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Evolution and the 'Wisdom of Crowds'

CowboyNeal posted more than 6 years ago | from the better-and-better dept.

The Internet 804

An anonymous reader writes "An essay by a developer of recommendation systems makes a case for why so many people have trouble grasping Darwin's theory of evolution. Downplaying its conflict with religion, the essay suggests that evolution is in a specific class of "equilibrium seeking" concepts that tend to be extremely counterintuitive to most people. The hypothesis is supported by the observation that so many people reject the notion that evolution-like systems such as Wikipedia, prediction markets, and recommendation systems can actually be effective. Particularly fascinating is the description of his surprisingly simple algorithm for competing in the Netflix prize contest."

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typo (2, Funny)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038527)

>why so many *Americans* have trouble grasping Darwin's theory of evolution
There, fixed it for you.

Re:typo (1)

WoodTheMighty (1176007) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038567)

RTFB - The Selfish Gene

IANRD (I Am Not Richard Dawkins)

Re:typo (0, Troll)

Kerstyun (832278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038723)

why so many people have trouble grasping Darwin's theory of evolution.
Maybe that's becouse its wrong.

The Selfish Gene
Sound to me like an escuse for living a wickerd life. Ill steer cleer, thank's.

You must be new here... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21038623)

Slashdot is American-centric. And Americans confuse the terms 'America' and 'world'. As NASA confirms, there hasn't been found any life outside of this world as of yet, this logically results in the absense of 'other people'.
Hence "all humans", or "people" are selfreferencing.

Re:typo (0, Flamebait)

wwmedia (950346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038637)

>why so many *Americans* have trouble grasping Darwin's theory of evolution

maybe because the education system is not as good as other developed/ing countries?

and consumerism is taught at young age?

its easier to manipulate a nation of dumb asses than run a democracy where people have a voice and they can make good decisions due to good education

Religion vs Darwin vs Technology vs Society (5, Insightful)

asliarun (636603) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039133)

why so many *Americans* have trouble grasping Darwin's theory of evolution
IMHO, the reason why this is so difficult is because of the awe and wonder (and fear!) we feel when we see the magnificent complexity and interconnectedness in the nature around us. We are today not very different from our cavemen ancestors in the sense that we still go through most of our lives in a state of bewilderment, and most of our efforts focus on bringing some measure of control and understanding over the complexity that is bombarding us every minute! Technological evolution for that matter is not very different from biological evolution. The only advantage we have with technological evolution is that it is evolving in our lifetime. Trying to make your grandparent understand modern technology is probably as difficult as making them understand evolution and the related nuances such as game theory and Nash equilibrium. This is merely because the said technology of our time did not evolve with our grandparents, but with us. For our grandparents, this is simply a case of trying to cope with future evolution instead of past evolution as is the case with the Darwinian/Dawkinsian theory.

What is happening today to the common man is that he/she is getting immune to technology, which leads us to the possibly false premise that the lay person understands technology any better than say, evolution. Given this assault of seemingly illogical and complex information (which completely undermines a person's ego, mind you), religion provides a very convenient framework to make life simple, seemingly secure, and less fragile. Religion is hence, more of a survival tool for a society that shields away a person's insecurities. For that matter, that is the reason why societies and families formed in the first place, which is to increase the probability of our survival and proliferation. For the common man, religion and society practically mean the same thing, and hence interchangeably attribute the positive aspects of one with the other. This is also why they are willing to put up with the restrictions and rules of religion, just as we do for society's laws and restrictions!

Re:typo (0, Flamebait)

pkphilip (6861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038675)

Not just Americans, but most people across the world don't believe in evolution. Or are you deluded enough to think that America is *the* religious nation on the planet?

Re:typo (4, Informative)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038721)

Journalist to George Bush (senior): Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are Atheists?

Bush: No, I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

Current stats:

85% of Americans self-identify as Christians. (2002)
  7% of US adults classify as evangelicals (2004) (see Evangelical category for more information)
  38% of US adults classify as born again, but not evangelical. (2004)
  37% are self-described Christians but are neither evangelical nor born again
  Atheists and agnostics comprise 12% of adults nationwide. (2004)
  11% of the US population identify with a faith other than Christianity (2004)
  s/Christian/Muslim/g

Nuff said... No further comment...

Re:typo (0, Redundant)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038775)

> 85% of Americans self-identify as Christians. (2002)
> 12% Atheists and agnostics nationwide. (2004)
> 11% of the US population identify with a faith other than Christianity (2004)
That's 108%. OK, some are 2004 stats and some 2002 but even allowing for that, either the numbers are screwy or trends are changing *very* fast.

Re:typo (2, Interesting)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038909)

that's 12% of adults are atheists and agnostics, 24.8% of the population are under 18, and well, more kids believe in santa and the easter bunny...

Re:typo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21038947)

Do kids ever get polled on these things?

Statistics don't lie, but liars use statistics (1, Informative)

SunTzuWarmaster (930093) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039147)

85% of Americans self-identify as Christians. (2002)
    7% of US adults classify as evangelicals (2004) (see Evangelical category for more information)
    38% of US adults classify as born again, but not evangelical. (2004)
    37% are self-described Christians but are neither evangelical nor born again
    Atheists and agnostics comprise 12% of adults nationwide. (2004)
    11% of the US population identify with a faith other than Christianity (2004)
    s/Christian/Muslim/g
okay, so we know that the 2002 poll polled everyone (americans) while the 2004 poll only polled adults. For those that didn't catch that (2002!=2004), I'll say it again, these are two separate polls.

Now, knowing that they are 2 separate polls, the author implies the breakdown of that 85% (into 7+38+37). This doesn't work because they are 2 polls.

Now that we know line 1 has nothing to do with the lines following, we must assume that the numbers add up to 100, right? Wrong, 7+38+37+12+11=105%. Okay, so now that we know some people fall into 2 categories.

Also, take note of how the original poster doesn't align atheism with the rest of the religions (to imply that there are more atheists than "other").

  - Figures don't lie, but liars figure. - Samuel Clemens (alias Mark Twain)

Of course, the above poster had some Bush-bashing, so he gets modded up. Goddamn Slashdot.

Re:typo (5, Informative)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038787)

Actually it's largely an American thing.

I brought this subject up several times in a conversation with europeans. Those who don't follow slashdot and similar sites hadn't heard about the concept of "intelligent design" at all, and needed it explained. And all of them went "WTF?" at the explanation.

The vast majority of the population hasn't even heard of ID. All the religious arguments I participated in (and there were quite a few) always revolved around the existence/inexistence of a deity, evolution wasn't brought up even once.

Re:typo (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21038893)

So to you, Europe is the world, and Asia doesn't exist. You're a fucktard.

Re:typo (2, Interesting)

Nursie (632944) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039063)

Do you have figures on the asian population and whether or not they accept evolution?

Also, if you're going to call someone a fucktard for only considering one more continent then try mentioning more than one other. South America is largely catholic (a religion that explicitly supports evolution theory). Africa is quite diverse, Australia is evolution accepting, though australasia may not be, depending on where you draw borders, due to indonesia. Though I'm not familiar enough with indonesian islam to know what their opinions are.

Thank you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21039101)

For pointing out that Europe is THE only intellectual/sane (something like that anyway) place on this planet (somehow the other continents were left out)

/flamebait
Expecting Europeans to know about the public acceptance of evolution or ID in Asia, Africa or Australia is optimistic at best. Just as expecting Americans to know how the rest of the world thinks about it. I personally don't know how ID fares in Asia, but I do hope they in general reject the pile of crap that is ID.

Re:typo (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039031)

Europe does have evangelicals but fortunately most people have the good sense to ignore them entirely. Whereas the US, not only does government and the mainstream listen to their often ludicrous and bigotted views but panders to them too.

To bring the thread somewhat on topic, it demonstrates that the "wisdom of crowds" requires a fundamental assumption - that the crowds are not ignorant with their own agenda that they will promote no matter what reality says to the contrary.

Re:typo (3, Insightful)

bigtomrodney (993427) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038795)

That's a big logic jump you made. Not all religions ban the teaching of evolution. Pope John Paul II never condemned evolution. Catholic schools throughout Europe teach evolution without any conflict of interest.
Religion and science are not viewed as polar opposites. They do disagree on several points but that does not mean anyone with religion is against scientific teaching. Darwin himself was obsessed with the Bible.

Re:typo (4, Informative)

pubjames (468013) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039037)

Not just Americans, but most people across the world don't believe in evolution.

Got any proof? Because I've got some that shows you're wrong. Link [nationalgeographic.com] .

Re:typo (1)

JSchoeck (969798) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039071)

Hahaha, that was funny.

Do you know a continent named "Europe"? Can't speak for the other ones, but over there most people (as in more than 50%, not whatever you ment by most) know - not believe - that evolution happens and did happen.

In fact, if you tell people about creationism and how things are in the US (for example that really great creation museum) they can't believe it. Because it's simply amazing how a technologically and scientifically advanced nation has so many inhabitants that are completely blind to reason.

No offense ment to any religion, I don't even mind if someone says that "some being" created the world (at the very beginning billions of years ago). In fact I could sympathize with that.

Re:typo (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21038691)

Who rated this funny? Insightful, rather.

Every other developed country in the world has a significantly higher number of people who prefer the scientific version to the religious one when it comes to the origins of the species.

When it comes to evolution, the USA is closer to Turkey than the west-european nations. In fact, in a lot of Europe, Creationism/"Intelligent design" are almost unheard of. (AFAIK, and I just live there..)

Not only that, but the USA is the only country in the western world with a declining preference for evolution. So much for enlightenment.

So yes, this has everything to do with religion. And not just religion, but religion as it's often practiced in the USA. If you were to poll European Christians versus American ones, you'd have the same difference, or probably an even bigger gap.

Re:typo (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038733)

>If you were to poll European Christians versus American ones
That's an interesting thought. Whenever I discuss points of US Christian dogma with European Christians I usually get a pitying look before being told 'well, of course, they're not proper Christians - they have some crazy ideas'. Thing is, I expect US ones say much the same about them and African ones being different again. All religions seem to be awash with variations, each sure they are the One True Version and that the others are deluded.
It must be very confusing for anyone converting to/into a new religion as to which particular brand they ally themselves to, depending on their personal moral code etc.

Re:typo (4, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039117)

All religions seem to be awash with variations, each sure they are the One True Version and that the others are deluded.

That's true of humans in general. Religions don't have a monopoly on arrogance.

Re:typo (2, Informative)

oliderid (710055) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038875)

Hello,

Well things are changing in other developped countries as well. I've watched a report concerning Biology classes in Belgium few weeks ago. Some teatchers complain that it is more and more difficult to teach evolution in classes where there is a significant fraction of immigrants from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Qur'an is considered by those folks as the Alpha&Omega. Somes even believe that modern science discoveries can be easily traced back to this holly book.
The problem is that it is not simply arguing. Somes students become violent.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying that all muslims think that way.

Re:typo (3, Insightful)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038745)

You know, just because in 80% of countries around the world there just isn't any discussion, that does not make it a given that evolution wins.

EVERY muslim university preaches creationism (even more stupid than that : young-earth creationism)
Most Indian universities preach creationism
and most Chinese also believe in creationism

That's 50% of the world where there isn't any discussion ... creationism is the truth. The fact that there can even be discussion about this without violence in America is a very rare thing.

But you're cowards, so simply lamenting that the universities of ankara or teheran or baghdad for example preaches creationism, you just don't do. Because doing it, might get you actually hurt.

Re:typo (1)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038865)

But you're cowards, so simply lamenting that the universities of ankara or teheran or baghdad for example preaches creationism, you just don't do. Because doing it, might get you actually hurt.
Wait, what? Do you really think anyone thinks that saying "fuck creationism, and fuck the people that teach it" is going to get them personally attacked by insane terrorist Muslims? I SERIOUSLY doubt that's why nobody mentioned it.

Re:typo (5, Insightful)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039029)

I do not just think that. And yes, for the moment this is not going to happen in (most of) America.

muslims inside england use terror to avoid evolution in biology lessons :
http://forums.muslimvillage.net/index.php?showtopic=37975 [muslimvillage.net]

in france:
http://islamineurope.blogspot.com/2007/02/france-muslim-anti-evolutionist.html [blogspot.com]

This is in Turkey, the most moderate muslim nation existing (where both islamists and atheists massacre eachother, creating a balance) :
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/17/science/17book.html?_r=1&oref=slogin [nytimes.com]

If you thought Christians are trouble when it concerns evolution, you're in for a rude awakening. Christians don't kill you. Don't threaten you. And they don't gang up on your family just because you don't "respect" creationism. Muslims do.

Re:typo (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21038919)

But you're cowards, so simply lamenting that the universities of ankara or teheran or baghdad for example preaches creationism, you just don't do. Because doing it, might get you actually hurt. Ok brave guy, get your facts straight: Ankara is in Turkey, a secular country where religion and state are separate. Women with Islamic head garb are not allowed into universities, let alone preach creationism at institutions of higher learning. Until we (americans) moved in, Baghdad was in a secular country, with a definite anti-religion bent. It's only because we f**ked it up that worthless religious leaders found the ability (and the arms and the encouragement) to kill people who do not think like them. Read this [blogspot.com] for a heartfelt, first-person account of what it was like before and after americans moved in. Tehran is a mess where creationism is indeed taught in universities. True secularism is probably a very foreign concept to most Americans, as the usual middle-class American experience is to belong to a church or synagogue from a very early age. That kind of education colors your thinking (and non-thinking) for life. But you just wanted to engage in bashing muslims. Too bad your xenophobia was coupled with ignorance (not very surprising). You picked 3 examples, and 2 were outright wrong. I'm sure you'll try your muslim-bashing again, in another thread. Better luck next time!

Re:typo (2, Interesting)

mjorkerina (1158683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038923)

Are you saying that the United States is not as civilized, as say, the united kingdom, france, germany or italy ?
Of course. That's where the problem lies. The United States is powerful and rich but as a civilization it's more primitive than any West European country. That's why you need to mention China, India or islamic countries. Your standards are so low you wouldn't even think of comparing yourself to us.

Here in France, I know plenty of Christians but none of them ever heard of intelligent design, and they think of young earth creationism (adam, eve et al.) as a metaphor, a "picture", not the actual numbers and reality. I never heard a french christian on a french forum ever mentioning "intelligent design".

Re:typo (3, Informative)

arktemplar (1060050) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039019)

ermmm I dont know which country you live in, but here in India there is no creationism. It is indeed possible that those people studying sanskrit or theology might get to study religious text that contains creationism, I have however never heard of any university preaching it in their science department\lectures.

Re:typo (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039201)

That's 50% of the world where there isn't any discussion ... creationism is the truth. The fact that there can even be discussion about this without violence in America is a very rare thing.
More than 50% of the world population live in a society open enough to be called a democracy, that includes the right to speak about evolution or religion freely. Once you have counted these 50%, you can add China which is not really famous for its religious fanaticism.

Re:typo (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039023)

My biology teacher in high school (California public school system), openly mocked creationism and intelligent design almost daily. ID and creationism were never even mentioned unless he was ridiculing them, and the students who believed in it (yes, we had some). Having an atheist teacher with tenure helped a lot.

Eh. (4, Insightful)

Desipis (775282) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038571)

The hypothesis is supported by the observation that so many people reject the notion that evolution-like systems such as Wikipedia, prediction markets, and recommendation systems can actually be effective.

While there may be many that reject that these systems can be effective at all, I'd suggest that there's many more that would actual argue that while these systems do work, they aren't necessarily the best or only method that is effective.

He doesn't address the evolution of ideas (5, Interesting)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038801)

Interesting discussion, but the obvious missing piece is the evolution of ideas.

Societies may have "invented" the notion of religion because religion led to ethics, which led to less killing of their neighbors. All of the sudden, it's survival of the fittest, as non-ethical tribes tended to be killed off, while religious tribes thrived.

An obvious second example is the notion of being against birth control (or for large families). Tribes that were for large families and passed those beliefs down to their children tended to grow.

So my question is: Even if there is no God, and you are an atheist, is it possible that a world containing religious people is actually a "better" society than a world full of atheists? The Earth's people evolved into a world of mixed beliefs (some religious, some not), which could be argued to be the survival of the fittest idea or world. The mixed-belief world appears to be the "fittest" world, as opposed to such less-fit worlds of all atheists or all Christians, as examples.

If we evolved to be a mixed world of beliefs, as the "fittest", perhaps we should accept that, and quit trying to convert people with arguments for our favorite religious/non-religious belief.

Re:He doesn't address the evolution of ideas (4, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038901)

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

Historically, some of the worst atrocities have been carried out in the name of God. While your idea has merit for a very young civilizations, religion as a means of social control became obsolete as soon as secular law was invented. Since then it's only been abused to manipulate and extort people, at least on a scale that has any impact on society as a whole. (Exceptions made for those small groups who actually practice what they preach.)

Evolution is a pretty slow process... I guess 3000 years or so isn't quite long enough to breed out the religious nutjobs.
=Smidge=

Re:He doesn't address the evolution of ideas (0)

Desipis (775282) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038991)

Those atrocities were survival of the fittest in action though, the weak cultures being destroyed by the strong. Of course a strong society isn't necessarily going to be te best society for individuals to live in, and unlikely to be the most moral.

I think you're quote misses the fact that religion is in a sense a form of mind control, and while it can be used for power and destruction, it can also be used to create a stable and productive society. So religion may not be directly a good or bad influence, but merely a magnifier of the influence of the leadership, and the resultant influence is determined by the actions of the leaders. Given the ability of power to corrupt I'd say that it might tend towards the negative.

Evolution is a pretty slow process... I guess 3000 years or so isn't quite long enough to breed out the religious nutjobs.

Unfortunately, while their religion may have negative repercussions for society, I'm not sure it has negative repercussions on the breeding of those individuals. If anything they seem to be breeding faster...

Re:He doesn't address the evolution of ideas (2, Interesting)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039119)

Evolution is a pretty slow process... I guess 3000 years or so isn't quite long enough to breed out the religious nutjobs.
Maybe a world with a few religious nutjobs is a more stable world than one with all moderates (or all atheists or all Christians, or whatever). Seems counter-intuitive, but that's the equilibrium that we have arrived at (although I will respect your point that maybe we're not at equilibrium because enough time hasn't passed).

Re:He doesn't address the evolution of ideas (1)

Desipis (775282) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038929)

Societies may have "invented" the notion of religion because religion led to ethics, which led to less killing of their neighbors. All of the sudden, it's survival of the fittest, as non-ethical tribes tended to be killed off, while religious tribes thrived.

This is a good illustration of my point. With the 'default' society with no religion, a system of natural selection would have existed within the tribe. While there may have been stronger individuals within that tribe, the 'religious' societies produced stronger tribes as a whole.

So my question is: Even if there is no God, and you are an atheist, is it possible that a world containing religious people is actually a "better" society than a world full of atheists?

Sure it's possible that a society with a uniform belief system could create a better society in the short term, however given such uniformity is likely to restrict innovative thought, they may fall behind in the long run.

The mixed-belief world appears to be the "fittest" world, as opposed to such less-fit worlds of all atheists or all Christians, as examples.

I don't think history really provides enough data to draw such a conclusion. The success of civilizations has depended much more on a mix of resources, technology, polics and chance than religion alone.

I'd also like to point out that my original comments were more orientated towards those who apply the principles of evolution to economics (ie free-market). While a free-market will produce the fittest (ie most profitable) businesses, it may not produce the best overall economy.

Re:He doesn't address the evolution of ideas (1)

bateleur (814657) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038935)

is it possible that a world containing religious people is actually a "better" society than a world full of atheists?

This would be "better" in the same sense as "brave" and "new", I assume?

Re:He doesn't address the evolution of ideas (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039005)

I meant "better" as in more likely to survive. Or maybe a more stable equilibrium.

I suspect that if either side of the religious discussions "won", (that is, all the atheists went away, or all the religious went away), then either that society would be less likely to survive, or some more practitioners of the extinct ideas would pop up, working back to the equilibrium position.

So I advocate Rodney King's position: "Can't we all just get along?" (am I too old that I remember Rodney King?) [wikipedia.org]

Re:He doesn't address the evolution of ideas (2, Insightful)

v01d (122215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039003)

Societies may have "invented" the notion of religion because religion led to ethics, which led to less killing of their neighbors. All of the sudden, it's survival of the fittest, as non-ethical tribes tended to be killed off, while religious tribes thrived.


That's a wild-ass guess. There are many alternatives that I find far more convincing, if you read "The God Delusion" there's a chapter devoted to a few alternatives.

One very simple alternative is that children are genetically disposed to believing their elders for obvious survival reasons, as a side-effect if you get a child to believe in your tribal religious system during their formative years for the rest of their life they are more likely to act in the best interest of your tribe. Seems to match history far better in the sense that religious groups have always been eager to be highly immoral in their dealings with outsiders.


So my question is: Even if there is no God, and you are an atheist, is it possible that a world containing religious people is actually a "better" society than a world full of atheists?


Well, we've never had a world based on reason to compare with but it seems clear that a religious world has produced a very small minded us against the world mindset. Read the Old Testament; personally I can't imagine living in that kind of brutality. Rape, murder, theft and slavery are all perfectly fine as long as they're directed at Them, not Us.

Re:He doesn't address the evolution of ideas (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039087)

Societies may have "invented" the notion of religion because religion led to ethics, which led to less killing of their neighbors. All of the sudden, it's survival of the fittest, as non-ethical tribes tended to be killed off, while religious tribes thrived.

That's a wild-ass guess. There are many alternatives that I find far more convincing, if you read "The God Delusion" there's a chapter devoted to a few alternatives.

One very simple alternative is that children are genetically disposed to believing their elders for obvious survival reasons, as a side-effect if you get a child to believe in your tribal religious system during their formative years for the rest of their life they are more likely to act in the best interest of your tribe. Seems to match history far better in the sense that religious groups have always been eager to be highly immoral in their dealings with outsiders.

I was trying to refer to the origin of religion, not the propagation of religion. I agree with you, in terms of how religion was passed down through the ages (and all ethics and morality for that matter - from parents to children). I suspect that tribes that did not pass down wisdom died off in an evolutionary way as well.

I suspect that the original humans had no notion of religion - not that everyone was an atheist, but that every human on earth had no notion of a higher being, one way or the other. Then one day, a very simple version of the "idea" came about, and it stuck. And it evolved to what it is today.

I'm not trying to say that it's right or wrong. I'm trying to say that ideas bounce around until they reach an equilibrium, and that's what's happened.

I really don't want to read "The God Delusion" as you suggest. Why are you pushing your religion on me? ;-) That's my point!

Re:He doesn't address the evolution of ideas (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039103)

many many many ancient societies practiced birth control.. some proactive, some reactive, some on hillside overnight. they all did quite well for themselves.
the whole anti-birth-control stance is really just part of a larger hangup over sex. sex is EVIL, don't you know? Why, if we didn't need to have sex to reproduce, nobody should EVER have sex. And if sex for any reason outside of the continuation of humanity is immoral and bad.. well then birth control is the devil!

It's not about the sanctity of life. It's about sex being bad, and only (just barely!) acceptable as a means to.. well, be fruitful and multiply. That is the ONLY reason anyone should EVER be having sex.

Re:He doesn't address the evolution of ideas (2, Insightful)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039135)

I wasn't trying to take a position for or against birth control. I was trying to say that families who believe in having large families tend to grow. Families who believe in having small families don't tend to propagate their ideas or beliefs as rapidly. And if your parents are sterile, you will be too.

Re:Eh. (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038937)

"While there may be many that reject that these systems can be effective at all, I'd suggest that there's many more that would actual argue that while these systems do work, they aren't necessarily the best or only method that is effective."

Agreed, but I would also suggest that evolutionary answers become starkly more efficent as the complexity of the problem grows. Yet it's just too hard for people to see their soul emerging from a computational system based purely on matter, even Dawkins acts as if life is NOT meaningless regadless of what logic and observation says. In the same way that nobody can remeber being born, non-existence is just too difficult for any human to trully comprehend. The evolution of perception in living creatures has dictated that our minds instinctively belive they are immortal even though our body "knows" otherwise.

In other words we are bound by our experience and can never really understand ourselevs, let alone what 42 means.

"Wisdom Of Crowds" (3, Insightful)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038587)

The "Wisdom Of Crowds" put George W Bush in power, twice. Had Americans believing Saddam caused 9/11 and was a threat. Then of course there is religion..

Re:"Wisdom Of Crowds" (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038643)

point 1: your wisdom of crowds thing proves that stupidity takes no effort.
point 2: Saddam was trained by the CIA, as were his personal guard and hte higher echelons of his armed forces. Who were then supplied with chemical and biological weapons in exchange for preferential treatment when it came to disseminating oil rights. Which is why the oilfields in Iraq are owned and operated by American oil companies now.
point 3: proves that people are stupid. Stupid people follow the crowd. You can lead stupid crowds with a a big enough campaign fund; you don't even need a manifesto. All you need do is make the other guy look bad.

Re:"Wisdom Of Crowds" (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038685)

proves that people are stupid. Stupid people follow the crowd. You can lead stupid crowds with a a big enough campaign fund; you don't even need a manifesto. All you need do is make the other guy look bad.

All it takes these days is focus groups. Now instead of using polls to find out what people think, they use them to change what people think (or tell people what they think).

I can't wait for this meme to die. (5, Insightful)

oncehour (744756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038753)

As the parent mentioned, the "Wisdom of Crowds" put Bush in power. Honestly, it seems to me to be nothing more than overhyped bullshit pushed alongside "Web 2.0" and other over-hyped concepts that are filling the current bubble with hot air. People love to cite Wikipedia as proof of the wisdom of crowds, but let's stop and analyze that for a moment:

Who controls the content of Wikipedia articles? Is it a large crowd of seemingly random contributors each imparting their own bits of wisdom? Or is it a small set of contributors providing the base of an article with a few mostly minor revisions submitted by random people passing by? In my experience, it's the latter. Usually a small set of people, no more than 3 to 5 which make the core of a Wikipedia article.

These same people are also generally the ones that cultivate the article and keep it consistent and well editted. Occasionally these same few people come to disagreements and end up in "edit wars" in which they call in another set of few members interested in judging to judge the issue. There's no "crowd" at work here, it's a lot of small groups of vested individuals who have interest in a particular domain and an efficient way of contributing and collaborating in that domain.

There may be hundreds of such groups, but they typically stick to their domain or they become edit whores and stick to minor revisionary work on a large amount of articles. Either way, I don't see much of a "crowd" once I break it down and look close, much less a wise crowd. Have you ever noticed that different subsections of Wikipedia have their own "feel" or "identity"? Maybe the particular manner of phrasing or the type of consistency shown throughout that sub-section which differs somewhat from another unrelated domain. This is largely a result of edits by the aforementioned small group of vested individuals. Each group leaves their own tint which colors a section and gives it life.

Wisdom of Crowds? No. Small, intelligent groups of people focused on achieving a well defined goal? Yes. If you really want to test this "Wisdom of Crowds" concept, take a look at SomethingAwful.com or any of the various large web forums and learn of the "Wisdom of Crowds". Even there, it's generally a very few amount of people contributing intelligently with the rest just being meaningless drivel. This meme needs to die.

Re:I can't wait for this meme to die. (2, Insightful)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038895)

So, then, because crowds left to their own devices don't say wise things all the time, they have no wisdom? That would imply that wisdom (knowledge, really, in this context) causes monotonous focus on intellectual matters. Not true at all.

Re:I can't wait for this meme to die. (1)

oncehour (744756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039083)

I'm not really seeing the relevance in your reply given the context of my post. My post says nothing in relation to your first line at all. It says that the poster child of "the Wisdom of Crowds" doesn't even use crowds, but instead small groups of interested parties. You've not really disproved my statement in the least. You've just simply stated "not true at all", presumably due to some pre-existing bias as you've given no argument as to why it is not true.

Would you consider an angry mob to be an example of the wisdom of crowds? What about a group of rioters? Armies which are very large crowds well versed in the application of violence are broke down into small groups individually lead by a single authority each answering to a higher authority within the larger group. In the case of armies, the "wisdom" or intelligence is sourced at their leaders with the majority of the crowd just following along.

Indeed, I know of no example where the wisdom of crowds is really effectively demonstrated. Sometimes you'll get the odd member saying something intelligent, but its not the crowd as a whole. This one odd member would probably be just as intelligent or insightful on the subject without the crowd. Please explain to me, if you can, why any of this is not true and/or why the "Wisdom of Crowds" is actually a valid concept outside of marketing.

Re:I can't wait for this meme to die. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21039151)

The wisdom of the crowd is good for estimating a black and white answer. For example, how many oranges are in a particular box. The median value from the range of answers given is more likely to be closer to the correct answer as the crowd grows. Not all questions have definitive, black and white answers though.

What about a question like, 'How did the events of the Cold War affect the average Russian citizen?'. I don't think a question like that is served at all well by the wisdom of the crowd. It's a question that requires an open ended discussion and will have at least as many answers as there are Russian citizens affected by the Cold War. If someone was attempting to provide an answer to a question like this, I would definitely want to know who they were, what their background was and what biases they may bring with them. What is the chemical make up of water? Well, that answer is either correct or not, and the wisdom of the masses should sort that one out.

Wikipedia has huge limitations, but then so does any reference tool. They each have great strengths as well.

I don't think Wikipedia has any greater limitation than other forms of encyclopedia, and has a lot of benefits over traditional forms.

As for GWB, I think it proves that we are not as wise as we like to think we are.

It looks like you didn't RTFA... (2, Insightful)

hummassa (157160) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039059)

And I don't mean it as an offense, this being /. and all ;-)

According to TFA, the "Wisdom of Crowds" WRT Wikipedia is: "If I can't do better than this, I won't touch it". So, the very definition of the "Wisdom of Crowds" (and I agree with you that "Wisdom" is a very innapropriate term) is that "an active minority drives the inactive majority".

Re:I can't wait for this meme to die. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21039089)

LOL WUT?

Re:"Wisdom Of Crowds" (1)

hanshotfirst (851936) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038997)

Warm up those -1:TrollInLieuOfDisagree mods, here I go...

The "Wisdom Of Crowds" put George W Bush in power, twice. Had Americans believing Saddam caused 9/11 and was a threat. Then of course there is religion.

Hold the phone, there. Did the "wisdom of the crowds" put GWB in power, or did Gore win "the popular vote" in one of those? You (the general you, not specifically the parent) can't argue it both ways. There's a difference between wisdome of the crowd/mob rule and the crowd choosing representatives (electoral college) to make the official vote. The founding fathers designed the process that way on purpose because they saw the inherent ignorance of "the crowd"

I don't think the argument was EVER that Saddam CAUSED 9/11, although there has been argument and (some claim evidence) that he was a contributing factor. Argument that he was a threat - well, based on information given at the time there was reason to be suspicious and the whole nation was still in knee-jerk mode. (I can be SINCERE and CONVINCED and still be WRONG.) The UN, not the people of one particular country, agreed he was enough of a threat to levy a series of sanctions. CONGRESS, not the people, authorized use of force in Iraq.

I respect the libertarian way of thinking, but please save the empty rhetoric for the usual two parties.

wait a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21039153)

I thought the second voting was rigged, wasn't it?

the wisdom of the crowds (4, Insightful)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038621)

Is a great theoretical concept, but unfortunately it only makes sense in the context of assuming that everybody really thinks for themselves. As soon as the media enter into the equation the crowd becomes as manipulatable as the most stupid upper limit that can still be sold a bill of goods. If that's > 50% then the equation no longer holds, no matter how much the rest invests in staying educated. You'd almost have to filter out media bias somehow because otherwise anybody with an agenda and some money to burn will come out on top. Witness politics, marketing of unnecssary goods and services and so on.

Re:the wisdom of the crowds (1)

Veetox (931340) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038949)

Your point is agreeable, but I think it lacks some refinement: "The Media" can be ambiguous, because some media groups are less powerful than others, and people most often make a dichotomous choice concerning the media they follow - they either read mostly media they agree with already, or they read mostly media they don't agree with. (Some people actually like to get pissed off about what the other side is saying...) That's just people for you. The nice thing about the wisdom of crowds is that it is less biased due to equal access by conflicting viewpoints - sort of a ying and yang thing. I would, however, venture to say that money is the thing you are getting at that causes bias in wisdom of crowds. (Well, that and stupidity...) Use of money often turns more heads or covers bad reputations. (ex. Rupert Murdoch, Walmart, etc.) Note the chart of political futures used by the writer of TFA. Q. Who tends to be closer to the top? (A. $$) I'm sure it's not quite that simple, though - the cause/effect could be reversed.

Crowds contain individuals ... (3, Interesting)

threaded (89367) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038625)

Crowds contain individuals, and some of these individuals know what they are on about. Collect together a sufficiently large crowd and you will find a number of experts on many different subject.

Isn't that the obvious conclusion?

Re:Crowds contain individuals ... (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038667)

I rarely see hard-core nerds in crowds, with everyone listening to their well reasoned arguments and the crowd accepting these views. However, it's a daily occurence where arguments that do not make any sense, presented by bad actor, are blindly accepted.

Re:Crowds contain individuals ... (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038905)

You're forgetting Pratchett's Law of Mob Rule: the intelligence of a mob is equal to the intelligence of it's stupidest member divided by the number of people in the mob.

Re:Crowds contain individuals ... (1)

rho (6063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039189)

Exactly. "Wisdom of crowds" is not evolution as it applies to speciation. Many thinking individuals making choices does not correlate to accidental mutation and survival of the fittest. Unless you want to introduce Intelligent Design, active choices are a bad example for evolution.

language evolution (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038635)

If people have a problem grasping 'evolution' as a concept, ask them to think about language evolution. Languages more obviously evolve, 'speciations', 'hybridisations' etc of English can easily be identified. The analogy with Darwinism isn't exact, but it is surprisingly close.

Re:language evolution (1)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038659)

I'm not sure that anyone who lacks the intellectual capability of seeing that evolution is obvious will be able to grasp the analogy, despite it being a pretty good one - or am I just an intelectual snob?

Re:language evolution (2, Funny)

heyguy (981995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038687)

Here's to hoping the language in your post evolves into a coherent one.

Re:language evolution (1)

orcrist (16312) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038719)

If people have a problem grasping 'evolution' as a concept, ask them to think about language evolution.
Are you kidding? That's even worse. Even people who accept biological evolution often cling to bizarre ideas about Language; like with e.g. British English vs. American English there is that impossible-to-kill meme that the Brits 'invented' English, so what they speak must be the 'original' English, etc... etc... ad nauseam
And they will even argue those points against trained Linguists so, sorry, no salvation to be had there.

Re:language evolution (1)

v01d (122215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039137)

like with e.g. British English vs. American English there is that impossible-to-kill meme that the Brits 'invented' English, so what they speak must be the 'original' English, etc... etc... ad nauseam

I think that's a more of a semantic issue: England essentially defines English. Languages branch/merge/change constantly which is just peachy, but there comes a point when 1 language is split far enough that it doesn't make sense to keep 1 name for that religion. Arabic and Hebrew for instance; 1 language that has branched far enough for 2 names. I don't think English/American are split far enough to demand different names, but when/if that split does happen I vote for England keeping the name English for their language. America's language should be American or maybe Newspeak.

So, in short, the name English is tied to the country England; the language is a completely different thing.

Re:language evolution (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038903)

If people have a problem grasping 'evolution' as a concept, ask them to think about language evolution. Languages more obviously evolve, 'speciations', 'hybridisations' etc of English can easily be identified. The analogy with Darwinism isn't exact, but it is surprisingly close.
Evolution IS a hard concept to grasp, mainly because its very definition contains equally difficult or even arguably nonsensical "concepts".

Let's start with a commonly accepted definition of "evolution" (from Wikipedia!): In biology, evolution is the change in the inherited traits of a population from generation to generation.

Sounds simple enough, but this definition speaks about "traits of populations" and not "traits of individuals"--- big difference. The traits of a population are things like "number of individuals comprising the population", "geographical distribution", etc,. Another thing: populations don't "inherit traits", individuals do, from their progenitors.

What about "speciation"? There isn't even a consensus on the definition of a "species". But even if we arrived at a clear concept of species, speciation would mean the emergence of a new species, i.e., the CREATION of a new species. That's right, creation. I'd like to propose a scientific term for the first individual of a new species that comes into being: "Adamic individual".

Huh (1)

styryx (952942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038671)

From the summary (emphasis mine):

Darwin's theory of evolution. Downplaying its conflict with religion
The title of the essay:

Does fundamentalist religion cause the rejection of evolution? or is it the other way around?

Everything must tend to equilibrium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21038677)

If it hasn't reached an equilibrium then it's going to change until it does duhh!

So we will use up all the oil, then have no oil, and then we're at equilibrium.
And runaway greenhouse effect isn't really runaway, it doesn't get hotter and hotter and hotter forever, it just reaches a very hot equilibrium. Venus is at equilibrium, it's just that it's too hot for us to live on it. So stuff changes, and we evolve until we reach an equilibrium with our planet, or we die like the dinosaurs and the equilibrium doesn't include us.

Why did the Tyrannosaurus Rex's God not save them?

Bad analogy? (3, Insightful)

IkeTo (27776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038679)

> Comparing it to evolution, an edit of Wikipedia might be considered equivalent to a genetic mutation. A
> mutation, of course, is non-directed...that is, "random." It could be bad or good, but most of the time
> it is bad.

IMNSHO this is simply untrue. If this is true Wikipedia is dead for long: it never keeps a large, visible "pool" of "genes" (different version of the same article) that the "nature" (viewing public) can "select", and the "nature" simply is too busy to "select" them anyway. They have many version of the same article, but there are not many who will go into the version and select to revert to one of those. To me, the success of Wikipedia is that those who don't know much about a subject will normally refrain from editing the subject, so most edits are actually of a rather high quality. It is a social behavior, not an evolution behavior.

Re:Bad analogy? (3, Informative)

JimboFBX (1097277) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038793)

No, wikipedia is evolutionary- an incorrect edit will be removed, edited, or fixed while correct edits will be changed back to the way they were if they become vandalized. Essentially it's an equilibrium function because equilibrium is clearly achieved once everything is correct. Of course, its the kind of wobbly equilibrium you get when you try to hold your hand steady without support- but equilibrium nevertheless.

Re:Bad analogy? (1)

darthflo (1095225) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038827)

It is evolutionary in that an mutation (edit of a lemma) takes place and either lives on to be mutated until perfection is reached or is judged to be inferior to the unmutated revision by a natural predator of his (who, in the limited environment of the 'pedia are usually informed people and/or moderators (and whomever else is lurking up there in their organizational charts, no idea about their particular organisation)).
Of course you could also look at the creator, moderators, editors and whomever takes any influence on the article's contents as Intelligent Designers, but is a system with a virtually unlimited number of such Intelligent Designers who usually only perform small changes to their creations still to be considered a system of the insanity Intelligent Design is? You're not asking me, but I answer "no" anyways.

Evolution vs Wikipedia (2, Funny)

cynicsreport (1125235) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038755)

Those who doubt the veracity of 'evolution-like systems' such as "Wikipedia, prediction markets, and recommendation systems" should not be compared to those who argue against evolution. The Theory of Evolution has a great deal of scientific evidence supporting it; indeed, much of the 'theory' is actually considered scientific Fact.
While I support Wikipedia, I don't consider those who doubt its value to be idiots. Those who argue against evolution, on the other hand....

Two Ways of Summing it Up (4, Interesting)

Telephone Sanitizer (989116) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038771)

1. People -- as a general rule -- process complex ideas granularly. People are also generally lazy thinkers who do not attempt to refine their comprehension with falsifiable methodology. As a result, individual perceptions of value are often biased towards the simplest conclusions at the greatest level of granularity that a person can casually grasp rather than on evidence that intellect and practiced reasoning might produce. In large groups, it is possible to predict behaviors through statistical sampling using assumptions based on this model of granularity and intelligence. The conclusions of such studies are, themselves, subject to individual evaluation under the same model of granular perception. People who don't understand this are stupid religious types. If those same people were smart then they would be compelled to believe in evolution.

2. Most people can't see the forest for the trees. Everybody who is not as smart as the author needs to take remedial education and secular-deprogramming classes.

Now you don't have to read the article.

You're welcome. :)

Yeah, it's counterintuitive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21038789)

It isn't just "average joes" who have trouble with it. It took a number of years for doctors to realize antibiotic resistance was evolving in bacteria and becoming so widespread that some antibiotics were becoming useless. It makes sense -- high reproductive rates, very strong selection pressures. Of course bacteria were going to evolve! The realization that most infectious diseases are a moving target and could make a comeback is a surprise to many people. Most people thought bacteria were "defeated" years ago. Instead it is going to be a never-ending battle, and understanding how evolution works will allow us to maintain as much effectiveness as possible (e.g., realizing that it is really important when taking antibiotics to use the entire prescription rather than stopping as soon as you start to "feel better").

Re:Yeah, it's counterintuitive... (1)

darthflo (1095225) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038871)

Instead it is going to be a never-ending battle [...]
Simple solution: Quarantaine infected lifeforms until their infection ends by either dying or outliving it. Relatives and the like must be isolated enough to not be exposed to said infection.

Re:Yeah, it's counterintuitive... (1)

puterTerrorist (1133535) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039125)

yeah, I think that was Hitlers suggestion ...

Nothing new.. (2, Interesting)

12357bd (686909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038809)

Just a n-dimensional random distribution, with small adjustment steps. The 'n' of the system being chosed by hand, not even automatically computed. It works for Netflix because the domain being modeled is not 'wild' statistically, and have a very simple topology.

The 'presumed' relation with a 'wisdom of the crowds' concept is just coincidence, try to apply such a simple system to a really complex domain (ie: natural language syntax) and it will fail.

On the other hand, it's true that simple statistics can be used for a lot of tasks (ie: language/topic detection), but nothing really new here.

Faith in people (2, Interesting)

pzs (857406) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038817)

I recently had to start a Wiki for 1st year undergraduate students. I found it really hard to make it writable by everybody, since I was sure that it would result in a lot of vandalism. However, if you think about Wikipedia, the vast majority of pages can be edited by anyone and yet you almost never see malicious edits by people just dicking about. In the limit, people who visit Wikipedia prefer order. That's actually quite a comforting idea.

Obviously the more subtle stuff [geeksaresexy.net] is harder to protect against.

The emperor has no clothes! (1)

Pete5 (1176349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038829)

Call me crazy, but I don't see how using systems based on the intelligent operation of individual comes even close to explaining the random chance of evolution. The author has had an epiphany: intelligent design can be used to help religious nuts understand that although evolution is non-intuitive it is clearly correct.

Creationism and Evolution Artificially at Odds? (5, Insightful)

Jayde Stargunner (207280) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038855)

"Conventional wisdom says that the primary reason why so many people do not accept Darwin's theory of evolution is that they find it threatening to their religious beliefs. There is no question that religion is a big part of the reason behind the large number of people who reject evolution. But I am convinced that just as often, the cause and effect is reversed: people hold onto their fundamentalist religious beliefs because evolution by natural selection -- the strongest argument against an Old Testament-type creator -- is so counter-intuitive to so many."

Honestly, I find these kinds of statements to be a bit off-base. I really get the feeling that Creationism and Evolution/Darwinism are artificially pitted against each other as if one or the other has to "win."

The interesting thing is that there is absolutely nothing in either of the standpoints that cannot coexist with the other. I would say that the consistant framing of them being exclusive is what causes resistance (from both sides, most likey) when it isn't even needed.

If one wants to get anyone to believe in a scientific theory they are having difficulties with, framing it as, "you should believe this because what you believe is wrong and you are stupid," is not really going to win anyone over. Especially when one could easily take the stance of, "here's why this theory makes sense, and really it doesn't have anything to do with what you may or may not believe."

I've seen no strong theology that would rule out that evolution did not happen. Creationism is about a supernatural force overseeing things--it says nothing specific about how things actually happened. (And, I think, most theologists will agree that Genesis is highly metaphorical.)

So, bottom line is, if science-minded people want others to "see the light" on this one, stick to the facts and leave the religion-bashing alone. Making people defensive generally is not an effective way of getting an idea across.

Re:Creationism and Evolution Artificially at Odds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21038985)

Very insightful comment. I too have always believed that both Creationism and Evolution can co-exist without strife.

I personally believe in Creationism as a foundation for Evolution and can see how the "creator" might have set it's creation in motion, then set back and let it's creation go the route of evolution.

I guess we all eventually learn post-death. If there is no creator we cease to exist and all is well as we will not need to know at that point. However, if there is a creator, then we may be called upon to answer before it why we did not believe we were it's creation. With a 50/50 chance, I choose to go the creator route, for if I die and there is no creator, then I have lost nothing, but if there is a creator, then I am also covered. ;-)

Re:Creationism and Evolution Artificially at Odds? (3, Informative)

Nephilium (684559) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039097)

Generally, the use of creationism references young Earth creationism... where part of the belief is that the Earth is only a couple of thousand years old. This flavor of creationism can't stand alongside evolution.

Nephilium

Re:Creationism and Evolution Artificially at Odds? (1)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039177)

This flavor of creationism can't stand alongside evolution

More importantly, it can't stand alongside geology. The rocks were around before life and evolution started up.

Re:Creationism and Evolution Artificially at Odds? (1)

chernevik (1079091) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039111)

Honestly, I find these kinds of statements to be a bit off-base. I really get the feeling that Creationism and Evolution/Darwinism are artificially pitted against each other as if one or the other has to "win."

Exactly.

Statements like this (from the article) . . .

evolution by natural selection -- the strongest argument against an Old Testament-type creator -- is so counter-intuitive to so many"

. . . make me wonder whether the writer has read Aristotle.

Re:Creationism and Evolution Artificially at Odds? (1)

devnulljapan (316200) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039195)

...if science-minded people want others to "see the light" on this one, stick to the facts and leave the religion-bashing alone.

I'd be happy to do this if it was reciprocal. I suspect many of us have no real problem with whatever people want to believe as long as it doesn't encroach on other people. Unfortunately, the fundies have a hard time keeping their noses out of everyone else's business/school/bedroom, and so invite what you call religion bashing. I don't care if they: think they have magic underwear that stops lightning; think their skyfairy doesn't want them to eat shellfish; believe a monkey built a landbridge between India and Sri Kanka; the universe was created last Thursday with the appearance of being billions of years old; that their desert genie popped a saddle on a TRex or rode around on a talking donkey. I do care when they try to force everyone else to agree with them, force their way into the school system and replace legitimate education with their own fantasies, prevent the development of health care and withhold medical treatment because it offends their sensibilities. I do care when they can't seem to get enough of abusing everyone around them for their immoral lifestyles while doing meth with rentboys or engaging their autoerotic asphyxiation/rubber fetish (I also don't care about their consensual adult drug/sex choices - I do object to the hypocrisy though), robbing their followers blind, all the time getting huge tax breaks from the government. The hypocrisy and stupidity must be brought to light unless you fancy the idea of letting these people turn back the clock to pre-enlightenment, where the populace is cowed into compliance by torture and violence. The evolution issue is only the thin end of the dominionist wedge. Live and let live only works when both sides on an issue are willing to play ball.

Social Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21038857)

If you are interested in evolution in social networks, rather than Darwin, you should be looking and Herbert Spencer [wikipedia.org] (wikipedia.org).
Darwinism is concerned with the biological version.

This is a stupid conclusion (2, Insightful)

pkphilip (6861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038873)

The success of wikipedia has nothing whatsoever to do with evolution.

1. It is not like a 1000 monkeys typing randomly on a type writer came up with the wikipedia.

2. The content of the wikipedia is controlled more so than most people think. There are editors, there is peer review etc.

3. You don't find a million slightly varying copies on a single topic which are then "naturally selected"

A wikipedia has as much value as shouting out a question in a packed stadium to receive the answers from a million people. Most of those who will bother to answer are those who will know something about the subject and most who won't answer are most likely those who don't know enough about the topic to comment.

How is this in any sense similar to evolution?

Darwin's evolution != other evolution (0, Flamebait)

jazman (9111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038913)

What I always find interesting about Darwin's theory of evolution is that the word "evolution" is used in a completely different sense from other, quite common, usage of the same word.

For example, there is the evolution of the motor car, which has a designer (humans), who progressively refine the design intentionally (with occasional progress caused by random events) according to their own changing requirements.

Then there is the evolution of the computer, which similarly has a designer with specific goals in mind where randomness and bolts of lightning into a soup of modems, motherboards and RAM chips generally doesn't have a beneficial effect.

Compare Darwin's evolution, which has absolutely no designer and is completely random. Given the above examples, the word "evolution" seems a poor choice to describe Darwin's theories, perhaps it should instead be called "Darwin's theory of random mutation".

Could it also be the defenders? (1, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038915)

The defenders of the theory of evolution often get as hot under the collar at any challenge to it, as your stereotype fundamentalist gets at having his or her religion challenged. People instinctively see that as more of a sign of **religious** faith in evolution than pure rational, empirical faith in evolution.

Mod me down for calling it as I see it if you want, but don't even try to deny that many of the advocates of evolution aren't as faithfully passionate about it as their creationist counterparts. I know the excuse, that "science is under attack in America." If it is under attack, it is under attack by many things, not just religion. Just take a serious look at how Watson is being treated over his comments about race and genetics. Even most scientists are unwilling to consider the possibility that *gasp* if evolution be true, not all races are created equal, and that some might be statistically inferior to others. We don't live in a perfectly rational world, live with it.

Evolution (0, Flamebait)

alexj33 (968322) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038931)

evolution-like systems such as Wikipedia, prediction markets, and recommendation systems can actually be effective.

These systems are nothing like Darwinian evolution, since there are intelligences behind their "evolutionary" process. Darwinian evolution demands that there be no intelligence behind it in any way whatsoever.

In short, many people (myself included) have trouble "grasping" evolution because systems with extremely high levels of complexity (i.e.- life) are not something we observe to be springing up without intelligences around and changing into even more complex systems. Sorry guys, this has never been observed.

Believing in Darwinian evolution merely because my professor "said so", or because I wouldn't be able to get grant money unless I believe in it, are not good enough reasons.

Did he just compare evolution to wikipedia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21038965)

Yikes.

Oh God Ape, not another unnecessary divide decuss. (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21038989)

...ion.

Evolution of a system like Wikipedia..... some would argue that wikipedia is of intelligent design and not evolution.

So just where does one place the divide between the concepts of evolution and creation?

Perhaps it just the game of abstraction physics [abstractionphysics.net] , the changing of meaning of abstract words or the application of abstract words in different and sometime seemingly conflicting ways.

Wikipedia is all about putting together strings or sequences of abstract words.

The physics about it is the hardware it operates from and the actions applied in using it. But the abstractions are only representations of concepts, ideals, etc, ultimately stored in binary form compatable to the hardware and in such form not very meaningful to us humans but accessed by us at the higher level abstraction of "words" that define meaning of words and terms.

So.... there is the God Ape (unlike the ape god) who has evolved to be a God Man... ????

Can us humans separate the abstract from the concrete (physical world) without de-evolving back to ape? Of course not!

There is no divide between god the abstract and evolutions the concrete recording of the results, they are symbotic.

But physically there is also some evidence that our current life form genetics program was manipulated to be what it is today, with intent by a different genetically programmed and intelligent life form. Should such manipulation be so hard to imagine with our now known ability to do so ourselves, or is it the other life form that is hard to accept?

Such Genetic manipulation ability would not be possible to comprehend and communicate, without development of abstractions.

What do other animals think or perceive of man in comparison to themselves (more advanced?) such as dolphins, apes, lions, tiger and bears, etc...

Dilbert Blog (2, Interesting)

pokerdad (1124121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039033)

There is a part of me hoping this article gets discussed by Dilbert creator/evolution denier Scott Adams, and another part dreading it. link [typepad.com]

So go and use evolution to program computers! (-1, Flamebait)

scottsk (781208) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039073)

If Darwin's theory of evolution was correct, which says that meaningful information emerges from randomness, we would turn on our computers, fill the memory with random bytes, and watch programs emerge by changing bytes at random. That's the main reason I don't believe in the theory of evolution through mutation and natural selection, because our universe doesn't work that way. (There are other modifications of Darwin's theory, of course.) We have to expend tremendous labor to get even the simplest computer program designed and working. If evolution could happen the way Darwin said, we wouldn't have to bother.

Re:So go and use evolution to program computers! (1, Funny)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039129)

How do you think Windows ME was written?

Randomness (4, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 6 years ago | (#21039107)


I think the main problem with people's understanding of evolution is the fact that it is not taught very well in schools, and people get the strong idea that evolution is a random process. I also think it is a problem with the timescales involved, which are hard for the human mind to grasp.

I don't have any trouble accepting evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21039169)

Here in the UK very few people have any trouble at all accepting evolution as a likely theory for the development of species including humans

It scares us that so many Americans do
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