The ‘How Many Theories Of Evolution Are There?’ Thread

Certain commentators seem surprisingly agitated about pursuing the idea that there is no ‘theory of evolution’. Some mean there is no single theory, although on examination the things they see as separate are frequently simply different components of the same broad process. Or, alternatively, they are referring to evolution in other senses, or in non-biological contexts. Others say there is no theory at all, as if that against which they argue does not even exist.

A theme has emerged that TSZ is somehow suppressing their concerns. So, in the spirit of suppressive dictatorships everywhere, here is a thread for people to say whatever they want about this vital topic. Hopefully without pasting in vast swathes of something already posted elsewhere – a link will suffice.

Here, for my part, is my very broad summary of ‘the’ theory of evolution: Genetic changes (mutation, recombination) are subject to a sampling process, correlated to a greater or lesser extent with their effects on survival and reproduction. This process leads to a simultaneous increase and decrease in frequency for the variants in the population, through to, in the limit, extinction or fixation of a variant. This process proceeds indefinitely, subject to the fuel of new variation. All commonly accepted*** ‘theories of [biological***] evolution’ of which I am aware place emphasis on different components, influences and consequences of this basic process. None, so far as I am aware, are at odds with it, which might be expected if there really were ‘different theories’.

*** The caveats are inserted to try to head off anticipated ‘gotchas’, in a possibly forlorn attempt to reduce opportunities to make semantic capital out of a phrase whose intent should be easy enough to understand without them. This is not ‘biologism’: the ToE which upsets people is (are?) the generally accepted biological one.

323 thoughts on “The ‘How Many Theories Of Evolution Are There?’ Thread

  1. colewd

    Do you have evidence that that stand alone cells can survive for extended periods without repair. Would that include both bacteria and yeast types?

    Not DNA_Jock but the answer is yes.

  2. colewd have you ever wondered how fermentation (e.g., using yeast and bacteria) has been used so successfully for the large-scale production of biologicals (e.g., insulin and interferon) as well as other proteins (like anti-freeze protein used to make frozen yogurt smooth and palatable) without killing the host yeast and bacteria. All accomplished without DNA repair and excision of the inserted foreign DNA?

  3. Is it just me, or is the assertion that a virus has a life-cycle worthy of skepticism?

  4. DNA_Jock: Precisely, and the same logic applies to the early replicators that colewd believes are impossible. So long as 1.001 out of their thousands of progeny work, they can carry on.

    And the evidence for the incredible fecundity of the early replicators is … ?

    Z. E. R. O.

  5. Mung: Is it just me, or is the assertion that a virus has a life-cycle worthy of skepticism?

    It’s a question of what we mean by “life”. And that’s a contentious question.

  6. Mung

    Is it just me, or is the assertion that a virus has a life-cycle worthy of skepticism?

    Why would you think that a virus does not have a life-cycle?

    Is it possible to kill a virus?

  7. BK: Why would you think that a virus does not have a life-cycle?

    Mung’s skepticism does not rise to the level of research. It’s just semantic games. In fact, you could write a bot and just replace the topic and the rest of the sentence would be the same.

  8. BK,

    colewd have you ever wondered how fermentation (e.g., using yeast and bacteria) has been used so successfully for the large-scale production of biologicals (e.g., insulin and interferon) as well as other proteins (like anti-freeze protein used to make frozen yogurt smooth and palatable) without killing the host yeast and bacteria. All accomplished without DNA repair and excision of the inserted foreign DNA?

    I agree that replication can occur without repair. The question is for how long until the organism loses function and dies?

  9. colewd:
    BK,

    I agree that replication can occur without repair.The question is for how long until the organism loses function and dies?

    why would you think that after X number of replications the organism would lose function and die? What empirical evidence do you have that your notion has any merit?

  10. Neil Rickert: It’s a question of what we mean by “life”.And that’s a contentious question.

    So biologists don’t know what they are supposed to be studying? Is that your claim?

  11. Allan Miller:
    Rumraket,

    Personally, I’m waiting for … “if this isn’t settled, there is no theory of evolution”.

    There isn’t a scientific theory of evolution. Scientific theories require testable claims. And, for example, no one knows how to test the claim that vision systems evolved let alone they evolved via natural selection and drift. So any scientific ToE would have to exclude that. It would have to exclude all protein machines, biological systems, subsystems and even Common Descent. But then what is left?

  12. BK: why would you think that after X number of replications the organism would lose function and die?What empirical evidence do you have that your notion has any merit?

    Genetic entropy

  13. Frankie: So biologists don’t know what they are supposed to be studying?

    That’s why nothing in biology makes sense. Better to study evolution.

  14. Mung: Is a virus alive?

    why wouldn’t you consider a virus as being alive?

    What criteria oi you use to determine if something is considered alive or not alive?

  15. Frankie: Genetic entropy

    What is genetic entropy?

    In any case the data suggests this is not the case. How would the production of the multitude of fermentation products, using bacteria and yeast, be possible if the cells/organisms died from the insertion of foreign DNA?

  16. BK: What criteria oi you use to determine if something is considered alive or not alive?

    The scientific consensus, of course.

  17. BK: What is genetic entropy?

    It’s the biological equivalent of thermodynamic entropy. In an isolated organism it’s genetic entropy always increases or remains unchanged.

  18. Mung,

    Mung: The scientific consensus, of course.

    ……and the consensus criteria would be….?

    is this what you meant:

    Arshan Nasir and Gustavo Caetano-Anollés. A phylogenomic data-driven exploration of viral origins and evolution. Science Advances, September 2015 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500527

    or something else?

  19. Mung: . In an isolated organism it’s genetic entropy always increases or remains unchanged.

    oh of course…..but no decreases?

  20. BK: oh of course…..but no decreases?

    What, and violate the second law of genomodynamics?

    Have you never heard of Sanford’s Law?

  21. BK: is this what you meant:

    You can build a viral tree of life, therefore viruses are alive?

    I don’t think that follows at all.

  22. Mung: You can build a viral tree of life, therefore viruses are alive?

    I don’t think that follows at all.

    If that is not what you meant then what did you mean?

  23. Mung: Have you never heard of Sanford’s Law?

    Does this law apply to the HeLa cell line and if so how and if no why not?

  24. BK: Does this law apply to the HeLa cell line and if so how and if no why not?

    It’s more of a guideline.

  25. BK: If that is not what you meant then what did you mean?

    You’re going to have to keep up BK. You gave me a link to a paper that you thought was somehow relevant. What was the major argument put forth in that paper that viruses are alive if not that we could take some viruses and “create a tree of life” from them?

  26. BK: Oh, that certainly clears that up….thanks…I think!?

    Genetic Entropy picks and chooses its targets. Mostly it appears in sloppily written simulations. In real populations it seems somewhat stymied. For example, American bison bottlenecked to about a thousand individuals, and are now at about 500,000.

    Humans, according to legend, bottlenecked to eight individuals without melting.

  27. Mung: You’re going to have to keep up BK. You gave me a link to a paper that you thought was somehow relevant. What was the major argument put forth in that paper that viruses are alive if not that we could take some viruses and “create a tree of life” from them?

    No Mung I made no mention of the paper having any relevance at all. I simply asked if that was what you meant….do try to keep up.

    Here is the quote:

    BK:
    Mung,

    ……and the consensus criteria would be….?

    is this what you meant:

    Arshan Nasir and Gustavo Caetano-Anollés. A phylogenomic data-driven exploration of viral origins and evolution. Science Advances, September 2015 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500527

    or something else?

    See. No mention by me of any relevancy only a question posed to you if that was what you meant.

    I also asked if that wasn’t what you meant then what exactly did you mean. Care to answer that question now?

  28. The actual number of evolutionary theories is quite unknown. Anytime some new fact emerges it cries out for yet more evolutionary theories to explain that fact.

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2017/01/biologist_flabb103407.html

    Sometimes, those theories actually contradict each other. Yes, it’s true.

    There are many theories of evolution. That’s what I mean if I ever claim there is no “theory of evolution.” Evolutionary theory is multiple, not singular. It attempts to explain a wide range of observations by recourse to a wide range of different causes. It’s quite UNLIKE gravitational theory.

    Evolutionary theory is more like a smorgasbord, where you pick and choose what you like.

    If, within evolutionary theory itself, there is some principled means to resolve disputes among the various “sub-theories” I’d like to know waht it is, and how it follows from evolutionary theory itself.

    Multiple phenomena. Multiple causes. Multiple explanations. Multiple theories. And an overall lack of coherence.

    That’s why I scoff at the idea of something that can be called “the theory of evolution.”

  29. BK: No Mung I made no mention of the paper having any relevance at all.

    My mistake then. Let’s take up back before you introduced the paper.

  30. OK. you stated this:

    BK: What criteria oi you use to determine if something is considered alive or not alive?

    The scientific consensus, of course.

    What scientific consensus do you use to determine alive or not-alive? can you supply some details and reasons you find this consensus compelling?

  31. BK: What scientific consensus do you use to determine alive or not-alive? can you supply some details and reasons you find this consensus compelling?

    Are you questioning consensus science? Because that places you in the nutcase category. I don’t debate people who are anti-science.

  32. Mung: Are you questioning consensus science? Because that places you in the nutcase category. I don’t debate people who are anti-science.

    No, not anti-science, just trying to figure out what you mean when you say you adhere to the consensus science on the criteria for live and not-alive. So far from your responses it appears you simply don’t know or unwilling to take a stance on what you mean.

    Is there a consensus on this issue or not, Mung?

    If yes….what is it.

    If no…then let’s discuss the issue amongst ourselves on what might be compelling evidence for alive versus not-alive. You could start by answering this question I asked you upthread in response to your ‘skepticism’ that a virus can have a life-cycle:

    Why do you think a virus is not alive

  33. BK: Why do you think a virus is not alive

    I’ve never observed a live virus. The lack of objective empirical evidence.

  34. Mung

    I’ve never observed a live virus.

    How many viruses have you observed, Mung, in order to come to this conclusion? What methodology did you use to make these observations?

    Mung

    The lack of objective empirical evidence.

    To make sure I have your position correct you believe that viruses do not reproduce. If that isn’t your position what objective empirical evidence have you found to be missing/lacking?

  35. BK:
    To make sure I have your position correct you believe that viruses do not reproduce.If that isn’t your position what objective empirical evidence have you found to be missing/lacking?

    I think the problem lies in the elusive “definition” of life. As far as I know, every proposed definition is fit by something clearly not alive, or can’t be fit by something that seems quite alive indeed.

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