Darwinism Intelligent Design

The Royal Society Meeting: Keeping the lid on for now.

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But admitting that the pot is boiling. From Kevin Laland in Trends in Ecology & Evolution:

November 7–9, 2016 witnessed a joint discussion meeting of the Royal Society and the British Academy (the UK national academies for the sciences and social sciences, respectively) entitled ‘New Trends in Evolutionary Biology: Biological, Philosophical and Social Science Perspectives’. The meeting, anticipated with a mix of feverish enthusiasm and dread, sold out months in advance, the eager audience perhaps expecting radical and traditional evolutionists to go toe to toe, rather than the constructive dialogue among biologists, social scientists, and researchers in the humanities that the academies advertised. One issue under discussion was whether or not the explanatory core of evolutionary biology requires updating in the light on recent advances in evo-devo, epigenetics, ecosystem ecology, and elsewhere.

There you have it, from the world of There Is No Debate, There Never Was a Debate, and Besides, The Debate Is Over and That Noise You Hear Is Just the Blender…

The conference brought home a key point – these debates are not about data but rather about how findings are interpreted and understood.

Yes, but that’s true of almost all debates. There is data but it is differently interpreted and understood. Laland continues,

At the heart of the above differences are hidden disparities in how researchers think about development. Seemingly, traditionalists often view features such as plasticity, extragenetic inheritance, and niche construction as being specified by genetic programs that are finely honed by past selection, whereas radicals are more likely to view features of development as being under-determined by past selection and hence a source of evolutionary novelty. More.

Yes, that’s the debate. What the fossils told us in their own words is not the official history.

With any debate like this, groups face a choice: Adapt to new information or start to decline.

One would expect people who work in evolution to find that easy to understand, but hey…

See also: Darwinism: Replacement or extension?


Why the sea is boiling hot.

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22 Replies to “The Royal Society Meeting: Keeping the lid on for now.

  1. 1
    Larry Moran says:

    “There were points of agreement. All parties emphasized that evolutionary biology is a vigorous and progressive field of science. To the chagrin of creationists and some journalists hoping for a fight, no calls for revolution were heard. Likewise, everyone accepted that the focal phenomena had a long history of investigation within evolutionary biology – they might be ‘new trends’ in the sense that they are currently garnering increased attention, but the ideas go back decades or longer, and their significance has been debated periodically throughout the history of the field.”

  2. 2
    asauber says:

    the explanatory core of evolutionary biology requires updating

    Evolution: The Constantly Evolving Hypothesis

    See, it explains itself!


  3. 3
    News says:

    Larry Moran at 1 should remember to check the pressure gauges on the kettles.

  4. 4
    Larry Moran says:

    The problem with Kevin Laland and his colleagues is not that there’s no debate … it’s that there IS a furious debate and they’ve missed it entirely. The real ongoing debate is between adaptationists and those pluralists who accept Neutral Theory and the importance of random genetic drift.

    EES proponents are suck in the mid 20th century with their views that natural selection is the only game in town. They seem to be completely ignorant of the real revolution that’s been underway since the late 1960s. It was clear from the meeting that they do not understand modern population genetics. Even the ID people at the meeting could see that.

    It was obvious to anyone with a brain that the EES proponents haven’t read a modern textbook on evolutionary biology (e.g. one by Douglas Futuyma, who was at the meeting) and they certainly haven’t read a modern textbook on population genetics.

    “News” (hi, Denyse!) should understand this since many of us have been explaining this real revolution to her for several decades. Nevertheless, she continues to pretend that modern evolutionary biologists are resisting any changes to their view of evolution.

  5. 5
    Anaxagoras says:

    Sorry,. Mr Moran

    The real ongoing debate is between people that still adhere to the gene-centric neo-darwinist paradigm (and that includes adaptationists as well as neutralist and any other evolutionist that considers that new discovered mechanisms for reestruturing genomes can explain macroevolution) and those other biologists that understand that genomes are only passive repositories of information that do no determine any thing, that the cell is the one that rules, that genome is just an organ of the cell, that higher level of systems determine what happens at lower levels of organization, that teleology and goal directedness are the main characteristics of living beings that need to be explained, and that questions like ¿can all that have emerged just by blind chance? are still unsolved

  6. 6
    Larry Moran says:

    Anaxogoas, I don’t adhere to “a gene-centric neo-darwinist paradigm” so I can’t really have a conversation with you about that.

    However, when you say that “teleology and goal directedness are the main characteristics of living beings that need to be explained” it prompts me to ask you for evidence. Do you have any?

  7. 7


    Perhaps the establishment of semantic closure (simultaneous coordination) between the sequence of bases (in genetic memory) and the non-integrable constraints (aaRS) that interpret those sequences — thereby enabling the successful construction of the constraints and allowing them to persist over time.

    In order for such a coordination to function, the relationships between the arrangement of bases and the resulting structure of the constraints must be discontinuous (as it is in the cell) and must be contingent on combinatorial permutations within the sequence. Otherwise, the bases would not have the physical capacity to describe the constraints, nor would their function be transcribable between mediums.

    We have warrant to infer teleology from this given the well-documented fact that the only other physical systems identified with these exact properties are the products of intelligence – i.e. mathematics and language.

  8. 8
    rhampton7 says:

    Because both sides of the Royal Society Meeting debate use material explanations, ” adapting to new information” means that resulting update to Evolutionary theory will still not include the supernatural (like every other scientific theory). Meanwhile…

    Vatican conference unites science and religion’s search for truth

    …Regarding intelligent design, Consolmagno said that its original intention as a way of looking at the universe and seeing “the design of a good God” has been misused.

    “If you mean that you can use our scientific ignorance as a way proving the existence of God, that would not be a God I would want to believe in,” he said.

    God, he continued, is not something one arrives to at the end of scientific research, but rather its starting point. In that way, “we then can see the hand of God in how we observe the universe.”

    “I am afraid of a God that could be proved by science because I know my science well enough to not trust it,” the director of the Vatican Observatory said.

    Consolmagno said it was important for scientists who are believers to make their science known to their fellow parishioners and remind them that “science was an invention of the medieval universities that the church founded.”

    “The logic of science comes out of the logic of theology and if there is a rivalry, it’s a sibling rivalry,” he said. “We need to know that it’s a crime against science to say, ‘only atheists can do it’ because that would eliminate so many wonderful people from so many different religions who could contribute so much to science.”

  9. 9
    Anaxagoras says:

    Dr Moran:

    Im my humble opinion almost everything in the processes of life is teleological:
    Animal behaviour, animal instincts in particular, plants “intelligent” responses to changes in the environment, embryo development, immune systems, mechanisms for repairing mistakes in genome replication, phenotypic plasticity, all forms of natural genetic engineering, directed mutations, epigenetic activity in regulating gene expression, alternative splicing, organic codes…

    May be the only thing that is not teleological are Random Mutations. Probably that is why they are mostly deleterious.

    In any case, teleology is not something that you prove, is something that you infer. You can not observe “purpose” itself. You observe purposive activity, and you infer that agency is oriented toward goals and ends.

    It is like “Love”, you know,…you do not detect love at the microscope, but you understand the meaning of loving acts.

    Best regards

  10. 10
    Origenes says:

    Larry Moran: However, when you say that “teleology and goal directedness are the main characteristics of living beings that need to be explained” it prompts me to ask you for evidence. Do you have any?

    Larry, what is the evidence that teleology (purpose) is at the source of your question? Let’s suppose that there is no way for science to provide evidence, would you consider that a shortcoming of science or would you consider that proof for the non-existence of teleology wrt your question?

  11. 11
    EugeneS says:

    “It was obvious to anyone with a brain…”

    Goal-directedness is everywhere in life: from the bottom (the genetic code translation apparatus) to the top (the “application layer” of entire ecosystems of interacting organisms). Life is an integrated whole, a Platonic holon, if you like.

    It escapes me how this cannot be obvious.

  12. 12
    Heartlander says:

    If you were to discover a high efficient motor that performed a necessary function with precisely arranged parts, would you be allowed to infer teleology? What would prevent anyone from making the inference?

  13. 13
    AnimatedDust says:

    HL @12:

    Mmm…an a priori philosophical commitment that prevents it from even being the slightest bit in play?

  14. 14
    es58 says:

    Ad@13 give that man a prize!

  15. 15
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    Larry (4):

    Directed adaptation mechanisms were simply not allowed by evolutionists–now such mechanisms are an undeniable, scientific fact. It is one thing to differ with the EES folks, but you seem to express the sentiment that there is no problem here–that directed adaptation poses no problem for evolutionary theory because we’ve got the neutral theory, etc.

    Drift is a terrible search engine and there is a reason why neoDarwinism focused on selection. Short of a multiverse, you are not going to get directed adaptation mechanisms, which are ready to respond to some *future* environmental challenge. It’s not going to happen. This is fundamentally at odds with evolutionary theory.

    So I believe that the story here is that you and the others are failing to recognize and acknowledge legitimate theoretical problems which go beyond mere normal science. Your solution, that the EES guys are knuckleheads and don’t worry–we’ve been working on this, doesn’t really address the problem.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I have a fundamental problem trying to have a serious discussion with those whose first move is to try to dismiss, disqualify, denigrate, smear and even slander, which unfortunately, we can see all too plainly at the Sandwalk blog. In the above, News is patently right that “[w]hat the fossils told us in their own words is not the official history.” Given the extreme informational requisites of functionally specific, complex organisation as the fossils point to in their oh so many body plan level persistent gaps, we need to focus on the source of the required FSCO/I, and on the associated facts of implied vast configuration spaces and narrow, isolated islands of function in these spaces imposing beyond astronomical blind chance and/or mechanical necessity driven search challenges. Namely, that for cause, we know just one adequate source for such FSCO/I, intelligently directed configuration. AKA, design. Where also, in an information age, readily available facts open up the debate way beyond the closed shops of evolutionary materialist scientism dominated, forcibly taxpayer funded guilds in high positions. The real debate is on the streets, in the pubs and in the nooks and crannies of cyber space beyond where the guilds’ thought police can control. Such gestapo-ists of the mind need to understand that labelling is IDiots does not answer to the merits. KF

  17. 17
    Larry Moran says:

    kairosfocus says,

    “I have a fundamental problem trying to have a serious discussion with those whose first move is to try to dismiss, disqualify, denigrate, smear and even slandee …”

    This is why I turn off my irony meter whenever I read a creationist blog. I can’t afford to keep replacing them.

  18. 18
    Dionisio says:

    Professor Moran @17:

    Do you recall the incident a couple of years ago when you wrote that you won’t have any discussion with me because I don’t ask honest questions?
    Did you have an irony meter back then?
    If you did, was it on or off?
    Or was it a different brand or model?

  19. 19
    Dionisio says:

    Professor Moran:
    Are my questions @18 also dishonest?
    What does it mean ‘honest question’ in Canadian English?

    What would qualify as an honest question in Biology?

    Does the honesty level of a question have to do with whether it contains ‘tricky’ words like ‘exactly’ in a subtle (quasi-hidden) style (i.e. not bold)?

  20. 20
    Dionisio says:

    Professor Moran,
    How’s the weather in Toronto this week?

  21. 21
    Dionisio says:

    Professor Moran,
    Does the question @20 qualify as an honest question?

  22. 22

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