Natural Selection and Adaptation

Cornelius Hunter seems very confused.

 …This brings us back to the UC Berkeley “Understanding Evolution” website. It abuses science in its utterly unfounded claim that “natural selection can produce amazing adaptations.”

In fact natural selection, even at its best, does not “produce” anything. Natural selection does not and cannot influence the construction of any adaptations, amazing or not. If a mutation occurs which improves differential reproduction, then it propagates into future generations. Natural selection is simply the name given to that process. It selects for survival that which already exists. Natural selection has no role in the mutation event. It does not induce mutations, helpful or otherwise, to occur. According to evolutionary theory every single mutation, leading to every single species, is a random event with respect to need.

He has forgotten what “adaptation” means.  Of course he is correct that “Natural selection is simply the name given to [differential reproduction]”.  And that (as far as we know), “every single mutation …is a random event with respect to need”.

And “adaptation” is the name we give to variants that are preferentially reproduced. So while he would be correct to say that “natural selection” is NOT the name we give to “mutation” (duh); it IS the name we give to the very process that SELECTS those mutations that promote reproduction.  i.e. the process that produces adaptation.

Cornelius should spend more time at the Understanding Evolution website.

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Repetitive DNA and ENCODE

[Here is something I just sent Casey Luskin and friends regarding the ENCODE 2015 conference. Some editorial changes to protect the guilty…]

One thing the ENCODE consortium drove home is that DNA acts like a Dynamic Random Access memory for methylation marks. That is to say, even though the DNA sequence isn’t changed, like computer RAM which isn’t physically removed, it’s electronic state can be modified. The repetitive DNA acts like physical hardware so even if the repetitive sequences aren’t changed, they can still act as memory storage devices for regulatory information. ENCODE collects huge amounts of data on methylation marks during various stages of the cell. This is like trying to take a few snapshots of a computer memory to figure out how Windows 8 works. The complexity of the task is beyond description.
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The Sugar Code and other -omics

[Thank you to Elizabeth Liddle, the admins and the mods for hosting this discussion.]

I’ve long suspected the 3.1 to 3.5 gigabases of human DNA (which equates to roughly 750 to 875 megabytes) is woefully insufficient to create something as complex as a human being. The problem is there is only limited transgenerational epigenetic inheritance so it’s hard to assert large amounts of information are stored outside the DNA.

Further, the question arises how is this non-DNA information stored since it’s not easy to localize, in fact, if there is a large amount of information outside the DNA, it is in a form that is NOT localizable, but distributed and so deeply redundant that it provides the ability to self-heal and self-correct for injury and error. If so, in a sense, damage and changes to this information bearing system is not very heritable since bad variation in the non-DNA information source can get repaired and reset, otherwise the organism just dies. In that sense the organism is fundamentally immutable as a form, suggestive of a created kind rather than something that can evolve in the macro-evolutionary sense.
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ID and AGW

Can someone familiar with the thinking at Uncommon Descent explain why there is such opposition to the idea of Anthropogenic Global Warming?  There’s this today, following several long commentaries by VJ Torley on the pope’s encyclical, mostly negative. I don’t get the connection. Is it general distrust of science? Or of the “Academy”?  Or is there something about the idea that we may be provoking a major extinction event that is antithetical to ID?  Or is it, possibly, that the evidence for major extinction events in the past is explains the various “explosions” that are adduced as evidence, if not for ID, then against “Darwinism”?

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The Intelligent Design Catch-22

Herman Reith says that the trouble with the design argument is that “the examples used and the interpretation given them prevents the argument from rising to the metaphysical level…above the order of the physical universe,” so that “it cannot conclude to anything more than the existence of some kind of intelligence and power” within that universe. … Christopher F.J. Martin … avers that “the Being whose existence is revealed to us by the argument from design is not God but the Great Architect of the Deists and Freemasons, an imposter disguised as God.”

…arguments like Paley’s … cannot in principle get us outside the natural order to a divine intellect of pure actuality but at most to an anthropomorphic demiurge.

– Edward Feser. On Aristotle, Aquinas, and Paley: A Reply to Marie George

I may be a bit different from the typical IDist in that I am a huge fan of Edward Feser. His criticism here of ID is that it cannot get you to God.

What’s more, the modern design argument cannot get you to God even in principle.:

But the problem is not just that Paley’s designer may be something other than God as classicasl theism understand Him. There is reason to think that Paley’s designer could not be God as classical theism understands Him.

…Paley’s procedure is to model his designer on human designers. By implication, his designer exercises the same faculty human designers do–he works out design problems, performs calculations, and so forth–but does so with massively greater facility. He is an essentially anthropomorphic designer. And as such it is hard to see how he could be as classical theism says God is — absolutley simple, immutable, eternal, and so forth.

– Edward Feser, Natural Theology Must Be Founded in Philosophy

So on the one hand we have some critics of ID claiming the problem with ID is that it’s not about God and on the other hand we have critics of ID claiming the problem with ID is that it is about God. Must be nice to be an ID critic!

For those of you who think that ID really is “about God” why not adopt the approach of Edward Feser?


n a piece posted on the Discovery Institute website, responding to bad publicity surrounding the Wedge Document , the author or authors write:

Far from attacking science (as has been claimed), we are instead challenging scientific materialism –  the simplistic philosophy or world-view that claims that all of reality can be reduced to, or derived from, matter and energy alone. We believe that this is a defense of sound science.

So there we have a one definition of “scientific” materialism: “the world-view that claims that all of reality can be reduced to, or derived from, matter and energy alone”.

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Uncommon Descent is starving

If Uncommon Descent (UD) is not suffering from our departure, then why has the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture stooped to lame promotion of the site? I’m referring to an ID the Future podcast, “Eric Anderson: Probability & Design.” It begins with Casey Luskin singing the praises of UD.

[Eric Anderson…] for the past year has been a contributing author about intelligent design at the great intelligent design blog, Uncommon­ So, quick plug for Uncommon Descent. If you’re an “ID the Future” listener and you’ve never checked it out, go to Uncommon­ And it’s a great ID blog, kind of like It has many participants, and many contributors, of which Eric is one of the main authors there.

And it ends with Casey Luskin steering listeners to UD.

And I would encourage our listeners to go check out the blog Uncommon Descent. That’s Uncommon, and the last word is spelled D-E-S-C-E-N-T, dot com. So “descent” like you’re going down into something. So Uncommon­

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YEC part 1

[Alan Fox asked why I’m a YEC (Young Earth Creationist), and I promised him a response here at The Skeptical Zone.]

I was an Old Earth Darwinist raised in a Roman Catholic home and secular public schools, but then became an Old Earth Creationist/IDist, a Young Life/Old Earth Creationist/IDist, then a Young Life/Young Earth Creationist/IDist. After becoming a creationist, I remained a creationist even during bouts of agnosticism in the sense that I found accounts of a gradualistic origin and evolution of life scientifically unjustified.
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