The Anti-Synthesis

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.

Read. Discuss.

347 Replies to “The Anti-Synthesis”

  1. Alan Fox Alan Fox
    Ignored
    says:

    phoodoo: That is just nonsense words Alan.

    Yours or mine? You were asking a hypothetical question to which my answer was “I don’t know”. And then I point out what actually (according to the evidence in modern organisms) happened on Earth is symbiogenesis, where associations between an archaeon with alphaproteobacteria (and for plant Eukaryota with cyanobacteria) meant their descendants becoming all animals and plants we find on Earth today.

  2. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    says:

    Mung: He seems to be arguing for some sort of Lamarckism.

    You think? It is hard to avoid teleological language.

    Let me state for the record:

    Organisms do not evolve. Their somatic genomes do not change (cancer caveat). Variation in gametes and selection of phenotypes that develop from those fused gametes is where evolution occurs*. Populations evolve.

    *Just leave out the middle bit for asexual species reproducing by fission.

  3. Rumraket Rumraket
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    says:

    Alan Fox: It is hard to avoid teleological language.

    Yes, but you CAN do it. And with an audience like this, you pretty much have to.

    You’re not doing yourself any favors by the sort of anthropomorphization of evolution you did in your response to phoodoo.

    Evolution isn’t sentient. It is not even really a thing, it is a process that happens over time which results in changes to the descendants of things that reproduce themselves. It doesn’t know anything (whether something is easy or hard). It isn’t sentient. It can’t see into the future. In fact it can’t see at all, it doesn’t have eyes or a mind of any sort. It doesn’t have a shape, and in so far as it can be said to have a location at all it is confined to the things that reproduce themselves.

    It isn’t clever despite the phrase “evolution is cleverer than you are”. I know what Leslie Orgel who coined the phrase meant. But I’m not a hostile reader. He basically meant that some of the outcomes of evolution, function in ways an intelligent designer could generally not have predicted, and often times have a hard time even figuring out how works.
    So, it can be put into non-teleological language. But it takes more work and you have to think a bit more about how to put it correctly.

    Rather than have an argument about what evolution is and what it predicts and what the evidence for it is, when you use teleological or anthropomorphic language about a blind, non-sentient material process, you end up with an argument about what you meant to say instead, which is definitely much less productive.

  4. Corneel Corneel
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    says:

    Alan Fox:
    Mung: He seems to be arguing for some sort of Lamarckism.

    Alan: You think? It is hard to avoid teleological language.

    By sheer chance, Mung was absolutely correct here. You were suggesting (unintentially) that species evolve in response to a need imposed by a change in the environment. That idea is 100% Lamarckian; he called it “besoin”. In modern evolution theory it doesn’t matter one iota what a species “needs”. If there are no heritable differences in reproductive success, tough beans.

  5. Rumraket Rumraket
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    says:

    phoodoo: When materialists talk about biology using these kinds of terms, what the hell do they mean? What do you mean when you say “no need”? When you say “why bother”? When you say, you can “co-opt”?

    Because I am pretty sure you don’t mean a need. Or you don’t mean it would have been more troublesome. And you don’t mean the organism is actually co-opting right?

    Because it sounds like you are saying, if there was a need they would have done it differently. Or if it was bothersome, they would have used a less bothersome method.

    It also sounds like you are saying they could have used their own own biochemical apparatus, or they could have synthesized their own sugars from water and carbon dioxide, or generate their own ATP if it was more convenient at the time. They would have invented a new wheel, if someone else didn’t do it for them first.

    But you don’t mean any of that shit do you? Its just a way of replacing words with what you really mean, only we have no idea what you really mean, and I assume you also don’t. Its the biologists excuse that “Well, you know its just easier using teleology words, but of course we don’t mean teleology. Are you kidding, why would we mean that?”

    But the easier way-the way of using teleology words when you don’t mean teleology words- is so much less clear. In fact, it is so unclear, that it makes what you write totally meaningless. “Why bother…well, I guess they could have if they wanted to, …it was convenient at the time…”

    That is just nonsense words Alan.

    I agree with phoodoo here for most of it, except the last part. It is entirely possible to describe evolutionary processes and outcomes without using teleological or anthropomorphic terms and phrases, and still make logical sense anyone can understand. It doesn’t become any less clear when put correctly. It just takes effort to describe it.

  6. CharlieM CharlieM
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    says:

    Rumraket to Alan Fox:

    Evolution isn’t sentient. It is not even really a thing, it is a process that happens over time which results in changes to the descendants of things that reproduce themselves. It doesn’t know anything (whether something is easy or hard). It isn’t sentient. It can’t see into the future. In fact it can’t see at all, it doesn’t have eyes or a mind of any sort. It doesn’t have a shape, and in so far as it can be said to have a location at all it is confined to the things that reproduce themselves.

    It isn’t clever despite the phrase “evolution is cleverer than you are”. I know what Leslie Orgel who coined the phrase meant. But I’m not a hostile reader. He basically meant that some of the outcomes of evolution, function in ways an intelligent designer could generally not have predicted, and often times have a hard time even figuring out how works.

    So, it can be put into non-teleological language. But it takes more work and you have to think a bit more about how to put it correctly.

    Previously I wrote

    I would hope that when you look at the development of a human from a single cell to a rational thinking adult you see that as a progression. Life is a unity and it has evolved from single celled organisms to produce rational thinking individuals, but you do not see this as a progression?

    Kantian Naturalist agreed with the first statement but disagreed with the second without giving any expanation as to why.

    I would like to copy Rumraket’s words above with a few of the words changed:

    Development isn’t sentient. It is not even really a thing, it is a process that happens over time which results in changes to the descendants of cells that reproduce themselves. It doesn’t know anything (whether something is easy or hard). It isn’t sentient. It can’t see into the future. In fact it can’t see at all, it doesn’t have eyes or a mind of any sort. It doesn’t have a shape, and in so far as it can be said to have a location at all it is confined to the things that reproduce themselves.

    It is a remarkable process and I could coin the phrase “development is cleverer than you are”. I know what I mean. Obviously I’m not a hostile reader of my own words. I basically mean that some of the outcomes of development, function in ways we could generally not have predicted if we didn’t already know the outcome, and often times we still have a hard time even figuring out how works.

    The processes of evolution can be put into non-teleological language. But it takes more work and you have to think a bit more about how to put it in a way that agrees with your preconceived ideas.

    Development is a progression towards a specific end and I would say that the proposal that evolution is also a progression towards a specific end should not be dismissed out of hand.

  7. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket to Alan Fox:

    Evolution isn’t sentient. It is not even really a thing, it is a process that happens over time which results in changes to the descendants of things that reproduce themselves. It doesn’t know anything (whether something is easy or hard). It isn’t sentient. It can’t see into the future. In fact it can’t see at all, it doesn’t have eyes or a mind of any sort. It doesn’t have a shape, and in so far as it can be said to have a location at all it is confined to the things that reproduce themselves.

    It isn’t clever despite the phrase “evolution is cleverer than you are”. I know what Leslie Orgel who coined the phrase meant. But I’m not a hostile reader. He basically meant that some of the outcomes of evolution, function in ways an intelligent designer could generally not have predicted, and often times have a hard time even figuring out how works.

    So, it can be put into non-teleological language. But it takes more work and you have to think a bit more about how to put it correctly.

    Previously I wrote

    I would hope that when you look at the development of a human from a single cell to a rational thinking adult you see that as a progression. Life is a unity and it has evolved from single celled organisms to produce rational thinking individuals, but you do not see this as a progression?

    Kantian Naturalist agreed with the first statement but disagreed with the second without giving any expanation as to why.

    I would like to copy Rumraket’s words above with a few of the words changed:

    Development isn’t sentient. It is not even really a thing, it is a process that happens over time which results in changes to the descendants of cells that reproduce themselves. It doesn’t know anything (whether something is easy or hard). It isn’t sentient. It can’t see into the future. In fact it can’t see at all, it doesn’t have eyes or a mind of any sort. It doesn’t have a shape, and in so far as it can be said to have a location at all it is confined to the things that reproduce themselves.

    It is a remarkable process and I could coin the phrase “development is cleverer than you are”. I know what I mean. Obviously I’m not a hostile reader of my own words. I basically mean that some of the outcomes of development, function in ways we could generally not have predicted if we didn’t already know the outcome, and often times we still have a hard time even figuring out how works.

    The processes of evolution can be put into non-teleological language. But it takes more work and you have to think a bit more about how to put it in a way that agrees with your preconceived ideas.

    Development is a progression towards a specific end and I would say that the proposal that evolution is also a progression towards a specific end should not be dismissed out of hand.

  8. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Apologies for the double post. I edited my comments and for some reason it added the edit as a new post.

  9. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket:
    There is an evolutionary account for symbiosis (endo and otherwise). And particularly from the standpoint of the origin of the first niches. The first forms of cellular life that evolved would necessarily have to have been primary producers, so either photoautotrophs or chemoautotrophs. Primary produces make a lot of organic waste material, either as a byproduct of their metabolism or simply when they die. This leaves a huge untapped resource of organic material in the emerging ecosystem. So the next niche to evolve would probably have been heterotrophic (detritivore) decomposers (sorry for all the technical terms). This would be immediately beneficial to both parties. The primary producers would go on making a lot of waste, which the decomposers would get rid of, so the primary producers literally don’t drown in their own shit and dead bodies.

    Luckily the decomposers arrived on the scene just in time to ensure the continuation of life. If they hadn’t arrived life would have drowned in its own shit and the earth would be barren.

    Give thanks to the power of chance mutations.

  10. Rumraket Rumraket
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    says:

    CharlieM: Development is a progression towards a specific end and I would say that the proposal that evolution is also a progression towards a specific end should not be dismissed out of hand.

    Development is not a progression towards a specific end and I would say that the proposal that evolution is not a progression towards a specific end should not be dismissed out of hand.

    I can’t prove to you that evolution isn’t somehow guided behind the scenes by invisible incorporeal hands. But you also can’t prove to me that it is, for the same reason.

  11. Neil Rickert
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    says:

    CharlieM: Kantian Naturalist agreed with the first statement but disagreed with the second without giving any expanation as to why.

    I thought the reason for the distinction was obvious.

  12. Rumraket Rumraket
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    says:

    CharlieM: Give thanks to the power of chance mutations.

    Thanks, chance mutations.

  13. Rumraket Rumraket
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    says:

    CharlieM: The processes of evolution can be put into non-teleological language. But it takes more work and you have to think a bit more about how to put it in a way that agrees with your preconceived ideas.

    That the process of evolution can easily be put into teleological language that agrees with your preconcieved ideas, makes those ideas no less preconcieved and your desire to render evolution through those terms no less a product of those desires.

  14. CharlieM CharlieM
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    says:

    Rumraket: Development is not a progression towards a specific end and I would say that the proposal that evolution is not a progression towards a specific end should not be dismissed out of hand.

    So what then would you call the progression of a zygote to a human adult if not a progression towards a specific end?

  15. CharlieM CharlieM
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    says:

    Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: Kantian Naturalist agreed with the first statement but disagreed with the second without giving any expanation as to why.

    I thought the reason for the distinction was obvious.

    So can you spell it out to me?

  16. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: That the process of evolution can easily be put into teleological language that agrees with your preconcieved ideas, makes those ideas no less preconcieved and your desire to render evolution through those terms no less a product of those desires.

    So you agree that neither position should be dismissed out of hand?

  17. Rumraket Rumraket
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    says:

    CharlieM: So what then would you call the progression of a zygote to a human adult if not a progression towards a specific end?

    Development. Maturation. Change.

  18. Rumraket Rumraket
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    says:

    CharlieM: So you agree that neither position should be dismissed out of hand?

    Yes. I don’t know who does.

    I myself dismiss your version for lack of falsifiable predictions, not out of hand.

  19. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: Development. Maturation. Change.

    None of that contradicts my statement that it’s a progression towards a specific end.

  20. Neil Rickert
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    says:

    CharlieM: So can you spell it out to me?

    Your claim was that evolution is a progression toward “rational thinking individuals.” But, obviously, it is a progression toward ants — do they count as rational thinking individuals? Actually, it was a progression toward slime molds, and nobody takes those to be rationally thinking individuals.

    You are imposing a human-centric view on evolution. There’s no evidence to support that. If there could be said to be a progression, then it is a progression toward occupying every available niche.

  21. GlenDavidson
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: So what then would you call the progression of a zygote to a human adult if not a progression towards a specific end?

    Is it a progression to the production of more zygotes? Chicken or egg, which is the “end”?

    Clearly there’s “progression” in some sense, but with mammals it’s not so much “progression to an end” as it is a reproductive cycle, indeed, as the alternation of haploid and diploid forms.

    Evolution is certainly “progression” in the broad sense, as time moves on or “progresses.” But the “end” there, too, seems to be successful reproduction and not clearly anything else. Of course the “end” of human existence for the HIV virus is simply its own reproduction.

    Glen Davidson

  22. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Neil Rickert: Your claim was that evolution is a progression toward “rational thinking individuals.”But, obviously, it is a progression toward ants — do they count as rational thinking individuals?Actually, it was a progression toward slime molds, and nobody takes those to be rationally thinking individuals.

    You are imposing a human-centric view on evolution.There’s no evidence to support that.If there could be said to be a progression, then it is a progression toward occupying every available niche.

    Well we could say that development is a progression towards stem cells or skin cells or erythrocyte or neurons, but if we look at the bigger picture they all combine to produce an entity that can reflect on its own being.

    Through evolution sentient life can reflect on its own being.

  23. Rumraket Rumraket
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    says:

    CharlieM: None of that contradicts my statement that it’s a progression towards a specific end.

    I didn’t claim it would contradict it. You asked what I would call it if not a ‘progression’. I call it development.

  24. DNA_Jock
    Ignored
    says:

    Charlie is, perhaps subconsciously, sneaking in a positive vibe into the phrase “progression towards a specific end”, such that it is seen as desirable, as a goal.
    Backdoor teleology, as it were.
    Here’s a “progression towards a specific end”:

    Pallor
    Algor
    Rigor
    Livor
    Putrefaction

  25. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    GlenDavidson: Is it a progression to the production of more zygotes?Chicken or egg, which is the “end”?

    Clearly there’s “progression” in some sense, but with mammals it’s not so much “progression to an end” as it is a reproductive cycle, indeed, as the alternation of haploid and diploid forms.

    Evolution is certainly “progression” in the broad sense, as time moves on or “progresses.”But the “end” there, too, seems to be successful reproduction and not clearly anything else.Of course the “end” of human existence for the HIV virus is simply its own reproduction.

    Glen Davidson

    Bacteria are the ultimate reproducers and they don’t need to develop that much as individuals throughout their life cycle in order to achieve this. They are born reproducers and they die reproducers. Humans on the other hand need much more development if they are to reproduce. Bacterial reproduction is more in line with individual human cell division and development.

    Do you believe that humans are nothing more than reproduction machines? If evolution was just about reproduction why does it not just take the path of least resistance which would be to produce single celled bacterial like organisms? It takes vastly more organisation to produce a vertebrate than it does to produce a bacterium.

  26. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: I didn’t claim it would contradict it. You asked what I would call it if not a ‘progression’. I call it development.

    So you have no problem with it being called a progression?

  27. Mung Mung
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    says:

    keiths: Add “acquired characteristics” to the list of things Mung doesn’t understand.

    Another non sequitur from keiths.

  28. Mung Mung
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    says:

    Rumraket: You’re not doing yourself any favors by the sort of anthropomorphization of evolution you did in your response to phoodoo.

    Alan was just being a good Darwinist. Just look at the way Darwin wrote.

  29. GlenDavidson
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    says:

    CharlieM: Do you believe that humans are nothing more than reproduction machines?

    Do you have any good reason to believe otherwise? In essence, that is, not the obvious fact that we can do much more than reproduction.

    If evolution was just about reproduction why does it not just take the path of least resistance which would be to produce single celled bacterial like organisms?

    Niche exploitation. Why not just make single-celled prokaryotes? Because it helps to be bigger in order to eat prokaryotes. Thus eukaryotes, in all likelihood. Then colonies of eukaryotes, like humans. We don’t photosynthesize, we eat photosynthesizers, and organisms that eat photosynthesizers.

    It takes vastly more organisation to produce a vertebrate than it does to produce a bacterium.

    Yes, and that’s what it takes to exploit the savannahs. Prokaryotes clearly work just fine for a lot of things, but single cells can’t have roots for getting water and minerals, then above-ground leaves for photosynthesis that are kept moist via roots. And cattle have an efficient ability for harvesting many of those plants, a way not available to single-celled prokaryotes (even if some of them also feed on living plants). So do locusts.

    Glen Davidson

  30. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: Thanks, chance mutations.

    It just happened, that’s all. No reason. I think you finally get it.

  31. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    DNA_Jock:
    Charlie is, perhaps subconsciously, sneaking in a positive vibe into the phrase “progression towards a specific end”, such that it is seen as desirable, as a goal.
    Backdoor teleology, as it were.
    Here’s a “progression towards a specific end”:

    Pallor
    Algor
    Rigor
    Livor
    Putrefaction

    That is true. Your example is a progression towards death, disintegration, decay and dissipation. The progression I am talking about is towards life, building up and organising.

    And in order to sustain life both catabolic and anabolic processes are needed. But the anabolic processes need to have the upper hand or life will cease.

  32. Mung Mung
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    says:

    DNA_Jock: Here’s a “progression towards a specific end”:

    I think that’s a digression towards a specific end.

  33. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    says:

    Rumraket: Yes, but you CAN do it. And with an audience like this, you pretty much have to.

    I know but sometimes it’s fun to talk about “whys” rather than just “hows!”
    I do sometimes wonder , philosophically, why organisms have a zest for life. But, allowing that they do, then I regard the process of living as one of opportunity, chances taken or missed. If a bacterium population has stumbled on a biochemical new pathway, it is also an opportunity for a parasite, predator or symbiont to stumble upon and exploit it.

    You’re not doing yourself any favors by the sort of anthropomorphization of evolution you did in your response to phoodoo.

    Fair enough, if that’s how you read it. It wasn’t what I mean’t. 🙂

    Evolution isn’t sentient. It is not even really a thing, it is a process that happens over time which results in changes to the descendants of things that reproduce themselves. It doesn’t know anything (whether something is easy or hard). It isn’t sentient. It can’t see into the future. In fact it can’t see at all, it doesn’t have eyes or a mind of any sort. It doesn’t have a shape, and in so far as it can be said to have a location at all it is confined to the things that reproduce themselves.

    It isn’t clever despite the phrase “evolution is cleverer than you are”. I know what Leslie Orgel who coined the phrase meant. But I’m not a hostile reader. He basically meant that some of the outcomes of evolution, function in ways an intelligent designer could generally not have predicted, and often times have a hard time even figuring out how works.
    So, it can be put into non-teleological language. But it takes more work and you have to think a bit more about how to put it correctly.

    Rather than have an argument about what evolution is and what it predicts and what the evidence for it is, when you use teleological or anthropomorphic language about a blind, non-sentient material process, you end up with an argument about what you meant to say instead, which is definitely much less productive.

    Totally agree on the biology and I’ll try to take your advice on board.

  34. Rumraket Rumraket
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    says:

    Mung: It just happened, that’s all. No reason. I think you finally get it.

    No I think you still don’t get it. That mutations are chance events is not to say they do not have causes. So it simply isn’t correct to say they just happen for “no reason”.

  35. DNA_Jock
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: That is true. Your example is a progression towards death, disintegration, decay and dissipation. The progression I am talking about is towards life, building up and organising.

    Well, your view of this might differ if you were a saprophyte 😉 Seriously, though, your anthropocentric hubris is showing.

    And in order to sustain life both catabolic and anabolic processes are needed. But the anabolic processes need to have the upper hand or life will cease.

    I think not. They need to be balanced, which they are thanks to the Law of Mass Action. Next up, the 2cLoT.

  36. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: So you have no problem with it being called a progression?

    Charlie you can call it what you want, as long as you understand you’re not making a statement of fact, but a subjective value-judgement. You believe it is a from of progress, as in an improvement, and I could even agree with you. But I’d have to make it clear that we are basically just imposing our own values on the change we see. Because you and I value sentience, consciousness and the capacity for emotions like love and wonder, with that perspective in mind the evolution from single cells to sentient Homo Sapiens, or from a zygote to an adult human, is a form of progression towards the capacity for things we value highly. An improvement. But it is our perspective that these things have value. It is not an intrinsic property.

  37. Neil Rickert
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    says:

    CharlieM: Well we could say that development is a progression towards stem cells or skin cells or erythrocyte or neurons, but if we look at the bigger picture they all combine to produce an entity that can reflect on its own being.

    Indeed. And that’s why people are challenging you on development.

    However, I see that as similar to the question “Does the dog wag the tail or does the tail wag the dog?” One can give arguments for either view. But, pragmatically, we find the former to be a more useful account. So, like KN, I don’t object to your characterization of development as a progression. But your characterization of evolution is not one that fits the evidence.

  38. CharlieM CharlieM
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    says:

    Neil Rickert: But your characterization of evolution is not one that fits the evidence.

    It is not one that fits your interpretation of the evidence.

    More tomorrow if I can find the time.

  39. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    says:

    Neil Rickert: You are imposing a human-centric view on evolution. There’s no evidence to support that. If there could be said to be a progression, then it is a progression toward occupying every available niche.

    Exactly this. The history of life on Earth shows a diversification of adaptations for occupying every available niche — including ours. But the human ecological niche is only one of millions (billions?). We’re certainly interesting from our point of view, but biologically considered, we’re just one more unique species.

    Dobzhansky once said, “all species are unique, but the human is the uniquest.” There might be some justification to that remark, but not from a scientific standpoint.

  40. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    This is all Phenomenon of Man stuff.

  41. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka:

    This is all Phenomenon of Man stuff.

    Yes, and Medawar’s scathing criticism of the book could apply equally well to Steiner, of whom Charlie is so fond:

    It is a book widely held to be of the utmost profundity and significance; it created something like a sensation upon its publication in France, and some reviewers hereabouts called it the Book of the Year — one, the Book of the Century. Yet the greater part of it, I shall show, is nonsense, tricked out with a variety of metaphysical conceits, and its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself. The Phenomenon of Man cannot be read without a feeling of suffocation, a gasping and flailing around for sense. There is an argument in it, to be sure — a feeble argument, abominably expressed — and this I shall expound in due course; but consider first the style, because it is the style that creates the illusion of content, and which is a cause as well as merely a symptom of Teilhard’s alarming apocalyptic seizures.

  42. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM,

    Do you believe that humans are nothing more than reproduction machines? If evolution was just about reproduction why does it not just take the path of least resistance which would be to produce single celled bacterial like organisms?

    Amusingly, that statement is just as teleological as the view you are promoting. There is no far-off goal, Charlie. Neither in terms of intelligence nor in terms of reproduction. Evolution can only exploit whatever it stumbles upon starting from where it is now.

    There’s no woo involved. I know that clashes with your “Me like woo! Me want woo! Me believe woo!” philosophy, but them’s the breaks.

  43. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    says:

    petrushka:
    This is all Phenomenon of Man stuff.

    Good call! Yes, definitely!

  44. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: It just happened, that’s all. No reason. I think you finally get it.

    It’s ironic that despite an entire thread given over to allow you to demonstrate who actually claims that as an explanation for extant biology it turns out the only person making that claim is you, Mung.

    It’s a bit like phoodoo’s decision thread. You all just seem unable to support your own claims, which is par for the course, but what’s weird is you all seem so very proud of that fact.

  45. Corneel Corneel
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: Development is a progression towards a specific end and I would say that the proposal that evolution is also a progression towards a specific end should not be dismissed out of hand.

    Out of curiosity: what is that specific end? Did we reach it already?

    It’s me, isn’t it? 😉

  46. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: petrushka:
    This is all Phenomenon of Man stuff.
    Good call! Yes, definitely!

    The year I started college (1963) everyone was required to read Chardin and write an essay (book report). I said it was bullshit. My essay was not well received, and I was assigned to some sort of remedial something or other.

    I think Gould addressed this in Full House. It’s been a long time since I read those. Before the internet wars.

    Drawing a straight line between an origin and a current position is not a good way to describe a trend.

  47. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: Charlie you can call it what you want, as long as you understand you’re not making a statement of fact, but a subjective value-judgement. You believe it is a from of progress, as in an improvement, and I could even agree with you.

    You are the one who is suggesting improvement, not me. Consider Hitler. His maturation was a normal progression from conception to adulthood. But I would not say that his journey through life was a path of improvement. We can speak of the progression of diseases such as cancer but I would not call that an improvement. And from the perspective of life as a whole humanity behaves more like a cancer than something which maintains the balance of nature.

    But I’d have to make it clear that we are basically just imposing our own values on the change we see. Because you and I value sentience, consciousness and the capacity for emotions like love and wonder, with that perspective in mind the evolution from single cells to sentient Homo Sapiens, or from a zygote to an adult human, is a form of progression towards the capacity for things we value highly. An improvement. But it is our perspective that these things have value. It is not an intrinsic property.

    But I do not see humans as superior to other life forms. I would say that plants are far superior to humans in the way that they live their lives. They do not pollute the planet in the way that humans do. Unlike humans they do not partake in evil acts. And generally there is an innate wisdom in animals that humans have lost. Animals do not have the same problems that we see in human societies such as obesity, drug addiction, polluting effects and the mass murder which is war.

    Can you name any other species that holds the fate of the planet in its own hands the way that humanity does?

  48. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Neil Rickert: Indeed.And that’s why people are challenging you on development.

    However, I see that as similar to the question “Does the dog wag the tail or does the tail wag the dog?”One can give arguments for either view.But, pragmatically, we find the former to be a more useful account.So, like KN, I don’t object to your characterization of development as a progression.But your characterization of evolution is not one that fits the evidence.

    It is not just pragmatic to say that the dog wags its tail. The tail wagging is an expression of the emotions of the dog as is whining or baring its teeth and growling. Tails and teeth do not have emotions, dogs do. Dogs have progressed to the stage where they show feelings and emotions, bacteria have not.

    Since they shared a common ancestor In what way do you think bacteria have progressed that dogs have not?

  49. Erik
    Ignored
    says:

    Neil Rickert: However, I see that as similar to the question “Does the dog wag the tail or does the tail wag the dog?” One can give arguments for either view. But, pragmatically, we find the former to be a more useful account.

    Does Neil Rickert type words or are words typing Neil Rickert? One can give arguments for either view. Pragmatically, does it matter which account is more useful? Useful for whom anyway?

  50. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: Exactly this. The history of life on Earth shows a diversification of adaptations for occupying every available niche — including ours. But the human ecological niche is only one of millions (billions?). We’re certainly interesting from our point of view, but biologically considered, we’re just one more unique species.

    Dobzhansky once said, “all species are unique, but the human is the uniquest.” There might be some justification to that remark, but not from a scientific standpoint.

    To say that species evolve to fill niches is a nice way of putting things so that no further explanation is required. It is easy to explain the niche occupied by the sword-billed hummingbird. Can you explain the niche occupied by humans in the same way? Are all niches equivalent?

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