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brachiosteve

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brachiosteve last won the day on October 17 2019

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  1. Ramble on evolutionary change – why some things seem to (a lot), and others don’t (much/atall). I like the expression, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ (but try telling a motor enthusiast that!). I have about 300 ring binders where I file things away, along with tens of thousands of clear pockets which I insert into them. When I bought the ring binders, I bought them in bulk. About 100 at the time. I wanted 4 ring clips instead of two, for extra security. I think 3 is popular in the US. A ring binder design is a bit like a mouse trap, pretty much as simple as it comes, so I was safe for future growth if I needed to add more. A couple of years passed by and I was full, so I ordered some more. And they no longer did that make in the same style. There were 4 major changes. To me - and I suppose anyone else who likes symmetry, when looking at several book cases full of all the same, white ring binders, having the same was important. The rings were now attached on the back of the binder instead of the spine (and they were, ‘D’ shaped, not, ‘O’ shaped). That meant that the rivets (viewed on the outside) were now not visible on the spine when placed on the shelf (next to the other ones that were visible). The clear display spine pocket which you place your written title file name in, on a piece of card, was now thinner and longer and lower down, losing symmetry with the others. There was now, no longer a clear display pocket on the front, to display an A4 sheet. And there was another alteration/update/change – maybe the size or white colour shade? Anyway, for someone with Autism who is a perfectionist and loves order and routine, this was really bad for me. And the point? Well just that evolutionary change comes in many shapes and sizes, and not all are visual. You’d be surprised at how complex some things can look, yet are relatively simple and not as, ‘advanced’ as other more simple things. There is an ant with a single chromosome, a deer with six. Some plants and protozoans have over 1000, lampreys have 174, hedgehogs have 88-90, whilst we usually have 46. Some species can interbreed with others with a dozen differences in the Chromosome count. So, evolutionary change or advancement is not always so clear. One wonders how finely honed things like sharks, crocs or brachiopods actually are. I don’t think they actually did nothing for so long. Those micro changes might be focussing on strengthening their resilience or adaptation to change or speeding up reactions, hardening body shell, adapting to a new diet or whatever, and very few might be morphologically noticeable, and it is especially difficult to know how much something has changed if the ancestors are long extinct and have left no genetic trace. The ring binder hypothesis of simplicity (like a mouse trap) is not as clear or simple or unchangeable as it might at first appear. There’s O ring vs D ring, back or spine mount, location/size of spine label, 2, 3 or 4 rings? A hole in the spine or not, material, colour, size, thickness? And there’s so many NEW types of ring binder available nowadays that we either didn’t think of, didn’t need or didn’t have the technology or material for then. So when we see, what we might assume is a very simple or perfectly adapted organism, for the organism itself, there is always room for improvement, no matter how small or meaningless it may seem to outsiders. And those simple things may open doors for additional things. Our own imagination, even with the benefit of speeding things up, using computer re-enactment, can’t predict or show all the combinations of possible solutions evolution can actually produce. Not sure if change is good or not. It may be good that something can adapt, and quickly. But it might be better if it was resilient enough not to have to, when things change, because of all the things happening when times were slow. Sort of like saving money when times are good, for when times are bad. One wonders how resilient WE actually are? Given our destructive nature, we’re probably not long for this world.
  2. Dear Anton. Great questions. I have been writing quite a long answer which may also be worth a wider readership given such interesting and relevant points, so pleaser bear with me, though anyone else is welcome to join in the response. Steve
  3. Hi Preternat. So, I’m just trying to establish a couple of things. By being a preternaturalist, do you mean that you consider us (humans) to be outside or above nature or outside of the rest of evolution or something? I’m not aware that, ‘mother nature’ planned/plans anything and so if evolution develops intelligence enough to manipulate or alter genes, then that is an extension of the natural, isn’t it? You also mention that you are an atheist, so can you explain or reconcile these or show where I have misunderstood you? You want to communicate evolution to a wider audience. Great. There is lots of stuff available on the internet for this and that’s what the Phylogeny Explorer Project will do, too. The Phylogeny Explorer Project itself is not involved in religion or politics, but there are threads in the forums of this site that you can explore things a little more off the beaten path. Do you have any specific questions? Feel free, if you haven’t already, to join the Facebook group.
  4. Hi friend. It might be worth posting this on the Facebook group for quicker and more largely read answer. Here is one genetic comparison, but it's not my area: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/a-Cladogram-based-on-308-bp-of-gray-wolf-C-lupus-dog-C-lupus-familiaris-coyote_fig4_226328915
  5. Hi BangerDan. Please feel free to join our Facebook group if you haven’t already. Yes, AronRa has produced an excellent set of videos on the systematic classification of life along our clade line. He is also the creator of the Phylogeny Explorer Project, which aims to be the most comprehensive system, mapping the evolution of life, visually. In the Linnaean rank system (remember the DKPCOFGS), these are attempts at comparing ranks across groups – like mammals and amphibians, without regard for timeframe comparison and as though all were created at the same time. Whilst some equate to clades, the nested hierarchy (clades) of life are the true, natural order of things. The clades we tend to use and focus on, whilst naturally occurring, are man-made representative junctions to show key or notable divergences. So, whilst the point at which a notochord is first recorded is significant (for us) in ordering or explaining things, it is (in nature) of no more or less significance than any new species or divergence. Whilst having more clades than the following, (there are well over 100) the Phylogeny Explorer Project is however still in pre-production. Alternatives and recommendations in the meantime are: Open Tree of life: https://tree.opentreeoflife.org/opentree/argus/opentree12.3@ott93302 Timetree: http://www.timetree.org/ Onezoom: https://www.onezoom.org/
  6. “New study, re-writes evolution.” How (or) would YOU present a highly technical, specialist article to the general populous? Your editor (who pays you) has deadlines and targets for time, costs, readership and competing rivals’ articles. This blog is in response to (yet) another article which supposedly re-writes the theory of (in this case, shark) evolution. It tries to highlight the problem of and reasons for such article headings, looks at and compares the results of changing them from the origi8nal and asks what, if anything, can or should be done given the circumstances. I owned a shop once and one customer said that it would be nice if we had wheel chair access toilets. We had wheelchair access and wheelchair access toilets were available very close by in a larger shop. The cost of putting them in was prohibitive too, meaning no such shop to use in the first place, thus defeating the object. By trying to offer more, I (and all) would have lost all. Many of the good quality newspapers are struggling right now with such low readership. On the other hand, the British red tops (which are far more popular and reflect the greater national readership population) do pretty well. I’m sure there is a direct correlation between the quality of journalism and the survivability of the press in the UK. Too few want pure quality. Some may recall the Sunday Sport newspaper post I posted some time ago, demonstrating the level it goes to for readership. And true, those wanting it are the driving force of the editor. Spin, exaggeration, scraping the barrel, lies are things that sell. Few want straight facts. And I believe that goes for many of us, here too. In fact I have posted original research here and had little response, but when posting articles (even) from the same said report, as edited in a more popular or simplified magazine or newspaper with graphics and a fancy tag line, it gets views… It also gets read! And it also gets criticised for exaggeration or a misguided title. But it gets read as opposed to not read. If you want a technical article published in a general, miscellaneous, non-academic daily/weekly/monthly, you have to make very significant changes to attract any interest. Yes, even Time magazine, National Geographic and Nature have succumbed to targeting with overly dramatic images or titles which can play into the hands of science deniers. Look at it from the publisher’s perspective – they have to sell, compete, pay staff and survive. Where does one draw the line? It is a difficult one, when one considers all aspects or places oneself in the position of an editor. How many of us subscribe to the journals which publish original work? Would you digest it, understand the words? If competing with an edition of Punch or Private eye, which do you go for? Are you privileged or rich enough to access these journals? Does or did anyone get psychological tiredness, perhaps at university? When you want to do something you enjoy and it not taxing, you are full of energy and up for it. When it comes to study, you suddenly feel really tired. I did and still do. Youtube is a great help and bridge/gap builder! There is similar discussion in Christian and Muslim circles about Holy books. Some traditionalists argue that only the original language should be used, as it is the word of God and should not be changed. But only those few who know those languages can access it, but it is argued that all should learn it). Or should it be translated into many languages and perhaps simplified or adjusted to, ‘meaning related’ context so that more can understand and access it, at the price of some meaning, clarity or eloquence (this is an aspect of hermeneutics). Here's an article (just made up) showing 4 different views and asking which one or style would YOU read or be attracted to, if any, perhaps if the subject matter interested you (which is another trick that journalists try to widen to get readership)?
  7. Hi Ross. I can't seem to find you on the Facebook group and we seem to have lost contact. Apologies if this is my fault. Please do get back in touch if you can.
  8. Hi Abe. Those are good questions. We had a live book club event on youtube on Saturday with Aron Ra about his book, ‘Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism’. Not sure if you knew or were there. On the first one. I will start by an examples to set the scene. If you take a scan of a foetus in the womb, then a photo of the new born baby and on through the person’s life until s/he dies, you have very different images and stages. A baby, a child, a teenager, an adult, a middle ager and an old person. We give them man-made names that we create for identification purposes, but they are still one, single person throughout. The genetic code is the same, from where we can know this. So whilst a foetus may have little morphological resemblance to the pensioner, we KNOW (can test and prove) that they are one and the same. And a photo of two foetuses or babies or people, no matter how alike they may appear, we can know that they are not the same, by the same (and other) method(s). If we found tree-like structure on another planet that looked identical to an oak tree on earth, then it is possible that it is more similar to a rock or an elephant, because by similarity we mean relatedness. The tree from another planet would actually not even be a part of the, ‘tree of life’, because it has no place in it, just like all the aliens in film and TV, despite their humanoid appearances and they would not be able to interbreed with humans or earth life. The whole genetic (or otherwise) structure would not correspond. And we also know that a dog, a hyena, a coyote, a fox, a wolf and a thylacine are different and why and how different, by the genes, which is really helpful when they look alike. In previous centuries, we did not have genetics, so morphology and physiology were key concepts in deciding classification. So, whilst a baby is different from an adult in many ways, in terms of relatedness or ancestry, they are one and the same. And the biological parents are the last generation and so on. With genealogy, we (think we) can trace our parents back for centuries or more, but technically, we can’t, because if any mother had an affair, or secretly adopted or records got mixed up, we would not have a true ancestry and from the first erroneous parent, all previous ones would be wrong. Evolution does not operate from parent to parent – this would be impossible to keep track. It works on a species or population level. This means that if an offspring is illegitimate or a parent has multiple partners and even if there is some hybridization with a different species, it doesn’t really matter, because we are only concerned with species (or things that can viably interbreed), and that is sufficient. Due to the fossil record and many other factors, we can establish relatedness beyond the limits of genetic sampling. So, it is not really possible to take a genetic sample for things that are millions of years old due to degradation of tissue. This is when morphology, fossil order and other known or determinable factors come into play and confirm (or otherwise) one another. So, how do we know that amphibians evolved from fish and reptiles from amphibians and creatures with internal skeletons from ones that had none? The forms can be traced in the fossil record. Whilst amphibians exist now, when amphibians first emerged, there were no reptiles. We can further trace the skeletal evolution which just so happens to exactly match the geological order. And when we test living amphibian and reptile genetic markers, it matches to that ancestry. We can therefore make predictions that if true, support this concept, and this has been done many times and is counted on when searching for fossils today. Tiktaalic was such a prediction and found what (described morphology) where (geography) and when (geologically) discovered. Now, we are descended from animals that do not have backbones or internal skeletons. These have a term called, ‘invertebrates’. This is a helpful term used to describe that group of animals, but it is not a term used in cladistics because it has no place. Like saying person A is male, person B is female and person C is tall. We can describe people in terms of sex, height, race or interests etc. but you can’t mix it up. So, whilst we are descended from animals that had no backbones (invertebrates) we are not invertebrates, because that mixes terminology. When only invertebrates existed, they were never called invertebrates any more that they were in-circus actors. Invertebrate is a hindsight term used to look back and mention a unifying similarity. They lacked back bones just as much as they lacked the ability to act in a circus (which some people and other animals do today). So, to a circus performer, all other life is an incircus act (invertebrate comparable). In order to talk about ancestry, we need to stick to the correct and same terminology, like for like. So, whilst many scientist will tell you that you are a fish, they are wrong, because a fish is not an actual clade. You are (in increasingly larger key clades, simultaneously) a human (Homo sapien sapien), a hominid, an anthropoid, a prosimian, a primate, a placental, a mammal and so on. So, you can simultaneously live in your house at the same time as your street, village, town, state, country, country, region, continent etc. It’s just a matter of how specific you want to be. To your neighbour, you live at number 45. To a Japanese pen-pal, you start off by saying you live in Europe (or wherever). It’s about perspective. So, as life is all related, we have closer and further removed relatives. We are closer related to other apes than to dogs and further removed from oak trees, but at some point, we are related and shared a common ancestor with everything and with a phylogenetic tree of life, you can find the point at which any two different species split off to form new species. It can be termed the law of monophyly. A true clade is monophyletic, meaning that it is a nested hierarchy containing all and only those species within a point (clade node) of divergence. In 10 million years time, our species may still be here or have died out, but our descendants, however different, will still and always be homo, apes, mammals etc. Our cladistics lineage remains and cannot be altered or5 grown out of. In fact, we evolved from a creature that evolved an anus before it evolved a mouth (where some creatures evolved the other way round). So, it would be phylogenetically true and fair to say, once an arsehole, always an arsehole! Regarding your second point. A clade is basically a speciation event. A species is a very difficult and argued about term which is confusing to science and the world at large, because it is used differently by well informed people. This is a whole lecture on its own. If we assume for arguments’ sake, that a species is a population of related organisms that can interbreed and have departed, genetically or geographically or behaviourally from other close relatives such that they no longer interbreed (even if they are still inter-fertile), then these are examples of speciation and would justify a new species/clade. So note, speciation takes time and is a population (not an individual) event. Search, ‘ring species’ for an example of observable speciation. Note also that one species never gives birth to another species or anything that is hardly any different to itself. This is what evolution predicts (to not do so would defy evolution). Imagine a gradient from red to blue. At any point, it is identical to its neighbour. You have to zoom out and compare distant places to see or notice the difference. I hope this helps. Thanks for your interest. There are many of us who have left fundamentalism and who were conned by Creationism. Do please joint our journey into supporting or providing a visual tree of all life, demonstrating the fact of evolution. Steve
  9. Thanks for update, Victor. Onwards and upwards goes science and learning and change.
  10. Dear Jesse. I am sorry this post has been left for so long. I am not an expert on insects, but I will share my thoughts and suggestions. I think this is a lacewing or related or similar family. It is very typical, including the wings and you might be amazed at the variety of lacewing. Take this one ( taken from the Treknature website gallery. A Thread-winged Lacewing (Nemoptera sinuata) also known as the Spoon-tailed Lacewing from the Lacewing (Neuroptera) family from Turkey. Given the quality and indistinctiveness, e.g. colour, shape, this might lead others to not bother putting the effort in to identify it as there are likely to be many species that fit, especially limited to the image/desription. There are many groups that may be willing or able to help, but if this seems a lot of trouble and you are considering the effort to benwfit, they might also be thinking the csame to locate the species, if that makes sense. And in order to narrow it down yourself, you could start with geographical location, then the colouration, size and shape. If you can then find a local list of species, this cmay help, too. It is always difficult to get a good clear picture of such rerlatively small living things without professional equipment and macro lenses. So, if you do this often orf again, even the addition of a 2 or 3x lens to put over you phone or on a camera (or move out and zoom in with a good high multiplication optical lens) this will help. There are probably mny new species that have been photographed, but do not get recognised or vattributed because of the quality or lack of information, which is a shme, but hopefully, ever better new technology will change this. The Phylogeny Explorer Project will be trying to collate a lot of detail on all species in order to help identify things and allow anyone without expertise to do so with search facilities. Sorry I couldn't be of more help, Jesse.
  11. There are certain customs, arguments or claims which seem to make sense, but you can’t quite put your finger on why or if it is true or false. And they can fool you, like an optical illusion. For me, the ontological argument for God (Anselm’s version) was one. Others include conversion experiences with a one-way (non-returnable) valve, Faith, God knows best, don’t test God, last one in the pool is a rotten egg, go and do X or I won’t be your friend anymore, don’t grass/tell on people (it’s just not done/an unwritten rule), countless logical fallacies, using emotion as a trump card in an argument. There are some things which have a down side but have a balanced up side to make it worthwhile. The early bird catches the worm. Study hard and get a wider choice of job. Have kids and give up on things to see the joy it brings. In fact there was a historical act of Sati (or Suttee), largely practised in India amongst Hindus which also presented (albeit potentially illusory) an upside to the downside, but the reward was in the life hereafter, which was not proven to exist in this life, although believed. This is where a (female – of course!) widow would sacrifice herself on the burning funeral pyre of her deceased husband. I don’t imagine even the nastiest of husband’s would ever be poisoned at dinner by his wife and in fact, his health would seem to be a pretty important part of her life, hoping she dies first. The day your husband dies, especially if he was a good man, would be all the more painful. The only other type of voluntary death, other than suicide, seems to also be amongst religious tradition or extremism. Beyond that, people would put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others or make a self-sacrifice for the sake of other close relatives or friends. This is altruism. But an extreme form exists within several animal species. Matriphagy. White widow. No greater love. Theodicy. Some animal species make the ultimate sacrifice. This includes (certain) spiders, earwigs, pseudo-scorpions and (vertebrate) caecilians. In some spiders, females produce a liquid from their mouths from pre-digested food and/or eggs to feed their young for a few days. After gaining weight/size, a day after the spiderlings have moulted/shed their first exoskeleton, the mother instinctively goes through a process. She walks around the web, vibrating the thread and releasing new thread, which stimulates the spiderlings into coming to a prominent or central place on the web. The mother then comes and presses against the newly congregated mass of spiderlings who then make her their first victim and (by the process) they collectively and conveniently now have a clear understanding/lesson of how future victims/prey will be recognised and what they should do to entice and subdue it. They all start a frenzy and begin injecting venom into her, which she clearly finds painful and could run away from, but she doesn’t. Within minutes to a couple of hours, all her juices have been sucked out and her life empties into the stomachs of her offspring, leaving a shell. This is not exclusive to mothers. Virgin females will also sacrifice themselves in this way. Males often die soon after mating too or become victim of the mated partner. The spider species involved seem to have larger offspring with faster growth rates and so potentially preventing other options of offspring survival. This seems a horrible (but sadly not that rare a) branch of natural selection, resulting in such horrific (but evolutionarily logical) results and logic. Surely it would have been better for the mothers to have just said, ‘no way’ and died out as a species. I wonder if some form of, ‘coping with the suffering’ evolved too? What an amazing example of a species who’s males and females, mothers and virgin females give their all, solely for the propagation of the species and, seemingly nothing else. Unless someone perhaps knows of a budding arachnid Bach or Renoir, leaving behind a gift for the species to enjoy. I am reminded of other species that suffer because of things like parasites (e.g. eating into your eye and controlling your brain or eating you from the inside out). For those of you who are theists, atheists, moral objectivists, subjectivists, nihilists, free-willers or determinists, it’s not very nice to think about and varyingly easy to explain or justify. Sometimes, the truth hurts, whether you like or accept it or not. There is an extreme (theoretical at least) philosophical view that I have considered since long before I even knew what philosophy meant or was, although I have more recently found it to be a recognised and serious position. If I could press a button and instantly destroy (and make) all life on earth extinct, (without any suffering), I would do it. Even in my theistic life, no-one could convince me that an eternity in heaven could be good, and the everlasting part just made it worse or made me wonder if that was just phase 2 and something else might be planned (by God) for later, still leaving some option open for me having to make a choice or be forced to do something or go somewhere I didn’t want to go. Heaven was always a place I was not convinced that was consistent, unchangingly or perfect, and hell was, whilst bad, at least consistent. I do not mean to be dismissive or speak lightly of this, but these things did plague my mind. To me, heaven was never a motive for becoming or staying a Christian, though hell was a place that put fear in me long after I defected. The reason (for my quite extreme philosophical view) is subjective and I would be forcing my view and action on everyone in the process, therefore removing democracy and other people’s view or preferences. I basically don’t like suffering, for myself or others or anyone or any living thing that suffers or even could suffer (even potentially through evolution over billions of years), so I wanted to take control of the world in order to prevent ANYONE from ever suffering in any way, but particularly suffering heavily, which many will continue to do, even if it may not be YOU personally, but you and I represent everyone, including that person in a horrific state of suffering. To me, it is not a case of taking a chance, hoping I will be lucky. It is the experiential knowledge that many of us do suffer and some, terribly, some randomly and some predictably and no-one expects it for our child when we choose to create life. The worst type of human suffering probably includes torture (physical and emotional) but may not be limited to this. Accident, disease or illness are others. If I consider the most extreme possible example of a child or baby being tortured, (and take an is/ought type of position) then (for me) this cannot justify or be compensated by any amount of good, so cannot justify life in the first place IF such a bad incident could occur, and I suggest it can, has, does and will continue to do so. As no life equates to no pain or suffering or knowledge or a representative that exists to experience such, then not existing is not a bad thing, it just isn’t anything, so we don’t exist to ponder goodness or badness or weigh up the options. Put another way, if a person never existed to start with, s/he will never suffer or experience anything, good or otherwise, so will be none the wiser, can have no regrets or hopes or anything. S/he is in a neutral position. When I say s/he, s/he has never existed in the first place of course, so there is no person or mind to exist and consider or see in hindsight about the options. There are millions of potential sperm that will never see the light of day, have no regrets and (thankfully) never suffered. YOU can only experience and appreciate good things because you exist and are here. And if a 100% suffering-free life were guaranteed, I still see no benefit (perhaps other than a selfish one) to having children, given the option (non-existence). As there is no such mechanism to destroy the earth, certainly without suffering anyway, then I have to constrain my ideology to the life that exists now. From today, anyone alive will be dead in 120 or so years (less or plus any medical advancements in restricting or developing the ageing process). So my current theory is to stop all human pregnancy and so force the extinction of humankind by about 2100-2150, when people will be too old to reproduce anymore and die off naturally. This would be problematic in the detail, e.g. providing for the latter few years with food, medicine, warmth without electricity or gas etc. unless euthanasia options were on hand, which, under the impending circumstances, might have been considered and be available. Sadly, I need universal consensus, the law and no exceptions to implement this, which is unlikely. It also doesn’t stop the suffering and future evolution of the rest of life on earth. So, my theory seems exactly that – theoretical and not very practical. I would also add that I am very lazy and hypocritical. Whilst I have been both a vegetarian and a vegan before, I am currently largely a carnivore, but (theoretically) hold a vegan position, I’m just not committed (yet) to indulge myself. Do as I say, not as I do. Addendum. This may be better placed in the Forums under philosophy, so I may copy it there, too. This is a blog experiment and is for thought consideration. It is entirely theoretical, impossible to come true or be placed in anyone’s hands and it is open to challenge and if at any time the prospect loomed, I am sure I would have second thoughts or want a lot more feedback on the position to assert or reject/override my viewpoint. Further, I have presented the reasons behind it, but would like to add one more which is rather like the philosophical trolley problem. This is what I think I would like to be dealt with if I am to consider my position again: Imagine you were offered a drug to put you in an extremely high sense of pleasure. The condition is that someone will have a similar opposite sense of displeasure or suffering. Would you trade this? Would you trade it for a moderate amount of suffering in someone? Or if the person was a member of your family? Where would one draw the line? There are many selfish people in the world who probably would; probably because they don’t know the suffering person. Which is why I opt to remove democracy from them at least, for the sake of the suffering. It is no less painful for a suffering person, whether it is someone you know or not. It is only our subjective indifference to an anonymous person that drives us to ignore or mitigate their suffering. My position is that (to reflect reality) we should consider ultimate suffering and to the closest of our loved ones, though I go much further and would justify the slightest amount of suffering for the smallest amount of time to even one person as not worth coming into existence, even if life were otherwise virtually perfect. If you were to have the power to create intelligent life, and knew that all types of suffering (including extreme) would be a part of the result, albeit mixed with varying highs, would you go ahead? Try to put yourself in the position of the many who will be less fortunate and suffer, particularly in an extreme way. Few of us experience extremes on either side, but if (and as) we know that many will suffer badly, many being children and babies, is it not selfish and a horrific risk to self AND others, to justify such creation, be it creating life to start with or pro-creating? I have children myself, which makes me selfish and perhaps hypocritical. If we simply prevent further pro-creation, we are not disappointing or failing anyone, because there is no-one that exists to be disappointed (or thankful that they were not brought into existence to potentially suffer). Put in one sentence, would you allow yourself or a member of your family or your own child to suffer horrifically in exchange for others existing and having pleasure? To jump to any other statement (like destroying the world or banning human reproduction) without seriously considering the reasoning and alternative implications is not to understand or do the argument justice. The argument may seem an atheistic one, but for many believers, to have no children is to guarantee that they will not be creating the possibility of another soul going to hell (or heaven), but I appreciate there are other theistic considerations involved here. If a person’s house is destroyed, (say in a storm or fire with all the memories, souvenirs, photos and things of material value) there are feelings and emotions in the minds of existent people who may witness this and be sad at its demise. If there is no intelligent mind or creature (left) in existence (when a house is destroyed), there is no regret or sorrow or happiness. There is neutrality. No pain or suffering or joy or happiness or morality. Just nothing. Without or at the end of existence, suffering ends and no longer exists. No-one exists to experience or miss anything good. This position is undemocratic and if I had the power to press such buttons, this is a one-man dictatorship of the most extreme kind. It will never happen. Remember that I am just theorizing and may have more thinking to do on it. I would probably be better devoting my time/life to convincing people of this. If 12 thugs want to beat a child up and will take tremendous pleasure in it, is this a democratic or utilitarian decision? Would you, if you had the power, subjectively be willing to override their choice/pleasure and prevent this from occurring in order to save one person’s suffering? Democracy is all well and good when it coincides with our view. For me, it is the majority of the world who do not yet comprehend the reality of the suffering problem and how their selfishness allows it, that makes me want to take the control away from them. The world is not as overt as the thugs in the example, but for those innocent people suffering, they don’t care about where the pain comes from, they just want it gone. I think most people are selfish and do not consider the extreme suffering or want to take a chance that it won’t be them or their family. But I am taking the position that everyone is equally valued and the one suffering baby represents each of us or our own child(ren). For you to be selfish and take a chance (like the Covid-19 situation of isolation) affects everyone, not just you. In the virus situation, I believe people should, if need be, be forced into situations, e.g. of isolation (thus violating their human rights) in order to prevent them from potentially infecting others – a greater right. No amount of joy in all the people of the world is more important than (or worth or justifies) the terrible suffering of just one person. I am suggesting that one pain-free solution is to stop pro-creating (as impractical as this is, I’m just arguing theoretically to support my position and reasoning). I am simply arguing that this neutral, not existent position is superior to any world where suffering exists (and/or can’t be guaranteed to stop) and I would be happy to be convinced otherwise, if it makes sense to me. Any reasoned response is welcome. No arguing or attacks, just show the flaws in the position and what the alternatives are and it will be considered. Remember that destroying the world in any way that causes suffering, is not my position, and given that there is no way of doing this, I do not hold the position of destroying the world. I feel that stopping pro-creation in humans is only a short term, temporary solution to suffering and recognise that it does not stop other species’ suffering or evolving into more intelligent and suffering species. This is why I would prefer the theoretical, ‘destroy all life on earth instantly without suffering’ option, as impractical as this would ever be. The crux of the issue that needs to be understood and may not be fully appreciated are: · To recognise that to not exist has no input or choice or regret. Only those living can determine worth. · That for a single baby that is horrifically suffering, (and we must acknowledge that this is highly likely happening and will happen if we continue as we are and there is no way of stopping it) is not worth (in exchange) all the joys for all the people of the world, and if we come to a point where no people even exist to weigh this option up, it’s a no-brainer. This is not a suicide view. For those already living, life could or should continue. It is more a decision about the unborn, those who do not or yet live. They don’t exist/are not alive to experience or choose or appreciate life (so, ‘they’ are not missing out as there is no-one that is missing out – so this is a neutral point at worst), but life has been prevented from experiencing suffering, ever, which is good. There is a philosopher who follows some of this viewpoint (antinatalism and the asymmetry argument) called David Benatar. Check him out. Popular youtuber, Alex O’Conner (aka Cosmic Skeptic) has also spoken on the topic. Both of these (and I’m sure, many others) have better explanations than I have. I have just rambled, wrote as I thought and didn’t have time to edit or lay it out systematically. I’ll leave that to experts/others.
  12. Addendum. This may be better placed in the Forums under philosophy, so I may copy it there, too. This is a blog experiment and is for thought consideration. It is entirely theoretical, impossible to come true or be placed in anyone’s hands and it is open to challenge and if at any time the prospect loomed, I am sure I would have second thoughts or want a lot more feedback on the position to assert or reject/override my viewpoint. Further, I have presented the reasons behind it, but would like to add one more which is rather like the philosophical trolley problem. This is what I think I would like to be dealt with if I am to consider my position again: Imagine you were offered a drug to put you in an extremely high sense of pleasure. The condition is that someone will have a similar opposite sense of displeasure or suffering. Would you trade this? Would you trade it for a moderate amount of suffering in someone? Or if the person was a member of your family? Where would one draw the line? There are many selfish people in the world who probably would; probably because they don’t know the suffering person. Which is why I opt to remove democracy from them at least, for the sake of the suffering. It is no less painful for a suffering person, whether it is someone you know or not. It is only our subjective indifference to an anonymous person that drives us to ignore or mitigate their suffering. My position is that (to reflect reality) we should consider ultimate suffering and to the closest of our loved ones, though I go much further and would justify the slightest amount of suffering for the smallest amount of time to even one person as not worth coming into existence, even if life were otherwise virtually perfect. If you were to have the power to create intelligent life, and knew that all types of suffering (including extreme) would be a part of the result, albeit mixed with varying highs, would you go ahead? Try to put yourself in the position of the many who will be less fortunate and suffer, particularly in an extreme way. Few of us experience extremes on either side, but if (and as) we know that many will suffer badly, many being children and babies, is it not selfish and a horrific risk to self AND others, to justify such creation, be it creating life to start with or pro-creating? I have children myself, which makes me selfish and perhaps hypocritical. If we simply prevent further pro-creation, we are not disappointing or failing anyone, because there is no-one that exists to be disappointed (or thankful that they were not brought into existence to potentially suffer). Put in one sentence, would you allow yourself or a member of your family or your own child to suffer horrifically in exchange for others existing and having pleasure? To jump to any other statement (like destroying the world or banning human reproduction) without seriously considering the reasoning and alternative implications is not to understand or do the argument justice. The argument may seem an atheistic one, but for many believers, to have no children is to guarantee that they will not be creating the possibility of another soul going to hell (or heaven), but I appreciate there are other theistic considerations involved here. If a person’s house is destroyed, (say in a storm or fire with all the memories, souvenirs, photos and things of material value) there are feelings and emotions in the minds of existent people who may witness this and be sad at its demise. If there is no intelligent mind or creature (left) in existence (when a house is destroyed), there is no regret or sorrow or happiness. There is neutrality. No pain or suffering or joy or happiness or morality. Just nothing. Without or at the end of existence, suffering ends and no longer exists. No-one exists to experience or miss anything good. This position is undemocratic and if I had the power to press such buttons, this is a one-man dictatorship of the most extreme kind. It will never happen. Remember that I am just theorizing and may have more thinking to do on it. I would probably be better devoting my time/life to convincing people of this. If 12 thugs want to beat a child up and will take tremendous pleasure in it, is this a democratic or utilitarian decision? Would you, if you had the power, subjectively be willing to override their choice/pleasure and prevent this from occurring in order to save one person’s suffering? Democracy is all well and good when it coincides with our view. For me, it is the majority of the world who do not yet comprehend the reality of the suffering problem and how their selfishness allows it, that makes me want to take the control away from them. The world is not as overt as the thugs in the example, but for those innocent people suffering, they don’t care about where the pain comes from, they just want it gone. I think most people are selfish and do not consider the extreme suffering or want to take a chance that it won’t be them or their family. But I am taking the position that everyone is equally valued and the one suffering baby represents each of us or our own child(ren). For you to be selfish and take a chance (like the Covid-19 situation of isolation) affects everyone, not just you. In the virus situation, I believe people should, if need be, be forced into situations, e.g. of isolation (thus violating their human rights) in order to prevent them from potentially infecting others – a greater right. No amount of joy in all the people of the world is more important than (or worth or justifies) the terrible suffering of just one person. I am suggesting that one pain-free solution is to stop pro-creating (as impractical as this is, I’m just arguing theoretically to support my position and reasoning). I am simply arguing that this neutral, not existent position is superior to any world where suffering exists (and/or can’t be guaranteed to stop) and I would be happy to be convinced otherwise, if it makes sense to me. Any reasoned response is welcome. No arguing or attacks, just show the flaws in the position and what the alternatives are and it will be considered. Remember that destroying the world in any way that causes suffering, is not my position, and given that there is no way of doing this, I do not hold the position of destroying the world. I feel that stopping pro-creation in humans is only a short term, temporary solution to suffering and recognise that it does not stop other species’ suffering or evolving into more intelligent and suffering species. This is why I would prefer the theoretical, ‘destroy all life on earth instantly without suffering’ option, as impractical as this would ever be. The crux of the issue that needs to be understood and may not be fully appreciated are: · To recognise that to not exist has no input or choice or regret. Only those living can determine worth. · That for a single baby that is horrifically suffering, (and we must acknowledge that this is highly likely happening and will happen if we continue as we are and there is no way of stopping it) is not worth (in exchange) all the joys for all the people of the world, and if we come to a point where no people even exist to weigh this option up, it’s a no-brainer. This is not a suicide view. For those already living, life could or should continue. It is more a decision about the unborn, those who do not or yet live. They don’t exist/are not alive to experience or choose or appreciate life (so, ‘they’ are not missing out as there is no-one that is missing out – so this is a neutral point at worst), but life has been prevented from experiencing suffering, ever, which is good. There is a philosopher who follows some of this viewpoint (antinatalism and the asymmetry argument) called David Benatar. Check him out. Popular youtuber, Alex O’Conner (aka Cosmic Skeptic) has also spoken on the topic. Both of these (and I’m sure, many others) have better explanations than I have. I have just rambled, wrote as I thought and didn’t have time to edit or lay it out systematically. I’ll leave that to experts/others.
  13. There are certain customs, arguments or claims which seem to make sense, but you can’t quite put your finger on why or if it is true or false. And they can fool you, like an optical illusion. For me, the ontological argument for God (Anselm’s version) was one. Others include conversion experiences with a one-way (non-returnable) valve, Faith, God knows best, don’t test God, last one in the pool is a rotten egg, go and do X or I won’t be your friend anymore, don’t grass/tell on people (it’s just not done/an unwritten rule), countless logical fallacies, using emotion as a trump card in an argument. There are some things which have a down side but have a balanced up side to make it worthwhile. The early bird catches the worm. Study hard and get a wider choice of job. Have kids and give up on things to see the joy it brings. In fact there was a historical act of Suti (or Suttee), largely practised in India amongst Hindus which also presented (albeit potentially illusory) an upside to the downside, but the reward was in the life hereafter, which was not proven to exist in this life, although believed. This is where a (female – of course!) widow would sacrifice herself on the burning funeral pyre of her deceased husband. I don’t imagine even the nastiest of husband’s would ever be poisoned at dinner by his wife and in fact, his health would seem to be a pretty important part of her life, hoping she dies first. The day your husband dies, especially if he was a good man, would be all the more painful. The only other type of voluntary death, other than suicide, seems to also be amongst religious tradition or extremism. Beyond that, people would put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others or make a self-sacrifice for the sake of other close relatives or friends. This is altruism. But an extreme form exists within several animal species. Matriphagy. White widow. No greater love. Theodicy. Some animal species make the ultimate sacrifice. This includes (certain) spiders, earwigs, pseudo-scorpions and (vertebrate) caecilians. In some spiders, females produce a liquid from their mouths from pre-digested food and/or eggs to feed their young for a few days. After gaining weight/size, a day after the spiderlings have moulted/shed their first exoskeleton, the mother instinctively goes through a process. She walks around the web, vibrating the thread and releasing new thread, which stimulates the spiderlings into coming to a prominent or central place on the web. The mother then comes and presses against the newly congregated mass of spiderlings who then make her their first victim and (by the process) they collectively and conveniently now have a clear understanding/lesson of how future victims/prey will be recognised and what they should do to entice and subdue it. They all start a frenzy and begin injecting venom into her, which she clearly finds painful and could run away from, but she doesn’t. Within minutes to a couple of hours, all her juices have been sucked out and her life empties into the stomachs of her offspring, leaving a shell. This is not exclusive to mothers. Virgin females will also sacrifice themselves in this way. Males often die soon after mating too or become victim of the mated partner. The spider species involved seem to have larger offspring with faster growth rates and so potentially preventing other options of offspring survival. This seems a horrible (but sadly not that rare a) branch of natural selection, resulting in such horrific (but evolutionarily logical) results and logic. Surely it would have been better for the mothers to have just said, ‘no way’ and died out as a species. I wonder if some form of, ‘coping with the suffering’ evolved too? What an amazing example of a species who’s males and females, mothers and virgin females give their all, solely for the propagation of the species and, seemingly nothing else. Unless someone perhaps knows of a budding arachnid Bach or Renoir, leaving behind a gift for the species to enjoy. I am reminded of other species that suffer because of things like parasites (e.g. eating into your eye and controlling your brain or eating you from the inside out). For those of you who are theists, atheists, moral objectivists, subjectivists, nihilists, free-willers or determinists, it’s not very nice to think about and varyingly easy to explain or justify. Sometimes, the truth hurts, whether you like or accept it or not. There is an extreme (theoretical at least) philosophical view that I have considered since long before I even knew what philosophy meant or was, although I have more recently found it to be a recognised and serious position. If I could press a button and instantly destroy (and make) all life on earth extinct, (without any suffering), I would do it. Even in my theistic life, no-one could convince me that an eternity in heaven could be good, and the everlasting part just made it worse or made me wonder if that was just phase 2 and something else might be planned (by God) for later, still leaving some option open for me having to make a choice or be forced to do something or go somewhere I didn’t want to go. Heaven was always a place I was not convinced that was consistent, unchangingly or perfect, and hell was, whilst bad, at least consistent. I do not mean to be dismissive or speak lightly of this, but these things did plague my mind. To me, heaven was never a motive for becoming or staying a Christian, though hell was a place that put fear in me long after I defected. The reason (for my quite extreme philosophical view) is subjective and I would be forcing my view and action on everyone in the process, therefore removing democracy and other people’s view or preferences. I basically don’t like suffering, for myself or others or anyone or any living thing that suffers or even could suffer (even potentially through evolution over billions of years), so I wanted to take control of the world in order to prevent ANYONE from ever suffering in any way, but particularly suffering heavily, which many will continue to do, even if it may not be YOU personally, but you and I represent everyone, including that person in a horrific state of suffering. To me, it is not a case of taking a chance, hoping I will be lucky. It is the experiential knowledge that many of us do suffer and some, terribly, some randomly and some predictably and no-one expects it for our child when we choose to create life. The worst type of human suffering probably includes torture (physical and emotional) but may not be limited to this. Accident, disease or illness are others. If I consider the most extreme possible example of a child or baby being tortured, (and take an is/ought type of position) then (for me) this cannot justify or be compensated by any amount of good, so cannot justify life in the first place IF such a bad incident could occur, and I suggest it can, has, does and will continue to do so. As no life equates to no pain or suffering or knowledge or a representative that exists to experience such, then not existing is not a bad thing, it just isn’t anything, so we don’t exist to ponder goodness or badness or weigh up the options. Put another way, if a person never existed to start with, s/he will never suffer or experience anything, good or otherwise, so will be none the wiser, can have no regrets or hopes or anything. S/he is in a neutral position. When I say s/he, s/he has never existed in the first place of course, so there is no person or mind to exist and consider or see in hindsight about the options. There are millions of potential sperm that will never see the light of day, have no regrets and (thankfully) never suffered. YOU can only experience and appreciate good things because you exist and are here. And if a 100% suffering-free life were guaranteed, I still see no benefit (perhaps other than a selfish one) to having children, given the option (non-existence). As there is no such mechanism to destroy the earth, certainly without suffering anyway, then I have to constrain my ideology to the life that exists now. From today, anyone alive will be dead in 120 or so years (less or plus any medical advancements in restricting or developing the ageing process). So my current theory is to stop all human pregnancy and so force the extinction of humankind by about 2100-2150, when people will be too old to reproduce anymore and die off naturally. This would be problematic in the detail, e.g. providing for the latter few years with food, medicine, warmth without electricity or gas etc. unless euthanasia options were on hand, which, under the impending circumstances, might have been considered and be available. Sadly, I need universal consensus, the law and no exceptions to implement this, which is unlikely. It also doesn’t stop the suffering and future evolution of the rest of life on earth. So, my theory seems exactly that – theoretical and not very practical. I would also add that I am very lazy and hypocritical. Whilst I have been both a vegetarian and a vegan before, I am currently largely a carnivore, but (theoretically) hold a vegan position, I’m just not committed (yet) to indulge myself. Do as I say, not as I do.
  14. That's right, a cross or sword type symbol is often used as an instant visual marker to distinguish extinct from extant taxa and is of particular use in lists, databases, trees and dendrograms of living (when comnbined of course with previously living) organisms. You will find errors on the current Explorer which we will not be correcting as we are focusing on a new tree whilst the current one remains for interest. To determine whether a taxon is extinct, all of its descendents (branches and leaf nodes/species) must also be extinct. If this is not the case (e.g. with dinosaurs), then the taxon or clade node must be listed as extant. Put simply, where an extinct symbol is on any branch node, you could snip (the branch off there) or colour code it to show that it is entirely extinct without exception from that point forth, moving to the more recent.
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