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. colewd:
    John Harshman,

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

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

    Natural selection favoring genetic changes which gradually led to powered flight, almost certainly through rudimentary gliding first. The same thing that happened to bats around 52 million years ago.

    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.

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

    Individuals in the population with mutations which degraded their flying ability will get weeded out by natural selection.

    How many hundreds of times have you had the simple concept explained to you?

  2. Nonlin.org: There is no mechanism for evolution.

    Except for random WRT fitness naturally occurring genetic variations filtered by feedback selection and drift, with the occasional HGT for good measure. A mechanism that has been known to science for over 70 years and which has been verified thousands of times over.

    “Besides that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” 🙂

  3. John Harshman,

    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?

    They contain several interdependent proteins and are fatal to the organism if they don’t work precisely.

    Archaeopteryx is a flying bird, yet its anatomy differs only slightly from that of any flightless theropod, say Velociraptor.

    One bird flies one doesn’t. That is a very different animal. Why do you think a significant component of flight capability would emerge and get fixed in animals that cannot fly?

  4. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    They contain several interdependent proteins and are fatal to the organism if they don’t work precisely.

    Science already knows how IC systems can evolve through step-wise natural processes. Even Behe doesn’t use the IC argument anymore. Some Creationists are too slow to have gotten the word it seems.

    One bird flies one doesn’t.That is a very different animal.Why do you think a significant component of flight capability would emerge and get fixed in animals that cannot fly?

    Because the components are also very advantageous to non-flying animals. Hollow lightweight bones are very useful for fast running. Feathers are very useful for insulation. Evolution works by modifying existing features, another fact you’ve has explained to you ad nauseum with no discernable effect.

  5. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    They contain several interdependent proteins and are fatal to the organism if they don’t work precisely.

    Yeah, that isn’t true. The actual case is that a mutation that renders a protein nonfunctional can have bad effects. Not at all what you claim here. Now in fact there’s an obvious mechanism by which slight changes in DNA sequence can have small effects on development. Transcription factor binding sites don’t have to be exact. Point mutations can change the binding strength in very small increments, causing slightly greater or slightly lesser expression of the regulated proteins, in turn causing slight differences in morphology.

    One bird flies one doesn’t.That is a very different animal.Why do you think a significant component of flight capability would emerge and get fixed in animals that cannot fly?

    One might speculate on why, but one can’t ignore the fact that it did happen. Archaeopteryx could fly, but it was only slightly different in morphology from Velociraptor, which couldn’t. Regardless of the reasons for the slight differences, your thesis is falsified. Incidentally, Velociraptor isn’t a bird.

  6. John Harshman,

    Yeah, that isn’t true. The actual case is that a mutation that renders a protein nonfunctional can have bad effects. Not at all what you claim here. Now in fact there’s an obvious mechanism by which slight changes in DNA sequence can have small effects on development. Transcription factor binding sites don’t have to be exact. Point mutations can change the binding strength in very small increments, causing slightly greater or slightly lesser expression of the regulated proteins, in turn causing slight differences in morphology.

    How do you propose that this variation in transcriptional binding is only specific to limited tissue types?

    So you are claiming that weaker/stronger transcriptional binding caused the evolutionary changes so a land animal could fly?

    Archaeopteryx could fly, but it was only slightly different in morphology from Velociraptor, which couldn’t.

    Slightly different how? I would call functional wings a massive change, but evolving flight appears to be as easy as evolving eyes.

    One might speculate on why, but one can’t ignore the fact that it did happen.

    How it happened is what matters.

    Regardless of the reasons for the slight differences, Archaeopteryx . Incidentally, Velociraptor isn’t a bird.

    So you are claiming that Velociraptor has a genetic relationship with Archaeopteryx and Archaeopteryx evolved flight through random mutations to transcriptional proteins? How do you think this process would end up with a sufficient aerodynamic wing structure which would allow Archaeopteryx to fly. Seems pretty unlikely without foresight. To add to the claim, was the same process repeated in bats?

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

    Nonlin: 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.

    The observable “components” (length, height, eye color, blood type) are all perfectly fine phenotypes in their own right. Newton is right, you are wrong.

  8. Something else occurred to me:

    Nonlin.org: 1. “Fitness is never defined independently of survivability – this renders the fitness concept redundant especially since survivability can be measured while fitness cannot.” Because of this, there is no “fitness variation” that does anything. Disagree by describing you “fitness function” if you can.

    Meanwhile in another OP at TSZ:

    They keep track of the distribution of the values of fitness on a continuous scale time scale. Genotypes at different values of the fitness scale have different birth rates. There is a distribution of fitness effects of mutations, as displacements on the fitness scale.

    But fitness is never defined independently of survival. No, siree.

  9. Nonlin.org: 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.

    You have observed an infinity of things?

  10. colewd:

    One might speculate on why, but one can’t ignore the fact that it did happen.

    How it happened is what matters.

    It happened by “the co-option of parts designed for something else,” to use the words in your contradiction of the facts. Aside from the egregiously unsupported “designed” word there, yes, the co-option of parts that functioned for other purposes is how it happened, although you simply must deny it. And ignore what people who know much more than you do say in order to repeat to your pathetic ignorance regardless.

    Of course the co-option of parts used for terrestrial living is an idiotic way for your pathetic “God” to design anything, and you inadvertently admitted as much. And you admitted it because you are too rude and stubborn to even consider what people who are the opposite have told you, hoping that for once you’ll care about truth.

    Naturally, you’re still failing to acknowledge your egregious mistakes and moving the goalposts. Too bad you’ll never once face up to the fact that life is rife with the evidence that clearly tells against design because it is what non-intelligent evolution requires.

    Glen Davidson

  11. This definition however fails the simplest test as different phenotypes survive different environments thus delinking phenotype from survivability

    Holy crap! So survivability has nothing to do with the interaction between the phenotype and the environment!? The insights we can get from Nonlin are astounding! Now I know I shouldn’t be surprised if I see orcas eating the flowers in my garden.

  12. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    How do you propose that this variation in transcriptional binding is only specific to limited tissue types?

    That question suggests that either you know nothing about the regulation of development or you are so anxious to find problems with my scenario that you have blanked out your knowledge, temporarily one hopes. The answer is the same way anything is specific to tissue types: it’s downstream from some other regulatory event.

    So you are claiming that weaker/stronger transcriptional binding caused the evolutionary changes so a land animal could fly?

    No, I’m claiming that it’s an obvious counterexample to your claim that there can be no changes in regulation without causing disaster.

    Slightly different how?I would call functional wings a massive change, but evolving flight appears to be as easy as evolving eyes.

    Do you have any acquaintance whatsoever with the fossil record? If not, gaining some such acquaintance would do much to answer your questions here.

    How it happened is what matters.

    Until you are willing to agree that it happened there can be no evidence for how it happened. As long as you hold the divine poofing theory of species origin, we can’t even begin to discuss it.

    So you are claiming that Velociraptor has a genetic relationship with Archaeopteryx and Archaeopteryx evolved flight through random mutations to transcriptional proteins?

    The first is obvious if you just look. I’m not claiming the second, just offering it as a counterexample to your claims that any such thing would be impossible.

    How do you think this process would end up with a sufficient aerodynamic wing structure which would allow Archaeopteryx to fly.Seems pretty unlikely without foresight.To add to the claim, was the same process repeated in bats?

    Same process? Certainly something vaguely like it, though we have no comparable fossil record. Again, if you would just look at the fossil record of theropods, you will see copious evidence of gradual evolution of the avian wing.
    While one can’t completely rule out divine intervention in the process, it would seem limited at best to occasional slight tweaks to evolving lineages. Is that the sort of limited god you want? It certainly doesn’t correspond to the way humans design things.

  13. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    So you are claiming that Velociraptor has a genetic relationship with Archaeopteryx and Archaeopteryx evolved flight through random mutations to transcriptional proteins? How do you think this process would end up with a sufficient aerodynamic wing structure which would allow Archaeopteryx to fly.Seems pretty unlikely without foresight.To add to the claim, was the same process repeated in bats?

    There goes Billy one again, another episode of ignorance based personal incredulity theater. Never mind the huge amount of evidence and hundreds of scientific papers on the subject of how birds evolved from early theropod dinosaurs. Billy just doesn’t believe it because, well, just because!.

    BTW Billy, Google Onychonycteris finneyi to read about a transitional proto-bat.

  14. Entropy: Now I know I shouldn’t be surprised if I see orcas eating the flowers in my garden.

    How can you tell they are orcas? Did you observe the infinity of things that make up the orca phenotype? Bet you didn’t.

  15. Corneel: How can you tell they are orcas? Did you observe the infinity of things that make up the orca phenotype? Bet you didn’t.

    Shit! I forgot about that! Now I should not be surprised that I don’t know what the hell is happening in my garden, since I cannot make sense of any life form present in there. Phenotypes are impossible to tell!

  16. John Harshman,

    That question suggests that either you know nothing about the regulation of development or you are so anxious to find problems with my scenario that you have blanked out your knowledge, temporarily one hopes. The answer is the same way anything is specific to tissue types: it’s downstream from some other regulatory event.

    I was assuming that you were talking about the eukaryotic process that controls cell division. If you weren’t I mis understood.

    No, I’m claiming that it’s an obvious counterexample to your claim that their can be no changes in regulation without causing disaster.

    In the process of cell cycle control that includes dozens of proteins, if you lose function of one the animal will have severe problems. I have seen experimental evidence that supports this.

    Do you have any acquaintance whatsoever with the fossil record? If not, gaining some such acquaintance would do much to answer your questions here.

    My knowledge here is weak. I did look up Archaeopteryx and Velociraptor and saw some common features that you explained to me. It appeared that Velociraptor weight was around 30 to 40 lbs and Archaeopteryx around 5 to 6 lbs.

    While one can’t completely rule out divine intervention in the process, it would seem limited at best to occasional slight tweaks to evolving lineages. Is that the sort of limited god you want? It certainly doesn’t correspond to the way humans design things.

    This is about evidence of how life arose not a hope for Gods plan. This case looks like one where Behe was right. The origin of animal flight supports the design hypothesis. A partial wing and a wing engineered for flight are very different things. I cannot rule out that the directed changes were not part of a reproductive event.

  17. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    I was assuming that you were talking about the eukaryotic process that controls cell division.If you weren’t I mis understood.

    You can take “I misunderstood” as a given in all cases. I was talking about the eukaryotic process that controls development, of which control of cell division is certainly one component. But I have no idea what you’re trying to say.

    In the process of cell cycle control that includes dozens of proteins, if you lose function of one the animal will have severe problems.I have seen experimental evidence that supports this.

    Makes sense, but what does that have to do with anything I said?

    My knowledge here is weak.I did look up Archaeopteryx and Velociraptor and saw some common features that you explained to me.It appeared that Velociraptor weight was around 30 to 40 lbs and Archaeopteryx around 5 to 6 lbs.

    Well, at least here’s one place in which you admit your knowledge is weak. Yes, Velociraptor is bigger than Archaeopteryx. Was there some point involved?

    This is about evidence of how life arose not a hope for Gods plan.This case looks like one where Behe was right.The origin of animal flight supports the design hypothesis.A partial wing and a wing engineered for flight are very different things.I cannot rule out that the directed changes were not part of a reproductive event.

    You can’t rule it out? Why isn’t it at least your working hypothesis, considering the evidence? Now, it should be obvious from looking at various feathered theropods that a partial wing is almost identical to one “engineered for flight”. Archaeopteryx, for example, possesses only a partial wing, i.e. one missing a host of features that help modern birds fly. It’s pretty much an unmodified theropod forelimb, just longer than most and with asymmetrical flight feathers, unlike the symmetrical feathers on many flightless theropods. Why not admit that this too is an area in which your knowledge is weak?

  18. Adapa: has been known to science for over 70 years

    Astrology has been around for thousands of years – does it make it right? I just explained no such thing as “fitness”. “Feedback selection” nonsense.

    Corneel: The observable “components” (length, height, eye color, blood type) are all perfectly fine phenotypes in their own right.

    No. Phenotype is the unstable infinite set (hence unknowable and theoretical) of observable characteristics determined by genotype and the environment. Natural Selection fails the most basic test since survival is not directly tied to phenotype.
    Which length? Measured when? What if it just rained? Each individual is different.
    You can’t just measure one and think it makes all the difference. Each parameter has “positives” and “negatives” – like horns that can defend but get stuck in the weeds.

    Corneel: They keep track of the distribution of the values of fitness on a continuous scale time scale. Genotypes at different values of the fitness scale have different birth rates. There is a distribution of fitness effects of mutations, as displacements on the fitness scale.

    But fitness is never defined independently of survival. No, siree.

    Just because you see it written somewhere, doesn’t make it so. If you think “fitness” is a thing, what is your fitness?

    newton: You have observed an infinity of things?

    Yes. I have observed that the set of characteristics of an organism is infinite. Do you think it’s finite?!? For one you can measure its length at every infinitesimal time and will find the length to change all the time. That’s’ infinite right there.

    Entropy:
    On the theme about what single mutations could do:

    Some African Salmonella.

    Mutations do happen. They’re not “evolution”.

    Entropy: So survivability has nothing to do with the interaction between the phenotype and the environment!?

    As shown, the definition doesn’t even mention environment so it fails right there. In addition phenotype is unknowable and theoretical and environment just as much. So you’re just uttering a “phenotype and the environment“ nonscientific incantation.

  19. Nonlin.org,

    I encounter this all the time from creationists: “We don’t know everything; therefore we know nothing”, or words to that effect. As you did right there. I don’t find it reasonable.

  20. Nonlin.org I just explained no such thing as “fitness”. “Feedback selection” nonsense.

    You didn’t “explain” anything. You made a rather dumb assertion which has already been disproven 100x over.

    Why Creationists think ignorance based empty assertions somehow negate 150+ years’ of positive scientific evidence is the only mystery.

  21. Nonlin.org. Natural Selection fails the most basic test since survival is not directly tied to phenotype.

    It takes a really special kind of stupid to think if you dropped an elephant and a shark into the middle of the Pacific ocean, they’d each have the same chance of survival.

  22. Nonlin.org: Corneel: The observable “components” (length, height, eye color, blood type) are all perfectly fine phenotypes in their own right.

    No.

    Yes, that is a common usage of the term phenotype in genetics.

    Nonlin.org: Phenotype is the unstable infinite set (hence unknowable and theoretical) of observable characteristics determined by genotype and the environment.

    No it is not. You know, if you dream up your own definitions, it becomes rather easy to argue against them. But this definition is yours and yours alone.

    Nonlin.org: Corneel: They keep track of the distribution of the values of fitness on a continuous scale time scale. Genotypes at different values of the fitness scale have different birth rates. There is a distribution of fitness effects of mutations, as displacements on the fitness scale.

    But fitness is never defined independently of survival. No, siree.

    Nonlin: Just because you see it written somewhere, doesn’t make it so.

    Yes, it does. You claimed that fitness is never defined independently of survival. Yet, in a paper that is being discussed here in several posts at TSZ, fitness IS defined independently of survival. Hey, that proves you wrong.

  23. Entropy: So survivability has nothing to do with the interaction between the phenotype and the environment!?

    Nonlin.org: As shown, the definition doesn’t even mention environment so it fails right there.

    1. That was the definition you offered, which doesn’t make it “The Definition [TM].” If the definition you offer fails to represent what it’s actually meant by natural selection, then that’s your problem, not natural selection’s.

    2. Even in the definition that you offered: “the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype.” it should be obvious, even for the most stupid person in the planet, that the reason different phenotypes would result in different survival only makes sense when put together with the environment.

    As somebody said above:

    Adapa:
    It takes a really special kind of stupid to think if you dropped an elephant and a shark into the middle of the Pacific ocean, they’d each have the same chance of survival.

    See that? Differences in phenotype and survival imply environment. Your insistence in “the definition fails because it didn’t mention the environment” is plainly your semantic and mental mistake, not a problem with natural selection. Definitions try and convey an idea in the smallest number of words possible. But definitions don’t substitute for the phenomena and their overall understanding. You’re managing to show that you have tremendous conceptual problems.

    Nonlin.org:
    In addition phenotype is unknowable and theoretical and environment just as much.

    This is yet more of your misunderstanding. If phenotypes were unknowable we could not tell the difference between a shark and an elephant, if the environment was unknowable we couldn’t tell the difference between a tundra and a savanna. Here you’re showing not just ignorance of biology and ecology, but, again, tremendous conceptual problems.

    Nonlin.org:
    So you’re just uttering a “phenotype and the environment“ nonscientific incantation.

    Curious because I’m a scientists myself, John Harshman is also a scientist, and the “incantation” is uttered by thousands upon thousands of other scientists as well. I’d trust myself and the rest of the scientific community for my understanding of what’s scientific any time over you. No matter how stubborn you might become, or how unreachable by reason, scientists trump your opinion about what’s scientific many times over.

  24. Entropy: From my experience, I’d guess that even if you showed 1000 articles where fitness is defined apart from survival, you won’t convince her/him.

    Well, Nonlin could observe those articles at infinitesimal time intervals to make for an infinity of articles. That’d look pretty impressive, right?

  25. I note nonlin.org has been discussing the power or otherwise of biological selection elsewhere with ID proponent, gpuccio. Intelligent selection? What next?

  26. John Harshman,

    You can’t rule it out? Why isn’t it at least your working hypothesis, considering the evidence?

    I am not sure what the evidence supports at this point other then flight being the result of step by step random change being exceeding unlikely.

    Yes, Velociraptor is bigger than Archaeopteryx. Was there some point involved?

    Yes, weight is a key component of flight engineering. Saying that V is almost the same as A short of flight capability and yet ignoring it is 6x the weight seems odd.

  27. colewd: I am not sure what the evidence supports at this point other then flight being the result of step by step random change being exceeding unlikely.

    Yes, we know that you lack the guts and decency to actually make a case for design/creation, but merely repeat your presupposition that flight can’t evolve.

    Because you don’t care about the evidence that others bring up, you made this utterly ridiculous claim:

    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.

    When co-option of parts “designed” for other purposes is about all that we see. As has been pointed out to you repeatedly, while you just blither on with pseudoscientific talking points.

    But you don’t care that your purported reason why flight couldn’t evolve fails spectacularly, because you don’t care about reasons at all. You’re only interested in claiming over and over again that evolution can’t do whatever it is you don’t want to admit it did, and in retaining your intellectually bankrupt belief in the fallacy of the false dilemma.

    Your comments are a major example of bad thinking all around.

    Glen Davidson

  28. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    I am not sure what the evidence supports at this point other then flight being the result of step by step random change being exceeding unlikely.

    Why, after all this time, aren’t you sure what the evidence supports? And how were you able to rule out “step by step random change”? (Note that selection actually makes the change non-random, so that premise is wrong from the beginning, but let’s say you fix that part.)

    Yes, weight is a key component of flight engineering.Saying that V is almost the same as A short of flight capability and yet ignoring it is 6x the weight seems odd.

    Would you claim that size couldn’t go from 6x to x as the result of “step by step random change”?

  29. John Harshman: Would you claim that size couldn’t go from 6x to x as the result of “step by step random change”?

    Or neotony was involved? Young velociraptors running up trees to escape predators? 🙂

  30. John Harshman,

    Would you claim that size couldn’t go from 6x to x as the result of “step by step random change”?

    Why would you think this would happen in isolation of all other changes?

    Why, after all this time, aren’t you sure what the evidence supports? And how were you able to rule out “step by step random change”? (Note that selection actually makes the change non-random, so that premise is wrong from the beginning, but let’s say you fix that part.)

    Flight is a complex function that requires many parameters to work together. When humans were designing airplanes there were many failures despite intelligent agents doing the experiments.

    (Note that selection actually makes the change non-random, so that premise is wrong from the beginning, but let’s say you fix that part

    The change is random until it gets fixed in a population. Your talking about blind trial and error steps that find advantage through serendipity. When humans designed airplanes they were able to analyze the failures prior to making changes.

  31. colewd:
    John Harshman,
    Why would you think this would happen in isolation of all other changes?

    Not an answer to the question, just evasion. Stop squirming.

    Flight is a complex function that requires many parameters to work together.When humans were designing airplanes there were many failures despite intelligent agents doing the experiments.

    So? You will note that in life, all those parameters you think have to work together appeared at different times.

    The change is random until it gets fixed in a population.Your talking about blind trial and error steps that find advantage through serendipity.When humans designed airplanes they were able to analyze the failures prior to making changes.

    Yes, that’s why human design isn’t a good model for evolution. And no, change isn’t random until it gets fixed in a population. You are garbling the idea of natural selection; word salad is the result, as usual.

  32. John Harshman,

    Not an answer to the question, just evasion. Stop squirming.

    This is a key problem with your theory that needs to be addressed. Random change means random change where design can isolate a single variable. This is a key reason the theory is incoherent.

    So? You will note that in life, all those parameters you think have to work together appeared at different times.

    I understand the convergence argument which is beyond incoherent when a system like flight requires matched parameters.

    And no, change isn’t random until it gets fixed in a population.

    Can you explain how change is not random prior to fixation?

  33. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    I am not sure what the evidence supports at this point other then flight being the result of step by step random change being exceeding unlikely.

    How did you determine it was exceeding unlikely? Or is that just your ignorance talking again?

  34. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    This is a key problem with your theory that needs to be addressed.Random change means random change where design can isolate a single variable.This is a key reason the theory is incoherent.

    What makes you think evolutionary changes can’t happen in parallel? Why can’t a population of proto-birds have its forelimb length increase and have insulating feathers become more flight capable at the same time?

  35. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    This is a key problem with your theory that needs to be addressed.Random change means random change where design can isolate a single variable.This is a key reason the theory is incoherent.

    More word salad. How is “random change” in opposition to “isolate a single variable”?

    I understand the convergence argument which is beyond incoherent when a system like flight requires matched parameters.

    You understand very little. I wasn’t talking about convergence at all. I was talking about the evolution of flight in birds. All the characteristics you associate with bird flight appeared at various different times along the lineage leading to birds. We can conclude from this that they aren’t as tightly correlated as you imagine.

    Can you explain how change is not random prior to fixation?

    More evidence that you understand very little about the theory you dismiss as incoherent. Mutation is random (with respect to advantage). Change in allele frequencies (of the subset of alleles that are subject to selection) is not random, long before fixation, and even if it doesn’t lead to fixation. Now, if what you meant to say is that mutation is random, you really need to work harder on saying what you mean rather than something else.

  36. John Harshman,

    All the characteristics you associate with bird flight appeared at various different times along the lineage leading to birds. We can conclude from this that they aren’t as tightly correlated as you imagine.

    What fossil evidence would make you conclude that all these pieces could work together to create a flying animal? What about muscle structure for lift and navigation ability? What makes you think that random genetic change with selection could accomplish this? You are counting on lots of serendipity here as flight not only requires the features it requires them to come together simultaneously at some point.

    This case is much easier with the design hypothesis.

  37. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    What fossil evidence would make you conclude that all these pieces could work together to create a flying animal? What about muscle structure for lift and navigation ability? What makes you think that random genetic change with selection could accomplish this?You are counting on lots of serendipity here as flight not only requires the features it requires them to come together simultaneously at some point.

    Please try harder to be clear. All what pieces? What about muscle structures? Why couldn’t random genetic change and selection accomplish whatever “this” is? Now, what does the fossil record show? It shows that the various adaptations to flight happened in a sequence, not all at once, the initial stages weren’t in flying animals at all, and flight began long before all of the adaptations were in place. They all came together quite late in the process, possibly as early as 100 million years ago, maybe even a bit before, but there were flying theropods (=birds) for at least 60 million years before that, and feathered, light-boned theropods considerably before that.

    This case is much easier with the design hypothesis.

    The fossil record is compatible with design only if the designer does slight tweaks on previous designs at random intervals. That’s a designer who doesn’t know where he’s going and has no actual plan. Is that the designer you want to posit? On the other hand, that sort of behavior is certainly quite compatible with natural selection on whatever happens to come up.

  38. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    What fossil evidence would make you conclude that all these pieces could work together to create a flying animal? What about muscle structure for lift and navigation ability?

    What about them? Muscles and migration existed in animals long before birds evolved.

    What makes you think that random genetic change with selection could accomplish this?

    Besides the fossil and genetic records, plus the fact we’ve seen the process work first hand in the lab, in the field, and in evolutionary algorithms?

    You are counting on lots of serendipity here as flight not only requires the features it requires them to come together simultaneously at some point.

    No Billy, it doesn’t.

    This case is much easier with the design hypothesis.

    So is saying MAGIC! and it explains just as much as your blithering.

    I see you’re still avoiding the paper I posted. Do you enjoy being so willfully ignorant?

  39. John Harshman,

    Why couldn’t random genetic change and selection accomplish whatever “this” is?

    Design is a better explanation then a process driven by random variation and selection because the results require precise results that allow the animal to sustain flight. The critical elements are muscle movement translating to specified wing movement, weight, strength and energy usage.

    It shows that the various adaptations to flight happened in a sequence, not all at once, the initial stages weren’t in flying animals at all, and flight began long before all of the adaptations were in place.

    Looks planned to me. Components designed and tested prior to the final usage- flight.

    That’s a designer who doesn’t know where he’s going and has no actual plan.

    Use of pre tested components that ultimately allow an animal to fly. Looks like the execution of a long term plan.

    The fossil record is compatible with design only if the designer does slight tweaks on previous designs at random intervals.

    Don’t forget the leaps.

    Prokaryotic to eukaryotic
    single cell to multicellular
    water to land
    land to air
    reptile to mammal
    mammal to primate
    Don’t forget the plants that supply the oxygen and food energy. We live in a very complex interdependent system that is evidence of complete forethought.

  40. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    Design is a better explanation then a process driven by random variation and selection because the results require precise results that allow the animal to sustain flight.The critical elements are muscle movement translating to specified wing movement, weight, strength and energy usage.

    No, they are not critical. Look at all the different flying creatures today and the huge range of their “design”.

    Looks planned to me.

    Only because you’re a willfully ignorant lump who’s too afraid to look at the evidence you’ve been provided.

    We live in a very complex interdependent system that is evidence of complete forethought.

    What “complete forethought” put the genes for hind limb development in cetaceans? What “complete forethought” created human wisdom teeth which can kill us from infection when they come in impacted?

  41. Adapa: No, they are not critical.Look at all the different flying creatures today and the huge range of their “design”.
    What “complete forethought” put the genes for hind limb development in cetaceans?What “complete forethought” created human wisdom teeth which can kill us from infection when they come in impacted?

    If the designs in nature do result from “complete forethought”, it’s not the sort of forethought at which people are very good. Computers that play better chess or Go than any human weren’t explicitly programmed to do that — those programs had a poor record. Instead, the best computers were provided a rudimentary ability to learn, and then learned by playing millions of games against themselves. Go playing computers trained this way consistently defeat computers that use massive lookups of millions of games already played.

    I know it’s been covered here a few times that gnarly complex engineering problems are better solved by self-teaching algorithms (GA’s) than by brute force programming.

    Beyond a certain level of complexity (and life surely qualifies), it’s the very success of the results that announces trial and error, not the evidence of obsolete features not yet entirely lost. Ironic that for some people, the effectiveness of a process seems to imply that process couldn’t have been used because it works so well.

  42. colewd:
    John Harshman,

    Design is a better explanation then a process driven by random variation and selection because the results require precise results that allow the animal to sustain flight.The critical elements are muscle movement translating to specified wing movement, weight, strength and energy usage.

    The evidence is that things aren’t that precise. If they were, the transition between no-flight and flight would involve all those adaptations appearing at once.

    Looks planned to me.

    OK, well. I’m convinced, then.

    Components designed and tested prior to the final usage- flight.

    Use of pre tested components that ultimately allow an animal to fly.Looks like the execution of a long term plan.

    So you’re saying that your proposed designer has to a) test various components of this eventual flight thing for up to 100 million years before he can figure out if they work, b) can’t produce a flying prototype without all that work, and c) creates a bunch of long-lived, apparently successful species just to prepare for something he wants to do millions of years later. He seems much less competent than human aircraft designers. Are you sure that’s the creator you want to argue for?

    Don’t forget the leaps.

    And zoom, there go the goalposts. But none of those is a leap. There are plentiful intermediates for every single one, often extending over tens of millions of years. We could discuss them if you like, but your complete ignorance on each and every one is getting in your way.

  43. colewd: Use of pre tested components that ultimately allow an animal to fly. Looks like the execution of a long term plan.

    Remarkably like evolution, even.

    I see you’ve managed to change your BS about flight not involving co-option of “designed” parts to now calling those parts pre tested components.

    It’s almost as if you don’t care at all about the evidence, except how it can be twisted to fit your preconceived notions. Congratulations, that’s what being an IDist is all about.

    Glen Davidson

  44. Alan Fox: I note nonlin.org has been discussing the power or otherwise of biological selection elsewhere with ID proponent, gpuccio. Intelligent selection? What next?

    Well, sure. You can DESIGN all kinds of fancy stuff, but who is going to put that shit together? Not blind random mindless purposeless lucky accidents is for sure.

    But that is an illuminating exchange. Nonlin has decided to reject absolutely everything that is remotely relevant to evolutionary biology.

    There is no reason to borrow the Darwinistas language. No microevolution, no NS, no “fitness”, “phenotype”, “speciation”, etc. How can the Darwinistas take you seriously when you accept and operate in their mind frame and only seek fault at the edges when their whole mind frame is rotten?

    If one decides to reject all common ground beforehand, any discussion will become rather tiresome indeed. Not very constructive to one’s own position either.

  45. John Harshman,

    The evidence is that things aren’t that precise. If they were, the transition between no-flight and flight would involve all those adaptations appearing at once.

    It appears to take several coordinated features that allow flight to occur. Wing muscle structure, how the mid point bone joints work, controlled change in feather orientation to reduce drag when the wing is in the upward motion.

    If the previous adaptations that led to flight were random then I would agree with you but they may not be.

    The other issue is loss of flight in birds if that ever really occurred. If flight parameters were loose then this would be less likely.

    ) creates a bunch of long-lived, apparently successful species just to prepare for something he wants to do millions of years later. He seems much less competent than human aircraft designers. Are you sure that’s the creator you want to argue for?

    )
    How did you calculate 100 million years?

    And zoom, there go the goalposts. But none of those is a leap. There are plentiful intermediates for every single one, often extending over tens of millions of years. We could discuss them if you like, but your complete ignorance on each and every one is getting in your way.

    You had brought up the designers strategy as an issue. We should look at the big picture here not just a single transition.

    All these transitions require lots of new genetic information. I don’t think interim stages are going to help the blind watchmaker solve this problem.

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