# Natural Selection – Hasty Generalization, Slippery Slope, or Wishful Thinking?

The observed effects of random mutation plus natural selection can account for temporary changes in finch beak size, pigmentation changes in moths, and antibiotic resistance in bacteria. It has never been observed creating novel 1) cell types, 2) tissue types, 3) organs, or 4) body plans. All four of those creative events must be explained by any theory of evolution. In the neoDarwinian theory or modern synthesis these are explained by the never observed accumulation of minor random mutations filtered by natural selection.

Obviously taking the mechanism that changes the size of a finch beak and making it the mechanism that changes a bacterium into a finch is one heck of an extrapolation. However, I’m in a quandry over whether this hideous bit of extrapolation ad absurdum better fits the logical fallacy of hasty generalization (also called leaping to a conclusion) or slippery slope (also called the camel’s nose). Which do you all think is the better fit?

Of course if we’re restricting our critique of Natural Selection to just atheist thought processes then it undeniably becomes the logical fallacy of wishful thinking. 🙂

## 20 Replies to “Natural Selection – Hasty Generalization, Slippery Slope, or Wishful Thinking?”

1. 1

Dave,
The only entry in Wikip is for “mathematical extraploation” which is closely related to regression analysis and interpolation. It’s an interesting article.

Extrapolation outside of mathematics isn’t covered. However, the article does describe the dangers of extrapolation even when based on mathematical data points: RMNS extrapolations are nowhere NEAR mathematical, so the dangers are even greater.

Here’s what WkP says about mathematical extrapolation errors:

“Examples of extrapolation error: An extrapolation’s reliability is indicated by its prediction confidence interval, WHICH OFTEN DIVERGES TO IMPOSSIBLE VALUES. Extrapolating beyond that range CAN LEAD to misleading results.” (my emphasis added.)
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extrapolation

My guess is that RMNS has NO “prediction confidence interval”. Dr. D?

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3. 3
valerie says:

“In the neoDarwinian theory or modern synthesis these are explained by the never observed accumulation of minor random mutations filtered by natural selection.”

This post points out a major difference between ID supporters and Darwinians: Darwinians see no reason to think that mutations cannot accumulate, but ID supporters do.

I’d be interested in hearing from ID supporters about what they think limits the accumulation.

Thanks,
Valerie

Extinction would appear to be the major factor cutting off accumulation. 99.9% of all species that ever lived are extinct and when they die their accumulated mutations die with them if they haven’t branched. But that isn’t the argument I meant to make. The argument is that that observed mutations such as beak size, antibiotic immunity, and pigments aren’t additive into novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans. No one has ever observed these small mutations adding up to become more than just a bunch of small mutations. Dogs are the best example I know of in the observed limits of mutation and selection. In 20,000 years of breeding dogs for unusual traits we have changes in relative scale of body parts, changes in color/length/texture of fur, and even temperament. But from Chihuahuas to St. Bernards they’re all still dogs and all still able to interbreed. Not a single novel cell type, tissue type, organ, or body plan has even remotely begun to emerge. So exactly what evidence is there to support extrapolating these evidently bounded mutations into an unbounded mechanism that can turn bacteria into beagles? None that I can see. The entire argument is based upon the three logical fallacies given in the subject line and an additional fallacy “if not natural selection, then what else could it be?” which is of course an argument from ignorance. -ds

Valerie – I deleted your next comment because all you did was ask what I already answered i.e. what might stop accumulation. Death. Death of the individual and death of the species. It’s in the first line of my response above. If you don’t want to read my response and ask the same questions over again you can go ask it on some other blog. -ds

4. 4

What accumulations?

“never observed” means accumulations are hypothetical.
The only reason Darwinians THINK they exist is because their theory demands it.

Accumulations are to ND what epicycles are to Ptolemaic astronomy.
We KNOW epicycles are real because we KNOW the planets revolve around the earth.

5. 5

Going back to Dave’s question:
What is it called when otherwise intelligent people can “see” accumulations which have been “never seen” but they can’t see “design” which is a self-evident property of a micro-machine such as the bacterial flagellum?
Is it
a) hasty generalization
b) slippery slope
c) wishful thinking
d) insanity

It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims to believe in random mutation plus natural selection as the only mechanism behind all of evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that). Quoth the craven. -ds

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Scott says:

From what I’ve read, the consensus is that the empirical evidence for genetic mutation as a means of beneficial information-gaining change in general, and macro-evolutionary change in particular, is zilch.

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russ says:

Is the problem of “new information” what Valerie is asking about? I understand it’s different than the problem of accumulation of changes, but isn’t the appearance of new information a related and equally daunting problem for neo-Darwinism?

http://www.discovery.org/scrip.....38;id=2177

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Scott says:

indeed it is, russ.

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Barrett1 says:

I am also skeptical that random mutation plus natural selection has the kind of creative power that Darwinists suggest. The lack of any observable evidence of it working to create novel cell types, etc. certainly doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bode well for Darwinists. But more importantly, the billions of dollars spent in attempts to prove the creative powers of rm+ns has left us with no clear response to the criticisms you pose.

But IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m struggling with something. Most Darwinists would agree that speciation is not well understood and is a topic of hot controversy. But at least they are forthcoming with a model that even I can understand. The model appears to be successful in explaining such things as the age of the earth and the relatedness of living things.

So how will the Darwinian model be changed if the scientific establishment discarded rm+ns? I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get a clear picture of what IDists are proposing as a new model. We get a lot of snappy comments poking fun at the Darwinists, but nothing concrete. At least Davison has been forthcoming in proposing a new model. And even Phillip Johnson (perhaps the cagiest of the ID leaders) once reluctantly conceded the earth was probably 4.6 billion years old and Ã¢â‚¬Å“the current evidence is most consistent with some continuous or intermittent creation process over a long period of time, with new genetic information appearing from some source unknown to science.Ã¢â‚¬Â (Debate with Philip Kitcher, 1999). He conceded that this was unsatisfactory and more research was needed.

Instead of taunting the guys over at PT, isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it time someone started to develop an understandable creation model that incorporates ID as Johnson suggested?

ID isn’t a theory of evolution. ID theorizes that certain patterns in nature are best explained by intelligent cause and that some of these patterns can be reliably identified. How the patterns were actually created is not something that is exposed by the design inference. As far I can determine no known laws of nature need be violated for the creation of any pattern so far identified.

For instance, say members of the same family (mother, father, son, daughter, grandparents, etc) win 10 sequential lotteries each with 10,000,000:1 odds against winning. Any reasonable person will assume with great confidence that result was designed because it’s complex (10 million to the tenth power) and specified (conforms to an independently given pattern i.e. one family). This is an example of complex specified information. Do you need to know how the lottery was rigged to know that it was rigged? Absolutely not. The result does not reveal the method or the designer. There’s no way to determine who rigged the lottery or how they rigged the lottery merely from the fact that 10 members of the same family won 10 consecutive lotteries against staggering odds.

Life on earth won a helluva lot of consecutive lotteries. -ds

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GilDodgen says:

I’d still like to know how it is known that moth coloration, finch beak size, and dog attribute changes are the result of random mutations. How is it known that the genetic information for these variations didn’t already exist in the population and that natural selection (or breeding) simply mixed and matched extant genes and brought them to the fore where they could be expressed? This would apply, for example, to recessive genes that are carried by some individuals but not expressed until they are matched up with sister recessive genes.

They aren’t known to be random. They’re unpredictable. I’m being kind and conceding a point for the sake of argument. NeoDarwinian evolution is a target rich environment for anyone aiming to shoot it down. If you want to take out an enemy aircraft you don’t have to destroy both wings, the fuselage, the rudder, the elevator, the ailerons, the fuel tanks, and the engines. Any one of those targets will suffice. More than one is overkill. -ds

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johnnyb says:

valerie —

Accumulation is irrelevant. The point is that the _kind_ of changes demonstrated by each are vastly different. A new tissue type is not just an accumulation of minor variations of existing ones. As Davidson recently pointed out, a new body plan is not simply an accumulation of variation. These are _vastly_ different operations.

I have some analogies from computer science here if you are interested (it’s written from a YEC perspective, but the arguments do not stem from any YEC assumptions).

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GilDodgen wrote:
“How is it known that the genetic information for these variations didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t already exist in the population and that natural selection (or breeding) simply mixed and matched extant genes and brought them to the fore where they could be expressed?”

It’s very possible that “natural selection” DOES work at the micro-level of evolution, the “below the species level”. OTOH, if random mutation existed, we would be able to compare the genomes of long vs short beak finches and see vast differences between the two. There would be no going back and forth as conditions changed. My guess is, the genomes would be identical. It’s just that existing genes are expressed under different environmental conditions.

….
Barrett1 wrote:
“The [speciation] model appears to be successful in explaining such things as the age of the earth and the relatedness of living things.”
–I don’t know how the NDE model explains the age of the earth. The age of the earth is separate from any biological theory.
–There are several possibilities to explain the relatedness of living things:
Quoting Dr. Dembski:
“1. Conservation of Developmental Genes – These structures were deeply conserved from a time before these groups split apart.
“2. Convergent Evolution – The environment funneled their body features to become similar. On a side note this has supposedly happened many times with the eye.

“Obviously the scientistsÃ¢â‚¬â€œbeing DarwinistsÃ¢â‚¬â€œdecided to favor those two interpretations as the only valid interpretation. Not that they attempted to refute other interpretationsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦they just didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t consider them.

“3. Latent Library or Prescribed Evolution – Dr. Davison’s theory.

“4. Designer Reuse – One of the positive cases for Intelligent Design is the observation of the ways designers act when designing. Intelligent agents often Ã¢â‚¬Ëœre-useÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ functional components that work over and over in different systems.”
See ( http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/687 )

Barrett1 wrote:
“So how will the Darwinian model be changed if the scientific establishment discarded rm+ns?”
–If rm+ns are discarded, there IS no Darwinian model.

“I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get a clear picture of what IDists are proposing as a new model….Instead of taunting the guys over at PT, isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it time someone started to develop an understandable creation model that incorporates ID as Johnson suggested?”

First of all, taunting the guys at PT is fun! We’re a fun bunch, not dower like the PT bunch.

Second of all, why is it necessary for ID to “propose a new model?”

The purpose of Darwinism isn’t merely to explain how things got here, but to explain how things got here *without a creative intelligence*. The whole purpose is to demonstrate convincingly how everything got here by chance or necessity, by accident or by constraint of natural forces. Darwinism isn’t a theory that attempts to explain the data, its a theory that attempts to explain the data IN A CERTAIN WAY. That “certain way” is a way is bent to conform to a particular philosophical outlook: philosophical materialism or naturalistic materialism.

ID is a minimalist science. It has FEWER presuppositions that NDE. It is about empirical observation: “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause…. (Discovery Institute, 2006)”

ID asks “Look at the design. Is that a design that could ‘Just happen’? No. That’s a design that bears the markings of intelligence. What are the markings of intelligence? What are the probabilities?”

Unlike NDE, ID is not compelled to develop a comprehensive worldview. (NDE MUST try to answer all questions about everything or it falls apart.) ID does not have to reinvent every wheel. ID DOES NOT HAVE TO SAY WHO THE DESIGNER IS. There are several fields of study that already do that: philosophy, theology, history, archeology, art, literature, even government. ID is more adhered to pure observation. ID is more like mathematics. Mathematics doesn’t have to explain HOW mathematics exists. Mathematics just is. Design just is. What are its properties? Intelligence is one of the principle properties of Design.

Outside of ID, people are free to develop lots of models.
Dr. Davison’s model is in fact outside of ID.
Creationism is outside of ID.
Planetary seeding by aliens from other planets is outside of ID.

ID has no stake in a particular model and doesn’t need to.

OK. Let’s get back to bashing the bunch at PT.

13. 13
GilDodgen says:

Dave,

I appreciate the aviation metaphor.

Darwinism will soon go down in flames, and leave a big smoking hole in the ground.

(This phrase, not in regard to Darwinism but to experimental aircraft test-flying, I got from Chuck Yeager, whom I once had the privilege of meeting. His poetic turn of phrase stuck with me.)

I was in the Air Wing of the USMC stationed at MCAS El Toro for 4 years. I got a lot of hours in the left seat of a Cessna 172 with a Marine Phantom pilot as my instructor. Whenever I did anything stupid he’d chew me out and say we could “Crash, die, and burn. In that order if we’re lucky…” -ds

14. 14
Barrett1 says:

Red Reader, Thank you! I have only more question and I’ll go back to lurking.

Darwinists seem to reject the possibility of a supernatural intelligence because they see so many mistakes in biological organisms. That is, they come up with a number of examples that indicate life couldn’t have been designed by an intelligent agent. After all, if an intelligent agent could create life, surely the same agent would have the ability to perfect it.

The ID camp, however, seems reluctant to address this issue. I hear the discussion is out of bounds because it drifts into theology, philosophy, etc. But does it? It seems to me that a scientist, seeing bad design in living organisms, would naturally drift toward a model that rejected or at least minimized the possibility of a creative supernatural intelligence. There’s nothing nefarious here, just reasonable people moving in a reasonable direction. Is the ID camp suggesting that the the design successes are proof positive of an intelligent designer and the design failures are off-limits to discuss?

They accuse us of theological argument instead of science then they go right ahead and use a theological argument to dispute design. They want to have their cake and eat it too. Claims of what God must or must not be like is out of bounds. The argument is called “bad design means no design” is a theological position that presumes God is incapable of imperfection. What are scientists doing arguing theology? -ds

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Charlie says:

Not to mention the ridiculous subjectivity in trying to assess the difference between good and bad biological design from such a limited perspective.

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GilDodgen says:

Barrett1: “After all, if an intelligent agent could create life, surely the same agent would have the ability to perfect it. The ID camp, however, seems reluctant to address this issue.”

The ID camp is not reluctant to address this issue. Bill Dembski addresses it eloquently and insightfully in chapter six of his book, The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design. Pick up a copy.

17. 17
Scott says:

Barrett1,

Please show me the standard of perfection? What does it look and behave like? How does it impact the ecosystem and the predator/prey relationship in the context of extinction?

Any engineer will tell you that there are trade-offs in design. You sacrifice the optimality of one component for the overall good of the design.

And if you are going to invoke a theological argument, you’d better be prepared for a theological response. And there is a darned good one that explains the “fallen” condition of this system. 😉

18. 18
jerry says:

Barrett1,

http://www.designinference.com.....sponse.htm

The interesting thing is that Darwinists use the “supposed imperfections” in the designer of ID to validate their own theory. If their theory had any merit there would be no need to do this. They are then tacitly admitting their theory is bogus and they have to blow the others out of the water so they feel better about Darwin.

The second interesting thing is that Darwinists use what they think they know of Judeo Christian theology to define the “D” in ID. If the designer is not omniscient and perfect from their understanding of theology, then the designer can not exist. ID says nothing about the designer. Humans in the future will be intelligent designers of life and what they do will hardly be perfect. Who the designer in the past was is a philosophical or religious question that is completely separate from the science and beyond Intelligent Design. It is an interesting question that would get little agreement amongst those who post here.

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jerry says:

It looks like Scott and I gave different links for the same document.

20. 20

Barrett1 wrote:
“…one more question and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll go back to lurking. Darwinists seem to reject the possibility of a supernatural intelligence because they see so many mistakes in biological organisms….The ID camp, however, seems reluctant to address this issue. I hear the discussion is out of bounds because it drifts into theology, philosophy, etc.”

Three things:
First: Don’t go back to lurking. Stay here, post something outrageous showing that you aren’t the least bit open-minded and get booted. Go out in flames, I say.

Two: Who says “the ID camp is reluctant to discuss the issue”? Hogwash. If you’ve heard that, you HAVEN’T heard it from ANY of the ID heavy weights: Dembski, Witt, Nelson, Behe, Gonzales, et. al.. You probably heard some ID critic *claim* ID is reluctant and took that as gospel. Rule #1, don’t believe half of what ID critics say, period.
(For one recent example see: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/818 )

http://www.designinference.com.....sponse.htm

The title of the essay is “Intelligent Design is not Optimal Design”.

Exerpt from article:
“A common strategy of opponents to design in biology (like Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Francisco Ayala) is to assimilate intelligent design to one of these categories–apparent or optimal design. The problem with this move is that it constitutes an evasion. Indeed, it utterly sidesteps the question of intelligent, or actual, design. The automobiles that roll off the assembly plants in Detroit are intelligently designed in the sense that human intelligences are responsible for them. Nevertheless, even if we think Detroit manufactures the best cars in the world, it would still be wrong to say they are optimally designed. Nor is it correct to say that they are only apparently designed.”

One more exerpt:
“…there is no such thing as perfect design. Real designers strive for constrained optimization, which is something completely different. As Henry Petroski, an engineer and historian at Duke, aptly remarks in Invention by Design: “All design involves conflicting objectives and hence compromise, and the best designs will always be those that come up with the best compromise.”[1] CONSTRAINED OPTIMIZATION is the art of compromise between conflicting objectives. This is what design is all about. To find fault with biological design because it misses an idealized optimum, as Stephen Jay Gould regularly does, is therefore gratuitous. Not knowing the objectives of the designer, Gould IS IN NO POSITION TO SAY whether the designer has come up with a faulty compromise among those objectives.” (My caps for emphasis.)

Another way to say this is: If YOU want perfect design, then go out, create your own universe and design everything according to your own specification. Would everything be optimal in your world? No matter how well you do, your critics will find something THEY think you could have done better.

….
Remember now: post something outrageous: it’s what makes this blog so much fun….