Evolution Evolutionary biology

Biologist Dan Graur Doubles Down

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Down Graur, a critic of the ENCODE project, has doubled down on his statement that the genome is mostly non-functional. Graur has gone further to state that not only does he think that most of the genome is non-functional, he thinks that he has proven it to be a mathematical certainty.

You can see the slides for Graur’s presentation here.

I haven’t had time to put together a response, but I thought I would list out some things that are already out there that might be helpful to you and others thinking about Graur’s position:

Anyway, I wanted to let everyone know about Dan’s talk and some of the directions the ID community has taken with regards to his ideas. Hopefully I’ll get Sal’s other AM-Nat Biology talks up later which deal with some of this stuff as well.

32 Replies to “Biologist Dan Graur Doubles Down

  1. 1

    Let me lead off here by asking readers if they’ve seen and read (at least part of) the 81 part series “The Designed Body” over at the Discovery Institute – it’s at https://evolutionnews.org/tag/the-designed-body/

    This series lifts us above the usual microbiological arguments for/against Behe’s Irreducible Complexity (IC) examples such as flagellum, to a level that should convince objective readers and those who claim to go wherever the evidence leads, that much in life is indeed Irreducibly Complex and implies an Intelligent Designer. I would phrase Glicksman’s descriptions as “Massively Complex Synchronicity.”

    Deniers of IC and ID should be hard pressed to maintain the Darwinian view after confronting Glicksman’s Series — that is, if they are willing to give it a look see.

    What say you rvb8 and others? Willing to take a look through the glasses to see things in ways never before seen?

    http://enchroma.com/

  2. 2
    ppolish says:

    Dark Matter & Dark Energy make up 95% of the universe. Ordinary materialistic matter makes up 5%.

    Is most of the universe non-functional? Course not. It is fine tuned functional necessity. I doubt physics dude & dudettes would be silly enough to call anything non functional.

  3. 3
    PaV says:

    Please ignore the prior post–I’ve asked for it to be deleted.

    Graur’s numbers show that 4 to 76% of mutations are ‘deleterious’. The average is 40%. One of his assumptions is that the “[p]robability of mutation is uniform throughout the genome.”

    If you link these two ideas, then at least 40% of the genome is “functional” using the definition he gives for “function,” that is, “[a] genomic segment is considered functional if at least one out of all the possible mutations in it is deleterious.”

    But, that is counting on a nucleotide-by-nucleotide basis. If the average “segment” length is three nucleotides–a codon–then, on average, the entire genome would have “function” using the 40% figure: that is, the genome is now 1/3 its normal size, or 33%, while on average 40% of the original size was subject to deleterious mutations.

    None of this makes much sense.

  4. 4
    J-Mac says:

    PaV,

    I’ve always wondered what Grour based his genetic load argument on… @sandwalk all I got was that if human genome were fully functional we all would have 750000000 children but the link to Graur’s explanation doesn’t work…

    Seems the genetic load is assumed on ‘evolution is true’ first argument and then any evidence that fits the paradigm…

  5. 5
    rvb8 says:

    DonJohnsonDD682,

    “What say you rvb8 and others?”

    I followed your link to your compatriot site at EvoNews and found Howard Glicksman to be nothing if not prolific.

    There was article after article, all espousing various examples of IC, all the old reliables and many more; the man is a workaholic.

    I scrolled to the end of about 10 or 15 articles chosen randomly, back to 2015.

    Every single article was published under the EvoNews masthead, and I found zero referrancing, zero footnotes, and zero academic rigour.

    What I found was opinion, plastered with a large amount of face slapping incredulity.

    There was no science to speak of, no substantiating scientific opinion.

    In short a site, where none can respond or rebutt, allowed an unknown opinion moulder, an unread, preaching pulpit.

    Don,

    better referrancing, and some supporting peer reviewed literature to begin with would be nice. A little less direction to sites that you know will be sympathetic to your ideas, would also increase the acceptance of an idea that died in Dover.

  6. 6
    Mung says:

    Even if rvb8 can’t see it there is certainly some merit in Graur’s work. Somewhere.

  7. 7

    rvb8 … thank you for your response, and also I thank you for your restraint, here and elsewhere, in avoiding insulting name calling … it’s appreciated.

    I’ll skip down past your prelims to the substance of your criticisms and insert my responses [thus 1,2, …]:

    Every single article was published under the EvoNews masthead[1], and I found zero referrancing[2], zero footnotes[3], and zero academic rigor[4].

    What I found was opinion, plastered with a large amount of face slapping incredulity.[5]

    There was no science to speak of, no substantiating scientific opinion[6].

    In short a site, where none can respond or rebutt, allowed an unknown opinion moulder, an unread, preaching pulpit[7].

    My responses …

    [1. EvoNews masthead. This is not surprising nor something that should be considered unusual or damaging to the series. Most likely both the Dr. and EvoNews presented these articles in a series in order to emphasize the point that, taken together, the functions and bodily devices described are necessary for the proper and optimal functioning of a human body. ]

    [2. referencing. The Dr. is describing known functionality and devices of the body, not arguing to make his case that these functions and devices exist and work as described vs. some other way. Nor is he making a case for how these functions and devices came about in the first place. In short, referencing would add little or nothing to the descriptive narrative, but might be useful to direct the reader to further literature – it seems a style issue rather than a substantive issue.

    [3. footnotes. Again, the Dr. is describing things. Footnotes might add to these descriptions, but the lack thereof does not detract from telling the reader about things and how those things work.]

    [4. rigor. Take a look at his article “A Sense of Balance: Understanding the Vestibular Apparatus” at https://evolutionnews.org/2016/08/a_sense_of_bala/ and tell how it is lacking in academic rigor — let alone “zero academic rigor.” Having had problems both with hearing and with balance (Meniere’s disease) I can see that the descriptions presented might be useful to medical students learning about such ailments.

    [5. opinion and incredulity. Here you skip over Glicksman’s descriptive narratives on how things work and attack his conclusion (yes opinion, but informed opinion) that such devices and functionality point towards design. Your own opinion when faced with the same evidence contained within the inner ear, is that somehow all of this came about through undirected random mutations and natural selection – but you can’t describe how! I’ll let the reader decide where to point the accusation of incredulity.]

    [6. no science. Again, the Dr. is describing how things work. And yes, I do find science in his descriptions of how the ‘design’ of the semicircular canals, the utricle, and the saccule provide to the human body a sense of where it is in 3-space. For years I worked with human designed systems which contained ‘strap-down inertial reference systems’. These systems are very much like the inner ear devices in their mechanical design, and provide a sense of three-dimensional ‘attitude’ in the form of acceleration sensing across the three x/y/z axis in which they are moving. So I have to conclude that your conclusions of a lack of science is well off the mark.

    [7. an unread, preaching pulpit. A criticism of the Discovery Institute I presume, and your opinion. You are correct in that DI is not an interactive site, but that’s their choice, and there are plenty of places, including this one, where rebuttals can and do take place. Take Jerry Coyne’s site (please) for instance. He allows comments, but takes pride in censoring out those he disagrees with.

    [8. peer review. I’m not sure that peer review would add anything here. As I’ve stated, much of what Dr. Glicksman presents are descriptions of things, what those things do and how such things function. Going back to the inner ear, it is well known and accepted how the mechanisms of the inner ear contribute to hearing and balance, and thus to the well being of the total human body and experience.

    [9. an idea that died in Dover. Did it really die there? Did Galileo’s ideas die when he was sentenced to house arrest?

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    DJ (attn RVB8),

    I observed an Editor’s Note:

    Editor’s note: Physicians have a special place among the thinkers who have elaborated the argument for intelligent design. Perhaps that’s because, more than evolutionary biologists, they are familiar with the challenges of maintaining a functioning complex system, the human body. With that in mind, Evolution News is delighted to offer this series, “The Designed Body.” For the complete series, see here. Dr. Glicksman practices palliative medicine for a hospice organization.

    The context is obviously not that of putting up fresh research on generally unknown matters, tying to the existing corpus of research then showing an addition. Instead we here have a popular level written summary of widely known facts about the functional human body that are elaborated in medical textbooks, studied by medical students and forming a general knowledge base for physicians.

    If you will, a large array of facts to be accounted for on discussing human origins. Here, focussed on the peculiarities of an upright-standing biped needing to act with balanced control. (To get an idea, notice that as soon as one faints or has a sufficient disturbance, one usually falls. Our upright stance is inherently unstable, an inverted pendulum control problem . . . one of the core challenges of — you guessed it — rocket science. Try the exercise of balancing an inverted broom on a finger-tip to get a clue or two.)

    The Doctor then highlights the organs of balance, outlining enough to document the irreducible complexity of the function and its dependence on functional coherence effected through sound system architecture.

    The challenge is then quite obvious: how do we get there, from any reasonable start point in incremental, hill climbing steps . . . and how do we get started. And, remember, steps must improve incrementally, matching the new level of performance as environment shifts, all well within the 6 – 10 mn y window and on credible populations [~ 20,000?] and generation times with reproduction rates.

    Where, to be genuinely scientific, the chance variation and differential reproductive success, descent with incremental modification needs to have significant empirical, observational support. Not, locking out and dismissing on Judge Copycat Jones’ utterly flawed ruling driven by watching a deceitful movie on the Scopes Monkey Trial and submissions by ruthless activist groups.

    The evidence and reasoning are: _____________________

    By contrast, we have here FSCO/I, and we know on considerable (and costly) experience that inverted pendulum balance problems can be solved through careful design. On a broader base, on trillions of observed cases the only analytically plausible, empirically warranted cause of FSCO/I is design.

    So, we are warranted to infer on FSCO/I as sign, design as credible cause in this case.

    KF

  9. 9

    KF — A welcomed addition, thanks.

  10. 10

    Next take a look at Dr. Glicksman’s description of vision. And note he talks not just of the eye ball itself, but the muscles, bone, nerves and brain as well.

    With this description read and in mind, now put on those glasses I keep harping on and visualize how understanding of the design of the vision cascade led to the development of these wonderful and life enhancing tools.

    http://enchroma.com/

    In like manner, a world view (philosophy) can change dramatically when we look at evidence through a different philosophical lens. That’s what I am asking readers here — try the glasses.

  11. 11
    Seversky says:

    DonJohnsonDD682 @ 1

    Deniers of IC and ID should be hard pressed to maintain the Darwinian view after confronting Glicksman’s Series — that is, if they are willing to give it a look see.

    What say you rvb8 and others? Willing to take a look through the glasses to see things in ways never before seen?

    Like rvb8, I took a look at a few of Glickman’s articles. They are informative tours of various aspects of the human but, as support for ID, all they amount to are one extended argument from incredulity.

    The problem with the concept of irreducible complexity is that it gets us nowhere. Behe’s initial claim was that there was no conceivable way certain biological structures could have evolved to that state that we observe. When other scientists demonstrated that there were at least conceivable ways that might have happened he had to revise his argument.

    But let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that Behe is right and evolution cannot account for these structures, what is the alternative? Let’s suppose also that we find evidence that life on Earth is an artefact, the handiwork of some unknown alien intelligence. That would undoubtedly be one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time. But it still wouldn’t answer the ultimate question of origins – who designed the designer – or how this designer accomplished its designs.

    Intelligent Design doesn’t offer an alternative to the theory of evolution on the question of origins, it simply posits a ‘who’ and ignores the question of ‘how’ which is what it demands of science and which science is actually trying to answer.

  12. 12
    Seversky says:

    kairosfocus @ 8

    DJ (attn RVB8),

    I observed an Editor’s Note:

    Editor’s note: Physicians have a special place among the thinkers who have elaborated the argument for intelligent design. Perhaps that’s because, more than evolutionary biologists, they are familiar with the challenges of maintaining a functioning complex system, the human body. With that in mind, Evolution News is delighted to offer this series, “The Designed Body.” For the complete series, see here. Dr. Glicksman practices palliative medicine for a hospice organization.

    As a practitioner of palliative medicine, Dr Glickman will also be familiar with the many ways the immensely complex human body can go wrong, some of them tragically beyond the power of current medicine to repair. How does he square that with the concept of a highly-advanced intelligent designer or even a God?

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, really. Any complex mechanical entity by virtue of its composition is capable of going wrong. How hard is that to figure out? or, are you trying to sneak in by the backdoor the long since dead argument from evils/ KF

    PS: Argument from incredulity is a strawman caricature. You have irreducible complexity and functionally specific complex organisation with associated information. These are readily observed and have just one observed and analytically plausible cause. Design. What is in fact happening is that in your determination to find hyperskeptical dismissal, you have tried to project rhetorical fault to the other party. You have been around UD for years on end so there is no question but that you know full well the marked difference between an inference to empirically grounded best explanation and an appeal to unwarranted skepticism, but for rhetorical advantage chose to set up a strawman target, which is to your discredit. Let us therefore turn the challenge around, kindly show us just one actually observed case where blind chance and/or mechanical necessity produced FSCO/I beyond 500 – 1,000 bits of complexity: _________ . On trillions of cases in point, I am assured you cannot do so. Your own objecting comment is yet another case in point on top of the trillions in hand on the known cause of FSCO/I, design. Ironically self-referential, isn’t that.

  14. 14

    From RationalWiki:

    “The argument from incredulity is a logical fallacy that occurs when someone decides that something did not happen, because they cannot personally understand how it could happen.”

    I think this points directly back to you Seversky. But in all fairness, this definition could be assigned to all (including me) who happened to have a contrary view than another on a particular issue.
    So “The argument from incredulity” seems entirely pointless and useless except as a condiment to enrich an argument — horseradish is better since it helps clear the nose. Common sense, observation, experience and humility can do the same for the mind and soul.

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    DJ, it is usually a case of covering selective hyperskepticism by projecting. In fact, we need a consistent, reasonable standard of warrant. In this case there is just one empirically demonstrated, analytically plausible cause for FSCO/I. That’s why I have put up the counter-challenge, show us a counter-case. Until such is forthcoming we are in good company to say with Newton (and even Lyell and Darwin) that in addressing traces of processes we cannot directly observe in action at close hand, we will infer to causes shown to produce the like effects rather than to those that have not been shown to have that power (and indeed have serious analytical challenges). We have every good and positive reason to infer that FSCO/I is an empirically reliable sign of design as cause, never mind that such is unfashionable. KF

  16. 16

    KF — understood and thanks.

  17. 17
    tjguy says:

    Well, at least he is clear about what he believes. I’m glad he is stating it in such clear terms. It should be testable, which is rare for evolutionary beliefs.

    Clearly, so far, the TREND is NOT his FRIEND!

    We may never be able to fully prove him wrong in our lifetime, but the ID prediction is that the TREND towards function will continue!

  18. 18
    PaV says:

    Let me point out here that what Graur is doing is what Kimura did in 1968: and that is to do a genetic load/mutational load calculation to demonstrate that for NS to operate so as to maintain homozygosity at all the various loci within the genome would result in the population being completely killed off.

    This is all Graur has succeded in demonstrating.

    Kimura did this to argue for his Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution. IOW, he abandoned NS. He did so because experiments found a very high level of heterozygosity at many locations. This meant that these ‘loci’ had not been ‘purified’: i.e., they weren’t ‘homozygous.’ When that happens, then NS has finished it’s work. But the high level of heterozygosity (both ‘forms’ of the ‘allele’ were still present) meant that NS had to be working overtime. So, Kimura abandoned the idea of “purifying selection” in favor of “neutral” evolution, or, what’s commonly termed “neutral drift” these days.

    To argue that the mutational load of maintaining heterozygosity at high levels amount to arguing for a lot of “junk DNA” arising over large amounts of time/generations. Larry Moran makes this argument.

    Graur makes the same argument.

    ID says, “No, that’s not how an intelligently arranged mechanism operates.

    Who will be proven right? ENCODE suggests that it will be ID.

    The argument then comes down to: “What do you mean by ‘function’?”

    That’s why Graur makes a distinction between “causal function” and “selected effect function.”

    He then twists ENCODE’s definition of a “functional element” by focusing almost exclusively on “reproduction”.

    Frankly, there’s just not enough information here to follow Graur’s logic. But I simply do not understand why Graur would disagree with ENCODE’s defintion that a “functional element” is a discrete genome segment that…displays a reproducible biochemical signature (for example, protein binding).

  19. 19
    J-Mac says:

    PaV @19.

    Great points!

    There is more to it!

    Both Moran and Graur base their junk DNA theory on Gregory’s onion test that to Darwinists is like a holy grail…But Gregory is concerned himself about his and others assumptions based on evolution first and then the evidence…Therefore “ENCODE is a thorn in their flesh” because their claim that 80 % of human genome could be functional means that their current evolutionary thinking is dead-wrong and the onion test crafted by Gregory and worshiped by Darwinists is the biggest fiasco that Darwinists have ever made up since Darwin…
    So… we can expect them to defend this paradigm to death or as long as the new ENCODE papers begin to chip away their their holy grail piece by piece by assigning function to so called junk DNA…

    “Genetic load

    It has long been appreciated that there is a limit to the number of deleterious mutations that an organism can sustain per generation [61], [62]. The presence of these mutations is usually not harmful, because diploid organisms generally require only one functional copy of any given gene. However, if the rate at which these mutations are generated is higher than the rate at which natural selection can weed them out, then the collective genomes of the organisms in the species will suffer a meltdown as the total number of deleterious alleles increases with each generation [63]. This rate is approximately one deleterious mutation per generation. In this context it becomes clear that the overall mutation rate would place an upper limit to the amount of functional DNA. Currently, the rate of mutation in humans is estimated to be anywhere from 70–150 mutations per generation [64], [65]. By this line of reasoning, we would estimate that, at most, only 1% of the nucleotides in the genome are essential for viability in a strict sequence-specific way. However, more recent computational models have demonstrated that genomes could sustain multiple slightly deleterious mutations per generation [66]. Using statistical methods, it has been estimated that humans sustain 2.1–10 deleterious mutations per generation [66]–[68]. These data would suggest that at most 10% of the human genome exhibits detectable organism-level function and conversely that at least 90% of the genome consists of junk DNA. These figures agree with measurements of genome conservation (?9%, see above) and are incompatible with the view that 80% of the genome is functional in the sense implied by ENCODE. It remains possible that large amounts of noncoding DNA play structural or other roles independent of nucleotide sequence, but it far from obvious how this would be reconciled with “the onion test.”

    http://journals.plos.org/plosg.....en.1004351

  20. 20
    Bob O'H says:

    PaV @ 18 –

    To argue that the mutational load of maintaining heterozygosity at high levels amount to arguing for a lot of “junk DNA” arising over large amounts of time/generations. Larry Moran makes this argument.

    Graur makes the same argument.

    ID says, “No, that’s not how an intelligently arranged mechanism operates.”

    So ID is arguing that ID doesn’t operate? 🙂

    Can you expand on this a bit more please, and perhaps explain how ID says intelligently arranged mechanisms operate.

  21. 21
    Eugene S says:

    Another interesting ID-compatible hypothesis that might address the C-paradox issue (the onion test).

    M. Sherman, Universal Genome in the Origin of Metazoa: Thoughts About Evolution, Cell Cycle, 1 Aug. 2007.

    Abstract:

    https://goo.gl/CizpXQ

    Full text accessible from there. I know UD discussed it at some point, but, anyway, it is worth emphasizing.

    The author, Dr Michael Sherman, is a professional biologist. He is of Russian descent. One of his former university group mates, Fr Dr Alexander Tsygankov, is my live journal friend. Interestingly, Fr Tsygankov is himself a biologist and an Orthodox Christian priest. He lives in America and, as far as I am aware, teaches and does research in biology. As a student he (and probably M. Sherman as well) worked in Oparin’s group. This is just a side remark to illustrate Sherman’s research interests.

    What is really interesting about this article is that it disproves our interlocutors’ main argument that ID does not have any scientific substance. On the contrary, ID is a valid scientific hypothesis. It leads to a new non-trivial research programme. It provides a framework for formulating testable predictions, some of which are not even possible in a Darwinian paradigm.

    ID is science.

  22. 22
    Dionisio says:

    Eugene S

    That’s a very interesting article.
    Thanks.
    Here’s a link to the PDF:
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi.....RydWVAQEAw

  23. 23
    Dionisio says:

    Eugene S,
    Next to the article you referenced they also showed this:

    A meta-analysis of the genomic and transcriptomic composition of complex life
    Gangiang Liu, John Mattick & Ryan J. Taft?
    Journal Cell Cycle ?
    Volume 12, 2013 – Issue 13
    Pages 2061-2072
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi.....src=recsys
    PDF: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi.....J1ZUBAQDA=

  24. 24
    Dionisio says:

    J-Mac @19:
    Since you mentioned professor Moran in your comment, do you know that he failed a very simple biology-related question a couple of years ago here in this website?
    He blamed it on a dishonest question that contained a tricky word. 🙂
    The ‘dishonest’ question was asked by a guy who barely knows how to spell the word “biology” but the distinguished professor did not notice the tricky word “exactly” that was sneakily inserted in the question in a subliminal manner. 🙂
    According to the first chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians, God can use somebody who has no credentials according to this world in order to sweep and mop the floor with the best ideas of people who have academic/scientific credentials.

  25. 25
  26. 26
    Dionisio says:

    Seversky @12:

    As a practitioner of palliative medicine, Dr Glickman will also be familiar with the many ways the immensely complex human body can go wrong, some of them tragically beyond the power of current medicine to repair. How does he square that with the concept of a highly-advanced intelligent designer or even a God?

    Actually, what amazes me is that things haven’t got more messed up. The biological systems are extremely complex and delicate, while also robust. Definitely they bear the stamp of wonderfully designed systems.

    However, right in Genesis, God tells us that we were made in IMAGO DEI to be good, to reason, to have intimate communication with Him, to enjoy His presence, but also with free will to choose not to be good. God gave us plenty of space to maneuver but it was not enough for the rebellious humans under the guidance of a wrong leader they should have never listened to. Unfortunately we chose to do things our way, like in Frank Sinatra’s famous song -BTW, that’s probably one of the most popular hymns among the God-haters. From the beginning of human history God warned us that if we do things against His will, we will die. Well, the rest if history. Here we are. It’s a complete mess. Had we remained in Eden, we wouldn’t have to deal with health issues at all. Too late now.
    However, gracious God has offered the way to get us out of that miserable fate, so that we can get back to where we once belonged. That unique way is Christ the redeemer. We can enjoy His presence forever through saving faith in Christ alone.
    We’ll still suffer physical pains and death in this fleshly existence, but will be spiritually alive forever in the glory of our loving Creator.
    I pray that He will open your spiritual eyes and make you see the true source of wisdom and unending joy.
    Then you’ll be able to join us in singing Hallelujah to the Most High.
    Think about this now. Don’t let this opportunity go away. Perhaps tomorrow could be too late.
    One say every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord.
    But the greatest treasure remain for those who gladly accept Him now.

  27. 27
    Dionisio says:

    Seversky,

    Please, note that there are questions addressed to you @64-68 here:

    https://uncommondescent.com/evolution/john-sanford-darwin-a-figurehead-not-a-scientist/#comment-635316

  28. 28
    johnnyb says:

    This will probably get its own post eventually, but wanted to point out that Graur’s paper is available online:

    An upper limit on the functional fraction of the human genome

  29. 29
    PaV says:

    Bob O’H:

    Can you expand on this a bit more please, and perhaps explain how ID says intelligently arranged mechanisms operate.

    If you are truly interested, from an ID perspective, the genome would be efficiently structured, and needless elements would be eliminated: thus, that which remains should have some kind of function.

    Bottom line: little, to no, “junk DNA.”

    Sorry, just noticed this comment.

  30. 30
    PaV says:

    If you follow some of Graur’s citations, you find that this distinction between “selected effects” (SE) and “causal role” (CR) is originally made by Robert Brandon, and then picked up by Doolittle and Brunet.

    Here’s what we find:

    [From Brunet’s abstract]

    Using examples from functional morphology and evolution, Amundson and Lauder (Biol Philos 9: 443–469, 1994) argued for functional pluralism in biology. More specifically, they argued that both causal role (CR) analyses of function and selected effects (SE) analyses played necessary parts in evolutionary biology, broadly construed, and that neither sort of analysis was reducible to the other. Rather than thinking of these two accounts of function as rivals, they argued that they were instead complimentary.

    The distinction Graur is using between SE and CR comes from the “philosophy” of biology. This distinction DOESN’T come from population genetics, nor from biology as a hard science. Thus, caution is in order in Graur’s distinction.

    Additionally, the abstract notes that both are “necessary” for evolution, and are “complimentary.” What’s going on here? Is this “bait-and-switch”?

    Now, if we strip one more layer away, we find this from Amundsen and Lauder, from whom comes the term “selected effect”:

    Philosophers of evolutionary biology favor the so-called “etiological concept” of function according to which the function of a trait is its evolutionary purpose, defined as the effect for which that trait was favored by natural selection. We term this the selected effect (SE) analysis of function. An alternative account of function was introduced by Robert Cummins in a non-evolutionary and non-purposive context. Cummins’s account has received attention but little support from philosophers of biology. This paper will show that a similar non-purposive concept of function, which we term causal role (CR) function, is crucial to certain research programs in evolutionary biology, and that philosophical criticisms of Cummins’s concept are ineffective in this scientific context. Specifically, we demonstrate that CR functions are a vital and ineliminable part of research in comparative and functional anatomy, and that biological categories used by anatomists are not defined by the application of SE functional analysis. Causal role functions are non-historically defined, but may themselves be used in an historical analysis. Furthermore, we show that a philosophical insistence on the primary of SE functions places practicing biologists in an untenable position, as such functions can rarely be demonstrated (in contrast to CR functions). Biologists who study the form and function of organismal design recognize that it is virtually impossible to identify the past action of selection on any particular structure retrospectively, a requirement for recognizing SE functions.

    CR function . . . CR function . . .etc. [See this section of Brandon’s paper from Google Books. He uses the analogy of the Alps versus Kilaminjaro: uplifted mountion versus a volcanic mountain. One is ‘ahistorical’–the Alps; that is, we can’t trace the history of its development; and a “historical” one–Kilaminjaro; i.e., a volcanic mountain whose ‘history’ can be gleaned. N.B. both are MOUNTAINS: i.e., both have “function”.]

    Obviously, that which is termed CR has, indeed, function.

    If you put all the pieces together, this is what you come up with:

    CR represents true ‘function.’ It is “ahistorical.” SE represents at times “questionable function,” better termed “effects.” But SE can be traced “historically.”

    But if the papers Graur is relying are looked at critically, CR is seen to have function. That is the main point here.

    Yet this means that Graur’s ‘definition’ of ‘function’ is defective, and wrong.—just the opposite of what the authors Graur quotes are arguing.

    Further, Graur’s argument that a high SE requires an ‘untenable’ genetic/mutational ‘load,’ ends up, ironically, translating to this: we should find VERY LITTLE JUNK-dna in the genome!!

    Graur’s numbers prove what he attempts to disprove.

    Indeed, Graur is “doubling-down.” If he goes “down” any farther, no one will be paying any attention to him.

    Heaven help us. Graur has just proved Larry Moran wrong.

  31. 31
    PaV says:

    See this reference. They also take the position that CR has ‘function.’

  32. 32
    PaV says:

    J-Mac:

    Sorry I didn’t look at your earlier arguments. I’m now over at Sandwalk and looking at Moran’s post there. Back here refreshing my memory.

    If, at this late date, I find something worth commenting on, I will. But, it is a bit late.

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