Intelligent Design Natural selection News

Scorpion burrow follows “a very sophisticated design”

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Further to Education and Absurdity (design in nature is evident, but people can’t see it), here’s From ScienceDaily on the scorpion:

The researchers found that the burrows followed a very sophisticated design, beginning with a short, vertical entrance shaft that flattened out a few centimeters below the surface into a horizontal platform. The burrows then turn sharply downwards, descending further below ground to form a dead-end chamber. This cool, humid chamber, where evaporation water loss is minimal, provides a refuge for the scorpions to rest during the heat of the day.

The design was common to all the scorpion burrows studied, which suggests that burrow building in scorpions has evolved by natural selection to meet the animals’ physiological needs.

Actually, it doesn;t suggest that the burrows evolved by “natural selection” at all.

“Natural selection” (acting on random mutation, to spell it out fully) means that all scorpions who did it differently died out, leaving only those who somehow accidentally evolved to do it this way.

Of course it didn’t happen that way. The superstition that it did is generally called Darwinian evolution, though embarrassment had caused many to shy away from the correct and widely understood term.

In fairness to the researcher, raising issues about this might end his career. Darwin’s believers need their religion, which is enforced by the courts with a stringency in almost direct proportion to its disconfirmation in nature.

The scorpion’s engineering points to an intelligence in nature, one that we may indeed be able to study—but first we must stop pretending it isn’t there.

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11 Replies to “Scorpion burrow follows “a very sophisticated design”

  1. 1
    DavidD says:

    “The design was common to all the scorpion burrows studied, which suggests that burrow building in scorpions has evolved by natural selection to meet the animals’ physiological needs.”

    This is exactly the kind of examples Cornelius Hunter generally brings out. The mere act of standing up before a congregation of like minded dweeb intellects and making these types of religious faith affirmations is all that is necessary for making it so. They don’t have to prove anything since evolution is taken as a given. The mere act of inserting statements such as these into a science paper does nothing but score Brownie Merit Badge points with those appointed at the local Troop Scout Master. It’s merely them throwing a pinch of incense in an alter and burning it before the image of Darwin in a form of secularist Emperor Worship.

  2. 2
    Jon Garvey says:

    Evolutionary biologists are such poetic souls! They know that natural selection is an unplanned process that has no goals in mind, but seem pathologically unable to describe what has happened without teleology oozing out everywhere, as News rightly says.

    But another bit of poetic licence is the failure to make any reasoned case that there actually is, or can be, a deterministic genetic explanation for the complex behaviour of tunnel-building.

    How many genes, exactly, does it take to specify the tunnel-shape and the physical motions needed to make it? How do those genes actually act: what kind of proteins can plausibly make your scorpion dig just so far and then change direction by so many degrees but stop just before the point that will confer a selective disadvantage (the constraints being so tight that all the scorpions do exactly the same)?

    And given how few genes are now thought to be coding, how many are tied up governing all the digging, mating, feeding, fighting and fostering behaviours at the expense of making the claws and nerve cells to carry them out?

    Evo psych is just as fanciful for explaining scorpion tunnels as it is for heavy metal music.

  3. 3
    Piotr says:

    Job Garvey:

    If you think that the instruction how to make a good burrow was provided by God or some other intelligent designer, you still have to account for the fact that this behavioral pattern is passed on from one generation of scorpions to the next. This could happen either biologically (via heritable chemistry) or culturally (by social learning). I doubt if the latter can take place in Scorpio maurus colonies, whatever the intelligence of those scorpions (they don’t share their burrows or spend much time tutoring their young), so it would seem that the ability is innate (one could test this easily with scorpions raised in captivity). So if the ability is somehow encoded in the scorpion’s genome anyway, how does the designer hypothesis solve your problem?

    The number of protein-coding genes varies within relatively narrow limits across all animals (the human figure of about 20 thousand being close to the average), and is not a reliable measure of anatomical or behavioral complexity.

  4. 4
    Piotr says:

    Oops, sorry for the typo in your name Jon; B is next to N on the keyboard.

  5. 5
    Jon Garvey says:

    Piotr – Job’s quite a good role model, so no offence taken.

    My point was not that there must be any particular mechanism, or still less supernatural intervention, governing animal behaviour, but that the proposed theory – genetic inheritence – is insufficient to account for it fully even in principle.

    It’s not a good argument to say that because something happens, the proposed mechanism must be adequate – and especially so at a time when the gene-centred view of inheritence has received a number of challenges from alternatives that have barely been investigated.

    When I studied social psychology some centuries ago, all human behaviour was attributed to genes or environment, “because there’s nothing else.” Since then, sociologists tell me, psychology has discovered a new cause called “choice”, which apparently they hadn’t thought of back then, and the discipline has changed completely. Though, I suppose, genes and environment might exhaustively account for this post and the fact of my writing it – I’m surprised I have enough genes for it though, and would be interested in understanding the difference between the genes used for this post, and the one I did further up, since it’s a significantly different behaviour pattern.

    And because the argument “It must be caused by genes and they must be formed by natural selection,” (in the absence of any maths, any understanding of the mechanisms of animal behaviour, or any detailed proposal about how genes could do it whatsoever) is as weak as water and less useful, it’s perfectly legitimate to suspect that the wrong tree is being barked up.

    Given the absolute universality of teleological explanations (as in this research), my money is on some form of immanent teleology being involved, but the chances of discovering any such thing imminently is minute, because science excluded both final and formal causality on principle during the Enlightenment.

    Therefore it has no way to deal with either teleology or information in dealing with behaviour in which information informs telelogical goals. Maybe it would help to see what mutation in the “immanent” gene produces “imminent” – but if that’s a laughable idea, you’ll understand why I think the scorpions are laughing too.

  6. 6
    Piotr says:

    Jon:

    My point was not that there must be any particular mechanism, or still less supernatural intervention, governing animal behaviour, but that the proposed theory – genetic inheritence – is insufficient to account for it fully even in principle.

    Is it supposed to account for it fully, though? I don’t think people mean that when they say that some behaviours are shaped by natural selection. The very advantage of having a nervous systems is that you can solve practical problems on your own (and possibly learn from experience), without relying exclusively on innate patterns. It gives you some individual adaptability and flexibility. DNA passes on only necessary information on how to build a viable phenotype. Of course it isn’t encoded directly: there is, for example, no particular “gene” whose sole function is to instruct the scorpion how deep a shaft it should dig, but there may be some features of the regulatory network of gene expression that introduce (very indirectly) a certain bias in the scorpion’s innate neural wiring. I would imagine that much, maybe even most, of the “recipe for a burrow” emerges during the individual development of a scorpion from its interaction with the environment, and is, say, physically inevitable rather than genetically pre-programmed.

    It’s a different question to what extent the heritable component is really subject to natural selection in this particular case. Some particular parameters of the burrow might conceivably be “spandrels” in the Gouldian sense, accidentally fixed by neutral drift.

  7. 7
    Jon Garvey says:

    Piotr

    From the original study:

    The researchers found that the burrows followed a very sophisticated design, beginning with a short, vertical entrance shaft that flattened out a few centimeters below the surface into a horizontal platform. The burrows then turn sharply downwards, descending further below ground to form a dead-end chamber. This cool, humid chamber, where evaporation water loss is minimal, provides a refuge for the scorpions to rest during the heat of the day.

    The design was common to all the scorpion burrows studied

    Clearly that last fact makes any discussion of individual adaptability irrelevant. So the “physical inevitability” (whatever that means given the inevitable large physical variations in the lives of individual scorpions) arising from “a certain bias” is all one has – it’s my old sociologists’ “genes + environement”, only minus the fact that in humans the environment is intelligently processed without doubt, regardless of whether one accepts freedom of choice. But just because it’s all you have in the toolbox doesn’t make it convincing.

    The question of spandrels revolves around whether one believes the researchers’ claim that these particular burrows are approaching optimality. That “very sophisticated design” is then said to have “arrived” as a fortuitous spandrel, been fixed neutrally – and presumably retained by selection to give at least some semblance of plausibility to an otherwise entirely fortuitous appearance of purposeful design.

    But if selection alone lacks plausibility, adding some more contingency in the previous chain of events isn’t going to help much. It’s still a claim that an indirect neurological bias, individual interaction with the varied environment and physical necessity is sufficient means to produce “a very sophisticated design” used by all these scorpions.

    Besides, my original comments were addressed to the researchers’ quasi-teleological claim that it was (entirely) selection that dunnit:

    burrow building in scorpions has evolved by natural selection to meet the animals’ physiological needs.

    Still, I’m just as happy to disbelieve that it “has evolved by spandrels, drift, natural selection, interaction with the environment and physical necessity to meet the animals’ physiological needs.” At least, unless those processes had teleogy built into them.

  8. 8
    Joe says:

    Piotr:

    If you think that the INSTRUCTION how to make a good burrow was provided by God or some other intelligent designer, you still have to account for the fact that this behavioral pattern is passed on from one generation of scorpions to the next. This could happen either biologically (via heritable chemistry) or culturally (by social learning).

    Or perhaps that information is in an ethereal plane that each organism is designed to tap into.

  9. 9
    Piotr says:

    Jon,

    What you quote is not “the original study” but a press release, and I suppose you know how the conclusions of a press release can differ from those of a published article. The talk on which it is based was given just a few days ago at a conference in Manchester. Here is the relevant part of the book of abstracts; the scorpion thing is A9.26. The authors’ idea is that the burrow can be regarded as part of the scorpion’s extended phenotype. Interesting, but hard to evaluate until the report gets reviewed and published.

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    I’m sure there’s an absolutely enchanting just-so story to explain this just waiting in the wings.

  11. 11
    DavidD says:

    Piotr – “So if the ability is somehow encoded in the scorpion’s genome anyway, how does the designer hypothesis solve your problem?”

    As expected in this thread, classic burden shift as opposed to acknowledging the damning problem of lack of evidence in the religious affirmation inserted in the article.

    Piotr – “What you quote is not “the original study” but a press release, and I suppose you know how the conclusions of a press release can differ from those of a published article.”

    Another prediction comes true. After burden shifting because you actually don’t have any evidence to back up the questionable religious affirmation made in the article, stand on a soapbox and shout out that it was the author who stated this and not the Scientist. Incredibly however, they only offer this criticism when an Opposer of their religious belief points out the lack of evidence in the faith statement. Had they originally read the article on their own, they would never have had a problem with this religious affirmation because after all, evolution is a given.

    What is fascinating is how predictable this herd mentality is in Atheist/Evolutionists

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIO7BvibNXw&feature=kp

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