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Unread August 22nd, 2006, 09:37 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 138
Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

Tell you what - I'll agree to briefly address your question, if you agree to do the same. You've got two evasion strikes thus far - one more and you're out. I'll even give you the last word in this thread. Fair enough? If you want to bash my respone to the origin vs. evolution of life topic, fine . . . but you must also address my question this time; otherwise, you're essentially admitting defeat.

A clarification of terms: the origin of life refers to the way(s) in which the first entities capable of replicating themselves arose. This is actually a question of physics and chemistry, not evolution. The evolution of life refers to the ways in which populations of those entities change over time. Natural selection is the mechanism by which adaptive evolution occurs; it is not, and was never intended to be, a mechanism by which replicators originated. As soon as those replicators arose, however, natural selection kicked in and contributed to their refinement. It is a fascinating topic and one of the enduring challenges in the life sciences. Go to Amazon, do a book search for "Origin of Life", and read more about it, if you're interested. Some classical ideas are covered in this excellent treatment from the mid-90's. The irony here is that if I hadn't pointed out this topic for you, you probably wouldn't have thought to try and hide behind it.

Now, for the last time . . . rather than just stating that natural selection is circular and doesnt explain all that much, you must 1) articulate why exactly the theory of natural selection fails to explain what it claims to explain (adaptive evolution), and 2) suggest even a hint of a putative idea that could correct for the supposed inadequacy of natural selection. Really, Fred . . . if you could do these two things, you would be a revolutionary. If you can't do these things, then you're just a complainer, and the world is full to the brim with those.

Last edited by Carey N; August 22nd, 2006 at 10:43 PM.
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Unread August 23rd, 2006, 08:41 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

Carey: Natural selection is the mechanism by which adaptive evolution occurs; it is not, and was never intended to be, a mechanism by which replicators originated…. The irony here is that if I hadn't pointed out this topic for you, you probably wouldn't have thought to try and hide behind it.
You give me too little credit, but I appreciate your acknowledgement regarding at least that particular limitation of natural selection. Well done. And regarding tautologies and natural selection, here’s what has to say:
The simple version of the so-called 'tautology argument' is this:Natural selection is the survival of the fittest. The fittest are those that survive. Therefore, evolution by natural selection is a tautology (a circular definition).

The real significance of this argument is not the argument itself, but that it was taken seriously by any professional philosophers at all. 'Fitness' to Darwin meant not those that survive, but those that could be expected to survive because of their adaptations and functional efficiency, when compared to others in the population. This is not a tautology, or, if it is, then so is the Newtonian equation F=ma [Sober 1984, chapter 2], which is the basis for a lot of ordinary physical explanation.

The phrase 'survival of the fittest' was not even Darwin's. It was urged on him by Wallace, the codiscoverer of natural selection, who hated 'natural selection' because he thought it implied that something was doing the selecting. Darwin coined the term 'natural selection' because had made an analogy with 'artificial selection' as done by breeders, an analogy Wallace hadn't made when he developed his version of the theory. The phrase 'survival of the fittest' was originally due to Herbert Spencer some years before the Origin .

However, there is another, more sophisticated version, due mainly to Karl Popper [1976: sect. 37]. According to Popper, any situation where species exist is compatible with Darwinian explanation, because if those species were not adapted, they would not exist. That is, Popper says, we define adaptation as that which is sufficient for existence in a given environment. Therefore, since nothing is ruled out, the theory has no explanatory power, for everything is ruled in.

This is not true, as a number of critics of Popper have observed since (eg, Stamos [1996] [note 1]). Darwinian theory rules out quite a lot. It rules out the existence of inefficient organisms when more efficient organisms are about. It rules out change that is theoretically impossible (according to the laws of genetics, ontogeny, and molecular biology) to achieve in gradual and adaptive steps (see Dawkins [1996]). It rules out new species being established without ancestral species….
Now if you find that adequate and satisfying, fine; but I’m less than convinced and will remain so until someone comes up with something that provides the predictive power, understanding, and convincing coherence of a good physical science theory, say like gravity. And really Carey, I don’t think that makes me a “complainer.”
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