Why we don’t want another “Synthesis”
High-level debates in evolutionary biology often treat the Modern Synthesis as a framework of population genetics, or as an intellectual lineage with a changing distribution of beliefs. Unfortunately, these flexible notions, used to negotiate decades of innovations, are now thoroughly detached from their historical roots in the original Modern Synthesis (OMS), a falsifiable scientific theory.
The OMS held that evolution can be adequately understood as a process of smooth adaptive change by shifting the frequencies of small-effect alleles at many loci simultaneously, without the direct involvement of new mutations. This shifting gene frequencies theory was designed to support a Darwinian view in which the course of evolution is governed by selection, and to exclude a mutation-driven view in which the timing and character of evolutionary change may reflect the timing and character of events of mutation. The OMS is not the foundation of current thinking, but a special case of a broader conception that includes (among other things) a mutation-driven view introduced by biochemists in the 1960s, and now widely invoked. This innovation is evident in mathematical models relating the rate of evolution directly to the rate of mutation, which emerged in 1969, and now represent a major branch of theory with many applications. In evo-devo, mutationist thinking is reflected by a concern for the “arrival of the fittest”. Though evolutionary biology is not governed by any master theory, and incorporates views excluded from the OMS, the recognition of these changes has been hindered by woolly conceptions of theories, and by historical accounts, common in the evolutionary literature, that misrepresent the disputes that defined the OMS.
Sure, but consciousness does not allow its possessor to fix nitrogen nor does consciousness allow its possessor to digest nylon.
Look, we can play this game for a long time, but you cannot supply a single argument for a progress towards “full self awareness” that I can’t turn 180 degrees round.
So how are you going to objectively establish that full self awareness is the thing life is aiming for?
Correction: Because some bacteria like Rhizobium have provided the basis. You are conveniently forgetting that other bacteria are pathogens and parasites. Not something you’d expect if all life is unified in a super-organism.
Also, you seem to have abandoned your claim that most phyla move towards increased emancipation or autonomy. In this comment you appear to be saying that most organisms work in our service.
I know you’re determined to defend the Dear Leader’s honor, but come on. Even someone who had only seen the passages we discussed in the other thread would know that Steiner is a crackpot.
From the FMM/bus thread:
For the convenience of readers, here are the two Steiner passages again.
First the tomato passage:
And here’s the passage about black people:
Now imagine someone reading either of those two passages and being unable to say “that’s bullshit.”
Completely in thrall to the Dear Leader.
But it isn’t. It’s further evolution.
Chemists can fix nitrogen
And it being a synthetic material humans are much more adept than bacteria at manipulating nylon.
It has been said that the human brain is the most complex object in the known universe. And human consciousness is one of the latest arrivals in the history of life on earth. From a book that Kantian Naturalist referred to:
There is no controversy among Darwinists over the niche occupied by aardvarks or penguins or nitrogen fixing bacteria, but there are plenty of arguments about the human “niche”.
I’d like to hear your 180 degree turnaround of my following argument:
All animals of the same species can be observed to remain within their recognised niche. On the other hand, within our species, individual humans aspire to choose different niches as is their preference. There are vegetarians, vegans, hermits, ascetics, hedonists, altruists and occupiers of a variety of other niches.
That is like saying that you would not expect osteoclasts to exist because the purpose of our bodily cells is to produce a single organism. Life could not exist without death and destruction.
Where did I claim that most phyla move towards increased emancipation or autonomy?
Everyone forgets that Charlie adopts a Charlie-centric world view, in which all of nature is centered on Charlie, in which Charlie is the pinnacle and raison d’etre of the universe. (To be fair, the rest of our species is welcomed to join him on the pinnacle.) That’s why, when humans become X, whatever X is, X is the point of it all.
You left out atheists. Is there no niche for atheists?
I asked if you had read the contents of any book by Steiner. The passages you quote are translations of transcripts taken from lectures given by Steiner to select audiences. He reluctantly agreed to allow these lectures to be published as he feared that they would be taken out of context and misunderstood.
So can you give me an honest answer as to whether you have read any books written by Steiner, not just lecture transcripts?
Yep. Me personally, I think it’s sheep. Sheep have ensured their survival by evolving wool, so the smartest technologically advanced primate on the planet saw them as useful so decided to spend an inordinate amount of time and resources ensuring the continued existence of sheep. Clearly, the evolutionary history of life is centered around sheep. We are just here for them. Our existence is obviously teleological. We are just a means to an end, and that end is the existence and persistence of sheep.
The evolutionary history of cave fish is thought to have moved from organisms that lacked vision, to organisms that did have vision, and then back again to organisms that lacked vision. So we disagree that this is a regression. But do you agree that the organisms in this line of descent widened their niche by gaining sight and then narrowed it again when their sight was lost?
I am, the I am.
Sorry, but I have a lack of belief in atheists.
Ewe are, the I am.
Of course I can turn that argument around. Whoever decided that filling many niches is progress? You just decided that because that is what humans do. I could argue just as easily that specialising in a specific niche is progress.
You really are incapable of letting go of this human centric view aren’t you?
Remember that if you ever happen to catch an infection.
So what other organism decides on its own niche?
I have caught so many infections that I’ve lost count.
From that link I wrote:
I did not say that most phyla move towards emancipation. I was asking for a discussion on the matter so that we could compare phyla with regards to emancipation. I tried to start the discussion using birds as an example. The discussion never got off the ground.
Then I misunderstood. Sorry.
BTW, birds are in the same phylum as we are 🙂
OK, I give up. You are simply not interested in anything non-human.
Here I wrote:
I was just being lazy in writing “phyla” and not “classes and phyla” in my previous post. I’m all for including classes and any other grouping in our discussions.
I am interested in all life.
Yes, I’ve read parts of Theosophy: an Introduction and some other book whose title I can’t recall (it was a long time ago). Looking at a Steiner bibliography doesn’t jog my memory.
The books were crap, which is why I wasn’t at all surprised at the goofiness of the two passages we discussed recently. A source as crappy as Steiner can be relied upon to produce crap, whether in book or lecture form.
Or perhaps he was embarrassed by the content. He certainly should have been.
What’s interesting about this exchange, to me, is how symptomatic it is of your cultism. Someone has criticized the Dear Leader’s output! This must not stand!
These two passages, about tomatoes and black people respectively, are obvious bullshit. To claim that they have been “taken out of context and misunderstood” is ludicrous. Yet in neither case can you bring yourself to admit that Steiner got it wrong.
As I wrote in the earlier thread:
Lest anyone think I am exaggerating:
It’s not a regression, because the fish are not recapitulating an earlier stage. They are anatomically modern fish who have lost their sight. There was no earlier stage at which this was the case. The loss of sight is just one more evolutionary change toward the end of a long line of them. It’s further evolution, not a “regression”.
The fish don’t “care” about the size of the niche. They entered the cave and then evolved there, under the selective pressures of that environment. Losing sight was not a disadvantage there, so mutations that caused this to happen could be tolerated in a way that they could not among surface-dwelling fish.
No woo. Just pure mechanistic evolution.
This thread is not the place to discuss the merits and failings of Steiner.
So the house martins nesting in the eaves of my house could make a conscious decision not to fly south for the winter then?
A bird consciousness decision.
…says Charlie, who kept demanding to know what books of Steiner’s I had read, in an attempt to defend the Dear Leader’s honor.
So which species do you think has experienced the most evolutionary changes in the past 10 to 15 million years?
So ultimately it was not DNA but the lifestyle of the fish that caused this evolutionary change.
Neither fish nor any other species “care” about their niche or any niche, with one notable exception, humans.
Your getting warmer.
In the sense that birds are an organism which decides on its own niche?
Is the suggestion here that human beings do choose their own niche?
I’d sure as hell like to see evidence for that claim!
You make things up all the time and you exaggerate all the time. Why would anyone think you were exaggerating.
Charlie has a rather idiosyncratic notion of “niche”:
Who are you arguing against? None of us are claiming that DNA caused the evolution of sightlessness in cave fish, or more generally that DNA is the driver of evolutionary change.
You could use the word “niche” that way if you really wanted to, but then you’re not using the word in the way that ecologists do, and it’s the ecological sense of the word that matters when we’re talking about evolution.
But it’s just hopeless confusion to use the word “niche” to mean both “how ecologists describe the ways that all other animals are related to their environments” as well as “the various lifestyles that human beings have adopted over the millennia”.
Individual birds do not make conscious decisions in that way. They are following their instincts. But instinctive behaviour such as this does not originate within the individual, it originates from a group consciousness.
You could say that every person has their own individual niche. The paths we take in life are formed by a combination of external circumstances, unconscious desires and conscious decisions and in no two people are the paths the same.
The path taken by the fledgling house martins after they leave my house is already laid out for them barring external circumstances. They will feed by catching insects on the wing, they will fly south for the winter and they will return to this local area in the spring and they will continue to do this until they die.
So what do experts mean by an “ecological niche”?
The Ecological Niche, UT Austin
And from the Going Green Directorate in Wales
There are those who argue that humans occupy a cognitive niche and those that argue we occupy a cultural niche. It seems to be very difficult to establish just what exactly the human niche is.
Who here would classify themselves as an obligate collaborative forager?
Glad to hear it.
see my reply to keiths
So you are saying that there is a fundamental difference between the way animals and humans relate to the environment?
For you it is. Not for people who actually understand ecology and evolutionary theory.
I’m saying the exact opposite. How you got there from what I said makes me question your reading comprehension or willingness to argue in good faith.
Why can we not compare how “all other animals are related to their environments” and “the various lifestyles that human beings have adopted over the millennia”? Both deal with the interaction between organisms and the environment in which they live. You will need to explain to me why it is a confusion to call them both niches.
So do you believe that the lifestyles of all species including homo sapiens is a factor of their niche? Or do you in this regard believe that homo sapiens differs from any other species? Surely niche and lifestyle are inextricably bound together.
I am honestly trying to figure out which of us is being more consistent in our reasoning.
Here’s how I would mathematically model that.
There’s a niche space, the space of all possible niches. A point in niche space is a very specific way of eking out an existence.
The niche for a organism is a probability distribution over niche space.
I would then assume a fitness function over niche space. The fitness of a particular organism is the expected value of that fitness function, obtained by integrating the fitness function over niche space using the niche probability distribution of the organism.
A mutation changes both the probability distribution (i.e. the niche) and the fitness function. I take Darwinism to be the assumption that the fitness function changes. I say I am not a Darwinist, because I consider it also important that the probability distribution over niche space changes with mutation.
With this kind of model there’s no need to look at humans as importantly different from other kinds of organisms.
Can you put any figures to that, taking say, something like humans and venus fly traps as examples?
No, I haven’t tried to do that. I model to better understand evolution, not to make predictions.
What distinguishes humans from venus fly traps, is that the human has more varied behavior. But the same can be said about other animals.