Darwinian Debating Devices

Darwinian Debating Device #3: Moving Goalposts

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One of the Darwinists’ favorite tricks is known as “moving the goalpost.” The essence of this trick is deflecting away from having been defeated in a debate by pretending the debate was about something else. Thus, if the ID proponent meets a Darwinist’s challenge with respect to issue X, the Darwinist will pretend the issue was something else and say “Ah hah, you utterly failed to address issue Y,” thereby deflecting from the fact that the Darwinist has just lost with respect to issue X.

In the following example, a Darwinist insisted that “survival of the fittest” was not central to Darwinian theory. The ID proponent cited a prominent Darwinist (Stephen Jay Gould) for the proposition that “survival of the fittest” is indeed central to Darwinian theory. Instead of admitting his error, the Darwinist moved the goalpost by pretending that the issue the ID proponent was addressing with the Gould quotation was whether that phrase is a tautology:

Darwinist:

Well, it’s staggering to me that anyone could spend years arguing about evolution and end up thinking “Survival of the fittest” was a central idea in “Darwinism”, rather than a slightly silly slogan.

ID Proponent:

So, dear readers, we have [Darwinist] denying that “survival of the fittest” is a central idea in Darwinism. Interesting, because Stephen Jay Gould, one of the leading proponents of evolutionary theory in the last 50 years says this:

Natural selection is the central concept of Darwinian theory – the fittest survive and spread their favored traits through populations. Natural selection is defined by Spencer’s phrase, “survival of the fittest” . . .”

Whom shall we believe about whether “survival of the fittest” is a central concept in Darwinian theory? And here’s another interesting question. Why would Darwinist think he could get away with such an egregious falsehood?

At this point the Darwinist is well and truly stuck. He got caught in a falsehood. Of course, the honorable thing to do would be to admit his error and apologize. Does he do the honorable thing? Of course not. Being a Darwinist means never having to say you are sorry. The story continues:

Darwinist:

[ID proponent], I’ll credit you that this little trip to the quote mine was sloppy, rather than a deliberate misrepresentation.

In case it’s not now abundantly clear: if “fittest” means “those that survive” then “survival of the fittest” is not the core idea in Darwinism. For that phrase to adequately describe evolutionary biology “fittest” must mean something else. Most importantly, the theory of natural selection let’s us do science, test ideas svc develop new models (and has been very successful at that ).

Really, the only interfering question that remains is how [ID proponent] can be so ignorant of evolutionary biology, but so sure he is right.

Notice how the Darwinist moved the goalpost. The specific issue under discussion was whether the phrase “survival of the fittest” is a central tenant of Darwinian theory. Darwinist says it is not, that it is just a “silly slogan.” ID proponent crushes that assertion by quoting one of the most prominent Darwinists in the last 75 years saying that the phrase is another way of saying “natural selection,” and that natural selection is a “central concept of Darwinian theory.”

Game over. ID proponent has won the debate.

Goal post moving: Instead of admitting his error, Darwinist retorts that a tautological conception of “survival of the fittest” is not the core idea of Darwinism and implies that a non-tautological scientifically testable conception of the phrase is indeed part of the theory.

Set aside whether the phrase “survival of the fittest” is tautological. That is a discussion we are happy to have, but it was not the issue being debated at this moment. The issue under debate [issue “X”] was Darwinist’s assertion that the phrase “survival of the fittest” is “a slightly silly slogan” instead of a central idea in Darwinian theory. When Darwinist’s falsehood is exposed, instead of admitting his error, he changes the subject and pretends the issue [issue “Y”] was whether a tautological conception of natural selection is part of the theory. The Darwinist adds insult to his deceit by calling the ID proponent “ignorant of evolutionary biology.”

Note that it makes no difference whether this sub-discussion over issue X occurred in the context of a larger discussion about whether natural selection is tautological (issue Y). The specific issue under debate was issue X, whether the phrase “survival of the fittest” was part of Darwinian theory.

Darwinist’s behavior in this example is, of course, equal parts shameful, deceitful and pathetic. Sadly, similar antics from Darwinists are seen all too often in these pages.

92 Replies to “Darwinian Debating Device #3: Moving Goalposts

  1. 1
    wd400 says:

    Lol, dry digging up.

    This all started because you claimed that fitness was a vacuous concept, and surivial of the fittest is a tautology.

    If you accept fitness simply means those that survive, then sure, that phrase is a tautology. But if you accept that, then that phrase doe not describe Darwinism.

    When people who know the first thing abotu evolutionary use the phrase, they are not using “fittest” in the sense you claimed, as article you quoted would make clear if you’d provided the context.

    I don’t think this distinction is difficult to understand, so I’m left wondering why you are making such a hash of it.

  2. 2
    Tim says:

    wd400,

    I am feeling rather charitable today, so here is some free advice: be aware that one of Barry’s favorite types of post is the one where the post itself is a trap. You are already snared by your first post. Please stop.

    It is also for my sake. I simply don’t have time to watch youtube knuckleheads falling off skateboards AND the evidentiary thread you are about to provide; I’ve got work to do . . .

    (Sorry Barry)

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    wd400:

    This all started because you claimed that fitness was a vacuous concept, and surivial of the fittest is a tautology.

    No, wd400, this all started when flatly and without qualification you stated:

    1. “Survival of the fittest” is a “rather silly slogan” that is not part of Darwinian theory.

    You did not say:

    2. A tautological conception of “survival of the fittest” is a “rather silly slogan” that is not part of Darwinian theory.

    That you now pretend to have said “2” when you plainly said “1” is pathetic. You really are shameless. That’s OK though. Pointing out shameless Darwinian antics is what the “Darwinist Debating Devices” series is all about. Thank you for your cooperation.

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    Tim @ 2. Alas, your advice came too late for poor wd400. I literally would have bet $1,000 that he was going to push back along the lines of his comment 1 [including his sardonic and dismissive tone]. I was ready for it. I am conflicted though. Dealing with such as wd400 is like shooting fish in a barrel, kinda boring. On the other hand, exposing and categorizing their shameless and deceitful tactics is a public service.

  5. 5
    stenosemella says:

    Ahhh, the old moving the goalposts tactic. If anyone can identify it, it should be Barry. After all, he excelled at the tactic in his epic two character strings serial posting.

    I am amused by all of this discussion over a phrase that wasn’t even coined by Darwin. I really don’t understand Barry’s logic. The ID community accepts that natural selection exists, they just disagree that it can change one kind into another. So, if it is a real process, how can it be circular?

    But if you want a circular argument how about this one: This animal/organ/molecule looks designed, therefore, it must have been designed.

  6. 6
    mahuna says:

    Just to be clear, “descent with modification” is also NOT Darwinism anymore, right? I get confused. Would Darwin himself recognize Darwinism?

  7. 7
    Barry Arrington says:

    Steno @5:

    I take it you agree that wd400 attempted to move the goalposts. Thanks.

    I really ought to start on “Darwinian Debating Device #6: Tu quoque” of which you have just provided an excellent example. Thank you.

    BTW, do you agree with Jeffery Shallit that “[Hamlet] is more random than [gibberish]”?

  8. 8
    Tim says:

    Ok,stenosemella, it’s your turn. Please stop! I have work to do! It’s like creeping by a fender-bender on I-25! I can’t not look. Aarrgh.

  9. 9
    wd400 says:

    I see that you would rather play semantic games than address any science, then?

    Perhaps I should have explictedly “fittest as we are discussin the term in this thread”, though that seemed sort of superfluous.

    Now that we have that cleared up, I’ll stand by my statements.

    If we take “fittest” to simply mean those that survive, then “surivival of the fittest” is not the core of idea in Darwinism. It would be staggering to think someone could spend as long as you have arguing about evolution and come away with this idea.

    Finally, I’ll reiterate the most important point. Fitness, far from being an empty concept, has allowed us to do science. If others want to spend their time in pointless philoshophical debates about precisely what it mean by selection they are welcome to, in the mean time, scientists will continue to measure slection in the wild, build models that predicts its outcomes and detect historic slection in genes, genomes and populations.

  10. 10
    wd400 says:

    Tim,

    I know Barry’s MO well enough. I think most people can see through it easily enough.

  11. 11
    stenosemella says:

    I take it you agree that wd400 attempted to move the goalposts. Thanks.

    What goalposts were these? Just because you do not understand what fitness means from a biological perspective, and WD400 does, and tries to explain it to you, doesn’t mean that he was moving any goalposts. If anything, he was simply performing a public service, maybe even a charitable service.

    BTW, do you agree with Jeffery Shallit that “[Hamlet] is more random than [gibberish]”?

    Barrie, since Jeffrey Shallit never said this, how do you expect me to respond? That would be like me asking someone if they agreed with Barry Arrington that slavery should be reinstated.

  12. 12
    ppolish says:

    Fitness (with a capital F) allowed us to do Science? Oh well, WD, that settles it then,

    But is it still allowing us to do Science? Maybe sadly outdated. Maybe silly now.

  13. 13
    Joe says:

    Evolutioinsts will continue to measure natural selection in the wild and sooner or later they will realize that it has no chance at producing the changes required by universal common descent. That is when they will start to catch up with the rest of the world.

  14. 14
    News says:

    Re Stenosemella at 5: This is not an attempt to argue with a cluster of Darwin’s trolls, but for the record, Herbert Spencer coined the term “survival of the fittest” and Darwin accepted it as descriptive of his theory: “is more accurate, and is sometimes equally convenient.”

    http://www.age-of-the-sage.org.....ation.html

    Go on, cavil about that, will you? The world waits, or doesn’t. Even Nature has signalled that it is moving on.

  15. 15
    stenosemella says:

    News, yes, I am well aware of who coined the term.

    But fitness from the biological perspective does not mean the fastest, strongest, best eyesight, whatever. It is almost never applied at an individual trait level, except metaphorically (eg, a gene for ???). It can only be looked at from an entire phenotype point of view. Because it is an individual that has offspring, not a trait, it is possible for a trait that, by all measures, is less advantageous than others in the population to become fixed in a population; simply because it occurs in a phenotype that, as a whole, is more adaptive.

  16. 16
    Barry Arrington says:

    Dear readers, please observe wd400’s comment @ 9. Even in admitting his error (in a back door sort of way), he scoffs, deflects and attempts to discredit the one who pointed out his error. After all of these years of debating Darwinists I don’t know why I continue to be astonished by the depths of bad faith to which they are willing (nay, for all appearances, eager) to descend. But I am. It is all very sad.

  17. 17
    StephenB says:

    stenosemella

    But fitness from the biological perspective does not mean the fastest, strongest, best eyesight, whatever.

    Good grief, he did it again.

  18. 18
    wd400 says:

    Sorry Barry, are you going to address the substantive bit of the argument or are you going to play a silly point-scoring by taking quotes (mine and Gould’sout of context)?

  19. 19
    Barry Arrington says:

    WD, this may come as a surprise to you, but I really am grieving over your behavior. I wish I could make it stop, but obviously I can’t.

  20. 20
    stenosemella says:

    “WD, this may come as a surprise to you, but I really am grieving over your behavior. I wish I could make it stop, but obviously I can’t.”

    You could always ban him. It’s not unheard of.

  21. 21
    wd400 says:

    As you have such difficulty engaging with the substance, I’ll make take a moment to be as clear as possible about this.

    You have claimed that there the central idea in Darwinism is a tautology (i.e. that “survival of the fittest” is tautological, and using those definitions of the words, this idea is central to Darwinism), and that the concept of fitness as used in evolutionary biology is “vacuous”.

    I don’t think either of these are true. The central idea in Darwinism is not that “survivors survivors”, and indeed, examples like the Gould quote (in their proper context) make this clear. Moreover, the concent of fitness and the theory of natural selection are helpful, in that they enable us to do science.

    To take just one example. Using the concept of fitness, we have good population-gentetic models of what happens when a newly-arising allele is selected for (has high fitness), and also what happens when the fitness of an existing alleles suddenly get’s higher (i.e. the environment changes such that a previously neutral variant become advantageous).

    We can use these models, not just to detect selection in genomes (one of the most crucial ways in which we can understand genomic sequences), but also to differentiate so called “hard sweeps” were new genetic variants were favoured as soon as they were born, and “soft sweeps” or “adaptation from standing variation” when some individuals were effectly “pre-adapted” to some environmental change.

    When we see, for instance, regions of low-genomic diversity surrounding alleles for lactose-tolerance in diarying culutres selection has occured.

    These models allows us to detect selection, detect types of selection and even predict how different popualtions will react to future changes of environment.

    How do think evolutionary biology has been able to make so much out of this concept if it’s simply a vacuous tautology?

  22. 22
    Heartlander says:

    As News pointed out @ 14:

    “I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man’s power of selection. But the expression often used by Mr. Herbert Spencer of the Survival of the Fittest is more accurate, and is sometimes equally convenient.”
    C. Darwin

    In the fifth edition of Origin’s, Chapter IV was titled “Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest”.

  23. 23
    Barry Arrington says:

    wd400 just stop it. Really. Please. It is embarrassing.

  24. 24
    wd400 says:

    I take it from this that you simply refuse to engage with the real argument?

  25. 25
    Barry Arrington says:

    And I take you are utterly without shame.

  26. 26
    Heartlander says:

    Hmmm… this reminds me of something – oh yes, The Black Knight .

  27. 27
    stenosemella says:

    Heartlander: “In the fifth edition of Origin’s, Chapter IV was titled “Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest”.”

    Since there were only six editions in Darwin’s lifetime, this must have been top if his mind

  28. 28
    News says:

    Stenosemella at 15 and Barry Arrington at 16, sorry if I sounded a little uncharitable.

    Great issues are in play, and it makes no sense, really, to cavil about historically long established facts such as that Darwin gladly accepted Herbert Spencer’s coinage as convenient for describing his theory. Which obviates any issue created by his not having coined it himself.

    What I wish to draw attention to is that these facts are easily ascertained and have never been in doubt. Cavilling about them serves only to confuse onlookers.

    So why confuse onlookers?

    Such behaviour should cause people who are still wondering to question Darwin’s defenders’ claims.

  29. 29
    stenosemella says:

    Barry: “And I take you are utterly without shame.”

    Nice mature response. From this response I assume that you refuse to respond to WD400’s request. You could simply state this rather that resort to an insult.

  30. 30
    wd400 says:

    Barry,

    I see nothing in this thread about which I should be ashamed.

    If you want to withdraw from the discussion that’s fine, but I hope, once you get out of the sulk you seem have got yourself into on this topic, you’ll take some time to see how science actually uses the concetps of fitness and selection, and how they are not in fact “vacuous” or “tautological”.

  31. 31
    Barry Arrington says:

    wd400: “I see nothing in this thread about which I should be ashamed.”

    Of course you don’t, and that is the problem.

  32. 32
    Quest says:

    Barry,

    You are being very naive… Why do you expect wd400 or most Darwinists to feel shame or embarrassed…? They would have to have conscience first… But their indoctrination doesn’t allow that because it is a sign of weakness and as you mention it already, for them it is the survival of the fittest and not of the weakest…

  33. 33
    Barry Arrington says:

    Quest:

    Barry, you are being very naive . . .

    Perhaps Quest. I prefer to believe that I have allowed hope to triumph over experience.

  34. 34
    Mung says:

    The truly skillful Darwinist leaves the goalposts where they are and moves the entire playing field!

  35. 35
    Heartlander says:

    ‘Fitness and selection’ in nature is not ‘vacuous’?

    vac·u·ous / ?vaky?w?s/
    • adj. having or showing a lack of thought or intelligence; mindless

    Is evolution mindless?

    [Darwin’s] alternative to intelligent design was design by the completely mindless process of natural selection, according to which organisms possessing variations that enhance survival or reproduction replace those less suitably endowed, which therefore survive or reproduce in lesser degree. This process cannot have a goal, any more than erosion has the goal of forming canyons, for the future cannot cause material events in the present. Thus the concepts of goals or purposes have no place in biology (or any other of the natural sciences), except in studies of human behavior.
    Evolution, by Douglas J. Futuyma (p. 282)

    BTW, to state a society that can drink milk – will be a society that can drink milk, is – tautology…

  36. 36
    wallstreeter43 says:

    I am truly ashamed to say that I was a Darwinist for the first 41 years of my life, but thankfully ,after being exposed to thinkers like Stephen Meyer who caused me to have an honest second look at Darwinian evolution , I could no longer hold to it as intellectually tenable.

  37. 37
    Heartlander says:

    ‘Fitness and selection’ in nature is not ‘vacuous’?

    vac·u·ous / ?vaky?w?s/
    • adj. having or showing a lack of thought or intelligence; mindless

    Is evolution mindless?

    [Darwin’s] alternative to intelligent design was design by the completely mindless process of natural selection, according to which organisms possessing variations that enhance survival or reproduction replace those less suitably endowed, which therefore survive or reproduce in lesser degree. This process cannot have a goal, any more than erosion has the goal of forming canyons, for the future cannot cause material events in the present. Thus the concepts of goals or purposes have no place in biology (or any other of the natural sciences), except in studies of human behavior.
    Evolution, by Douglas J. Futuyma (p. 282)

    BTW, to state a society that can drink milk – will be a society that can drink milk, is – tautology…

  38. 38
    bornagain77 says:

    as to wd400’s comment here,,,

    how science actually uses the concetps of fitness and selection,,,

    And to reiterate once again, (and as many times as need be so as to expose wd400), Darwinism, or any materialistic theory of origins that has randomness as a base postulate, is not a rigid science in any proper sense but is/are more realistically thought of as a pseudo-science(s)

    The main reason why Darwinian evolution is more properly thought of as a pseudo-science instead of a proper science is because Darwinian evolution has no rigid mathematical basis, like other overarching physical theories of science do. A rigid mathematical basis in order to potentially falsify it,,,

    “On the other hand, I disagree that Darwin’s theory is as `solid as any explanation in science.; Disagree? I regard the claim as preposterous. Quantum electrodynamics is accurate to thirteen or so decimal places; so, too, general relativity. A leaf trembling in the wrong way would suffice to shatter either theory. What can Darwinian theory offer in comparison?”
    – Berlinski, D., “A Scientific Scandal?: David Berlinski & Critics,” Commentary, July 8, 2003
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....the-day-8/

    Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Wolfgang Pauli on the Empirical Problems with Neo-Darwinism – Casey Luskin – February 27, 2012
    Excerpt: While they (Darwinian Biologists) pretend to stay in this way completely ‘scientific’ and ‘rational,’ they become actually very irrational, particularly because they use the word ‘chance’, not any longer combined with estimations of a mathematically defined probability, in its application to very rare single events more or less synonymous with the old word ‘miracle.’” Wolfgang Pauli (pp. 27-28) –
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....56771.html

    “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.”
    Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.

    WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT? Evolution is True – Roger Highfield – January 2014
    Excerpt:,,, Whatever the case, those universal truths—’laws’—that physicists and chemists all rely upon appear relatively absent from biology.
    Little seems to have changed from a decade ago when the late and great John Maynard Smith wrote a chapter on evolutionary game theory for a book on the most powerful equations of science: his contribution did not include a single equation.
    http://www.edge.org/response-detail/25468

    In fact, in so far as math can be applied to Darwinian claims, mathematics constantly shows us that Darwinian evolution is astronomically unlikely),,

    Active Information in Metabiology – Winston Ewert, William A. Dembski, Robert J. Marks II – 2013
    Except page 9: Chaitin states [3], “For many years I have thought that it is a mathematical scandal that we do not have proof that Darwinian evolution works.” In fact, mathematics has consistently demonstrated that undirected Darwinian evolution does not work.
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2013.4

    HISTORY OF EVOLUTIONARY THEORY – WISTAR DESTROYS EVOLUTION
    Excerpt: A number of mathematicians, familiar with the biological problems, spoke at that 1966 Wistar Institute,, For example, Murray Eden showed that it would be impossible for even a single ordered pair of genes to be produced by DNA mutations in the bacteria, E. coli,—with 5 billion years in which to produce it! His estimate was based on 5 trillion tons of the bacteria covering the planet to a depth of nearly an inch during that 5 billion years. He then explained that,, E. coli contain(s) over a trillion (10^12) bits of data. That is the number 10 followed by 12 zeros. *Eden then showed the mathematical impossibility of protein forming by chance.
    http://www.pathlights.com/ce_e.....hist12.htm

    Darwin’s Doubt – Chapter 12 – Complex Adaptations and the Neo-Darwinian Math – Dr. Paul Giem – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....38;index=7

    See also Mendel’s Accountant and Haldane’s Ratchet: John Sanford

    As to empirical evidence, the only thing that I have ever seen evidence for virtually unlimited plasticity in is not in any living organism, as is postulated in Darwinism, but is in the theory of evolution itself as it forever morphs into new shapes to try to ‘explain away’ whatever contrary evidence comes along,,

    “Being an evolutionist means there is no bad news. If new species appear abruptly in the fossil record, that just means evolution operates in spurts. If species then persist for eons with little modification, that just means evolution takes long breaks. If clever mechanisms are discovered in biology, that just means evolution is smarter than we imagined. If strikingly similar designs are found in distant species, that just means evolution repeats itself. If significant differences are found in allied species, that just means evolution sometimes introduces new designs rapidly. If no likely mechanism can be found for the large-scale change evolution requires, that just means evolution is mysterious. If adaptation responds to environmental signals, that just means evolution has more foresight than was thought. If major predictions of evolution are found to be false, that just means evolution is more complex than we thought.”
    ~ Cornelius Hunter

  39. 39
    Mung says:

    There was no “quote-mine.”

    Response here

  40. 40
    wd400 says:

    Hearlander,

    BTW, to state a society that can drink milk – will be a society that can drink milk, is – tautology…

    Yes. Thankfully I didn’t say this.

    You’d have to ask Barry what he meant by vacuous in the earlier posts, but I very much doubt he meant “mindless” in the sense that evolution is mindless.

  41. 41
    Heartlander says:

    Is evolution mindless? – because “far from being an empty concept, [it] has allowed us to do science”.

  42. 42
    Querius says:

    My theory as to why logic doesn’t seem to gain traction in an argument with many (not all) Darwinists is that they seem to believe that their opinion constitutes irrefutable proof, needing no other support. Similarly, their simple denial of any logical conclusion or observed evidence constitutes definitive refutation.

    This is traditionally followed by the ritual immolation of the opponent by ad hominem, and then the victory speech.

    But there’s another problem, Barry. You’re using the wrong sports metaphor, football. They don’t get football.

    Instead, they see themselves as a graceful torero, a matador in a bullfight. What you see as their moving the goalposts or questioning a definition is simply a deft sweep of their cape as they sidestep the charging bull. It’s a work of art not of logic.

    Then, what you see as a troll, is actually to them a banderillero, the performer who plants the barbed sticks in the bull’s shoulder.

    Sometimes though, one of the bull’s horns manages to snag the carefully woven philosophical fabric of the torero’s traje de luces, their appropriately named “suit of lights.” The slight tear and drop of blood is immediately obscured by the other toreros who rush in and distract the bull with non sequiturs and irrelevant side issues.

    However, what actually is happening in the ring is in grotesque contrast to their imaginations. While it’s too graphic to describe medically, the bull works in three acts: the wounding of the torero, the insertion of the emasculating horn, and the final trampling and goring.

    Regardless of the actual outcome, the torero always claims victory in a demonstration of undaunted bravado!

    -Q

  43. 43
    wd400 says:

    Is this a serious question Heartlander?

    The concept of “force” is as mindless as that of “fitness”, but not many people would say “force” was an empty concept that didn’t help scientists do science.

  44. 44
    Barry Arrington says:

    Q @ 42. Masterful. You have gift for metaphor.

  45. 45
    Quest says:

    Barry,

    It is admirable what you are trying to do… Thank you for that…. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I don’t have your patience… 🙁

    Since some boys down on sandwalk.blog.ca “accuse” me of being YOU, I thought I would give you a word of advice…
    I also thought that it was a complement to me that some people thought you were hiding under my nickname… It tells me that when logically thinking people argue some issues, logical arguments just come out naturally with out any kind of script…I think…

  46. 46
    Heartlander says:

    Yes it is a serious question – Is evolution mindless / vacuous? “Let’s not waste time in pointless philoshophical debates about precisely what it means by selection” or say “fitness”.

  47. 47
    Mung says:

    Entirely too many threads now attempting to cover the same topic. =p

    that said,

    Natural selection is merely the replacement of the less able by the more able. Able at what? At survival and reproduction.

    – Douglas Futuyma

  48. 48
    Mung says:

    Tautological fitness is when fitness is defined as survival, thereby making natural selection a tautology. Tautological fitness is measurable, in a sense, since survival can be measured. Theorists are often using tautological fitness when they say fitness is measurable.

    In summary, when natural selection is a tautology, it is not science because it is neither explanatory not testable. Nonetheless, it can mislead us in three ways:

    1) It masquerades as an explanation when it is not.

    2) It is ‘always true’ (by definition) and thereby captures our confidence.

    3) Tautological fitness is observable and measurable, therefore it seems like empirical science.

    – Walter James ReMine

  49. 49
    Mung says:

    A way out of the tautology objection is with a special definition. A special definition is when a theory (or keyword) is specially defined for each case.

    Special definitions are made by redefining fitness for each given case, resulting in a special definition of fitness.

    …A theory cannot be tested when redefined for every case.

    – Walter James ReMine

    I’m guessing this is what wd400 has in mind in his defense of the scientific utility of the fitness concept.

  50. 50
    Querius says:

    As he steps into the arena, the crowd roars thunderously. He is dressed in a tight-fitting black outfit intricately embroidered with bright gold thread that twinkles under the burning sun.

    He is Darwin’s matador.

    The powerful bull charges into one end of the arena, but Darwin’s matador is unconcerned. He is prepared. He is ready. He is focused.

    As the bull comes near, Darwin’s matador catches the bull’s attention with a bright red cape and shakes it, taunting the bull:

    DM: “Survival of the fittest is not central to Darwinian theory.”

    The bull charges. The Darwin’s matador knows he has several moves depending on what the bull does next.

    B: Darwin wrote about the survival of the fittest. It was central to him! See here, I have a quote . . .

    DM: We’re talking modern science here, past even neo-darwinism.

    Crowd: Ole’!

    B: If an organism doesn’t survive it doesn’t reproduce.

    DM: Exactly. We are talking about reproduction, not survival.

    Crowd: Ole’

    B: “Fittest” is a tautology.

    DM: Exactly. Fittest can change as the environment changes.

    Crowd: Ole’

    DM: Makes deprecatory comments—skillfully placing two barbed banderillas in the bull’s shoulders.

    Crowd: Ole’

    B: But how do any new genes fare?

    DM: They become part of the extensive gene pool of the organism, where it’s included in the genetic drift.

    Crowd: Ole’

    B: But how do brand new genes, not to mention body plans, originate?

    DW: Well we don’t know all the details yet, but it musta happened because we’re here!

    B: Because “we’re here” is not exclusive.

    Darwin’s matador feels an exploding pain as one of the bull’s horns sinks deeply into the matador’s delicate groin, and the bull violently lofts him into the air . . . repeatedly, and then trampling and goring him.

    As he is carried off from the arena, Darwin’s matador shouts repeatedly that “we won,” “we won!”

    -Q

  51. 51
    DavidD says:

    Mung

    “The truly skillful Darwinist leaves the goalposts where they are and moves the entire playing field!”

    I always figured that is what the invention of multi-universes was about. Keep the goal post where it is, but play the game from a parallel universe where you control the rules

  52. 52
    Andre says:

    In a discussion with a militant atheist this week, I posed the simple question.

    Do chemicals reactions concern themselves with truth or do they obey the laws of nature?”

    His answer; “Of course chemicals concern themselves with truth, the more complex the reactions become the more they can search for truth, we are testimony of that.”

    WTH??????

  53. 53
    Jon Garvey says:

    The idea of the survival of the fittest is of course a tautology and it could be in caricature imagined in this way: A discussion in A.D. 1400: Why are swans white? I don’t know, but the Creator in His wisdom certainly knew why He made them white.

    The same discussion after 1859: Why are swans white? Swans are white because this color came out on top in the selection process. Why this happened, I don’t know, but because the swan has this color, it must have had some selective value (from the above the unstoppable progress of science is apparent, as well as the quick end to various forms of obscurantism).

    Stanislav Komárek, “Mimicry, Aposematism, and related Phenomena”

  54. 54
    wd400 says:

    I’m guessing this is what wd400 has in mind in his defense of the scientific utility of the fitness concept.

    No Mung. What I mean is what I have said repeatedly.

    Fitness is a measurable property of genotypes and phenotypes. There is no tautology in saying “the fitness of a genotype is that expected contribution of that genotype to the next generation”.

    What’s more, that concept of fitness has been immensely powerful in science, proving it’s far from an empty concept.

    On the other hand, if we take the phrase “survival of the fittest” and drop in the biological meaning of “fitness”, it does amount (more or less) to a tautology. When someone (who knows anything about evolution) claims “survival of the fittest” is core to evolutionary biology, they obviously aren’t using above definition of fitness, and instead meaning something like “best suited to their environment”. That’s precisely the argument Gould and other quote-mined authors were making.

    So we are left, all these threads and all this noise later, with no serious argument about the way fitness is used in bioloy, and a whole bunch of quibbling, toy-throwing and fantasy.

    On the off chance some one wants to move on from this, I’ll repeat the most important point:

    Fitness is defined as the reproductive sucesss of a genotype or phenotype. In many cases, it’s only possible to measure the fitness of a genotype of phenotype but actually letting evolution happen and keeping track of the relative sucess of genotypes and phenotypes.

    I see no reason why this should be construed as a problem for evolutionary biology. Indeed, the linked concepts of fitness and natural selection are at the core of what is a very profitable scientific paradigm, that has created findings that are of importance to medicine, genomics, conservation, ecology and the wider field of evolutionary biology.

    If anyone has a serious objection to this claim, I’d like to hear it.

  55. 55
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Mung #48

    – Walter James ReMine

    From that and other quotes he seems like a very insightful author.

  56. 56
    lifepsy says:

    In my observation, one of the evolutionist’s favorite things to do is pretend they corrected you on something by behaving in an extreme nit-picky and often self-contradictory fashion.

    It’s like how sometimes you’ll even be criticized for using the term “natural selection” because of its anthropomorphizing quality… even though the phrase is obviously replete throughout evolutionary literature.

    Just more silly games evolutionists play to fill the void created by their lack of real arguments and evidence. What else are they going to fill up paragraphs with?

  57. 57
    Mung says:

    wd400:

    Fitness is a measurable property of genotypes and phenotypes. There is no tautology in saying “the fitness of a genotype is that expected contribution of that genotype to the next generation”.

    Can you please explain how it is possible to measure the expected contribution of a genotype to the next (future) generation?

  58. 58
    Mung says:

    wd400:

    Fitness is defined as the reproductive sucesss of a genotype or phenotype.

    The actual reproductive excess or the expected reproductive success?

    You’ve just presented two very different definitions of fitness. One is predictive and the the other is after the fact.

  59. 59
    Querius says:

    wd400,

    Generations of students have been taught about “the survival of the fittest.” Any students who were skeptical were beaten down—after all, this was scientific orthodoxy, the consensus, settled science. Fact.

    As you’ve noted—and I agree—there are issues with this articulation of the principle of the interaction of a genome with a variable environment. As I understand it, incremental changes in the genome typically provide only about a 3% advantage. Personally, I think it makes more sense to say that significantly disadvantaged organisms must either adapt, migrate, or die.

    Some adaptive advantage (or removal of a disadvantage) is required for the frequency of a new allele to increase. Even then, genetic changes are be more likely to disappear than to persist when in the minority.

    The other mechanism is how new alleles are introduced, whether by radiometric destruction, transcription errors, transduction, or some other mechanism.

    My point is that both of these mechanisms must be present for Darwinistic evolution to occur. There might even be a third mechanism that somehow applies or utilizes new genetic information.

    This is why I’m skeptical of your claim that “survival of the fittest” or some more accurate representation of that mechanism is not one of the irreducible features of Darwinism . . . unless you had something else in mind.

    Care to explain?

    -Q

  60. 60
    wd400 says:

    Mung,

    You go out an measure it, over several generations.

    Q,

    What? I really no idea what you are on about. I have described what the actual concept of fitness about is above, if you have a problem with that I guess let me know.

  61. 61
    Querius says:

    wd400,

    Sorry, this was way over your head.

    You might want to look up fitness in Wikipedia:

    Fitness (often denoted w in population genetics models) is a central idea in evolutionary theory. It can be defined either with respect to a genotype or to a phenotype in a given environment. In either case, it describes the ability to both survive and reproduce, and is equal to the average contribution to the gene pool of the next generation that is made by an average individual of the specified genotype or phenotype. The term “Darwinian fitness” is often used to make clear the distinction with physical fitness.

    You might also want to consider the effect of genome variability on the survival of a species.

    -Q

  62. 62
    wd400 says:

    That definition is very nearly the same as the one give above. The rest is, again, completely opaque.

    If you want to address my comment 54, please have a go.

  63. 63
    Querius says:

    wd400,

    That definition is very nearly the same as the one give above.

    The simplest parts are. Did you purposely miss the part of the quote where Wikipedia states that fitness is “is a central idea in evolutionary theory”? If you think they’re wrong, maybe you should try to convince them.

    The rest is, again, completely opaque.

    I don’t know how to put it any simpler. As I said, maybe reading the Wikipedia article would help.

    If you want to address my comment 54, please have a go.

    The definitions you provided are so simplistic, they’re hardly saying anything at all that’s not circular. I suppose I’d object to the implication that phenotype is directly heritable, although epigenetics might have a hand in it. I’d also venture that the fitness model should not be taken out of the context of the fitness of the ecosystem as a whole, but I suppose you’d find that opaque as well.

    So, I guess not.

    -Q

  64. 64
    wd400 says:

    I have said many times fitness is central to evolution biology, so we agree there.

    As for the rest, it’s not simplicity but clarity that you lack. It’s not clear to me that you are saying anything at all, or that any of your sentences connect to each other.

  65. 65
    bornagain77 says:

    The Fairyland of Evolutionary Modeling – May 7, 2013
    Excerpt: Salazar-Ciudad and Marín-Riera have shown that not only are suboptimal dead ends an evolutionary possibility, but they are also exceedingly likely to occur in real, developmentally complex structures when fitness is determined by the exact form of the phenotype.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....71901.html

  66. 66
    bornagain77 says:

    “I have said many times fitness is central to evolution biology”
    – wd400

    and yet,,,

    Study demonstrates evolutionary ‘fitness’ not the most important determinant of success – February 7, 2014 – with illustration
    Excerpt: An illustration of the possible mutations available to an RNA molecule. The blue lines represent mutations that will not change its function (phenotype), the grey are mutations to an alternative phenotype with slightly higher fitness and the red are the ‘fittest’ mutations. As there are so few possible mutations resulting in the fittest phenotype in red, the odds of this mutation are a mere 0.15%. The odds for the slightly fitter mutation in grey are 6.7% and so this is far more likely to fix, and thus to be found and survive, even though it is much less fit than the red phenotype.,,,
    By modelling populations over long timescales, the study showed that the ‘fitness’ of their traits was not the most important determinant of success. Instead, the most genetically available mutations dominated the changes in traits. The researchers found that the ‘fittest’ simply did not have time to be found, or to fix in the population over evolutionary timescales.
    http://phys.org/news/2014-02-e.....ccess.html

  67. 67
    Mung says:

    wd400:

    Fitness is a measurable property of genotypes and phenotypes. There is no tautology in saying “the fitness of a genotype is that expected contribution of that genotype to the next generation”.

    Mung:

    Can you please explain how it is possible to measure the expected contribution of a genotype to the next (future) generation?

    wd400:

    You go out an measure it, over several generations.

    I’ll take that as a no.

    There is no tautology in saying “the fitness of a genotype is that expected contribution of that genotype to the next generation”.

    Nonsense statements are not likely to be a tautology. Cold comfort though.

  68. 68
    Querius says:

    Uh oh. Seems like the bull has inserted his horn into the unfortunate Darwin matador and lofted him high into the air! The next act is the trampling and goring part as the matador struggles to get away . . .

    Nice one, bornagain77. 😉

    -Q

  69. 69
    Querius says:

    Mung,

    Nonsense statements are not likely to be a tautology. Cold comfort though.

    Looks like the goring has begun. 😉

    -Q

  70. 70
  71. 71
    bornagain77 says:

    “I have said many times fitness is central to evolution biology”
    – wd400

    read slowly if it helps

    Study demonstrates evolutionary ‘fitness’ not the most important determinant of success – February 7, 2014 – with illustration
    The researchers found that the ‘fittest’ simply did not have time to be found, or to fix in the population over evolutionary timescales.
    http://phys.org/news/2014-02-e.....ccess.html

    Yet despite the fact that the ‘fittest’ mutations never fix in a population, embryonic development and metabolic pathways are as ‘fit’ as can possibly be,,,

    Seeing the Natural World With a Physicist’s Lens – November 2010
    Excerpt: Scientists have identified and mathematically anatomized an array of cases where optimization has left its fastidious mark, among them;,, the precision response in a fruit fly embryo to contouring molecules that help distinguish tail from head;,,, In each instance, biophysicists have calculated, the system couldn’t get faster, more sensitive or more efficient without first relocating to an alternate universe with alternate physical constants.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11.....038;st=cse

    Optimal Design of Metabolism – Dr. Fazale Rana – July 2012
    Excerpt: A new study further highlights the optimality of the cell’s metabolic systems. Using the multi-dimension optimization theory, researchers evaluated the performance of the metabolic systems of several different bacteria. The data generated by monitoring the flux (movement) of compounds through metabolic pathways (like the movement of cars along the roadways) allowed researchers to assess the behavior of cellular metabolism. They determined that metabolism functions optimally for a system that seeks to accomplish multiple objectives. It looks as if the cell’s metabolism is optimized to operate under a single set of conditions. At the same time, it can perform optimally with relatively small adjustments to the metabolic operations when the cell experiences a change in condition.
    http://www.reasons.org/article.....metabolism

    This is not a minor discrepancy wd400!

  72. 72
    Querius says:

    Translation: That didn’t hurt. I’m not bleeding. 😉

    Since when is the “expected value” based on a normal distribution identical to the “expected contribution of a genotype” under changing environmental stresses, which is more likely in a loose sense to be skewed or perhaps leptokurtic?

    -Q

  73. 73
    wd400 says:

    BA, again, the paper (and not just the headline) says some globally fittest triats don’t get fixed because other fitter-than-wild-type mutations enter the population and fix first. Why would that be an exception to the idea that fitness is important in evolution.

    Querius. I’m beginning to think you are an idiot. Expected values apply to any probability distribution that can be summed or integrated, not just the normal.

  74. 74
    bornagain77 says:

    of supplemental note to ‘optimal’ metabolic pathways:

    Here is, what a Darwinist termed, a ‘horrendously complex’ metabolic pathway,,,

    ExPASy – Biochemical Pathways – interactive schematic
    http://web.expasy.org/cgi-bin/.....mbnails.pl

    And remember, Darwinian evolution has yet to demonstrate how a single gene/protein of those ‘horrendously complex’ metabolic pathways arose.

    “Charles Darwin said (paraphrase), ‘If anyone could find anything that could not be had through a number of slight, successive, modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.’ Well that condition has been met time and time again. Basically every gene, every protein fold. There is nothing of significance that we can show that can be had in a gradualist way. It’s a mirage. None of it happens that way.
    – Doug Axe PhD. – Nothing In Molecular Biology Is Gradual – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5347797/

    Moreover, dimensionally speaking, Natural Selection is now known to not even be on the right playing field in the first place in order to explain the ‘optimal’ fitness of metabolic pathways (or anything else):

    “Although living things occupy a three-dimensional space, their internal physiology and anatomy operate as if they were four-dimensional. Quarter-power scaling laws are perhaps as universal and as uniquely biological as the biochemical pathways of metabolism, the structure and function of the genetic code and the process of natural selection.,,, The conclusion here is inescapable, that the driving force for these invariant scaling laws cannot have been natural selection.”
    Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, What Darwin Got Wrong (London: Profile Books, 2010), p. 78-79

    The predominance of quarter-power (4-D) scaling in biology
    Excerpt: Many fundamental characteristics of organisms scale
    with body size as power laws of the form:

    Y = Yo M^b,

    where Y is some characteristic such as metabolic rate, stride length or life span, Yo is a normalization constant, M is body mass and b is the allometric scaling exponent.
    A longstanding puzzle in biology is why the exponent b is usually some simple multiple of 1/4 (4-Dimensional scaling) rather than a multiple of 1/3, as would be expected from Euclidean (3-Dimensional) scaling.
    http://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/~dre.....18_257.pdf

  75. 75
    bornagain77 says:

    wd400, in order to explain a level of optimal fitness that “couldn’t get faster, more sensitive or more efficient without first relocating to an alternate universe with alternate physical constants”, you would need the fittest mutations’ possible to fix and the less than optimal mutations to be weeded out, yet

    “The researchers found that the ‘fittest’ (mutations) simply did not have time to be found, or to fix in the population over evolutionary timescales”

    Moreover,,,

    The Fairyland of Evolutionary Modeling – May 7, 2013
    Excerpt: Salazar-Ciudad and Marín-Riera have shown that not only are suboptimal dead ends an evolutionary possibility, but they are also exceedingly likely to occur in real, developmentally complex structures when fitness is determined by the exact form of the phenotype.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....71901.html

    Your refusal to accept this evidence is just further evidence to how unreasonable Darwinists are!

  76. 76
    bornagain77 says:

    Here is a newer ‘horrendously complex’ metabolic pathway map:

    ExPASy – Biochemical Pathways – interactive schematic
    http://biochemical-pathways.com/#/map/1

  77. 77
    Querius says:

    wd400,

    The comparison is of a normal expected curve to a one “under changing environmental stresses.” The second curve is in flux.

    -Q

  78. 78
    bornagain77 says:

    “I have said many times fitness is central to evolution biology”
    – wd400

    and yet,,,

    Testing Evolution in the Lab With Biologic Institute’s Ann Gauger – podcast with link to peer-reviewed paper
    Excerpt: Dr. Gauger experimentally tested two-step adaptive paths that should have been within easy reach for bacterial populations. Listen in and learn what Dr. Gauger was surprised to find as she discusses the implications of these experiments for Darwinian evolution. Dr. Gauger’s paper, “Reductive Evolution Can Prevent Populations from Taking Simple Adaptive Paths to High Fitness,”.
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....4_13-07_00

    Is Antibiotic Resistance evidence for evolution? – ‘The Fitness Test’ – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYaU4moNEBU

    Thank Goodness the NCSE Is Wrong: Fitness Costs Are Important to Evolutionary Microbiology
    Excerpt: it (an antibiotic resistant bacterium) reproduces slower than it did before it was changed. This effect is widely recognized, and is called the fitness cost of antibiotic resistance. It is the existence of these costs and other examples of the limits of evolution that call into question the neo-Darwinian story of macroevolution.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....s_wro.html

    Testing the Biological Fitness of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria – 2008
    Excerpt: Therefore, in order to simulate competition in the wild, bacteria must be grown on minimal media. Minimal media mimics better what bacteria experience in a natural environment over a period of time. This is the place where fitness can be accurately assessed. Given a rich media, they grow about the same.
    http://www.answersingenesis.or.....-drugstore

    (Ancient) Cave bacteria resistant to antibiotics – April 2012
    Excerpt: Antibiotic-resistant bacteria cut off from the outside world for more than four million years have been found in a deep cave. The discovery is surprising because drug resistance is widely believed to be the result of too much treatment.,,, “Our study shows that antibiotic resistance is hard-wired into bacteria. It could be billions of years old, but we have only been trying to understand it for the last 70 years,” said Dr Gerry Wright, from McMaster University in Canada, who has analysed the microbes.
    http://www.scotsman.com/news/h.....1-2229183#

    The Diseaseome Could Take Medicine Beyond the Genome By Cynthia Graber on Thu, 09 Oct 2014
    Excerpt: Today, antibiotic resistance is thought to emerge because, scientists have believed, there are a few bacteria in a given community that are naturally resistant to a drug, and they thrive after the drug kills off the bacteria’s brethren. But instead, as Collins’ research has demonstrated, antibiotics themselves induce mutations, leading to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
    With this new understanding, Collins and his lab set out to combat antibiotic resistance. Collins’ lab introduced an extra protein to antibiotics that flips on DNA repair activity within the cells. Repairing the DNA prevents the mutations that create antibiotic-resistance in the first place. In studies, this process boosted the efficacy of a drug such as Cipro from ten times to a thousand fold. Collins has since founded a company, EnBiotix, to attempt to commercialize this approach and improve the efficacy of existing antibiotics. He expects that the newly improved antibiotics—based on a network approach—could be tested in clinical trials within the next couple of years.
    “Biology is complicated,” Collins says. The idea that scientists and drug companies can target all the physical expressions of a disease by going after just one gene is mostly wishful thinking, he notes
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/n.....-medicine/

    “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain – Michael Behe – December 2010
    Excerpt: In its most recent issue The Quarterly Review of Biology has published a review by myself of laboratory evolution experiments of microbes going back four decades.,,, The gist of the paper is that so far the overwhelming number of adaptive (that is, helpful) mutations seen in laboratory evolution experiments are either loss or modification of function. Of course we had already known that the great majority of mutations that have a visible effect on an organism are deleterious. Now, surprisingly, it seems that even the great majority of helpful mutations degrade the genome to a greater or lesser extent.,,, I dub it “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain.
    http://behe.uncommondescent.co.....evolution/

  79. 79
    Mung says:

    wd400,

    I am not objecting to the use of “expected.” I am objecting to the claim that what is expected in the future can be measured in the present.

    If that’s something you feel like explaining, please do.

    From your link:

    To empirically estimate the expected value of a random variable, one repeatedly measures observations of the variable and computes the arithmetic mean of the results.

    In the context of “natural selection” or “fitness” in biology, my expectation is that these measurements would be taken after the fact.

    Since the measurements takes place first, and then “fitness” is assigned, I fail to see how this helps your case at all.

  80. 80
    Mung says:

    p.s. Thinking of fitness as a random variable just gives me the warm fuzzies.

  81. 81
    wd400 says:

    I am not objecting to the use of “expected.” I am objecting to the claim that what is expected in the future can be measured in the present.

    Well, want to bet on who will win the Harlem Globetrotters their next game? I mean, they might have one their last several hundred, but that’s not guide to what will happen in the future, right?

  82. 82
    Mung says:

    wd400 asserts that the Harlem Globetrotters have a 100% fitness based on the measurement of their past wins and that we can infer from this that they will win their next game, and that this is a prime example of the scientific use of fitness (and non-tautological).

    I’m not buying it. The Harlem Globetrotters win because they are the Harlem Globetrotters. Fitness got nothing to do with it. The game is fixed.

    Many basketball teams start out unbeaten in a season. No reasonable person thinks this means they will continue to be unbeaten.

    Further, if fitness means some average of wins and losses in basketball, then that just is the definition of “fitness.” The teams who win more are more fit, by definition.

    And now we are back to the original objection, which wd400 has done nothing to deflect, but has merely reinforced.

    Perhaps wd400 could give us an example of non tautological fitness as measured in a natural population.

  83. 83
    Mung says:

    Mung:

    Many basketball teams start out unbeaten in a season. No reasonable person thinks this means they will continue to be unbeaten.

    In fact, the expectation is that no basketball team will continue to be unbeaten, indefinitely.

    So the appeal to the Harlem Globetrotters hardly seems scientific, at all.

    More like cherry picking.

  84. 84
    franklin says:

    I am not objecting to the use of “expected.” I am objecting to the claim that what is expected in the future can be measured in the present.

    seems pretty far fetched doesn’t it, mung. So far fetched one wonders why some couples would even bother having genetic testing done, e.g., tay sachs, Yup, no way the methodology could work on predicting what would be expected in the future based on testing in the present.

  85. 85
    Mung says:

    franklin,

    How do you propose to measure something that does not exist? Do all non-existent things share the same units of measurement?

    Say you like to roll them bones.

    How do you measure what appeared on the dice before they were tossed?

    Is a seven “more fit” than the other possibilities? How so?

  86. 86
    Mung says:

    In summary, special definitions are non-tautologous, explanatory, testable, and true for a narrow special case. Yet they have two drawbacks:

    1) They are false for the general case

    2) They do not unify our understanding of nature in the manner claimed of natural selection.

    – Walter James ReMine

  87. 87
    wd400 says:

    Mung, you appear to have completely lost the plot. If you find a way to back, please try and address the things I have actually said.

  88. 88
    Querius says:

    Good points, Mung.

    Plus the environmental changes that drive evolutionary change at relevant time scales are not at all like the fixed Harlem Globetrotters’ basketball games as wd400 suggests, or the probability of Tay-Sachs disease. They’re like the stock market where “Past Performance is Not Necessarily Indicative of Future Results.” It’s a typical chaotic system that cannot be measured with static linear extrapolation from the present based on “expected value.”

    And this is why genomic variability, the results of which would be statistically invisible in the short run, are vital in the long.

    -Q

  89. 89
    Mung says:

    wd400:

    Mung, you appear to have completely lost the plot. If you find a way to back, please try and address the things I have actually said.

    You claimed fitness could be measured. How does one measure fitness before the fact?

    You also claimed that fitness was an “expected value” and that it can be understood as a “random variable.”

    Youv’e also provided example which have nothing to do with biology, as far as I can tell.

    Mung:

    Perhaps wd400 could give us an example of non tautological fitness as measured in a natural population.

    Can you, or do you just choose not to?

    I am trying to understand your argument, and I obviously don’t find the Harlem Globetrotters a coherent example, so I’m asking for something that better illustrates your claims.

    Do you have a reference to a publicly available published scientific paper on the fitness of the Harlem Globetrotters?

  90. 90
    wd400 says:

    You claimed fitness could be measured. How does one measure fitness before the fact?

    Before what fact? Fitness is the expected contribution of a genotype to the next generation. Remembering that “expected” just means average over a long-run, that’s pretty easy to measure. What’s your problem?

    You also claimed that fitness was an “expected value” and that it can be understood as a “random variable.”

    Yes. Both in the statistical sense. Do you have a problem with this?

    Youv’e also provided example which have nothing to do with biology, as far as I can tell.

    You objected to the claim “that what is expected in the future can be measured in the present.” I provided an example that proved this was not the case (it was a silly example, to match the claim). The claim that I was defining the fitness of the globetrotters, that I thought the globetrotters were guaranteed to win or that they could never lose are all from your own mind.

    Perhaps wd400 could give us an example of non tautological fitness as measured in a natural population.

    Can you, or do you just choose not to?

    I don’t know what you mean by non-tautological fitness. What I have said is that fitness is not a vacuous idea, and there is no tautology at the heart of evolution biology. I’ve provided several examples of that across theses posts. Here’s one more, and open acess paper that I happened to read recently which measures fitness of hatchery-rared and wold-born salmon:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....rt=classic

  91. 91
    Joe says:

    wd400:

    Fitness is the expected contribution of a genotype to the next generation. Remembering that “expected” just means average over a long-run, that’s pretty easy to measure.

    It’s only “expected” because it was observed over X number of generations. It’s an after-the-fact assessment.

  92. 92
    bornagain77 says:

    “Fitness is the expected contribution of a genotype to the next generation”

    Expected by whom? “increasing fitness” over long time scales is certainly not to be expected from the empirical evidence.

    “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain – Michael Behe – December 2010
    Excerpt: In its most recent issue The Quarterly Review of Biology has published a review by myself of laboratory evolution experiments of microbes going back four decades.,,, The gist of the paper is that so far the overwhelming number of adaptive (that is, helpful) mutations seen in laboratory evolution experiments are either loss or modification of function. Of course we had already known that the great majority of mutations that have a visible effect on an organism are deleterious. Now, surprisingly, it seems that even the great majority of helpful mutations degrade the genome to a greater or lesser extent.,,, I dub it “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain.
    http://behe.uncommondescent.co.....evolution/

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