Things That IDers Don’t Understand, Part 2a – Evolution is not stranded on ‘islands of function’

Intelligent design proponents make a negative argument for design.  According to them, the complexity and diversity of life cannot be accounted for by unguided evolution (henceforth referred to simply as ‘evolution’) or any other mindless natural process.  If it can’t be accounted for by evolution, they say, then we must invoke design. (Design, after all, can explain anything.  That makes it easy to invoke, but hard to invoke persuasively.)

Because the ID argument is a negative one, it succeeds only if ID proponents can demonstrate that certain instances of biological complexity are beyond the reach of natural processes, including evolution.  The problem, as even IDers concede, is that the evidence for evolution is too strong to dismiss out of hand. Their strategy has therefore been to concede that evolution can effect small changes (‘microevolution’), but to deny that those small changes can accumulate to produce complex adaptations (‘macroevolution’).

What mysterious barrier do IDers think prevents microevolutionary change from accumulating until it becomes macroevolution?  It’s the deep blue sea, metaphorically speaking.  IDers contend that life occupies ‘islands of function’ separated by seas too broad to be bridged by evolution.

In this post (part 2a) I’ll explain the ‘islands of function’ metaphor and invite commenters to point out its strengths and weaknesses.  In part 2b I’ll explain why the ID interpretation of the metaphor is wrong, and why evolution is not stuck on ‘islands of function’.

Read on for an explanation of the metaphor.

The ‘islands of function’ metaphor

The ‘islands of function’ metaphor is a variation of another metaphor, the ‘fitness landscape’.  If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of fitness landscapes, I encourage you to do some Googling before reading on.

For those who are familiar with fitness landscapes, a brief review. Imagine a three-dimensional landscape, similar to a terrestrial landscape.  There are mountains and depressions, ridges and valleys, plains and plateaus.  An organism occupies a particular spot on the landscape.  Nearby spots represent organisms that are similar, but with slight changes.  As you move further away from the spot, in any direction, the organisms represented become less and less like the original organism.

Evolution can be visualized as a journey across such a landscape.  Individual organisms don’t move, but their offspring may occupy different nearby spots on the landscape.  So too for their offspring’s offspring, and so on.  Thus successive generations trace out a path (or paths) on the fitness landscape as changes accumulate.

Clearly, not all paths are possible.  Many mutations are deleterious, causing their possessors to die young or to otherwise fail to reproduce.  Paths going through such points on the landscape will end abruptly. Other mutations are beneficial, neutral, or only slightly deleterious.  Paths going through those points may continue.

Now let’s bring in the third dimension, height.  The height of a point on the landscape is an indication of the fitness of the corresponding organism, where fitness equates to the organism’s ability to survive and reproduce. Greater heights correspond to higher fitness, lower heights to reduced fitness. Offspring that move downhill from their parent(s) are less fit,  and therefore tend to leave fewer offspring of their own.  Offspring that move uphill from their parent(s) are more fit and tend to leave more offspring.  Over time, then, a population tends to shift in an uphill direction as the offspring become fitter.

Eventually the population may reach the tip of a peak and get stuck there.  From the peak, movement in any direction results in less fitness.  Thus the mutants will tend to die off and the population will remain at the tip of the peak.

So far we’ve been imagining a dry landscape.  Now suppose that it rains for 40 days and 40 nights. The rain fills up our landscape, forming a vast sea.  Only the mountain tops remain above the water as islands – the ‘islands of function’ that IDers are so fond of.

Our populations occupy the islands.  Sea level indicates the minimum fitness at which mutants remain viable. Small changes will create viable descendants at different spots on the island, though the population as a whole will gravitate toward the high spots. Larger changes will put the mutants underwater, where they will die out.

The idea, according to ID proponents, is that populations remain stranded on these islands of function.  Some amount of microevolutionary change is possible, but only if it leaves you high and dry on the same island.  Macroevolution is not possible, because that would require leaping from island to island, and evolution is incapable of such grand leaps.  You’ll end up in the water.

There is some truth to the ‘islands of function’ metaphor, but it also has some glaring shortcomings that ID proponents almost always overlook.  I will mention some of the strengths and  shortcomings in the comments, and I know that my fellow commenters will point out others.

I may add them to the OP as they come up in the comments.  If I do this, I will note that I am doing so and I’ll include a link to the place in the comments where each one is discussed.

Have at it!

338 thoughts on “Things That IDers Don’t Understand, Part 2a – Evolution is not stranded on ‘islands of function’

  1. keiths,

    What you’re doing is scanning the McLaughlin paper for “islandy” words and phrases instead of understanding the concepts.  You’re not fooling anyone.

    And you’re just pontificating. What is an “islandy” word or phrase?

    Why does an “islandy” word or phrase sound “islandy” but not mean “islandy”?

    We’re trying to have a serious discussion and this is the best you have to offer?

    You make these bizarre counter-arguments but give no reason for them to be believed. You want discuss “islands of function” but I don’t get to use words or phrases that sound islandy? Really?

    What specifically, are the words and phrases you found so offensive and why do they sound islandy but not really support the idea of islandy? Do you have an actual argument to make?

    Even you, in the very making of your argument, have to agree that the words and phrases give the impression of islands. So your argument on it’s face is self-refuting. Stop wasting people’s time.

     

  2. We can dispense with all the talk of undefined and unknowable other dimensions as superfluous.

    Not quite. Try representing all the possible permutations of A, C, T and G, in strings of length 2 or more, on a flat surface such that you have “the horizontal distance between any two points indicating the degree to which the corresponding genomes differ”. Can you keep that rule for every pair of points without going to higher dimensionality?

  3. keiths,

    No, what I want is for you to understand and discuss the actual ‘islands of function’ concept, instead of your bizarre misinterpretations of it.

    I have no idea what you mean by the “actual islands of function concept” as you attribute it to ID supporters, since you refuse to actually quote anyone.

    You said in the OP it’s a metaphor. I consider stars to be ‘islands of function.’

    You seem to think the concept, as used by IDists, applies only to populations of organisms, but I’m demonstrating that view is demonstrably false. I am making do as best I can with what you’ve given us.

    Maybe if you were more explicit about what it was you were actually arguing against? You know. Sources. Quotes. Cites. Actual Evidence.

  4. You mean quotes like the one you “helpfully” provided from your ID hero Axe? 

    “Darwinian evolution is often thought of in terms of journeys over a vast rugged landscape. Each point on this strange terrain represents a possible genome sequence, those possibilities being so staggeringly numerous that real organisms have only actualized a minute fraction of them. The ground elevation at each point corresponds to the fitness of individuals carrying that genome, with the horizontal distance between any two points indicating the degree to which the corresponding genomes differ. In terms of this picture, all of the millions of species alive today are represented by their own points, high up on peaks scattered somewhere across this conceptual landscape (the fact that they are alive demonstrates the quality of their genomes).”

    Mung, please tell me you see the direct equivalence between Axe’s concept of “high peaks, scattered somewhere” separately across some mathematical fitness landscape – and keiths’ phrasing of the concept as “islands of function”.

    You do realize that islands are “high peaks” relative to the (conceptual landscape’s) sea between them. Yes, even little flat islands are “high peaks” relatively. Please, please, tell me you are smart enough to understand that easy metaphor.

    You do realize that Axe’s claim of “scattered somewhere” is exactly what keiths is talking about when pointing out that IDers believe life is isolated and confined to (scattered comewhere) islands? >

    Please, please tell me you are smart enough to see that – and are not stupid enough to demand evidence that real life is not actually confined to physical islands. Please don’t be bizarre.

  5. Proteins display a hierarchy of structural features at primary, secondary, tertiary, and higher-order levels, an organization that guides our current understanding of their biological properties and evolutionary origins. Here, we reveal a structural organization distinct from this traditional hierarchy by statistical analysis of correlated evolution between amino acids. Applied to the S1A serine proteases, the analysis indicates a decomposition of the protein into three quasi-independent groups of correlated amino acids that we term “protein sectors.” Each sector is physically connected in the tertiary structure, has a distinct functional role, and constitutes an independent mode of sequence divergence in the protein family. Functionally relevant sectors are evident in other protein families as well, suggesting that they may be general features of proteins. We propose that sectors represent a structural organization of proteins that reflects their evolutionary histories.

    Protein sectors: evolutionary units of three-dimensional structure.

     

    Now stop and think about what that means.

  6. Sectors are found in every protein family studied so far and are related to
    conserved functional activities, suggesting that this structural feature is a
    general property of natural proteins.

    McLaughlin et al.

  7. Mung,

    Your recent comments indicate that you still have no idea what this thread is about.  Everybody else seems to get it, but for some reason you still don’t.

    I’m interested in engaging with opponents who actually understand the topic of discussion and are capable of presenting a coherent counterargument.  You seem unable to do either of those things, whether through a lack of will, a lack of ability, or both.   

    The material is out there if you are willing to make a serious effort and are able to learn, but I’m not willing to spoon-feed it to you or to turn this thread into a remedial course.

    Please make an effort, and while you’re at it, stop blaming us for your shortcomings.

     

  8. Mung, darlin’, get to the point.

    You think it’s significant in some way,then you  need to tell us exactly how you think it’s significant.

    I’m not a betting man, but I lay odds that you can’t understand the whole paper and you have no idea how it could support your claim of ID.  (Hint: it doesn’t.  It supports unguided evolution shaped by mindless chemistry.)

    But go ahead, prove me wrong!   

  9. Right, a general property of natural proteins.  

    Where’s any room for your Designer there?  

    You can’t possibly be deluded enough to think that merely because something is a “functional activity” that proves it was designed.  Rain is a functional activity.  You can’t possibly think every raincloud and every raindrop and every puddle of rainwater was designed.

    Stop pretending.    

     

  10. Speaking of “remedial classes” … 
    Jerry Coyne posted a link yesterday to an online course sponsored by Duke University:
    Introduction to Genetics and Evolution, professor Mohamed Noor.

    Course Syllabus

    • Evidence for evolution
    • Introduction to basic genetics
    • Recombination and genetic mapping simple traits
    • Complications to genetic mapping
    • Genes vs. environment
    • Basic population genetics and Hardy-Weinberg
    • Gene flow, differentiation, inbreeding
    • Natural selection and genetic drift
    • Molecular evolution
    • Evolutionary applications and misapplications
    • Adaptive behaviors and species formation

    Recommended Background
    No prior coursework in the subject is assumed. It would be helpful for the application of some concepts to have a working knowledge of High School level math, including basic algebra. While useful for solving the assigned problems, this is not essential to understand and follow the general concepts and otherwise enjoy the class.

    https://www.coursera.org/courses

  11. All considerations of proteins as units that fold in 3-dimensional manner and display modular construction are irrelevant to the concept of a fitness space. A fitness space is constructed from primary structure – the raw sequence, either of the protein (if it’s a coding region), or of the underlying DNA sequence.

    Most fundamentally, it is a space of genotypes. You can map protein sequence, because it too forms a combinatorial space where every possibility can be digitally represented as a unique point. But either way, it’s about primary structure, the rarity or otherwise of ‘well-formed strings’ in that space, and the ability of achievable ‘moves’ in that space to progress around it given the barriers presented by detrimental sequence.

    Now stop and … well, y’know.

  12. I’ve been thinking about what it means, and to me it suggests a unit of structure smaller than a domain. Since gpuccio has presented the domain as the smallest functional unit for protein, perhaps he would like to comment.

  13. Ignoring for the moment keiths, who has nothing new to say, and continuing with Douglas Axe:

    “Now, wherever a species happens to be, Darwin’s engine tends to move it towards the highest ground it can reach. According to the Darwinian story, that simple tendency to migrate upward has, over bilions of years, transported the first primitive genome from its starting point to higher points long millions of diverging paths. The result is the spectacular variety of life forms we see today with a correspondingly wide dispersal of genomes across the vast conceptual landscape. [This simple hill climbing mechanism, repeated millions of times, is Darwin’s explanation for the full variety of life.]”

     

    Now if natural selection is constantly pushing the species up the local hill, how do they get from one hill to another. Magic bus? Air boat?

  14. keiths,

    I’m interested in engaging with opponents who actually understand the topic of discussion and are capable of presenting a coherent counterargument.

    Counter-argument against what? Your OP pretends to be some sort of refutation of some as yet unspecified ID argument involving islands of function.

    How am I supposed to offer a coherent counter-argument to what amounts to a series of baseless assertions?

    The material is out there if you are willing to make a serious effort and are able to learn, but I’m not willing to spoon-feed it to you or to turn this thread into a remedial course.

    In spite of what I see as flaws in your case, at least I’m trying to present the sorts of things I think you’re talking about, which is more than you are doing. All you’re doing is criticizing my attempts to address the subject raised in your OP and by petrushka.

    Present the actual ID argument you claim you’re refuting and let’s get on with it. Until you’ve done that you really don’t have anything to say on the matter.

    You have presently exactly no evidence that you even understand the ID ‘islands of function’ argument, much less that you’re capable of coherently stating it so that it can be critiqued. Not a skeptic.

     

  15. One answer to this that’s easy for me to understand is, organisms have more than a single attribute. Complex organisms have many thousand of attributes. Each attribute has its own hill, so a complex organism is attempting to climb thousands of different hills at once.

    The process of mutation, of course, is constantly moving these hills around and changing their shape. And mutations in competing species are ALSO changing their location and shape. Environmental changes can shift many of those hills around faster than evolution can possibly track.

    So one error you are making, I think, is you are assuming a single, motionless hill. If this assumption were even remotely true, your objection might also be remotely relevant.   

  16. Flint, the basic argument of the OP is that you can get from one island to another, not that the islands move around.

    Why didn’t keiths just say that IDers are mistaken, that there are no islands of function and there is no problem of getting from one to another because in reality the ‘islands’ just move around. They’re really more like ships.

  17. Why didn’t keiths just say that IDers are mistaken, that there are no islands of function and there is no problem of getting from one to another because in reality the ‘islands’ just move around. They’re really more like ships.

    So you accept that ID is mistaken on this, then? The point was made very early in comments. And I’m sure keiths was aware of it. It is not simply that the islands move, but that the landscape rises and falls as the environment (everything inside and out) changes.

    Other mechanisms that cause species to be dislodged from peaks are genetic drift (variation making no difference to fitness) and recombination. And the dimensionality of the space, something you seem to be having a tough time grasping, is an important consideration for its ‘explorability’. All of this has been extensively characterised, and these methods are actively used in exploratory GAs (‘intelligent’ versions of the dumb processes in nature), for that very purpose: to prevent getting stuck on local peaks.

  18. Mung:

    Flint, the basic argument of the OP is that you can get from one island to another, not that the islands move around.

    Mung, do you ever double-check your statements? I said quite explicitly in the OP:

    In this post (part 2a) I’ll explain the ‘islands of function’ metaphor and invite commenters to point out its strengths and weaknesses.

    That’s all the OP does. The criticism, including my point about the high dimensionality of fitness landscapes, is in the comments, not the OP.

    And:

    There is some truth to the ‘islands of function’ metaphor, but it also has some glaring shortcomings that ID proponents almost always overlook. I will mention some of the strengths and shortcomings in the comments, and I know that my fellow commenters will point out others.

    Mung:

    Why didn’t keiths just say that IDers are mistaken, that there are no islands of function and there is no problem of getting from one to another because in reality the ‘islands’ just move around. They’re really more like ships.

    It’s right there in the OP, Mung:

    In part 2b I’ll explain why the ID interpretation of the metaphor is wrong, and why evolution is not stuck on ‘islands of function’.

    Given that your reading comprehension is so poor, don’t you think it would be a good idea to read the OP and the comments more than once so that you don’t waste everyone’s time with bogus objections?

  19. Allan Miller:

    So you accept that ID is mistaken on this, then?

    You’ve got to be joking. How many times do I have to say this. Neither keiths, nor anyone else here, has documented a single instance of an ID ‘islands of function’ argument and shown how the OP addresses it.

    So ID is mistaken about what?

    keiths doesn’t understand the ‘islands of function’ argument in the first place.

    The OP is a pretense at substance but there is no substance. It claims to be refuting an argument but the argument it claims to refute isn’t presented, nor are any actual examples of ID supporters engaging in the argument that he claims they are making.

  20. Mung,

    The OP is a pretense at substance but there is no substance. It claims to be refuting an argument but the argument it claims to refute isn’t presented…

    Except that it’s right there in the OP:

    Our populations occupy the islands. Sea level indicates the minimum fitness at which mutants remain viable. Small changes will create viable descendants at different spots on the island, though the population as a whole will gravitate toward the high spots. Larger changes will put the mutants underwater, where they will die out.

    The idea, according to ID proponents, is that populations remain stranded on these islands of function. Some amount of microevolutionary change is possible, but only if it leaves you high and dry on the same island. Macroevolution is not possible, because that would require leaping from island to island, and evolution is incapable of such grand leaps. You’ll end up in the water.

    Mung:

    …nor are any actual examples of ID supporters engaging in the argument that he claims they are making.

    Are you really so helpless?

    LMGTFY
    LMGTFY again
    LMGTFY yet again

  21. So ID is mistaken about what?

    So ID is mistaken about species being stuck on islands of function. Though I did urge for snark-free discussion a couple of days ago, I do find it’s like talking to a child. Kairosfocus had a whole interminable thread with that very title. It crops up again and again. I won’t Google it for you. I dare say keiths could have adduced some specific examples of specific ID-ers making that argument, but you are just playing silly buggers.

    Do ID-ers think that species can evolve indefinitely, covering all taxonomic groups, without designer input? Or do they think that their evolutionary paths are truncated in some way that demands intelligent intervention to cross detrimental regions?

  22. From the OP:

    Their [proponents of ID] strategy has therefore been to concede that evolution can effect small changes (‘microevolution’), but to deny that those small changes can accumulate to produce complex adaptations (‘macroevolution’).

    If by ‘microevolution’ you mean that the frequencies of alleles in a population can change yes, IDers agree that the frequencies of alleles in a population can change.

    If you mean changes in gene frequencies don’t explain everything in evolution, IDers are certainly not alone in the that belief.

    What mysterious barrier do IDers think prevents microevolutionary change from accumulating until it becomes macroevolution?

    Same ones as evolutionary biologists. They aren’t the same process.

    But why are you putting the words in quotes? You’re not one of those ignorant people who claim that Creationists made up the micro/macro distinction are you?

  23. petrushka,

    Gpuccio makes an island argument with his discussion of protein domains.

    I don’t disagree. But keiths says no.

    There could be a couple reasons for that.

    1. He doesn’t understand the ‘islands of function’ argument.

    2. He doesn’t understand gpuccio’s argument.

     

  24. I dare say keiths could have adduced some specific examples of specific ID-ers making that argument, but you are just playing silly buggers.

    Well then, we’ll just chalk up his failure to do so to intellectual sloth.

  25. From the OP:

    The ‘islands of function’ metaphor is a variation of another metaphor, the ‘fitness landscape’.

    No, it isn’t.

     

  26. So here I am once again, doing keiths work for him.

    His search at telicthoughts turned up a whopping two hits.

    Conversely, when we measure for s(T) in a biologically relevant, folding protein, we are looking at islands of function (the class of phenomenon associated with the event — folding and biologically relevant patterns — in question) amongst vast oceans of randomness since only 1 in 10^10 amino acid sequences (the formulation as an independent pattern) at best fold and have biological relevance according to the anti-ID material that I linked to above.

    http://telicthoughts.com/puzzles-tps-and-others/#comment-256471

    Obviously talking about proteins.

    That was the main point of my essay, that combinatorics produce such huge numbers so quickly and totally swamp islands of function. My 66-character program, assuming only the 26 lower-case letters, produces 2.4 x 10^93 possible outcomes, or the number of subatomic particles in 10 trillion universes.

    http://telicthoughts.com/getting-with-the-program/#comment-202612

    Not talking about biological species or fitness landscapes.

  27. I ask and answer this question in the OP:

    What mysterious barrier do IDers think prevents microevolutionary change from accumulating until it becomes macroevolution?

    Mung responds:

    Same ones as evolutionary biologists. They aren’t the same process. But why are you putting the words in quotes?

    Because I’m using them in the way that IDers and creationists use them. As I wrote:

    The problem, as even IDers concede, is that the evidence for evolution is too strong to dismiss out of hand. Their strategy has therefore been to concede that evolution can effect small changes (‘microevolution’), but to deny that those small changes can accumulate to produce complex adaptations (‘macroevolution’).

    Petrushka:

    Gpuccio makes an island argument with his discussion of protein domains.

    Mung:

    I don’t disagree. But keiths says no.

    What keiths actually says:

    Gpuccio is therefore betting the farm on the hope that actual biological fitness landscapes will consist of separated “islands of function” which NS cannot navigate.

    keiths:

    The ‘islands of function’ metaphor is a variation of another metaphor, the ‘fitness landscape’.

    Mung:

    No, it isn’t.

    Yes, really — that’s his entire ‘counterargument’.

    Mung, I’d like to set a goal for you. Just once this week, could you actually contribute something to this discussion, with a substantive point that doesn’t involve lying, deliberate or accidental misunderstanding, or frantically searching for something to disagree with, regardless of (ir)relevance?

    It would be a first, I know, but it’s worth shooting for, don’t you think?

  28. keiths,

    I have read quite a few anti-ID books, but I don’t ever recall encountering this anti-ID argument before (IDers don’t understand fitness landscapes, therefore the islands of function argument is false).

    Did you come up with it all on your own? Can you point me to a book where someone makes this argument against ID, or some variation of it?

  29. What more are you looking to learn? Did you grasp the key idea that the “islands of function” metaphor is necessarily based on an incorrect grasp of the fitness landscape? That when we’re dealing with thousands of features simultaneously, all moving in different directions, the implications of a stable island with distinct 2-dimensional borders cannot be correct?

  30. Did you grasp the key idea that the “islands of function” metaphor is necessarily based on an incorrect grasp of the fitness landscape?

    Yes, that must be the part I missed. No doubt keiths has asserted that it’s true, but that does not make it true, nor does your repetition of his unsubstantiated assertion make it true. Of course, I deny that it’s true. I’ve denied it repeatedly.

    If it’s necessarily the case, he needs to demonstrate it. He hasn’t.

    He hasn’t even demonstrated that the ‘islands of function’ metaphor is a variation of the ‘fitness landscape’ metaphor and it’s quite clear that it isn’t, which explains why he can’t demonstrate that it is.

    So his argument fails. Miserably.

  31. The extent to which processes observable within populations and tractable in mathematical models can be extrapolated to explain patterns of diversification occurring in deep time remains one of the most contentious issues in modern evolutionary biology.

    – The Evolution of the Genome, p. 684

    Do you understand that, keiths? This isn’t a claim being made by IDers.

    Also, are you familiar with Endosymbiotic Theory? Was that just accumulated rounds of microevolution?

  32. Mung,

    I present the following because you asked, “Can you point me to a book where someone makes this argument against ID, or some variation of it?”

    Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism, 2006

    Chapter 10: Chance and Neessity–and Intelligent Design? Taner Edis

    …Dembski’s mistake is subtle but straightforward: he conceives of evolution as a way to search for a solution to a predetermined problem. It is nothing of the sort. Darwinian evolution is creative precisely because nothing is predetermined and everything may be randomly modified.

    If evolution truly was a search for a high point on a fixed fitness landscape, in the manner of a genetic algorithm, Dembski’s argument might be plausible. In that case, allowing a machine to make random decisions would not change what it is capable of and what it is not. Then the kinds of search procedures that would work well or not would depend on the fitness landscape, so we might be tempted to think a Darwinian mechanism introduces no genuine novelty. The problem is set; therefore, finding the solution becomes a matter of letting the information inherent in the problem bubble up to the surface.

    As biologists point out (Orr 2002), evolution is not at all like a search on a fixed landscape. Living populations are not searching for a solution to a preset problem. Their fitness landscape is continually changing, and this change is largely due to other organisms that make up an important part of an organism’s environment. Even an organism’s own reproductive strategy alters the fitness landscape. All that is important is being able to reproduce, and what works best at any one moment is not likely to remain so forever, since competitors are themselves always changing.

    The no-free-lunch theorem that Dembski relies on does not apply when the fitness landscape changes in a way that depends on the population (Wolpert and Macready 1997). Indeed, being able to randomly alter strategy is important since competitors may adapt to any set strategy and exploit it. And a prime way to generate increasing complexity in biology is to have evolutionary arms races (Dawkins 1986, 178). In an arms race, competing populations can climb smooth hills of fitness constructed by the competition itself, using variation and selection.

  33. Mung: […] Endosymbiotic Theory? Was that just accumulated rounds of microevolution?

    No.

  34. Mung quotes T. Ryan Gregory:

    The extent to which processes observable within populations and tractable in mathematical models can be extrapolated to explain patterns of diversification occurring in deep time remains one of the most contentious issues in modern evolutionary biology.   [emphasis Mung’s, as usual]

    – The Evolution of the Genome, p. 684

    Do you understand that, keiths? This isn’t a claim being made by IDers.

    Mung, do you understand the points of contention Gregory is actually referring to? (That’s a rhetorical question. You don’t.) Hint: they don’t involve the ID/creationist versions of micro- and macroevolution.

    As I explained to you already, I am using “microevolution” and “macroevolution” as IDers and creationists do (hence the quotation marks you objected to):

    The problem, as even IDers concede, is that the evidence for evolution is too strong to dismiss out of hand. Their strategy has therefore been to concede that evolution can effect small changes (‘microevolution’), but to deny that those small changes can accumulate to produce complex adaptations (‘macroevolution’). [emphasis added]

    Here’s what Gregory says about that:

    All evolutionists (including macroevolutionists) do, of course, recognize complex adaptations at the organism level to be the products of natural selection operating among individual organisms (all the while subject to the usual constraints, correlations of growth, co-options, and other such things that we ignore at our peril).

    Mung, you would be wise to understand what people are saying before you quote them.

    Also, are you familiar with Endosymbiotic Theory? Was that just accumulated rounds of microevolution?

    Of course not. Who said it was?

    Poor Mung. So much confusion in one tiny cranium.

  35. Yes, that must be the part I missed. No doubt keiths has asserted that it’s true, but that does not make it true, nor does your repetition of his unsubstantiated assertion make it true.

    Granted. It’s true regardless of whether anyone asserts it.

    Of course, I deny that it’s true. I’ve denied it repeatedly.

    The problem is becoming very clear now.

    If it’s necessarily the case, he needs to demonstrate it. He hasn’t.

    Except of course that he has done so. Your denial notwithstanding.

    He hasn’t even demonstrated that the ‘islands of function’ metaphor is a variation of the ‘fitness landscape’ metaphor and it’s quite clear that it isn’t, which explains why he can’t demonstrate that it is.

    Except, of course, that the islands of functionality are also known as adaptive peaks in the adaptive landscape.

    So his argument fails. Miserably.

    Here, I must agree with you. ANY argument you choose to deny is going to fail miserably, at least with you. The problem does not lie with the argument, which is simply pearls before swine.

  36. Mung,

    If you have a week of lifetime you have no other plans for, you may like to cast your eyes over this KF OP and thread:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/irreducible-complexity/id-foundations-14-islands-vs-continents-of-complex-specific-function-a-pivotal-issue-and-debate/

    I haven’t bothered tidying the link because

    (a) I’m lazy

    (b) The title is informative. Islands vs continents of specified function. It’s an ‘ID foundation’. And it’s pivotal, apparently.

    KF: In short [-> thank heaven – AM], the islands of function issue — rhetorical brush-asides notwithstanding — is real, and it counts.  Let us see how the evolutionary materialism advocates will answer to it.

    [-> onlookers, note that some discussion centres on whether or not he speaks of a fitness landscape or a multidimensional combinatorial space where moves are prevented by being on islands of complex phenotype, rather than their isolation on islands of fitness – related but not synonymous concepts … AM

  37. keiths:

    I am using “microevolution” and “macroevolution” as IDers and creationists do (hence the quotation marks you objected to)

    Then we’re going to have a serious problem carrying on a discussion, since I am using them the way they are used in the literature. No wonder nothing you’re writing makes sense to me.

    But this just underscores another issue I keep repeating. If you’re not going to actually quote a specific argument made by a specific ID proponent and define the terms, then what exactly are you arguing against?

    You’re arguing against something you made up, that’s what. Those sorts of arguments are known as straw-man arguments.

  38. It is no surprise to us that we have a serious problem communicating with you.

    I’m not sure how much more specific you could be than to link to posts and threads that have island arguments made by ID proponents.

    If you wish to dissect their arguments point by point and explain where we don’t interpret them correctly, feel free. 

  39. petrushka,

    If you wish to dissect their arguments point by point and explain where we don’t interpret them correctly, feel free.

    keiths claims to be refuting one or more ID arguments which employ the idea of ‘islands of function.’ So he needs to go through them point by point and explain his interpretation of the argument and how he has refuted it. After he’s done that I will be more than happy to explain what he got wrong.

  40. We have gone through the argument point by point hundreds of times for years. You claim that ID supporters don’t make these claims. We have posted links to their claims.

    Tell us where we have interpreted them incorrectly.l 

  41. By labeling my version of the ‘islands of function’ argument a ‘strawman’, Mung is conceding that it is easily defeated.  It certainly is.  

    Now Mung’s only hope is to pretend that my version differs in some crucial way from the ‘islands of function’ arguments presented by ID proponents, and that their versions aren’t so easily defeated.  Good luck to him.

    Petrushka has challenged Mung to elucidate the crucial differences.  Mung is already squirming as he tries to avoid the challenge. 

  42. Mung has studiously avoided responding to any of my posts. 

    Among the ones he has avoided are ones where I have pointed out that UprightBiped says information can only be transferred when instantiated in matter. A direct contradiction to claims made by gpuccio. 

    So it is nothing new that Mung will try to change the subject or transfer responsibility.Our argument is made. Let him address it.

    EDIT:

    Perhaps it would be best if Mung concentrated on making an island argument that cannot easily be refuted. Or any ID argument at all.

  43. Then we’re going to have a serious problem carrying on a discussion, since I am using them the way they are used in the literature.

    To borrow your schtick: which literature? Macroevolution conventionally refers to the study of evolutionary progressions in separated gene pools (organisms that cannot interbreed) vs those occurring within interbreeding populations.  

    But of course there is also a temporal scale upon which we can see that the kind of differences we observe ‘laterally’, between contemporaneous clades, begin to manifest themselves over long scales within a long lineage.

    One or both of those would concord with ‘the literature’ – but not necessarily with anything an IDer says. So if you are using them in either or both of those senses, there should be no communication problem.

    Only if you think they refer to “things that can happen within isolated islands of function vs things that facilitate travel between them” would we have a communication problem. Even then, as long as both parties are clear what the other means, it should not be a problem. So which macro/micro distinction do you favour?

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