Natural Selection and Adaptation

Cornelius Hunter seems very confused.

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

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

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

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

Cornelius should spend more time at the Understanding Evolution website.

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Is Religious Belief Natural?

Questions about the existence and attributes of God form the subject matter of natural theology, which seeks to gain knowledge of the divine by relying on reason and experience of the world. Arguments in natural theology rely largely on intuitions and inferences that seem natural to us, occurring spontaneously — at the sight of a beautiful landscape, perhaps, or in wonderment at the complexity of the cosmos — even to a non-philosopher.

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Moderation at TSZ, part 1

Gathering my thoughts on moderation at TSZ, I found that I really have two OPs to write: one discussing the effects of rules and moderation at TSZ, and another exploring why the moderation — particularly the Guano-related stuff — has those effects. The second topic is by far the more interesting, but it’s the first topic that has the most practical import, so I’ll address it now.

In a nutshell: We’ve already experimented with different levels of moderation at TSZ, and the results are in. Less moderation works better.

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Cabbages and Kings: open thread

Having taken a brief break from commenting and still taking a break from proactive moderating, I still find myself sucked into reading OP’s and comments. Not wanting to stir the hornet’s nest of currently active discussion and not having enough time to get up to speed on all the current issues where commenters are discussing deep issues of the day, I wondered about opening a thread titled something like “Suggestion Box” to get people’s thinking on any improvements Lizzie could consider that might ameliorate concerns over site policy, aims, aspirations etc. Continue reading

Repetitive DNA and ENCODE

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

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

Simply put, liberals/progressives are the ones who, IMO, are going to utilize these services the most. So, yeah, the fewer babies they get to raise, and the earlier we can stop them from voting, the better. On the conservative side we have the Duggars and highly religious people breeding like crazy and clinging to life for every breath they can take – which puts and keeps more conservatives in the voting pool longer.

So, as a pragmatic political matter, I say let ’em abort their young and kill themselves off to their heart’s content.

The Sugar Code and other -omics

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

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

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