The Third Way?

Over at the “IDM collapse” thread I rather churlishly rejected CharlieM’s invitation to read an extensive piece by Stephen L. Talbott. Discovering he is a fan of Velikovsky did little to encourage me (that is, I fully realise, an argument from authority, but life is short and authors many. One needs a filter). What did catch my eye, however, is the fact that he is a contributor to Third Way of Evolution. This, on their front page, is what one might term their ‘manifesto’.

The vast majority of people believe that there are only two alternative ways to explain the origins of biological diversity. One way is Creationism that depends upon intervention by a divine Creator. That is clearly unscientific because it brings an arbitrary supernatural force into the evolution process. The commonly accepted alternative is Neo-Darwinism, which is clearly naturalistic science but ignores much contemporary molecular evidence and invokes a set of unsupported assumptions about the accidental nature of hereditary variation. Neo-Darwinism ignores important rapid evolutionary processes such as symbiogenesis, horizontal DNA transfer, action of mobile DNA and epigenetic modifications. Moreover, some Neo-Darwinists have elevated Natural Selection into a unique creative force that solves all the difficult evolutionary problems without a real empirical basis. Many scientists today see the need for a deeper and more complete exploration of all aspects of the evolutionary process.

That puzzles me. We need a root-and-branch rethink because of the widely-accepted phenomena of endosymbiosis, HGT, transposons and epigenetics? I honestly don’t get it. These are refinements easily, and already, accommodated. Neo-Darwinists do not ‘ignore’ these phenomena, nor consider them unimportant. They may fall outside a strict framework of genetic gradualism by ‘micromutation’, but are hardly keeping anyone awake nights.

Perhaps, on reflection, I should punt them my musings on the Evolution of Sex. It is non-Darwinian in the sense they appear to mean, so it should be right up their street!

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378 thoughts on “The Third Way?

  1. Nonlin.org: Me: I can clearly see my car has colour, but I cannot tell you which colour.
    I also can clearly see the word “hkhusbjjf” has meaning, but I cannot tell you what it means.

    Nonlin: You don’t make any sense.

    I’ll spell it out then: You cannot determine that an object is made for a purpose without recognizing that purpose.

    Nonlin.org: Corneel: Order does not imply purpose. A snowflake displays an ordered pattern, but has no intentional purpose.

    And your proof of that is…?

    LOL. You want me to prove that a snowflake has no intentional purpose?!? Or do I need to prove that crystals are ordered?

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    Entropy
  2. Is there a Designed variant that is unequivocally favoured in all contexts? How does a ‘contextual’ criticism of evolutionary change avoid rebounding on the alternative?

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    Corneel
  3. Allan Miller: How does a ‘contextual’ criticism of evolutionary change avoid rebounding on the alternative?

    So far, it is avoided by denying adaptation is a thing.

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    Entropy
  4. phoodoo: Right, the context being if it survived it was beneficial, for others if they didn’t survive it must have been deleterious. Now tell me it’s not a circular argument.

    I have accepted that Nonlin doesn’t get it, but you should be able to grasp that the Lenski lab has repeatedly performed competition experiments against the ancestral strain and that in the experimental setting the evolved strain has consistently higher growth rates than the ancestral strain.

    It’s like watching a weekly soccer match in which FC Barcelona repeatedly humiliates “the Brisbane Boys” and then have phoodoo declare that skill at playing soccer does not exist, since it is of no use in a swimming pool.

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    Entropy
  5. phoodoo:
    Right, the context being if it survived it was beneficial, for others if they didn’t survive it must have been deleterious. Now tell me it’s not a circular argument.

    That’s not how it works. The literature is abundant with experiments looking for evidence one way or another. If the experiment shows that the mutation is the reason for survival, then it’s beneficial. For example, the citrate thing in E coli, they isolated the DNA, sequenced, checked the most suspicious mutation, found that it allowed use of citrate as carbon source under those conditions, then they concluded that that mutation was beneficial. This has to be done to distinguish background mutations (neutral or semi-neutral), from the beneficial ones.

    Same goes for deleterious. If there’s suspicion that some mutation is never seen because it would be deleterious, then constructing the mutant and checking if that works is a way to tell apart what hasn’t happened because it’s deleterious, from what hasn’t happened because, well, it hasn’t.

    So where’s the circular logic? We observe survival under conditions where the wild-type doesn’t survive, we strongly suspect there might be a beneficial mutation, we check the mutations and isolate the one we suspect the most, we check if it works under a clean background (one without the other mutations). If it works, we’ve caught it.

    phoodoo:
    See what I mean about not thinking it through? No,I guess you wouldn’t.

    Seems like you’re demonstrating what happens when you don’t think things through. Maybe you should follow your own advice.

    phoodoo:
    Ask yourself, do beneficial mutations help survival?

    Sure. that’s by definition!

    phoodoo:
    Depends on the context, if they do they do.

    That’s also by definition.

    You seem to be mistaking identifying something that fits a definition for circular logic.

    So, what exactly is wrong with identifying something that fits a definition?

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  6. Entropy: Didn’t you understand “context is everything”?

    Every mutation exists in it’s very own unique context, such as the context of the individual itself. So appealing to “context” is just so much hand-waving.

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  7. Mung: Every mutation exists in it’s very own unique context, such as the context of the individual itself. So appealing to “context” is just so much hand-waving.

    And those individuals share a larger context, the physical world. In ID theory is design carried out one individual at the time or is a complete population designed?

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  8. Mung:
    Every mutation exists in it’s very own unique context, such as the context of the individual itself. So appealing to “context” is just so much hand-waving.

    Of course every mutation exists in its own unique context, such as the context of the individual itself. What’s the problem with pointing something that obvious to those who imagine that evolutionary biology should ignore it? How the fuck is that handwaving? Do you think evolutionary biology should ignore this fact? Evolutionary biology is about making sense of facts, data, evidence, etc. It therefore doesn’t ignore them. It builds on them as foundations.

    Some “IDiot” here thinks that evolution is about magical mutations, existing context-free, spreading to wide-world populations magically, rather than being about natural phenomena where mutations have effects dependent on their overall context, from the individuals themselves to their environmental circumstances, and where mutations spread through natural mechanisms, like the more successful reproduction of some individuals against the reproduction of other members of its population. I’m pointing out that we’re not talking about magic, but trying to make sense about real circumstances where there’s real contexts and real reproduction. That evolutionary theory takes reality and evidence into account. That poor person keeps ignoring the mechanisms, the nature we’re trying to explain, in exchange for imaginary “dogmas” that nobody holds.

    So, you’re missing a lot of, ahem, context. Maybe you should read a bit more carefully before commenting?

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  9. Entropy: phoodoo:
    Ask yourself, do beneficial mutations help survival?

    Sure. that’s by definition!

    Except you destroy your own argument with one sentence. If there is context to when a beneficial mutation helps survival, and the context is when it helps survival, then beneficial mutations only help survival when they help survival.

    In which case the beneficial mutations are deleterious mutations. Likewise deleterious mutations are beneficial.

    And you know how you can tell when deleterious mutations are beneficial mutations? When they exist. Deleterious mutations are actually platonic in nature. They exist as a form outside of our reality. But as soon as they exist in our reality, they become beneficial, until they one day return to not existing, where they become their ideal form, deleterious.

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  10. phoodoo: Except you destroy your own argument with one sentence.If there is context to when a beneficial mutation helps survival, and the context is when it helps survival, then beneficial mutations only help survival when they help survival.

    In which case the beneficial mutations are deleterious mutations.Likewise deleterious mutations are beneficial.

    And you know how you can tell when deleterious mutations are beneficial mutations?When they exist.Deleterious mutations are actually platonic in nature.They exist as a form outside of our reality.But as soon as they exist in our reality, they become beneficial, until they one day return to not existing, where they become their ideal form, deleterious.

    Is this supposed to make sense? Yes, I can understand that benefits are beneficial, and harmful things do harm. Trying to make these the same in some semantic sense would do Trump proud.

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    Entropy
  11. I did an interesting study in graduate school. I wanted to know if the best batters in baseball had the best batting average. So I did a study of the best batters in baseball over the past fifty years. I took all of the players with the best batting average for each season. If a players batting average went down in any given year, they were consider to be less good batters and if there batting average went up, they were considered better batters. What I found was very interesting.

    I discovered that in fact, in major league baseball, the top batters every year all had the best batting average. The worst batters each year all had the poorest batting averages. It was practically a one-to-one correlation. The only players who didn’t correlate exactly to these measurements were the players we didn’t measure. Even more telling, we studied the minor leagues as well. We found almost the same results. We were going to publish the results in Skeptic Science Quarterly, but then we decided instead to sell the results to same major league clubs who wanted to identify the best batters.

    It turned out not so good for us in the end though, as many of the teams complained to us that a lot of the batters whose batting average went down no longer had the best batting performance. They said, “How can the best batters have such a low batting average?” We replied that they can’t, that there must be something wrong with their stats. We looked at their numbers and determined they they miss calculated who the best batters were. After we adjusted the numbers for them, it turned out we were still right, but every year more and more complaints.

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  12. The was an interesting epilogue to our baseball study. A lot of baseball teams came to us and said they would like us to do another study. They said they want to calculate things like batter arm strength, swing speed, hand-eye coordination, size, even hair color and size of their ring fingers. We replied that these things are all contextual, and thus can’t really be used to determine the best performance. They said, “but we believe batters with the best swing speed could have the best performance.” So we did that study for them.

    WE compared swing speed to batting performance compared to batting average to batting performance. As we predicted, batting average was a much better measurement of batting performance than swing speed. We did however find that hair color had a strong correlation to batting performance except in the cases where hair color did not have a strong correlation. In all of those cases there was little to no correlation. But in the cases where there was a correlation, we noticed that hair color played a strong role in batting performance. Brown hair had both a negative correlation and a positive correlation, depending on the context.

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  13. Soooo, safe to say that if phoodoo ever watched Moneyball, he didn’t understand it.
    ROFL
    FYI, phoodoo, ALL definitions are tautological. Doesn’t make arguments which include those defined terms circular…

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    Entropy
  14. phoodoo:
    I did an interesting study in graduate school.I wanted to know if the best batters in baseball had the best batting average.

    This could actually be an interesting study, provided you don’t use batting average as the only skill metric. This is why baseball has developed such a variety of metrics which attempt to include average, power, ability to draw walks, and baserunning speed. There are quite a few lists, done by various baseball people, of whom they consider the all-time best hitters. If you look at their top ten on each list, you will find relatively few with league-leading averages.

    Now, if you wanted to know if the tallest players were the ones with the greatest height, your stupid-sounding approach might work. But even there, I recall one manager saying Randy Johnson was the tallest pitcher he’d managed, but NOT the highest! He named Bill “Spaceman” Lee as the highest!

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  15. So … some medicines are beneficial, in some circumstances. In others, there are contraindications – antagonistic effects with other medications, or negative effects given certain comorbidities. In those circumstances, the medicine is not beneficial, and may indeed be detrimental. Kaboom! Phoodoo destroys medicine! Medicine is circular!

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    Entropy
  16. phoodoo: I did an interesting study in graduate school. I wanted to know if the best batters in baseball had the best batting average.

    Then you’re a tad incoherent. I did a different study. We wanted to find the best batters, so we got them batting to figure it out. We wanted to find the ones that fitted the definition: those with the best batting averages.

    The baseball teams that hired them never complained about “circularity.” Actually, they wanted us to do exactly what we did: find the ones fitting the definition for best batters. Of course, the teams wanted them for playing a specific position in baseball, a context that’s very important for baseball teams, but they did not have a need to tell us that the context was important. They didn’t complain either that “best batters” is an advantageous ability for baseball, and that it didn’t matter for diving.

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  17. Flint: Now, if you wanted to know if the tallest players were the ones with the greatest height, your stupid-sounding approach might work. But even there, I recall one manager saying Randy Johnson was the tallest pitcher he’d managed, but NOT the highest! He named Bill “Spaceman” Lee as the highest!

    Must of never managed Doc Ellis who pitched a no hitter tripping on acid.

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  18. phoodoo: I did an interesting study in graduate school.

    It sounds very interesting. Were you given a grant to do it?

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  19. newton: In ID theory is design carried out one individual at the time or is a complete population designed?

    Yes.

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  20. DNA_Jock: FYI, phoodoo, ALL definitions are tautological. Doesn’t make arguments which include those defined terms circular…

    But not all tautologies are definitions.

    DNA_Jock, don’t you think phoodoo is relying on a particular definition of tautological and circular, definitions which no doubt depend on context?

    The word tautology was used by the ancient Greeks to describe a statement that was asserted to be true merely by virtue of saying the same thing twice, a pejorative meaning that is still used for rhetorical tautologies.

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  21. Mung:
    DNA_Jock, don’t you think phoodoo is relying on a particular definition of tautological and circular, definitions which no doubt depend on context?

    If the definitions depend on context then they aren’t definitions.

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  22. Entropy: If the definitions depend on context then they aren’t definitions.

    Don’t forget Mung is a word lawyer. I hear he has a dog on a lead that is made out of lead which he leads on the same paths he was led as a buoy.

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