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Blythian evolution explains antibiotic resistance, not Darwinism

I was nicknamed “Gas.”

Charles Darwin
Autobiography

Is evolution of antibiotic resistance by bacteria an example of Darwinism? Such a claim is very suspicious since Darwinism deals mainly with the origin of species.

Evolution of antibiotic resistance is an example of survival of the fittest within a species, not an origin of species. This phenomenon ought more properly to be credited to the ideas of Edward Blyth rather than Charles “Gas” Darwin.

Loren Eiseley, Professor of Anthropology and the History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania correctly argues:

the leading tenets of Darwin’s work—the struggle for existence, variation, natural selection and sexual selection—are all fully expressed in Blyth’s paper of 1835.

[For more details, read Was Blyth the true scientist and Darwin merely a plagiarist and charlatan?]

Despite this, Panda’s Thumb author Tara Smith continues her usual equivocations about evolution here. If by “evolution”, one means change, then everyone is an evolutionist, even creationists like Blyth.

But the debate is about Darwinism, not the survival of the fittest, nor change over time. Smith, like others uses sleight-of-hand equivocations to argue for the truthfulness of Darwinism by equivocating the meaning of evolution.

It was the creationist Blyth who laid the ground work for the idea of survival of the fittest. Darwin argued for Natural Selection as the mechanism for the origin of species and the origin of large scale novel functionality. That issue has never been proven, and as Eric Davidson rightly points out, the latest incarnation of Darwinism, neo-Darwinism, is dead.

The issue is not whether the fittest survive (in fact, if luck or being blessed is a trait toward fitness, then survival of the fittest is an immutable truth), but whether survival of the fittest is a mechanism for the creation of large scale biological innovation. That has never been proven, and there is much reason to doubt it. See: Discplacement Theorem, Perfect architectures which scream design, What are the speed limits of naturalistic evolution?, Nachman’s U-Paradox, Airplane Magnetos, etc. for some considerations as to why…

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21 Responses to Blythian evolution explains antibiotic resistance, not Darwinism

  1. These mis-understandings is why we should accept the definition of evolution used in NDE and then move the discussion to other aspects of the problem using that basic definition. It will make things clearer for everyone and then we can see how other definitions relate to the accepted definition.

    The definition of evolution in NDE is simply the change of the frequency of alleles in a population over time. It a very simple and a very ho-hum definition but can be used for a jumping off point to discuss anything else.

    Given this, natural selection is also a ho-hum concept, really a very weak force in the scheme of things and not some magical process.

    Common definitions can then be used to call someone on their inappropriate use of the word evolution when they are discussing this very volatile topic and people use all sorts of different definitions in the same paragraph. Force them to define their terms some and then we can see what they are actually saying. It will undress them, as they cannot hide behind vague terms.

    We can then start with what we accept and what we don’t accept using common terminology. ID certainly accepts changes in the allele frequencies from generation to generation. So we accept evolution and the process of bacteria changing is an example of it.

    We can then point out that Darwin is talking about something very different and analyze it on that basis and show why we do not accept that. Darwin is really talking about allele creation not natural selection. The term natural selection is like the handkerchief of the magician. You are focused on that but the real stuff is behind it which does not get examined.

    So I will make my plea. Let’s get some common definitions and work from there and base all discussions on these definitions. I guarantee it will paint the Darwinists into a corner faster then if we all use different vague multi-concepted definitions, which lets us, all talk past each other.

  2. …natural selection is also a ho-hum concept, really a very weak force in the scheme of things and not some magical process.

    But NS isn’t really a force at all. Artificial Selection is a force, causing differential reproduction (the effect); natural selection IS differential reproduction: it is the effect, or more precisely, a description of the effect. It doesn’t go on to “cause” anything further. (Except for confusion…)

  3. Atom,

    If you want, substitute “minor process” for “weak force.”

    So maybe the phrase could be re-stated as

    “natural selection is also a ho-hum concept, really a very minor process in the scheme of things and not some magical force.”

  4. Natural selection at best takes generalizations and produces specializations (eg cheetahs, polar bears) from preexisting information. In so doing creating an ever narrowing cone of specialization, eventually resulting in the species extinction through lack of generalization.

  5. Acquiesce,

    You are right, natural selection and genetic drift eliminate variety in a gene pool by fixing certain alleles. That is one of the reasons why I said it was a ho-hum process in terms of the whole evolutionary discussion.

    The important part in the evolutionary discussion is the creation of new alleles.

    But yet the Darwinists go around talking about the importance of natural selection when it is really a trivial factor in the whole process.

  6. I think Blyth was very accurate in suggesting Natural Selection preserves species, it does not originate them (except maybe subspecies).

    We do have wolves subspciating to dogs. I’m not so sure Natural Selection can make the jump from fish to reptiles.

    It is on my heart to help get Blyth fair credit for furthering our understanding of Natural Selection in the modern world. His conception of it as a mechanism seems more accurate than Darwin’s, and unfortunately he does not receive proper attribution for his ideas.

  7. Sal, not to split hairs, but wolves to dogs is an example of Artificial Selection, as far as I know. (Domestication)

    I agree with your general point, however, that differential reproduction/survival explains the differences in alelle frequencies. But this is nothing more than the oft-mentioned truth “there are more survivors in the end.”

  8. So I will make my plea. Let’s get some common definitions and work from there and base all discussions on these definitions. I guarantee it will paint the Darwinists into a corner

    That’s exactly why in Darwinist world they are content to let the definitions remain mush. They can only resort to equivocations of the word “evolution” to defend their position. Obfuscation and confusion rather than empirical facts are what they have to defend their theory.

    Blyth makes a good case as to why Natural Selection will impede evolution of novel species, not originate them.

    I’d like to credit “BertVan” at ARN for finding Mae Wan Ho’s peer-reviewed article here

    a relative lack of natural selection may be the prerequisite for major evolutionary advance.

    Not only was Darwin wrong about Natural Selection’s role in evolution, he may have gotten it totally backward. Major evolutionary change might have to happen in the absence of Natural Seleciton, not the presence of it.

    Salvador

  9. Isn’t the ‘ho-hum’ definition, founded on the evolution of alleles, very materialistic? Seriously! Is an organism merely its DNA?

  10. The real problem, apart from what I said earlier [4] (which is how NS seems to works on the intratype level), is why NS would evolve anything other than fitter bacteria once they arose from the minestrone soup?

    If bacteria were what they are now, they were perfectly able to adapt to any environment – so why evolve into some totally different organism with reduced fitness, and then carrying on this reduction till you reach us?

  11. Tara Smith, as with most anti-IDists, just refuses to understand what is being debated.

    I was listening to Bill Nye (the science guy) talk about ID and all he did was prattle on that ID does not accept any change at all and seeing that variation has been observed, change happens and ID is refuted.

    The meanings of evolution, from Darwinism, Design and Public Education:

    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.

    Creationists go 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.

    IDists go 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.

  12. That’s exactly why in Darwinist world they are content to let the definitions remain mush. They can only resort to equivocations of the word “evolution” to defend their position. Obfuscation and confusion rather than empirical facts are what they have to defend their theory.

    Evolutionism is the tinfoil hat atheists wear to keep God out of their brainwaves.

  13. Acquiesce asks:

    “If bacteria were what they are now, they were perfectly able to adapt to any environment – so why evolve into some totally different organism with reduced fitness, and then carrying on this reduction till you reach us?”

    This is an old, but nevertheless, a most excellent question. The only answers one will get are handwaving references about some supposed drive to exploit new niches. (We could spend a whole thread on whether this makes sense and what kinds of counterexamples we might be able to come up with.) However, ultimately it all goes back to the question of whether new biological information would arise that would lead to the exploitation of new niches. Natural Selection is irrelevant to the creative process.

    One of Darwin’s conundrums is that the variations that are the engine of evolution must, by definition, be significant enough to actually lead to differential reproduction and an advantage for their possessor, while at the same time they must be so small as to be realistically possible (or more importantly to the theory, they must be small enough to be believable).

    To return to the question, why would evolution take a bacteria and turn it into what we see today? There isn’t any good reason to think that it would. Indeed, the only reason to think that it would is that we obviously have things other than bacteria today. Ah yes, yet another example of the circular logic used to prop up a theory that is largely devoid of actual explanatory content.

  14. Joseph, that is an *EXCELLENT* classification, and one which I will definitely be referring to in the future. Thankyou for posting that.

    To others, NS alone certainly cannot create any new information. It’s a selection pressure acting on existing information – the existing information can come from long-established alleles or new ones produced through mutation. We’ve observed genetic diversity in populations increase and new genetic material in individuals; how this information arises is of little importance to a theory of NS, it’s just something for NS to work with.

  15. Phevans- Thanks, here is a link:

    Biological evolution- what is being debated

    BTW how the information arises is very important to ID.

  16. I agree with Eric Anderson in post 13, the conundrum is there. Differential Reproduction is the description of when some organisms reproduce more than others. That is all “Natural Selection” is. It is not a cause in any sense, with any causal power, it is only a description of this state of affairs.

    Given that, one has to postulate genetic steps (improvements) that simultaneously: 1) are small enough to be within the reach of random chance (for unguided evo), 2) change the phenotype enough to be noticeable (princess and nucleotide paradox), 3) increase effective reproduction enough to overcome “noise” (accidental death, bad luck, catastophe, enviornmental changes…signal-to-noise ratio as discussed in Genetic Entropy by Sanford), and 4) increase the reproduction inequality enough to fix the trait in a given population in a realistic timeframe (see Haldane, Kimura and ReMine’s work on the problem of fixation.)

    These real issues must be addressed and solutions demonstrated in any realistic Darwinian scenario.

  17. Also, in regards to my point 2:

    The work of Kimura and Sanford demonstrated that pretty much all mutation is slight (invisible to selection) and deleterious (loses information.) Almost all mutations are neutral and cannot change an organism’s reproduction excess in any real fashion.

    This makes the problem much worse when trying to construct an actual evolutionary history, as opposed to a just-so-story devoid of such details.

  18. Phevans,

    Great_ape is a frequent contributor to this site and is a believer in NDE. He made the following comment about natural selection yesterday on another thread:

    “Natural selection is understood to act on both de novo mutations and existing variation in the population (or possibly transferred in laterally from another species).”

    Thus, this is a clear description of the issue. It points to two possible sources of new alleles. Namely, novo mutations and gene transfer. These novo mutations can be much more than point mutations of a single DNA nucleotide.

    The real issue in the whole discussion of evolution is the mechanisms for creating new alleles for natural selection and genetic drift to work on. Natural selection is a small side show in the whole process even though that is the term that is thrown about. You have to ask why does NDE champion a minor process as the basis for its theory. The answer is that is what Darwin championed. They need some clever term to confuse everyone about what are the real issues of evolution.

    Great_ape raised another interesting question. Why do species have such a wide variety of alleles? This is especially interesting since natural selection and genetic drift act only to reduce alleles not spread new ones around. See comment by Acquiesce in #4 above.

    One obvious answer is that maybe someone designed them that way but that is not a very popular explanation. We do not see mutations creating very many new alleles in today’s environment. So where do they come from?

    If we focus on the right issues, the discussions will be more informative and productive. Natural selection is a charade. It is a real but trivial process.

  19. Apologies if I didn’t make myself clear, I was trying to make the distinction between the process of NS and the arrival of new information. Looking at NS alone, it’s clear that it’s not important where the information to be acted on comes from; a Theory of Evolution (as a whole) must account for that information.

    Darwin came up with the NS part, which was innovative (at the time). His work on new information entering the system was sketchy at best – he obviously had no idea of genetics or inheritance mechanics (Mendel’s work was at a similar time but wasn’t made famous until years later). In fact he’s so far off the mark that he’s not entirely against the idea of inheriting acquired traits.

    So what I’m trying to say is that the modern ToE is made up of many parts, of which NS is only one – and it is an important part, but it wouldn’t have anything to work on if it wasn’t for mechanisms for variance and inheritance, and without NS there wouldn’t be any evolution at all.

    Any ToE is eminently concerned with the source of information, whether that theory of evolution is based on ID, NS+RM, or whatever. The NS part of the modern ToE says nothing about where the information arises.

  20. Phevans [19]
    “it [Natural Selection] is an important part, but it wouldn’t have anything to work on if it wasn’t for mechanisms for variance and inheritance, and without NS there wouldn’t be any evolution at all.”

    The problem with NS is that it wouldn’t take highly adaptable bacteria and direct their evolution into some totally different organism; all subsequent organisms lack the adaptabliliy, resistance, reproductive fecundity and population size (fitness).

    Cholera bacteria reproduce at such a rate that a single pair can produce an estimated 700,000,000,000,000,000,000 offspring in a day.

    NS would, in the long run, favor primarily those organisms that are highly resistant and adaptable, produce more offspring, have longer fertility periods and live longer, thus having more opportunity to reproduce their kind. This is the predicted pattern of NS.

    The fact that the pattern we do see is the antithesis of one by NS says more about the mechanism, or lack thereof, to produce CSI. It’s evident that NS plays a major role in adaptive evolution, but gradualists are barking up the wrong tree in regards its role in constructive evolution.

    As pointed out by scordova [8] (see his link) a relative lack of NS may be the prerequisite for major evolutionary advance. Ironic that both mechanisms for evolution (according to the orthodox darwinians) pull evolution in the opposite direction: RM to increasing disorder and NS to increasing fitness.

  21. [...] Because Darwinism is irrelevant to modern medicine, Darwinists have to use sleight of hand propaganda to justify Darwinism’s relevance to modern medicine. (see: Blythian evolution explains antibiotic resistance, not Darwinism.) [...]

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