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Prominent NAS member trashes neo-Darwinism

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Natural selection …is not the fundamental cause of evolution.

Masatoshi Nei

Science continues to destroy Darwinism. A prominent member of the National Academy of Sciences, Masatoshi Nei, trashed neo-Darwinism in the recent peer-reviewed article: The new mutation theory of phenotypic evolution.

Haldane’s dilemma showed mathematically that natural selection could not be the major driving force of evolution. Haldane’s dilemma lead in part to the non-Darwinian theory of molecular evolution known as the “neutral theory of molecular evolution”. Neutral theory asserted natural selection was not the principal driving force of molecular evolution. However, when molecular neutral theory was presented to the world in the 1960’s, it was politically incorrect to assert the obvious consequence of the neutral theory of molecular evolution, namely: morphology, physiology, and practically anything else made of molecules would NOT be principally shaped by natural selection either.

In What are the speed limits of naturalistic evolution?, I pointed out:

And if Haldane’s dilemma were not enough of a blow to Darwinian evolution, in the 1960’s several population geneticists like Motoo Kimura demonstrated mathematically that the overwhelming majority of molecular evolution was non-Darwinian and invisible to natural selection. Lest he be found guilty for blasphemy, Kimura made an obligatory salute to Darwin by saying his non-Darwinian neutral theory “does not deny the role of natural selection in determining the course of adaptive evolution”. That’s right, according to Kimura, adaptive evolution is visible to natural selection while simultaneously molecular evolution is invisible to natural selection. Is such a position logical? No. Is it politically and intellectually expedient? Absolutely!

But now 4 decades later, the inevitable consequence of Haldane’s dilemma and Kimura’s neutral theory may be ending the uneasy truce between neo-Darwinists and neutralists.

Nei writes:

For the last six decades, the dominant theory of evolution has been neo-Darwinism, which was developed by the three founders of theoretical population genetics, Fisher (1), Wright (2), and Haldane (3), and was later supported by various evolutionists (4). Neo-Darwinism asserts that natural selection is the driving force of evolution,
….
In the last four decades, the study of molecular evolution has shown that a majority of amino acid substitutions in proteins are neutral or nearly neutral

However, most evolutionists still believe in neo-Darwinism with respect to phenotypic evolution and are not interested in neutral evolution (19,22).

Mayr (23) stated that neutral mutations apparently occur at the molecular level, but because they do not affect phenotypic characters, they are of little interest to evolutionists.
….

By contrast, Nei (17, 24, 25) argued that because phenotypic characters are ultimately controlled by DNA sequences, both molecular and phenotypic evolution must occur in similar [non Darwinian] ways. He also suggested that a considerable portion of morphological evolution is caused by neutral or nearly neutral mutations, and the driving force of evolution is mutation at both molecular and phenotypic levels.
….
As mentioned in the introduction, a majority of current evolutionists believe in neo-Darwinism. In one of the most popular textbooks on evolution, Futuyma (ref. 20, p. 10) states that evolutionary change is a population process in which one genotype replaces other ones, and for this process to occur, mutation is quite ineffective because of its low rate of occurrence, whereas even the slightest intensity of natural selection can bring about substantial change in a realistic amount of time. He also states “Natural selection can account for both slight and great differences among species, and adaptations are traits that have been shaped by natural selection.” Although this type of statement is quite common in the evolutionary literature, it is obvious that any advantageous genotype is produced by mutation including all kinds of genetic changes. Natural selection occurs as a consequence of mutational production of different genotypes, and therefore it is not the fundamental cause of evolution.

Historically, the word mutationism was used to refer to William Bateson’s saltationism or similar ideas, in which natural selection plays little role. Later Morgan (109) presented a more reasonable form of mutationism taking into account the role of natural selection. His view was abstract and based on a few lines of speculative arguments. However, recent molecular studies of phenotypic evolution support the basic ideas of his view and have extended it to a more comprehensive view presented in this article. If the new form of mutation theory described here is right, even in its crudest form, more emphasis should be given on the roles of mutation in the study of evolution.

Notes:

1. ID sympathizer Dr. John Davison, who has spent much of his recent life promoting the works of William Bateson, should be much encouraged with these developments. It was through Davison I learned of Bateson’s wonderful ideas.

2. Richard Dawkins wrote of Kimura in Blindwatchmaker. Dawkins argued Kimura’s ideas wouldn’t overturn Darwinism since Darwinism operated at the higher level of adaptation whereas Kimura’s non-Darwinian theory operated at the lower level of molecules. But the reductionists are now getting taste of their own medicine. If the Darwinism doesn’t operate at the molecular level, then why should we expect it to operate at much higher levels like morphology and physiology either?

3. Lewontin gives a powerful example of neutral evolution at the morphological level. Rhinos have either 1 horn or 2 horns. Did natural selection cause the evolution of one horn in one case, and 2 horns in another? Unlikely.

4. Salthe pointed out a fundamental contradiction in Fisher’s fundamental theorem of natural selection. Selection is the enemy of diversity. Salthe realized the obvious problem of trying to account for the abundance of diversity through a mechanism which reduces diversity.

5. At least 3 signatories of the Discovery Institute’s Dissent from Darwin list anticipated these recent developments. Davison, Salthe, and Ho. Ho managed to present echoes of these ideas 30 years ago in a peer-reviewed journal. See: An eloquent but bogus non-review by Dawkins.

a relative lack of natural selection may be the prerequisite for major evolutionary advance

Mae Wan Ho

Comments
[…] The bottom line is molecular evolution at the nucleotide level must in principle be mostly neutral which means it must be non-Darwinian in principle. If most molecular evolution is non-Darwinian, this strongly suggests most other kinds of evolution must be non-Darwinian! Why should other levels of evolution higher than the molecular level be exempt from the mathematical considerations just laid out? The view that almost all evolution must be non-Darwinian has been advocated by Masotoshi Nei, a fact I pointed out here. […]Neutral theory and non-Darwinian evolution for newbies, Part 1 | Uncommon Descent
April 12, 2014
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[…] The bottom line is molecular evolution at the nucleotide level must in principle be mostly neutral which means it must be non-Darwinian in principle. If most molecular evolution is non-Darwinian, this strongly suggests most other kinds of evolution must be non-Darwinian! Why should other levels of evolution higher than the molecular level be exempt from the mathematical considerations just laid out? The view that almost all evolution must be non-Darwinian has been advocated by Masotoshi Nei, a fact I pointed out here. […]Neutral theory and non-Darwinian evolution for newbies, Part 1 | Intelligent Design and Creation Science
April 12, 2014
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[...] But such baloney goes stale quickly, and after Kimura passed away, Masotoshi Nei came along and dispensed with it. He pointed out if molecular evolution is mostly neutral, so also must be most of evolution! In carefully guarded and diplomatic language he stated it, but essentially trashed Darwinism. See: Prominent NAS member trashes Neo-Darwinism. [...]God's iPod - Uncommon Descent - Intelligent Design
July 25, 2013
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[...] But such baloney goes stale quickly, and after Kimura passed away, Masotoshi Nei came along and dispensed with it. He pointed out if molecular evolution is mostly neutral, so also must be most of evolution! In carefully guarded and diplomatic language he stated it, but essentially trashed Darwinism. See: Prominent NAS member trashes Neo-Darwinism. [...]Most evolution is free of selection, therefore Darwinism must be false | Uncommon Descent
July 25, 2013
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[...] Masatoshi Nei is extending Kimura’s ideas to domains outside of molecular evolution. See: Prominent NAS member trashes neo-Darwinism These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web [...]Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection: the death sentence for Darwinism | Uncommon Descent
April 4, 2008
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The trouble with the blind-watchmaker analogy, is that he’s not just blind, but totally devoid of intelligence and foresight: lacking the materials (in the form of constructive mutations) to produce the watch: lacking the functional continuums (requiring his first blind move to produce function – when it cannot): and lacking even the inclination to produce a watch (favouring much simpler, more evolutionarily efficient designs).Acquiesce
July 28, 2007
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Returning to the ongoing debate: Cancer provides us a good example of both problems with NS I mentioned earlier in this thread. Namely, the selection of abnormal (more reproductively successful – fitter) cells, which have lost the ability to control their own reproduction – they have lost complexity and consequently become fitter. It also provides us evidence that NS leads ultimately to extinction through a blind (especially in foresight) approach to selection. In a previous post I mentioned the consequences of a higher organism evolving the enzyme needed to efficiently digest cellulose and convert this into offspring – the long-term results would likely end up producing the extinction of all higher organisms including itself (for the short-term benefit of the species). NS, being unintelligent in its selection policy would blindly select this new trait because the selective value (the numbers of surviving offspring) would increase dramatically. Thus, without constructive mutations, basic types of organisms are lost because NS evolves them (through their sub categories) to become increasingly specialized for a certain ecological niche at the expense of their overall generalization. With constructive mutations, NS evolves organisms to greater levels of fitness, producing imbalance and ultimately a total collapse of our ecosystem. I still await a response from Bob [see post – 178 & 185]Acquiesce
July 28, 2007
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Hi DaveScot and Acquiesce, Funny Denyse reviewing Tipler right now, as yesterday I wrote (and discarded) a reference to him in response to this conversation. Dave's idea that humanity is a necessity of this universe and our survival reminds me of Tipler's ideas. He says that humans must and will develop technologies to halt the expansion of the universe. This is a necessity of the future because without it the expansion would entail breaking the laws of physics. Because the laws of physics cannot be broken, the expansion will be stopped, and humans will arrive at the ability to facilitate this. The future determines the past in that the necessary and decided outcome must be accommodated by what comes before it. As Dave says:
So the way I see it humanity is here to provide relocation services so that life doesn’t end when the earth does.
Nothing but teleology and design there.Charlie
July 28, 2007
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Acquiesce I'm just going where the evidence leads. Life surviving by moving to more suitable locations when necessary is universal. The stage was perfectly set for the arrival of an industrial species and we seem to have an instinctive desire for building telescopes, spacecraft, and exploration. Seems a little too pat for an unplanned happenstance. Directional mechanisms are inherent in DNA. The single celled egg that you once were contained a plan to diversify itself into scores of cell types, tissue types, and organs with nothing left to chance. That's ontogenesis - a one-way, pre-planned, self-terminating process of diversification. I propose that phylogenesis was the same kind of process and it has terminated. DaveScot
July 28, 2007
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Dave Scot, that’s an interesting belief. Although without another directional mechanism which foregoes fitness to select for higher complexity, these space travelling bacteria aren’t going to be evolving into humans for the next saga. I still await a response from Bob [see post – 178 & 185]Acquiesce
July 28, 2007
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we are in no position to assess its “optimality” absent sufficient understanding of the objectives and constraints. That is true. BUT For those that claim proof of design requires good design and "good design" requires efficiency, survivability and (hee hee) simplicity -- bacteria should be more than enough evidence for them of a designer. And dittos for hoping Bob sticks it out.tribune7
July 28, 2007
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H'mm: mod piled - was it the link to Icons? I note in summary, that we should indeed appreciate Bob's willingness to go through a few loops of the learning-spiral with us. Also, observing that his lock-in to a circle is evidence that perhaps the root problem is that NDT's pop genetics models are circular, once their assumptions, dynamics and terms are questioned, and once they are put up against real world evidence from the fossil record and current life in ecosystems.kairosfocus
July 28, 2007
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Hi Trib: [Re 179]:
Bob, the main reason this argument keeps going in circles is because you refuse to provide a definition of what you think is the best predictor of fitness and hence allow us to weigh our notions on your terms.
Actually, it seems the argument is making spiral-progress at another level: that B seemingly is locked in circles when challenged on terms, assumptions and dynamics implies -- or at least strongly suggests - that the NDT patterns of thought are . . . circular. For, if there were simple, direct examples of functionally specified complexity and/or irreducible complexity in the Dembski and Behe senses incrementally emerging from the evidence of the fossil or current worlds, they would long since have been trumpeted and placed prominently all over the Internet. This, we do not see, but instead we hear of computer simulations [which are both intelligently designed and do not in fact generate complexity through RM + NS or the like; the smarts being front-loaded by the designers . . .] or else trivial things such as industrial melanism or Finch-beaks on drought-pluvial cycles. Then, a deeper look at the cases usually turns up more questions than answers, sometimes even outright manipulation and/or evident misrepresentation – cf. here, Wells' Icons. (And note how the issues he raised were responded to – heavy on rhetoric, light on actual credible evidence and reasoned argument, joined to a quiet de-emphasis of the most notorious cases over time.) And so, when someone from the Design view publishes on the matter at professional level, e.g. Meyer, we see further evidence that the case is not as advertised: the Editor of the Journal suffered slander and persecution amounting to unjustifiable and indefensible [but not recanted of] career-busting – and he is not even really a Design thinker! This sounds more and more like an old Sci Fiction story on how “The Gostak distims the Doshes.” [The protagonist tries to figure out what each term means and only gets as far as finding that each is interpreted in terms of the others, in a circle. Of course it was originally meant as a parody on religion and religious wars, but instead it is telling with ever greater force against the NDT paradigm.] Finally as to “bad design is not design . . .” or the like, well, design is design, and we are in no position to assess its “optimality” absent sufficient understanding of the objectives and constraints. E.g. a design that is optimal for one situation may be very brittle once the environment shifts, so some degree of “slack” and even tolerance for defects that come in through random noise may well be wise. So, we are moving ever outward on the loops of the spiral . . . Having said all that, I join with Sal in expressing appreciation that Bob has tried to engage the issue and has been willing to go through a few loops of the spiral with us. GEM of TKIkairosfocus
July 28, 2007
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Bob OH, Casey Luskin was soliciting input on that very question (pseudogenes) in his review of Sean Carroll's Book. The Evolutionary Gospel According to Sean B. Carroll He would welcome commentary on his pseudogene calculation. I have been unable to reconcile the linear model Casey uses versus something like Jukes-Cantor or the formula you gave. My inability to reconcile it tells me there is a subtlety in this part of evolutionary theory which was deep enough in the weeds I did not realize it till now. I would welcome your input on Casey's pseudogene calculation as it does have bearing on our discussion of Nei's paper. I express again my gratitude for your willingness to spend time here at UD defending the non-ID position. Though we disagree, I value your input. Thanks again! Salvadorscordova
July 27, 2007
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c'mon Bob. Questions on the table. What say you? How about we go for 200 posts?tribune7
July 27, 2007
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Sal - assuming a Poisson process, then the proportion that didn’t have a mutation would be e^-1 = 0.37. So there should still be some signal. Bob
THANK YOU!scordova
July 27, 2007
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What ‘other’ effects (i.e. apart from numbers of surviving offspring) are important for NS? In other words, what ‘other’ effects can NS ‘see’ and ‘select’ if they do not impact on the numbers of surviving offspring? What are you talking about?
Ditto. Bob?Atom
July 27, 2007
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When that time is up even bacteria will perish. There are those who claim they can ride on light beams and live in comets.tribune7
July 27, 2007
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Bob, In the other thread that kairosfocus has mentioned, you seemed more interested in playing gotcha with word games than in addressing the real issues. Here in this thread, you have hidden behind varying meanings of "fitness" and trying to not only shift the burden of proof, but raise it to a level that doesn't even make sense. It is difficult to imagine how anyone who is honestly seeking truth would not be able to take a step back and evaluate these two threads and realize that there are some serious questions being asked of NDT, and only evasions are being given in response. I'm just wondering when your love of science and desire to be intellectually honest is going to bring you around to start considering this. Or are presupposed religious beliefs getting in your way?Phinehas
July 27, 2007
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acquiesce I've often raised the point that bacteria are the fittest organisms on the planet by nearly any metric - biomass, number, persistence, or ability to survive in environmental extremes. Ultimately however bacteria's long term survival requires space travel. The earth has a finite span of time where it can support life. When that time is up even bacteria will perish. Their survival beyond that time requires locating a suitable new planet and transportation to it. So the way I see it humanity is here to provide relocation services so that life doesn't end when the earth does. I believe this is a cycle that repeats ad infinitum - the earth is neither the first nor the last planet in this cycle. Not only that but it is no accident either. Phyogenesis proceeding to a technological space-faring species is a biological imperative.DaveScot
July 27, 2007
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that should be "bad design is no design"tribune7
July 27, 2007
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Another point -- some materialists (not necessarily you, Bob) -- try to rebut ID with the "no design is bad design" argument. Well, it seems that bacteria are basically a perfect means of maintaining the existence of DNA. I guess bacteria should be accepted as slam-dunk proof of a designer for those making the "bad design" claim. I'm confident the rest of us will understand that there is beauty in complexity (albeit not fitness) and there is a point to our existence beyond survival of the species.tribune7
July 27, 2007
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Bob -- I’ve explained why reproductive output isn’t always the best predictor of fitness. Bob, the main reason this argument keeps going in circles is because you refuse to provide a definition of what you think is the best predictor of fitness and hence allow us to weigh our notions on your terms.tribune7
July 27, 2007
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Acquiesce: Do you really think that if I put a mutated ‘more complex’ bacterium – which due to this ‘higher complexity’ reproduced considerably less surviving offspring – into a sample with its parent population that the new trait it carries would fixate into the parent population? Bob: with the information you’ve given me, the answer is I don’t know. It depends what other effects the complexity had.
What ‘other’ effects (i.e. apart from numbers of surviving offspring) are important for NS? In other words, what ‘other’ effects can NS ‘see’ and ‘select’ if they do not impact on the numbers of surviving offspring? What are you talking about?Acquiesce
July 27, 2007
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Gentlemen: Re Bob's:
we’re going round in circles, and getting nowhere . . . I’m therefore not going to waste any more time on this.
Actually, first, the proper image is not a circle but a spiral. We CAN make progress by revisiting key issues and themes incrementally, over and over. (Indeed, this is my favourite curriculum architecture. To see why, reflect on the classic saying that "practice [with correction and learning] makes perfect.") Second, in a debate-type forum, such objective progress may be in a direction that some will not like. In this case, that seems to have happened. For, the progress has substantiated the point that NDT has very little robustness relative to challenges from a design-oriented perspective that factors in the implications of the observed functionally specified complex information that is at the heart of life forms. So, we can plainly see the above, that there is a reason for this second resort to evasions and distractors, followed by a second walkaway in a matter of a few weeks. The debate on the merits has in effect again been conceded without openly acknowledging that fact. So, let us learn from and build on this success. [Why not let's itemise lessons learned? My starter: the incrementalist model of complexity through RM + NS runs into trouble once we begin to take apart the underlying assumptions, terms used and proposed dynamics, to look at them closely. The gap between the model dynamics and the fossil record and empirical/simulation data, as well as the issues of information generation through random processes -- as Nei says, in effect NS is not about the arrival of the fittest and so is a secondary force. It is therefore very significant to note how often NDT thinkers promote NS to the primary force level.] GEM of TKIkairosfocus
July 27, 2007
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Acquiesce - with the information you've given me, the answer is I don't know. It depends what other effects the complexity had. Look folks, we're going round in circles, and getting nowhere. I've explained why reproductive output isn't always the best predictor of fitness. I've even given you an example where it makes the wrong prediction. I've explained about trade-offs: i.e. a reduction in some contributions to fitness can be more than offset by increases in other contributions. Despite much repetition, it's evident that none of this is sinking in. I'm therefore not going to waste any more time on this. I should, though, acknowledge Patrick's attempt to move the debate on: he at least tried to help the discussion and I appreciate that. BobBob O'H
July 26, 2007
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Phinehas, that's a good question.tribune7
July 26, 2007
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Out of curiosity, does anyone know of any data on extinctions categorized by complexity? My hunch is that the extinction rate for more complex organisms is much higher than for less complex organisms, but I am wondering if there have been any studies on this.Phinehas
July 26, 2007
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Bob: Do you really think that if I put a mutated ‘more complex’ bacterium – which due to this ‘higher complexity’ reproduced considerably less surviving offspring – into a sample with its parent population that the new trait it carries would fixate into the parent population? A simple yes/no would be fine.Acquiesce
July 26, 2007
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The fact of the matter is that Bob cannot explain how NS can evolve bacteria, which occupy every liveable environment, into organisms of higher complexity, which along the way must have lost their environmental adaptability, robustness, fecundity, rapid generation / gestation times, and asexual reproduction. These are not minor losses, some bacteria, under favourable conditions, can produce around 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 offspring in a single day! Also, over the course of evolution NS must have turned a blind eye to an increase by some 10,000,000 minutes plus in generation times and some 300,000 minutes plus in gestation times. So let me ask you again. How can NS direct for higher complexity whilst simultaneously selecting for lower fitness?Acquiesce
July 26, 2007
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