Puzzle--how to get around these apparent dependencies of the modern synthesis on supernatural powers?
Natural selection works by whittling down the number of less-fit variations. As fast as it does so some agency must add new variations, otherwise natural selection would run out of variations to select from and evolution would cease. Failure to find a non-supernatural agency able to account for the creation of new variation led to natural selection being almost abandoned after Darwin's death.
But did the addition of genetic mutation help? Genetic mutation by itself leads to harmful mutations that, accumulating generation by generation, would lead to rapid extinction. Natural selection's effect, being so slight, can do little to slow that accumulation. But according to population statistics, when that slight effect acts in favor of beneficial mutations it can increase their incidence to make them the dominant form of their gene, although that would take millions of generations. For that time to be availalble something must be suppressing the accumulation of the harmful mutations that would otherwise lead to extinction in just a few generations. That can only be supernatural powers in the beneficial mutation.
Illustration: Take two species competing in the same niche. Both suffer genetic mutation but the second one has a perfect repair mechanism so no mutations survive into its phenotype. Until beneficial genes appear in the first species it accumulates harmful genes and extinction threatens. But once a beneficial gene appears, all that accumulation of harmful genes must supernaturally disappear and only beneficial mutations will increase in incidence, leading after millions of generations to eventual evolution and dominance in the niche. Without this supernatural power of the beneficial mutation, how else how can one account for mutations helping species evolve?
Look up the maths behind population statistics. The whole point of that is, no matter how tiny the effect of natural selection, over millions of generation it will act as an inexorable force to make one instance of a beneficial mutation the dominant allele at its position in the genome. But the equations were not applied to the harmful mutations, if they were the logic of the modern synthesis would fall apart. It's a classic example of garbage in, garbage out.
It's not easy to find estimates of the efficiency of natural selection, but in "Evolution: the Modern Synthesis" Huxley in an example uses a figure of 3%. It certainly isn't 99% or 100% as you'd need to reverse the proportions of harmful to beneficial mutations.
Since the modern synthesis tales no account of harmful mutations once a beneficial appears, I assume the beneficial mutation's been given magical powers to eliminate all harmful mutations from that point on. I can't see any other logic.
Can you? What's your logic?
I'm not going to do a wild search for population statistics to attempt to back up your outrageous claims, which you seem to have pulled straight out of your ass. That's not the way this works. You're the one making the claims; you freaking support those claims.
Can you name one expert in the field of biological evolution who thinks that natural selection resorts to a reliance on the supernatural? Can you give me a single source by anyone who knows what they're talking about when it comes to biological evolution who doesn't think that natural selection will do at least a passable job of cleaning disastrously negative genes out of a gene pool?
This is your insane claim. You support it.
Joseph, I gave you the logic, I quoted Huxley for an expert's estimate of the efficiency of natural selection, I can't do more. I've supported my claims all the way I can, at your request. If you can't check my logic, there's nothing more to say.
It's just logic. Do you really need experts to tell you what to think?
You ended your logic with a massive argument from ignorance. You even followed the classic form of the logical fallacy in your statement. That is not a logical argument. Your accusation of supernatural inclusion is bankrupt.
I accept being unable to satisfy you. I am leaving our discussion.
Really? You've got absolutely nothing to point me to, which demonstrates your assertion? Are you just making this shit up, because natural selection makes you feel icky?
I've read through your arguments and they all pre-suppose that a supernatural agent is guiding evolution to produce a particular result. Doesn't fly. Evolution is the process by which self organizing systems adapt to their changing environment. There is no "direction" to this process.
Also, I find your argument about changing blue prints unconvincing. Let's take product design. Most products are minor variations on the preceding product. Through a process of what really amounts to trial & error these "new" products are developed & test marketed. If the product is fit to survive, i.e. it sells, then it gets to reproduce. If not, too bad.
As many business people have told me, it's largely a crap shoot. "Fitness" is determined by complex market forces which are beyond the knowledge & control of the business. One simply can't know for certain if a particular product will be successful or not. It is a process of natural selection.
Jay, I appreciate your very thoughtful response. You've read through my arguments, you say, I assume you mean more than just those in this thread.
I agree with your points. Business does to a large extent operate on Darwinian principles. My concern is with two other aspects of human nature.
I want to add, alongside the scientific theory of evolution, a second theory, specifically for "creatives"--designers, musicians, actors, novelists etc. For creatives, just as large and well-qualified a group as scientists, coming up with new creative work does not feel like the "random generation followed by selection" process you describe. My goal is to come up with a theory of evolution that creatives can feel accounts for their conscious experience, and that can help them extend their experience and talents fruitfully, as I think the scientific theory can't.
Second, I see us having two modes of cognition. One is "left-brain," that wants to comprehend everything in a taxonomy, like a set of tables. I see this cognition as having captured evolutionary thinking, and trying to monopolize the subject. I aim to create an alternative, for "right-brain" thinking, which I'm using to refer to conscious experience--it has a center but no boundaries, or logical divisions. It follows meanings as they flow away in all direction, in mind, joining up to form new meanings. Of course, we all have both.
I know it can make no sense to primarily left-brain people to claim that both kinds of theory can be true. But if you give conscious experience as much weight as scientific knowledge, as I and many other people do, then both theories can be true.
Now I've clarified my context, I will probably discuss this only with humanities people. From the reception I've had on atheist boards I don't expect to fine them there. I'm preparing a talk to give to humanities groups, and from now on I'm going to focus on that. I'm gathering material at takeondarwin.com/genie
How much sense does this make?
To be honest, "left brained" thinking is not my forte. I see a big picture of interconnected things & events which I have to deconstruct into a sequential order for others to understand. My picture makes sense to me but it is woven together from many disparate sources so it is easier to draw than explain in words.
I am of the opinion that if any form of "higher intelligence" is discovered in the universe it will be part and parcel of the natural world.
"But once a beneficial gene appears, all that accumulation of harmful genes must supernaturally disappear and only beneficial mutations will increase in incidence, leading after millions of generations to eventual evolution and dominance in the niche. Without this supernatural power of the beneficial mutation, how else how can one account for mutations helping species evolve?"
I don't understand your words. "genes must supernaturally disappear". What is supernatural about the gene becoming inoperable or beneficial? Processes of chemistry, physics, and who knows what else is involved that do not require "supernatural" power. There is nothing in the formation of new genes or retirement of old genes that requires "supernatural" anything.
Have you done experiments with fruit flies? Do you think the changes that occur over time are "supernaturally" caused?
Or have you done any hybridizing of fruits, vegetables or flowers in the garden. There is no need to rely on "supernatural" influences. It is very straightforward.
Or how about breeding cats or dogs? Pair up a black Labrador with a Bulldog, what do you get? Is it "supernatural"?
This is what I've been objecting to since the beginning, yes. He uses inaccurate, loaded verbiage, then refuses to justify it except with a blatant argument from ignorance. He does this sort of crap in every post he's made on the subject.
I'm still not sure he isn't a stealth theist, since I've never seen him participate in any other discussions besides his evolution and materialism bashing. At the least, he's a very shitty thinker.
I'm not a biologist either, but I'm heavily read on the subject. My biggest complaint on the subject is Shaun's repeated inability to present any literature on the subject that supports his insane accusations. He grossly misrepresented the only book he presented, which at best presents a very slight shift in evolutionary theory, similar to that of Stephen Jay Gould's presentation of punctuated equilibrium, a few decades back.
After my repeated attempts to get him to give us something substantial, rather than a restatement of the bullshit in his main post, he finally admitted that he won't be able to convince me. I guess I'm just too unreasonable, demanding evidence.
My impression is that he's using supernatural as a pejorative. He's trying to emotionally manipulate us into agreeing that supernatural is bad, and if natural selection requires the supernatural, then ...
Unfortunately for him, I don't react well to emotional manipulation. I spot it, and it just pisses me off.
I don't know if he's specifically a deist, but either way, I don't think he's quite stupid enough to admit it, given the site's terms of service. I've exposed and had kicked from the site several stealth theists.
There was some idiot who posted some YouTube video to the effect of "All of these great scientists of the past believed in God! What should we draw from this fact?" ... and of course several of the scientists in the video, such as Einstein, are known from their private letters to have been nonbelievers, but that's beside the point. After a few rounds of back-and-forth, in the comment section of the video, I finally got him to state that he thinks that there probably is some sort of god ... and bam, he's gone.
More than anything else, Shaun just smells like a Christian apologist, in style, if not in substance. The structure of his arguments is very similar to those of WLC and Jerry McDowell. And like almost all theistic arguments, there's that huge argument from ignorance stuck on the end to get from where they think the argument actually got them, the rest of the way to their god.
At least WLC tries to justify it, even if his list of requirements that are answered only by his Christian God are so obviously ad hoc as to be laughable. Shaun doesn't even go to that much effort.