Intelligent Design

Engineering Tradeoffs and the Vacuity of “Fitness”

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Over at The New Atlantis Stephen L. Talbott has a great discussion of the vacuity of the idea of “fitness” as used in Darwinian theory. As we all know, Darwinian theory “predicts” that the “fittest” organisms will survive and leave more offspring. And what makes an organism “fit” under the theory? Why, the fact that it survived and left offspring. There is an obvious circularity here:

This is the long-running and much-debated claim that natural selection, as an explanation of the evolutionary origin of species, is tautological — it cannot be falsified because it attempts no real explanation. It tells us: the kinds of organisms that survive and reproduce are the kinds of organisms that survive and reproduce.

Darwinists counter the tautology charge by attempting to demonstrate that there are independent criteria (so-called “engineering criteria”) that explain reproductive success. For example, if a wolf runs faster, it will be more fit, and therefore the trait that gives the wolf the extra speed (longer legs perhaps) explains its fitness, not merely the fact that it did survive and reproduce.

However, the appeal to engineering criteria in the abstract does not by itself get us very far. As philosopher Ronald Brady reminded us when discussing this dispute in an essay entitled “Dogma and Doubt,” what matters for judging a proposed scientific explanation is not only the specification of non-tautological criteria for testing it, but also our ability to apply the test meaningfully. If we have no practical way to sum up and assess the fitness or adaptive value of the traits of an organism apart from measurements of survival rates (evolutionary success), then on what basis can we use the idea of survival of the fittest (natural selection) to explain evolutionary success — as opposed to using it merely as a blank check for freely inventing explanations of the sort commonly derided as “just-so stories.”

Here is the key sentence:

If we have no practical way to sum up and assess the fitness or adaptive value of the traits of an organism apart from measurements of survival rates . . .

What are you talking about Barry. Isn’t it obvious that a trait like the longer legs that help our wolf run faster will necessarily be beneficial in terms of fitness? Actually, no, it is not obvious. Ask any engineer and he will tell you there are always tradeoffs associated with engineering decisions. You want a faster car? Make it lighter. Is it a “better” car? Well, if by “better” you mean “faster,” of course it is. But if by “better” you mean “safer” maybe not, because a lighter car might not be as structurally sound as a heavier car. The same is true for engineering traits in animals. Talbott quotes two of the most famous Darwinists in history:

George Gaylord Simpson opined that ‘the fallibility of personal judgment as to the adaptive value of particular characters, most especially when these occur in animals quite unlike any now living, is notorious.” And in 1975, the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote that no biologist ‘can judge reliably which ‘characters’ are useful, neutral, or harmful in a given species.’

Talbott continues:

One evident reason for this pessimism is that we cannot isolate traits — or the mutations producing them — as if they were independent causal elements. Organism-environment relations present us with so much complexity, so many possible parameters to track, that, apart from obviously disabling cases, there is no way to pronounce on the significance of a mutation for an organism, let alone for a population or for the future of the species.

None other than the famous Richard Lewontin (he of the “divine foot in the door” quotation) has illustrated the point:

A zebra having longer leg bones that enable it to run faster than other zebras will leave more offspring only if escape from predators is really the problem to be solved, if a slightly greater speed will really decrease the chance of being taken and if longer leg bones do not interfere with some other limiting physiological process. Lions may prey chiefly on old or injured zebras likely in any case to die soon, and it is not even clear that it is speed that limits the ability of lions to catch zebras. Greater speed may cost the zebra something in feeding efficiency, and if food rather than predation is limiting, a net selective disadvantage might result from solving the wrong problem. Finally, a longer bone might break more easily, or require greater developmental resources and metabolic energy to produce and maintain, or change the efficiency of the contraction of the attached muscles.

In summary, because all engineering decisions involve tradeoffs, there is no way to tell whether a particular engineering trait, in isolation, caused an organism to be more fit. And this drives us back to where we started. The only way to measure “fitness” is by reproductive success, which is obviously tautological if “fitness” is defined as “reproductively successful.”

64 Replies to “Engineering Tradeoffs and the Vacuity of “Fitness”

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. Arrington, you may appreciate this piece of trivia:

    Inconsistent Nature: The Enigma of Life’s Stupendous Prodigality – James Le Fanu – September 2011
    Excerpt: Many species that might seem exceptionally well adapted for “the survival of the fittest” are surprisingly uncommon. The scarce African hunting dog has the highest kill rate of any predator on the savannah, while cheetahs may have no difficulty in feeding themselves thanks to their astonishing speediness — but are a hundred times less common than lions.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....51281.html

    Also of note, a fatal flaw, perhaps THE MAIN fatal flaw of many fatal flaws, in ‘survival of the fittest’ thinking, is this,,,
    ,,,if evolution were actually the truth about how all life came to be on Earth then the only ‘life’ that would be around would be extremely small organisms with the highest replication rate, and with the most mutational firepower, since only they would be the fittest to survive in the dog eat dog world where blind pitiless evolution rules and only the ‘fittest’ are allowed to survive. The logic of this is nicely summed up here:

    Richard Dawkins interview with a ‘Darwinian’ physician goes off track – video
    Excerpt: “I am amazed, Richard, that what we call metazoans, multi-celled organisms, have actually been able to evolve, and the reason [for amazement] is that bacteria and viruses replicate so quickly — a few hours sometimes, they can reproduce themselves — that they can evolve very, very quickly. And we’re stuck with twenty years at least between generations. How is it that we resist infection when they can evolve so quickly to find ways around our defenses?”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62031.html

    i.e. Since successful reproduction is all that really matters on a neo-Darwinian view of things, how can anything but successful reproduction ever be realistically ‘selected’ for? Any other function besides reproduction, such as sight, hearing, thinking, etc.., would be highly superfluous to the primary criteria of successfully reproducing, and should, on a Darwinian view, be discarded as so much excess baggage since it would, sooner or later, slow down successful reproduction.
    And this principle of ‘discarding excess baggage’ in order to gain a reproductive advantage is exactly what we find in our 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/

    “…but Natural Selection reduces genetic information and we know this from all the Genetic Population studies that we have…”
    Maciej Marian Giertych – Population Geneticist – member of the European Parliament – EXPELLED – Natural Selection And Genetic Mutations – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6z5-15wk1Zk

  2. 2
    Neil Rickert says:

    Force causes acceleration.

    How do we measure force? By measuring acceleration.

    Does it follow that Newton’s laws are vacuous?

    If “survival of the fittest” were merely descriptive, you might have a point. But it is methodological. It tells biologists what to study. It gives meaning to “fitness”.

  3. 3
    HeKS says:

    Talbott continues:

    One evident reason for this pessimism is that we cannot isolate traits — or the mutations producing them — as if they were independent causal elements. Organism-environment relations present us with so much complexity, so many possible parameters to track, that, apart from obviously disabling cases, there is no way to pronounce on the significance of a mutation for an organism, let alone for a population or for the future of the species.

    Further to this point, as was drawn out by Gould and Eldredge, as well as by Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini, we can’t even be certain in any given case what trait was the target of selection. What we might think was the target of selection could simply by what Gould referred to as an Evolutionary “spandrel”; some trait that got carried along as a by-product of a different trait that was the actual target of selection. Furthermore, the trait that actually gets selected for might not even be the result of a genetic change at all. It could be that the targeted trait is the result of an epigenetic change and other genetic changes in the organism benefit by being carried along for the ride.

    It seems that this kinda leaves us in a place where the only thing we can really say with any certainty about why Evolutionary history proceeded as it allegedly did is that stuff happened, and some things survived while others didn’t, allowing us to predict pretty much anything that is consistent with that description, which is pretty much anything at all.

  4. 4
    ppolish says:

    Neil, fittest = survival and vice versa. That is not the case with force and acceleration. Not a tautology there.

  5. 5
    wd400 says:

    In summary, because all engineering decisions involve tradeoffs, there is no way to tell whether a particular engineering trait, in isolation, caused an organism to be more fit. And this drives us back to where we started. The only way to measure “fitness” is by reproductive success, which is obviously tautological if “fitness” is defined as “reproductively successful.”

    Why do you think this is a problem?

    And do you have an example to support this
    Darwinists counter the tautology charge by attempting to demonstrate that there are independent criteria (so-called “engineering criteria”) …

    Perhaps people do this, but I’ve never run into it…

  6. 6
    Mung says:

    Neil,

    From F = ma how do you reach the conclusion that force causes acceleration?

    E = mc^2

    Does energy cause mass?

    And on and on we could go.

  7. 7
    wd400 says:

    Neil makes a good point

    If “survival of the fittest” were merely descriptive, you might have a point. But it is methodological. It tells biologists what to study. It gives meaning to “fitness”.

    To which I’d add the importnat thing to grasp is that evolutionary biolgists are interested in variance in fitness, and the degree with which that variance is down to variance in heritable traits.

  8. 8
    ciphertext says:

    If “survival of the fittest” were merely descriptive, you might have a point. But it is methodological. It tells biologists what to study. It gives meaning to “fitness”.

    I’m not a biologist, so I don’t know what method(s) are identified by the concept “survival of the fittest”. It sounds like it is missing a key phrase. The “survival of the fittest” for fill in the blank.

    In my understanding of the OP it is the inability to identify those blanks that is partly the problem. The example given was whether or not the Zebra needed more speed (e.g. “survival of the fittest for high velocity”). Further compounding the problem is an inability to isolate specific traits as being the cause of the continued survival of the Zebra.

  9. 9
    HeKS says:

    @wd400 #7

    Neil makes a good point

    If “survival of the fittest” were merely descriptive, you might have a point. But it is methodological. It tells biologists what to study. It gives meaning to “fitness”.

    The problem is, as per what I mentioned about Gould/Eldredge and Fodor/Piattelli-Palmarini, it doesn’t tell biologists what to study. They cannot use it to determine that they should study Trait A in Organism X because that trait in that organism is what was selected for survival. The nature of phenotypic diversity from genetic change is that phenotypes don’t come in tidy, discrete boxes. They are often package deals, where multiple traits get carried along at the same time and it’s impossible to know what the actual target of selection was in any given case. The result is that the concept of Natural Selection flings the door wide open for endless numbers of just-so stories, but it provides no real guide to scientists as to what traits to study for what reasons.

  10. 10
    wd400 says:

    that’s true of some traits some times.

    Which is why evolutionary biologists had to invent quantatative genetics… in the 1920s…you should look into it

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    Neil at 2 claims

    Force causes acceleration.

    To which C.S. Lewis would reply,,

    “In the whole history of the universe the laws of nature have never produced, (i.e. caused), a single event.”
    C.S. Lewis – doodle video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_20yiBQAIlk

    Or perhaps Lewis would have replied to Neil with this humorous quote:

    “to say that a stone falls to earth because it’s obeying a law, makes it a man and even a citizen”
    – CS Lewis

    In other words, the law of Gravity does not have causal adequacy, or ‘agency’, within itself. Law is not a ‘mechanism’ that has ever ’caused’ anything to happen in the universe but is merely a description of a regularity within the universe. The early Christian founders of modern science understood this distinction between description and causal agency quite well,,,

    Not the God of the Gaps, But the Whole Show – John Lennox – 2012
    Excerpt: God is not a “God of the gaps”, he is God of the whole show.,,, C. S. Lewis put it this way: “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver.”
    http://www.christianpost.com/n.....how-80307/

    Colossians 1:17
    He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

    Perhaps the most famous confusion of description of a regularity and causal agency was this following quote by Hawking:

    “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.”
    – Stephen Hawking’

    Here is an excerpt of an article, (that is well worth reading in full), in which Dr. Gordon busts Stephen Hawking’s confusion between mathematical description of a law and causal agency being the same thing.

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: ,,,The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy.
    This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world,,,
    Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.,,,
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

    Thus, contrary to how atheists imagine reality to be structured, they, in their appeal to the law of gravity as to being causally adequate within itself, have in fact appealed to a vacuous explanation for a ‘causal mechanism’. ,,,
    ,,”vacuous explanation for causal mechanism” reminds me of Lawrence Krauss’s argument against God from a few years ago in his book ‘A Universe from Nothing’,,

    Not Understanding Nothing – A review of A Universe from Nothing – Edward Feser – June 2012
    Excerpt: A critic might reasonably question the arguments for a divine first cause of the cosmos. But to ask “What caused God?” misses the whole reason classical philosophers thought his existence necessary in the first place. So when physicist Lawrence Krauss begins his new book by suggesting that to ask “Who created the creator?” suffices to dispatch traditional philosophical theology, we know it isn’t going to end well. ,,,
    ,,, But Krauss simply can’t see the “difference between arguing in favor of an eternally existing creator versus an eternally existing universe without one.” The difference, as the reader of Aristotle or Aquinas knows, is that the universe changes while the unmoved mover does not, or, as the Neoplatonist can tell you, that the universe is made up of parts while its source is absolutely one; or, as Leibniz could tell you, that the universe is contingent and God absolutely necessary. There is thus a principled reason for regarding God rather than the universe as the terminus of explanation.
    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ng-nothing

    To put those philosophical arguments more simply, (and at the risk of offending some philosophers), atheistic materialists do not have a causal mechanism to appeal to to explain how the universe originated, nor do they have a causal mechanism to explain why anything continues to exist in the universe, nor do they even have a causal mechanism for explaining how anything, any particle in the universe, moves within the universe!
    Here are a few notes along that line:

    The Kalam Cosmological Argument (argument from the beginning of the universe) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CulBuMCLg0

    God Is the Best Explanation For Why Anything At All Exists – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjuqBxg_5mA

    Aquinas’ Third way (argument from existence) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V030hvnX5a4

    Aquinas’ First Way – (The First Mover – Unmoved Mover argument) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qmpw0_w27As

    “The ‘First Mover’ is necessary for change occurring at each moment.”
    Michael Egnor – Aquinas’ First Way
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....first.html

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    As to the ancient first mover argument of Aquinas, the double slit experiment is excellent in illustrating that the ‘unmoved mover’ argument is valid.
    In the following video Anton Zeilinger, whose group is arguably the best group of experimentalists in quantum physics today, ‘tries’ to explain the double slit experiment to Morgan Freeman:

    Quantum Mechanics – Double Slit Experiment. Is anything real? (Prof. Anton Zeilinger) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayvbKafw2g0

    Prof. Zeilinger makes this rather startling statement in the preceding video that meshes perfectly with the ‘first mover argument’::

    “The path taken by the photon is not an element of reality. We are not allowed to talk about the photon passing through this or this slit. Neither are we allowed to say the photon passes through both slits. All this kind of language is not applicable.”
    Anton Zeilinger

    If that was not enough to get Dr. Zeilinger’s point across, at the 4:12 minute mark in this following video,,,

    Double Slit Experiment – Explained By Prof Anton Zeilinger – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6101627/

    Professor Zeilinger states,,,

    “We know what the particle is doing at the source when it is created. We know what it is doing at the detector when it is registered. But we do not know what it is doing in-between.”
    Anton Zeilinger

    i.e. “The ‘First Mover’ is necessary for change occurring at each moment.”
    – Michael Egnor

    Supplemental quote:

    “Joel Primack, a cosmologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, once posed an interesting question to the physicist Neil Turok: “What is it that makes the electrons continue to follow the laws.” Turok was surprised by the question; he recognized its force. Something seems to compel physical objects to obey the laws of nature, and what makes this observation odd is just that neither compulsion nor obedience are physical ideas.,,,
    Physicists since Einstein have tried to see in the laws of nature a formal structure that would allow them to say to themselves, “Ah, that is why they are true,” and they have failed.”
    Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion pg. 132-133

    Verse and Music:

    Acts 17:28
    For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

    God Only Knows – BBC Music
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqLTe8h0-jo

  13. 13
    wd400 says:

    To be clear, when I said “that’s true of some traits sometimes” I was only agreeing that there isn’t always a simple map between genotype and phenotype, not signing on to other claims in that comment

  14. 14
    phoodoo says:

    The idea that speed is an obvious selective advantage, and not an after the fact observations that some animals are fast, is clearly refuted by the fact that some animals are incredibly slow- like a python.

    Every animal has a way that they survive, and so saying that there is an objective, engineering way to determine “fitness” is of course silly, because any feature an animal has is the features which made it survive. Why didn’t python evolve to have the speed of a cheetah? I guess slowness is a survival benefit.

    Just ask an Oak tree why does it need speed.

  15. 15
    drc466 says:

    As a YEC’er, I’m happy to admit that Natural Selection, survival of the fittest, is a perfectly valid observation of the world. After all, some animals survive, and some go extinct.
    The article above is also a perfectly valid observation – the definition of fittest is far too complex to predict (think…weather forecasting). We only know after the fact which animals were the fittest, at which point the evolutionist gleefully comes up with a just-so story about why (e.g. their beaks were longer when the nuts were harder, the black ones blended in with the soot better, etc.) that may, or may not, be why they survive while other animals didn’t. To make it more confusing, minute and random changes in environment can quickly change which animals are the new fittest.
    For the purposes of ID, of course, the larger point is that natural selection is a true tautology that provides no value or support for Evolution, because it can only remove species from the gene pool, not add new ones – making it compatible with all theories, not just Evolution. Ah, well.

  16. 16
    Querius says:

    Mung@6 noted

    E = mc^2

    Does energy cause mass?

    LOL, Mung. Actually, energy also squares the speed of light!

    Actually, the creative evolutionary biologists that wd400 mentioned could argue that since at the beginning of the big bang, there was only energy but now we have mass, therefore energy *musta evolved* into mass (change over time) by natural selection, since only the “fittest” energy musta survived to propagate. 😉

    -Q

  17. 17
    rhampton7 says:

    drc466,

    Agreed with most of what you said, however you did mistakenly attribute the origin of new species to natural selection. The correct attribution would mutations (point, frameshift, chromosomal), horizontal gene transfer, genetic recombination, etc. I doubt most YECers would balk at the notion that the fox genus (vulpes) is a perfectly good example of natural forces creating new fox species.

  18. 18
    Barry Arrington says:

    WD @ 5.

    Why do you think this is a problem?

    The more interesting question, WD, is why you think it is not a problem. The defining idea of the Darwinism in which you believe so fervently is a mere tautology. Here is a principle of tautologies that you should ponder. All tautologies are analytic propositions. They are necessarily true. That cannot not be true. It follows that they cannot in principle be falsified. Hence, they are not scientific propositions.

  19. 19
    wd400 says:

    But “Survival of the fittest” is not the defining idea of the Darwinism.

  20. 20
    Barry Arrington says:

    WD @ 19. I always get somewhat flummoxed when someone says something so flagrantly wrong. I think to myself, is it really possible they are that stupid/ignorant. Or are they just jerking my chain. Either way, the prospects for a fruitful discussion are dim. Good night.

  21. 21
    Mung says:

    “Evolutionists proclaim that Darwin’s theory is a scientific solution of biological adaptation. This chapter will show their claim to science is mistaken. Natural selection is actually defined many different ways. The theory has many formulations, each with its own downfall. The illusion that ‘natural selection is science’ is created by shifting between the formulations to meet any objection.”

    – Walter James ReMine

  22. 22
    wd400 says:

    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.

    Here’s Doug Futyma, literally the textbook orthodox Darwinian, pointing out some of the problems with the term:

    http://biology.ufl.edu/courses.....ection.pdf

  23. 23
    HeKS says:

    @wd400 #10

    Was that directed at me?

    You do realize that Gould and Eldredge were noting these problems I mention as being major issues in the 1970’s and 80’s, right? And Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini addressed them as still being major issues in 2011, judging the concept of selection-for to be vacuous.

    From What Darwin Got Wrong (pg 136):

    When [adaptationist explanations of the evolution of heritable traits] work it’s because they provide plausible historical narratives, not because they cite covering laws. In particular, pace Darwinists, adaptationism does not articulate the mechanisms of the selection of heritable phenotypic traits; it couldn’t because there aren’t any mechanisms of the selection of heritable phenotypic traits (as such). All there are are the many, many different ways in which various creatures manage to flourish in the many, many environmental situations in which they manage to do so. Diamond (in Mayr, 2001, p. x) remarks that Darwin didn’t just present ‘a well-thought-out theory of evolution. Most importantly, he also proposed a theory of causation, the theory of natural selection.’ Well, if we’re right, that’s exactly what Darwin did not do: a ‘theory of causation’ is exactly what the theory of natural selection is not. Come to think of it, it’s exactly what we still don’t have.

    After pointing out that there are not actually any laws of adaptation, they conclude (pg 138):

    And if there aren’t any laws of adaptation, there is (as far as anybody knows) no way to construct a notion of selection-for that isn’t just empty.

    My point here is not that the vacuity of the concept of Natural Selection automatically proves Evolutionary tales are a false historical narrative, but that claims that Natural Selection provides some kind of a causal theory of macroevolution are empty in spite of their widespread popularity.

  24. 24
    HeKS says:

    @Barry #20, re: wd400 #19

    Perhaps I should have finished my quote from comment #23:

    And if there aren’t any laws of adaptation, there is (as far as anybody knows) no way to construct a notion of selection-for that isn’t just empty. And ‘selection-for’ is not a notion that a (neo)Darwinian account of evolution can do without.

    “Survival of the Fittest” is a widely-used (though some may claim not absolutely accurate) shorthand reference to the mechanism of Natural Selection. Nonetheless, the criticisms of Natural Selection as being an empty concept don’t rely on the specific wording of the shorthand but on the specifics of the concept itself.

  25. 25
    wd400 says:

    For those that haven’t chucked their toys:

    If there is a central idea in Darwinism it is not “Survival of the fittest”, it’s non-random reproductive success of hertible variants. That’s what allows adaptation to work, and to compound on earlier generations of adaptation and it does not contain a tautology.

  26. 26
    wd400 says:

    HeKS,

    Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini are playing silly philosophical games, I really can’t see anything of substance in the quoted passage.

    Evolutionary biology, and natural selection in particular, is a productive scientific field that allows us to propose and test ideas. When you see a huge region of low genetic diversity around the lactose tolerance allele in dairying cultures you know slection has acted, not matter what Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini might think.

  27. 27
    goodusername says:

    Even most Creationists accept that there is a differential rate of survival and reproduction within populations and that as a result populations can change and adapt to changing environments. The concept of “fitness” is no different there, often called micro-evolution, than it is among those that believe in universal common descent.

    That “the fit survive” is not the theory of evolution. Natural Selection isn’t a theory of who survives, it’s a theory of what occurs as a result that some individuals have a better chance of surviving (or more accurately, breeding) than others.
    The statement that “some individuals have a better chance of surviving than others” – is not a tautology. The statement that “over time the characteristics of a population will change depending on who survives” – is also not a tautology. These are the base of Darwinism.
    “Survival of the fittest” is obviously a tautology. But defining those that survive and breed the “fit” is not “vacous”, it’s a definition. Again, the concept is no different than with those that believe that natural selection is involved with micro-evolution.

  28. 28
    HeKS says:

    @wd400 #25

    I was quoting part of their conclusion, showing that the issues I mentioned are not considered to have been resolved in the 1920’s. I don’t really feel like typing the book out so if you want the full substance of their argument you can always go pick it up.

    In the interim, there was a pretty straightforward review at ENV that might be useful.

    And BTW, just taking a look at the review reminded me that I misspoke when I attributed the “spandrel” designation to Gould and Eldredge. It was actually Gould and Lewontin.

  29. 29
    Querius says:

    wd400 wrote

    it is not “Survival of the fittest”, it’s non-random reproductive success of hertible variants.

    LOL! Love it! “That’s not a gun, it’s a non-reciprocating, single-stroke internal combustion engine. Caution: the piston can come loose.”

    Non-random says it all. Take that out and what’s left?

    -Q

    -Q

  30. 30
    Querius says:

    -Q 😉

  31. 31
    Eric Anderson says:

    If we have no practical way to sum up and assess the fitness or adaptive value of the traits of an organism apart from measurements of survival rates . . .

    This is exactly the case in almost all examples that are proffered.

    To be sure, I think it is logically possible to identify independent criteria that could give us a non-tautological assessment of fitness. But it is significantly more tricky than most people realize, and in the vast majority of cases, the “survival of the fittest” operates as a useless tautology.

    Actually, it is generally worse than useless. It gives the false impression of having provided us with some useful information, an answer to the mystery of a particular organism’s survival. However, in nearly all cases invoking “survival of the fittest” simply masks our ignorance of the real underlying processes in question.

    And, I would add in response to those who think that “reproductive success” (or some similar wording) is a way out of the tautology — no it isn’t. It suffers the same exact problems as the more general “survival of the fittest” formulation.

    At the risk of tooting one’s own horn, these may be of interest:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20090906123249/http://www.evolutiondebate.info/A%20Good%20Tautology%20is%20Hard%20to%20Avoid.htm

    https://web.archive.org/web/20080723214029/http://www.evolutiondebate.info/ThoughtsonNS.pdf

  32. 32
    Eric Anderson says:

    This older thread of Barry’s might also be worth reviewing (the exchange with Box’s thoughtful comments and questions) as it relates to natural selection and the concept of fitness (starting with comment 73), and in particular comment 81:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-486594

  33. 33
    phoodoo says:

    Eric,

    Yea, I love it, wd400 is saying that inserting the phrase “reproductive success” instead of the word “fittest” takes the tautology out of the argument.

    So those that survive are now not the fittest, they are the ones that survive.

    Now I am really confused about the awesome powers of natural selection to create things, if the concept of natural selection is simply those that survive survive. That’s what created all the magical life on earth? Its not that the BEST ones survived, its that the ones that survived survived.

    Its true, those that survived survived.

  34. 34
    wd400 says:

    No phoodoo, I am not saying that.

    I’m saying the non-random survival of heritable variants makes populations adapt to their environment.

    It’s not simply that survivors survive, but those individuals that are best adapted to their environment survive, and so over time lineages become better adapted.

    Barry seems to think the fact it’s hard to predict what variants will be fit is a problem for evolutionary biology, I don’t know why he thinks that.

  35. 35
    Andre says:

    WD400

    So what about survival of the sickest?

    http://www.psychologytoday.com.....he-sickest

    They have not adapted best to their environment yet they survived and had offspring!

  36. 36
    bornagain77 says:

    As to

    “all engineering decisions involve tradeoffs”

    The fact that engineering decisions involve ‘tradeoffs’ is admitted here:

    “This is the issue I have with neo-Darwinists: They teach that what is generating novelty is the accumulation of random mutations in DNA, in a direction set by natural selection. If you want bigger eggs, you keep selecting the hens that are laying the biggest eggs, and you get bigger and bigger eggs. But you also get hens with defective feathers and wobbly legs. Natural selection eliminates and maybe maintains, but it doesn’t create….
    (Quoted in “Discover Interview: Lynn Margulis Says She’s Not Controversial, She’s Right,” Discover Magazine, p. 68 (April, 2011).)

    GMO Bulls Now A Reality – January 11, 2014
    Excerpt: “Due to genetic selection and experiments, the Belgian Blue is a humongous species of Bull, packed with muscles and meat.
    …There is a gene that regulates the growth of muscles in cattle, These cows have been selectively bred from animals that contain a copy of this gene that doesn’t work, as a result their muscles grow far larger than normal [They have a deletion mutation that prevents control of muscular growth = loss of genetic material].
    ..Their uninhibited muscle growth presents a lot of health hazards, calves can develop enlarged tongues and stiff legs which make it difficult for them to eat and move, leading to an early and painful death.”
    http://naturalhealthwarriors.c.....a-reality/

    “The real number of variations is lesser than expected,,. There are no blue-eyed Drosophila, no viviparous birds or turtles, no hexapod mammals, etc. Such observations provoke non-Darwinian evolutionary concepts. Darwin tried rather unsuccessfully to solve the problem of the contradictions between his model of random variability and the existence of constraints. He tried to hide this complication citing abundant facts on other phenomena. The authors of the modern versions of Darwinism followed this strategy, allowing the question to persist. …However, he was forced to admit some cases where creating anything humans may wish for was impossible. For example, when the English farmers decided to get cows with thick hams, they soon abandoned this attempt since they perished too frequently during delivery. Evidently such cases provoked an idea on the limitations to variability… [
    If you have the time, read all of the paper, which concludes]
    The problem of the constraints on variation was not solved neither within the framework of the proper Darwin’s theory, nor within the framework of modern Darwinism.”
    (IGOR POPOV, THE PROBLEM OF CONSTRAINTS ON VARIATION, FROM DARWIN TO THE PRESENT, 2009,
    http://www.ludusvitalis.org/te....._popov.pdf

    The problem of ‘engineering tradeoffs’ is more clearly illustrated here:

    K´necting The Dots: Modeling Functional Integration In Biological Systems – June 11, 2010
    Excerpt: “If an engineer modifies the length of the piston rods in an internal combustion engine, but does not modify the crankshaft accordingly, the engine won’t start. Similarly, processes of development are so tightly integrated temporally and spatially that one change early in development will require a host of other coordinated changes in separate but functionally interrelated developmental processes downstream” (1)
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....l-systems/

    In the preceding article, although he compared life to an internal combustion engine to get his point across, the problem of constraints due to ‘engineering tradeoffs’ is actually, due to the unfathomed integrated complexity being dealt with in life, orders of magnitude worse in life than it is in man-made machines, especially during embryological development:

    HOW BIOLOGISTS LOST SIGHT OF THE MEANING OF LIFE — AND ARE NOW STARING IT IN THE FACE – Stephen L. Talbott – May 2012
    Excerpt: “If you think air traffic controllers have a tough job guiding planes into major airports or across a crowded continental airspace, consider the challenge facing a human cell trying to position its proteins”. A given cell, he notes, may make more than 10,000 different proteins, and typically contains more than a billion protein molecules at any one time. “Somehow a cell must get all its proteins to their correct destinations — and equally important, keep these molecules out of the wrong places”. And further: “It’s almost as if every mRNA [an intermediate between a gene and a corresponding protein] coming out of the nucleus knows where it’s going” (Travis 2011),,,
    Further, the billion protein molecules in a cell are virtually all capable of interacting with each other to one degree or another; they are subject to getting misfolded or “all balled up with one another”; they are critically modified through the attachment or detachment of molecular subunits, often in rapid order and with immediate implications for changing function; they can wind up inside large-capacity “transport vehicles” headed in any number of directions; they can be sidetracked by diverse processes of degradation and recycling… and so on without end. Yet the coherence of the whole is maintained.
    The question is indeed, then, “How does the organism meaningfully dispose of all its molecules, getting them to the right places and into the right interactions?”
    The same sort of question can be asked of cells, for example in the growing embryo, where literal streams of cells are flowing to their appointed places, differentiating themselves into different types as they go, and adjusting themselves to all sorts of unpredictable perturbations — even to the degree of responding appropriately when a lab technician excises a clump of them from one location in a young embryo and puts them in another, where they may proceed to adapt themselves in an entirely different and proper way to the new environment. It is hard to quibble with the immediate impression that form (which is more idea-like than thing-like) is primary, and the material particulars subsidiary.
    Two systems biologists, one from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Germany and one from Harvard Medical School, frame one part of the problem this way:
    “The human body is formed by trillions of individual cells. These cells work together with remarkable precision, first forming an adult organism out of a single fertilized egg, and then keeping the organism alive and functional for decades. To achieve this precision, one would assume that each individual cell reacts in a reliable, reproducible way to a given input, faithfully executing the required task. However, a growing number of studies investigating cellular processes on the level of single cells revealed large heterogeneity even among genetically identical cells of the same cell type. (Loewer and Lahav 2011)”,,,
    And then we hear that all this meaningful activity is, somehow, meaningless or a product of meaninglessness. This, I believe, is the real issue troubling the majority of the American populace when they are asked about their belief in evolution. They see one thing and then are told, more or less directly, that they are really seeing its denial. Yet no one has ever explained to them how you get meaning from meaninglessness — a difficult enough task once you realize that we cannot articulate any knowledge of the world at all except in the language of meaning.,,,
    http://www.netfuture.org/2012/May1012_184.html#2

    Stephen Meyer – Responding to Critics: Marshall, Part 2 (developmental Gene Regulatory Networks) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg8Mhn2EKvQ

    A Listener’s Guide to the Meyer-Marshall Debate: Focus on the Origin of Information Question -Casey Luskin – December 4, 2013
    Excerpt: “There is always an observable consequence if a dGRN (developmental gene regulatory network) subcircuit is interrupted. Since these consequences are always catastrophically bad, flexibility is minimal, and since the subcircuits are all interconnected, the whole network partakes of the quality that there is only one way for things to work. And indeed the embryos of each species develop in only one way.” –
    Eric Davidson
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....79811.html

    Darwin or Design? – Paul Nelson at Saddleback Church – Nov. 2012 – ontogenetic depth (excellent update) – video
    Text from one of the Saddleback slides:
    1. Animal body plans are built in each generation by a stepwise process, from the fertilized egg to the many cells of the adult. The earliest stages in this process determine what follows.
    2. Thus, to change — that is, to evolve — any body plan, mutations expressed early in development must occur, be viable, and be stably transmitted to offspring.
    3. But such early-acting mutations of global effect are those least likely to be tolerated by the embryo.
    Losses of structures are the only exception to this otherwise universal generalization about animal development and evolution. Many species will tolerate phenotypic losses if their local (environmental) circumstances are favorable. Hence island or cave fauna often lose (for instance) wings or eyes.
    http://www.saddleback.com/mc/m/7ece8/

    Supplemental quote:

    “Complexity Brake” Defies Evolution – August 8, 2012
    Excerpt: “(living) systems are characterized by large numbers of highly heterogeneous components, be they genes, proteins, or cells. These components interact causally in myriad ways across a very large spectrum of space-time, from nanometers to meters and from microseconds to years. A complete understanding of these systems demands that a large fraction of these interactions be experimentally or computationally probed. This is very difficult.,,”
    “This is bad news. Consider a neuronal synapse — the presynaptic terminal has an estimated 1000 distinct proteins. Fully analyzing their possible interactions would take about 2000 years. Or consider the task of fully characterizing the visual cortex of the mouse — about 2 million neurons. Under the extreme assumption that the neurons in these systems can all interact with each other, analyzing the various combinations will take about 10 million years…, even though it is assumed that the underlying technology speeds up by an order of magnitude each year.”
    Even with shortcuts like averaging, “any possible technological advance is overwhelmed by the relentless growth of interactions among all components of the system,” Koch said. “It is not feasible to understand evolved organisms by exhaustively cataloging all interactions in a comprehensive, bottom-up manner.” He described the concept of the Complexity Brake,,,
    Why can’t we use the same principles that describe technological systems? Koch explained that in an airplane or computer, the parts are “purposefully built in such a manner to limit the interactions among the parts to a small number.” The limited interactome of human-designed systems avoids the complexity brake. “None of this is true for nervous systems.”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62961.html

    Verse and Music:

    Psalm 139:15
    My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

    Phillips, Craig & Dean – Great I Am (Lyrics)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_VR-zwp2KA

  37. 37
    Joe says:

    wd400:

    I’m saying the non-random survival of heritable variants makes populations adapt to their environment.

    That’s the propaganda anyway.

    It’s not simply that survivors survive, but those individuals that are best adapted to their environment survive, and so over time lineages become better adapted.

    It is whatever doesn’t die and that can be any of a number of traits. It is NOT whatever is best adapted. It is whatever is good enough.

    Biological fitness is an after-the-fact assessment.

    If there is a central idea in Darwinism it is not “Survival of the fittest”, it’s non-random reproductive success of hertible variants.

    It is non-random in a meaningless way. Non-random in this sense just means not every individual has the same probability of being eliminated.

  38. 38
    Joe says:

    Neil Rickert:

    If “survival of the fittest” were merely descriptive, you might have a point. But it is methodological. It tells biologists what to study. It gives meaning to “fitness”.

    What a load of crap. What is this alleged “methodology”? Neil never says.

    Look, whatever is good enough survives. And fitness wrt biology is still an after-the-fact assessment.

  39. 39
    Joe says:

    wd400:

    Here’s Doug Futyma, literally the textbook orthodox Darwinian, pointing out some of the problems with the term:

    When it comes to natural selection, Doug Futuyma lies.

  40. 40
    phoodoo says:

    wd400,

    You just reiterated that it is “It’s not simply that survivors survive, but those individuals that are best adapted to their environment survive.” Those are your exact words, not mine.

    So what does best adapted mean? Does it not mean those that survive? If that is not the criteria, what is?

    I think you are confused if you are saying that Barry thinks it is a problem for evolutionary theory that its hard to predict which which variants will be fit. The problem is that the definition of being most fit is survival! Hence, Survival of the Fittest!!

    Do you think it was creationists who made up the term?

    Pray tell, what else could “best adapted” (your words) mean, if it doesn’t mean those that survive?

  41. 41
    Joe says:

    Barry:

    The only way to measure “fitness” is by reproductive success, which is obviously tautological if “fitness” is defined as “reproductively successful.”

    To be fair it is said that it is NOT tautological because those who leave more offspring tend to have a trait or traits that allowed them to do so. And it is due to that trait or traits that reproductive success would then be based on.

    However no one can say what that trait or traits are. It is all after-the-fact assessment A faster wolf is useless if it is weak, or has poor eyesight or poor hearing, etc.

  42. 42
    phoodoo says:

    Joe,

    I think you give the theory too much credit. A faster wolf is only useful if that is the trait it has. If a shrub is not fast, apparently that is equally useful. There is no more useful or less useful.

    If it is useful for a fish at the bottom of the ocean to be blind, then this is what is useful, blindness.

    There is no other criteria for stating what is useful.

  43. 43
    Eric Anderson says:

    wd400 @34:

    I’m saying the non-random survival . . .

    No. It is pretty much randomness all the way down. How did the particular particle interact with the copying mechanism to cause a mutation? How did that particular mutation end up interacting in the organism to produce an effect? What result did that have in that particular organism, as opposed to another? How did that particular mutation get spread in the population? What environmental factor happened to come along after the mutation that resulted in it making a difference? Which organism happened to be on a high rock when the flood came, or under protection when the hail fell, or hidden from sight when the predator arrived? And on and on. Everything that goes on within a lineage to get an organism to where it is today; everything that went on in the predator’s lineage to get them where they are today; all the vagaries and hazards of nature. It is essentially randomness all the way down.

    Natural selection is not any kind of force. It is simply an after the fact label attached to the results of processes that are seldom understood, rarely identified, and that (as a practical matter) are essentially random. Natural selection doesn’t impart any “non-random” directionality to evolution. It is simply a label attached to the outcome, and attaching a label to the result of what is essentially a random process does not make the process non-random.

    It’s not simply that survivors survive, but those individuals that are best adapted to their environment survive, and so over time lineages become better adapted.

    And how, pray tell, do we know that a particular organism was “best adapted to its environment”? Because it survived.

    Look, if someone wants to use the two words “natural selection” as a shorthand way to avoid having to say: “Organisms are more likely to survive if they happen to be in a lineage that happens to have conferred a (generally unidentified) mutation that (in some typically unknown way) happened to provide a characteristic that happened to be helpful in the particular environment in which they happened to be living at the time, as compared to other organisms that were less lucky.” — If someone wants to use “natural selection” as a shorthand expression so that they don’t have to say all that, then fine.

    The problem arises, as it does so frequently, when natural selection is put forward as an explanation for an organism’s survival. In that case it almost always falls back on survivability as the (often unspoken) definition. In that case it is a useless tautology. Worse, it gives people the false impression that some kind of “scientific” explanation has been proffered, when it is really just a confession of ignorance about the real underlying processes.

    Think of it this way:

    If we can identify, with particularity, what actually caused an organism to survive — the specific trait, particular molecular machines, identifiable proteins and DNA sequences, the particular environmental factors, predation, weather, flood, drought, and so on — if we can identify precisely what caused the “differential survival” in the population, then we can talk about the real, physical, concrete, underlying, specific cause just fine, thank you very much, without ever invoking the label of “natural selection”.

    It is only when we don’t know what the actual forces and causes were at work that “natural selection” need be invoked. Unfortunately, in that case, it functions as little more than an observation that those that survived, survived.

  44. 44
    Eric Anderson says:

    Joe @41:

    There is an important nuance here.

    We need to keep in mind that “leaving more offspring” is not the criterion. Having more offspring is relevant only if those offspring happen to survive their early life and happen to get to reproductive age and happen to actually reproduce. So it is not leaving more offspring itself, but “reproductive success” in the sense of growing the population over time that matters.

    And what causes the population to have this reproductive success? Initial reproduction, to be sure, but also whatever traits happen to aid that particular organism at that particular time in the environment it happens to be in with the predators that happen to be on the scene, and if it happens to avoid disease, floods, fires, hurricanes, droughts, freezing weather, and all the various vagaries and hazards of nature that happen to come along — in other words if the organism happens to survive.

    Again, as I mentioned @43, in those extremely rare cases when we know what actually caused the differential survival, we can point to the actual cause without ever invoking a label of “natural selection” to help explain the process. And in those cases in which we don’t know what actually caused the differential survival, attaching a label of “natural selection” does not help us get any closer to an explanation. Indeed, more often than not it obscures.

    This is the key:

    The label “natural selection” can operate properly in the English language as a shorthand convenience term to describe the various random processes and vagaries and hazards of nature that, somehow, resulted in the differential survival of a particular population of organisms. In contrast, when the term is put forward as an explanation for that survival, our internal logic alarm should ring loudly and, if we look closely, we will nearly always see that the so-called explanation of natural selection is operating as a tautology, incorporating as its premise the very conclusion it is trying to reach.

  45. 45
    Mung says:

    It therefore seems to me absurd to argue that the theory is tautological, though I readily admit that it is often formulated tautologically.

    – Maynard Smith, J. On Evolution

  46. 46
    Querius says:

    I remember reading once that fitness/adaptation/non-randomness confers only about a 3% advantage, and that luck plays a much larger role.

    Like when one of my classmates in Junior High put a shrimpy little male lab mouse in the female cage by mistake. We discovered the mistake the next morning, but almost all the females later turned out to be pregnant.

    -Q

  47. 47
    Mung says:

    Force causes acceleration.
    How do we measure force? By measuring acceleration.
    Does it follow that Newton’s laws are vacuous?

    Does Neil only manage to find time to post moronic statements at UD, but none to defend them.

    If F=ma is true, then it is also true that ma=F.

    Using Neil’s logic, acceleration causes force, or maybe it’s mass that causes force, or perhaps force causes mass. We’ll just forget all about the role of mass in all this, thank you very much.

    But that leads us to the logical absurdity that force causes acceleration and that acceleration causes force (and that mass is irrelevant).

    Perhaps mathematicians ought to avoid Newtonian physics.

  48. 48
    Mung says:

    wd400:

    Neil makes a good point

    If “survival of the fittest” were merely descriptive, you might have a point. But it is methodological. It tells biologists what to study. It gives meaning to “fitness”.

    How does “survival of the fittest” give meaning to “fitness”?

    wd400:

    Neil makes a good point

    To which I’d add the importnat thing to grasp is that evolutionary biolgists are interested in variance in fitness, and the degree with which that variance is down to variance in heritable traits.

    To speak of “variance in fitness” is to presumably say something meaningful about fitness. Given that you agree with Neil, the meaning of fitness is based upon “survival of the fittest.”

    The question of the vacuity of fitness has not been resolved.

  49. 49
    REC says:

    “But that leads us to the logical absurdity that force causes acceleration and that acceleration causes force”

    Lol. Absurdity? If I hit a baseball (force) it accelerates. No? In you car, when you accelerate, don’t you feel a force pushing you back into your seat?

    You’ve brilliantly undermined and parodied Barry’s original post (I suspect without meaning to, but beware the ban hammer…the court jester here, may strike a nerve).

    Of course, any discussion could easily parody the OP. Why MUST scientists use “general relativity” as shorthand, instead of the parameters they explicitly measure?

    And for goodness sakes, how can spacetime tell matter how to move while matter tells spacetime how to curve. What a silly tautology these definitions make!

  50. 50
    Mung says:

    REC:

    If I hit a baseball (force) it accelerates. No?

    If you hit a (massless) baseball with what? An imaginary (massless) bat? What if you miss? They magically have no mass?

  51. 51
    REC says:

    “If you hit a (massless) baseball with what? An imaginary (massless) bat? What if you miss? They magically have no mass?”

    Are you arguing against classic physics, in support of your parody of Barry? Well Played!

    But maybe you could firm this up a bit.

    In physics, massless particles aren’t imaginary (photons, and neutrinos (almost). I wouldn’t consider them magic. And indeed, if I miss, no force is imparted on the object.

    Also, a massless bat would impart ~0 force on the ball.

  52. 52
    Barry Arrington says:

    WD @ 7

    Neil makes a good point

    If “survival of the fittest” were merely descriptive, you might have a point. But it is methodological. It tells biologists what to study. It gives meaning to “fitness”.

    WD @ 22:

    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.

    So when Neil uses the phrase “survival of the fittest” he makes a good point, because the phrase gives meaning to fitness. But when Barry uses the phrase, it is just a silly slogan. Pathetic.

  53. 53

    Darwinism offers emotionally appealing slogans and stories to the materialist/atheist/naturalist, nothing more. None of that has anything to do with conducting science.

  54. 54
    Joe says:

    Natural selection may not be a tautology (debatable) but it is definitely useless as it doesn’t do anything beyond eliminating the few who couldn’t cut it. It does not make organisms better adapted.

    Natural selection is not a mechanism of design. It cannot bring about the appearance of design. Natural selection is just one way of changing allele frequencies within a population. And it isn’t the most prevalent way at doing that rather simple task.

  55. 55
    Mung says:

    REC:

    In physics, massless particles aren’t imaginary (photons, and neutrinos (almost). I wouldn’t consider them magic. And indeed, if I miss, no force is imparted on the object.

    So?

  56. 56
    Mung says:

    The Harlem Globetrotters are more fit than their opponents because they always win. And we can measure this fitness and use it to scientifically predict that the Harlem Globetrotters will never lose. Therefore, fitness is a scientific concept and not tautological.

    It follows, of course, that “natural selection” is scientific and not tautological.

  57. 57
    tintinnid says:

    “Natural selection is not a mechanism of design.”

    Nobody has said otherwise. It simply allows some phenotypes to out survive others. But in doing so, it locks some lineages into a basic morphology that is very difficult to break out of. There are very few vertebrates that do not have four limbs. Mammals are stuck with lungs (at least for the foreseeable future).

    It doesn’t mean that these won’t change, just that the road would be longer.

  58. 58
    Joe says:

    LoL!@ tintinnid- The whole purpose of natural selection was to provide a mechanism for design without a designer. Perhaps you should read “On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection”. Heck just google “natural selection design without a designer”.

    BTW natural selection can’t account for vertebrates nor mammals.

  59. 59
    tintinnid says:

    Joe. I have. Natural selection does not create design because there is no design. What it does is limit (or delay) the direction in which changes can take place. If you have lungs, your son is not going to return to the use of gills. Only god can do that. Has he?

  60. 60
    Joe says:

    tintinnid, you have what? Darwin’s whole point was that natural selection could produce the design observed in living organisms. So obviously you haven’t read his book nor google the phrase I gave you.

    And how do you know that only god could produce a son of humans that has gills? Didn’t you watch “Water World”?

    Natural selection is insignificant. It doesn’t do anything beyond changing allele frequencies. It cannot get a eukaryote from populations of prokaryotes- that is a given.

  61. 61
    Joe says:

    tintinnid:

    Natural selection does not create design because there is no design.

    Natural selection cannot account for the diversity of life regardless if you think there is no design. Strange that Darwin went through great pains to formulate a designer mimic to explain the design of living organisms. Why do you think he did that?

  62. 62
    Mapou says:

    How do you get design without a designer? Darwin was obviously a mental midget. It is no surprise that we now have a latter mental midget (tintinid) arguing that there is no design. It’s the new normal among the dirt worshippers. It’s not even shocking anymore.

    PS. You’re wasting your time, Joe, although I realize that you’re just having fun with the moron.

  63. 63
    Joe says:

    How do you get design without a designer? Apparently by denying the design exists…

  64. 64
    Dionisio says:

    tintinnid

    Are you going to respond the questions a few folks asked you in the thread pointed to by the following link?

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-519640

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