The Blind Watch Dropper

Here is one of the more essays I wrote based on discussions I’ve had hereon and on other sites like Pandas Thumb. I think this is one of the more appropriate essays for discussions here and it also happens to be one I feel is fully finished at this point. Well…I’m happy with it, but clearly I may edit it a bit given constructive criticism… 🙂

______________________________________________________________________

I haven’t seen much press on this lately, but back in the late 1980s, Creationists – a slice of Christians who hold that the creation of the universe, Earth, and all living things on Earth were created by God exactly as described in the Christian Bible and that the Earth is roughly 10,000 years old…tops – tried an end around to the 1987 Supreme Court decision (Edwards v. Aguillard) barring the teaching of Creation Science in public schools. The attempted end-around was called Intelligent Design (ID).

ID, boiled down, is essentially a dressed up version of William Paley’s The Watch and The Watchmaker argument for the existence of God, or rather, a slightly gussied up Teleological Argument for the Existence of God. Paley’s argument goes like this: if you stumble upon a rock in the woods, you could reasonably surmise that it had been there, in that state, forever (keep in mind that Paley wrote his analogy in 1802 and was not familiar with what we now know about geology and in particular plate tectonics and erosion and similar forces. So, he can be forgiven for thinking that some items of the universe (like planets and stars) and the Earth (like soil, rocks, mountains, rivers, land masses, and so forth) exist unchanged forever) as a simple object of nature. By contrast, if you stumble upon a watch, you would not think that this item had been there forever, but rather you’d likely think that this item reflected the intent of a creator and, in particular given its complex parts working in intricate harmony, functions specifically for a purpose the creator designed it for. Given this, by analogy one can reasonably look at the universe and, seeing its complex interactions working in intricate harmony, infer it too must be designed and conclude, therefore, there is an ultimate Designer.

All Teleological Arguments rely on the same basic argument: certain features and functions of the world exhibit complexity that appears far too harmonious and intricate to have occurred by accident and thus must have been intelligently designed. Ergo…God.

It’s helpful to understand a bit about the history and use of the concept to better understand the application of teleology in theology, but it’s not absolutely necessary. That said, here are a definition and a brief summary:

Teleology comes from the Greek telos, meaning end (as in goal or purpose), and logos, meaning reason. So, teleology is about understanding the purpose of things. In its most basic form, teleology is the study of the purpose that phenomena serve rather than the cause by which they arise in order to provide an explanation for the phenomena. In other words, teleologists hold that the purpose for the sky being blue is more useful in understanding aspects of the world than studying and understanding optics and the Rayleigh Diffusion Effect. I admit, I’ve had no luck digging up a teleological explanation for the sky being blue, but apparently there used to be some popular ones back before modern science’s explanations. The point is, teleology attempts to address ‘why’ things occur, as opposed to scientific approaches that attempt to answer ‘how’ things occur. It’s also worth understanding that teleology, particularly as popularized by Aristotle and Plato in their day, was a reflection by analogy of the fact that nearly all human endeavors are goal-oriented and purpose driven. Thus by analogy, Aristotle saw the universe as rational and purposeful – analogous to human rational and purposeful behavior – and thus felt that all phenomena can only fully be understood when one considers and appreciates the purpose of the various phenomena.

There are a number of issues I have with teleological arguments and perspectives, but I’m going to focus on four main issues here.

First and foremost, technically there is no actual argument in the teleological approach to the existence of God as it’s simply a tautology and thus question begging. If your philosophy’s premise assumes that all things have purpose and goals, using that philosophy to argue for a goal-oriented and purpose-creating designer is simply restating your premise’s assumptions. It’s just arguing in a circle. Intelligent Design tries to dress the argument up a bit by focusing on complexity vs purpose and goals, but the issue remains the same. In ID, the argument is changed slightly to certain biological and informational features of living things are too complex to be the result of natural selection (or natural processes) and therefore must be the result of intentional and rational (intelligent) design requiring an intelligent designer. This, of course, suffers from the same tautological issue noted above: the first premise of ID is that living things are too complex to be the product of natural processes, but if the premise is that living things can’t come about from natural processes, what’s left? By premising that living things can’t be the product of natural processes, the premise implies something other than natural processes – i.e. design processes. To then conclude a designer is simply restating the premise. Yet again, a tautology.

Next, there’s the fallacy of the General Rule. The fallacy of the General Rule is a logical fallacy wherein someone assumes that something in general is true in all possible cases. A standard example is the claim that “all chairs have four legs”. But clearly rocking chairs have either no legs or two legs, depending on the design, and there are plenty of modern chair designs with three legs, and not a few bar stools that are essentially held up on a single pole. In the case of ID, the assumption is that complexity implies design and since biological objects are complex they must be designed. The thing is though, not all designed things – well, human designed things – are complex. Consider toothpicks, paper clips, floss, and Popsicle sticks as but a few examples. These objects are never used in teleological arguments for obvious reasons. And while it’s certainly possible that a toothpick could come about through natural processes, we know a human-designed toothpick when we see it and not because of the harmonious workings of its complex parts. No, it’s because of two things: man-made toothpicks have tell-tale evidence of being manufactured and they exist in greater collected numbers than nature could reasonably produce.

Another issue with ID that is related to the fallacy of the General Rule noted above is that it relies upon a false dichotomy. A false dichotomy is a logical fallacy wherein someone argues that some condition has only two alternatives when in fact there are more. An example would be someone who insists that the only alternative to driving a car is walking when clearly bicycles, skateboards, pogo sticks, and air travel all exist. In the case of ID, even if one were to agree that most, if not all, living organisms are too complex to have come about through evolutionary processes, it’s questionable at best whether a designer (and specifically God) is the only alternative. There are abundant natural processes that lead to complex organized structures (think snowflakes, tree rings, and the Giant’s Causeway). And even if we grant a necessitated designer, since there’s no way to assess or know anything about the supposed designer inferred by ID, the designer could very well be invisible pink unicorns or aliens. The bottom line is that it’s a rather large (and unrealistic) stretch to assume the only way to get biological complexity is either evolution or God.

Lastly, as noted above, we don’t infer design from complexity so much as we infer design from indications of manufacturing. This, for me, the primary failure of all forms of teleological arguments for the existence of God and ID in particular.  Designs are a very specific form of plan and planning. We make designs (usually written and drawn) to help us visualize how various components and processes will interact and work in a given environment in order to (hopefully) highlight problems and issues before we actually manufacture the object of design. So the truth is that looking at an object tells one very little about the actual activity that went into designing that object. And while looking at an object can indicate something about whether the object was designed, it’s really the indications that the object was manufactured through some tool use process that provides that inference. Manufacturing leaves evidence; design does not.

I’ve never found the ID arguments for the design of biological organisms all that compelling for a number of reasons. The dubious math, the fallacious arguments, the disingenuous bait and switch to Christian apologetics, and so forth. But even beyond that, there was something about the objects in nature – organisms themselves – that just don’t seem designed to me. There is something different about them compared to man-made objects, but I was not able to put my finger on what I felt the difference was. And then it hit me one night: replaceable parts.

All man-made objects – every single one – are either designed specifically to be replaced or have components that are designed specifically to be replaced. Why? Because tool users and manufacturers learn really quick that tools and/or certain parts of tools wear out. So as designers, we anticipate the need for maintenance.

No such anticipation or planning for maintenance can be found in nature. None. If something breaks in an organism, either that organism learns to live without it or it dies. Or, in the case of humans, that part gets replaced by human designed or human configured replacements (as in my case). But even in the later case, humans have to create a work-around, because biological parts actual resist being replaced. You can’t just replace human parts with other human parts willy-nilly. In most cases, the new parts just won’t work, or worse, they’ll be rejected by the body’s immune system. But of particular note, there’s no surplus of replacement parts anywhere; no storage unit somewhere with a bunch of eyes or hearts or toes or hair or kidneys or…anything. Not even bark or leaves or antennae or scales. Nothing.

Of course, this makes perfect sense given evolution and other similar natural processes. It makes no sense if there were an actual designer, particularly an omni-god Designer, behind it all.

601 thoughts on “The Blind Watch Dropper

  1. Here Don Cruse has written a piece called, “Darwin’s Devious Metaphors”, which many here will won’t like, but the likes of phoodoo might enjoy reading it.

    I like the quote that Cruse begins with:

    Whitehead: “Scientists, animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless, constitute an interesting subject for study”.

    Perhaps a better title for Darwin’s book would have been “On the Origin of Variation Within Forms”. 🙂

  2. I’ve seen a lot of discussion here about emergence. What about emanation? There is a polarity here I think is worth discussing. I think that in many cases understanding emanation clarifies emergence.

  3. CharlieM: It means that, unlike in living systems, the source of this feature of computers is extrinsic to the machine.

    ,blockquote>CharlieM: How about integral optimization?

    Fair Witness: Integral Optimization? That is vague and obtuse. Worthy of Deepak Chopra. Try again.

    Living organisms have an intrinsic ability to alleviate changes brought about through external influences, thus they are “integral” to the creature. “Optimization”because, even if changes are reversed, a less than exact return to the previous condition ensures variety among the species to better cope with changing environmental conditions.

    But the source of the “feature” in living organisms is also partially extrinsic, as the environment had a lot to say whether or not organisms that could correct errors would thrive better than those without that ability.

    Computers live in a “consumer market environment” that is even less forgiving about copy errors. Any computer that had copy error rates equal to that of DNA copying would quickly go extinct.

    I am fine with the term “error correction”.

    Just like I am fine with the term “Junk DNA”

    I hate euphemistic language that tries to soft-pedal an idea because some people find it uncomfortable.

  4. phoodoo: KN, why do you think we need two terms, one called “weak emergence” and one called “strong emergence”?

    I’m not yet convinced that we do.

    Bedau makes this distinction and says that strong emergence involves ‘downward causation’ whereas weak emergence does not. I’m puzzled as to what he thinks ‘downward causation’ is. Consider the following example: in a pot of boiling water, Bénard cells will constrain the movement of individual water molecules. Is that “downward causation”? I have no friggin’ idea.

    Chalmers thinks that strong emergence means ‘not deducible in principle’. I don’t know what ‘not deducible in principle’ means. Philosophers often like to make a distinction between ‘in principle’ and ‘in practice’. I’m suspicious of that distinction and I suspect that it conceals a certain crypto-theology: ‘in principle’ is what God would know if He existed, except He doesn’t.

    Maybe there are legitimate uses of this distinction, but what I’ve seen from Bedau and Chalmers hasn’t yet convinced me. Then again, I’m not an expert on this issue, and it would take me at least two weeks of continual reading to get caught up to speed. So my opinions don’t count for much.

  5. Kantian Naturalist,

    Aren’t you being a bit cheeky in not admitting that strong emergence is the term people use when they refer to properties that we have no known underlying explanation of? I mean, you can dance around that all you want, but that’s the bottom line for how its used.

    Weak emergence means that when we observe an emergent structure, we are somehow capable to find out low-level processes leading to its creation. We are capable of this feat at least approximately.

    On the other hand, strong emergence is a ‘beast’ operating at the higher-level of the system that we are unable to deduce from any low-level processes or laws. Strong emergence, very probably, involves unknown low-level processes that we are unable to figure out.

    In some sense, we can say that strong emergent properties are constituting doors or opening towards new discoveries, new laws, new explanations of the observed phenomena.

    Honestly, it is possible to hypothetise that weak and strong emergence are the same with the only difference: our ability and inability to find processes/laws governing the low-level systemic layer that gives birth to by us observed emergent structures.

    This is pretty much the common accepted wisdom for how the two terms are used.

  6. CharlieM: Don Cruse has written a piece called, “Darwin’s Devious Metaphors”, which many here will won’t like, but the likes of phoodoo might enjoy reading it.

    I found the intermittent question mark icons very irritating, so I could only skim the essay. But it seems quite badly confused in some fundamental respects:

    1. “natural selection” is not a metaphor, but an analogy;

    2. analogies play an important role in the creation of new scientific concepts — other examples include Bohr’s early work using the solar system as an analogy for the atom and the positing of the ether as an attempt to make good on the idea of light as a wave. In the first case, the analogy was dropped as theory advanced; in the second case, the analogy was dropped because attempts to vindicate it led to the discovery that ether did not exist — a very important result at the beginning of 20th century physics.

    3. No one means by “natural selection” anything more than the claim that differential fecundity acting on heritable variation can lead to speciation events under certain conditions. That’s it. The role of intelligence in the source domain for the analogy does not tell us anything about the conceptual coherence of the target domain.

    4. Darwin’s theory is not mechanistic, despite what Provine and Dennett claim. The modern synthesis, built upon Mendelian population genetics, is mechanistic. And the mechanistic version of evolutionary theory has been aggressively promoted by Jacques Monod (in Chance and Necessity) and Richard Dawkins (in The Blind Watchmaker). Nevertheless, there are plenty of non-mechanistic interpretations of Darwinism, past and present. Walsh’s “Situated Darwinism” in his 2015 book Organisms, Agency, and Evolution is a superb example of a non-mechanistic version of evolutionary theory.

  7. phoodoo,

    Sorry, but I’m not going to use these terms based on how they’re used by some random person on Quora. I have no reason to believe this random person actually knows what they’re talking about.

  8. Kantian Naturalist,

    Useful concepts are ones which people agree on. If you have your own defintion for so many phrases I hardly see how they have any relevance whatsoever.

    I have no idea what you mean by emergent, by teleology, by Darwinism, by the modern synthesis, by intelligence, and by saying someone is wrong.

    These appear to all be fun play words of your own creation.

    Useful for a child’s book of rhymes perhaps.

    “The urgent emergent sturgeon surgeon, not a marlin doctor darling, not a onocologist, or podiatrist, certainly not a radiologist, nor teleologist, heavens no not an anesthesiologist with a gas bag full of modern syntheologists, Acipenseriformespractioner of the Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus comes from the atlantic in a panic to suture gills at will no not gall bladder of adders or even asses of basses for the masses, he is a specialist you see…”

  9. Corneel: So walking around is not a radically different activity from flying around propelled by a rainbow coloured jet stream spurted from the buttocks? That is just “a function of humans”?

    Huh? Are you still trying to conjure some mythical “radical differences”? If so, start making sense. Why do you keep tripping yourself, nothing special bag of random atoms and yet arranged in a peculiar design (oops) ?

    Corneel: So you believe that humans can create life if only they try and that there is not – just tossing out a random thought here – currently an information barrier that prevents this?

    ETA: rephrased my question to (hopefully) clarify. I am pretty sure I have at times heard the claim that humans are incapable, even in principle, to ever match the skill level of the Designer.

    No. Creating life by humans is what you atheists believe is possible. So you disprove your own objection to life having been designed.

    Furthermore, not that it was needed, we know for a fact life hasn’t “evolved”… So design is the only option. Not by humans, mind you. At least not in the past.

    Whatever you read elsewhere… Ask them.

  10. Nonlin.org: Furthermore, not that it was needed, we know for a fact life hasn’t “evolved”… So design is the only option.

    Nonsense. Evolutionary theory is well-supported by evidence. It’s the only viable, testable theory on offer that explains life’s diversity. Were it to become falsified, then we’d to look for another theory. “Intelligent Design” offers no testable alternative explanation, you merely default to “God did it” rather than admitting we don’t (in the absence of evolutionary theory) have an explanation.

  11. phoodoo: What [is] the test?

    The test? For evolution being an accurate explanation for the biological reality we observe? There are many. Finding J B S Haldane’s Cambrian rabbits or any other fossils that were not reasonably consilient with universal common descent. The geographic distribution of existent and extant species across the globe (marsupials in Australia, no snakes in Ireland). Amazingly similar biochemistry at the subcellular level, Five fingered limbs and their variants. Unversal (almost) genetic code. Richard Lenski’s LTEE, auditory speech centre development in rhesus macaques, matching phylogenetic trees separately derived by comparative anatomy and genetic sequences…

  12. Alan Fox: Finding J B S Haldane’s Cambrian rabbits or any other fossils that were not reasonably consilient with universal common descent.

    That’s the test for intelligent design. If you don’t find any rabbits in the Cambrain era, that means it confirms the hypothesis that Intelligent Design is true.

    In fact, there is another test for Intelligent design. If you don’t find any poga sticks in the Cambrian rock formations, that also confirms the hypothesis of Intelligent Design.

    So I guess ID is just as testable as , as, as what? Darwinism?

  13. phoodoo: That’s the test for intelligent design.If you don’t find any rabbits in the Cambrain era, that means it confirms the hypothesis that Intelligent Design is true.

    False. ID doesn’t make any predictions. There is no actual theory of ID, let alone any hypotheses regarding when the “designer” did anything or in what order anything should appear. If a rabbit fossil were found in the Cambrian strata, ID would not be falsified because there is no actual ID prediction about fossils or where they might be found.

    Oh…but then ID isn’t science anyway, isn’t actually an area of study anywhere, isn’t actually taught or studied in any school anywhere, and…wait for it…isn’t actually a “thing”. ID is just a silly marketing idea that…well…failed.

    In fact, there is another test for Intelligent design.If you don’t find any poga sticks in the Cambrian rock formations, that also confirms the hypothesis of Intelligent Design.

    So I guess ID is just as testable as , as, as what?Darwinism?

    ID is as testable as Thorism. Happy now? Didn’t think so…

  14. phoodoo: Right, but natural selection is an analogy.

    Very funny.

    My simple point was that Darwin developed the concept of natural selection by analogy from breeding (artificial selection), not by metaphor. That’s a separate issue from what the term means today, what it refers to, and how to understand the kind of phenomenon that it is.

    phoodoo: Useful concepts are ones which people agree on. If you have your own defintion for so many phrases I hardly see how they have any relevance whatsoever.

    I have no idea what you mean by emergent, by teleology, by Darwinism, by the modern synthesis, by intelligence, and by saying someone is wrong.

    These appear to all be fun play words of your own creation.

    I have provided careful definitions for every term that I’ve used and cited the various philosophers of biology and theoretical biologists whom I’ve been reading. Every source I’ve given can be verified and the credentials of those people can be confirmed.

  15. Robin,

    Naming something that hasn’t happened is not a test of anything.

    If I said, if a God comes down and writes in the clouds, “I didn’t design life!” that would falsify ID. So there, that’s a test right?

    IN fact, Darwin himself said ”
    “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.”

    That has been proved wrong on many occassions. So is Darwinism falsified then?*

    * I know, no one actually believes in Darwinism.

  16. phoodoo,

    Is there ever going to be any kind of worthwhile conversation with you ever on biology? Do you get some perverse, pleasure from batting away serious points as if you were winning an argument. I mean a not very smart conversation generator could replace your comments with something more challenging.

  17. phoodoo:
    Robin,

    Naming something that hasn’t happened is not a test of anything.

    It is a confirmed test. Looking for Cambrian rabbits and Silurian humans has been done. That neither has been found IS a confirmation of common descent. The very fact that organisms DO line up in an organized ascendancy throughout the geologic column all over the planet is a confirmation of evolutionary theory. It’s what Darwin predicted.

    So, you’re simply wrong.

    If I said, if a God comes down and writes in the clouds, “I didn’t design life!” that would falsify ID.So there, that’s a test right?

    No, because there is no actual evidence for any god, let alone one that could write anything in clouds. So, there could be no way of making any hypotheses about gods or writing in clouds – ergo, nothing to base any test on. But even if we were to grant you the benefit of the doubt and accept that such an entity might exist, ID doesn’t make any predictions about what gods can or will do. So, if such a message as you suggest above did appear in any clouds, it wouldn’t mean anything for ID one way or another.

    ID is just a bad marketing campaign. Nothing more.

    IN fact, Darwin himself said ”
    “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.”

    That has been proved wrong on many occassions.So is Darwinism falsified then?*

    * I know, no one actually believes in Darwinism.

    Please provide some reference. I’m not aware of any actual work showing that a particular complex organ could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications. Behe has tried arguing such and has been shown to be wrong each time.

  18. Alan Fox,

    Is claiming not finding rabbits in the Cambrian a test?

    If you think it is, then of course you can’t have a real discussion about anything.

  19. Kantian Naturalist,

    You took my remarks out of context. You left out:

    Useful for a child’s book of rhymes perhaps.

    “The urgent emergent sturgeon surgeon, not a marlin doctor darling, not a onocologist, or podiatrist, certainly not a radiologist, nor teleologist, heavens no not an anesthesiologist with a gas bag full of modern syntheologists, Acipenseriformespractioner of the Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus comes from the atlantic in a panic to suture gills at will no not gall bladder of adders or even asses of basses for the masses, he is a specialist you see…”

    How do I know any of the philosophers you claim you reference know what they are talking about? I don’t think Aristotle even knew about electricity.

  20. phoodoo: After I do you will reject Darwinism?

    Well, I already reject “Darwinism” as it’s not actually a thing…

    But if you can provide a legitimate reference, then I will reject evolutionary theory, absolutely.

  21. phoodoo: You took my remarks out of context. You left out:

    Well, since you do the same to me and everyone else here all the time, I didn’t think you had any basis for complaint.

    phoodoo: How do I know any of the philosophers you claim you reference know what they are talking about? I don’t think Aristotle even knew about electricity.

    You could always read them for yourself and have an informed opinion. No one is stopping you from learning.

    (By the way, Aristotle almost certainly did know about electricity, since the production of static electricity by rubbing a piece of amber was observed by the Pre-socratic philosopher Thales. That is why the Greek word for amber, elektron, became the basis for the later word “electricity”.)

  22. Robin: Well, I already reject “Darwinism” as it’s not actually a thing…

    Finally we agree.

    What is evolutionary theory?

  23. phoodoo: Finally we agree.

    What is evolutionary theory?

    LOL! This again, huh? Ok…

    “Lizzie: Evolutionary theory is not the theory that what we observe is explained by “chance”. Chance explains nothing. What does explain adaptive evolution, very nicely, is the theory that when living things reproduce, the biochemical processes involved in reproduction are sufficiently complex and interactive that the results are variable, and it is therefore extremely unlikely that any two offspring will be identical to themselves or their parents, and also quite likely that one of the dimensions along which they vary will affect the chance that they will leave viable offspring, again, because the things that may happen to an organism are extremely complex, interactive, and varied.”

    From 12/31/2013 in Guano.

    You posts never get old, Phoodoo!

  24. Robin: “Lizzie: Evolutionary theory is not the theory that what we observe is explained by “chance”. Chance explains nothing. What does explain adaptive evolution, very nicely, is the theory that when living things reproduce, the biochemical processes involved in reproduction are sufficiently complex and interactive that the results are variable, and it is therefore extremely unlikely that any two offspring will be identical to themselves or their parents, and also quite likely that one of the dimensions along which they vary will affect the chance that they will leave viable offspring, again, because the things that may happen to an organism are extremely complex, interactive, and varied.”

    That’s the theory of evolution?

    So all I have to do to falsify it is to show that some part is NOT complex, or that that it is not extremely unlikely that some living things will be identical, or that if they are not identical, that the things that make them different will affect their rate of offspring. Just disprove any of these, and you will reject this theory also? Or just show that it is chance?

    BTW, why was Lizzie’s post in Guano? She just couldn’t follow the rules?

  25. phoodoo: That’s the theory of evolution?

    That’s a description of one aspect of the theory of evolution. But you already know that. Try this instead:

    http://www.amazon.com/Structure-Evolutionary-Theory-Stephen-Gould/dp/0674006135

    So all I have to do to falsify it is to show that some part is NOT complex, or that that it is not extremely unlikely that some living things will be identical, or that if they are not identical, that the things that make them different will affect their rate of offspring.Just disprove any of these, and you will reject this theory also?Or just show that it is chance?

    Oh heck…why not? Go for it, Phoodoo. Demonstrate that the biochemical processes involved in reproduction are not sufficiently complex or interactive. Or demonstrate that the results are not variable. Or demonstrate that it is extremely likely that any two offspring will be identical to themselves or their parents. Or demonstrate that it is quite unlikely that one of the dimensions along which they vary will affect the chance that they will leave viable offspring. I double dog dare ya! And I’m betting that if you were to demonstrate any of those things, biologists around the world would be fascinated and would immediately start looking into your analysis and data.

    BTW, why was Lizzie’s post in Guano?She just couldn’t follow the rules?

    Actually, I grabbed it from a response of yours in guano. I was looking to see how long ago this was hashed out with you previously. 🙂

    Her original comment was in Yes, Lizzie, Chance is Very Often an Explanation.

  26. Nonlin.org: Me: So you believe that humans can create life if only they try and that there is not – just tossing out a random thought here – currently an information barrier that prevents this?

    […]

    Nonlin: No. Creating life by humans is what you atheists believe is possible. So you disprove your own objection to life having been designed.

    Thanks for the straight answer. But I think you’ll agree that if humans are incapable of creating living organisms, as you claim, then there must be some quite fundamental difference between organisms and man-made artifacts. Hence, KN was correct when he said that “[t]he mistake is then revealed by pointing out how much organisms are radically different from any artifact that we are at all familiar with it.”

    As to my personal view, if you happen to be curious about it. I think there are a few very striking properties that distinguish living organisms from artifacts. For example, living beings reproduce, grow, have metabolism and … they evolve. Not things you regularly see in a wristwatch.

  27. Corneel:

    As I claim??? Anyway it has been clear for years now that you have no support for your ridiculous claims. Seeing you squirm is funny for a while and then it gets boring. That happened a few days ago this round. Go bore someone else.

  28. Corneel: I think there are a few very striking properties that distinguish living organisms from artifacts. For example, living beings reproduce, grow, have metabolism and … they evolve. Not things you regularly see in a wristwatch.

    Maybe someone else has fresh ideas on this? Corneel is obviously tapped out. Modern enterprises (designed!) have all these properties of life including homeostasis, life cycles, reproduction, metabolism, genetic code, adaptation (not “evolution”) etc. One thing they don’t do is gradual change from fashion to pharma and common ancestry. Nice! Take McDonald’s for instance. From one location to so many clones. I can see it coming :”yeah, but there are still some minuscule differences, let’s call them” radical “”.

  29. Nonlin.org: Modern enterprises (designed!) have all these properties of life including homeostasis, life cycles, reproduction, metabolism, genetic code, adaptation (not “evolution”) etc.

    I was going to leave it at that, but this I cannot resist.

    Could you please tell us about the metabolism of modern enterprises and how it is not different at all from that observed in organisms? I We are all agog.

    I’ll get the popcorn.

  30. Robin,

    Alan, please remind Robin he is not allowed to repost things put in guano. I don’t know why some people can’t follow the rules, but I guess some just have a lawless streak in them.

  31. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: Don Cruse has written a piece called, “Darwin’s Devious Metaphors”, which many here will won’t like, but the likes of phoodoo might enjoy reading it.

    Kantian Naturalist: I found the intermittent question mark icons very irritating, so I could only skim the essay.

    They are inconvenient, but with a little effort and focus I found it easy enough to follow.

    Kantian Naturalist: But it seems quite badly confused in some fundamental respects:

    1. “natural selection” is not a metaphor, but an analogy;

    Did Cruse ever claim that “natural selection” was a metaphor? Darwin himself couched the actions of natural selection in metaphorical terms. For example, in the he wrote:

    It may metaphorically be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life.

    He talks of natural selection seizing on specific features. If this isn’t metaphorical language what is?

    And further on in the book he writes:

    It has been said that I speak of natural selection as an active power or Deity; but who objects to an author speaking of the attraction of gravity as ruling the movements of the planets? Every one knows what is meant and is implied by such metaphorical expressions; and they are almost necessary for brevity. So again it is difficult to avoid personifying the word Nature; but I mean by Nature, only the aggregate action and product of many natural laws, and by laws the sequence of events as ascertained by us. With a little familiarity such superficial objections will be forgotten

    Why do you think the title of the piece is “Darwin’s Devious Metaphors” and not, “Darwin’s Devious Metaphor”?

    Kantian Naturalist: 2. analogies play an important role in the creation of new scientific concepts — other examples include Bohr’s early work using the solar system as an analogy for the atom and the positing of the ether as an attempt to make good on the idea of light as a wave. In the first case, the analogy was dropped as theory advanced; in the second case, the analogy was dropped because attempts to vindicate it led to the discovery that ether did not exist — a very important result at the beginning of 20th century physics.

    Where has Cruse claimed that Darwin did not believe natural selection and artificial selection to be analogous? Natural selection can be seen as an analogy in one respect but the processes can be described metaphorically as in the example above.

    I’ll continue later.

  32. Corneel: Could you please tell us about the metabolism of modern enterprises and how it is not different at all from that observed in organisms?

    You see it with your own eyes. Even if you choose to ignore to hang on to some maginary “radical differences”

  33. Kantian Naturalist:

    3. No one means by “natural selection” anything more than the claim that differential fecundity acting on heritable variation can lead to speciation events under certain conditions. That’s it. The role of intelligence in the source domain for the analogy does not tell us anything about the conceptual coherence of the target domain.

    So do you believe that all members of the public would think that this is what is meant by “natural selection”. There is no getting round the fact that “selection” implies intent.

    Kantian Naturalist: 4. Darwin’s theory is not mechanistic, despite what Provine and Dennett claim. The modern synthesis, built upon Mendelian population genetics, is mechanistic. And the mechanistic version of evolutionary theory has been aggressively promoted by Jacques Monod (in Chance and Necessity) and Richard Dawkins (in The Blind Watchmaker). Nevertheless, there are plenty of non-mechanistic interpretations of Darwinism, past and present. Walsh’s “Situated Darwinism” in his 2015 book Organisms, Agency, and Evolution is a superb example of a non-mechanistic version of evolutionary theory.

    Apart from mindless mechanisms, what else is there to Darwinian evolution?

    From Britannica

    Darwinism, theory of the evolutionary mechanism propounded by Charles Darwin as an explanation of organic change. It denotes Darwin’s specific view that evolution is driven mainly by natural selection.

    From Wikipedia

    Darwinism may refer to Darwin’s proposed mechanism of natural selection, in comparison to more recent mechanisms such as genetic drift and gene flow.

    From National Geographic

    Natural selection was such a powerful idea in explaining the evolution of life that it became established as a scientific theory. Biologists have since observed numerous examples of natural selection influencing evolution. Today, it is known to be just one of several mechanisms by which life evolves.

    From livescience

    Dr. P John D. Lambshead, a retired science research leader in marine biodiversity, ecology, and evolution at The Natural History Museum, London, told All About History Magazine(opens in new tab). “As long as science knew of no mechanism to explain how evolution happened it could be safely dismissed as a crank idea.”

    I could make this list as long as I want.

    Thanks for pointing out the work of Denis Walsh. I’ll look into it. It would appear to me to be a step in the right direction. But I think it is a direction which is divergent from Darwin’s idea of natural selection.

    Darwin does invoke purpose in nature but he isn’t clear on how novel forms come about other that the slight variations in populations. For instance he thinks that because insects came into existence bright, showy, colourful flowers have evolved. The purpose of these flowers is to attract insects. Without insects flowers would have remained dull and drab. But the mechanisms of growth produced the variations which natural selection could work on.

  34. phoodoo:
    to Kantian Naturalist,

    Useful concepts are ones which people agree on. If you have your own definition for so many phrases I hardly see how they have any relevance whatsoever.

    I have no idea what you mean by emergent, by teleology, by Darwinism, by the modern synthesis, by intelligence, and by saying someone is wrong.

    These appear to all be fun play words of your own creation.

    Useful for a child’s book of rhymes perhaps.

    “The urgent emergent sturgeon surgeon, not a marlin doctor darling, not a oncologist, or podiatrist, certainly not a radiologist, nor teleologist, heavens no not an anesthesiologist with a gas bag full of modern syntheologists, Acipenseriformespractioner of the Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus comes from the atlantic in a panic to suture gills at will no not gall bladder of adders or even asses of basses for the masses, he is a specialist you see…”

    In this video Manly P. Hall speaks about Plotinus, beauty, goodness and the use of words.

    He says:

    Never is a statement made and left unsupported or without the necessary attendant and commentary thinking. Thus we have a mystic who is also a highly ordered thinker. And yet all his thinking is used, not to prove the correctness of his mind, but to prove the sublimity of the Divine Plan. And in this we have the use of mind, the use of words and Plotinus in one of his discussions weeps a little over the sorrow of words. How little words can tell. How poor they are in the search for terms suitable to clear the doubts and misgivings of the human soul. And yet perhaps there is no one in antiquity who used words more lovingly, more beautifully and more exactly than this man who would have been an inspiration for the best part of modern semantic thinking. And in his essay on the beautiful I’m just going to read a few of the opening lines that sort of sets the pattern for you and then we will go into a problem that he presents. It begins thus, “Beauty for the most part consists in objects of sight, but it is also received through the ears…

    Plotinus then goes on to talk about a higher beauty than that which we perceive through the senses.

    Hall continues:

    And from that we can begins to see the thinking of this man on a subject which is very close to us and is probably much closer as we understand what he meant by the beautiful. As a springboard for his discussion Plotinus compares the beautiful and the good, because he confirms that there is a valid relation between these two terms, valid perhaps first in that neither can be adequately defined. This in itself is important, for that which cannot be captured in another definition may very likely be superior to that definition and therefore belong in a different world, a higher sphere of human contemplation. And he further held to be true that the principle of beauty if it has a separate and natural existence, if it is an archetype, if it is an eternal being rather than in existence or in space must be apperceived apart from its production, or those things which we call beautiful. Therefore he recommends us to consider the possibility, the things the so-called beautiful are a long shadow of beauty cast in matter, and that the beauty of physical things lies not in themselves but it is bestowed upon them by the operation of a superior power.

    There can be beauty in physical objects and there can be beauty in words, but some things are beyond defining. To accept only what can be defined is to see only the dead in that which is in reality living. And the written word has more of the dead letter than the spoken word.

  35. CharlieM,

    This is a good post Charlie.

    Unfortunately, desperate atheists will deny or accept Darwinism depending on when it suits them.

    Its also random and non-random, guided and not guided , chaotic and clever, teleological and not teleological, one off luck and convergent, slow and step wise or fast and sudden, also all depending on when it suits them.

  36. CharlieM: So do you believe that all members of the public would think that this is what is meant by “natural selection”.

    I don’t know what “all members of the public” would think, if they thought about it at all. Or why that’s supposed to matter.

    There is no getting round the fact that “selection” implies intent.

    So what? That doesn’t affect Darwin’s point: that there are processes in nature which have effects similar to the effects caused by deliberate breeding of domesticated plants and animals.

    Apart from mindless mechanisms, what else is there to Darwinian evolution?

    I think that a good deal of the difficulty lies with the phrase “mindless mechanisms”. Are you assuming that if something is not deliberately planned, then it must be a result of mechanism? Are you taking “mind” and “mechanism” as exclusive and exhaustive?

    I could make this list as long as I want.

    I’m quite well aware of the widespread belief that Darwinism is a mechanistic process. Quotes establishing the prevalence of that belief are not necessary. What I am contending is that this belief is mistaken, once we leave behind the world of widely held opinions and start doing actual philosophy.

    Thanks for pointing out the work of Denis Walsh. I’ll look into it. It would appear to me to be a step in the right direction. But I think it is a direction which is divergent from Darwin’s idea of natural selection.

    Based on my reading of Darwin and of Walsh, Walsh is not diverging from Darwin’s idea of natural selection but returning to what Darwin actually had in mind.

    Darwin does invoke purpose in nature but he isn’t clear on how novel forms come about other that the slight variations in populations. For instance he thinks that because insects came into existence bright, showy, colourful flowers have evolved. The purpose of these flowers is to attract insects. Without insects flowers would have remained dull and drab. But the mechanisms of growth produced the variations which natural selection could work on.

    It depends on what one means by “novel forms.” Darwin thinks that new species come into existence through the accumulation over time of slight variations amongst individuals within populations. But are you contesting that claim?

    Darwin does allow that under some conditions, an entirely new trait may arise — a “sport” or “monster”. He wisely refrains from speculating about the causes of sudden novel phenotypes. But he does think that the new trait will only become widespread in the population if the new trait is adaptive or is correlated with adaptive traits. Are you contesting that?

    By the way, Darwin argued that colorful flowers are a result of co-evolution between insects and flowers — the evolution of each drives the evolution of the other. As he himself demonstrated, there are flowers that have evolved parts that resemble the genitalia of the insects that they depend upon for pollination.

  37. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: So do you believe that all members of the public would think that this is what is meant by “natural selection”.

    Kantian Naturalist: I don’t know what “all members of the public” would think, if they thought about it at all. Or why that’s supposed to matter.

    CharlieM: There is no getting round the fact that “selection” implies intent.

    Kantian Naturalist: So what? That doesn’t affect Darwin’s point: that there are processes in nature which have effects similar to the effects caused by deliberate breeding of domesticated plants and animals.

    I agree, natural selection and artificial selection are both similar. And they are both similar in that they are limited, although artificial selection tends to result in forms exhibiting greater extremes than natural selection.

    CharlieM: Apart from mindless mechanisms, what else is there to Darwinian evolution?

    Kantian Naturalism: I think that a good deal of the difficulty lies with the phrase “mindless mechanisms”. Are you assuming that if something is not deliberately planned, then it must be a result of mechanism? Are you taking “mind” and “mechanism” as exclusive and exhaustive?

    No. But I am taking Darwinians to assume the changing characteristics of a species to be wholly determined by the breeding individuals. Individual differences provide the variety that natural selection acts upon. Therefore natural selection; although composed of a number of physical circumstances such as availability of food, competition for mates, likelihood of predation; is considered in its totality to act as the agent which allows hew species to emerge. Natural selection is the mindless agent analogous to the human breeder who obviously does have a mind.

    CharlieM: I could make this list as long as I want.

    Kantian Naturalist: I’m quite well aware of the widespread belief that Darwinism is a mechanistic process. Quotes establishing the prevalence of that belief are not necessary. What I am contending is that this belief is mistaken, once we leave behind the world of widely held opinions and start doing actual philosophy.

    As with everything else, Is there also not a wide variety of opinions among philosophers?

    CharlieM: Thanks for pointing out the work of Denis Walsh. I’ll look into it. It would appear to me to be a step in the right direction. But I think it is a direction which is divergent from Darwin’s idea of natural selection.

    Kantian Naturalist: Based on my reading of Darwin and of Walsh, Walsh is not diverging from Darwin’s idea of natural selection but returning to what Darwin actually had in mind.

    You could be right. He seems to be closer in spirit to Darwin than many neo-Darwinists or adherents of the modern synthesis.

    He rejects foundationalist materialism and is making case for what he calls, “normative naturalism”. In a video about this he mentions that Rasmus Winther uses a term called pernicious reification, Walsh’s favourite example is in population genetics with the production of a set of models defined over gene types which are abstract entities. “If we take our population genetics models too seriously we end up thinking that biological reality is made up of the dynamics and interactions between these gene types”.

    CharlieM: Darwin does invoke purpose in nature but he isn’t clear on how novel forms come about other that the slight variations in populations. For instance he thinks that because insects came into existence bright, showy, colourful flowers have evolved. The purpose of these flowers is to attract insects. Without insects flowers would have remained dull and drab. But the mechanisms of growth produced the variations which natural selection could work on.

    Kantian Naturalist: It depends on what one means by “novel forms.” Darwin thinks that new species come into existence through the accumulation over time of slight variations amongst individuals within populations. But are you contesting that claim?

    It is hard to dispute that claim without a clear definition of what constitutes a species. I think limits reached by this process are dynamic. As animal forms become more incarnated in physical substance the less plastic they become.

    Compare testudines (turtles) with carnivorous mammals and tell me which of the two do you think looks to have the most vitality and plasticity of form.

    Kantian Naturalist: Darwin does allow that under some conditions, an entirely new trait may arise — a “sport” or “monster”. He wisely refrains from speculating about the causes of sudden novel phenotypes. But he does think that the new trait will only become widespread in the population if the new trait is adaptive or is correlated with adaptive traits. Are you contesting that?

    Not within limits, no.

    To take an example from artificial selection, dogs can be bred to be specialists. Dachshunds have been bred for their ability to get into badger sets and hence their short legs an long bodies. But even in this extreme form they are still recognized as dogs.

    Kantian Naturalist>By the way, Darwin argued that colorful flowers are a result of co-evolution between insects and flowers — the evolution of each drives the evolution of the other. As he himself demonstrated, there are flowers that have evolved parts that resemble the genitalia of the insects that they depend upon for pollination.

    Yes I know that. He also wrote in The Origin:

    Hence we may conclude that, if insects had not been developed on the face of the earth, our plants would not have been decked with beautiful flowers, but would have produced only such poor flowers as we see on our fir, oak, nut and ash trees, on grasses, spinach, docks, and nettles, which are all fertilised through the agency of the wind.

    I believe there is a deeper connection between insects and plants. For instance the lifecycles of flowering plants and butterflies have a striking parallelism. The butterfly has been referred to as a flower freed from the constraints of gravity.

    And another obvious parallelism is placental and marsupial mammals.

  38. CharlieM: I am taking Darwinians to assume the changing characteristics of a species to be wholly determined by the breeding individuals. Individual differences provide the variety that natural selection acts upon. Therefore natural selection; although composed of a number of physical circumstances such as availability of food, competition for mates, likelihood of predation; is considered in its totality to act as the agent which allows hew species to emerge. Natural selection is the mindless agent analogous to the human breeder who obviously does have a mind.

    I don’t know what work “mindless” is doing for you in the last sentence, and I’m not sure if “agent” is the right term here.

    I think it’s probably more useful to think of natural selection has a high-level effect: it’s a description of what tends to happen to populations over time when exposure to environmental changes results in individuals whose features prevent them from reproducing tend to be less prevalent in subsequent generations.

    It is hard to dispute that claim without a clear definition of what constitutes a species. I think limits reached by this process are dynamic. As animal forms become more incarnated in physical substance the less plastic they become.

    I’m not completely familiar with the debate about species concepts in philosophy of biology, but I think that the evolutionary conception of a species as a population of interbreeding individuals is good enough for most purposes.

    Compare testudines (turtles) with carnivorous mammals and tell me which of the two do you think looks to have the most vitality and plasticity of form.

    I couldn’t begin to compare Testudines with Carnivora without some metric of what counts as “plasticity”. Is there less morphological difference between a leatherback sea turtle and a box turtle than there is between a walrus and a hyena? Are we more interested in genetic diversity, anatomical diversity, or ecological diversity? Do the differences between the two mammals just seem more salient to us because we ourselves are also mammals? Without some objective metric for comparing different kinds of differences, I couldn’t begin to guess.

    To take an example from artificial selection, dogs can be bred to be specialists. Dachshunds have been bred for their ability to get into badger sets and hence their short legs an long bodies. But even in this extreme form they are still recognized as dogs.

    Sure, but so what? Humans and chimps are still recognized as apes, chimps and monkeys are recognized as primates, monkeys and frogs are recognized as tetrapods. So, I’m not sure what point you’re making here.

    I believe there is a deeper connection between insects and plants. For instance the lifecycles of flowering plants and butterflies have a striking parallelism. The butterfly has been referred to as a flower freed from the constraints of gravity.

    And another obvious parallelism is placental and marsupial mammals.

    Parallel evolution (placental and marsupial mammals) and co-evolution (insects and plants) are different phenomena.

  39. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: I am taking Darwinians to assume the changing characteristics of a species to be wholly determined by the breeding individuals. Individual differences provide the variety that natural selection acts upon. Therefore natural selection; although composed of a number of physical circumstances such as availability of food, competition for mates, likelihood of predation; is considered in its totality to act as the agent which allows hew species to emerge. Natural selection is the mindless agent analogous to the human breeder who obviously does have a mind.

    Kantian Naturalist: I don’t know what work “mindless” is doing for you in the last sentence, and I’m not sure if “agent” is the right term here.

    I use these terms because the defenders of the orthodox account of biological evolution use language borrowed from the description of human activities but which attempts to exclude anything that suggests minds are involved in the process.

    Kantian Naturalist>I think it’s probably more useful to think of natural selection has a high-level effect: it’s a description of what tends to happen to populations over time when exposure to environmental changes results in individuals whose features prevent them from reproducing tend to be less prevalent in subsequent generations.

    Yes, natural selection is a process which leads to a reduction in variety within a breeding population.

    Natural selection is biased towards peppered moths with one type of wing coloration. It is biased towards producing Darwin’s finches with a specific shape of beak.

    CharlieM: It is hard to dispute that claim without a clear definition of what constitutes a species. I think limits reached by this process are dynamic. As animal forms become more incarnated in physical substance the less plastic they become.

    Kantian Naturalist: I’m not completely familiar with the debate about species concepts in philosophy of biology, but I think that the evolutionary conception of a species as a population of interbreeding individuals is good enough for most purposes.

    Not all species are equal when it comes to breeding within the species. Ducks and geese are common examples of organisms that regularly interbreed between species. I’d be interested to learn how birds and mammals compare in this regard. I suspect that birds are more likely to produce fertile hybrids than mammals.

    CharlieM: Compare testudines (turtles) with carnivorous mammals and tell me which of the two do you think looks to have the most vitality and plasticity of form.

    Kantian Naturalist: I couldn’t begin to compare Testudines with Carnivora without some metric of what counts as “plasticity”. Is there less morphological difference between a leatherback sea turtle and a box turtle than there is between a walrus and a hyena? Are we more interested in genetic diversity, anatomical diversity, or ecological diversity? Do the differences between the two mammals just seem more salient to us because we ourselves are also mammals? Without some objective metric for comparing different kinds of differences, I couldn’t begin to guess.

    But we can look for clues.

    From Wikiledia

    The earliest known turtles are from fossils in the Upper Triassic. These fossils are nearly indistinguishable from modern turtles anatomically.

    From “Nature”

    Turtles haven’t changed much over the past 210 million years.

    Not much plasticity of form in evidence there. What about Carnivora?

    From Wkipedia

    They come in a very large array of different body plans in contrasting shapes and sizes.

    From “Integrated & Comparitive Biology”

    The fossil record of the order Carnivora extends back at least 60 million years and documents a remarkable history of adaptive radiation characterized by the repeated, independent evolution of similar feeding morphologies in distinct clades.

    Some forms remain trapped in their narrow niche while others hold on to that ability to diversify for much longer. Try comparing the 200 million year old ancestor of marine turtles with a 200 million year old ancestor of canids.

    CharlieM: To take an example from artificial selection, dogs can be bred to be specialists. Dachshunds have been bred for their ability to get into badger sets and hence their short legs an long bodies. But even in this extreme form they are still recognized as dogs.

    Kantian Naturalist: Sure, but so what? Humans and chimps are still recognized as apes, chimps and monkeys are recognized as primates, monkeys and frogs are recognized as tetrapods. So, I’m not sure what point you’re making here.

    My point is that forms can be extremely diverse morphologically but still remain within the same species.

    CharlieM: I believe there is a deeper connection between insects and plants. For instance the lifecycles of flowering plants and butterflies have a striking parallelism. The butterfly has been referred to as a flower freed from the constraints of gravity.

    And another obvious parallelism is placental and marsupial mammals.

    Kantian Naturalist: Parallel evolution (placental and marsupial mammals) and co-evolution (insects and plants) are different phenomena.

    The parallel evolution of insects and plants are a separate issue from their co-evolution. The human organism co-evolved with related gut flora and fauna, this does not mean they should show any close parallelism in their respective life cycles.

    The startling comparison between the lifecycles of butterflies and flowering plants is obvious to anyone that looks closely at both.

  40. CharlieM: natural selection is a process which leads to a reduction in variety within a breeding population.

    Directional selection does, but there are multiple flavours:

    Balancing selection

    Balancing selection refers to a number of selective processes by which multiple alleles (different versions of a gene) are actively maintained in the gene pool of a population at frequencies larger than expected from genetic drift alone.

    Disruptive selection

    Disruptive selection, also called diversifying selection, describes changes in population genetics in which extreme values for a trait are favored over intermediate values. In this case, the variance of the trait increases and the population is divided into two distinct groups.

    And of course, natural selection can give the appearance of creativity by giving rise to novel characters.

    Association of alleles

    The idea is that you can create phenotypes that did not exist previously by selectively breeding individuals with an association of desired alleles, e.g. the ears of modern maize as compared to teosinthe.

    Threshold characters

    Selection reduces variation, but the change in allele frequencies caused by selection does create novel phenotypes by allowing novel combinations of previously rare alleles. These may even result in novel discrete characters in the case of threshold traits, such as paired spikelets in maize ears.

    All emphasis mine.

    So, in conjunction with mutation and genetic drift, what limitations do you imagine there are for natural selection in generating and maintaining current biodiversity?

  41. phoodoo: What does that mean?

    It means that natural selection appears to be all clever and creative, but of course it can’t be, being mindless and that.

  42. Corneel:
    CharlieM: natural selection is a process which leads to a reduction in variety within a breeding population.

    Corneel: Directional selection does, but there are multiple flavours:

    Balancing selection

    “Balancing selection refers to a number of selective processes by which multiple alleles (different versions of a gene) are actively maintained in the gene pool of a population at frequencies larger than expected from genetic drift alone.”

    Disruptive selection

    “Disruptive selection, also called diversifying selection, describes changes in population genetics in which extreme values for a trait are favored over intermediate values. In this case, the variance of the trait increases and the population is divided into two distinct groups.”

    And of course, natural selection can give the appearance of creativity by giving rise to novel characters.

    Association of alleles

    “The idea is that you can create phenotypes that did not exist previously by selectively breeding individuals with an association of desired alleles, e.g. the ears of modern maize as compared to teosinthe.”

    Threshold characters

    “Selection reduces variation, but the change in allele frequencies caused by selection does create novel phenotypes by allowing novel combinations of previously rare alleles. These may even result in novel discrete characters in the case of threshold traits, such as paired spikelets in maize ears.”

    All emphasis mine.

    This just confirms the fact that selection is working on what already exists. What creates the diversity in these cases is the changes in allele frequencies over the generations. This is polar nature of Darwinian evolution. There are differences between parent and offspring on one pole and selection on the other pole. Together these processes, when they are well balanced, allow populations to remain viable in an ever changing environment.

    Corneel: So, in conjunction with mutation and genetic drift, what limitations do you imagine there are for natural selection in generating and maintaining current biodiversity?

    Limitation analogous to individual development. When stem cells give rise to specialist cells their path becomes determined and it is extremely difficult for these cells regain the plasticity of their ancestor cells.

    Likewise, to take a specific example, it would be very difficult for a population of gorillas to evolve into the more general primate type of their ancestors.

    Extinction is the result of an imbalance between these poles.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.