Is it possible to ‘falsify’ Darwinism or neo-Darwinism? The ongoing confusion of S. Joshua Swamidass regarding ideology vs. science.

Computational biologist & MD Joshua Swamidass continues to misunderstand ideology. Whether he does so intentionally or not, it reveals a rather important social problem of pseudo-knowledge being presented as knowledge simply because it is being said by a natural scientist. Swamidass has multiple times claimed that “Darwinism was falsified by population genetics back in 1968” (https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/darwinism-falsified-in-science-long-ago/4325). Yet he still doesn’t seem to understand that one cannot actually ‘falsify’ Darwinism. That is the wrong language (likely based on an outdated view of Karl Popper’s notion of ‘falsifiability’) that is rather harming than helping the conversation.

One can only argue, strongly or weakly, visibly or invisibly, against Darwinism, whether or not one uses an alternative ideology to do so. Likewise, one cannot falsify Marxism. One can, however, argue against it. Indeed, non-Marxists and anti-Marxists do this often and regularly. Yet they haven’t ‘falsified’ or erased Marxism (or neo-Marxism) and likely won’t succeed in significantly reducing it for a long time, evidence that there are still many self-proclaimed Marxists & neo-Marxists in universities today, especially in the social sciences and humanities departments (cf. Jordan Peterson’s ‘corrupted universities’ hypothesis). Similarly, there are many people who still promote ‘Darwinism’ and ‘neo-Darwinism’ and who write ‘confessionally’ about ‘Darwinism’ as a kind of worldview today, regardless of the population genetics work of Kimura and others. Swamidass’ lack of understanding about ideology has led him to pretend that he can scientifically reject ideology, which is both myopic and simply wrong.

Darwinian evolution, i.e. Darwin’s natural scientific theory of evolution, however, and later, the ‘neo-Darwinian synthesis’ or ‘modern evolutionary synthesis’ (MES), could potentially be overcome with an alternative ‘strictly scientific’ theory of change-over-time in natural history. The so-called ‘extended evolutionary synthesis’ (EES) is being claimed as doing just that. Yet what one doesn’t see much in Swamidass’ writing that one finds regularly in the writings of IDists and of EES proponents, is legitimate push-back against specifically Darwinian evolutionary theory. No doubt the IDists would like to see Joshua write more about how he believes Darwinian evolutionary theory is now obsolete or how it has been improved upon such that a *different name* should be used nowadays to identify the current type of evolutionary theory that is most accepted in biological sciences. Yet Joshua’s ideology seems to hold him back from doing this, while he promotes evolutionary science and even sometimes evolutionist ideology in defense of his evangelical anti-YECist worldview.

“Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations. The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the adaptedness and diversity of the world solely materialistically.” – Ernst Mayr

Gary Hurd is correct when he writes: “The generalization of of [sic] Darwin’s core ideas about natural selection, and common ancestry most certainly have not been falsified.” Thus, the term ‘generalized Darwinism’ was made (cf. Levit, Hodgson, Vromen, Knudsen, Thomas, et al.), usually for applications of ‘evolutionary science’ outside of biology. The ideologues are running amok in evolutionary biology as well as in economics! Let’s not even talk about ‘universal Darwinism’ (coined by Dawkins 1976/83?) as if that offers a sustainable or coherent view of reality, when it is merely a cover for ideological materialism, naturalism & usually either atheism, agnosticism or anti-theism.

However, there is no name associated with a post-Darwinian ‘synthesis’ (the late Lynn Margulis perhaps most well-known) that would give the EES ‘name brand’ credibility, which is likely in part why the EES has yet to catch on broadly among biologists.

When Swamidass writes the following, however, it should be treated as nonsense, not as a credible position or worth taking seriously: “Kimura replaced Darwinism in 1968. No need to make up a pseudo history. Neo-Darwinism as understood within science was falsified a long time ago.” People simply shouldn’t listen to Swamidass’ pseudo-philosophy when he wanders so far outside of his fields of competence, as he so often does nowadays on his PS website. Indeed, many IDists clearly understand this much better than Swamidass does, given that they have evidently paid more attention to philosophy of science than Swamidass has from his ’empty chair.’

TSZ’s Mung, however, also confuses the terminology, when he asks: “The question I have is, if Neo-Darwinism has been falsified why is it still the reigning paradigm in biology?” Sorry Mung, but neo-Darwinism always was and still is an ideology, while evolution is the reigning paradigm in biology. Dembski, Behe, Meyer, et al. get this wrong as well, since they treat ‘Darwinism’ as ‘strictly scientific’, and thus paint themselves into a unnecessary corner of incredulity involving evolutionary theories. Once one starts addressing post-Darwinian biology with appropriate terminology, more positive thinking on the topic can take place, which to their credit, IDists have actually tried to do, however, over against their predominantly negative arguments against ‘evolution’ and misnamed ‘Darwinism’.

To set the record straight, Darwinism is an ideology, neo-Darwinism is an ideology and ‘evolutionism’ is an ideology. Evolutionary theory is part of biological sciences. Let me therefore issue yet another warning about this ambitious ‘science vs. religion’ activist in St. Louis who is muddying the communicative waters with his misunderstanding of ideology. Be careful not to let people like Swamidass mangle the English language in order to suit their own neo-creationist, quasi-YECist ideologies as if this is ‘simply good science.’ It is not science. He is in fact just hawking his uninformed opinions as if they count as ‘scientific’ and showing obvious confusion about ideology, including apparently, his own. Will he correct himself or continue to misrepresent the conversation as a ‘fifth voice’ who claims to be bringing revolutionary ‘peace’?

Unfortunately, Swamidass’ scientistically pretentious strategy is simply not going to work. To Mung, he writes: “Yes, defer to the scientists here. That will resolve it.” This kind of ‘Me-Scientist-Man’ arrogant statement reveals just how much work is needed to be done to help natural scientists who are ignorant of ideology finally realise what they’ve been missing that makes all the difference in the conversation.

Let me try to be clear in attempting to be fair to Swamidass that I believe one of the biggest challenges to constructive dialogue with people in the science, philosophy and theology/worldview discourse broadly construed is the general lack of knowledge and understanding about ideology among participants. It is not only Dr. Swamidass who misses the mark, but rather a general condition in North America due to public school teachings that don’t address ideology and thus leave people almost entirely ill-equipped to deal with it, even when most required.

“[I]f we do not resist the idea of Darwinism as a universal principle, biology literally eats itself as it becomes like a racing driver who, to avoid friction, chooses tyres that are so smooth they offer no resistance.” – Connor Cunningham

387 Replies to “Is it possible to ‘falsify’ Darwinism or neo-Darwinism? The ongoing confusion of S. Joshua Swamidass regarding ideology vs. science.”

  1. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: Here is Ann Gauger at PS:

    I mean, great. But something being falsified does not then make something else the default explanation. If you want Intelligent Design or some variant to replace a failed explanation then you actually have to be able to say something about it specifically!

  2. swamidass
    Ignored
    says:

    This is how DI defines darwinism, as explained by Gauger:

    Ann Gauger:

    https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/darwinism-falsified-in-science-long-ago/4325/93?u=swamidass

    People at DI have been pretty consistent about using neo-Darwinism, and it means random mutation and natural selection to them. That’s how Steve Meyer uses it consistently. I have tried to get people to add in genetic drift and recombination with limited success. I think epigenetics would now be included, but outside neo-Darwinism.

    It is just as I said, for them Darwinism = “Positive Selection Dominated Change”, leaving out even concepts like neutral drift and draft. This understanding of Darwinism was falsified in 1968. That makes it valid to claim (using this definition, not another one) in repsonse to Gauger and Behe:

    What I can say is that neo-Darwinism as defined by Behe and the DI was FALSIFIED a long time ago. Based on an overwhelming amount of information it was shown to be an insufficient explanation for evolutionary change. Then it was SUPERCEDED by an extended synthesis (not the EES) that continues to this day.

    The analogy to General Relativity and Newtonian Physics is correct. In some senses, the precise senses relevant to this situation, the evidence FALSIFIES Newtonian physics in important domains. The same is true for Darwinism. Just like Behe argues, knowledge of DNA FALSIFIES darwinism. The problem is that we already knew this. At some point he had to engage with the extended synthesis, and he has not done so in any of his three books.

    You are right too that this is a rhetorically strong rebuttal of Behe. Thanks for the compliment. That is partly why it will objected to, even though it is 100% correct.

    https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/darwinism-falsified-in-science-long-ago/4325/113?u=swamidass

    Now, if someone in some group of people in a different field want to use “Darwinism” in a different way, go for it. It certainly can refer to an ideology, and I’ve never disputed this. Instead, using THIS definition (positive selection dominated change), we know that Darwinism is falsified. That is important because this is precisely the type of evolution ID is arguing against. It is not complex what I’m doing here. It could not be more clear. I am discussing Darwinism as defined by ID and defined within science. That is it. And, with that limited scope, I am entirely right. Any one who doubts this might enjoy catching up on the basics of Neutral Theory and Kimura’s phenomenal work.

  3. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    We really need another word. Superceded is better than falsified.

    One could make a Venn diagram of the phenomena correctly modeled by Newtonian physics or by Darwinian processes. Correct, meaning, useful and having an acceptable level of error.

  4. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    OMagain: I mean, great. But something being falsified does not then make something else the default explanation. If you want Intelligent Design or some variant to replace a failed explanation then you actually have to be able to say something about it specifically!

    Darwinism being insufficient, because there is no way to falsify it to say the least, is good for me and ID…
    What can replace it is another, separate chapter in the history of mankind….😉

  5. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    Dave Carlson,

    There is an extensive literature on “tests of neutrality”. Because neutral theory is used as a null model in molecular evolution, pretty much every attempt to identify positive selection is a de facto attempt to falsify neutrality in a particular organism or nucleotide sequence. See this review, for example:

    There is clearly an attempt to doubt neutral theory in favor of selection. The alternative according to the paper is adaptive evolution (selection) as there is evidence that mutations follow this better than neutral theory. I see the fundamental assumptions as follows.
    -mutations are random with respect to fitness: this is required for his synonymous non synonymous ratio to validate selection. If mutations are guided the same observation is possible without selection.
    -the models for neutral theory are accurate enough to test against: this is obvious but critical.
    Do you agree these are the assumptions?
    Given these assumptions I think the paper is fine and glad you cited it.
    I don’t agree that these assumptions are well established without UCD as a valid working argument. The neutral model uses the molecular clock and observed mutations as working tools for its hypothesis. If UCD is false it may not test the theory without another method to verify its accuracy.

  6. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka:
    We really need another word. Superceded is better than falsified.

    One could make a Venn diagram of the phenomena correctly modeled by Newtonian physics or by Darwinian processes. Correct, meaning, useful and having an acceptable level of error.

    Will the superseding theory make the chasms in the understanding of life origins more or less likely to be the product of unintelligent processes?

  7. swamidass
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka: One could make a Venn diagram of the phenomena correctly modeled by Newtonian physics or by Darwinian processes. Correct, meaning, useful and having an acceptable level of error.

    The problem is that Darwinian processes explains very very little. That Venn Diagram would show a gigantic circle, with a tiny dot within it referring to Darwinian processes. Phylogenetics and the molecular clock, for example, are based on neutral theory, not positive selection. Darwinian selection is important, but it is only a small part of the whole story.

    Falsification, also, is an appropriate way to describe the view that “Newtonian mechanics applies at near light speed.” Such a claim is just flat out false. The claim that “Darwinism (as we defined it here) explains ALL of life’s diversity” is similarly flat out false. We need non-Darwinian mechanisms too, and we still have not ruled out God’s action (and do not know how we possibly could).

  8. Dave Carlson Dave Carlson
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd:
    Dave Carlson,
    -mutations are random with respect to fitness: this is required for his synonymous non synonymous ratio to validate selection.If mutations are guided the same observation is possible without selection.

    This is not an assumption but an empirical observation backed by evidence.

    -the models for neutral theory are accurate enough to test against: this is obvious but critical.

    Sure, but that’s true of essentially every model that is used in science. As George Box is thought to have said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” Neutral/nearly neutral theory is very useful.

    Given these assumptions I think the paper is fine and glad you cited it.
    I don’t agree that these assumptions are well established without UCD as a valid working argument. The neutral model uses the molecular clock and observed mutations as working tools for its hypothesis.If UCD is false it may not test the theory without another method to verify its accuracy.

    Assuming UCD is certainly not required to test for selection using any of the methods discussed in the paper. If I want to use the McDonald-Kreitman test to see if positive selection is acting on a gene using three species of Drosophila, I don’t need to assume that humans and E. coli share a common ancestor. Moreover, many of the “tests of neutrality” operate at the population level and don’t require assumptions regarding common descent at all.

    Of course, common descent is an incredibly well supported proposition regardless.

  9. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: Will the superseding theory make the chasms in the understanding of life origins more or less likely to be the product of unintelligent processes?

    Unless one knows the likelihood of an unknown intelligent designer capable of doing whatever non-specified thing that he did possibly billions of years ago, it seems hard to compare likelihoods.

  10. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: Unless one knows the likelihood of an unknown intelligent designer capable of doing whatever non-specified thing that he didpossibly billions of years ago, it seems hard to compare likelihoods.

    Don’t waste my time!

  11. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: Don’t waste my time!

    Sorry, just pointing of the obvious , when comparing likelihood of two things one needs to know the likelihood of both things.

  12. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: Sorry, just pointing of the obvious , when comparing likelihood of two things one needs to know the likelihood of both things.

    Is likelihood of anything going to satisfy you ever? Will you even remember it?

  13. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: Is likelihood of anything going to satisfy you ever? Will you even remember it?

    Remember what?

  14. Gregory Gregory
    Ignored
    says:

    swamidass:

    Oh, for goodness sake. Swamidass is failing to convince people on his own blog, so he comes here to try anew. Failing to acknowledge anything ideological in choosing the terms ‘Darwinism’ or ‘neo-Darwinism,’ perhaps because he knows next to nothing about ideology and how it works, he is back again insisting ‘nothing here but science,’ as a diversionary tactic. At the end, he refers to his move as ‘rhetorical,’ which is what should have been stated from the start to distinguish it from being a ‘strictly scientific’ claim.

    Over at PS, Gary Hurd wrote to Swamidass:

    “I fail to see that positive selection has been ‘falsified’.”

    To which Swamidass responded:

    “It [positive selection] has been falsified as the ONLY important mechanism. Non-darwinian processes are needed too. That means this definition of evolution was falsified 50 years ago.”

    That’s a different claim, as Hurd rightly notes. Then speaking about the ‘incompleteness’ of Darwinian theory and neo-Darwinian theory or the ‘modern evolutionary synthesis’ (MES), which is what the EES people use, rather than claiming to falsify an ideology, would be more accurate.

    And we’ve now got ‘non-Darwinian’ (a purely negative claim) on the table, but let’s return to this later. For now, at least we can be clear that there is a definition of evolution that Joshua believes is FALSE, i.e. wrong, doesn’t work, has been shown to be untrue. And that is linked with both Darwin’s name and his theory of evolution. Agreed?

    Notice what BruceS said here already:

    “Joshua did use ‘falsified’ incorrectly, I believe, when he said Darwinism was falsified. Better to say something like the mechanism of NS is not the only mechanism used to model population genetics in modern biology.”

    I agree. And that sounds much like Hurd’s critique. Yet Swamidass insists on (unwisely following the DI’s highly ideological approach) intentionally using ‘Darwinism’ rather than something else / anything else to speak more clearly & accurately.

    Over at PS, Ann Gauger wrote to Swamidass:

    “You don’t like us to use the term Darwinism or neo-Darwinism. You say it’s out dated. … Maybe we should use the namees pre-Kimura and post-Kimura evolution. That will really make things clear. / Why not use the term ‘theory of evolution’?”

    She’s trying to give him a way out (although the DI’s PR machine disagrees with her & continues to use those ideological terms), but for some reason he won’t take it. Gauger’s suggestion is in fact much better than Swamidass’ insistence than an ideology – Darwinism – has been falsified. Gauger is expressing herself more clearly about this than Swamidass.

    Darwinism = “Positive Selection Dominated Change”, leaving out even concepts like neutral drift and draft. This understanding of Darwinism was falsified in 1968.”

    Let’s just reject Swamdass personal phrase here as unnecessarily misleading (& clumsy – dominated?), following Hurd & BruceS. We can agree & safely say that ‘Darwinian theory’ was falsified by Kimura, at least in so far as that theory was claimed as being comprehensive in biological science. That Darwin’s theory of evolution was not comprehensive isn’t really debatable anymore. There is no need to listen to ideologues (cf. kooky generic theist esoteric bloggers here at TSZ) promoting Darwinism or neo-Darwinism as something more than ‘strictly science’. Agreed? Just drop the posturing about ‘Darwinism’, as so many people have requested of the DI’s PR machine instead of perpetuating the confusion by insisting on using it. Nobody takes David Klinghoffer seriously on this topic & Behe is merely muddying the waters like an ideologue in service of the DI, not in service of ‘good science.’

    “It [Darwinism] certainly can refer to an ideology, and I’ve never disputed this.

    Uggh, more of Joshua’s rhetoric at play again (it sounds just like Neil Rickert in it’s could be insinuation that simply leads to confusion, even if not intentionally). So then he’s going to insist that Darwinism as BOTH an ideology AND a ‘scientific theory’ at the same time?! Does he want everyone else to double-talk between the two as well, just because he can’t get his language straight & clear?

    “I am discussing Darwinism as defined by ID and defined within science.”

    If you’re against IDism, then I strongly advice you to stop the term ‘Darwinism,’ since their approach & the rationale behind using it is highly ideological. Do you disagree with the ideological aspect of their approach? If so, then stop “discussing Darwinism” instead of pandering to IDists.

    Likewise, this continued ‘within science’ talk is nonsense as if it’s a black & white demarcation line of what’s ‘inside’ & what’s ‘outside’ of (assuming he means just ‘natural’) science. Joshua of course ignores entirely Generalised Darwinism, Universal Darwinism, Social Darwinism, Literary Darwinism and other Darwinisms in his simplistic ‘just plain Darwinism’ usage (ironic, when Swamidass continually mangles MN, another ideology, that’s for another time). Please stop the exaggeration as if you even can speak on behalf of ‘science.’ Don’t you get that your language is over-the-top and unsustainable when you do this?

    “I am entirely right.”

    Yada yada.

    “Any one who doubts this might enjoy catching up on the basics of Neutral Theory and Kimura’s phenomenal work.”

    Yet I thought ‘neutral theory’ was part of the so-called MES & not instead an ideology that distorts evolutionary science under the name of a single thinker (neo-Darwinism). Hmm, I guess Swamidass wants the MES & ‘neutral theory’ to be named as part of neo-Darwinist ideology too!

    Above Swamidass identified ‘non-Darwinian’ & this could be helpful. Then we should be able to agree that the term ‘post-Darwinian’ would be more accurate and descriptive of Kimura’s evolutionary theory. At some point, we need to move past his ‘theory’ & stop using Darwin’s name entirely for ideological purposes.

    Instead, Swamidass would have us resort to an obsolete term as used by the very people he claims he disagrees with, as if their ideology should be followed rather than rejected. If Joshua wants to reject IDism, then actually reject it & start using standard terminology; not ‘neo-Darwinism’ but rather the MES. Behe’s chosen vocabulary is not to be followed; almost all of us agree on that.

    “it is rhetorically stronger to say it is falsified, and you can’t fault me for using strong rhetoric.”

    When it’s diversionary or misleading rhetoric, then yes, we can (and should) fault you for using it.

    Note carefully, Joshua, what Ann wrote:

    “Rhetorically of course it is more effective to say Behe is arguing against a theory that has been falsified.”

    The ‘theory’ Behe is against is ‘neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory.’ Is that agreed, Joshua? And you agree with Behe also that you reject ‘neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory’, right? Iow, since Joshua agrees that ‘Darwinian evolutionary theory’ was “an insufficient explanation for evolutionary change,” there’s simply no need to bring in the terms ‘Darwinism’ or ‘neo-Darwinism’ here.

    Behe, like most IDists, misuses (another biologist equivocating between terms, as if we should trust him) ‘neo-Darwinism’ simply as a foil to be attacked. John West does the same thing with ‘Darwinism’ as a cause for more social evils than almost anyone could imagine. The solution is simple: don’t feed into it. Reject it with clear language, full stop.

  15. phoodoo
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd:
    Dave Carlson,

    How do you know if something is positively selected or neutrally selected?

    By making your running assumption that everything is either positively selected or its not apparently.

    I think its sort of like going to a mink farm and swinging around a sickle. Some minks live and some don’t. They are either positively selected or neutrally selected. Count how many colors of fur are left after two days and a lot of vodka.

  16. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    Dave Carlson,

    This is not an assumption but an empirical observation backed by evidence.

    What evidence backs up that all mutations observed are random?

    You have yet to establish that accuracy of the null.

  17. phoodoo
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd,

    Furthermore, why assume that bacteria in a petri dish, under controlled and limited exposures, is at all akin to bacteria that is exposed to a plethora of environmental factors simultaneously.

  18. dazz dazz
    Ignored
    says:

    phoodoo:
    colewd,

    Furthermore, why assume that bacteria in a petri dish, under controlled and limited exposures, is at all akin to bacteria that is exposed to a plethora of environmental factors simultaneously.

    Because evil scientists cast a spell on their petri dishes so that the flying spaghetti monster Jesus can’t interfere with their experiments. How else would they keep the unmistakable hand of the Designer from messing with their results? duh!

  19. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: Remember what?

    You good you!

  20. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    phoodoo,

    This is not an assumption but an empirical observation backed by evidence.

    A bigger problem is that it looks like too many mutations for selection yet also too many non synonymous mutations for neutral theory. ouch.

  21. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    phoodoo:
    colewd,

    Furthermore, why assume that bacteria in a petri dish, under controlled and limited exposures, is at all akin to bacteria that is exposed to a plethora of environmental factors simultaneously.

    If such an experiment ‘disproved evolution’, you’d be all over it like a rash. Accelerated mutation in Drosophila springs to mind.

  22. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd:
    phoodoo,

    A bigger problem is that it looks like too many mutations for selection yet also too many non synonymous mutations for neutral theory.ouch.

    This is incredibly vague. How many is too many? What gene are you even referring to? Or is this a universal pattern?

  23. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller: This is incredibly vague. How many is too many? What gene are you even referring to? Or is this a universal pattern?

    I’m sure colewd is working to quantify his claims right now.

  24. Alan Fox Alan Fox
    Ignored
    says:

    swamidass: The problem is that Darwinian processes explains very very little.

    I disagree with this. The bias produced from differential reproductive rates of individuals in a population is the mechanism that results in a shift in allele frequency and adaptive change.

    Genetic drift is a random process which will not, on its own, result in adaptation to the niche. Mutation and other sources of genetic variation are random with respect to fitness. It is selection that is key to adaptation.

    So. it seems reasonable to me to use “Darwinian” to cover natural, artificial and sexual selection, not least because they are all aspects of one process.

  25. BruceS
    Ignored
    says:

    Alan Fox: I disagree with this. The bias produced from differential reproductiverates of individuals in a population is the mechanism that results in a shift in allele frequency and adaptive change.

    Depends on whether you are trying to explain all of the changes observed in population genetics or just those taken to show appearance of design. I take Joshua of referring to the former.

    I also think there is an equivocation used by some people when they refer to ‘Darwinism’ even in the scientific sense: it is too easy to equivocate between what Darwin understood by the mechanisms of NS or any other mechanism one reads into his biology, and the meanings of those terms in modern biology, where the terms have to be taken as defined by the context of modern mathematical and biochemical models.

  26. Alan Fox Alan Fox
    Ignored
    says:

    BruceS,

    I’m not wedded to the concept of Darwinism, mainly because I don’t think anyone has yet clearly defined it either as an ideology or not. The main use of the word seems to be as a pejorative.

    I like “Darwinian”. Darwin deserves the acknowledgement that selection was largely his idea.

  27. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    Alan Fox: I like “Darwinian”. Darwin deserves the acknowledgement that selection was largely his idea.

    Exactly so. The attempts to turn anything starting with Darwin into a pejorative are transparent. It’s similar to the usage of “Democrat Party” I believe.

  28. BruceS
    Ignored
    says:

    Alan Fox:

    I’m not wedded to the concept of Darwinism, mainly because I don’t think anyone has yet clearly defined it either as an ideology or not.

    The IEP article I linked upthread clearly explains why Darwinism is correctly referred to as an ideology in some contexts, eg social Darwinism or Darwinism to justify libertarian economic theories.

    I understand that an important aspect of ideologies is that they attempt to set the meaning of words and in particular by claiming their meanings are correct because they are justified by science (H/T https://www.politicalphilosophypodcast.com/). So, eg, Social Darwinists justify their meanings of race and eugenics as objective facts based on evolution, and then claim these meanings must lead to adoption of their abhorrent policies.

    In the case of ID and Darwinism as an ideology, I understand the concern to be that the ideology of Darwinism includes atheism through methodological naturalism, and that science objectively justifies these meanings,. and so accepting Darwinian evolution is an attempt to force atheism. Repeat: that is only my understanding of ID’s concerns with Darwinism as an ideology.

  29. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    phoodoo: Furthermore, why assume that bacteria in a petri dish, under controlled and limited exposures, is at all akin to bacteria that is exposed to a plethora of environmental factors simultaneously.

    They’re alike in some respects, and not in others.

    In a limited and simple environment, many of the adaptations that are advantageous in the complex environment are not needed, so in that respect they are unlike. They are unlike in their complexity. But that really just goes to show that a more complex environment can favor more complex adaptation.

    The mechanisms by which adaptation happens in either case is the same. It’s still just random mutations subject to selection, and the environment dictates which mutations are advantageous or not.

  30. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd: What evidence backs up that all mutations observed are random?

    The vast majority of them are nearly neutral or deleterious. It would not make sense to say they are guided if they’re still significantly more likely to be deleterious. That means they are random with respect to fitness, that they are happening in blindness to their effects.

    It is also completely impossible for there to be a mechanism of guiding all possible genetic mutations. Consider that for every nucleotide in the genome, if a guided mutation were to be possible for that nucleotide, some molecular mechanism would have to exist to effectuate all mutations for that nucleotide. That means all sorts of proteins would have to be encoded in the genome to effectuate mutations at every site, but every new protein that could cause that mutation to happen would have to also be encoded in the DNA, so it is simply not physically possible for a genome to encode genetic elements to effectuate all possible mutations in that genome. Even if a single protein could effectuate (say) 10 different mutations, that would still require between 15 and 30 such proteins, on average, to completely cover all single nucleotide polymorphisms for a single protein coding gene. That would mean for every protein, another 15-30 additional proteins would be required to guide mutations. And each of those proteins are encoded in DNA, so would also require another 15-30 additional proteins each. And all this of course ignores all the necessary regulatory regions and targeting mechanisms, environmental sensors and so on that would also have to exist to ensure that the right mutation happened in response to the right environmental stimuli.

    There is just no way out of this. The only possible option is that the vast, vast majority of mutations are replication noise that don’t owe to any particular targeted mechanism.

  31. Gregory Gregory
    Ignored
    says:

    Alan Fox: I like “Darwinian”. Darwin deserves the acknowledgement that selection was largely his idea.

    It is highly likely that Darwin, and quite likely Alfred Russel Wallace as well, borrowed the phrase “natural process of selection” from Patrick Matthew.

    “I freely acknowledge that Mr. Matthew has anticipated by many years the explanation which I have offered of the origin of species, under the name of natural selection.” – Charles Darwin

    “He [Patrick Matthew] clearly saw, however, the full force of the principle of natural selection,” i.e. ‘before I did in 1831.’ – Charles Darwin

    https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Essay:Patrick_Matthew:_priority_and_the_discovery_of_natural_selection

    So much for the Arago Effect, eh?

  32. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: The mechanisms by which adaptation happens in either case is the same. It’s still just random mutations subject to selection, and the environment dictates which mutations are advantageous or not.

    but it’s not random mutations subject to selection. Bacteria have the ability of carrying out DNA repair. There is a balance between repairing mutations and allowing mutations through so to speak. Selection acts on the organism, not the genome.

    Rumraket: There is just no way out of this. The only possible option is that the vast, vast majority of mutations are replication noise that don’t owe to any particular targeted mechanism.

    There is no need for a targeted mechanism. The variability within the population is ensured by maintaining the balance between allowing all mutations to persist and between allowing no mutations to persist. Either extreme would lead to the death of the population. This is intelligent use of randomness.

  33. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: The vast majority of them are nearly neutral or deleterious. It would not make sense to say they are guided if they’re still significantly more likely to be deleterious

    I agree especially regarding deleterious mutations…

    Johnnyb seems to believe that even deleterious mutations are cell directed…

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/the-case-for-cell-directed-mutations/
    I’m yet to see the evidence unless some unknown mechanism disrupts quantum tunneling… which is possible….

  34. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: but it’s not random mutations subject to selection. Bacteria have the ability of carrying out DNA repair.

    That doesn’t make the mutations non-random, the repair mechanisms make mistakes too. And the repair-mechanisms don’t actually know what the effects of those mutations are should they be let through anyway. And not all mutations owe to actual DNA damage, some are really just due to strand slippage, misincorporation and so on.

    There is a balance between repairing mutations and allowing mutations through so to speak.

    Yeah, that balance is between the efficacy of selection and genetic drift in the context of population size.

    See:
    Lynch M, Ackerman MS, Gout JF, Long H, Sung W, Thomas WK, Foster PL. Genetic drift, selection and the evolution of the mutation rate. Nat Rev Genet. 2016 Oct 14;17(11):704-714. doi: 10.1038/nrg.2016.104.

    Sung W, Ackerman MS, Miller SF, Doak TG, Lynch M. Drift-barrier hypothesis and mutation-rate evolution. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Nov 6;109(45):18488-92. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1216223109.

    Selection acts on the organism, not the genome.

    The mutations affect the fitness of the organism, so that distinction is meaningless in this context.

    There is no need for a targeted mechanism.

    If you’re going to say mutations are “guided” (as in they’re not happening in blindness to their phenotypic effects), then yes there is. That is what the people who postulate mutations are guided normally claim.

    You might be claiming something much more nebulous about invisible spooks with occult magical powers to cause certain mutations to happen. Of course if that’s what you’re suggesting, I can’t prove to you that doesn’t happen. I would just invoke Occam’s Razor here to show that such a view is multiplying entities beyond what is required to explain what we observe.

    The variability within the population is ensured by maintaining the balance between allowing all mutations to persist and between allowing no mutations to persist. Either extreme would lead to the death of the population.
    Yes, and plenty of lineages have gone extinct through mutational meltdown.

    This is intelligent use of randomness.

    For some very weird and broad definition of intelligence I guess. It isn’t necessary to think this is happening consciously or with some sort of comprehension of foresight.

  35. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: That doesn’t make the mutations non-random, the repair mechanisms make mistakes too

    And it is language like this that result in evolutionary theories being used to further ideologies. What makes you think that any change which persists in the genome is a mistake? Many human engineered designs have a certain amount of slop built into the system, this is not a mistake.

  36. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    Alan Fox: I disagree with this. The bias produced from differential reproductive rates of individuals in a population is the mechanism that results in a shift in allele frequency and adaptive change.

    By contrast, I agree with Swamidass here. By itself, natural selection explains very little.

    Consider what I will call “the phoodoo model of evolution”. We randomly throw some atoms together, and then let natural selection take its course. I doubt that much will happen.

    What actually happens in biology depends very much on the pragmatic purpose driven behavior of the organisms. And reference to “natural selection” glosses over that.

  37. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: And it is language like this that result in evolutionary theories being used to further ideologies. What makes you think that any change which persists in the genome is a mistake? Many human engineered designs have a certain amount of slop built into the system, this is not a mistake.

    I have very little patience for this kind of semantics waffling. If you don’t like the word mistake you can call them what you want.

    There’s no good reason to think they’re “intended” to happen by something that in any way understands or comprehends what is going on, or what their future effects on organismal function or reproductive success is going to be.

  38. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    Neil Rickert: By contrast, I agree with Swamidass here. By itself, natural selection explains very little.

    It could explain adaptive changes.. at least… even if one is a hardcore creationist, he can’t deny adaptations… But that’s not what is at issue here!
    What’s at issue is can natural selection with ALL known mechanisms lead to adaptive changes beyond finches beaks, such as 5 pound land walking mammal changing into a 50 ton whale…

    QM says no becuase of the law of conservation of quantum information… and that’s why we don’t see any land walking mammals going through major adaptive changes, like evolving new body plans or organs…

  39. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: What makes you think that any change which persists in the genome is a mistake?

    I agree with CharlieM here. It is a mistake (our mistake) when we assert that mutations are mistakes or copying errors. We should, instead, see the production of mutations as part of the ongoing processes.

  40. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    Neil Rickert: I agree with CharlieM here.It is a mistake (our mistake) when we assert that mutations are mistakes or copying errors.We should, instead, see the production of mutations as part of the ongoing processes.

    Deleterious mutations clearly are…

  41. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: QM says no becuase of the law of conservation of quantum information

    Right, so if QM says that the information required to turn a 5 pound land walking mammal into a 50 ton whale does not come from natural selection then where does it come from?

    All you have to do is demonstrate that then you, personally, have falsified all the Darwinisms there are.

  42. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Neil Rickert: I agree with CharlieM here.It is a mistake (our mistake) when we assert that mutations are mistakes or copying errors.We should, instead, see the production of mutations as part of the ongoing processes.

    The problem here is that this concession would be interpreted that, if it’s not a ‘mistake’, it’s deliberate.

    It appears that the system is set up to minimise error. But there is a limit on the amount of error that can be removed – the process may become too slow to be competitive. There is also a subtle effect from mutation itself. If there were a perfect polymerase, near approaches to it could not get any closer because mutation, the source of any improvement, has been (almost) wiped out.

    In reality, it’s hard too see how the system could become perfect. So if it’s imperfect, that does not mean there is built-in latitude; it is just subject to constraint.

  43. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket,

    There is just no way out of this. The only possible option is that the vast, vast majority of mutations are replication noise that don’t owe to any particular targeted mechanism.

    I generally agree with your analysis and that’s why I am skeptical of the third way guys. The reality here is that speciation is a huge unsolved issue especially when complex adaptions are required.

    -Why do you think neutral theory had the large impact and following it did?

  44. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: It could explain adaptive changes.. at least… even if one is a hardcore creationist, he can’t deny adaptations…

    But natural selection does not explain adaptive change. It only explains how adaptive change spreads through the population. It fails to explain how adaptive change originates.

  45. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket:

    CharlieM: There is no need for a targeted mechanism.

    If you’re going to say mutations are “guided” (as in they’re not happening in blindness to their phenotypic effects), then yes there is. That is what the people who postulate mutations are guided normally claim.

    You might be claiming something much more nebulous about invisible spooks with occult magical powers to cause certain mutations to happen. Of course if that’s what you’re suggesting, I can’t prove to you that doesn’t happen. I would just invoke Occam’s Razor here to show that such a view is multiplying entities beyond what is required to explain what we observe.

    I haven’t claimed either. I am just noting what we observe. You are the one who has jumped to the conclusion that changes which persist in the genome are mistakes. Plants release pollen and we would be silly to say that they are guided towards any target. Airborne pollen grains spread randomly in the wind and this is an example of living systems using randomness.

    And invisible spooks with occult magical powers are the product of your imagination, not mine.

    CharlieM: The variability within the population is ensured by maintaining the balance between allowing all mutations to persist and between allowing no mutations to persist. Either extreme would lead to the death of the population.

    Yes, and plenty of lineages have gone extinct through mutational meltdown.

    Lineages go extinct but life and the ongoing process of emancipation persists.

    Lineages go extinct as life continues, and individual body cells die off as the organism continues. As above, so below.

  46. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller: The problem here is that this concession would be interpreted that, if it’s not a ‘mistake’, it’s deliberate.

    That would also be a mistake — our mistake.

    We anthropomorphize too much. We infer attributes of conscious reasoning such as mistake and deliberation, when there is no apparent basis for such attribution.

  47. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd: I generally agree with your analysis and that’s why I am skeptical of the third way guys. The reality here is that speciation is a huge unsolved issue especially when complex adaptions are required.

    Why do you think speciation is a huge unsolved issue, and why do you think complex adaptations are requires for speciation?

    Why do you think neutral theory had the large impact and following it did?

    What do you mean “did”? The phrasing of your question makes it seem like neutral theory has fallen out of favor. It hasn’t. Those who accept neutral theory do so because the evidence for it is and continues to be very good.

  48. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: For some very weird and broad definition of intelligence I guess. It isn’t necessary to think this is happening consciously or with some sort of comprehension of foresight.

    Intelligence does not equate to consciousness.

    Do you deny such a thing as artificial intelligence?

    Here is an example of the use of the word “intelligence”. The headline reads:

    Intelligent foam could keep shop shelves stacked

    or if you prefer within life

    There should therefore be aspects of intelligent behaviour in lower organisms from which our superlative capabilities are but the latest evolutionary expression…

    Stenhouse examined the evolution of intelligence in animals and described intelligence as:

    Adaptively variable behaviour within the lifetime of the individual

    That paper was on the aspects of plant intelligence.

  49. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller: So everyone and no-one is a Darwinist.

    Is everyone and no-one also a Neo-Darwinist?

    I hope you won’t object if I begin referring to you as Darwinist Allan Miller. 😉

  50. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket,

    What do you mean “did”? The phrasing of your question makes it seem like neutral theory has fallen out of favor. It hasn’t. Those who accept neutral theory do so because the evidence for it is and continues to be very good.

    Can you expand on more specifics on the evidence you think is compelling?

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