The Blind Watchbreaker would dispose of lunches even if they were free — mootness of anti-NFL arguments

[cross posted at UD: The Blind Watchbreaker would dispose of lunches even if they were free — mootness of anti-NFL arguments]

Our colleague Elizabeth Liddle has described the process of human design as trial and error, tinkering and iteration. Like Dawkins, she has argued nature (like human designers) is able to construct biological designs via trial and error, tinkering and iteration. However, when nature is properly compared and contrasted with the way humans go about creating designs, it is apparent Dawkins’ claim of a blind watchmaker is false.

I refer to Elizabeth’s description because she articulated some aspects of the blind watchmaker hypothesis better than Dawkins, but in so doing actually helped highlight why Dawkins’ blind watchmaker is refuted by the evidence.

[this is a follow up post to Selection falsely called a mechanism when it should be called an outcome]

THE CHALLENGE OF OOL AND SUFFICIENT COMPLEXITY FOR SELECTION TO WORK
Darwinists will often say, “Origin-of-life (OOL) is a different issue than biological evolution”, to which I say “fine, so how again will mindless chemical soups construct a blind watchmaker in the first place?” Margulis suggests the step from dead chemicals to an evolvable cell is more difficult than from a primitive cell to a human.

Hence, as long as OOL remains unsolved, the question of mindless origins remains unsolved, and in the scheme of things, demonstrating mindless OOL is at least as great a problem if not a greater problem than demonstrating mindless biological evolution.

When we see a dead organism, we see how the biological chemicals evolve — they evolve farther from life not closer too it. A dead cell will have better biological materials in it than all the world’s best OOL labs can synthesize from scratch, and yet, a dead cell evolves away from life, not toward it.

Even Darwin himself conceded the first life was a created, not evolved.

the first creature, the progenitor of innumerable extinct and living descendants, was created.

Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator,

Charles Darwin
Origin of Species
Chapter 14

Genetic algorithms are put forward as evidence for Darwinian evolution. But for Genetic Algorithms to create novel designs, consider that at a bare minimum one needs electricity, transformers, transistors, VLSI circuits, chip makers, computer factories, computers, memory banks, operating systems, machine language, assembly language, compilers or interpreters, compilable and semantically sensible programs to implement the Genetic Algorithm, etc. Genetic algorithms are trivial in complexity compared to the collective societal complexity required to make the computer genetic algorithm possible in the first place. For genetic algorithms to work in human affairs, they need intelligence, hence GAs are anything but evidence of blind mindless processes.

Would I say that a mindless printer printing a document is evidence that mindless forces can create literature from scratch, or a video game creating novel adventures for gamers evidence that mindless forces can create intelligently designed stories from scratch? No, because printers and video games need intelligence to create them in the first place. So Darwinists shouldn’t be putting forward GAs as evidence that intelligence is not needed for the emergence of complexity. If we were fair in applying the analogy of man-made GAs, printers, and video games to biology, the fact that these systems need a huge amount of intelligently designed complexity to implement them suggests that even for Darwinian evolution to take place, there needs to be a substantial amount of intelligent design.

NATURE DISPOSES OF LUNCHES VIA MASS EXTINCTION AND SELECTIVE EXTINCTION
Dembski and Marks argue that mindlessly formed fitness functions perform no better than chance on average unless the fitness functions are intelligently designed and the search space has special properties making it amenable to selection. For example, the travelling salesman problem can be solved via genetic algorithms, but long passwords, complex encryption cannot be. But even in the case of the travelling salesman problem, the genetic algorithm cannot be haphazardly slapped together, it needs intelligent design. These limitations on genetic algorithms are described by the No Free Lunch (NFL) theorems.

But even supposing lunch is free, nature disposes of free lunches in the form of mass extinction in the past and selective extinction in the present. See: The price of cherry picking for addicted gamblers and believers in Darwinism.

We know of mass extinction in the past. Raup estimates the following:

Approximately 250,000 fossil species have been cataloged. According to Raup’s figures (based on estimates of average species longevity and standing diversity over the age of the earth), between 5 and 50 billion species may have lived during earth’s long history, of which at most 40 million or so exist today.

Raup

Though the 55 billion figure seems ridiculously inflated to me, there is little question of mass extinction in the past. In recent times, and in the near future, the score sheet for Darwinism in terms of appearances (wins) and disappearances (loss) of species is:

Wins: 0
Losses: thousands
Net: -thousands

The empirical evidence says even if lunches were free, nature would eventually dispose of them anyway (see: Death of the Fittest), hence not only are Darwinists up against the ropes because of NFL theorems, even if Darwinists found a way to weasel some credibility for Darwinism through extreme deviation from expectation of NLF (see here, here, here, here ) these deviations would still be moot, as evidenced by nature disposing of the lunches it has…

Genetic algorithms where complexity is gradually eliminated and all the creatures go extinct would seem to be a more accurate model of biological reality rather than Avida and Weasel, but such reality-based simulations are dismissed by Darwinists unless of course they are arguing in favor of conservation and eugenics and against anthropogenic global warming.

SELECTIVELY DISADVANTAGED DESIGNS
Related to mass extinction and selective extinction, is the problem of selectively disadvantaged designs.

Broken parts in anti-biotic resistant bacteria, blindness in cave fish, sickle cell anemia, etc. are examples of how nature destroys designs rather than creating them. As Behe pointed out in a peer-reviewed paper, the first rule of adaptive evolution is destruction of functioning designs, not creation of them.

Nature is under no obligation to preserve designs, and can be seen to actively destroy them. Like a boat in dire straights, the crew will sometimes jettison the cargo in order to adapt to the environment. So it is with natural selection, designs are often disposed of in exchange for reproductive success. Expediency takes priority over innovation. Free lunches are disposed of even when generously available.

PARTIAL OR FAILED DESIGNS ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESSFUL DESIGNS
Partially formed ideas can persist in the mind or workshop of the designer. Even failed prototypes are informative to the designer as to which design route not to take in the next iteration. Ill-formed designs in the mind of a designer do not immediately terminate the possibility of further improvement of the design. The ability of a design to persist even when it is dysfunctional is crucial to the design process.

But nature is no so kind with dysfunctional designs. In nature, especially if a function is vital, partially formed or failed variants are dispensed with. Variants could be lethal to the organism, thus natural selection rather than fostering innovation, precludes it. As has been said by other scientists:

many genomic features could not have emerged without a near-complete disengagement of the power of natural selection

Michael Lynch
opening, The Origins of Genome Architecture

and

a relative lack of natural selection may be the prerequisite for major evolutionary advance

Mae Wan Ho
Beyond Neo-Darwinism

and

The internal contradiction in its [natural selections’] major theoretical cornerstone — Fisher’s fundamental theorem

traits having been subjected to heavy selection pressures, because of their importance in the lives of the organisms, should be less variable than less important traits….
traits that have been most important in the lives of organisms up to this moment will be least likely to be able to evolve further!

Stanley Salthe
Critique of Natural Selection

As Stephen Gould wisely said, “what good is half a wing?” Non-functioning wings ought to be a liability that selection would eliminate. The false presumption by Dawkins is that in going from simple primitive forms to final complex forms, the intermediate forms are more functional than the simple forms. But that assumption is false, except possibly for some pathological examples. As an illustration, consider evolving a new kind of heart with different plumbing, the intermediate stages would be lethal….

Important transitionals are not found in the fossil record because in principle they could not exist. Natural selection hinders innovation, it doesn’t foster it. The transitionals are not found in the fossil record maybe because they were never there.

Thus, it is wrong to presume selection implies a road to higher complexity and innovation. It does not. Part of the reason for this false belief is selection is falsely called a mechanism when instead it should be called an outcome. [Note: no Darwinist has even challenged that essay, was it because the points were too unassailable? :-)]

Intelligence has foresight, natural selection doesn’t. A tinkering intelligence will see the value of exploring partially formed or ill-formed designs in his mind or workshop. Blueprints and incomplete ideas can stay alive on the shelf for long periods before being revisited. Da Vinci conceived of a submarine about 400 hundred years before the submarine came to serious fruition. The conception of an airplane may have been at least 1000 years before the Wright brothers, through many failures, created controlled powered flight. The failed intermediate airplanes didn’t stop them from improving, whereas in nature, if the path to improvement must be through non-functioning forms, selection will not construct flying machines. Wilbur Wright, in the midst of despair after one of his failed experiments said:

Not within a thousand years will man ever fly.

But intelligence often has purpose, sometimes relentless purpose, whereas mindless nature does not. So what if beetles lose their wings and pterodactyls go extinct, nature, unlike Wilbur Wright and Werner von Braun, has no reason to reassemble phoenix from ashes of failed experiments and reach for the stars….

THE EFFECT OF MUTATIONS IN THE MIND VERSUS MUTATIONS IN THE WILD

Mutating ideas in the human mind or even in Genetic Algorithms doesn’t necessarily kill the idea. For example, I uncovered a very embarrassing fact in Avida 1.6. I had this population of Avida organisms, and I cranked up the simulated cosmic radiation level to the maximum. I likened the cosmic bombardment simulation to putting a creature in a microwave/x-ray oven for 3 weeks and then demanding the creatures reproduce — and the creatures kept happily reproducing!

In one of the most exhausting debates between a Creationist and Darwinist I’ve ever witnessed on the net, Richard Hoppe and I, politely and civilly argued for weeks. He had me up against the ropes because I was unfamiliar with Avida, but then I got a break when I demonstrated Avida creatures kept replicating even under intense simulated cosmic radiation. In the real world, survival (much less upward evolution) under such intense radiation won’t happen, but in the make-believe GA world of ideas anything is possible! ( you must be logged into ARN, then follow this link: RBH vs. Sal: Natural Selection Goes the Wrong Way).

Hence, ideas don’t die even if they are mutated into functionless zombies. Ideas can be dead and then later brought back to life in the mind. What constitutes survivability for ideas in the mind is arbitrary. But this is not the case in nature. Mutations in the wild can lead to deterioration and death, not innovation toward more integrated complexity.

Hence, even supposing there are free lunches in man-made genetic algorithms, nature doesn’t work like a man-made genetic algorithm. In nature, physics and chemistry determine what ideas and designs can live on to the next generation, whereas in the mind or in genetic algorithms, there is no such requirement.

DIRECTED MUTATIONS VERSUS RANDOM MUTATIONS
Like a locksmith or lock factory creating a key for a lock, the keys are crafted with the lock in mind versus taking random lumps of metal and mutating it with random strikes of a hammer or cuts with a grinding tool and via random trial and error arriving at a working key. Because a real watchmaker has an architecture in mind, he reduces the search time to find or create the matching parts versus using random swings of a sledgehammer on random materials to make a watch. Even with man-made genetic algorithms, the fitness functions are carefully crafted, they are anything but randomly hammered fitness functions.

By way of contrast, mutation and selection in the wild, like a blind watchbreaker, will find a way to diverge from a design solution (such as with mass extinction, blindness in cavefish, antibiotic resistant bacteria, wingless beetles, etc.). When a lunch might possibly be free through a little foresight (such as matching locks to keys, or parts of a watch with the whole of the watch), nature won’t take the free lunch, because it has no reason to craft fitness functions that will take advantage of a free lunch. All of Darwinist railing against NFL theorems are moot if nature takes random fitness functions or anti-design fitness functions over ones that would work.

In accelerated mutation experiments, we see where mutation leads — usually to disaster, not greater complexity. On what grounds should we suppose slower mutation rates will necessarily build integrated complexity? This is like saying we’ll smash watch parts with a hammer only once every 10 years instead of every 10 seconds, the final result is the same, a broken watch. In biology, the slow mutation rates allow populations to sometimes eliminate defects, and recover, but the point is, if fast mutation leads to no new innovation, on what logical grounds should slow mutation lead to new innovation either? Slow mutation only keeps the population from dying, it is misleading to suggest that slow mutation necessarily leads to innovation. Slow mutation and population persistence may allow for more trials, but if selection destroys necessary (but dysfunctional) intermediates, at best, slow mutation rates hide the problem mutation poses for Darwinism, it doesn’t eliminate it.

SUMMARY
It is understandable that we might be inclined to think nature works like a watchmaker when we see mutation followed by occasional adaptation. Superficially, selection in the wild appears to parallel the way we think and design, but the apparent parallel disappears upon closer inspection.

Darwinist statistics on the success of natural selection are distorted by confirmation bias. Darwinists focus primarily on nominal adaptations rather than including complete extinctions in the fossil record and ongoing extinction in the present day. Secondly, the adaptations are often of the dysfunctional variety (broken pumps in bacterial antibiotic resistant bacteria, winglessness in beetles) or trivial variety (coloring of peppered moths of thickness of beaks in finches). Further, selection is falsely called a mechanism when it should be called an outcome to the exclusion of other mechanisms that create complexity (such as bacterial or even human genetic engineering).

And if biological complexity in the wild is declining, in addition to the above considerations, it is clear, mindless nature is not a blind watchmaker but rather a blind watchbreaker. It is thus a moot point if free lunch can be discovered via Darwinian processes since nature seems to ignore or dispose of the lunches it already has. Nature has no inherent reason to select life over death (in fact the laws of physics dictate that nature should be more likely to select death and dysfunction rather life and function). This fact is borne out by empirical observation.

Ideas can survive mutations in the mind of the designer because even ill-formed ideas can remain in the mind until they are improved, but ill-formed designs in the wild will not survive to find further improvement. The process of directing mutations by designers (tinkering) is nothing like the process of random mutation in the wild which are empirically demonstrated to destroy function.

If Elizabeth Liddle, Richard Dawkins or others argue natural selection works like blind watchmaker, consider this essay. Nature is not a blind watchmaker it is a blind watchbreaker. If you can grab a free lunch, grab it, because the blind watchbreaker won’t.

63 thoughts on “The Blind Watchbreaker would dispose of lunches even if they were free — mootness of anti-NFL arguments”

  1. PatrickPatrick

    Is learning his goal?

    Based on his behavior on this and previous threads here, my provisional hypothesis is that he is attempting to establish his bona fides as an evangelical culture warrior, with an eye on the creationist book and church basement circuit. Learning about the topics he’s trying to discuss would be useless, at best, with respect to that goal.

  2. Mike Elzinga

    Patrick,

    Based on his behavior on this and previous threads here, my provisional hypothesis is that he is attempting to establish his bona fides as an evangelical culture warrior, with an eye on the creationist book and church basement circuit. Learning about the topics he’s trying to discuss would be useless, at best, with respect to that goal.

    This is the same conclusion I have reached. His use of “debating” set-ups is all too familiar.

    His attempt to jump immediately into advanced topics is a ploy that goes all the way back to Morris and Gish in the 1970s. However, I think we have pretty conclusively established that he can’t do elementary calculations that a high school chemistry/physics student can do.

    It is certainly the case that if Dembski, Abel, Sewell, kairosfocus, and bornagain77 can’t do them, then Sal can’t do them.

    He is too anxious to portray himself as an expert and an equal in the “debates” he tries to lure people into. This is one of the most familiar characteristics of a crackpot; not just ID/creationist crackpots. Colleagues; Sheesh!

  3. stcordova Post author

    “No, we do not assume this. We do not assume it at all. Darwin may have done, but Darwin hadn’t thought about drift, not surprisingly, as much of the relevant work on statistics has been done since his time.

    We know that neutral mutations can and do propagate through a population, and that even deleterious mutations can do the same. And for every additional organism with a neutral or deleterious mutation there is an additional opportunity for a subsequent mutation to come along and render it positive. And we know this happens (from Lenski’s e-coli work, for instance, and from models).”

    In that case selection is only an outcome, not a mechanism. If the numerous simultaneous changes happen which selection happens to select after all the changes appear, then selection is an outcome not a cumulative mechanism, and thus unable to function as Dawkins advertised to solve complex biological mechanism via accumulation of selectively favored steps for that function.

    Invocation of neutralism then leads to random blind search, exactly the opposite of what you claim:

    ” the iterative feedback from the environment that results in the incremental adjustment of the prototype so that it ever more closely fulfils some function. ”

    If the mutations are neutral there is no iterative feedback toward incremental adjustment.

    “You are many decades out of date on this, Sal :)”

    I’ve posted more on neutral theory than anyone at UD. Example from 2007:
    Prominent NAS member trashes Neo-Darwinism

    I wasn’t out of date, that’s an unsupportable claim, but you’re statements of incremental adjustment and neutral evolution are logically incompatible.

    You, like Patrick, and Allan admit the necessity of unselectable changes. Not too bad if one is dealing with only two point mutations, but very bad if one needs hundreds or thousands of simultaneous mutations needed to implement a function.

    And if we have hundreds or thousands of mutations that are unselectable toward future function, that implies incremental adjustment toward function doesn’t happen for those unselectable changes (except via blind luck), and thus refute this claim:

    “iterative feedback from the environment that results in the incremental adjustment of the prototype so that it ever more closely fulfils some function. ”

    Thus, you refuted your own hypothesis — refutation via contradiction,
    which is what I wished to demonstrate in the OP. QED.

  4. Alan FoxAlan Fox

    stcordova: “iterative feedback from the environment that results in the incremental adjustment of the prototype so that it ever more closely fulfils some function. ”

    Thus, you refuted your own hypothesis — refutation via contradiction,
    which is what I wished to demonstrate in the OP. QED.

    Rubbish!

    But on the assumption that you genuinely wish to understand what you claim to refute. The environment is not a static landscape. The environment is dynamic and multi-dimensional. All sorts of long-term and short-term effects sum into the environmental niche. Intra-species competition, food resources, weather, climate, prey predators, parasites, meteors, continental drift, diurnal cycles, tides, volcanoes, etc, etc. Model that!

  5. RumraketRumraket

    stcordova: In that case selection is only an outcome, not a mechanism.

    No. You keep trying to put the label “selection” on all the various mechanisms. Selection results in adaptation. Adaptation is an outcome, selection is part of that which causes adaptation. Selection fixes alleles in populations, the bind search, well, searches!

    Selection is operating on the products of the blind search(which can be drift, mutation and recombination of various sorts).

    There are no absolutes. No guarantees, and selection is almost always multilevel and happeing simultaneously with drift. You can’t reduce evolution to selection only, and you can’t overextrapolate selection to a 100% effective filter that ALWAYS succeeds in selecting FOR or AGAINST something. Sometimes selection is strong, sometimes it is weak, sometimes it fluctuates over time.

    Please stop with the simplistic, all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking.

    stcordova
    If the numerous simultaneous changes happen which selection happens to select after all the changes appear, then selection is an outcome not a cumulative mechanism

    Wrong. Selection is the mechanism, the outcome is adaptation. Selection happens over time, is in effect over many generations (iterations, if you will). At any arbitrary point in time we can stop and look at the population can compare it to some ancestral population and see that adaptation has happened due to selection. This is exactly what they did (and still do) in the Lenski experiments. They have frozen baches of the ancestral strain which they intermittently “test” agaist the extant strain in various environments, and see which ones do best. The extant strains have all evolved, through selection. They have adapted to their growth conditions, they have higher fitness than the ancestral population in that specific environment.
    This is classic, textbook examples of evolution. It doesn’t get any more simple or intuitively obvious than this.

    stcordovaand thus unable to function as Dawkins advertised to solve complex biological mechanism via accumulation of selectively favored steps for that function.

    Selection is part of the picture, it is not the full picture. Obviously you need a source of variation (what you call a “blind search”). That source of variation is mutation, drift and allelic recombination.

    stcordovaInvocation of neutralism then leads to random blind search, exactly the opposite of what you claim:
    A blind random search is always going on, whether the population (or some alleles) is evolving neutrally or not, because mutations still happen, and here will always be an element of stochasticity to selection, so we get drift.

    Selection isn’t the searcher, the whole of the evolutionary process is. You absolutely still need to factor in mutation, drift and recombination. That which results in variation that selection can operate on.

    stcordovaIf the mutations are neutral there is no iterative feedback toward incremental adjustment.

    Correct, IF they are neutral, they’re neutral. This is a tautology.

    The point is merely, if a selection pressure is relaxed (remember, selection selects FOR some things and AGAINST others) it no longer selects “AGAINST”… so a lot of variation will be generated without being weeded out through the process of selection. Over time, as this process keeps going, the environment may change, and suddenly selection starts operating again. Now we have a lot of variation to select on, because it was allowed to drift (diffuse) neutrally in all directions. If the environment has changed to a different one, the selection pressure might be different. It might select FOR something it was selecting AGAINST in the old environment. In this way, neutral evolution is part of the picture.

    But yes, obviously, neutral evolution isn’t natural selection, and neither natural selection alone, nor neutral evolution alone, is evolutionary process in it’s entirety. That’s the point. Both can be in operation simultaneously, just not on the same allele(otherwise it wouldn’t be neural, obviously).

  6. Allan Miller

    In that case selection is only an outcome, not a mechanism. If the numerous simultaneous changes happen which selection happens to select after all the changes appear, then selection is an outcome not a cumulative mechanism, and thus unable to function as Dawkins advertised to solve complex biological mechanism via accumulation of selectively favored steps for that function.

    Selection is a consistent differential in the net reproductive output of one type versus another. That differential results in a shift in balance towards the type wth the higher output, and (obviously) away from the other. Is it a mechanism? Is it an outcome? Who cares? If you intentionally choose your best Buff Orpingtons to breed from, is that mechanism or outcome? Does something only become a mechanism with the added ingredient of Intent? What’s erosion, then?

    It’s just a familiar semantic game, like the tiresome ‘tautology’ gambit. Selection is a phenomenon, with an obvious effect on the makeup of the population, and an inevitable conclusion: extinction of one of the types, barring a change in selective effect or reversal of fortune by stochastic forces.

    And if we have hundreds or thousands of mutations that are unselectable toward future function, that implies incremental adjustment toward function doesn’t happen for those unselectable changes (except via blind luck), and thus …

    You are just handwaving. Yes, in some vague scenario where squillions of things must happen at once, incremental adjustments aren’t up to the job. Hundreds or thousands? How did you get such accurate data? 😉

  7. Lizzie

    stcordova: In that case selection is only an outcome, not a mechanism. If the numerous simultaneous changes happen which selection happens to select after all the changes appear, then selection is an outcome not a cumulative mechanism, and thus unable to function as Dawkins advertised to solve complex biological mechanism via accumulation of selectively favored steps for that function.

    You need to get past the metaphors, Sal. The relevant mechanism of “natural selection” is dead simple – it’s simply the phenomenon by which an individual with a genome that is likely to curtail its fecundity, is likely (by definition!) to leave fewer copies of that genome in the population, and vice verse. Call it an outcome or call it a mechanism – it doesn’t matter, it must happen.

    If a genome only affects fecundity when a certain cocktail of sequences is present, and no individual ingredient of that cocktail affects fecundity (all are neutral) then all that means is that the the ingredients of the cocktail have arrived by drift, not “selection” (i.e. not by affecting fecundity, again by definition!). But if the whole cocktail does positively affect fecundity, then, thereafter, that genome will become widely prevalent.

    Forget about what Dawkins said, or you think Dawkins said: just look at the logic itself. Or even try out a little simulation (you have programming skills I think). You will quickly see for yourself that entirely neutral variants can become highly prevalent very quickly. Even if advantageous traits (traits that directly increase fecundity) are only found in organisms with a quite complex set of neutral sequences, they nonetheless evolve. Or play with AVIDA if you don’t want to write your own. All the advantageous traits in AVIDA are “IC” (at least some are, and in any case you can set your own parameters). Yet they reliably evolve. This is because of drift.

    Alan Fox: Invocation of neutralism then leads to random blind search, exactly the opposite of what you claim:

    ” the iterative feedback from the environment that results in the incremental adjustment of the prototype so that it ever more closely fulfils some function. ”

    If the mutations are neutral there is no iterative feedback toward incremental adjustment.

    Not “blind search” Sal. If you really want to stick with the “search” metaphor, it is a search in a part of search space that is already rich in solutions. This is why “search” is a terrible metaphor, and the fitness “landscape” is much better. Organisms jittering around on fitness peaks – think of it as Brownian motion. If the fitness peak is fairly flat, then all the population will “diffuse” across the plain. If the plain has a rise at at least one edge, part of the population will reach that edge, just as spilled water on a flat shiny surface will spread out until part of the puddle reaches an edge.

    You could even, if you were Granville Sewell, call it an X-entropy!

    stcordova: “You are many decades out of date on this, Sal :)”

    I’ve posted more on neutral theory than anyone at UD. Example from 2007:
    Prominent NAS member trashes Neo-Darwinism

    I that case I withdraw my remark and replace it with: you have not (in my opinion) understood the theory 🙂 And I suggest that you re-read the paper, and consider more carefully what you think it “trashes”. Right now “neo-Darwinism” is a favorite punchbag (Margulis, Shapiro, Noble), for good reason. But neo-Darwinism is not Darwinism, nor is it the whole of genetics. The “Modern Synthesis” aka “neo-Darwinism” was originally the name given to the welcome synthesis between genetics and evolutionary theory. But much of the resulting modelling, is, as is now generally agreed, far too “gene-centred”. And those who consider natural selection as operating at many levels above the “gene” often reject “neo-Darwinism”. I think it is somewhat unfair, myself, but it doesn’t matter – what matters is that we have become less gene-bound in thinking, and indeed the Mendelian concept of the gene itself has had to loosen. Good.

    What matters is when an anti-Darwinist spots a paper that seems to challenge “neo-Darwinism” and takes it as a indication that evolutionary theory is tottering. It isn’t. It’s just getting better and better. Carving Nature at its joints is useful, but in the end, the joints are somewhat illusory – everything is connected, and the joints themselves are some of the most interesting aspects.

    stcordova: I wasn’t out of date, that’s an unsupportable claim, but you’re statements of incremental adjustment and neutral evolution are logically incompatible.

    No, they are not. If I spend eight hours a day practicing an instrument, and after a week I am no better, but after two weeks I make a tiny incremental leap forward, rinse and repeat, that is incremental improvement, where the increments are separated by long plateaux. There is nothing contradictory about this. Nobody said the increments had to be adjacent. Evolutionary algorithms are not “Hill-climbing” algorithms. Not every step has to be an ascent, and some steps can even be quite steep descents.

    stcordova: You, like Patrick, and Allan admit the necessity of unselectable changes. Not too bad if one is dealing with only two point mutations, but very bad if one needs hundreds or thousands of simultaneous mutations needed to implement a function.

    And if we have hundreds or thousands of mutations that are unselectable toward future function, that implies incremental adjustment toward function doesn’t happen for those unselectable changes (except via blind luck), and thus refute this claim:

    “iterative feedback from the environment that results in the incremental adjustment of the prototype so that it ever more closely fulfils some function. ”

    Thus, you refuted your own hypothesis — refutation via contradiction,
    which is what I wished to demonstrate in the OP. QED.

    Nothing of the sort, Sal. If I was unclear, then that is my problem, but there are other clearer expositions of the theory that you could read.

    This sentence “And if we have hundreds or thousands of mutations that are unselectable toward future function, that implies incremental adjustment toward function doesn’t happen for those unselectable changes (except via blind luck), and thus refute this claim”

    is not what anyone is suggesting. The very concept of “unselectable toward future function” is a nonsense, as is “incremental adjustment toward function”.

    A new variant may or may not have any phenotypic effects, and if it does, those phenotypic effects may or may not affect the organisms probability of breeding successfully. If the effect of the variation on the phenotype does not affect its probability of breed, the variant may or may not be propagated through the population by drift. If it does, and many neutral variants are, then there will exist, by definition, many organisms bearing that variant.

    If, out of those many organisms, some also acquire a variant in another sequence that is also neutral, and also propagates, this will also result in many organisms with both variants. Indeed, it is very easy to set up a simple simulation with no selection, and simply observe that after a while, certain genomes (with certain combinations of variants) become much more prevalent than others.

    If it turns out that some of these combos actually do confer an slight increase (“incremental”) probability of breeding, those combos will in turn become more prevalent. And in a sexually reproducing population, the sequences making up those combos will also become more prevalent, even in organisms without the necessary other variants that make successful breeding more likely.

    Note that there is no “selection towards future function” and no-one is suggesting there is. It is a nonsensical concept in the context of evolution. But what it does mean is that because “selection” is at the level of the phenotype not the sequence (i.e. it is the phenotype that has to cope with the environment, not the sequence), it is the combo that matters for selection, not the individual sequences. And it doesn’t matter at all what that advantage is – if a sequence combo helps you run faster, or be camouflaged, or stick to a rock, fine. If later, yet another variant added to the combo destroys your rock-sticking capabilities but increases your to do something even more useful, then also fine. And given that sequence duplication is a common variation, there’s a decent chance that you may keep one function and add a second.

    So your objection simply doesn’t work. And can be demonstrated not to work by simple models, and indeed, by actual evolutionary experiments. You must be aware of Lenski’s lab’s work – they do in fact rebut your rebuttal.

    I know that at UD it is often claimed that they don’t, but I have not yet seen such a claim that stood up to scrutiny. Perhaps you can make one! But that’s the bar that is set.

  8. Allan Miller

    Darwin hadn’t thought about drift

    He did have an inkling:

    “Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection, and would be left either a fluctuating element, as perhaps we see in certain polymorphic species, or would ultimately become fixed, owing to the nature of the organism and the nature of the conditions.”

    He was remarkably on-the-ball about many aspects of the theory. It’s only slightly wrong – fixation is statistically ‘almost certain’, not indefinite fluctuation, without the intervention of selection or more mutation.

  9. rhampton

    Given all that he wrote, I don’t understand how an ID proponent like Sal can be comfortable with micro-evolution (random mutations, natural selection). Sal, help me understand. Please.

  10. PatrickPatrick

    Sal,

    You have left some questions unanswered. In particular, have you actually read Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker?

    Related to that, what exactly do you think is his claim that you are attempting to address?

  11. PatrickPatrick

    Sal,

    One more: Do you honestly think that you have come up with questions that have not been considered previously by many people vastly more educated in the relevant fields than you?

  12. keithskeiths

    Sal’s last three threads at UD are just pitiful:

    Two-faced Nick Matzke

    Lungfish and Humans — Famous novel has almost 100% similarity to Mirriam Webster’s dictionary

    WD40: ” some fish are more closely related to you than they are to tuna”

    Read the comments. Sal is being eviscerated.

    Even Mung(!), of all people, seems to be fed up with Sal:

    Sal, why post something with the the title “Two-faced Nick Matzke” when given the chance you’ll suck right up to him as if you were best pals. Glass houses and all that.

    Also from Mung:

    From the OP:

    The reason Darwinists have all these phylogenetic conflicts is that the ancestors which would resolve all the conflicts are the very ones they will not admit a priori because those ancestors are conceptual, not physical, and conceptual ancestors are anathema to Darwinsits because conceptual ancestors imply ID.

    This doesn’t even make any sense.

    And Mung again:

    From the OP:

    When we build the hierarchical grouping purely on taxonomy, the groupings look sensible and elegant. Darwinism instead distorts all this by putting mammals and birds as a subgroup of fish.

    More hogwash.

    Sal, when even Mung disagrees with you, you know you’ve lost the battle for the hearts and minds of IDers.

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