Also can’t avoid this:
A fly in this ointment is that there are serious reasons to doubt that fitness is in fact maximised. The central assumption of the approach has been known to be untrue in general for decades…
Not that the rest of us were necessarily let in on that.
The goal of the formal darwinism project is to construct a mathematical bridge between two of the many ways of studying natural selection. One approach is population genetics, in which models are constructed that trace the change over time of the frequencies of some defined set of genotypes. … The other approach is based on the expectation of finding good design in nature: this stretches back at least to natural theology in the eighteenth century, and was invigorated and reinforced as a scientific approach by Darwin (1859) and later Fisher (1930).
Today, as molecular biologists choose to call some of their discoveries ‘mechanisms’, and ascribe ‘functions’ to enzymes, they use purposive language and so they also adopt the design approach. It is arguably impossible to undertake work in many areas of biology without doing so: purpose in explanations has great power, and attempts to do without it in ethology (for example, Kennedy 1992, reviews his earlier campaign in ethology as well as bringing in further subjects), have long ago been abandoned as unworkable.
Hmmm. Wonder why. Also, as above:
A fly in this ointment is that there are serious reasons to doubt that fitness is in fact maximised. The central assumption of the approach has been known to be untrue in general for decades, and it is here that the other of the two approaches to studying natural selection becomes relevant.
It sounds as though Darwin’s followers are trying to avoid an obvious conclusion (one can’t avoid purpose and design) and are then forced to doubt that fitness is maximized, which guts Darwinism.
The formal darwinism project aims to provide a mathematical framework within which important fundamental ideas in large parts of biology can be articulated, including Darwin’s central argument in The Origin (that mechanical processes of inheritance and reproduction can give rise to the appearance of design), modern extensions of evolutionary theory including ESS theory and inclusive fitness, and Dawkins’ synthesis of them into a single structure. A new kind of argument is required to link equations of motion on the one hand to optimisation programs on the other, and a major point is that the biologist’s concept of fitness maximisation is not represented by concepts from dynamical systems such as Lyapunov functions and gradient functions. The progress of the project so far is reviewed, though with only a brief glance at the rather complicated mathematics itself, and the centrality of fitness maximisation ideas to many areas of biology is emphasised.
One could possibly get a copy from (hat tip:) Scientia Salon blog.
One problem: When Darwin’s followers are bailing their sinking ship is that it is hard to know exactly what the problem is most of the time, as they speak in tongues, prophecies, tautologies, conundrums, and riddles. So far as I can see, they can’t eliminate the language of design and purpose from a discussion of nature, and it isn’t necessarily true that fitness is maximized, which means that Darwinism is probably not an important source of innovation in life forms.
It’s not clear how a mathematical bridge will help, though one can always c laim to have solved such problems through computation, the way a failing firm can claim to be afloat through accounting wizardry.
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