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Offline velkyn

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evolution, faith and steampunk
« on: March 23, 2011, 01:38:34 PM »
I'm currently reading "The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man" by Mark Hodder. It's steampunk, aka altered Victorian era by extreme science (in this case Eugencists with crazy biological contrivances and the Technologists with mechcanical ones).  This one is an alternate universe and uses Sir Richard Burton as the main character, amongst other recognizable names, including Herbert Spencer, a philosopher from the era. I'm not sure how close this is to the real Spencer, but I found this excerpt very interesting.  Thought some of you might like this and could happily agree with it or just as happily tear it apart :laugh: 

Quote
"Existence, then, is, I posit, a continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations. Which brings us to the crux of the matter, for if our existence depended not upon such adjustments but rather upon quantifiable attributes such as strength, health, and endurance-and if reality were known in its entirety and measured, mapped, and gauged-then it would be easy to determine one individual's chances of survival against another's. The Eugenicists propose the improvement of the human race on just such a basis. They are in error. What they overlook is that, because one person's reality isn't necessarily the same as another's, so the traits required to best prosper differ from person to person."

Swinburne bounced in his chair excitedly. "I see! I see! A man who perceives a barrier needs the dexterity to climb over it, while the man who sees a foundation would benefit from the talent to design and erect a structure upon it."

The philosopher nodded without reopening his eyes."Just so. These differing notions of life and how to best deal with it have caused the human race to tend toward greater heterogeneity. Individuals are becoming more specialised and differentiated as they each adapt to their own perception. To compensate for this diversification, we, as a species, have developed the ability to integrate almost everyone by creating an interdependent society.If we allow the Eugenicists to alter the race according to their infinitesimally narrow criteria, I think it almost certain that this interdependence will collapse and extinction will follow."

With eyes fixed on the vagrant philosopher, Burton moved to his saddleback armchair and sat down. "While I find myself in agreement with your notion of interdependent diversity," he said, thoughtfully, "do you not think that it is overwhelmed by a rather more dominant division? I speak of that which we've seen demonstrated today-to wit, the segregation of society into the working and the educated classes."

"Ah, Captain Burton, you have hit the nail on the head. The Eugenicists may be wrong in their approach, but they are correct in their assessment that our society, in its present divided form, must either change or die. It is what prompted me to bring Darwin's theory into the picture."

"How so, Herbert?"

“You see, when the mechanism of natural selection is transposed from the biological to the social arena, we can immediately see that our interdependence has become so extreme that evolution cannot possibly occur. Individuals have become too specialised. Consider our prehistoric ancestor. He knew how to create a fire, make a weapon, hunt an animal, fashion clothes and a shelter from its skin, cook it and eat the flesh, carve tools from its bones, and so much more. What man of the nineteenth century can do all those things? None! Instead we have engineers and weapon-smiths and tailors and cooks and craftsmen and builders--each excellent in his own field, each entirely helpless in the others!"

Spencer opened his eyes again and turned them toward Admiral Lord Nelson, who was standing in his usual position by the bureau. "The idea that the Empire is progressive is an insidious myth. A myth!
Look at that brass man! It is our tools that are evolving, not us! If anything, we are going in the opposite direction. While an increasingly exclusive elite are gathering information about ways in which the world might function, the ever-expanding majority are becoming ever more proficient in a single field of endeavour while comprehending less and less about anything else."
Swinburne paraphrased something Burton had said on the evening of the Brundleweed robbery: "The acquisition of knowledge has become too intimidating a prospect for them, so they shun it in favour of faith."

"Sadly so," said Spencer. "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation; contempt carved from the immovable rock of faith.  Thus it is gentlemen, that the masses are not only kept from the knowledge tha would aid their ability to adapt and evolve, but they also actively reject it. Minds have been trammelled by ingrained social conditions. Working-class parents instill in their children the concept that reality offers nothing but hardship, that poverty always beckons and that small rewards can be achieved only through strife and labour. Why should they teach differently when, under those same conditions, they themselves have survived? The child takes this as the unquestionable truth of the world. Opportunities are not recognized. The desire for change remainds within the realm of dreams. Adaptability is devalued. Evolution is halted."

And the book, and its predecessor "The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack" are both well worth the read.

EDIT: Added a bit to the end of the quote
« Last Edit: March 23, 2011, 01:43:02 PM by velkyn »
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2011, 02:05:01 PM »
The comments made by the book's 'Herbert Spencer' seem credible http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survival_of_the_fittest

Anyone who has been in a third World country cannot help but agree with his argument,
Quote
“You see, when the mechanism of natural selection is transposed from the biological to the social arena, we can immediately see that our interdependence has become so extreme that evolution cannot possibly occur. Individuals have become too specialised. Consider our prehistoric ancestor. He knew how to create a fire, make a weapon, hunt an animal, fashion clothes and a shelter from its skin, cook it and eat the flesh, carve tools from its bones, and so much more. What man of the nineteenth century can do all those things? None! Instead we have engineers and weapon-smiths and tailors and cooks and craftsmen and builders--each excellent in his own field, each entirely helpless in the others!"

if it is adjusted to read, "Individuals in the prosperous West have become too specialised. Consider our prehistoric ancestor and the citizen of the in the Third World. They knew/know how to create a fire, make a weapon, hunt an animal, fashion clothes and a shelter from its skin, cook it and eat the flesh, carve tools from its bones, and so much more."

Having lived and travelled in rural Bangladesh, I can say that these are the people who will survive.
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Offline nogodsforme

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2011, 02:55:08 PM »
I agree-- people in poor countries are way more accomplished than most of us in the US. I learned so much from illiterate peasants about how to survive: how to grow food and prepare it, build a shelter that will survive rain, kill a chicken and cook it, open a can with a machete, etc.

The things I could teach them were pretty easy to learn, and the technology that we have can be mastered by them with no trouble. But basic survival is not easy and if you don't have that, all the computers and cars in the world are useless.

We just scattered my father-in-law's ashes last week. He was of the generation that knew how to do things. He grew up on a farm, built his family's house, could keep a car running, could do plumbing and electrical work, could hunt and fish, understood nature, loved science, mastered the computer.

I read everything by Robert Heinlein in high school and believed most of it. Now I think a lot of his writing is nice-sounding utopian elitist objectivist bullcrap. Except this:
 
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

I took this to heart as a teenager and have tried to live by that ever since. Be useful. Learn everything. 8)
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Offline xphobe

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2011, 09:54:36 PM »
He was of the generation that knew how to do things. He grew up on a farm, built his family's house, could keep a car running, could do plumbing and electrical work, could hunt and fish, understood nature, loved science, mastered the computer.

As an avid SF fan, I've read stories set in a society where the people didn't know how to do anything - they were basically helpless children, cared for by robot nannies.  Inevitably something would go wrong, and the protagonist would be the lone person from outside the society who could fix stuff.

I would think "Pppbbbb. That's pretty far fetched!  A society couldn't survive for long if its people didn't know how to do anything."  Now I'm not so sure.  Each generation seems to be learning more and more facts in school, yet is able to do less and less. 

I think Douglas Adams was right: we are the descendants of Golgafrinchan Ark B.
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Offline velkyn

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2011, 08:06:53 AM »
nooooo, I cant be descended from telephone sanitizers.... ;D

though it would be better than being descended from the idiots on the BSG show... ;)
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Offline Hatter23

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2011, 08:47:10 AM »
He was of the generation that knew how to do things. He grew up on a farm, built his family's house, could keep a car running, could do plumbing and electrical work, could hunt and fish, understood nature, loved science, mastered the computer.

As an avid SF fan, I've read stories set in a society where the people didn't know how to do anything - they were basically helpless children, cared for by robot nannies.  Inevitably something would go wrong, and the protagonist would be the lone person from outside the society who could fix stuff.

I would think "Pppbbbb. That's pretty far fetched!  A society couldn't survive for long if its people didn't know how to do anything."  Now I'm not so sure.  Each generation seems to be learning more and more facts in school, yet is able to do less and less. 

I think Douglas Adams was right: we are the descendants of Golgafrinchan Ark B.

I don't ascribe to the "next generation being idiots" theory. I was born in 1969, I have no idea how to milk a cow, or build a radio, or properly plant wheat; but I can can spot an accounting error, or photoshop out a flaw from a picture, or tell the difference between real turquiose and  technologicaly advanced fake stuff. The generation before me probably couldn't shoe a horse, make an outhouse, or forge a nail. And even the generation before them, how many do you think could kill a deer with a bow and arrow?

The skill set needed for any give time just shifts. It isn't skills that are faltering, nor intelligence...it is motivation. The self esteem movement has allowed people to think they are accomplished without them having to try, then they are dumped into a world where the median income, accounting for inflation, keeps going down, seemingly regardless of effort.

An Omnipowerful God needed to sacrifice himself to himself (but only for a long weekend) in order to avert his own wrath against his own creations who he made in a manner knowing that they weren't going to live up to his standards.

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Offline xphobe

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2011, 09:43:44 AM »
though it would be better than being descended from the idiots on the BSG show... ;)

We may have to start another thread to discuss your appropriate punishment for such heresy against one of my all-time favorite sreies! :)

(of course, I realize I am prejudiced: I find Grace Park incredibly hawt.  The idea of her being the mother of humanity appeals to my Oedipus complex.)
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Offline velkyn

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2011, 11:28:28 AM »
ROFL! :laugh:  +1 for erudite silliness
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Offline Omen

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2012, 11:29:27 AM »
I would love to hear more suggestions for steampunk mashups.
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Offline Hatter23

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2012, 11:38:49 AM »
I would love to hear more suggestions for steampunk mashups.

Personally I'd love to see a big budget remake of "Metropolis" with a steampunk aesthetic, done with an intelligent screenplay writer.

An certainly a "Heroes by Gaslight" superhero TV series would be interesting.
An Omnipowerful God needed to sacrifice himself to himself (but only for a long weekend) in order to avert his own wrath against his own creations who he made in a manner knowing that they weren't going to live up to his standards.

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Offline Samothec

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2012, 03:17:31 AM »
Does anyone recall the show "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr."?

And would it qualify as Western Steampunk?
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Offline Hatter23

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2012, 08:47:52 AM »
Does anyone recall the show "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr."?

And would it qualify as Western Steampunk?

Yes...kiddie Steampunk...but the idea is there none the less.
An Omnipowerful God needed to sacrifice himself to himself (but only for a long weekend) in order to avert his own wrath against his own creations who he made in a manner knowing that they weren't going to live up to his standards.

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Offline Sonshein

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2012, 01:08:24 PM »

Quote
"Existence, then, is, I posit, a continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations.

I understand this quote refers to humans, but I want to jump down the ladder to fish, if I may - I think the relationship needs to stand across the evolutionary scale.

In order to "respond" to external relations, an entity needs to be able to recognize a change in those external relations/environment.

So - you have a very large lake or sea - a 1000 miles across and 1000' deep filled with perhaps 1000's of different types of fishes in the qty of billions.

This body of water begins to recede and will dry up in 500 million years (do changes like this really occur that slowly?). So, on the avg. the water level drops by let's say 1/32" (I'm not going to spend the time to actually calculate out all of this, but I think the point will be made). No the water is dropping by 1/32" each year on the average, but some years it will rain a lot and of course it may 1/8" higher than the previous year.

What change does any generation of fish experience - lets say over the course of 10 - 100 years that it needs to respond to? My guess is virtually none - and therefore no response.

Now - lets jump ahead 100,000 years. The water level has decreased a more significant amount and the body of water of course has reduced in diameter - less living space for the fish - how do they evolve to deal with these changing conditions - if at all since for each generation there still is no discernible difference? If they are like the fish of today (perhaps?) - they move deeper.

Now the fish that used to live in shallower waters move deeper, but they are at an extreme disadvantage because now they have to compete with the fish that have adapted themselves to be very good at living in deeper water. So I think this means the shallow water fish get eaten and eventually become extinct.

It seems to me this would repeat itself over and over again until there is no more room to go deeper - then the remaining fish need to learn to live in shallow water again - but how much time is left? Enough to grow legs? Probably not.

The other issue I have with this is: How does a fish, or a single cell bacteria respond to an external change? Do they become more complex? It seems moving to a higher level of complexity over millions & millions of years requires an "external" knowledge of what will be a better design down the road. Remember - then change in environment within any number of generations has to be so very small that any organism would barely be affected by it.

So - what am missing? It seems evolution from a lower level form of life to a higher level defies logic without some law of physics that we don't currently understand. I believe we know that the natural world moves towards entropy (lowest level of order) naturally. What force moves us towards a higher level of order - and it has to have a greater impact than entropy, otherwise we'd be in stasis.

Having said all of this - I'm pretty sure we have moved from the lowest level of complex life (single cell) to a fairly complex level (mammals).









Offline velkyn

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2012, 01:17:30 PM »
you guys have seen this person's stuff, right? http://sillof.com/


Brisco County is very much steamy.  I guess I'm much more into what probabaly should be termed "steampulp" or gaslight fantasy, without the drear, grime, and social nastiness of what I consider "punk".  I'm also probably even more fond of dieslepunk (after steam, before 1955 or so) for the simple fact that one can have such great villians as Nazis in one's fiction.

other things I find steam or diesel:

Jack of All Trades (another with Bruce Campbell)
Wild Wild West (the series and the movie)
Pax Britania Series (http://www.abaddonbooks.com/series/pax_britannia/, a rather odd mix of Victorian, WWII, tech and magic. Very much in the pulp style)
Atlantis movie by Disney
The new Sherlock Holmes stuff
LXG
http://www.ironsky.net/ this looks like a hoot

lots of stuff.....

Watched this gawdawful Sherlock holmes movie by Asylum Films this weekend that tried to cash in on the RDJr Sherlock film and also steampunk.  Mechanical dinosaurs and all.

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Offline velkyn

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2012, 01:19:58 PM »

In order to "respond" to external relations, an entity needs to be able to recognize a change in those external relations/environment.
Immediate fail.  You don’t know much at all about evolutionary theory do you?   I'd suggest that you actually familiarize yourself with what you try to attack.  A good site:

http://www.talkorigins.org/


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Offline Sonshein

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2012, 01:26:08 PM »

In order to "respond" to external relations, an entity needs to be able to recognize a change in those external relations/environment.
Immediate fail.  You don’t know much at all about evolutionary theory do you?   I'd suggest that you actually familiarize yourself with what you try to attack.  A good site:

http://www.talkorigins.org/
Well, I'm not really trying to attach it, I'm attempting to understand. And no - I don't know much about evolutionary theory. I will check out the website. And while I'm very interested - I've tried wikipedia and simply don't have the inclination to memorize all the terms - call me a throwback.

I will say - I thought I was responding to a line out of the book that was quoted for this forum. Which I felt might have been more of the intent of the forum than the discussion on movies and books.

I will say this is one of the things that makes getting on a forum such as this and attempting to discuss something - someone always wants to call you ignorant - a label I will accept, but it doesn't feel that good. Thanks,

Offline screwtape

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2012, 01:39:28 PM »
Each generation seems to be learning more and more facts in school, yet is able to do less and less. 

I don't think that is the case.  I think the environment in which we function is changing, so the required skill sets are different.  We are no longer an agrarian society.  Most of our food is processed for us.  What we were taught as kids is not so relevant anymore.  They are droping cursive writing from the cirriculum in many places because most kids type.  What's the point?  People aren't even going to have to have a signature in the not too distant future.

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Offline monkeymind

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2012, 01:55:38 PM »
Sonshei:
You say that you want to learn, but posted in Testimonials section. I created a thread in the appropriate area entitled Bacteria and Verticle  (misspelled)Ascent.

Now you are here in Chatter with a different question.

It starts with the most basic understanding of evolution. I invite you to come learn with me as we try to answer your questions.

Truthfinder:the birds adapt and change through million of years in order to survive ,is that science, then cats should evolve also wings to better catch the birds
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Offline Sonshein

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2012, 02:39:20 PM »
Sonshei:
You say that you want to learn, but posted in Testimonials section. I created a thread in the appropriate area entitled Bacteria and Verticle  (misspelled)Ascent.

Now you are here in Chatter with a different question.

It starts with the most basic understanding of evolution. I invite you to come learn with me as we try to answer your questions.
I will switch - and thank you - there are so many forums I missed it.

Offline Samothec

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2012, 01:19:38 AM »

In order to "respond" to external relations, an entity needs to be able to recognize a change in those external relations/environment.
Immediate fail.  You don’t know much at all about evolutionary theory do you?   I'd suggest that you actually familiarize yourself with what you try to attack.  A good site:

http://www.talkorigins.org/
Well, I'm not really trying to attach it, I'm attempting to understand. And no - I don't know much about evolutionary theory. I will check out the website. And while I'm very interested - I've tried wikipedia and simply don't have the inclination to memorize all the terms - call me a throwback.

I will say - I thought I was responding to a line out of the book that was quoted for this forum. Which I felt might have been more of the intent of the forum than the discussion on movies and books.

I will say this is one of the things that makes getting on a forum such as this and attempting to discuss something - someone always wants to call you ignorant - a label I will accept, but it doesn't feel that good. Thanks,

She did not call you ignorant - she indicated you were lacking in knowledge regarding a subject you were talking about then she gave you a link where you could educate yourself.

The subject of evolution is a large and complex one. I thought I understood it - I believed in it but I had doubts because of certain things. Then I started reading Dawkins books on evolution and I realized several things: I had previously not actually understood evolution; people (like myself previously) who use the word 'believe' when talking about evolution have no clue what they are talking about since it is a body of knowledge you learn and accept; and if you have doubts, again you don't know enough and don't understand it.
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Offline velkyn

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #20 on: January 04, 2012, 09:39:35 AM »
Well, I'm not really trying to attach it, I'm attempting to understand. And no - I don't know much about evolutionary theory. I will check out the website. And while I'm very interested - I've tried wikipedia and simply don't have the inclination to memorize all the terms - call me a throwback.

I will say - I thought I was responding to a line out of the book that was quoted for this forum. Which I felt might have been more of the intent of the forum than the discussion on movies and books.

I will say this is one of the things that makes getting on a forum such as this and attempting to discuss something - someone always wants to call you ignorant - a label I will accept, but it doesn't feel that good. Thanks,

being shown to be ignorant isn't a bad thing.  I'm ignorant as hell about diesel engines and crocheting.  It means that you can get better.  But you need to know you are wrong first. 

When someone says that they don't have the time to actually learn, that makes me wonder just how much you do want to know something beyond what you think you know.  You made a very erroneous statement about how evolution works and then tried to make an argument for some magical "force".  It's a common creationist argument and one that always fails.  Best you know that now rather than continuing.
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Offline Samothec

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Re: evolution, faith and steampunk
« Reply #21 on: January 09, 2012, 04:11:51 PM »
Snipped for focus
This body of water begins to recede and will dry up in 500 million years.
So, on the avg. the water level drops by let's say 1/32" ...
What change does any generation of fish experience - lets say over the course of 10 - 100 years that it needs to respond to? My guess is virtually none - and therefore no response.

Now - lets jump ahead 100,000 years. The water level has decreased a more significant amount and the body of water of course has reduced in diameter - less living space for the fish - how do they evolve to deal with these changing conditions - if at all since for each generation there still is no discernible difference? If they are like the fish of today (perhaps?) - they move deeper.

There are several obvious (and some not-so-obvious) problems here. You look at a very, very short period of time (10-100 yrs) then jump to a moderate length of time. Yes, I know you are human and don't use those viewpoints – that's one of the not-so-obvious problems, not adjusting or even realizing the need for adjusting your viewpoint to be able to understand the issue.

You also didn't do the math or consider the geometry of the lake. While the height of the water might have only dropped 3.125" in 100 yrs that doesn't mean the coastline receded by only 3" or so. The angle of a beach is shallow enough that 3" in height could be 12" recession. Depending upon where the first drop-off is (from beach to shallow water), in only 600 to 1000 years you could have a major issue for fish[1] that evolved to need a beach (like for laying eggs or mating). Yes, erosion might solve that problem in some areas but that won't be true for the entire shoreline of the lake. So those fish[1] are now stuck trying to mate or lay eggs on what is dry land except at high tide. Which will kill off a huge number of them. Those that have a genetic mutation that allows them to tolerate being out of the water a bit better will be the beach-users to survive (for now).

This points out another problem with jumping to 100,000 yrs without considering what is in between – you've missed a first weeding out at only 1000 years.

You have (however unintentionally) glossed over a huge number of factors – rendering your evaluation of your thought experiment very inaccurate.

So - what am missing? It seems evolution from a lower level form of life to a higher level defies logic without some law of physics that we don't currently understand. I believe we know that the natural world moves towards entropy (lowest level of order) naturally. What force moves us towards a higher level of order - and it has to have a greater impact than entropy, otherwise we'd be in stasis.

Having said all of this - I'm pretty sure we have moved from the lowest level of complex life (single cell) to a fairly complex level (mammals).

Inanimate closed systems (those receiving no energy from the outside) move towards entropy. The Earth as a whole is not a closed system – we get energy from the sun. Living things do not suffer entropy like inanimate things do – in fact they are the major anti-entropic force.

Evolution is all too often talked about as if it is simple but it is not. It can be described simply but you need to have a large body of knowledge to truly understand it. That is where most theists (and even non-theists) fail: they don't get that fact. They equate a simple description (natural selection) as something simple and even simplistic. Nope, not true.

How often do you look around at the world and say, "Gee, I'm not seeing any gluons. How does the nucleus of an atom really hold together? I don't think scientists are right about gluons or protons or neutrons." Only an idiot says that. Similarly, saying you don't see evolution in action doesn't mean anything – since it is not something you will 'see' in action. The scientific principles upon which it is based work in laboratories which means it is real. Can the overall theory be further refined? Probably – with more knowledge (assuming we can get the theists to stop trying to destroy science).
 1. and other lake denizens
Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding. - Martin Luther