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

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Tue Jan 13 2009 - 14:44:31 EST

Bernie, I think you're right about this: if "evolution" means simply
"change over time," and "meme" means simply "thought," then yes, everything
(except God perhaps) evolves, and all cultural artifacts are memes. But if
"evolution" and "meme" are defined so broadly, they cease to be meaningful
terms. I could just as well say, "you drove a ham sandwich to work today."
You can't dispute that proposition if I happen to define "ham sandwich" to
mean what you think "automobile" means -- but that signifies nothing.

I understand "evolution" to imply, at least, gradual change over time
without the influence of any apparent sentient agency, i.e., by a stochastic
process. That would exclude any human cultural product, with the possible
exception of things like the stock market that can be analyzed as emergent
forms of stochastic self-organization, from the definition of evolution.

I understand "meme" to imply, at least, a discrete unit of culture that has
its own existence and that acts like a gene. Under this definition, most
thoughts are not memes.

I think my usage is reasonably consistent with how these terms historically
have been used.

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

On Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 2:23 PM, Dehler, Bernie <>wrote:

> I stand by my statement that "there is nothing in existence that didn't
> evolve." Since I believe in God, then God created using evolutionary
> processes. Some day we will do the same when we build robots that are smart
> enough to design and build other robots... it doesn't take away from the
> fact that we are the creator of the robots and the overarching system (even
> though a certain smart robot may disagree and spurn it's maker- it which
> case it will be destroyed since it doesn't fulfill it's purpose).
> As for Beethoven- there's really no difference between him composing music
> and people at my work creating a new microprocessor. They both require
> innovative thinking, and new ideas. Tons of it! Notice Ian's objection
> "But a complete symphony is a whole truckload of new ideas put down." Same
> thing when designing new CPU's and software programs... or a watch, or a
> space shuttle, or a VW Beetle.
> I think a major fallacy and roadblock to receiving evolution (as an
> overarching worldview- notice I'm not saying atheist worldview- evolution
> does not equal atheism) is because of a false idea that if the brain comes
> up with something new, then it can't be evolution. That's like saying
> cosmological evolution can't be evolution because planets don't sexually
> reproduce like animals in biological evolution. The fallacy stems from not
> understanding the grand scheme of evolution, and having a hyper focus on
> only biological evolution as if it is the only type of evolution. Of
> course, planets, biological systems, and memes all have different ways of
> creating. In this way, evolution is defined as change over time, as well as
> change for the better. It is a description of how complex things arise from
> simple.
> Our brain does come up with brand new ideas "out of thin air." So how does
> that invalidate anything? The lungs also oxygenate our blood- also amazing.
> The heart pumps blood- also amazing (esp. in a giraffe). Making ideas is
> what the brain does. Intelligent design, from our brains, is what evolution
> created when it created humans.
> Dawkins does not allow for divine input into meme creation, but I see no
> reason it must be excluded. That's a simple difference between an atheist
> and Christian interpretation. In this way, religion is a complex mix of
> inputs from nature and God, which explains the many varieties... no religion
> is purely inspired of God- witness YEC-OEC-TE disputes (all Christian, yet
> yielding different meme threads). (One could also say Satan is injecting
> ideas into the mix as well.)
> Ian said:
> "Evolution is about gradual change (as Dawkins is always reminding us)."
> Again- you are in the fallacy of thinking that creating new ideas is
> against the idea of gradual change. Beethoven's work is a gradual change if
> you look at the big picture- all the musical instruments and their players
> evolved up to that point. Some of the players in the orchestra probably
> also gave ideas which Beethoven incorporated... feeding on each other.
> That's what memes do. Beethoven probably took music lessons. He may not
> have designed any new instruments- just used existing ones. And if he did
> invent one, you can bet he used his wisdom from knowledge of other
> instruments and probably help/feedback form other musicians. Collaboration
> is very powerful for meme generation and revision.
> David O. said:
> " "Inherited" is the rub. Ideas, concepts, language -- all are learned.
> "Learned" is very different than "inherited." I inherited my genes -- I
> didn't have to be "taught" to have hazel eyes and brown hair. I didn't
> inherit my ideas about the U.S. Constitution -- I was taught a whole set of
> concepts about the American legal system and reached conclusions of my own
> about it that seemed true and reasonable to me based on the information
> available to me."
> This is evidence of the confused (or narrow) thinking which thinks that all
> evolution (cosmological, chemical, meme, etc.) must be like biological
> evolution. Also, when you are "taught" something, that is a meme transfer
> taking place.
> George Murphy brought up a good point that there was no evidence for genes,
> when it was hypothesized also. But he said this, too:
> " there is no such evidence for memes - i.e., no definite statitical
> predictions about the ways in which cultural traits will be transmitted"
> I would like to add that that there is no statistical prediction for
> biological evolution, either. You can't predict what genes will do in the
> future because of all the mechanisms in play- much more than just genetic
> mutation (natural selection for one example, which can't be forecast).
> David O. said:
> " This sentence did not evolve. I typed it essentially all at once and de
> novo."
> I disagree. Your sentence is a reply to my comments, so it is a follow-on
> meme competing with my proposed meme. You also didn't invent English- we
> both learned it in grade school. You typed it all at once- so what? Did
> you create the keyboard and computer? You accept that a gene can mutate
> (micro-evolution), and that also happens "all at once." Does something
> happening "all at once" prove something? You didn't even type it 'all at
> once' but really letter by letter. And what do you mean by "de novo" (that
> you didn't use cut/paste?)?
> Michael Roberts said:
> " I do find some of his arguments weak and could almost be seen as a TE
> equivalent of popular YEC which can use some very simplistic analogies. One
> only has to visit some of the popular YEC sites and this is very apparent.
> He may well influence some of those who would simply reject the two
> excellent books by the two Denis's (Lamouroux and Alexander)"
> I don't think I'm saying anything contrary to Denis Lamoureux- he's one of
> my theological role-models. His writings are one of my mentors.
> Iain brought up copyright. The purpose of copyright is to protect one's
> work- so someone doesn't copy your work and get paid for it instead of you.
> Yes- it is a debate over what is a copy. For example, parody music has
> been tried in court- and ruled not to be a copyright infringement, even
> though the music is exact, but the words changed. Reason being, a parody
> couldn't be a parody without having the same music. Thank goodness- because
> I love parody Christian group called Apologetix!
> All computers evolve from each other so they have copyright issues too.
> Again- computer design is the same thing as Beethoven- both take ingenious
> new ideas and build upon existing ideas. Ideas are simply memes. Computer
> makers sue each other over patents all the time, and sometimes have
> cross-licensing agreements to sidestep all this (a way of calling a truce
> and staking out market turf).
> ...Bernie
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Iain Strachan []
> Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 12:53 AM
> To: D. F. Siemens, Jr.
> Cc:;; Dehler, Bernie;
> Subject: Re: [asa] Darwin only biological evolution? (can anything exist
> without evolution?)
> 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
> arrangements.
> 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
> industry.
> Iain
> > 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
> >>
> >> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> >> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
> >>
> >>
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> --
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Received on Tue Jan 13 14:45:05 2009

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