
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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by Frank Hoffman » Tue Jan 14, 2014 6:46 pm

Oleg: I actually do remember parts of when my science teacher was talking about Gregor Mendel, but for me it's quite a leap between the specific sickle cell anemia / malaria protection gene and the generalized decision for a sparrow to startle. The ability to learn (or act upon inherited triggers) what to respond to... or not respond to... seems to me to be orders of magnitude more complex than eye color or weight gain. It is my understanding that genes not only either express or not, but express differently at different times in an organisms development and also in different contexts based upon what other genes are doing. I guess it is just difficult for me to get my head around that all these very specific chemicals interacting with other very specific chemicals produce a sparrow that acts a certain way.

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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by Frank Hoffman » Tue Jan 14, 2014 6:59 pm

kennyc wrote:Define complexity.


Instead of referencing Funk & Wagnalls, I'll just say that when I started this thread, I was thinking about the totality of an organism; the physical and behavioral aspects of a bag of chemicals that interacts successfully with its environment. I inherited both the opposable thumb I'm typing with and neural conduits that caused me to respond to your post. That this activity is governed by initial chemical interactions when I was a fetus producing that thumb and those neurons, which in turn were governed by chemical interactions in the lemur-like animal which I evolved from… that I consider complexity.

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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by kennyc » Tue Jan 14, 2014 7:14 pm

Frank Hoffman wrote:
kennyc wrote:Define complexity.


Instead of referencing Funk & Wagnalls, I'll just say that when I started this thread, I was thinking about the totality of an organism; the physical and behavioral aspects of a bag of chemicals that interacts successfully with its environment. I inherited both the opposable thumb I'm typing with and neural conduits that caused me to respond to your post. That this activity is governed by initial chemical interactions when I was a fetus producing that thumb and those neurons, which in turn were governed by chemical interactions in the lemur-like animal which I evolved from… that I consider complexity.



That's not gonna work in the context of evolution. Bottom line, evolution is true, the diversity of life was produced by evolution, e.g. no issue with complexity.

If you want to argue about irreducible complexity it's already been debunked.
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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by Frank Hoffman » Tue Jan 14, 2014 7:52 pm

kennyc wrote:
Frank Hoffman wrote:
kennyc wrote:Define complexity.


If you want to argue about irreducible complexity it's already been debunked.


Now you're putting words in my mouth. I said nothing about "irreducible complexity". If the jump I referenced can't be explained to someone who WANTS to understand (me), it will fail against those who resist such understanding.

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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by kennyc » Tue Jan 14, 2014 7:57 pm

Frank Hoffman wrote:
kennyc wrote:
Frank Hoffman wrote:
kennyc wrote:Define complexity.


If you want to argue about irreducible complexity it's already been debunked.


Now you're putting words in my mouth. I said nothing about "irreducible complexity". If the jump I referenced can't be explained to someone who WANTS to understand (me), it will fail against those who resist such understanding.



Not really you are discussing evolution and something you label as 'complexity' and claiming that you don't understand it, nor does your O.P. reference and so there must be a problem. As I said life exists, its diversity came about due to evolution. No problemo. The only problem is that you appear to want to challenge it and that is EXACTLY what the cretionists do.

Unless of course you can actually define complexity and/or provide examples of a problem with life's 'complexity.'
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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by Frank Hoffman » Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:16 pm

Sorry, what's an "O.P. reference."

I do not dispute the fact of evolution. I do not dispute that evolution is responsible for both the physical and behavioral aspects of life. Truly I would, however, like it to be explained so that I can perhaps understand it ... not take it on faith. (OK, the dig at the end, I know, bad form.)

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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by kennyc » Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:29 pm

Frank Hoffman wrote:Sorry, what's an "O.P. reference."

I do not dispute the fact of evolution. I do not dispute that evolution is responsible for both the physical and behavioral aspects of life. Truly I would, however, like it to be explained so that I can perhaps understand it ... not take it on faith. (OK, the dig at the end, I know, bad form.)



well apologies if I'm misunderstanding, but genetic diversity and the building of proteins, various cell types, bodies etc is a very -- forgive me -- complex topic, something that scientists have dedicated lifetimes to just to understand very minute pieces. We learn more every day, but to understand the field for a neophyte is all but impossible. Additionally I have little to go on other than your O.P. (original post). I am not familiar with the book you cite, but am familiar with the on-going claims of creationists and god-bothers about complexity as evidence of their beliefs.

Not sure how much this will help, but here is the list of references from one of my essays on 'Cellular Communication'

References/Resources/Links

The Inside Story of Cell Communication:
http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/ ... sidestory/

Endocrinology:
http://humanphisiology.wikispaces.com/0 ... ocrinology

Cell Signaling:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_signaling

Cells, Cell Communication:
http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/cells/

From RNA to Protein:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26829/

Proteins:
http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/howgeneswork/protein
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index ... 213AANZeJs
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protein

Inside the Cell:
http://publications.nigms.nih.gov/insid ... pter2.html

Neurotransmitters:
http://psychology.about.com/od/nindex/g ... mitter.htm

Enzymes:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enzyme

Enzyme matching image:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Indu ... iagram.svg
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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by kennyc » Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:31 pm

also there is this recent paper about epigenetic transfer:

http://www.nature.com/news/fearful-memo ... ts-1.14272
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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by Frank Hoffman » Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:33 pm

Thanks KennyC, I will work my way through them. I appreciate your time.

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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by Frank Hoffman » Sat Feb 01, 2014 2:16 pm

KennyC - Thanks for the Cellular Communications references, I read through them. The biology which impacts how cells influence each other seems to be straight-forward. I guess my gap in understanding is how these chemical communications combine to form the emergent property of the organisms life experience. These very specific chemical interactions are like the very accurate cams, gears and bearings of a motorcycle; their specificity and accuracy are critical to its operation, and each have minute but critical impacts on the efficiency of the machine; but they are quite far removed from what happens in the two traction patches where the tires push against the roadway. It is those traction patches, the forward motion, the turning and breaking forces, which might represent our experience of life. Abusing the motorcycle can negatively modify those tiny parts, and they in turn reduce the efficiency of the entire machine, but of course unlike biological systems, there is no positive feedback (good use does not make the motorcycle better). OK, I'm rambling.... anyway, I'm just saying it's a long way in my understanding between cell communications and organism behavior.

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Re: The Problem of Complexity.

Post by Scott Mayers » Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:41 am

Frank Hoffman wrote:OK, instead help me with MY problem understanding how evolution leads inevitably to complexity.

This may be way oversimplifying it, but just think of the complexity as it relates to matter and gravity...
As time advances, gravity draws in more and more atoms which represent such complexity. Although this doesn't equally demonstrate what occurs in biological evolution, at least you can agree that complexity is something that is at least possible to reality. Another way of thinking of this is to ask yourself if given a fresh clean pool of water exposed to the outside, do you believe that through time is it more or less likely that it will contain anything less than pure water?
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