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.

663 thoughts on “Natural Selection – Evolution Magic

  1. colewd:
    Adapa,

    So are you going to explain how common descent is an evolutionary mechanism? John has not been able to support the claim maybe you can save him.

    Common descent produces nested hierarchies, it really isn’t that hard, Bill.

  2. dazz,

    Common descent produces nested hierarchies, it really isn’t that hard, Bill.

    If you’re willing to make incoherent claims its easy.

  3. Adapa,

    Organellar maturases: A window into the evolution of the spliceosome

    Sm/Lsm Genes Provide a Glimpse into the Early Evolution of the Spliceosome

    And after reading these papers what is your mechanistic explanation for the origin of the spliceosome? Did they mention wind and erosion? 🙂

  4. colewd: Creationists understand there is not a good mechanistic explanation for the origin of the spliceosome. Hopefully someday you will learn what it is and understand its role in life’s history.

    Who is to judge whether the mechanistic explanation is good?

  5. colewd:
    dazz,

    If you’re willing to make incoherent claims its easy.

    Incoherent? hahaha
    So if I build my family tree, it’s incoherent to say that this nested hierarchy (the family tree) was produced by successive descent from a common couple? try not to move the goalposts now (I know you will anyway) isn’t it obvious that common descent produces a nested hierarchy?

  6. colewd:
    Adapa,

    And after reading these papers what is your mechanistic explanation for the origin of the spliceosome?Did they mention wind and erosion?

    Figured the Creationist would be too ignorant to understand them and keep repeating the lie science has identified no mechanism for their evolution.

    There’s no ignorance as strong as Creationist willful ignorance.

  7. Adapa,

    Figured the Creationist would be too ignorant to understand them and keep repeating the lie science has identified no mechanism for their evolution.

    So whats the mechanistic explanation? Have you read the papers?

  8. colewd:
    Adapa,

    So whats the mechanistic explanation?

    Evolution. Genetic variations amassed over time through selection and drift, just as the papers I showed you explained.

    There’s no ignorance as strong as Creationist willful ignorance.

  9. dazz,

    So if I build my family tree, it’s incoherent to say that this nested hierarchy (the family tree) was produced by successive descent from a common couple?

    What do you mean by “successive descent”? The people involved were produced by the human reproductive process. The tree itself is just the names of people on a piece of paper or a computer screen.

  10. Adapa,

    Evolution. Genetic variations amassed over time through selection and drift, just as the papers I showed you explained.

    Doesn’t look like you read the papers. Why don’t you start with abstract and see if you can come up with an answer that has some detail.

  11. newton,

    Who is to judge whether the mechanistic explanation is good?

    Read the papers or at least the abstracts that Adapta attached and let me know if you think they articulate a clear understanding of how the spliceosome evolved.

  12. Bill has recently decided that the best defense is a good offense, or at least something offensive, in this case mirroring the complaints made against him. Not very effective, but it’s what he has.

    Now, Bill, this whole common descent thing is simple. It just has two components: inheritance and branching. The inheritance part should be obvious, and I hope you don’t have trouble with that at least. Branching is less easy to observe in real time, as it takes longer, but the concept at least is simple. We don’t have to know how either of them works in order to study common descent.

    So, why is common descent an evolutionary mechanism? Because it causes certain effects, i.e. a pattern in the data we observe. That pattern is due simply to inheritance, branching, and a third element: change within lineages. But change within lineages is not common descent, nor does it result from common descent; it’s the pattern of those changes among lineages that results from common descent.

    How would it be possible to be any more clear?

  13. John Harshman,

    The best defence is scientific evidence for the claims and not just the fact of the existence of something…
    Just like your unfounded claims for the multiple, independent losses of flight in flightless birds…you are looking at animals with “useless” wings and you interpret this fact through the filer of the magic of evolution… If you don’t, you may as well pack your bags and do something else for living…
    But we already know you won’t… therefore the magic of evolution has to step in … no choice left whether right or wrong…

    ETA: the magical, total disappearance of the keel in flightless birds is a typical example of the evolution without any trace of it ever existing… Obviously evolution can explain everything including evolution… in other words the assumption of evolution is the evidence for evolution… Who can argue with this kind of “evidence”?

  14. J-Mac: Just like your unfounded claims for the multiple, independent losses of flight in flightless birds

    Did you actually read the paper?

  15. colewd:
    Adapa,

    Doesn’t look like you read the papers.Why don’t you start with abstract and see if you can come up with an answer that has some detail.

    You claimed there was zero evidence for the evolution of the spliceosome. You were wrong. Now if you keep making the same claim you’ll be a willful liar besides being willfully ignorant.

  16. J-Mac:
    John Harshman,

    The best defence is scientific evidence for the claimsand not just the fact of the existence of something…
    Just like your unfounded claims for the multiple, independent losses of flight in flightless birds…you are looking at animals with “useless”wings and you interpret this fact through the filer of the magic of evolution… If you don’t, you may as well pack your bags and do something else for living…
    But we already know you won’t… therefore the magic of evolution has to step in … no choice left whether right or wrong…

    ETA: the magical, total disappearance of the keel in flightless birds is a typical example of the evolution without any trace of it ever existing… Obviously evolution can explain everything including evolution… in other words the assumption of evolution is the evidence for evolution… Who can argue with this kind of “evidence”?

    Sorry J-Mac but evolution isn’t an assumption. It’s an empirically observed fact. The theory of evolution explains the empirically observed fact of evolution. SJ Gould wrote quite a bit on this if you’re honestly interested in clearing up your ignorance.

  17. John Harshman:
    Bill has recently decided that the best defense is a good offense, or at least something offensive, in this case mirroring the complaints made against him. Not very effective, but it’s what he has.

    Now, Bill, this whole common descent thing is simple. It just has two components: inheritance and branching. The inheritance part should be obvious, and I hope you don’t have trouble with that at least. Branching is less easy to observe in real time, as it takes longer, but the concept at least is simple. We don’t have to know how either of them works in order to study common descent.

    So, why is common descent an evolutionary mechanism? Because it causes certain effects, i.e. a pattern in the data we observe. That pattern is due simply to inheritance, branching, and a third element: change within lineages. But change within lineages is not common descent, nor does it result from common descent; it’s the pattern of those changes among lineages that results from common descent.

    How would it be possible to be any more clear?

    Bill will find a way to misrepresent what you wrote even if he’s up half the night thinking of how best to be disingenuous.

    Wait for it.

  18. J-Mac:
    John Harshman,

    The best defence is scientific evidence for the claimsand not just the fact of the existence of something…

    Too bad you’ve never provided any evidence for creation/design.

    Just like your unfounded claims for the multiple, independent losses of flight in flightless birds…you are looking at animals with “useless”wings and you interpret this fact through the filer of the magic of evolution…

    It’s the only sound conclusion from this and akin evidence, since a God/creator/designer would have the intelligence that constrained evolution doesn’t.

    Your “explanation” for the kiwi’s useless wings? You’re too incompetent to even try for one.

    So it’s a total fail by J-Mac yet again, and he whines about the only explanation that actually came from the evidence.

    Glen Davidson

  19. Adapa,

    Adapa

    You claimed there was zero evidence for the evolution of the spliceosome.

    Bill

    Creationists understand there is not a good mechanistic explanation for the origin of the spliceosome. Hopefully someday you will learn what it is and understand its role in life’s history.

    Do you understand the difference here? Unless you understand your opponents position you are arguing against your own strawman.

  20. colewd: Creationists understand there is not a good mechanistic explanation for the origin of the spliceosome.

    Hey, I hadn’t notice this. Thanks for finally admitting that you’re a creationist. The first step in recovery is admitting that you have a problem.

  21. John Harshman,

    So, why is common descent an evolutionary mechanism? Because it causes certain effects, i.e. a pattern in the data we observe. That pattern is due simply to inheritance, branching, and a third element: change within lineages. But change within lineages is not common descent, nor does it result from common descent; it’s the pattern of those changes among lineages that results from common descent.

    Common descent is a claim about ancestral relationships. The causal mechanism is reproduction. Reproduction produces new life forms. The pattern of the data you observe may be the result of reproduction.

    It appears you agree that common descent is an incomplete explanation of life’s diversity.

  22. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    Common descent is a claim about ancestral relationships.The causal mechanism is reproduction.Reproduction produces new life forms.The pattern of the data you observe may be the result of reproduction.

    It appears you agree that common descent is an incomplete explanation of life’s diversity.

    Holy crap! Is Bill finally getting it? what a milestone for the progress of humanity. Has anyone spotted the monolith?

  23. colewd:
    It appears you agree that common descent is an incomplete explanation of life’s diversity.

    It’s not even an explanation of life’s diversity. It’s a relationship, and it explains, ahem, common features among life forms. (Obviously, right? Inherited from common ancestors!)

    Evolutionary phenomena explain life’s diversity. It’s all about divergence. Why do life forms diverge? Because, as you said, life forms reproduce. Reproduction mixes, mismatches, recombines, and mutates. That makes life forms, populations, diverge and diverge and diverge. Divergence is what explains diversity Bill.

  24. dazz: Holy crap! Is Bill finally getting it? what a milestone for the progress of humanity. Has anyone spotted the monolith?

    Don’t worry, it’s temporary.

    All that matters to Bill is that the one model that is based on evidence “can’t explain” something, anything, to a high level of detail, so it fails while the “design” claim is given a free pass without any finding of entailed evidence for design whatsoever.

    Everything else is just a matter of using whatever is at hand to attack evolution while assuming magic.

    Glen Davidson

  25. Entropy,

    Reproduction mixes, mismatches, recombines, and mutates. That makes life forms, populations, diverge and diverge and diverge. Divergence is what explains diversity Bill.

    I agree this process produces diversity.

    What is missing is how new genetic information is produced to create the real diversity we observe from insects to fish to birds to land animals.

    Where is the evidence that reproduction can create the genetic information that allows for this level of diversity?

  26. colewd:
    Where is the evidence that reproduction can create the genetic information that allows for this level of diversity?

    You said it yourself. The evidence is all around you. Don’t you see insects, fish, birds, to land animals?

    Don’t you see the obvious patterns of diversity, biogeography, Relationships discovered from molecular investigation, etc?

    Don’t you see how quickly we can, for example, make all kinds of different dogs with abilities beyond what wolves can do? From breeds that can outcompete any wolf in olfaction? In hearing? In running? Since we can produce all that new information from mixing and matching, I don’t see why that could not possibly happen in nature given life forms abundance, variability, recombinations, environmental restrictions and variabilities, etc.

  27. Entropy,

    Don’t you see how quickly we can, for example, make all kinds of different dogs with abilities beyond what wolves can do? From breeds that can outcompete any wolf in olfaction? In hearing? In running? Since we can produce all that new information from mixing and matching, I don’t see why that could not possibly happen in nature given life forms abundance, variability, recombinations, environmental restrictions and variabilities, etc

    This is a good point but the issue still remains with all this breeding at the end of the day we still have canines. The evidence remains that the genetic information produced by reproduction is limited to a range. If I want to go from a land animal to a bird I need an extreme re design. The production of wings, feathers and low weight bones requires DNA sequences that can build this. There is no evidence that reproduction can engineer these sequences.

  28. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    Common descent is a claim about ancestral relationships.The causal mechanism is reproduction.Reproduction produces new life forms.The pattern of the data you observe may be the result of reproduction.

    Close. It’s a clumsy restatement of some things I’ve been telling you, but it’s incomplete. Common descent isn’t a claim. It’s a phenomenon. You can make claims that the phenomenon exists, but that would be the theory of common descent, not common descent itself. The causal mechanisms of common descent are inheritance (reproduction is an OK synonym) and branching, which you neglect. Inheritance/reproduction is one of the two causes of common descent, but I think you are claiming that because a phenomenon has a cause, it therefore can’t be a cause itself. Are you? If so, a very little thought will show you that it’s fallacious. The pattern of the data is caused by common descent and change within lineages, and common descent is caused by inheritance/reproduction and branching. Like I’ve been telling you.

    It appears you agree that common descent is an incomplete explanation of life’s diversity.

    It appears? It’s only what I’ve been telling you from the start. Common descent does not explain the origin of innovation. Not at all.

    Common descent has something to do with life’s diversity, but it certainly isn’t “the cause”. Now this all depends on what you mean by “diversity”, which has two meanings in biology. The first is just a count of species. The second, more commonly known as “disparity”, is a measure of the differences among species, or the volume of morphospace or ecological space, or some kind of character space, occupied by a group.

    Clearly, common descent has something to do with the first: branching, a feature of common descent, results in new species, and each new species is an opportunity for further speciation. It also has something to do with the second: each new species is an opportunity for divergence and independent exploration of character space. Further, each species in a community adds to the complexity of the environment, possibly creating new opportunities for innovation in species that interact with it. But a real explanation of diversity (either definition) would involve much more than common descent.

  29. colewd:
    Adapa,

    And after reading these papers what is your mechanistic explanation for the origin of the spliceosome?Did they mention wind and erosion?

    Gene duplication. The spliceosome evolved by gene duplication.

    Done.

  30. John Harshman,

    and branching, which you neglect. Inheritance/reproduction is one of the two causes of common descent, but I think you are claiming that because a phenomenon has a cause, it therefore can’t be a cause itself.

    Can you explain the branching mechanism to me?

    Inheritance/reproduction is one of the two causes of common descent, but I think you are claiming that because a phenomenon has a cause, it therefore can’t be a cause itself. Are you?

    No. I understand that a cause at one level can be an effect at another. The issue I have with common descent described as a mechanism is it is not a biological mechanism where reproduction clearly is.

  31. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    Can you explain the branching mechanism to me?

    Yes, I could, but for our purposes it doesn’t matter what it is. The branching mechanism (probably several mechanisms, actually) is called speciation. I suggest you read Speciation by Coyne & Orr for a full picture, but here’s the short answer: when one population becomes divided by some geographic barrier, the pieces start to diverge through drift and selection, chiefly selection. Some of the divergence may act to either prevent or discourage interbreeding if members of the two populations meet.

    I understand that a cause at one level can be an effect at another.The issue I have with common descent described as a mechanism is it is not a biological mechanism where reproduction clearly is.

    Why isn’t it a biological mechanism? Why should it matter whether it’s a biological mechanism? I don’t understand your objection.

  32. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    Common descent is a claim about ancestral relationships.The causal mechanism is reproduction.Reproduction produces new life forms.The pattern of the data you observe may be the result of reproduction.

    It appears you agree that common descent is an incomplete explanation of life’s diversity.

    See, I told you Bill would find a way to misrepresent what John wrote.

    I know, that’s about as hard as predicting water will be wet.

  33. John Harshman

    Why isn’t it a biological mechanism? Why should it matter whether it’s a biological mechanism? I don’t understand your objection.

    It’s a bog-standard Creationist “defense against reality” response. Throw as much horseshite against the wall as you can, hope that some of it sticks.

  34. John Harshman,

    Yes, I could, but for our purposes it doesn’t matter what it is. The branching mechanism (probably several mechanisms, actually) is called speciation. I suggest you read Speciation by Coyne & Orr for a full picture, but here’s the short answer: when one population becomes divided by some geographic barrier, the pieces start to diverge through drift and selection, chiefly selection. Some of the divergence may act to either prevent or discourage interbreeding if members of the two populations meet.

    This is great. Thanks.

    Why isn’t it a biological mechanism? Why should it matter whether it’s a biological mechanism? I don’t understand your objection.

    This may not be an issue as speciation and reproduction represent the mechanisms that contribute to the branching pattern that common descent predicts.

  35. colewd:
    This is a good point but the issue still remains with all this breeding at the end of the day we still have canines.

    I truly don’t see why would that be an issue. But feel free to google dog breeds and see the enormous variety. Compare with wolves, and then tell me that there’s no new information with a straight face.

    colewd:
    The evidence remains that the genetic information produced by reproduction is limited to a range.

    Really? I see the opposite. There seems to be no end. I look around, and I see so much variety that I have to wonder if there’s a limit at all.

    colewd:
    If I want to go from a land animal to a bird I need an extreme re design.

    I’m not sure about this. Have you studied the anatomies of animals? I took a course, during my B.Sc., on comparative anatomy. It was animal comparative anatomy, and I could easily see how a land animal could evolve into a bird. Doesn’t look as radical as you put it when you check a variety of animals, rather than focus on extremes.

    colewd:
    The production of wings, feathers and low weight bones requires DNA sequences that can build this.

    Sure. The DNA is right there, and it tells the story when we compare the DNA from many animals at different evolutionary end-points. Pretty interesting stuff. You seem to bring DNA as if it made any contrary difference to what we observe. It just reinforces the evolutionary point.

    colewd:
    There is no evidence that reproduction can engineer these sequences.

    You seem a bit uninformed in this respect. There’s plenty of evidence that reproduction, combined with differential survival and a long history of evolving life, has done all these things.

  36. colewd: If I want to go from a land animal to a bird I need an extreme re design. The production of wings, feathers and low weight bones requires DNA sequences that can build this.

    Actually, earlier theropods had feathers and low weight bones, long before some of them started flying. You really should look before making pronouncements.

  37. John Harshman,

    Actually, earlier theropods had feathers and low weight bones, long before some of them started flying. You really should look before making pronouncements.

    This is a long way from flight.

  38. John Harshman,

    Really? I see the opposite. There seems to be no end. I look around, and I see so much variety that I have to wonder if there’s a limit at all.

    I agree with you but what is the cause of all the variety?

    I’m not sure about this. Have you studied the anatomies of animals? I took a course, during my B.Sc., on comparative anatomy. It was animal comparative anatomy, and I could easily see how a land animal could evolve into a bird. Doesn’t look as radical as you put it when you check a variety of animals, rather than focus on extremes.

    Flight is an engineering problem. What would cause sequence to serendipitously change to go from no flight to flight without a planned change.

    Sure. The DNA is right there, and it tells the story when we compare the DNA from many animals at different evolutionary end-points. Pretty interesting stuff. You seem to bring DNA as if it made any contrary difference to what we observe. It just reinforces the evolutionary point.

    DNA is 4 bit information with billions of nucleotides in some cases, Without knowledge of specific changes the sequence will breakdown over time into non function. Flight is very sophisticated function.

    You seem a bit uninformed in this respect. There’s plenty of evidence that reproduction, combined with differential survival and a long history of evolving life, has done all these things.

    There is no evidence that supports this that I have seen and the very nature of DNA makes this exceedingly unlikely.

  39. colewd:
    I think you mistook me for John, for some weird reason.

    colewd:
    I agree with you but what is the cause of all the variety?

    I already told you, and you already agreed that the processes I mentioned would result in divergence. Why are you walking backwards now?

    colewd:
    Flight is an engineering problem.

    Only if you’re a human being. Otherwise it’s just stuff that happens.

    colewd:
    What would cause sequence to serendipitously change to go from no flight to flight without a planned change.

    A series of circumstances historically accumulating changes in the direction that would make flight a closer and closer possibility. As I told you, you should try and read some textbook on comparative anatomy. The evolutionary “sequences” jump to your eyes as you discover the “little variations, each useful to its bearer” that make the evolution of flight, not just possible, but evidently so.

    colewd:
    DNA is 4 bit information with billions of nucleotides in some cases,

    That’s just one way in which DNA is conceptualized, but, in reality, it’s a polymer with a sugar-phosphate backbone and four types of chemicals that can be attached to the sugar.

    colewd:
    Without knowledge of specific changes the sequence will breakdown over time into non function.

    That would be true if the mutational load was above what the species population can survive, and if there was no such thing as selection (positive and negative selection). Since neither is true, breakdown is not what happens.

    colewd:
    There is no evidence that supports this that I have seen and the very nature of DNA makes this exceedingly unlikely.

    There’s plenty of evidence. The fact that we’re here talking about it means that the nature of DNA doesn’t make it unlikely enough for it not to happen. Here we are, aren’t we? That’s evidence that we’re possible.

  40. John Harshman,

    I merely point out that you are making claims that are factually wrong.

    :

    If I want to go from a land animal to a bird I need an extreme re design. The production of wings, feathers and low weight bones requires DNA sequences that can build this.

    The discussion is about building components that working together are capable of flight . You have not made the case that the hollow boned animal that you cite is an animal that will eventually become a flying animal solely by reproduction and random variation.

  41. colewd: The discussion is about building components that working together are capable of flight . You have not made the case that the hollow boned animal that you cite is an animal that will eventually become a flying animal solely by reproduction and random variation.

    Stop digging. Notice that the components you listed, feathers and light bones, do not enter evolutionary history in connection with flight. They were later coopted, just the sort of thing you dismiss as implausible. Wings, of course, are nothing more than modified theropod forelimbs, and those modifications also happened gradually and can be seen in the fossil record in various intermediate versions. Now of course this doesn’t happen solely by reproduction and random variation. Natural selection is almost certainly involved too. At the genetic level, I would strongly suspect that no new genes were involved. It’s the sort of thing that regulatory changes are generally responsible for. And regulatory changes result from the sort of mutations that happen all the time. There seems no need to invoke anything else. Why would you think so?

  42. John Harshman,

    And regulatory changes result from the sort of mutations that happen all the time. There seems no need to invoke anything else. Why would you think so?

    Sure this is one of the causes of cancer.

    Regulatory systems are irreducibly complex and are not the result of a step by step process.

    You have a fundamental problem with your whole analysis, a flying animal requires precise engineering, not the co-option of parts designed for something else. This is only the result of a planned process not random changes to a land animal especially when the animal is built by functional sequences.

  43. colewd: You have a fundamental problem with your whole analysis, a flying animal requires precise engineering, not the co-option of parts designed for something else.

    Then why do we see the wholesale co-option of parts “designed” for something else in birds?

    You will never deal properly with the evidence, as it reveals that all of your claims of “engineering” and what-not are complete nonsense.

    Glen Davidson

  44. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    Sure this is one of the causes of cancer.

    Regulatory systems are irreducibly complex and are not the result of a step by step process.

    You’re being incoherent again, Bill. What does cancer have to do with it? What makes you think regulatory systems aren’t the result of a step by step process?

    You have a fundamental problem with your whole analysis, a flying animal requires precise engineering, not the co-option of parts designed for something else.This is only the result of a planned process not random changes to a land animal especially when the animal is built by functional sequences.

    You make a number of unsupported assertions here, which moreover are contradicted by the evidence. Archaeopteryx is a flying bird, yet its anatomy differs only slightly from that of any flightless theropod, say Velociraptor. The differences are the sort that would easily be achievable by slight changes. There is no evidence of any planned process. Again, most of what you think is carefully engineered for flight appears in earlier, non-flying theropods.

  45. colewd: In this post Dr. Harshman claimed that common descent was separate from a mechanism and included divine mutations.

    Based on your quote, that argument is different. Make your point clear and brief if any.

    newton:
    I doubt an infinity of things exists.
    The components that make phenotype are observable by definition.

    Your doubt is irrelevant to those that can observe. Your argument fails.
    As a rule, the whole is different than “the components”. Your argument fails.

    Adapa: Which directly contradicts your earlier claim no one has identified any mechanism(s) for evolution.

    You can “identify” whatever fairytale. There is no mechanism for evolution. I presented the arguments in this essay. Argue against anything here, not some other discussion.

    John Harshman: Bill hears what he wants to hear.

    I was gone for a few days and see the remnants of a previous unclear long argument. Can we stay on this topic http://nonlin.org/natural-selection/ ? Thanks.

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