Home » Intelligent Design » Avian Flu – Predictions?

Avian Flu – Predictions?

What does the theory of Natural Selection (the most well tested theory in science) predict about Avian Flu?

Anything at all practical that isn’t obvious from simple observations of past flu behavior?

Don’t hold your breath. The most well tested theory in science is also the most useless theory in science.

ID predicts that no matter how many times the Avian Flu virus mutates it will remain a virus because for it to become more than a virus requires the addition of CSI and there is no mechanism capable of generating CSI in a flu virus. :P

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27 Responses to Avian Flu – Predictions?

  1. There are lots of useful applications of evolutionary theory in fighting infectious diseases such as AIDS and also avian flu. Since viruses have high mutation rates and short generation times, they can evolve extremely rapidly. So fast that control measures such as quarantine, inocculation etc can have measurable short-term effects on their evolution. That’s why epidemiologists take NS very seriously and use evolutionary mathematical models to design strategies for preventing and fighting outbreaks. In other words: applying the theory of NS can save millions of lives.

    Here are just a few references (but there are many many more):
    [note that although scientific journals usually charge outrageous fees to download articles, most scientists place pdf versions of their papers on their own web sites, even though this is strictly speaking illegal]

    Day, T., A. Park, N. Madras, A. Gumel, and J. Wu. 2006. When is quarantine a useful control strategy for emerging infectious diseases? American Journal of Epidemiology, in press

    Gumel, A.B., S. Ruan, T. Day, J. Watmough, F. Brauer, P. van den Driessche, D. Gabrielson, C. Bowman, M.E. Alexander, S. Ardal, J. Wu, and B.M. Sahai. 2004. Modeling strategies for controlling
    SARS outbreaks. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 271:2223-2232

    Ahem…

    Anything at all practical that isn’t obvious from simple observations of past flu behavior?

  2. Here is a an example of how predictive evolution can be used for vaccine development.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/...../5446/1866

    Here is the key paragraph:

    In contrast, although many different strains of influenza A may be circulating at a given time, most lineages do not survive to contribute to future influenza diversity. Instead, one principal (or “trunk”) lineage survives and gives rise to future lineages of influenza A, whereas the other lineages quickly become extinct. The unusual shape of the influenza virus phylogenetic tree makes it easy to discern the course of past evolution. One factor influencing that course appears to be positive selection for particular changes in the amino acids in hemagglutinin [HN4], one of the two proteins that comprise the large spikes on the surface of the influenza virus (see the figure). If a person develops antibodies against a particular hemagglutinin, then the individual is much more likely to fend off infection by the viral strain carrying that hemagglutinin. However, certain substitutions in the gene encoding hemagglutinin result in changes in the amino acids of this protein’s HA1 domain. The altered amino acids result in a reduced immune response in an individual who has been exposed only to the hemagglutinin of an ancestral strain of influenza. Bush and Fitch found that 18 codons of the hemagglutinin gene’s HA1 domain are under positive selection for changes in the amino acids that they encode. Furthermore, they established that of the strains of influenza A that are circulating at any one time, those that are most likely to be ancestral to future influenza epidemics (the surviving or trunk lineage of the phylogeny) are the ones that show the greatest number of changes among these 18 amino acids. This allowed the investigators to make predictions about which of the strains circulating today are most likely to give rise to future lineages of influenza A.

    Not the avian flu virus here, but the same kinds of methods can be employed.

    If the link doesn’t work, let me know and I will see what I can dig up.

    This appears to be all based on observation and experiment but that’s neither here nor there as I fail to see where any consideration for the claimed abililty of random mutation plus natural selection to create novel cell types, tissue types, organs, or body plans comes into play. In other words, this is mere adaptation and no one disputes the ability of species to adapt in a limited fashion. -ds

  3. senatorchunk,

    So if the prediction is easy, why don’t they have a vaccine? And I’m not being sarcastic, just curious. Am I missing a size of scale in determining the new virus mapping? And another question is, do all flu viruses work this way on a limited area? Or do they spread out across different domains? If so, is it just a matter of mapping out all possible combinations? What mathematically does that work out to?

    Also if its limited and that helps, does that speak of conservation? And are all such flu viruses limited to one or two areas? Plus, does this indicate a virus will always be a virus? Since ‘new science’ is trying to indicate maybe life sprang from a virus, right?

    Finally, what caused the actual mutation? Are they able to track back the mutation path or back to its course of evolution? I’m not familiar with all the mutational catalyst. But, if they can detect a course by the tree, then the limited 18 amino acids, they should be able to predict pathways for all future virus outbreaks theorectically speaking by your language as I understand it and pre-develop all super-vaccines required based on the actual predictions, much like going to the moon.

    Right?

  4. SURVIVAL OF THE SURVIVORS

    Can someone explain to me how “natural selection” even passes as a theory? Not whether it’s true or not, but whether it constitutes a valid scientific theory. Natural selection contains two independent classes; the fittest and the non-fittest. The fittest survive and the non-fittest do not survive. In order for a theory relating two independent classes to pass as a theory, one must be able to test independently each related class. Now, what exactly are the criteria for “fittest”?

    What scientific test can we perform today to test which class of dog, for example, will survive tomorrow? If there is no test, then how is this a scientific theory?

    “Natural selection, which was at first considered as though it were a hypothesis that was in need of experimental or observational confirmation turns out on closer inspection to be a tautology, a logical truism, a statement of inevitable although previously unrecognized relation. It states that the fittest individuals of a population, defined at those who will leave the most offspring, will leave the most offspring.”
    - C. H. Waddington (prominent geneticist)

    “Those individuals that have the most offspring are, by definition, the fittest ones.”
    - Ernst Myer

    And last, but certainly not least…

    “It may appear a little more than a truism to state that the individuals that are best adapted to survive have a better chance of surviving than those not so well adapted to survive.”
    - TH MORGAN (fruit fly guy)

    And this is science?

    Saxe

  5. Natural selection says that avian flu will afflict the “less fit” more so than the “more fit”. Not really a prediction though, it’s a fact of life that some people get sick more easily than others. Unless you define fitness to mean number of children, which means it’ll predict absolutely nothing.

  6. Presumably the question that’s being asked here is, “What does the idea that IC can evolve predict?” Obviously, if we don’t accept -any- evolution, then we don’t fear the virus at all, since it would be unable to change. To answer that, we need to determine a few things, for example: Is the ability to jump from humans to humans irreducibly complex?

    I don’t honestly know how to answer that question. To demonstrate that it’s not irreducibly complex, we’d have to construct a series of minor changes from ‘can’t jump’ to ‘can jump,’ correct?

    I believe that is correct. ID is the theory that some patterns in nature are best explained by intelligent cause. -ds

  7. One would think that NS would favor a parasite that didn’t kill its host.

    JasonNg:
    Unless you define fitness to mean number of children, which means it’ll predict absolutely nothing.

    That is how fitness is defined, and you are correct- it is meaningless.

    On another note:

    A virus population “evolving” into a virus population has absolutely nothing to do with the premise that all of life’s diveristy owes its collective common ancestry to some unknown LUCA(s) via some blind watchmaker-type process. Therefore there isn’t any relevance to this flu strain and the theory of evolution.

  8. There is a quite a bit of relevancy between ABF and ET. It is just not relevant to what people refer to as macro evolution.

    It depends on how you define “evolution” which is a constant source of confusion. When we refer to NDE we are talking about origin of species evolution not the evolution of the shape of a viral protein coat. -ds

  9. In that case I would agree that NDE has nothing to with the ABF.

  10. Tanks DaveScot,

    If I may add the following:

    The meanings of [I]evolution[/I], from [I]Darwinism, Design and Public Education[/I]:

    1. Change over time; history of nature; any sequence of events in nature
    2. Changes in the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population
    3. Limited common descent: the idea that particular groups of organisms have descended from a common ancestor.
    4. The mechanisms responsible for the change required to produce limited descent with modification, chiefly natural selection acting on random variations or mutations.
    5. Universal common descent: the idea that all organisms have descended from a single common ancestor.
    6. “Blind watchmaker” thesis: the idea that all organisms have descended from common ancestors solely through an unguided, unintelligent, purposeless, material processes such as natural selection acting on random variations or mutations; that the mechanisms of natural selection, random variation and mutation, and perhaps other similarly naturalistic mechanisms, are completely sufficient to account for the appearance of design in living organisms.

    Creation (generally) goes with 1-4, with the change in 4 being built-in responses to environmental cues or organism direction as the primary mechanism, for allele frequency change, culled by various selection processes (as well as random effects/ events/ choice of not to mate/ unable to find a mate). The secondary mechanism would be random variations or mutations culled by similar processes. IOW life’s diversity evolved from the originally Created Kind, humans included. Science should therefore be the tool/ process with which we determine what those kinds were. (Karl von Linne attempted this and gave us binomial nomenclature)

    ID (generally) goes with 1-5, with the Creation change to 4 plus the following caveat in 5: Life’s diversity was brought about via the intent of a design. The initial conditions, parameters, resources and goal was pre-programmed as part of an evolutionary algorithm designed to bring forth complex metazoans, as well as leave behind the more “simple” viruses, prokaryotes and single-celled eukaryotes.

    The bulk of the debate is over “Evolution #6″- which is what I was referring to.

    IOW both the Creation model of bio evo and ID are also consistant with the data from influenza research. And I would bet that either could offer a better chance at figuring out what to do- scientifically.

  11. I have some questions…

    (1) I’m curious as to what ID predicts will happen with ABF and how to defend ourselves against it?

    (2) Why do you only accept some definitions of evolution? Why is Darwin’s original definition of “descent with modification” such a problem. I know it’s intuitive that those individuals that possess beneficial traits will produce more offspring, but why is that a problem? It sounds as though DS specifically wants to know how speciation fits into the ABF scenario, despite its relative irrelevancy. The adaptation of ABF is a clear illustration of Joseph’s 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th definitions of evolution. The assumption of the 3rd (and the optional extrapolation to the 6th) mean that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel when tackling the problem. This virus is similar to other viruses as a result of it having developed from the same ancestor as all other viruses (be this a recent or distant event).

    (3) Has the virus been designed and how would you be able to tell if it had been?

    … and I also have a response about the “survival of the fittest tautology”. First of all, “survival of the fittest” is a poorly worded phrase. Evolution is better expressed as “heritable variations lead to differential reproductive success”. Secondly, the definitions of fitness and survival are open to interpretation. If one defines “survival” as the “leaving a large contribution to later generations in terms of progeny” and “fitness” as the “possession of traits which enhance survival” then the argument is not circular. It is testable and has been shown to be correct on many occasions.

    Chris

  12. Chris_UK,

    You said in #3 “…and I also have a response about the “survival of the fittest tautology”. First of all, “survival of the fittest” is a poorly worded phrase. Evolution is better expressed as “heritable variations lead to differential reproductive success”. Secondly, the definitions of fitness and survival are open to interpretation.

    Other than semantics, I see no distinction between your wording and my wording. Whether the “fittest” inherited their “fitness” is of no consequence to this so-called theory. Categorizing the survivors as “differential reproductive success[s]” really doesn’t change the meaning of survivors, does it. Also, if the definitions of “survival” and “fitness” are open to interpretation, then you really do prove my point made in the above post. For this to be a theory, you must be able to identify independent evidence for the testing of the so-called fittest. You have to be able to scientifically test “fitness”.

    You said “If one defines “survival” as the “leaving a large contribution to later generations in terms of progeny” and “fitness” as the “possession of traits which enhance survival” then the argument is not circular.”

    So Chris, what exactly are the “traits that enhance survival”? The argument most certainly is circular if you cannot test “traits that enhance survival”. Please keep in mind that it is not scientific to look at survivors and say that they were the most fit. Let me provide an illustration. Suppose your theory said that the best soccer players in the world are British. You could then set up independent criteria for the best soccer players in the world and then examine criteria pertaining to their citizen status. Now suppose that someone brought you the best soccer player in the world and you then said, “He must be British”. The other guy says, “no, no, no you have to independently prove that he’s British and then prove that he is one of the best soccer players”. But you say “he is British, because my theory says he British”. I’m afraid evolutionists have all fallen into this trap.

    “It is testable and has been shown to be correct on many occasions.”

    Some scientists have established independent criteria for fittest and all have failed. All have failed and all will continue to fail. The body is so complex and body organs so interrelated, that the “fittest” of a breed is impossible to determine in its living state. The only way to test fitness is to look at the survivors and determine who was the fittest, hence the SURVIVAL OF THE SURVIVORS. To prove me wrong, you’ll need to provide evidence for a test we can perform on a living animal that will tell us which is most fit. Again, I’ll ask you to provide a scientific test demonstrating which LIVING dogs (or any other animal) are the most fit.

    Regards,
    Saxe

  13. Saxe,

    I disagree that this is purely a matter of semantics. I also disagree with a dichotomy between “fittest” and “non-fittest”, since variation in traits is often quantitative and not qualitative. Fitness has many connotations and that is why I do not advocate its use. Individuals vary in their ability to reproduce (one definition of fitness) dependent upon how successfully the traits that they possess enable them to exist (another, different definition of fitness). However, there are two distinct components to my alternative definition of natural selection:

    1. The first is that there will be variation within a population for traits that affect survival. For example, a quantifiable aspect of a particular trait may have a normal frequency distribution. Those individuals at one extreme of that distribution may be able to exploit a resource more effectively (e.g. longer necks in giraffes).

    2. The individuals across that distribution for a specific trait will have varying reproductive success. Those giraffes possessing longer necks have a greater amount of resources available to them, allowing them to invest more in reproduction. This impacts on the number of surviving offspring as well as the parental investment which enhances the survival of those offspring.

    I am not sure about why you chose dogs as an example, but there is a valid prediction that can be made. Since domesticated dogs are largely reliant on humans for their continued existence, dog breeds that humans prefer will do better within the species as a whole. Traits that lead to such a preference might vary between cultures, but generally they will include factors such as obedience, aesthetic quality and relative timidity. Breeds which are of no use to humans are likely to decline. Wolves were exterminated from the UK because they were a pest to humans, despite domesticated dogs being preserved and, indeed, prospering. Another example close to home for me would be the hounds that have been bred to hunt foxes in the UK. This particular breed is unsuitable as a pet due to its temperment and so we can predict that it will decline in numbers now that hunting with foxes has been made illegal.

    If you want an example that is less artificial, then you cannot really use dogs. However, we could hypothesise that, if humans were to stop caring for dogs, certain breeds would survive better than others. The bulldog, for example, usually requires human intervention to mate and give birth. This is a clear example of a trait that has a negative impact on individual fitness and so we can predict that this breed would not survive given in the absence of humans. The heritable trait (a morphology that is not conducive to either mating or natural birth) leads to an impact on reproductive success (drastically reduced!) compared to individuals that do not possess such a trait (or possess a less extreme form). The experiment would be to let them fend for themselves and see which breeds survive.

    You also ask for what criteria define “fitness” and I realise that I have not answered that question directly with the above examples. Contemporary science defines fitness as the number of copies of an organism’s genome that are present in subsequent generations. This definition does not work with “survival of the fittest”. A better phrasing of what Herbert Spencer meant with the original phrase is “survival of the best fitted”. The “fit” of an organism relates to the relative success of particular forms of traits that vary heritably within a population.

    Best wishes,

    Chris

    All species with obligatory sexual reproduction sooner or later become extinct (the few still alive today are in the “later” category). It would seem heritable traits that increase relative number of descendents only serves to pick out which lineage is the last to die. -ds

  14. Saxe,

    I’d also recommend the counter to the tautology argument that has already been clearly formulated in the Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....he_fittest,

    Chris

  15. Chris,

    You are correct; you have still not provided any scientific test for fitness or “survival of the best fitted”, as you’d like to refer to it.

    Consider the link you asked me to read. It concludes by stating “Rather than considering the phrase either a tautology or a testable hypothesis, definition of biological survival.” In this sense, anything that helps a species to survive is a trait of “fitness”, even intentional human intervention or, arguably, random chance.” Consider this remark ” many hold it to be a definition of biological survival”. You couldn’t describe a tautology any better than that if I do say so myself. The writer also identifies fitness as “anything that helps a species to survive”. The term “anything” must be identified by scientific testing prior to the passing of that creature. If it criteria cannot be identified, then you have zero “valid prediction”, you only have a hunch or a guess. And that will not work in theory formation.

    I can make a “valid prediction” that 1+2 will equal three. What exactly are your criteria for a “valid prediction” as to who will survive? I have yet to see anyone provide testable criteria for this prediction. By the way, a hunch does not count as a scientific prediction. :)

    So, once again, I’ll ask you to provide a scientific test. Using an animal not affected by human intervention (although I don’t believe human intervention has any bearing on this tautology), please provide a scientific test we can perform, in order to demonstrate who who is the best fitted in the “survival of the best fitted”. I await your reply.

    Best Regards,
    Saxe

  16. More of the same, disguised as news about evolution…

    Why we have sex: It’s cleansing
    Act evolved as a way to purge harmful mutations, new model shows
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11640233/from/RSS/

    Isn’t it interesting how NeoDarwinian theory doesn’t predict sexual reproduction so they have to make up narrative after narrative about why & how it evolved. Narratives must be contrived in this manner because NDT is dogma. It can’t possibly be wrong so ill-fitting evidence must be tortured and spun until some remotely credible just-so story emerges. What they fail to consider is that maybe sexual reproduction didn’t arrive by way of random mutation & natural selection. That’s because it’s dogmatically accepted the random mutation is the source of all variation. And they wonder why we call it the Church of Darwin. :lol: -ds

  17. Saxe,

    You are too hung up on the phrase “survival of the fittest”. There are far better ways of describing natural selection which are less ambiguous. Darwin never used the phrase. It was a phrase formulated to describe a different phenomenon and applied later to Darwin’s work. Therefore whether or not the phrase is a tautology is irrelevant to the theory of natural selection. My definition of “heritable variation in traits leading to variation in reproductive success” is far more appropriate and not tautologous.

    You state that I need a “valid prediction” rather than a “hunch or a guess”. What you call a hunch or a guess is what science calls a “hypothesis” – a tentative explanation that accounts for a set of facts and can be tested by further investigation. If we already know what’s going to happen, there is no point in testing it. I am curious as to whether you have a scientific background?

    My definition of a test using dog breeds was perfectly valid. I defined qualitatively a trait that varies between breeds. I have defined an experiment that will show that individuals that have a deleterious trait will have reduced fecundity. Bulldogs are also incapable of hunting for themselves due to their unusual morphology. This is a less proximal cause of reduced fecundity which could be used as a trait. If a number of dog breeds were tested for hunting prowess then the bulldog would come out pretty low (depending on the other species) because of problems with breathing during exercise (they’re “brachicephalic”). Having defined the trait and tested its variation between breeds, the laissez-faire experiment would test the impact of the variation in those traits on fecundity (you would have to tag each individual and monitor it for reproductive activity). I am not entirely sure what more you want from me.

    So a criteria for “fitness” in the contemporary sense has to involve the number of progeny left (and the number of progeny that those progeny have). A colleague of mine is currently researching an experimental rodent population (Apodemus sylvaticus, the wood mouse, I think…). Her hypothesis was that individuals could identify how closely related to other individuals due to chemicals in pheromones (the major histocompatability complex, MHC) and that they will selectively mate with less related individuals to minimise inbreeding. It is already known that A. sylvaticus can distinguish different pheromones. Within her population of mice, all individuals are either full siblings or half sibling. She has found, in agreement with her hypothesis, that there is a bias towards mating with half siblings rather than full siblings. With some individuals doing each of them, the number of offspring could be monitored as a measure of fitness. The full-sib mating should result in a smaller number of offspring surviving to maturity and a lower genetic quality within that lineage than the half-sib matings. Thus we have the first part of a test of a trait (avoidance of inbreeding) on reproductive success (offspring surviving to maturity).

    There are two tests. If you still have criticisms, please be specific in each experimental design as to what your issues are,

    Chris

  18. Chris, the most powerful aspect of the sexual reproduction / natural selection examples in this thread is how the process preserves the genetic population from harmful mutations–in short, genetic stability. But it doesn’t give us much insight as to how new species develop. It all speaks to successful, amazing variations on a theme. How about the new, amazing themes?

    That’s the key question….

  19. Chris,

    Your example using dogs was not “natural” (nature) but instead intelligent (human) selection. And how do more eggs produced in a life cycle produce macro-evolutionary change? I don’t recall any scientific observation of a dog changing into anything other than a dog.

    When someone claims that natural selection is the cause that changes one animal into another, then one must ask for the testable criteria of fitness that leads to the new animal. The fecundity of a breed, despite evolutionist claims, does not equate to a new type of organism. It never has.

    You also state the wood mouse will “selectively mate with less related individuals to [minimize] inbreeding”. So the mouse is so concerned with inbreeding that he selectively mates with less related individuals. What gives the mouse this type of intelligence? Do we really know that “It is already known that A. sylvaticus can distinguish different pheromones.” or do we “know that” because that’s the only explanation a materialist has in his repertoire. I still don’t see the any described fitness that produces our future wood mouse, other than which will produce more of the same like-kind offspring.

    Chris, there are many single cells currently floating around the universe. Can you tell me which ones will turn into sexually reproducing organisms in the future? Actually, not to change the subject, but how did the first self-replicating cell change into a sexually producing organism? For that matter, why would it be beneficial to do so when the life of a single replicating cell seems quite satisfactory? Has science ever observed this event? Why did it get the urge to change? Did the first cell know something in advance? What scientific experiment has been performed that convinced you that this could happen? With all due respect, your faith in evolution seems to one large great leap of faith.

    Regards,
    Saxe

  20. Saxe,

    I can’t help but feel that you’ve moved the goalposts… I’ll take your points one at a time (and there are a lot at the end!):

    “Your example using dogs was not “natural””

    You were the one who started talking about dogs, not me. All I did was continue the theme that you began. The selective pressures acting on dogs are “artificial” as opposed to “natural”, although both kinds of pressures act in the same way. Just as a human selectively breeds/kills individuals in a population that they do not want, so nature selectively kills off individuals whose traits do not fit the environment.

    “I don’t recall any scientific observation of a dog changing into anything other than a dog”

    You never asked for an example of macro-evolutionary change. However, as you have already pointed out, dogs are an artificial example. How much change do you want? It could be argued that the bulldog has become a different species, since it cannot breed with other dogs. Of course it also cannot breed with other bulldogs so this is a bit of a dead end…

    “testable criteria of fitness that leads to the new animal”

    I’m not sure this makes sense. Could you clarify what you mean, please?

    “The fecundity of a breed, despite evolutionist claims, does not equate to a new type of organism”

    I agree entirely and I never said it did. There is variation in reproductive success which determines the frequency of genes (and, therefore, traits) in the following generation.

    “So the mouse is so concerned with inbreeding that he selectively mates with less related individuals. What gives the mouse this type of intelligence?”

    A cognitive explanation is rarely (if ever) necessary in this sort of situation. In much the same way that you might find faces of the opposite sex attractive for reasons that you cannot define, the behavioural effect of the MHC in pheromones has no cognitive component in mice.

    “Do we really know that “It is already known that A. sylvaticus can distinguish different pheromones.””

    Yes. Roberts, S.C., Gosling, L.M. Genetic similarity and quality interact in mate choice decisions by female mice ,(2003) Nature Genetics, 35 1, Pages 103-106.

    “I still don’t see the any described fitness that produces our future wood mouse, other than which will produce more of the same like-kind offspring.”

    That’s because short term natural selection (I have only discussed a couple of generations at most) is usually insufficient to produce new species. Of course there are large-scale mutations (e.g. on a chromosomal level) which can result in an inability to interbreed and these can occur in any generation and have an immediate effect. It appears that you are not actually looking for an example of natural selection, but an example of speciation. That is a different topic which we can discuss if you wish.

    “Can you tell me which ones will turn into sexually reproducing organisms in the future?”

    Can you tell me which cells were intelligently designed and which weren’t?

    “how did the first self-replicating cell change into a sexually producing organism?

    Mitosis and meiosis are quite similar processes. I don’t have any training in this area but I’d imagine that the postulated mechanism involves modifications to the process of mitosis to produce haploid daughter cells which then combine to form diploid cells. These later became gametes and zygotes. There are examples of cyclical or facultative parthenogenesis where species are both sexual and asexual. This could represent an intermediate step.

    “why would it be beneficial to do so when the life of a single replicating cell seems quite satisfactory?”

    Actually, I was writing a comment on the evolution of sex as well but my computer crashed so I abandoned it… The best review is still: Barton, N.H., Charlesworth, B. Why sex and recombination? ,(1998) Science, 281 5385, Pages 1986-1990, although more recent experimental work serves to support some of the hypotheses therein.

    The disadvantages of sex are (among others)
    => sexual reproduction results in only half of a population being able to give birth (the “two-fold” cost of sex”)
    => meiosis is a longer and more complex process than mitosis
    => gametes are overproduced so there is waste in sex
    => close contact between individuals enhances the likelihood of disease spreading

    However, there are also advantages:
    => Fisher’s/Muller’s hypothesis: Imagine two loci with two alleles at each locus. In generation 1 individuals with AB are favoured. Selection or competition removes other genotypes so that the AB individuals are in the majority. There are a few Ab and a few aB and very few (if any) ab. In a later generation the environment changes so that ab is the favoured genotype. The favoured combination is absent now due to selection so a parthenogenetic species would need a mutant from either the Ab or aB genotypes. A sexual species, on the other hand, could generate ab in one generation from an Ab and an aB. This means that sex brings together favourable genotypes.

    => Muller’s Ratchet: Mutation rates are very low. The probability of a point mutation is between 10-5 and 10-6. However, the number of base pairs in a genome is usually between 105 and 106, o it is likely that each individual will carry at least one mutation. Most of these will probably be harmful and so will be eliminated by natural selection. With a perfectly adapted population mutations could only be detrimental and these cannot be repaired since the entire genome is replicated in the next generation. This means that asexual populations tend towards low genetic quality. In a sexual population with the same problem the mating of different individuals will produce offspring that lack the mutations (which won’t be in the same place in all individuals)

    => Parasite theory: A common genotype has many parasites that have adapted to attack it. If a population is asexual then all subsequent generations are going to inherit both the genotype and the parasites from previous generations. If a population is sexual, recombination produces a greater diversity of genotypes which makes each individual genotype rarer. This lowers the parasite load of each individual, increasing fitness. This theory can explain why parthenogenesis is only found in species that inhabit fairly simple communities (with few parasite species) and live in low population densities (to reduce transmission).

    “Has science ever observed this event?”

    I don’t believe so.

    “Why did it get the urge to change?”

    “The urge”?! I suppose you mean “What were the selective pressures that caused a tendency for it to change?”

    “Did the first cell know something in advance?

    A senseless question.

    “What scientific experiment has been performed that convinced you that this could happen?”

    There have been experiments which have shown that the advantages to sex are real. This makes the evolution of sex a tenable theory.

    I hope that that has answered some of your questions. I agree that it takes faith to believe in evolution, as it does to believe in any scientific principle. Science can never prove anything (since this would take an infinite number of observations), only disprove,

    Best wishes,

    Chris

  21. 21

    Somehow the original topic of this thread seems to have been lost. What does NS predict about avian flu? And how does that compare to the predictions of ID theory? The main criticism of NS in this post is that it is quite useless. But is ID theory more useful? How does it help to note that a virus will always be a virus? Doesn’t NS predict that a more harmful virus might evolve if two different viruses infect the same host?

  22. Good Evening Chris (or is it good morning for you?),

    I’m sorry you feel I am moving the goal post. I surely do not intend to do so.

    The examples you’ve given me (Muller’s Ratchet and Parasite theory) appear to be examples of micro-evolutionary change. I agree with you that “natural selection” can be responsible for micro-evolutionary change. It is macroevolution for which natural selection cannot account. It cannot name fitness criteria for macro-evolutionary change and is therefore not a theory.

    I do believe the following exchange represents a most important difference in our theories:
    Saxe: “Did the first cell know something in advance?”
    Chris: “A senseless question.”

    The fact that you consider this question a “senseless question” shows the different presuppositions with which we approach this issue. I believe intelligence and foresight is required to create life. You believe an entity (called nature or natural selection) has intelligence and foresight. You believe it causes, through natural selection, a light beam (big bang) to turn into a human being. Natural selection is not a being. Natural selection has no intelligence and cannot predict the next fitness required for survival. Therefore, ascribing it causal powers that predict the future needs of an organism (macro-evolution) seems irrational. Natural selection as a “theory” is therefore only wishful speculations disguised as a theory.

    This begs only one simple question. Since natural selection has neither intelligence nor any foresight whatsoever, why do you put such faith in it? You really find it reasonable that no causal agent is responsible for turning light beams into human beings? You believe it created that pesky little marvel of engineering…the flagella. That type of faith opposes every scientific principle ever known.

    In conclusion, I am interested in this remark “Science can never prove anything…” If this is the case, how can we trust what you just stated is in fact true?

    Saxe

  23. 23

    Dear Saxe, (how does one pronounce that btw?)

    Your interesting comments left me with a few questions that I hope you could answer for me and perhaps other readers.

    Where does micro-evolution (apparently accepted by you, even allowing for a role of NS) end, and where does macro-evolution begin? If you don’t define that, then you can always handwavingly declare something to be micro-evolution and therefore unworthy of further discussion.
    And why does macro-evolution require that the future needs of an organism must be predicted by the mechanisms causing it? Did the meteorite that wiped out dinosaurs predict the need that mammals had for a relatively dinosaur-free environment?

    Thank you

    Hans

  24. Hi Hans,

    Your question regarding macro and microevolution is a good one. Natural selection and random genetic change have never been observed to produce anything other than like-kind organisms. Dogs always produce dogs and birds always produce birds. There does exist observed variation (micro-evolution) among birds and dogs, such as size, color, beak size, etc., but never has a transformation from dog to bird, for example, been observed. Therefore, microevolution is small-scale change among like-kind organisms. In other words, genetic change may produce a longer beak, but it will never turn a beak into an elephant trunk.

    Hans: “…why does macro-evolution require that the future needs of an organism must be predicted by the mechanisms causing it?”

    The materialist attributes causal powers to nature (natural selection) that just don’t exist.

    For illustration purposes, let’s start with an organism that had no eyes, no lungs, no brain or heart. Let’s call it the blob. Let us assume the blob is sexually reproducing. (I’ll be kind and not make you tell me how it got from self-replicating to sexually reproducing.) The blob, in its current state is living, it is apparently happy being the blob and it doesn’t know that it needs additional anything, much less complex organs. It seems to exist quite swimmingly while not even having knowledge of its own existence.

    Supposedly one day its friend the ‘environment’ instructs the blob that the blob needs to start the beginnings of something new. For illustration, the blob is told it now needs to have vision. The blob now must add onto itself. How a non-intelligent non-being (environment) instructs another non-intelligent being (the blob) to create something new is beyond my imagination. It stretches reality to think that an eye, for example, could be formed over millions of years without any blueprint whatsoever.

    It seems more rational that the blueprint for the eye, for example, would be required well in advance to enable the blob even to start its intelligent building sequence correctly, much less end up with a working final apparatus. You would think that blind genetic mixing would produce (if it could) millions of variations of an organ but we just don’t witness that in the fossil record. But apparently this blob has the power to build an eye without any foresight whatsoever. It is a very impressive blob we have indeed. The materialist cannot entertain the possibility of non-material cause therefore non-causal non-intelligent sources somehow created.

    But nonetheless, the blob, having been informed of the need of vision by its environment, now starts to create an engineering marvel…the eye. Just pour in millions of years and genetic mixtures, and presto you’ve got the eye. Actually, we find only fossilized eyes suddenly appearing (Cambrian Explosion); we don’t find them in thousands of stages of the design process. But I digress.

    Let’s put reality into hibernation and still assume the blob has the unguided capacity to create an eye without any blueprint whatsoever. Keep in mind, the blob isn’t even conscious…it doesn’t even know it exists much less know anything about engineering new organs for itself. But after work begins on the eye, let’s suppose the blob is now instructed to start building a heart – again using no blueprints. After starting work on construction of the heart, the blob would then require a brain in order to give instructions for the heart’s function. Something must tell the heart when to beat. Does the environment tell the blob it needs a heart or does the blob tell the environment to tell the blob to begin building a heart? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. ☺

    In any event, the blob next amazingly realizes (How? the materialist cannot give an account) it needs to create lungs to supply oxygen to the heart and brain. Keep in mind, the blob doesn’t “know” the heart needs oxygen, but it amazingly knows it needs lungs. (Again I have to ask, if the blob is surviving currently in its present state, why does it now require lungs? It surely hasn’t a clue it even possesses a partial heart at this point.). The blob then has to decide how to engineer these components. But what benefit is a partially formed eye or a partially formed brain or a partial lung. How did the blob ‘select’ quantity two eyes? After all, a non-intelligent blob knows nothing about depth perception or future needs. Why not 10 eyes, I mean why stop at two? Also, what good is a fully formed heart without a brain or a brain without a heart or lungs without a heart? What “fitness” is possessed by one organ without the existence of another dependent organ? What is the “fitness” of each organ in partial formation? Granted, many of these are rhetorical questions, but they illustrate my point.

    What I really want however is a rational coherent explanation of how an unguided process possesses the ability to turn light beams into human beings that can reason and send people to the moon.

    I want a coherent explanation of how light beams turned into this:

    http://www.expasy.ch/cgi-bin/show_thumbnails.pl

    Regarding the meteor example, if a meteor supposedly killed the dinosaurs, it didn’t create a new known being. It didn’t “evolve” any know thing. The destruction of a like-kind has no bearing on whether it was good or bad for the remaining like-kinds. Supposedly a meteor hit, dinosaurs died, is was now better for living creatures. Isn’t this just another tautology? Whether or not it was better for the remaining creatures is of no matter. No one is arguing a comet caused evolution. Also, many creatures lived alongside dinosaurs, why do you assume the need for a dinosaur-free environment? Perhaps if dinosaurs lived, the evolutionist would argue that the survivors of the dinosaur age would have been more powerful than the survivors left on earth when they died. This presumed ‘need’ seems like speculation at best.

    Also, speaking of dinosaurs, did you read about the startling discovery of Tyrannosaurus rex thighbone found intact with soft tissue cells such as complete blood cells and soft fibrous tissue?

    The discovery team, lead by Dr. Mary Schweitzer, commented, “It was exactly like looking at a slice of modern bone. But, of course, I couldn’t believe it. I said to the lab technician: ‘The bones, after all, are 65 million years old.’ How could blood cells survived that long?’”

    Someone should inform Mary that the blood cells couldn’t survive for 65 million years. But then again, some fairy tales are to be believed regardless; let the facts be damned.

    Regards,
    Saxe

    P.S. My name is pronounced “sax” (silent e). Thank you for asking.

  25. 25

    Hi Saxe,

    Thanks for your long reply and especially your funny blob theory.

    I understand your logic I think, but there seems to be a premise underlying all your logic that is just not very convincing: you seem to assume that whenever you cannot imagine something then it cannot be true. For example, you say

    “How a non-intelligent non-being (environment) instructs another non-intelligent being (the blob) to create something new is beyond my imagination.”

    But a lot of science is counterintuitive, such as a lot of confirmed predictions of quantum mechanics and special relativity theory. Do you also dismiss those theories?

    If I would ask you how exactly God created heaven and earth, I guess that would also be beyond your imagination. It certainly is beyond mine. But does that make it any less true?

    Hans

  26. Hi Hans,

    Nice to hear from you again and happy to hear you enjoyed a day in the life of the blob. :)

    I suppose you got me here “How a non-intelligent non-being (environment) instructs another non-intelligent being (the blob) to create something new is beyond my imagination.” My loose words seem to have sunk my ship. I would prefer to replace ‘beyond my imagination’ with ‘not logical or rational in theory formation’. Yes, much better. Thanks for pointing out my error.

    “If I would ask you how exactly God created heaven and earth, I guess that would also be beyond your imagination. It certainly is beyond mine. But does that make it any less true?”

    You are correct; being beyond imagination surely does not reflect the truth of a theory. Being beyond reason or logic, however, does affect the truth of theory. The answer to why God created the heaven and the earth is to glorify Him “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1) As to the ‘how’ of it, now that is beyond our comprehension but not beyond logic or reason. He is an infinite, omnipotent being. He has no beginning and no end. Therefore, it certainly is rational and logical to believe that He could bring time, matter, and space into existence. It is also reasonable and logical to believe that His mind could hold the blueprint for universe.

    I do often stand in awe of the intelligence necessary to lay out creation. Imagine the intellect and power necessary to design and create a flower or human or DNA or even the tiniest atom. Humans have been manufacturing cars for over 100 years and they are not close to being a perfect design. God breaths into dust once and creates the masterpiece of the human body – that is incredible. These things may be beyond our comprehension but not our understanding. I am grateful He lets us see a whisker of His character.

    Have great day Hans, it’s always a pleasure.

    By the way, does the “economist” in your name indicate your profession?

    Regards,
    Saxe

  27. Testing; please ignore.

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