In the previous section I described the argument that many biologists have endorsed for thinking that the hypothesis of evolution by natural selection is more likely than the hypothesis of intelligent design. This argument considers the observation that organisms are often imperfectly adapted to their environments and construes the design hypothesis as predicting that organisms should be perfectly adapted. This version of the design hypothesis presupposes a very definite picture of what God would be like if he existed.
Actually, in the previous section Sober was primarily concerned with creationism. This is made rather obvious by the chapter title. It’s as if he was writing about Creationism and then Intelligent Design burst on the scene and he had to change things up to make it appear as if the two are the same. But what’s a philosopher of biology to do?
The point here is to demonstrate how evolutionary arguments are in fact theological rather than scientific. This is admitted by a major philosopher of biology. This OP was motivated at least in part by claims by Rumraket that the genetic code ought to be perfect if it was designed. Arguing that it’s not perfect, therefore it’s not designed. To quote Sober, “This version of the design hypothesis presupposes a very definite picture of what God would be like if he existed.”
What does this have to do with actual science, if anything?
Why do biologists (and Rumrakians) require the foil of a perfect designer God in order to make their case for evolution?
What reason do we have to believe that an intelligent designer would ensure that her organisms were perfectly adapted to their environment?
What reason do we have to believe that natural selection leads to organisms that are imperfectly adapted to their environment?
OK, I get it. Variation is what causes variations. Color (also a verb or a noun) is what causes color. Size is what causes size. Who knew? I had always thought that variations were introduced into a population through a mutation process, which could include inexact copying, sexual recombination, cosmic rays, etc.
But since this is apparently incorrect, it leaves one wondering whether variation being its own cause is circular. Now that I understand that evolution is the cause of evolution, all my questions are set to rest forever.
Or as I put it above, variation (the process) produces variations (the result).
No. We’d use the word “coloring” to designate the process (or “colorization” if we were talking about movies). Coloring (the process) gives an Easter egg its color (the result).
Again, no. We’d use the word “sizing” to designate the process in this case. For example, “The carpenter sized the bookcase to fit between the piano and the wall.” The sizing is what produced the specific size of the bookcase.
They are. As I said:
No, because variation (the process) is distinct from the resulting variations, as I’ve already explained.
They shouldn’t be. You’ve badly misunderstood the issue if you think that using the same word to designate a process and its results amounts to a science-stopper.
Linguistic and grammatical analyses require attention to detail, Flint. The reasoning in your comment was slapdash. Slow down and think things through.
My concern is with the mechanisms at work in the process. I was mocking your need to be right at all costs, even if you must descend to linguistic acrobatics.
Using the same word to designate a process and the result of that process might be linguistically allowable, but it’s guaranteed to cause confusion. Despite this you are, as always, absolutely correct. Which you don’t need me to tell you.
Just for the fun of beating this dead horse into the ground, consider the equivocation creationists use between Design as a process, and Design as the result of that process. The crux of their argument is that we observe Design (the noun) and we infer Design (the verb). The more intelligent the Design (noun) appears to us, the more intelligent the Design (the verb) must have been. How could it be otherwise?
Whole books have been written switching interchangeably back and forth between the two
I don’t have that need. It doesn’t bother me to admit errors, as I’ve explained (and demonstrated) in other threads at TSZ. But I certainly won’t pretend to be wrong just to mollify an insecure hothead like you. That would be dishonest and counterproductive.
I haven’t done so. The use of ‘variation’ to designate a process is perfectly standard in English (and in biology), and so is the use of ‘variation’ to designate the result of such a process. Aren’t you a native speaker?
Usage examples are extremely easy to find. For example:
‘Variation’ as a process:
And in the very next paragraph, ‘variation’ is used to designate a result rather than a process:
First, note that I did not repeat the word twice in the question you originally objected to, which was directed at Alan:
There was no good reason for you to object to my phrasing, and the reason you gave made no sense, as I’ve explained.
Second, note that when I did repeat the word twice in a sentence, as I did here…
…I did so precisely to demonstrate that the word could fulfill distinct roles, which is the point you were missing, leading to your confusion.
You made an error, and I correctly pointed it out. You dug in your heels and made more errors, which I also correctly pointed out. Why are you angry at me? The mistakes were yours, not mine.
Your childishness has made this exchange unpleasant. Try to do better next time.
See this and this.
That entire comment thread is fascinating and revealing:
I think you meant to say “my unpleasantness has made this exchange childish”.
At the risk of getting tangled up with the tar baby, the confusion that Keiths is appearing to create is that mutations are one example of variation. Variation is the general term for what is grist to the mill of selection. Mutations are an example of variation that can be conserved or removed by selection. (And some mutation, notably substitution of the third nucleotide for any other where redundancy in the triplet code means no change in the translated amino-acid – glycine, alanine, valine – is silent.)
The chromosomes, or rather the DNA sequences within them, are the heritable material that result in variation in phenotypes (selection acts on the whole organism) which results in adaptive evolution. Variation in DNA sequences (alleles – differing copies of genes is the result of copying errors (mutations) and mutations can be induced by damage to chromosomes caused by radiation and mutagens but an important source of variation in sexually reproducing diploids is meiosis, gamete formation and fusing into the zygote. Not only does the offspring inherit a selection of half the genes of two parents, but recombination during meiosis provides mixing which increases the variation available for selection to work on.
There’s a lot of verbiage there, but what’s missing is a defense of your claim.
You took issue with this sentence…
Flint quickly pointed out your mistake:
You even undermined yourself by agreeing with his point:
But if random variation does sometimes generate improvements — and it obviously does — then my statement is correct:
…and your objection is inane and off base:
As if variation, being random, could never produce anything beneficial! That’s the kind of stupid argument you’d expect to get from an IDer, not an evolution supporter.
Do you see your mistake? It’s a doozy.
The metal rod is now the handle, and what used to be the handle is for the requisite orifice. I didn’t come up with this.
Is that a screwdriver in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Serendipitously, just before I read your exchange with keiths I was reading the following passage from Owen Barfield in his book “Romanticism Comes of Age” where he discusses the philosophy of Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
(I tried to show the diagram as it appears in the book, I hope it works.)
My claim being the remark “nonsense” to “Variation is what generates the positive.” Right? I presume you agree that “variation is random”.
Didn’t make perfect sense to me when I read it and the first sentence implies that “variation” by producing “positive” new material has some hand in whether it is beneficial or deleterious. Whereas in fact variation is a random process.
Variation is the source of all new combinations of genes and new mutations. There is no way to test other than by letting selection decide to, then, with hindsight, attribute “beneficial”, “neutral” or “deleterious” to a particular DNA sequence. As Flint remarks “Variation proposes; selection disposes.”
Flint queried. I clarified. I repeat Variation is the source of all new genetic combinations and the decision whether such new combinations are beneficial or not only emerges in the light of selection.
I’m not disputing that. See above. My first mistake was to be too brief and my second is that I wrote too much verbiage.
Now that is misrepresentation again. Variation is the source of new genetic material. It only becomes beneficial if positively selected. The peppered moth variants, dark and light, can only be considered to carry beneficial traits if the niche favours such traits. Where the niche has more dark roosting spots, the dark variant has beneficial genes. In a niche with more light roosting spots, the same gene-set is deleterious.
Variation is random.
If I misinterpreted or was ungenerous in reading the remark of yours I labelled “Nonsense”, then I apologise.
These are links to you admitting mistakes? Perhaps I got the wrong link. Could you copy and paste the part where you are admitting a specific mistake? It appears vague.
Actually I can’t find it at all.
That’s backward. It is positively selected only if it is beneficial, other things being equal.
OK; but the same genes can be beneficial or deleterious depending on the particular niche. Hence my reference to peppered moths.
Moved a comment to guano.
From the same book Barfield continues:
This was written before there was any proposal that DNA was involved in development and evolution. Had it been written now I’m sure Barfield would have seen this law of polarity between the letters and words of the alphabet as being relevant also to DNA, , or more precisely, amino acids, and the proteins that arise therefrom, difference coming out of sameness.
A comment of mine (directed toward phoodoo) was guanoed and can be found here.
That’s completely backwards, as Glen pointed out.
Jesus, Alan. In your desperation to find something in what I wrote — anything — that you can label as a mistake or a misrepresentation, you’ve shot yourself in the foot again.
He did and he added
And I wonder what “all things being equal” means as the same genes can be either beneficial or deleterious depending on the niche.
You’re the guy obsessed with mistakes.
It doesn’t bother keiths to say that it doesn’t bother him to admit errors. I’ll vouch for him on that.
And the ‘niche’ isn’t?
Do you really think that ‘the niche’ gives a flying rat’s ass if changes to ‘the niche’ benefit the organism’s that inhabit ‘the niche’ in any way (or not)?
Changes to ‘the niche’ would therefore appear to be random in the same sense that mutation/variation is said to be random.
Wouldn’t you agree?
Not in its effects, no. Effects can be non-random without needing an “Intelligent” agent.
Nope. What have I written that makes you think so?
Niches can and do change and those changes aren’t necessarily predictable. I hope that the worst predictions on climate change are wrong.
I didn’t say anything about predictability. You were going on about how variation is random. Did you just meant to say that variation is unpredictable?
It’s from Sober’s Philosophy of Biology, Second Edition.
iirc:Chapter 2 Creationism. Section 2.6. I’ll confirm this later today.
And what Sober does is call it intelligent design and then treat it as if it’s Creationism.
But the point is that if you discard the theological claims then evolutionary arguments regarding perfection (or lack thereof) become utterly vacuous and the alleged evidence for evolution disappears.
He’s still looking for the best genetic code. And he’ll continue to be an atheist until he finds it. Reminds me of the guy who claimed he’d become a believer when he could breathe vacuum.
Wouldn’t be surprised at all to find it in more than one of his books. I’ll have to compare the two.
You mean the genetic code didn’t evolve in isolation? Or maybe the genetic code is more perfect in some species than others, eh?
I didn’t see a copy of either book — I based this on the guess that it was in Evidence and Evolution and an online Table of Contents. So I yield to Mung’s recollection that it came from Philosophy of Biology.
See. They just can’t escape the teleological language.
Remind me to find a tar baby avatar.
Yup. Section 2.6 is titled “The Problem of Predictive Equivalence.”
Probably would have been easier for you to just paste where you admitted your mistakes.
Trump struggles with that too. And he’s President, so you should feel good. You could be the President!
Probably would have been easier to mail you hardcopies, since these computer thingies have you baffled.
Note that newton had no difficulty. How do you suppose he did it? Was it magic?
Hint: It may have something to do with the fact that newton is not burdened with the kind of mind that thinks that bad haircuts are the moral equivalent of being burned alive, and that to complain about either is petty.
This isn’t difficult, Alan. “Other things being equal” includes the niche.
A population occupies a niche. A variation arises in the population. The variation is either beneficial, neutral, or deleterious. If the variation is beneficial, then it can be positively selected for.
So Glen was absolutely right to challenge this statement of yours:
You got it exactly backwards. The causality does not run in that direction.
Have you considered taking an introductory course on evolution?
No Way! That would have taken forever.
Not a bad guess actually. The book drops the chapter on Creationism and replaces it with a chapter on Intelligent Design. The chapter on Intelligent Design is Chapter 2. And there’s a section in that chapter on “The No-Designer-Worth-His-Salt Objection.”
phoodoo will no doubt love this:
If “perfect adaptation” is meaningless, can’t we somehow by some means accessible only to science make “imperfect adaptation” meaningful?
Here’s an awesome quote-mine!
Another awesome quote:
ETA: Not that anyone here ever claimed that evolutionary theory is testable.
And the reason Creationism cannot be taught in public schools is … ?
I’ve been posting here for quite some time now, and I can’t recall you ever responding to someone who claims that Creationism is not a scientific theory by informing them that they are wrong and that Creationism is in fact a scientific theory.
Can’t say you’re alone though. Who doesn’t like to have their cake and eat it too?
Surely, if we can learn anything at all from Dawkins’ WEASEL program, it is that evolution is an optimization algorithm that can in fact find the perfect solution.
Except when it can’t. LoL!
Evolutionists simply have too much evidence for their theory. They can’t keep it all straight. A string in a software program can have the highest fitness possible, but that’s not evidence for intelligent design.
Don’t blame Creationists and ID supporters Joe.
Is there a single evolutionist here who can distinguish natural selection as cause from natural selection as effect?
For example, when a claim is made that natural selection is simply differential reproduction, is natural selection the cause or the effect? Both cause and effect?
All you’ve done is take a premise that was an assumption and add to it yet further assumptions. Congratulations!
Your evidence that I retreated is nil. Your evidence that I would have been hysterical is nil. You’re a fine example of a TSZ atheist skeptic. Keep up the good work.
He couldn’t do worse.
It was a miracle
You know it was phoodoo’s point that perfect adaption was an assumption of evolutionary theory, so I doubt he will love it.