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Missing the Point at The “Skeptical” Zone

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Over at The “Skeptical” Zone they continue to be skeptical about literally everything; everything that is except the unquestioned verities of the scientific and cultural establishment. As I periodically do, I made a run though their last few months’ of postings. The denizens of the Zone are if nothing else impressive in their consistency. As usual, I was unable to find a single word in a single post that would make the occupants of the average faculty lounge mildly uncomfortable. Far less did I find anything even remotely “skeptical” of or a challenge to conventional wisdom or established ideas.

Could it be that the folks over at the Zone don’t know what the word “skeptical” actually means? A perusal of their writings certainly leads to that conclusion. Maybe they have an esoteric definition of “skeptical.” If so, I hope they will share it with the rest of us. That would help us by eliminating the confusion that comes when we observe them saying they are doing one thing (i.e., being “skeptical” as that word is ordinarily understood) and what they actually do (i.e., accept established ideas without question and fight like hell against anyone who would challenge those established ideas).

All of that as prelude to my response to “kieths” Barry Arrington digs up the ‘tautology’ argument, which kieths wrote in response to my Engineering Tradeoffs and the Vacuity of “Fitness”.

Before I get into the specifics of kieths’ post, I would like to offer some free and unsolicited advice to all of our dear friends over at the Zone: Scoffing is a very poor substitute for argument.

Now, to keith’s post. It ain’t much. Here it is in its entirety.

Barry Arrington should stick to what he’s good at — banning blasphemers. [link to where I banned someone for blasphemy]

Instead, he has disinterred the corpse of the “natural selection is a tautology” argument, propped it up in a chair, and is now attempting to engage it in conversation. [link to my Engineering Trade Offs post]

Trust me, Barry – that corpse is dead, dead, dead. Among the coroner’s findings:

1. Even the dimmest of IDers and creationists accepts that “microevolution” occurs. Insects become pesticide-resistant. Finch beaks change in response to drought conditions. Microbes acquire antibiotic resistance. How does this happen? Through natural selection. It ain’t a tautology.

2. The tautology mongers miss a basic point about fitness. Fitness is not defined in terms of the reproductive success of an individual. An unfit individual who gets lucky and reproduces successfully does not get reclassified as fit. A fit individual who gets hit by a meteorite isn’t reclassified as unfit. To claim that “the fittest” are “those who survive”, as the tautology mongers claim, is ridiculous.

Back to hunting down blasphemers, Barry. Leave the science to those who understand

Let’s fisk this post:

[I.] Barry Arrington should stick to what he’s good at — banning blasphemers. [link to where I banned someone for blasphemy]

Not an auspicious start. Irrelevancy coated with ad hominem. Yes, the secular echo chamber at the Zone probably goes into paroxysms of giggles at the very concept of “blasphemy,” or that anyone would be banned for blaspheming. Here’s a clue keiths since you obviously need one. Graham2 was a guest on our site. Guests have duties to their hosts. One of those duties is to refrain from outrageous, intentionally inflammatory and offensive behavior. Graham2 violated that duty. He was banned. That he and his friends at the Zone scoff at the very idea of blasphemy does not justify his behavior. His comment was beyond the bounds of civil discourse and decency.

[II.]Trust me, Barry – that corpse is dead, dead, dead.

Red faced insistence does not strengthen an argument. Also, an idea is not dead merely because those who oppose it insist upon it. Sorry.

[III.]1. Even the dimmest of IDers and creationists accepts that “microevolution” occurs. Insects become pesticide-resistant. Finch beaks change in response to drought conditions. Microbes acquire antibiotic resistance. How does this happen? Through natural selection. It ain’t a tautology.

We finally get to an argument of sorts. Indeed, I do accept the examples of microevolution you mention. But the issue is not whether in some instances we are in fact able objectively to identify engineering criteria that resulted in differential survival rates, such as those you mention. The issue is very different. Please read the following Talbott quotation carefully:

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.”

You have appealed to concrete examples of engineering criteria to counter a criticism of appealing to engineering criteria in the abstract. Do you see how that just doesn’t work? If not, I will explain it for you.

No one disputes that in certain situations mutations have been observed that have resulted in differential survival rates. But what about the situations where we have had no opportunity to observe the animal in the wild (which category includes all extinct species)? That is what Talbott is getting at. For those animals it is all but impossible to isolate with any confidence a specific engineering trait that caused them to be more “fit.” Consequently, we are forced to fall back on: “they survived so long as they were fit and they ceased to survive when they were no longer fit, and by ‘fit” we mean ‘they survived.’”

Here is the key concept: With respect to an animal that existed in the deep and unobservable past, it is all but impossible to isolate a specific trait as “the” trait that lead to survival (i.e., fitness). A necessary corollary to that observation is that the only way to measure fitness of for that animal is the rate of survival itself. And to that extent we are stuck with “survival of the fittest” means “fit animals – by which we mean animals that survive – survive.” A second corollary to the initial observation is that any attempt to do the un-doable – i.e., isolate a specific trait as “the” trait that lead to survival for animals in the deep and unobservable past – is an exercise in the must-derided “just so” story making so beloved among Darwinists.

[IV.]2. The tautology mongers miss a basic point about fitness. Fitness is not defined in terms of the reproductive success of an individual. An unfit individual who gets lucky and reproduces successfully does not get reclassified as fit. A fit individual who gets hit by a meteorite isn’t reclassified as unfit. To claim that “the fittest” are “those who survive”, as the tautology mongers claim, is ridiculous.

kieths, perhaps you did not notice, but there is a large gaping hole in your argument. Let me explain. Consider the following two sentences:

An unfit individual who gets lucky and reproduces successfully does not get reclassified as fit.

A fit individual who gets hit by a meteorite isn’t reclassified as unfit.

In both of these sentences there is an unspoken assumption. That unspoken assumption is that the term “fit” has a meaning that is independent of survival rate. But that is the very issue we are debating. Simply saying that “fit” means something other than “survival rate” is a mere assertion. A mere assertion is not an argument. For your argument to work you need to show us why the term “fit” has a meaning that is independent of survival rate for animals in the deep and unobservable past.

Here’s a hint: Falling back on paragraph 1 to support paragraph 2 does not work. Yes, Darwinists always want to extrapolate and say that the same process that causes finch beaks to get larger in times of drought is sufficient to account for the existence of finches in the first place. That argument is, to say the least, unimpressive.

[V.]Back to hunting down blasphemers, Barry. Leave the science to those who understand

If you think that ad hominem adds to the strength of your argument, keep doing it. I have a pretty thick hide. But can you imagine an Einstein or a Godel writing a similar sentence at the end of one of their papers? I can’t. And from that I conclude that someone who is really confident in their position sees little need to launch personal attacks on their opponent.

Update:

[I had to do some actual work and was unable to finish.] Allow me to summarize keiths’ argument:

I. Irrelevancy and ad hominem. Fail
II. Bluster and mere assertion. Fail.
III. Misses the point of (and therefore fails to address) the argument he is criticizing. Fail.
IV. Relies on unspoken implied assertion that has not been established. Fail.
V. More ad hominem. Fail.

In summary, keiths’ is a terrible argument. I admit that there might be some good arguments that the Darwinists could bring to bear on this issue, but keiths’ post most certainly contains none of them. It fails at every turn.

Now I invite our readers to click on the link to keiths’ argument and examine the so-called “skeptics” responses. A lot of clucking and head nodding. No one takes keiths to task for his shoddy work.

Kantian Naturalist is especially reprehensible, because he is smart enough to know that keiths’ work is shoddy and gives him a pass. Also, his “Arrington steals this thought from Talbott” is beyond outrageous. I gave full attribution to Talbott; linked to his article; and included lengthy quotes from the original. In what sense is this “stealing”? KN should be ashamed. I doubt that he is.

Comments
Joe @79: You are of course right to point out the possibility of directed changes per Spetner et al. In the case of non-directed variations, at least Alan Fox is getting closer and recognizing that natural selection is not a force itself, but is rather simply a label that is attached to the stochastic results of a process. With that important realization in mind, hopefully Alan and company can take the next step and realize that (i) the label is attached in nearly all cases after the fact, and (ii) the underlying process he refers to is essentially random.Eric Anderson
October 16, 2014
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Over on TSZ Alan Fox chimed in with his equivocation of natural selection:
It’s the name* for a process that can be described simply as differential survival of alleles.
No Alan, that differential reproduction must be due to heritable random, as in happenstance, variation(s). If the differential survival of alleles is due to luck then it isn't natural selection. If it is due to non-random changes to the genome (Spetner 1997, 2014), then it isn't natural selection. This is what's wrong with evolutionists- they don't understand the concepts they are defending.Joe
October 14, 2014
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Mapou: It’s not easy being a Darwinist.
That's like saying is not easy being an ostrich. Of course, it is. You just bury your head in the sand and hope nobody notices.Vishnu
October 14, 2014
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The peacock tail refutes Darwinist evolution. It hits it hard between the eyes with a two-by-four. But then again, so do blue and brown eyes, our love of music, beauty and the arts, and many other things.Mapou
October 14, 2014
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The peacock's tail has nothing to do with natural selection.Joe
October 14, 2014
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DavidD, you appear to have focused on one word, and expense of entire rest of the post. Almost as if you were more interesting scoring points than engaging in the topic... SA, You are mainly making my point for me. As you say
. In fact, all of the features of the tail argue against selection for fitness
Yes. taken alone the tail would appear to be selective disadvantage. If no-tail peacock alleles entered the population you might expect them to take over. Despite the opportunity for this to happen (such null alleles are very common products of mutation), it hasn't. Thus, there might be some reason that tail-having birds are not in fact less fit that those with reduced or absent tails. Selection is maintaining the tail. That's not the whole answer, of course. But, and I repeat myself because no one has yet engaged with this point, it enables to do some science. We can now go and test ideas like "do females prefer males with impressive tails", do males with particular impressive tails live shorter lives, is the tail in fact an outward marker of some inward trait like parasite resitance... If the concepts of fitness and natural selection are just tautologies, how are they so helpful?wd400
October 14, 2014
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#71 wd400 Ok, you offered a study that conflicted with the 2008 paper and I haven't read that so I can't go further. It's really not the main point of contention and I shouldn't have even offered it. The fact that females are either attracted or not to the peacock tail is not a test of selection or fitness.
that I said we know the tails are a result of selection simply because survivors have them.
Ok, you didn't say that explicitly but that's the way I read it. To revisit:
If you knew nothing abut peacocks, and happened across one, it would be reasonable to assume this giant tail was the result of selection. It safe to say it’s pretty costly to make such a tail, and carry it around with you. All else being equal, a peacock that didn’t make such a tail would be better off for not spending the energy and so would be at a selective advantge (or, to put it another, any peacock allele contributing to such a tail would be at a disadvantage and thus the tail would be very unlikely to arise).
I found that explanation very difficult - it's exactly the opposite of what I'd expect. We find a peacock with a tail that is costly to make and carry. We'd predict (?) that the tail would be a disadvantage to fitness. The tail is unlikely to arise. Therefore ... we conclude that the tail was selected for fitness? Why? Because we found a peacock and saw its tail, and in spite of the huge problems, we conclude it was selected for some reason.
So, it’s reasonable to presume, even if we don’t know all the details that his is a triat maintained by selection.
This is a tautology. The only reason you give for believing that the tail is a result of selection is the fact that the tail exists. In fact, all of the features of the tail argue against selection for fitness.
As it happens, in peacocks we know where that selection is coming from (female preference),so we can experiment learn a lot more (though not yet everything) about way selection has operated to create and maintain the trait.
You say that "selection has operated to create" the tail but nothing even close to that has been shown. Females could have started to be attracted to the tail centuries after the tail already existed. We simply don't know if there's a correlation between the emergence of the tail and the female interest in it. What real fitness did the tail confer versus the unfit peacocks? Why, precisely, was the tail required especially considering all of the cost-to-fitness it brought with it?Silver Asiatic
October 14, 2014
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Is there any way to delete a double post ?DavidD
October 13, 2014
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"I imagine the evolution of cannabilism" The key point here of course is the word "imagine". In one's imagination anything is possible. Now if you could just convince others your imagination holds the key to "Truth", you could start yet another religious denomination by gaining followers.DavidD
October 13, 2014
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SA, You keep claiming that (a) pea hens don't choose males based on their tails and (b) that I said we know the tails are aresult of selection simply because survivors have them. Neither of these claims are true.wd400
October 13, 2014
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EA, I know very near to nothing about ear wigs in particular. I imagine the evolution of cannabilism is only favoured under some environmental conditions (availability of other food, density of other earwigs on same and differing species) and as an "add-on" to some life histories (i.e. the parents need to be brooders before they can be a first meal. If I was researching the topic I'd design experiments that test the fitness benefits under different scenarios, and study the distribution of maternal investment across the phylogeny of related species (and how that corrleates with local ecological conditions). That, really, is the point I'm trying to make. Thinking about natural selection and fitness drives real science, and thus they are important concepts.wd400
October 13, 2014
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You mean the linked concepts of selection and fitness allow scientists to form and test hypotheses?
LOL No I mean the claim that females were attracted to the tails was proven false. This said nothing about fitness or selection except that peacocks with tails were more fit because they survived. Nothing more than a tautology.Silver Asiatic
October 13, 2014
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wd400: Thanks for your further comments and thoughts. Presumably we could say that the reason other earwig populations do not engage in parental cannibalism is because natural selection did not favor it in those cases?Eric Anderson
October 13, 2014
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Over millions of years, evolution has favored alleles that increased her net number of surviving offspring, even if that meant a shortened lifespan due to cannibalism.
Apparently leaving fewer offspring led to only partial cannibalism and natural selection, not wanting to let a perfectly good partially eaten earwig go to waste, found a way to make up the difference.Mung
October 13, 2014
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Even though wd400's claim of sexual selection of peacock feathers was found severely wanting,,,
"the considerable variation in the mating success of feral peacocks cannot be explained by natural variation in the number of eyespots visible in the train."
as to what wd400 originally intended to convey by it,,,
If you knew nothing abut peacocks, and happened across one, it would be reasonable to assume this giant tail was the result of selection.
None-the-less wd400 digs his heals and claims peacock feathers,,,
"Lol. You mean the linked concepts of selection and fitness allow scientists to form and test hypotheses?"
But when some rigor is applied 'the linked concepts of selection and fitness', as cited before, wd400's fantasy world collapses in on itself
Study demonstrates evolutionary ‘fitness’ not the most important determinant of success – February 7, 2014 – with illustration Excerpt: An illustration of the possible mutations available to an RNA molecule. The blue lines represent mutations that will not change its function (phenotype), the grey are mutations to an alternative phenotype with slightly higher fitness and the red are the ‘fittest’ mutations. As there are so few possible mutations resulting in the fittest phenotype in red, the odds of this mutation are a mere 0.15%. The odds for the slightly fitter mutation in grey are 6.7% and so this is far more likely to fix, and thus to be found and survive, even though it is much less fit than the red phenotype.,,, By modelling populations over long timescales, the study showed that the ‘fitness’ of their traits was not the most important determinant of success. Instead, the most genetically available mutations dominated the changes in traits. The researchers found that the ‘fittest’ simply did not have time to be found, or to fix in the population over evolutionary timescales. http://phys.org/news/2014-02-evolutionary-important-success.html
i.e. the fittest cannot survive if they cannot arrive! Of related note:
The Fairyland of Evolutionary Modeling - May 7, 2013 Excerpt: Salazar-Ciudad and Marín-Riera have shown that not only are suboptimal dead ends an evolutionary possibility, but they are also exceedingly likely to occur in real, developmentally complex structures when fitness is determined by the exact form of the phenotype. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/05/the_fantasy_wor071901.html “Selection Threshold Severely Constrains Capture of Beneficial Mutations” - John Sanford - September 6, 2013 Excerpt of concluding comments: Our findings raise a very interesting theoretical problem — in a large genome, how do the millions of low-impact (yet functional) nucleotides arise? It is universally agreed that selection works very well for high-impact mutations. However, unless some new and as yet undiscovered process is operating in nature, there should be selection breakdown for the great majority of mutations that have small impact on fitness.,,, We show that selection breakdown is not just a simple function of population size, but is seriously impacted by other factors, especially selection interference. We are convinced that our formulation and methodology (i.e., genetic accounting) provide the most biologically-realistic analysis of selection breakdown to date. http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/pdf/10.1142/9789814508728_0011 Researchers Ran a Massive Yearlong Experiment to Get Bacteria to Evolve. Guess What Happened? - August 22, 2014 Excerpt: (the problem the researchers tried to address???) "the general inability to connect phenotype to genotype in the context of environmental adaptation has been a major failing in the field of evolution.,,," (Their results in addressing this major failing???) 'In short, it was hard to find anything beyond a "suggestion" or a "scenario" that these bacteria improved their fitness in any way by genetic mutations, other than the gross observation that some of the clones managed to survive at 45 °C. But even the ancestor could do that sometimes through the "Lazarus effect."' http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/08/researchers_ran089231.html
Moreover, if all that was not bad enough for natural selection, there is a profound disconnect between the morphological form of an organism, where natural selection is suppose to work, and molecular variations in DNA and Proteins where 'random' mutations are said to occur,,,
Neo-Darwinian evolution cannot explain form of any type https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/this-study-says-it-explains-our-high-facial-variability-but-it-is-a-tautology/#comment-515498
will wd400 ever address any of these crushing concerns and admit that his theory is grossly inadequate as to the claims he puts upon it?,,, Actually, though many people on UD doubt that wd400 will ever be honest, I have a theory as to when wd400 might do become honest to the evidence!
http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/01/09/article-2535709-1A7D371000000578-703_964x531.jpg
Verse and Music:
John 1:3 All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. He Knows My Name - Francesca Battistelli http://myktis.com/songs/knows-name/
bornagain77
October 13, 2014
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NOTES FROM THE ATHEIST PLAYBOOKbevets
October 13, 2014
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Great link Eric. Since the concept of natural selection is tautology and thus useless, we should be able to explain the theory of evolution without it, and this seems simple enough to do. ... Darwinian evolution is the theory that unguided environmental factors, both inside and outside the organism, are entirely responsible for the diversity and complexity of life in the universe. These factors work by altering the genetic and epigenetic material of creatures which lead to changes that, when multiplied, have a noticeable effect on the biosphere as a whole. Specifically, these factors are things like heat, cold, light, darkness, pressure, water, chemicals, etc. and are caused by solar activity, floods, droughts, volcanic activity, ice ages, landslides, plate tectonics, etc. ... If this is how the species originated, there isn't any need to explain the process in terms of agency, which 'natural selection' serves as proxy for. By relying on such a concept, the naturalist unwittingly grants an epistemological point to the theist.GW
October 13, 2014
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It was a “just so” story falsified Lol. You mean the linked concepts of selection and fitness allow scientists to form and test hypotheses? And I didn't say "peacock tails were selected because they exist in the survivors" -- I laid out some reasons why that's a reasonable deduction to make.wd400
October 13, 2014
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A tautology falsified! That really is something…
It was a "just so" story falsified. The tautology remains - we know peacock tails were selected because they exist in the survivors.Silver Asiatic
October 13, 2014
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So your explanation for how peacocks got their feathers in the first place is because???,,,, (your cite) Peahens prefer peacocks displaying more eyespots, but rarely - 2011 Excerpt:,,, the considerable variation in the mating success of feral peacocks cannot be explained by natural variation in the number of eyespots visible in the train. Peafowl mate choice is clearly more complex than previously thought: females may reject a few males with substantially reduced eyespot number, while using some other cue to choose among males with typical trains. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347211001163 You seem to be (purposely) missing the point wd400! FLIGHT: The Genius of Birds - Feathers - video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2yeNoDCcBg Where did such well designed feathers come from is the question wd400! I don't want a 'just so' story as to how the leopard got its spots, I want you to get down into the molecular details and tell me how exactly natural selection did it!bornagain77
October 13, 2014
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This indicates no real measure of fitness and the claim that the peacock’s tail evolved due to sex selection was falsified. A tautology falsified! That really is something... (in fact, birds experimentally manipulated to have fewer eye-spots do less well that those that have a number of eye spots that falls within natural variation. So, there still seems to be a fitness effect. A more recent paper puts this particular case in contect: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.03.016)wd400
October 13, 2014
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wd400:
If you knew nothing abut peacocks, and happened across one, it would be reasonable to assume this giant tail was the result of selection.
Knowing something of natural selection the obvious inference would be that of artificial selection from an extraordinarily large set of a very wide variety of intelligently designed birds.Joe
October 13, 2014
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I call upon the Berlinski:
Swimming in the soundless sea, the shark has survived for millions of years, sleek as a knife blade and twice as dull. The shark is an organism wonderfully adapted to its environment. Pause. And then the bright brittle voice of logical folly intrudes: after all, it has survived for millions of years. This exchange should be deeply embarrassing to evolutionary biologists. And yet, time and again, biologists do explain the survival of an organism by reference to its fitness and the fitness of an organism by reference to its survival, the friction between concepts kindling nothing more illuminating than the observation that some creatures have been around for a very long time. "Those individuals that have the most offspring," writes Ernst Mayr, the distinguished zoologist, "are by definition . . . the fittest ones." And in Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, Tim Berra states that "[f]itness in the Darwinian sense means reproductive fitness-leaving at least enough offspring to spread or sustain the species in nature." This is not a parody of evolutionary thinking; it is evolutionary thinking. Que sera, sera.
From The Deniable DarwinJoe
October 13, 2014
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wd400 #49
As it happens, in peacocks we know where that selection is coming from (female preference),so we can experiment learn a lot more (though not yet everything) about way selection has operated to create and maintain the trait.
Research shows ...
Peahens do not prefer peacocks with more elaborate trains Mariko Takahashi, Hiroyuki Arita, Mariko Hiraiwa-Hasegawa and Toshikazu Hasegawa Animal Behaviour, 75(4), April 2008, 1209-1219 | doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.10.004 Abstract: The elaborate train of male Indian peafowl, Pavo cristatus, is thought to have evolved in response to female mate choice and may be an indicator of good genes. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of the male train in mate choice using male- and female-centred observations in a feral population of Indian peafowl in Japan over 7 years. We found no evidence that peahens expressed any preference for peacocks with more elaborate trains (i.e. trains having more ocelli, a more symmetrical arrangement or a greater length), similar to other studies of galliforms showing that females disregard male plumage. Combined with previous results, our findings indicate that the peacock's train (1) is not the universal target of female choice, (2) shows small variance among males across populations and (3) based on current physiological knowledge, does not appear to reliably reflect the male condition. We also found that some behavioural characteristics of peacocks during displays were largely affected by female behaviours and were spuriously correlated with male mating success. Although the male train and its direct display towards females seem necessary for successful reproduction, we conclude that peahens in this population are likely to exercise active choice based on cues other than the peacock's train.
This indicates no real measure of fitness and the claim that the peacock's tail evolved due to sex selection was falsified.Silver Asiatic
October 13, 2014
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I beg to differ, If you can't explain how the molecules themselves achieved such efficiency (i.e. optimal 'fitness') then natural selection is completely useless as explanation in science as to how such things came to be! Study demonstrates evolutionary ‘fitness’ not the most important determinant of success – February 7, 2014 – with illustration Excerpt: An illustration of the possible mutations available to an RNA molecule. The blue lines represent mutations that will not change its function (phenotype), the grey are mutations to an alternative phenotype with slightly higher fitness and the red are the ‘fittest’ mutations. As there are so few possible mutations resulting in the fittest phenotype in red, the odds of this mutation are a mere 0.15%. The odds for the slightly fitter mutation in grey are 6.7% and so this is far more likely to fix, and thus to be found and survive, even though it is much less fit than the red phenotype.,,, By modelling populations over long timescales, the study showed that the ‘fitness’ of their traits was not the most important determinant of success. Instead, the most genetically available mutations dominated the changes in traits. The researchers found that the ‘fittest’ simply did not have time to be found, or to fix in the population over evolutionary timescales. http://phys.org/news/2014-02-evolutionary-important-success.html This following headline sums it up very nicely: Fittest Can’t Survive If They Never Arrive – February 7, 2014 http://crev.info/2014/02/fittest-cant-survive-if-they-never-arrive/ further note as to 'optimality': Optimal Design of Metabolism - Dr. Fazale Rana - July 2012 Excerpt: A new study further highlights the optimality of the cell’s metabolic systems. Using the multi-dimension optimization theory, researchers evaluated the performance of the metabolic systems of several different bacteria. The data generated by monitoring the flux (movement) of compounds through metabolic pathways (like the movement of cars along the roadways) allowed researchers to assess the behavior of cellular metabolism. They determined that metabolism functions optimally for a system that seeks to accomplish multiple objectives. It looks as if the cell’s metabolism is optimized to operate under a single set of conditions. At the same time, it can perform optimally with relatively small adjustments to the metabolic operations when the cell experiences a change in condition. http://www.reasons.org/articles/the-optimal-design-of-metabolism Natural selection is simply completely blind at the molecular level so as to explain such optimal 'fitness'!bornagain77
October 13, 2014
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Perhaps, which would make you definition completely irrelevant to this discussion...wd400
October 13, 2014
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Actually wd400, I believe you and I have completely different views as to how to accurately measure 'fitness': Seeing the Natural World With a Physicist’s Lens - November 2010 Excerpt: Scientists have identified and mathematically anatomized an array of cases where optimization has left its fastidious mark, among them;,, the precision response in a fruit fly embryo to contouring molecules that help distinguish tail from head;,,, In each instance, biophysicists have calculated, the system couldn’t get faster, more sensitive or more efficient without first relocating to an alternate universe with alternate physical constants. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/02/science/02angier.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=seeing%20the%20natural%20world%20with%20a%20physicist%27s%20lens&st=csebornagain77
October 13, 2014
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BA, "just so" stories usually means neat little adaptive stories that either falsifiable or no well supported. My post in 49 could be falsified (you could find our that tails had not fitness cost relative to tailless birds, or that they presented no substantial energetic cost).wd400
October 13, 2014
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"In reality, however, this passage illustrates my point. The efforts mentioned there are not experimental biology; they are attempts to explain already authenticated phenomena in Darwinian terms, things like human nature. Further, Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive – except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed – except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery. Darwinian evolution – whatever its other virtues – does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology. This becomes especially clear when we compare it with a heuristic framework such as the atomic model, which opens up structural chemistry and leads to advances in the synthesis of a multitude of new molecules of practical benefit." http://www.discovery.org/a/2816bornagain77
October 13, 2014
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BA, Fitness is dimensionless, since it's a ratio of whatever units are being counted (genotypes, phenotypes or organisms). There is no name for a unit of fitness, but it's usually denoted by a "w".wd400
October 13, 2014
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