Natural Selection – Evolution Magic

Natural Selection is described as “the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype”. To this, some add “blind, mindless, and purposeless environmental process” that nonetheless is imagined turning random genetic mutations into superior new features enhancing descendants’ survivability (fitness). Accumulation of these features supposedly turns one lifeform into another over time. Natural Selection seeks to explain the appearance of design in nature without appealing to a designer.

This definition however fails the simplest test as different phenotypes survive different environments thus delinking phenotype from survivability. In a small farm, only organisms closely related to their wild cousins survive, but agribusinesses select for chickens with oversize breasts and research labs select for populations with specific genetic mutations requiring tight environments to survive. Although all these have different phenotypes, they do not possess an intrinsic phenotype “fitness” independent of the environment. In addition, who decides what is natural and what is not? Darwin considered domestication natural enough to include it as supporting argument. And as far as “blind, mindless, and purposeless”, all these are impossible to prove in addition to being utterly incompatible with the anthropic concepts of “better adapted” and “better fit”, both of which cannot be evaluated independent of survivability anyway.

Natural Selection is supposed to tie both ways survivability with phenotype, but this leaves out the environment which not only affects survivability directly, but also phenotype, itself a sum of genotype plus the environment, and even genotype that is a recurrent function of previous genotypes and the environment again. So in the end, survivability is a recurrent function of genotype, an infinite continuum of environments, and other unknown factors. While survivability can be measured as can be the individual genotype, measuring a population’s genotype is daunting at best, and the impact of the ever changing environment is simply impossible to evaluate. Phenotypes are impossible to define and measure in entirety even for one individual and, in addition, phenotype changes constantly from birth to adult to old age. We do see genetic mutations (unknowable if random) and we do know that, given a similar environment, extreme genotypes reduce survivability, yet we also know that a large variety of genotypes survive just fine in any population.

Fitness is never defined independently of survivability – this renders the fitness concept redundant especially since survivability can be measured while fitness cannot. Evolutionary Fitness is defined as the quantitative representation of natural and sexual selection (reproductive success) of a genotype or phenotype in a given environment. “Survival of the fittest” is interpreted as: “Survival of the form (phenotypic or genotypic) that will leave the most copies of itself in successive generations.” Not only is survivability the only measure, but survivability also changes with the environment.

Natural Selection is Intelligent Selection which is always done by an Intelligent Selector such as Darwin’s breeder which is an intelligent and willful player that takes intentional actions to reach preset goals. Predators, plants, birds, insects or bacteria, all show intelligence and the willful pursuit of predetermined goals. When interacting with the inert environment, organisms self-select rather than being selected by this environment. As soon as the organism dies and becomes part of the lifeless universe, all selection of that entity ceases.

Selection is limited to a narrow set of possible adaptations – what is not there, cannot be selected. Among the most common adaptations are body color/size/shape, hair type, antibiotic/chemical resistance, and behavior, and even these are limited in scope. Farmers would like to grow walking chicken breasts the size of hogs that grow much faster and come in various flavors, but this is not happening despite their best efforts. Antibiotic resistant bacteria still cannot survive extreme temperatures and chemical concentrations and their resistance decreases when the stimulus is removed. Rabbits cannot turn green when hopping over grass and white just over winter, despite the clear advantage such camouflage would bring. Size of tails, horns, beaks, trees, etc. are all stable over time as tradeoffs limit their growth. Human intelligence, flying, swimming, venom, and all other desirable capabilities remain restricted to specific organisms. Domestication has greatly helped mankind’s progress, but it has not changed the nature of the target animals and plants despite intensive efforts to accelerate their evolution. Instead, humans only enhanced the built in characteristics of domestic organisms and simply did without – a huge civilization disadvantage – when those plants and animals were unavailable. Hence, selection does not “design”, is limited in scope to a few available characteristics, and is reversed as soon as the selection pressure ends.

Extinct organism were not flawed and their features were not “selected away”. Most characteristics of the extinct survive just fine in current organisms of which some changed so little over time they are called living fossils. Sure, the mammal eye might provide superior vision to insect eye, but nothing comes for free and tradeoffs ensure both survive. Organisms that have completely vanished cannot be characterized as flawed and it would not take much imagination to see them thriving in a current landscape. The environment may have changed dramatically over time, however on a macro scale, the environment affected all organisms making the “natural selection” explanation highly doubtful regarding why some organisms survived in their old form, why some went extinct and why others would survive in a changed form. Humans and apes shared the same environment in Africa so common genotype would not have caused our dramatic differences just as lions are not that different than leopard, the cheetah and the others.

What if anything should replace Natural Selection? Humans have applied the most intensive and targeted selective pressure on us and others with great results for our existence. Yet we have not transformed even one organism into another – not even the lowly eColi after decades of laboratory work (Lenski). Our dogs are still basic canines and our cats are still basic felines, not much different than their wild cousins. If anything, we had to adapt to them rather than them to us. The finch, the moth, the antibiotic resistant bacteria are still the original organisms, their hailed changes having reverted or proven simple adaptations. We are no smarter, more powerful or longer living (in absolute) than out primitive ancestors. Selection is not transformative, much less creative.

Humans would apply the Natural Selection method if feasible. But we don’t because it isn’t. A Natural Selection software would use a random generator and a selection criteria to maximize survivability in an available niche. For instance, a family vehicle should optimize the transport function (survivability) given a set of environmental constraints (regulations) and an existing design as starting point. Random minute changes could be tested and retained if the transport function is improved. However, this method can only remove minor oversights but will never create any new designs. Any significant departure such as a new fuel, material or environment either results in a suboptimal design, or requires a cascade of changes to improve the survivability function. That is why the auto industry, like most other industries, introduces minor redesign annually and major revamps every few years. And while even the minor improvements must come in harmonized packages rather than one off (to reduce negative ramifications), in the absence of those major redesigns a firm would shortly go extinct.

Designs do not transform into better designs without crossing an inevitable optimization gap. Given a certain environment, once a design is optimized for a certain function, it becomes suboptimal as soon as the function, the structure, or the materials changes. Until the new design is optimized for that particular change, it remains inferior to an old design already optimized to that environment. Humans optimize new designs (with multidimensional differences from previous versions) conceptually before abruptly replacing old designs. A Darwinist biologic gradual design transition would thus be impossible hence never observed in nature. Had the compound eye been optimized first, a transition to non-compound eye would inevitably had to be suboptimal for a while and vice versa. Only if all eye designs had started from the same point, each following an independent path and at the same pace would we have so many different designs today, each optimized for its function. This however implies a coordinated original grand design incompatible with Darwinian evolution.

Pro-Con Notes

Con: What about organic design? Isn’t that natural selection at work?

Pro: No. This is just iterative optimization of a given design. In this case, the wing shape, the material, the environmental forces and the optimization target are all given. The algorithm will not generate a new wing shape or material and it will stop converging as soon as the environment is less than perfectly defined. In addition, this design is radically different from the previous one, and the next iteration will certainly be radically different than this one (no gradualism).

Con: You just don’t understand natural selection.

Pro: If “natural selection” were hard to understand it would not be taught to young children. Instead, “natural selection” is more like very bad street magic where the bus is covered with the cloth and we then are asked to imagine it disappeared without even removing the cloth and showing us the empty space.

525 thoughts on “Natural Selection – Evolution Magic

  1. Mung: Why do they wear camouflage when they are not on the battlefield?

    They just like to pose?

    ETA I how did I not immediately think of the niche? Battlefield niche, beneficial trait. On leave niche, neutral trait!

  2. Rumraket: The polar and brown bear ranges overlap in the arctic zones. They have even been shown to some times interbreed.

    This is your nonsense: “Squid work better than cows in the deep ocean.” and the following appropriate reply: “That’s nonsense – they do not live in that environment.” You don’t know what you write?

    It’s still selection. It doesn’t matter what label you stick in front of the word selection. In so far as something, whatever that something might be, is causing differential survival and reproduction of phenotypes in a population,

    Darwin didn’t “promise” transmutation of species.

    “differential survival” is trivial nonsense – we’re all different and some survive.

    Yes, he promised you the “origin of species” – that is the transmutation never delivered.

    The rest of your comment is total nonsense.

  3. Alan Fox: You reject differential breeding success as a mechanism? Interesting! Do you have an alternative suggestion for how biology works?

    Ah, the old front-loading idea!

    Darwinism has nothing to do with Biology. More like Astrology.

  4. Nonlin.org: Darwinism has nothing to do with Biology. More like Astrology.

    So do you have an alternative explanation for the diversity of extant and extinct life we see on Earth?

  5. Alan Fox: So do you have an alternative explanation for the diversity of extant and extinct life we see on Earth?

    Don’t worry about alternatives. Worry that you are stuck in a totally failed and illogical narrative.

  6. Nonlin.org: Apparently camouflage confers no benefit to many poisonous organisms and to many others like the peacock. There is no absolute benefic trait.

    Adaptations only count if they are shared by all organisms? Why, in that case there exist hardly any adaptive traits whatsoever.

    Nonlin.org: What objections are not “consistent with your proposed alternative (design)”? There’s absolutely no inconsistency in noting “natural selection clearly fails” and not discussing many other alternatives.

    Or providing any alternative explanation whatsoever…

  7. I can see you boys ran out of arguments, not that you had anything half decent to begin with. I also see that you’re stuck in the nonsensical Darwinist narrative with little hope of getting out even when faced with the strongest logic and evidence.

    So what’s the plan? Perhaps a chill-off period would be best. Afterwards, you either build some decent arguments in favor of your “theory” or you understand it’s total nonsense and give it up. I’m fine either way.

    Cheers,

  8. Nonlin.org: Corneel: My explanation does not require those obligations and can be used to predict population level changes a priori, so you are wrong.

    Really? Demonstrate.

    I did before you started this thread. I provided an example concerning eye colour differences in Drosophila. The outcome of the experiment can be reliably predicted beforehand, which is why it is used as a teaching tool.

    Nonlin.org: The rest is just you going in circles. I will not repeat for the tenth time.

    Haha, repeat what? You have explained nothing.

  9. Corneel: You have explained nothing.

    The earth looks round because it is spherical in shape.

    Now you can no longer claim I have explained nothing!

  10. Nonlin.org: This is crazy. Why are you making up stuff?

    This is crazy indeed. Why are you incapable of explaining what you mean? So you did mean phenotypic plasticity?

    Nonlin.org: Again, you’re going in circles not countering any claim with something that makes sense, but instead trying to ask “tricky” questions. It’s getting boring.

    I have never ever asked anyone a “tricky question”. You are being obnoxious now.

  11. Nonlin.org: Worry that you are stuck in a totally failed and illogical narrative.

    When a totally failed and illogical narrative is the only game in town, you don’t have much choice do you?

    What does it say about any alternative that it cannot displace something which you yourself categorise as failed and illogical?

  12. Nonlin.org:
    I can see you boys ran out of arguments, not that you had anything half decent to begin with.

    Another irony-meter bites the dust!

    Nonlin.org:
    I also see that you’re stuck in the nonsensical Darwinist narrative with little hope of getting out even when faced with the strongest logic and evidence.

    Strongest logic and evidence? Let’s check number 1:

    Nonlin.org says: I found this definition using google, It doesn’t mention the environment, therefore “natural selection fails its definition.”

    What? Strongest logic and evidence? That piece of illogical bullshit? It “fails its definition”? Now things have to fit definitions, rather than definitions fit the things? What kind of an idiot thinks that “failed definitions” make things false? Then she calls that bullshit “strongest logic and evidence”?

    If Nonlin.org gets to understand the problem with that piece of shit I’ll be very, but authentically very, surprised. I won’t go for anything else until Nonlin.org can understand the problem she’s facing right there. Do you get it Nonlin? Do you understand that definitions abound, and that it’s no fault of a phenomenon if it’s not defined in all its details in a single sentence? That the fault is in the definer, not in what’s been defined? That, in this case, the fault is all yours for taking that definition, and its not mentioning the environment directly, too much to heart? Do you understand why “natural selection fails its definition” is an incredibly stupid argument?

    Try first to make sure you understand what I’m saying. Only then try and answer. Otherwise you’ll continue in nonsensical circles.

    I doubt you can do this, but let’s see. Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt. Let’s see you try.

  13. Nonlin.org: Not the nonsensical “natural selection” for sure. It’s a design feature of the organism to react within the design parameters to external stimuli. This is exactly how we build all pieces of machinery too.

    With regard to the peppered moth, how is this design feature implemented? Does some feature of the environment cause just the right mutation to appear so as to produce melanism? Does some feature of the environment cause that mutation to occur independently all through the population so it transforms into a melanistic population? Consider that the reason nobody knows what you mean may be that you have not said what you mean.

    And another question: are you familiar with the Lederberg replica plating experiments?

  14. Nonlin.org: Don’t worry about alternatives. Worry that you are stuck in a totally failed and illogical narrative.

    If the only explanation for some phenomenon is demonstrated to be wrong, then we have to adjust to that and look for other candidate explanations. But a better (in the sense of closer fit to evidence, more predictive power) explanation is a short cut to scientific discovery.

    Find a better explanation for the facts of evolution and you don’t need to argue against Darwinian theory.

  15. Nonlin.org: I can see you boys ran out of arguments, not that you had anything half decent to begin with. I also see that you’re stuck in the nonsensical Darwinist narrative with little hope of getting out even when faced with the strongest logic and evidence.

    So what’s the plan? Perhaps a chill-off period would be best. Afterwards, you either build some decent arguments in favor of your “theory” or you understand it’s total nonsense and give it up. I’m fine either way.

    Did you the notice the masthead of this site?

    “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

  16. John Harshman: With regard to the peppered moth, how is this design feature implemented? Does some feature of the environment cause just the right mutation to appear so as to produce melanism? Does some feature of the environment cause that mutation to occur independently all through the population so it transforms into a melanistic population?

    Such tricky questions.

  17. Mung: Why do they wear camouflage when they are not on the battlefield?

    If you could see them then they were not properly camouflaged.

  18. Alan Fox: If the only explanation for some phenomenon is demonstrated to be wrong, then we have to adjust to that and look for other candidate explanations. But a better (in the sense of closer fit to evidence, more predictive power) explanation is a short cut to scientific discovery.

    Find a better explanation for the facts of evolution and you don’t need to argue against Darwinian theory.

    The issue is not “good” vs. “better”. The issue is “something that fails” (Darwinism) against “we need something else”. And Intelligent Design is definitely a good candidate for the “something else”.

  19. It’s one month later. Any fresh ideas boys and girls?

    Q: “When a totally failed and illogical narrative is the only game in town, you don’t have much choice do you?”
    A: I don’t live in crazy-town.

    Q: “With regard to the peppered moth, how is this design feature implemented?”
    A: I am not the designer, but can see these designs have been endowed with adaptation features. That’s typical engineering practice.

    Q: “are you familiar with the Lederberg replica plating experiments?”
    A: Just read about it. Why?

    Q: “Did you the notice the masthead of this site?”
    A: Yes. I am looking forward to correcting my mistakes. Just point them out if you see any. But we’ll figure out together if they’re real mistakes.

  20. Nonlin.org: Q: “With regard to the peppered moth, how is this design feature implemented?”
    A: I am not the designer, but can see these designs have been endowed with adaptation features. That’s typical engineering practice.

    Q: “are you familiar with the Lederberg replica plating experiments?”
    A: Just read about it. Why?

    Because they directly contradict your claims above about “endowed with adaptation features”. Mutations do not occur in response to need.

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