Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution
I love books like this. Pure wonder about the living world. The beauty. The mystery. Shattering the myths of Darwinism while still clinging desperately to them.
We learn that Darwinism has retarded evolutionary thought for at least a century because the picture that Darwin gave us (which his disciples followed for over a hundred years) was false. Evolution can be tested. It can be observed within human lifetimes. It doesn’t require the infinitesimal insensible aggregations over millenia previously thought. Evolution can be really really fast. Which ought to be good news for young earth creationists.
We also learn that the oft-heard claim that degree of similarity implies degree of relatedness is false. That some species A looks very much like some species B doesn’t at all mean that they are more closely related than some other species which is visibly different.
Another nail in the coffin.
I come from the Michael Behe school if ID. I accept common descent, by which I mean universal common ancestry. It seems to be the consensus view in science, it seems reasonable to me, and I don’t have any compelling reasons to doubt it.
But could I actually defend my belief in common ancestry if asked? All living organisms share certain features in common. Organisms leave offspring. Therefore, universal common ancestry. That sounds pretty weak, I admit. I need to do better.
I don’t believe that new organisms appear out of thin air, so to speak. I accept that the organisms of today are the offspring of prior organisms. Even young earth creationists accept common descent prior to the flood and common decent after the flood, though they resist the idea of universal common ancestry. I still haven’t figured out how and where they draw the lines though, so why should I draw a line that I cannot defend. Therefore common ancestry. That still sounds pretty weak, I admit. I still need to do better.
First post here at TSZ: Where does information come from? July 27, 2011.
In that light this post is about a month late. But please express your thanks to Elizabeth for hosting this blog.
There’s been some debate here at TSZ recently about probability and the interpretation of probability.
I took some flak (my personal subjective opinion) for attempting to distinguish between calculating probabilities and estimating probabilities.
Yet in recent reading I came across this bit of text:
How do you determine the probability that a given event will occur? There are two ways: You can calculate it theoretically, or you can estimate it experimentally by performing a large number of trials.
– Probability: For the Enthusiastic Beginning. p. 335
In Why Evolution is True, Jerry Coyne writes that gradualism is one of the six tenets of “the modern theory of evolution” (which he equates with Darwinism – see page 3).
Eugene Koonin writes that the tenet of gradualism is known to be false (The Logic of Chance p. 398).
Yet gradualism is obviously still quite popular here in “The Skeptical Zone.”
Surely gradualism is not a logical requirement or entailment of the theory of evolution. Neither is it supported by the evidence.
I’m all in favor of mocking stupidity, and here’s something definitely worth mocking.
In arguing for evolution, author Alan R. Rogers appeals to the Nilsson and Pelger paper on how simple it is to evolve an eye. He writes:
If eyes evolve, they must do so often and easily. Could it really be so easy?
Dan-Eric Nilsson and Susanne Pelger have answered this question. They constructed an evolutionary story much like the one that I told above.
– The Evidence for Evolution. p. 42.
This is a continuation of an earlier OP. Design by Evolution
When we think of design, it is usually in the context of solving some sort of problem, … To be effective, the design must address a purpose to be achieved. … Thus, effective design requires some feedback mechanism to the designer.
But perhaps we can fit the square peg of purposeless blind watchmaker evolution into the round hole of purposeful intelligent design.
Some people here at TSZ seem to think that no one ever claimed that evolution is a designer. So let’s remind them.
In the previous section I described the argument that many biologists have endorsed for thinking that the hypothesis of evolution by natural selection is more likely than the hypothesis of intelligent design. This argument considers the observation that organisms are often imperfectly adapted to their environments and construes the design hypothesis as predicting that organisms should be perfectly adapted. This version of the design hypothesis presupposes a very definite picture of what God would be like if he existed.
Actually, in the previous section Sober was primarily concerned with creationism. This is made rather obvious by the chapter title. It’s as if he was writing about Creationism and then Intelligent Design burst on the scene and he had to change things up to make it appear as if the two are the same. But what’s a philosopher of biology to do?
There’s no end to the claims made for and about evolution and what evolution can allegedly accomplish without intelligent guidance. It seems as if Evolution ought to be treated as a god and capitalized. What would a true skeptic do without Evolution?
Far less common are actual metrics for testing evolutionary claims. For example, requests for how to write an actual test for claims about “the power of cumulative selection” are met with silence or scorn.
J.B.S Haldane once wrote:
A satisfactory theory of natural selection must be quantitative. In order to establish the view that natural selection is capable of accounting for the known facts of evolution we must show not only that it can cause a species to change, but that it can cause it to change at a rate which will account for present and past transmutations.
Was Haldane wrong? Did he expect too much from the theory?
The edifice of the Modern Synthesis has crumbled, apparently, beyond repair.
– Eugene Koonin (2009)
Does this make Eugene Koonin an evolution skeptic?
The summary of the state of affairs on the 150th anniversary of the Origin is somewhat shocking: in the post-genomic era, all major tenets of the Modern Synthesis are, if not outright overturned, replaced by a new and incomparably more complex vision of the key aspects of evolution. So, not to mince words, the Modern Synthesis is gone.
I’m still struggling to incorporate Alan Fox’s allegation that I am an evolution skeptic. I still don’t really know what it means to be an evolution skeptic. Eugene Koonin rather obviously rejects the view of evolution held by Alan Fox. Is Eugene Koonin an evolution skeptic?
Or is this just another example of Creationist quote mining. Maybe it’s both.
What say you, “skeptics”?
The Origin at 150: is a new evolutionary synthesis in sight?
…given its implicit Aristotelianism, the computationalist approach provides Thomists and other Aristotelians and Scholastics with conceptual and terminological resources by which contemporary naturalists might be made to understand and see the power of Thomistic, Scholastic, and Aristotelian arguments in natural theology. It might help them to explain both how the conception of nature on which traditional Scholastic natural theology was built is no pre-modern relic but is still defensible today, and how radically it differs from the conception of Paley and “Intelligent Design” theorists, whose arguments naturalists understandably regard as weak.
…what Searle and the Aristotelian can agree on is that the computationalist conception of nature is far more metaphysically loaded than most of its defenders realize.
From Aristotle to John Searle and Back Again: Formal Causes, Teleology, and Computation in Nature
Information is the new Aristotelianism (and Dawkins is a hylomorphist)
In this provocative history of contemporary debates over evolution, veteran journalist Tom Bethell depicts Darwin’s theory as a nineteenth-century idea past its prime, propped up by logical fallacies, bogus claims, and empirical evidence that is all but disintegrating under an onslaught of new scientific discoveries. Bethell presents a concise yet wide-ranging tour of the flash points of modern evolutionary theory, investigating controversies over common descent, natural selection, the fossil record, biogeography, information theory, evolutionary psychology, artificial intelligence, and the growing intelligent design movement. Bethell’s account is enriched by his own personal encounters with of some our era’s leading scientists and thinkers, including Harvard biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin; British paleontologist Colin Patterson; and renowned philosopher of science Karl Popper.
Darwin’s House of Cards: A Journalist’s Odyssey Through the Darwin Debates
Of course, no real skeptic will want to read this book.
In the 1970s, when scientists compared the sequences of DNA in genes with the sequences of RNA encoded by those genes, they made a puzzling discovery: the DNA of most genes in animals, plants, and other eukaryotes contains too much information. The extra segments of largely useless information were named introns, and they must be cut out of RNA before the protein is made. Exons are the portions of the gene that remain in the RNA after the introns have been removed.
Salvador seems to have successfully hijacked the early embryonic mutations thread and turned it into a discussion of junk DNA. So I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject of junk DNA. Why care?
Various strains of creationism hold that the earth and life started out perfect, then came the fall, and it all went downhill from there. Both young earth and old earth forms can easily accommodate the presence of junk in DNA. So the presence of junk DNA does not mitigate against the creationist position. But what of it’s absence?
In a recent thread here at TSZ the question was raised as to whether naturalism is comfortable with highly typical events. My answer to that question was quite so. Exhibit: the appendix.
Although it is widely viewed as a vestigial organ with little known function, recent research suggests that the appendix may serve an important purpose. In particular, it may serve as a reservoir for beneficial gut bacteria. Several other mammal species also have an appendix, and studying how it evolved and functions in these species may shed light on this mysterious organ in humans.
But wait. There’s more…
There have been a number of interesting comments lately here at TSZ that referred to viruses.
Are viruses pre-biotic entities, and did they contribute to the origin of life?
Are viruses alive?
Do viruses evolve?
Are viruses an example of what evolution is capable of?
Did viruses contribute to the evolution of life?
Should be fodder for some discussion.
b. July 15, 1928
d. December 30, 2012
“Thus, we regard as rather regrettable the conventional concatenation of Darwin’s name with evolution, because there are other modalities that must be entertained and which we regard as mandatory during the course of evolutionary time.”
“I have concerns about scientists thinking that they’re God when it comes to biology.”
“A future biology cannot be built within the conceptual superstructures of the past. The old superstructure has to be replaced by a new one before the holistic problems of biology can emerge as biology’s new mainstream.”
“I do not like people saying that atheism is based on science, because it’s not. It’s an alien invasion of science.”
Topics I am considering for 2017 along with recommended reading.
Note there is nothing in the category of Christian apologetics or how atheism is irrational, but that could change. 🙂
In a recent post here at TSZ, participant Alan Fox made some comments and asked some questions which might make for interesting discussion, but first I need to challenge some of his assumptions.
First, his claim that I find evolutionary theory unbelievable.
Second, his claim that I find a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life theory unbelievable.
Third, his his claim that I mock attempts at scientific hypotheses.
Fourth, I thought being skeptical is a good thing.
It amazes me how often I hear that Jesus never existed or that scripture is just fiction.
So here are a few rather recently published books for the skeptic who claims to have never seen any evidence that scripture is not fiction or that Jesus ever existed.
Why Are There Differences in the Gospels
Biographies and Jesus
The Historical Reliability of the New Testament