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TSZ Allan Miller says Natural Selection has to fail for evolution to work

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It is sufficient that NS does not act too strongly against, not that it must act for, a particular change.

Allan Miller
Comment on crossposted thread, Blindwatchbreaker

Allan is wrong in using the word “sufficient”. The correct statement “It is necessary but not sufficient for NS not to act too strongly”

Notwithstanding Allan Miller’s wrong choice of words, he rightly echoes the words of three scientists I’ve quoted before. For evolution of complexity to happen, Natural Selection must often be inhibited, Natural Selection is not the mechanism of innovation it is the INHIBITOR.

many genomic features could not have emerged without a near-complete disengagement of the power of natural selection

Michael Lynch
opening, The Origins of Genome Architecture

and

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

Mae Wan Ho
Beyond Neo-Darwinism

and

The internal contradiction in its [natural selections’] major theoretical cornerstone — Fisher’s fundamental theorem

traits having been subjected to heavy selection pressures, because of their importance in the lives of the organisms, should be less variable than less important traits….
traits that have been most important in the lives of organisms up to this moment will be least likely to be able to evolve further!

Stanley Salthe
Critique of Natural Selection

Allan isn’t the only one chiming in on the necessity of NS not being too strong. Patrick argued for neutral drift and so did Elizabeth. Why? Consider this quote:

We know that neutral mutations can and do propagate through a population, and that even deleterious mutations can do the same. And for every additional organism with a neutral or deleterious mutation there is an additional opportunity for a subsequent mutation to come along and render it positive.

Elizabeth Liddle

So one has to hope for blind luck that selection occasionally fails for an immediately deleterious mutation that might be beneficial in the future because natural selection is myopic, it does not have foresight to see that what is deleterious in the present might be beneficial in the future when combined with not-yet-existing future changes. 😯

The irony is, in these cases, luck works better on average than selection! What did I say about the blind watchbreaker disposing of lunches even if they were free?

So now, Allan and friends have to hope Natural Selection actually doesn’t work too well for evolution to happen. They hope mutations are neutral or only slightly deleterious. They appeal to blind luck allowing a deleterious mutation to propagate through the population, and this is most definitely an anti-Darwinian scenario.

13 Replies to “TSZ Allan Miller says Natural Selection has to fail for evolution to work

  1. 1
    scordova says:

    NOTE
    Despite these obvious considerations against Darwinism, we have this false claim:

    Natural selection is quintessentially non-random, yet it is lamentably often miscalled random. This one mistake underlies much of the skeptical backlash against evolution. Chance cannot explain life. Design is as bad an explanation as chance because it raises bigger questions than it answers. Evolution by natural selection is the only workable theory ever proposed that is capable of explaining life, and it does so brilliantly.

    Richard Dawkins

    In light of the above considerations, Natural Selection might even be worse than random — blind cave fish, sickle cell anemia, broken parts in antibiotic resistant bacteria, broken parts in pesticide resistant insects, wingless beetles, etc. Natural selection doesn’t explain the origin of life, so it doesn’t explain the design of life brilliantly.

  2. 2

    The irony is, in these cases, luck works better on average than selection! What did I say about the blind watchbreaker disposing of lunches even if they were free?

    You have not supported this claim at all!

    It certainly does not follow from anything Allan or I have said.

  3. 3
    scordova says:

    I’m sorry we have to disagree Elizabeth. For the sake of argument in this discussion, let us suppose ID is wrong, suppose YEC is wrong…

    The fact that evolutionary biologists like Lynch and Salthe articulate objections to Darwinism tells me I’m not alone or unreasonable in my objections to Natural Selection being a mechanism of accumulating more complexity.

    Natural selection participates in evolution, but it doesn’t seem to be cumulative of complexity in the way Darwin envisioned. Nature disposes of complexity (free lunches), and even with an immediately deleterious mutation in the present which could be beneficial in the future, it disposes of those as well (other forms of free lunch).

    There are other non-Darwinian schools of evolution like:

    1. neutral evolution
    2. mutationism
    3. process structuralism of Richard Sternberg
    4. natural self-engineering of James Shapiro
    etc.

    If I were not creationist, I’d go with #3 and #4. Process structuralism has its holes, but not like those in Darwinian evolution. Sternberg said in the past he thinks ID is fatally flawed. I do not know if he still thinks this is true, but he said he is a Process Structuarlist, not a creationist or ID proponent. Shapiro’s self-engineering is also more viable than the blindwatchmaker hypothesis.

  4. 4

    The fact that evolutionary biologists like Lynch and Salthe articulate objections to Darwinism tells me I’m not alone or unreasonable in my objections to Natural Selection being a mechanism of accumulating more complexity.

    Natural Selection is the name we give to the “bias” given to the sampling of the gene pool in each generation in favour of those variants that promote reproductive success.

    What we now appreciate, as Darwin did not, that this bias can be very slight, and that even unbiased sampling is important.

    Natural selection participates in evolution, but it doesn’t seem to be cumulative of complexity in the way Darwin envisioned.

    Anything that results in propagation of a variant through a population results in cumulative variance. This includes both random walk (drift) and biased random walk (selection). And yes, Darwin did not envisage this – as a result, some of the difficulties he saw with his theory turn out to be less than he thought.

    Nature disposes of complexity (free lunches),

    This sentence makes no sense to me.

    and even with an immediately deleterious mutation in the present which could be beneficial in the future, it disposes of those as well (other forms of free lunch).

    Very deleterious mutations are unlikely to propagate through the population. But slightly deleterious ones can, and do (as Sanford points out!!!! – it’s one of the things he got right).

    I think one problem here, Sal, is that you are still thinking of evolution as a search for rare targets, rather than the progress of populations over a [high-dimensioned] fitness landscape in which most variants are perfectly viable, and thus result in “diffusion” across “plains” and thereby sometimes to the foot of distant hills.

  5. 5
    lifepsy says:

    If you don’t use Elizabeth Liddle’s exact preferred phrasing (biased sampling) for a description of natural selection, she will “correct” you. Is there a name for someone who constantly uses this type of pedantry to try and score points in discussions?

  6. 6

    Yes, a scientist. Not to “try and score points” though – to make sure we are talking about the same thing. Not equivocating.

  7. 7
    lifepsy says:

    I don’t think you removed any equivocation. You did manage to write a long post without addressing any arguments, though. (except for the strawman you inserted at the end about searching for rare targets)

  8. 8
    scordova says:

    Anything that results in propagation of a variant through a population results in cumulative variance

    But that is not the same as cumulative complexity (as in design-like complexity). If one won’t accept Behe’s ideas, perhaps Andreas Wagner’s:

    However, fitness is hard to define rigorously and even more difficult to measure….An examination of fitness and its robustness alone would thus not yield much insight into the opening questions. Instead, it is necessary to analyze, on all levels of organization, the systems that constitute an organism, and that sustain its life. I define such systems loosely as assemblies of parts that carry out well-defined biological functions.

    Andreas Wagner

    Cumulative building of complexity for engineers is taking existing parts, adding new parts, modifying old parts to make a new system. This is cumulative buildup of complexity of interdependent parts.

    Natural selection doesn’t do this, or at best it has no reason to do this.

    An engineer cares that his device works, mindless nature could care less if an organism lives or dies or fails. Hence mindless nature does not build up complexity with a goal in mind because mindless nature has no mind and no goals.

    One may assert, the appearance of design is just an illusion, a happy accident in the landscape of possible organisms. But like 500 fair coins heads, something about the assembly of molecules in life seems deeply inconsistent with expectation of mindless processes.

    Selection at best will select for simplicity not complexity because more complexity implies more opportunity for extinction (hence birds are going extinct faster than microbes). Biology, more so than 500 fair coins heads or a house of cards, seems to be constructed in a manner far from expectation from random processes or natural selection.

    Dawkins is correct to say selection isn’t random (it isn’t completely random but random with a bias), but that does not imply selection will create complex designs, to say so is to make a non-sequitur. One may even grant for the sake of argument common descent, but the appearance of design remains.

    To the extent evolutionary theory fails to explain designs in biology will be the extent ID and creation will be viewed by many (if only privately) as the better description of biological reality.

  9. 9

    lifepsy

    I don’t think you removed any equivocation. You did manage to write a long post without addressing any arguments, though. (except for the strawman you inserted at the end about searching for rare targets)

    It’s not a “straw man” lifepsy – it’s the basis for the supposed “needle in a haystack” that we hear so much about at UD.

    OK, I’m off back to TSZ for a bit. Anyone who wants to continue any conversation is welcome to join me there.

  10. 10
    lifepsy says:

    So Elizabeth, since you’re interested in avoiding equivocation… genetically/phenotypically speaking, what do you mean by “rare target” (or “needle in a haystack”), and also “foot of a distant hill” in your discussion of fitness landscape variants.

  11. 11

    Well, what I mean by “rare target” is what Dembski et al mean in relation to CSI and relatives: a “Target” pattern or functional protein that is only one of a very small subset of specified patterns out of a very large range of unspecified patterns. The idea is that if the proportion is small enough (the Target “rare” enough) it cannot be found by evolution. I assume that’s what KF means by “needle in a haystack” but you’d have to ask him.

    What I meant by my analogy, is that if you imagine that a variant organism that tends to reproduce a little better than its peers is represented as being a little higher on a “landscape” of “fitness”, where an increase in height means an increase in fitness, that “fitness landscape” will tend to consist of “peaks”, and “valleys” and “plains”. The “plains” are where the possible variants from where the organisms are now are no fitter, just different.

    However, because of random drift (because some variants will just get lucky, and become more common anyway) we can envisage that as the population spreading out across the plain, and, just by chance, some will get nearer to a “hill” – will happen to have a combination of neutral sequences that, with one more step, will make a positively advantageous sequence.

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    EL, re:

    I think one problem here, Sal, is that you are still thinking of evolution as a search for rare targets, rather than the progress of populations over a [high-dimensioned] fitness landscape in which most variants are perfectly viable, and thus result in “diffusion” across “plains” and thereby sometimes to the foot of distant hills.

    Until you have function, you cannot have anything to successively improve upon. Complex, multipart systems dependent on correct arrangements and couplings, at or beyond 500 bits of descriptive complexity, will fruitlessly exhaust the blind search resources of the solar system JUST TO FIND SHORELINES OF FUNCTION. That’s because the many constraints to get specific, complex, interactive function, will sharply constrain acceptable arrangements. Tornadoes hitting junk yards, predictably [2nd law of thermodynamics rests on this same basic reasoning . . . ], do not assemble Galvanometer based instruments from scattered parts, much less things whose complexity dwarfs that of a 747.

    In short, by speaking of in effect hill climbing within islands of function, you are again begging the question of body plan origin by starting WITHIN such islands of function.

    What you are discussing is a theory of micro-changes within a body plan, backed up on the whole by examples of loss of function that in stressed environments may give advantages, with a needed theory of the far more difficult job of getting to body plans sitting on islands in vast config spaces dominated by non-function.

    And yes, this issue is easiest seen at the root of the tree of life, where the only appeals possible are to blind chem and physics, per canons of thermodynamics and associated statistics. (Which you have not impressed me for your ability to address cogently and consistently without reversions to gross errors.)

    The same basic challenge relates to moving from an original genome that could reasonable be 100 k – 1mn+ bases, to body plans dozens of times over that look like 10 – 100+ mn bases each.

    Until you have a satisfactory, empirically verified account of blind chance and necessity bridging to islands of biofunction on such scopes, you are falling into a strawman trap. Namely, grossly extrapolating an account that at best makes sense within a body plan, to the vastly different challenge of getting to such.

    And, this has been pointed out over and over, so at this stage, the distortion has to be viewed as to a significant degree deliberate.

    Please stop it.

    KF

  13. 13
    Mung says:

    I can write a program which, if you allow it to start on an island of function, can function quite well.

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