Friday, June 09, 2006

Big bang in Antarctica - killer crater found under ice #4

Big bang in Antarctica - killer crater found under ice, EurekAlert!, 1-Jun-2006, Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State University ... [Graphic: Gravity fluctuations and radar images in the Wilkes Land region of East Antarctica, Spaceflight Now]

[Continued from part #3 ... But as anthropologist Matt Cartmill pointed out, in what I consider to be the most amazingly perceptive article I have ever seen by an evolutionist, that when "Stephen Jay Gould argue[d] that the evolution of human beings was fantastically improbable and that a host of unlikely events had to fall out in just the right way for intelligent life to emerge on this planet," then "One might well take this as a sign of God's hand at work in the evolutionary process":

"Evolutionists seem to be especially prone to this mistake. The claim that evolution is purposeless and undirected has become almost an article of faith among evolutionary biologists. For example, the official `Statement on Teaching Evolution' from the National Association of Biology Teachers describes evolution as `an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable, and natural process.' That pretty much rules God out of the picture. One popular book on evolution, Richard Dawkins's Blind Watchmaker, is subtitled Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design. In his book Wonderful Life, Stephen Jay Gould argues that the evolution of human beings was fantastically improbable and that a host of unlikely events had to fall out in just the right way for intelligent life to emerge on this planet. One might well take this as a sign of God's hand at work in the evolutionary process. Gould, however, bends his argument to the opposite conclusion that the universe is indifferent to our existence and that humans would never evolve a second time if we rewound time's videotape and started over. But to reach this conclusion, you have to assume the very thing that you are trying to prove: namely, that history isn't directed by God. If there is a God, whatever he wills happens by necessity. Because we can't really replay the same stretch of time to see if it always comes out the same way, science has no tests for the presence of God's will in history. Gould's conclusion is a profession of his religious beliefs, not a finding of science. The broad outlines of the story of human evolution are known beyond a reasonable doubt. However, science hasn't yet found satisfying, law-based natural explanations for most of the details of that story. All that we scientists can do is admit to our ignorance and keep looking. Our ignorance doesn't prove anything one way or the other about divine plans or purposes behind the flow of history. Anybody who says it does is pushing a religious doctrine." (Cartmill, M., "Oppressed by Evolution," Discover, Vol. 19, No. 3, March 1998)

As a tournament chess player in my misspent youth, I was impressed at the time by 1996 this perceptive article on Deep Blue - Kasparov, 1996, Game 1, the first serious chess game won by a computer against a reigning world chess champion. In particular, the observation that, "The omniscient have no fear," referring to Deep Blue taking what seemed to human grandmasters, "crazy chances," indeed "insane" moves:

"What is Deep Blue's secret? Grand master Yasser Seirawan put it most succinctly: `The machine has no fear.' He did not just mean the obvious, that silicon cannot quake. He meant something deeper: because of its fantastic capacity to see all possible combinations some distance into the future, the machine, once it determines that its own position is safe, can take the kind of attacking chances no human would. The omniscient have no fear. In Game 1, Blue took what grand master Robert Byrne called `crazy chances.' On-site expert commentators labeled one move `insane.' It wasn't. It was exactly right. Here's what happened. Late in the game, Blue's king was under savage attack by Kasparov. Any human player under such assault by a world champion would be staring at his own king trying to figure out how to get away. Instead, Blue ignored the threat and quite nonchalantly went hunting for lowly pawns at the other end of the board. In fact, at the point of maximum peril, Blue expended two moves-many have died giving Kasparov even one-to snap one pawn. It was as if, at Gettysburg, General Meade had sent his soldiers out for a bit of apple picking moments before Pickett's charge because he had calculated that they could get back to their positions with a half-second to spare. In humans, that is called sangfroid. And if you don't have any sang, you can be very froid. But then again if Meade had known absolutely-by calculating the precise trajectories of all the bullets and all the bayonets and all the cannons in Pickett's division-the time of arrival of the enemy, he could indeed, without fear, have ordered his men to pick apples. Which is exactly what Deep Blue did. It had calculated every possible combination of Kasparov's available moves and determined with absolute certainty that it could return from its pawn-picking expedition and destroy Kasparov exactly one move before Kasparov could destroy it. Which it did. It takes more than nerves of steel to do that. It takes a silicon brain. No human can achieve absolute certainty because no human can be sure to have seen everything. Deep Blue can. Now, it cannot see everything forever-just everything within its horizon, which for Deep Blue means everything that can happen within the next 10 or 15 moves or so." (Krauthammer, C., "Deep Blue Funk," Time, South Pacific edition, February 26, 1996, pp.70-71)

Humans chessplayers, even the best, have to have informal rules of thumb, based on centuries of accumulated experience, e.g. taking pawns with your queen far over on the opponent's queenside, while your king is under attack on your kingside, is suicidal. This is because, as the article says, "No human can achieve absolute certainty because no human can be sure to have seen everything." But, as the article continues, "Deep Blue can ... see everything within its horizon" with absolute infallibility.

Now this is (to me at least) a good analogy of how the omniscient God can, and does, do things that may seem to limited humans as "crazy" and even "insane." God, the Bible tell us, has "the plan determined for the whole world" that encompasses "all nations" (Isa 14:26). In this plan God "works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,"(Eph 1:11). Therefore God could (and I firmly believe did) create humans "from the dust of the ground" (Gen 2:7) by using as his `potter's clay' (Isa 29:16; 45:9; 64:8; Jer 18:4,6; Rom 9:21) any of the resource of His universe. Being truly omniscient God does not need rules, and so His plan looks to the unbeliever like:

" there was nothing preordained about the emergence of Homo sapiens on the plains of Africa ... The sobering conclusion is that even when everything else in the environment was perfect, blind chance still ruled the development of intelligent life" (Taylor, S.R., "Destiny or Chance: Our Solar System and its Place in the Cosmos," [1998], Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 2000, reprint, pp.191-192)

This plan includes (if in fact it is what happened) a giant meteor impact ~250 mya in East Gondwana, which in turn was a causal factor in: 1) Australia beginning its separation from Antarctica ~100 mya as the final stage of breakup of Gondwana; 2) creating the Antarctic Circumpolar Current; 3) causing global temperatures to cool; 4) including Africa; which, together with other tectonic movements including the opening of the Great Rift Valley in Africa, 5) "led to a diversification of local climates that encouraged adaptation and speciation among the higher apes," including "more open, savanna vegetation" which was a factor in the emergence of "bipedalism and other human adaptive traits":

"These shifts were the result of longer-term changes than those produced by astronomical fluctuations, and were almost certainly related to plate tectonics. The build-up of ice in the Northern Hemisphere may have resulted from the uplift of the Tibetan and Colorado plateaus disturbing global atmospheric circulation (Tibet has risen by some two vertical kilometres during the Plio-Pleistocene). Glaciation in Antarctica was probably initiated by the final breakup of the great southern continent, Gondwanaland. So long as Antarctica was joined to Australia and South America, cold polar ocean currents were deflected northwards towards the Equator and returned as warmer tropical waters. Once the link was broken, however, a circum-Antarctic current developed around the South Pole, isolating it thermally. The opening of Drake Passage between Tierra del Fuego and the Antarctic peninsula from about 22 million years ago may have been critical. Tectonic changes were also important in determining regional environmental histories. The compression of the zone between the European and African tectonic plates, for example, led to the temporary closure of the Straits of Gibraltar during the Miocene. As a result, Atlantic waters no longer flowed into the Mediterranean Sea, which progressively dried up to become a series of giant salt lakes - the so-called Messinian salinity crisis. Another region where tectonic and climatic histories were intertwined was East Africa. Here the opening of the Rift System during the later Cenozoic led to a diversification of local climates that encouraged adaptation and speciation among the higher apes. West of the rifts, rainfall was high enough to support tropical moist forest, but to the east, and in the rifts themselves, the climate became drier and more open, savanna vegetation came to dominate. Whether a move down from the trees encouraged bipedalism and other human adaptive traits is hard to know. However, it may be significant that Plio-Pleistocene hominids and modern chimpanzees and gorillas have disjunct distributions in tropical Africa; the apes are found only in moist forests and adjacent wood lands whereas the hominids lived in the savanna lands within and to the east of the rift system." (Roberts, N., "Human evolution in a geological context," in Jones, J.S., Martin, R. & Pilbeam, D., eds., "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution," Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 1992, p.178)!]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
`Evolution Quotes Book'

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