Testing Evolution – Cost

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?

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Eugene Koonin – Evolution Skeptic?

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?

Were You a Quembryo?

…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

See also:

Information is the new Aristotelianism (and Dawkins is a hylomorphist)

Darwin’s House of Cards

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.

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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.

  • Relics of Eden

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Junk DNA munged

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?

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Miracle of Evolution – The Appendix

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…

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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.

Carl Woese – Evolution Skeptic

Carl Woese

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.”

  • Carl Woese

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Evolution Skeptics!

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.

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A Christmas Story

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

Merry Christmas

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Dice Entropy – A Programming Challenge

Given the importance of information theory to some intelligent design arguments I thought it might be nice to have a toolkit of some basic functions related to the sorts of calculations associated with information theory, regardless of which side of the debate one is on.

What would those functions consist of?

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Cumulative Selection Explained!

The battle over cumulative selection and Dawkins’ Weasel program has raged on for some months [years?] here at TSZ and across numerous threads. So can it possibly be that we now, finally, have a definitive statement about cumulative selection?

Mung: And whether or not my program demonstrates the power of cumulative selection has not been settled…

To which keiths responded:

keiths: Anyone who understands cumulative selection can see that it doesn’t, because your fitness functions don’t reward proximity to the target — only an exact match. The fitness landscapes are flat except for a spike at the site of the target.

So there you have it. You need a target and a fitness function that rewards proximity to the target.

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A One Line GA

Please post your software implementation of a GA that can be expressed in a single line of executable code.

Here’s mine:


A minimalist GA – Inspired by Allan Miller at TSZ

pop = Array.new(10) {“I AM APE-ISCH”}.map! {|ape| ape.dup}

The original population is copied and eliminated.

Some Questions on Genetic Algorithms


I was very struck by Glenn Williamson’s [vjt meant GlenDavidson] remark that creativity is not the same thing as complexity. Very deep. Glenn seems to think that people are good at the former, but the blind processes can outdo them in the latter. That’s an interesting view, but I’d want to see evidence that blind processes are actually capable of producing systems with a high degree of functional complexity, of the kind Axe described in his book. Even a computer simulation would be something.

What with all the experts in writing GA’s here at TSZ I was hoping VJT would have elicited more of a response.

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