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X-Men films and Darwinian evolution: Darwinian evolution: “Grossly exaggerate its power and its speed, portray its general character bang-on.

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In “X-Men Ethics Class: Why Help the Weak If It Thwarts Evolution?” (Salvo 18 (Autumn 2011), Cameron Wybrow teases out the struggle over Darwinian morality that provides an underlying theme for the series, including this summer’s “cream of the crop” instalment, X-Men First Class:

For our purposes here, it is more important to focus on what the X-Men stories get right about Darwinian evolution. While they grossly exaggerate its power and its speed, they portray its general character bang-on. And this is where they lead us to clarity in discussions of “evolutionary ethics.”

According to Darwinian theory, new species emerge when mutations produce individuals who can outperform the stock they came from, with the result that, eventually, the mutant stock replaces the original. Thus, the intermediate creatures between the bat and the primitive insectivores are all extinct, because the modern bat is more fit for its flying environment than were any of them.

The bat has no pity for the failed creatures from the earlier stages of its evolution that were not good enough to survive. Nor, on Darwinian premises, should it. Nature decides, in its cold and pitiless way, who will live and who will die, and which species will thrive and which become extinct. It is pointless and ethically irrelevant to question nature’s decisions.

Ironically, when we come to analyze the positions of Professor X, the hero, and of Magneto, the villain, we are led to the curious conclusion that Magneto is philosophically the more coherent of the two, because he is actually more in tune with the pure logic of Darwinism. This becomes clear if we consider the positions of two real-life writers on evolution and ethics, Richard Dawkins and Larry Arnhart. …

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10 Replies to “X-Men films and Darwinian evolution: Darwinian evolution: “Grossly exaggerate its power and its speed, portray its general character bang-on.

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Apparently the fossil record is pitiless as well for preserving any supposed transitional species before the bat:

    Bat Evolution? – No Transitional Fossils! – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6003501/

    Australonycteris clarkae
    Excerpt: Australonycteris clarkae, from the Eocene of Queensland, is the oldest bat from the Southern Hemisphere and one of the oldest in the world. It is similar to other archaic Eocene bats from the Northern Hemisphere, and could probably navigate using echolocation, like most bats do today. (of note: some “modern” bats do not use echolocation today):
    http://australianmuseum.net.au.....is-clarkae

    Further note:

    The Unknown Origin of Pterosaurs (Flying Dinosaur)- video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP6htc371fM

    No Evidence For Birds Evolving From Anything
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1UF3DhlUnDM0Qrwh8ZmyLJA2r9hGFvHjoXki6WTzYg5M

  2. 2
    AMW says:

    It seems to me that the author is ignoring a few things:

    1. Populations evolve, not individuals. Consequently, mutants don’t (necessarily) take over an existing population. Rather, new (beneficial) genes spread more widely in an existing population. In other words, the mutants are more broadly incorporated into (future generations of) the population; they don’t replace it in a single generation through conquest.

    2. Speciation doesn’t require an emergent species to destroy its predecessors or contemporaries. It frequently occurs where two populations are isolated from each other, and therefore follow their own separate paths genetically. If every new species killed off its predecessors or contemporaries there would be precisely one species on earth. The fact that there are millions of them indicates that peaceful coexistence is possible.

    3. Evolution is based on differential reproduction; not differential survival. Survival is subservient to reproduction in mainstream evolutionary models. So there is no necessary existential conflict between native and mutant individuals within a population. From a strictly reproductive perspective I might want to breed with a mutant so that my offspring inherit their beneficial traits. And a mutant may want to mate with me rather than another mutant to avoid inbreeding and take advantage (for its offspring) of beneficial traits that I might have that it doesn’t.

  3. 3

    “Populations evolve, not individuals.”

    I understand what you’re saying in terms of spreading new traits throughout a population, but all the changes occur at the individual level.

    “Speciation doesn’t require an emergent species to destroy its predecessors . . .”

    True. But the survival of the fittest suggests, does it not, that the fittest will survive and the less fit won’t. And isn’t it interesting that there are few, if any, predecessor species still around along with their progeny? We’re regularly reminded, just to use a crude example, that humans didn’t evolve from apes, but that humans and apes evolved from a predecessor species that is now gone. Same thing goes for just about every other existing species — it came from some other species now long gone. The predecessors seem to have moved on, without leaving a lot of concrete information about their existence. So we’re left to reconstruct possible family trees, based on gross anatomy, genetic comparisons or other indirect evidence.

    “Evolution is based on differential reproduction; not differential survival.”

    So if a particular phenotype reproduces like crazy but the progeny all die, or die out at least as often as other phenotypes (i.e., no differntial survival), then the first phenotype is carrying out evolution in what sense? I see what you’re saying in terms of two different phenotypes reproducing together as being a potential driver for change within a population, but the progeny have to survive with at least as great a rate as the native phenotype, right?

  4. 4
    Joseph says:

    AMW:

    1. Populations evolve, not individuals.

    Natural selection is an individual thing- it pertains to individuals. Populations tend to reign in change.

    3. Evolution is based on differential reproduction; not differential survival.

    Differential survival leads to differential reproduction.

  5. 5
    van says:

    “Populations evolve, not individuals.”

    except for when individuals do evolve:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21307826

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....141402.htm

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    Bats did not evolve from the ground with intermediate degrees of height in the air.
    Its unlikely that a halfway there bat ever existed.
    This YEC creationist does however believe bats only came to be in a post flood world from a creature walking off the ark.
    I see instead a mechanism for turning the rat into a bat within a generation.
    Just like flying squireels or snakes etc.
    It was not slow but instant change.
    A trigger in the body back in the day brought it about.
    Indeed no fossil of pre bats will ever be found.

  7. 7
    Petrushka says:

    Be careful when you say “never”

    http://arstechnica.com/science.....flight.ars

    It is very difficult to find them, but they are being found. I’d be careful about basing one’s religion on failure to find them.

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    see your 52.5 million years ago non-echolocating bat and raise you a 54.6 million years old fully echolocating bat;

    First Eocene Bat From Australia
    Excerpt: Remains of a bat, Australonycteris clarkae, gen. et sp. nov., are reported from freshwater clays radiometrically dated to 54.6 million years old in southeastern Queensland, Australia. It is the oldest bat recorded for the southern hemisphere and one of the world’s oldest.
    http://www.jstor.org/pss/4523576?cookieSet=1

    Australonycteris clarkae
    Excerpt: Australonycteris clarkae, from the Eocene of Queensland, is the oldest bat from the Southern Hemisphere and one of the oldest in the world. It is similar to other archaic Eocene bats from the Northern Hemisphere, and could probably navigate using echolocation, like most bats do today. (of note: some “modern” bats do not use echolocation today):
    http://australianmuseum.net.au.....is-clarkae

    And to sweeten the pot I double down on your inability to explain convergent echolocation:

    Convergence Drives Evolution Batty – Fazale Rana – September 2010
    Excerpt: The multiple, independent origin of echolocation in these animals (twice in bats and once in toothed whales) exemplifies convergence,,, When examined from an evolutionary perspective, convergence doesn’t make much sense.,,, the latest research demonstrates that—again, from an evolutionary perspective—the genetic and biochemical changes that account for the emergence of echolocation in bats and dolphins is identical. Given the random nature of the evolutionary process, this recent discovery doesn’t match what evolutionary biologists would expect to find. But both the discovery and convergence make sense if life stems from the work of a Creator.
    http://www.reasons.org/converg.....tion-batty

    Common Design in Bat and Whale Echolocation Genes? – January 2011
    Excerpt: two new studies in the January 26th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, show that bats’ and whales’ remarkable ability and the high-frequency hearing it depends on are shared at a much deeper level than anyone would have anticipated — all the way down to the molecular level.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....42291.html

    Bat and Whale Echolocation Genes Point to Common Design – February 2011 – Podcast
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....9_16-08_00

  9. 9
    Eugene S says:

    “I’d be careful about basing one’s religion on failure to find them.”

    I agree.

    But depending on the notion of evolution, it can be said that ID is not counter-evolution simply because a designer might want to build the ability to evolve in the design. The question is ,of course, where the borders of evolvability lie in reality.

    I think that speciation could/can occur, it all depends how much novel information is involved and how you define species, which as far as I know can be problematic. In other words, if both ancestral and descendant species are located in the same island in the config space, I believe speciation is possible. However, the formation of phyla in the Darwinist sense is precluded because it requires a lot of new information which cannot to gained via chance/necessity alone.

    For example, I conjecture that something like webbed feet could evolve given a viable species. That conjecture of course stands or falls based on checking if the amount of new information is below the threshold to qualify as spontaneous not designed.

    On a separate note, as regards OOL, it is obvious to me that apart from design there are no mechanisms that can adequately explain it.

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    I’d be careful about basing one’s religion on failure to find them.

    says the materialist who can no more find a self-sustaining ‘material’ basis for reality than he can find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow:

    Ions have been teleported successfully for the first time by two independent research groups
    Excerpt: In fact, copying isn’t quite the right word for it. In order to reproduce the quantum state of one atom in a second atom, the original has to be destroyed. This is unavoidable – it is enforced by the laws of quantum mechanics, which stipulate that you can’t ‘clone’ a quantum state. In principle, however, the ‘copy’ can be indistinguishable from the original (that was destroyed),,,
    http://www.rsc.org/chemistrywo.....ammeup.asp

    Atom takes a quantum leap – 2009
    Excerpt: Ytterbium ions have been ‘teleported’ over a distance of a metre.,,,
    “What you’re moving is information, not the actual atoms,” says Chris Monroe, from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park and an author of the paper. But as two particles of the same type differ only in their quantum states, the transfer of quantum information is equivalent to moving the first particle to the location of the second.
    http://www.freerepublic.com/fo.....1769/posts

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