Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Inanity that is Deepak Chopra Continues....

I read Deepak Chopra's latest blog entry and felt a blog coming on. I know you mean well, Deepak, but you really should stick to things you know and understand. I just don't know what those things are, and neither do you. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.

"I remain fascinated by orthodox defenders of Darwinism, who believe that the success of a scientific theory proves its infallibility. As a passing note, I have never denied natural selection, but the holes in current evolutionary theory are glaring." Orthodox defenders of Darwinism? Is that like the Knights Templar? And Darwinism does not exist. It is Evolution. Does the success of a scientific theory prove its infallibility? In Science there is no such thing as infallible. When a theory describing a phenomenon fails, it is either changed to include the new data or discarded in favor of a new synthesis. No scientist ever dogmatically holds onto a theory just because he/she likes it. We leave that to religion. The success of Evolutionary Theory has been emense and thus does validate it. Since there have been no serious challenges to it, it remains. But as Einstein said, there will not be any ultimate theory of everything. Evolutionary Theory will not be supplanted by a new theory any more than Relativistic Theory replaced Newtonian Mechanics.

"Responders have criticized my example of honey bees that die when they sting. I am well aware that there are drones, workers, and a queen in each hive. But the fact that the workers are sterile doesn't refute the example but only strengthens it. How can a queen bee, who is responsible for laying all the eggs, possibly know whether some hatch with stingers that are fatal or not? How can her genes know? That they somehow do know is part of the credo of sociobiology. Let's say, however, that some hives survive with workers that die after they sting while others don't survive with workers that can sting multiple times (as bumblebees can)? There is no way to attribute the survival to this adaptation, and in addition, it's only common sense that workers that can sting multiple times are far better defenders than those that die immediately. This is an evolutionary conundrum and remains one despite Darwinian efforts to explain it." Not at all. The large number of workers means that bees that die because they lose their stingers (or for any other reason) do not deplete the hive population significantly. Indeed, the loss of the stinger provides increased protection value, continuing to work long after the initial sting itself. As for how the queen bee's genes know any of this, the answer is they don't. By this bizarre statement, I can only assume Deepak is trying to figure out why workers have stingers that detach, and queens don't. This is in fact related to the diet given the pupae, which changes the hormonal mix to differentiate each type. Natural selection has selected for bee colonies where the workers lose their sting for the aforementioned reason. The workers have no genetic interest in surviving, except to protect the queen. This is in fact why the queen bee has a stinger which does not. She uses the stinger to fend off rivals. A surviving queen bee which would die after using the stinger wouldn't be around to pass on the genes. This is just one example that Deepak demonstrates of the complete and utter lack of understanding of Evolutionary Theory.

"Darwinism has hit a serious obstacle in its attempt to explain adaptations in a more sophisticated way. Survival is a conscious act, and ignoring that fact in favor of materialism is a dead end." Survival is a conscious act? Since when? I would say that even in humans it is not conscious. We evolved with behavior which produces a desire to stay alive. Not to do so is not much of an evolutionary strategy, in my humble opinion. How is instinct conscious? "It's quite self-contradictory for current evolutionary biologists to speak of adaptations that benefit the genes of a species without elucidating how a gene can know anything about the outside world. How do the genes of a queen bee, for example, absorb the information about what's happening to worker bees without some resort of intelligence?" This gave me mental whiplash. The very act of asking such a question betrays Deepak's complete and total ignorance of Evolutionary Theory. The utter inanity of thinking that genes need to have knowledge of their environment makes my head explode. Does Deepak even grasp the basic concept of Natural Selection? It is the gene that is affected by selection pressures over generations of replication, not the gene changing in order to survive in a particular environment. There is no 'absorption of information'. Genes that cause an organism to have some advantage over its rivals tends to be passed on to the next generation. What Deepak is suggesting seems almost Lamarckian, a long defunct attempt at explaining Evolution.

"Moreover, crude notions of competition and survival of the fittest are grossly inadequate. The entire field of ecology is based on cooperation, symbiosis, and holistic forces that shape life on this planet." Should I even bother to comment on what is wrong here? I don't think he understands the concept of "survival of the fittest". To be fair, most people don't. His view seems to suggest that ecology is all warm and fuzzy, devoid of competition. I got news for you, Deepak. Bambi wasn't a documentary. And what the hell are holistic forces? Natural Selection is by far the most important shaper of gene propagation.

"The deeper questions are these:

--How does competition fit in with its opposite, cooperation?"
Competition and cooperation go hand in hand. Indeed, cooperation can enhance competition. If you equate cooperation with altruism, then you are misguided. Truly altruistic behavior is a myth. Birds flock for safety in numbers, where more eyes are looking out for danger, but this is hardly altruistic. Competition is occurring simultaneously with cooperation.

"--How can mutations really be random given that complex adaptations such as flight require multiple adaptations simultaneously?" Oh, my. Can you say 'Irreducible Complexity'? Sorry, Deepak, that was debunked long ago. The evolution of the wing has long been understood. Indeed, it is a prime example of convergent evolution. If it was so difficult, then this would not be the case. It is incorrect that multiple adaptations had to occur simultaneously. This would only be true if the wing were to simply pop into existence, which could not happen according to Evolutionary Theory.

"--How can we explain adaptations that don't benefit mating preferences? The honey bee is a perfect example. Worker bees take no part in mating, and it's ludicrous to think that drones prefer queens whose genes produce worker bees that die after they sting?" Another whiplash-producing statement. Unbelievable stupidity. There is no word in the English language, perhaps not in any language, to describe this. Queens do not produce offspring like we do. The form of the bee is strongly affected by diet, controlled by worker bees. The detachable sting conveyed an advantage to survival. THAT is what matters.

"--How can we explain adaptations that only come into effect after mating, such as the differing life spans of creatures after they breed? By what criteria, for example, does Nature choose for one insect to live ninety days instead of one day?" One might as well ask why lifespan of our species is increasing. As you might expect, it is due to Natural Selection. We are delaying childbirth to later on in life, thus increased longevity is selected for. (It's a common misconception that it is due to increased overall health. Medical advances have only had a small effect on our longevity.)

"--How can we explain the rise of consciousness out of unconscious molecules?" If you are suggesting that Science cannot explain consciousness because it has been unable to up to this point, then you are following the false dichotomy argument, Deepak. A bad argument. We only now have tools which allow us to explore the mind and thus is a field in its infancy. To explain consciousness in terms of spirituality is vacuous. If you cannot speak in scientific terms about a concept, you cannot speak intelligibly about it. There is no shame in the words "we don't know." Spiritualists make fools of themselves speaking of things like consciousness when they have not scientific data to fall back upon in support. You are no different, Deepak.

"Darwinians bluster that the answers to these mysteries already exist. This is far from true. I have debated Nobel laureates and other scientific notables on these issues." Bully for you. But you don't understand the basic concepts of what you were debating on, and I doubt you held up well against their arguments except in your own mind.

I'm not a big fan of debates on Evolution vs ID/Creation. Dawkins was told by Gould that he felt that it gave unnecessary and misplaced credibility to creationists just for showing up. That's one reason, but I have stronger ones. What is the outcome of debating this subject? Generally speaking the polarity is such that each side just hears what they want out of the debate. No minds are changed. And what does it mean to win a debate? Does that mean that the 'winning' side's version is truth? No. It just means the winner is a better debater. I've taken a side that I didn't actually agree with and kicked ass in a debate. It's not about the truth. So I don't find debates particularly useful.

Anyway, this is a man who's ideas have a significant following. But if his philosophy is built on such a weak and shaky foundation, I must conclude that everything in it is suspect and no one should pay Deepak Chopra any mind. He only strengthens my feeling that the equation below holds true:

spiritualist = flake.


Matt said...

Just thought I'd swing by and see how you're taking Dr. Hovind PhD's legal setbacks. I presume you're putting together a prison care-package?

Shamelessly Atheist said...

It's coming....