Re: [asa] Darwin only biological evolution? (can anything exist without evolution?)

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Tue Jan 13 2009 - 03:53:19 EST

On Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 2:27 AM, D. F. Siemens, Jr.
<> wrote:
> I think there is more of an analogy between Beethoven and organic
> evolution than allowed by Iain. He mentions some sources that were
> incorporated into the symphony. It appears that parts of bacterial
> genomes were incorporated into other bacteria as well as into eukaryote
> nuclei and cytoplasm. If the one is evolution, seems that the other one
> is too.

I didn't say (sighs deeply at how many times I start a post with "I
didn't say"), that there were no analogies with evolution to be found
in music. I was responding to Bernie's (IMO overstated) claim:

I don't think there are any examples what-so-ever of anything that has
not evolved.  If you can think of just one, give an example, and I
think I can explain to you how it evolved.
I asked him to explain how Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is supposed to
have evolved.  Bernie singularly failed to do so.  He explained how
the piano evolved (though there is no piano in Beethoven's Ninth
Symphony), and how ideas might have evolved from earlier ideas (which
I don't dispute).  But he asked for ONE EXAMPLE of something that
didn't evolve and claimed to be able to explain how it did.  I gave
him one example - a specific work - it didn't have to be Beethoven's
Ninth, and asked him to explain how IT evolved as an entity.
Evolutionary processes are evident in, for example the development of
a composer's style through time - the way a composer begins probably
by writing music that is derivative or other composers, and then over
time, develops his/her own distinctive "voice" - which probably comes
down to preferred motives, chords etc - which is analogous to a kind
of natural selection.  One may even observe processes analogous to
evolution in the progress of an individual piece of music; sonata form
movements have a "development section" where the main ideas are
"developed" (evolved?) changed, possibly rhythmically or melodically
altered, played against one another in increasingly complex
But it is just not helpful to suggest that the Ninth symphony, as an
entity, evolved.  (Or that ANYTHING can be shown to have evolved).
It's not as if Beethoven started with the Eighth symphony, made a
series of successive revisions, and arrived at the Ninth.  But such
processes ARE evident in the evolution of software - successive
releases of a software product ARE incremental changes as bugs are
fixed and new features are introduced (consider, for example how
Google has evolved).
Returning to music, a very interesting example has recently emerged
that might be of interest to David O's legal mind, and perhaps serves
as a focus for discussion of the Design vs Evolution debate.
The British band Coldplay are currently facing a legal suit for
plagiarism from the US guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani.  Satriani is
claiming that in their 2008 hit single "Viva la Vida", they have
copied a substantial original portion of a song he wrote in 2004 "If I
could fly".  Listening to the relevant section, which is the main
theme in the Coldplay song, it is indeed virtually identical to a
passage early in the Satriani song - all the notes are the same
(though transposed into a different key); the rhythm is the same and
the chord sequence is virtually the same (there is one chord that
differs, and this is a standard transposition that would give the same
emotional effect).
Chris Martin of Coldplay is claiming that this is a complete
coincidence - that he composed the tune himself being quite unaware of
the original song.
So both artists are claiming, in effect that they created the tune de
novo.  However, the possibility arises that Martin could have heard
the Satriani song, maybe in the background somewhere, and that the
tune stayed in his subconscious, and emerged during the compositional
process  (slightly mutated into a different key and with a slightly
altered chord sequence).  Thus Satriani's "meme" could be said to have
mutated and reappeared in the Coldplay song.
The fascinating thing about this (and this is where I would be
interested to hear David O's opinion), is that even if this "evolution
of the meme" occurred when Martin was completely unaware of it (that
he had inadvertently copied an idea), then legally it is still the
case that a plagiarism suit could succeed, and Coldplay would be
liable to pay some portion of the substantial royalties they received
from the song to Satriani.
I have experienced something similar to this in composing poetry.
More than once it has been the case that I have written a line and
genuinely thought I had dreamt it up myself, only to realise a few
weeks later that the line contained a phrase from a poem I was already
familiar with.
Which would mean that evolutionary processes are a considerable
problem for any would-be musician thinking of entering the pop
> I am unfortunately not familiar with Beethoven's manuscripts, but I am
> guessing that the original drafts were subject to alteration to ensure
> their improvement. Is this all that distant from the alteration of
> genomes under the influence of natural selection? Did Beethoven ever
> start to make a change and remove it? If he did, we can expand the
> analogy.
> However, usage does not favor the application of terms too broadly,
> though it is common for axe grinders to deliberately expand usage to
> press a point. Others simply test a change for effectiveness. If we go
> back far enough, I think that "evolution" was narrowly applied to
> embryonic and fetal development, which I have not encountered recently.
> Additionally, I have encountered claims that most of the technical
> language of science is "dead analogies". So the problem may involve which
> analogies one will tolerate or understand. One person's relevant analogy
> is sure to be another's nonsense. In attempting general persuasion,
> probably the best procedure is to stick with generally accepted
> analogies.
> Dave (ASA)
> On Mon, 12 Jan 2009 22:30:08 +0000 "Iain Strachan"
> <> writes:
>> On Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 10:15 PM, Michael Roberts
>> <> wrote:
>> > In fairness to Bernie, he is trying to present an alternative to
>> YEC which
>> > he escaped from. He is seeking to put this over to his fellow
>> Christians who
>> > are/were caught up with YEC and in terms they can understand. In
>> that I
>> > totally support him.
>> Yes, but is it really going to persuade YECs to suggest that there
>> is
>> an evolutionary explanation to EVERYTHING?
>> Patently Beethoven's Ninth Symphony did NOT evolve.  Some of the
>> ideas
>> were derived from the Choral Fantasy, but the notion that the one
>> evolved out of the other is ridiculous.  It was put together by a
>> creative genius, and some of the ideas in it were regarded as
>> totally
>> revolutionary.  (The "r" makes a difference).
>> There is just no way you can liken it to evolution.  YECs object to
>> "evolution-ism", and suggesting that everything evolved like that
>> is
>> precisely what they object to.
>> Iain
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Received on Tue Jan 13 03:53:50 2009

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