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Harvesting – An Alternative to Natural Selection

Natural selection is posited as the only mechanism to lead to differential survival among individuals of varying fitness. However, if selection pressures cause mortality to occur in individuals who would soon be dead anyway, then natural selection is not really operating.

The hypothesis of the Harvesting Effect in epidemiology leads to this conclusion. I think this has so far only been explored in respiratory epidemiology, but hats off to them for bringing it up.

If the Harvesting Effect is real, then Darwinists must differentiate its effects from that of natural selection. So far this issue has not been addressed. Harvesting or the Harvesting Effect is a hypothesis in epidemiology. It occurs when an agent causes death in an individual who would die or enter a hospital in any case within a few days of exposure to the agent. The idea is that the agent – the assigned determining factor in death – is irrelevant. Had the patient been generally healthier they would not have succumbed to the agent. Again, had they not been exposed to the agent they would have been dead anyway within a short time. Therefore, assigning the agent as the cause of death is not truly correct.

This means that the agents of natural selection have to be distinguished from the harvesting effect. This has never been addressed in evolutionary biology. If a death cannot be attributed to a selection pressure, it is presumably a “wasted death” in terms of Darwinism. And natural selection must concern itself with accounting for deaths (as well as reduction in fertility and fecundity, etc.). If a death is attributed to harvesting rather than the selective pressure of the determining factor of death, then it leaves natural selection having to work its magic on other individuals who have not died in this way.

Here are two articles on harvesting:

(a) Is There Harvesting in the Association of Airborne Particles with Daily Deaths and Hospital Admissions

(b) Harvesting-Resistant Estimates of Air Pollution Effects on Mortality

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8 Responses to Harvesting – An Alternative to Natural Selection

  1. I may be mistaken, but I don’t get the point. It doesn’t matter what the causal agent was, but only that the organism dies. If it was going to die anyway, it doesn’t matter if some other agent kills it.

    If it wasn’t going to die for selective reasons, and some agent kills it, this is called genetic drift.

  2. Alfred,

    I’m afraid I don’t see the problem.

    Natural selection doesn’t “care” about what causes the death of particular individuals; it only cares about whether a particular trait is beneficial on average to those who possess it.

    A particular individual, though perfectly fit, can be killed by lightning, while a less fit individual standing next to him happens to survive [which incidentally is why it's false to say, as many opponents of Darwinian evolotion do, that natural selection is a tautology]. But the fact that fitter individuals sometimes perish doesn’t prevent natural selection from working; it’s enough that fitter individuals survive and reproduce better on average.

    Thus, the harvesting effect will not keep natural selection from happening.

  3. If the Harvesting Effect is real, then Darwinists must differentiate its effects from that of natural selection. So far this issue has not been addressed. Harvesting or the Harvesting Effect is a hypothesis in epidemiology. It occurs when an agent causes death in an individual who would die or enter a hospital in any case within a few days of exposure to the agent. The idea is that the agent – the assigned determining factor in death – is irrelevant. Had the patient been generally healthier they would not have succumbed to the agent. Again, had they not been exposed to the agent they would have been dead anyway within a short time. Therefore, assigning the agent as the cause of death is not truly correct.

    So apparently he’s saying its often incorrect to ascribe features of life to agents.

  4. Wow, the standard is dropping.

    Google genetic drift.

  5. @skeech 1:
    “which incidentally is why it’s false to say, as many opponents of Darwinian evolotion do, that natural selection is a tautology”

    You’re correct. However “many opponents” say that “survival of the fittest” is a tautology not “natural selection”. Everybody agrees with natural selection, but not everybody agrees that natural selection is a perfect filter “preserving and adding up all that is good”.

    Anyway selection doesn’t create new things.

  6. Natural selection is both very real and very important. It prevents change. Just as nature abhors a vacuum so She abhors change and will resist it as She always has right down to inevitable extinction as the fossil record so clearly testifies. Don’t take my word for it.

    “The struggle for existence and natural selection are not progressive agencies, but being, on the contrary, conservative, maintain the standard.”
    Leo Berg, Nomogenesis, page 406

    It is perfectly clear that selection can accomplish nothing more than the establishment of intraspecific varieties and subspecific races none of which are incipient species in any event.

    Natural selection, the sine qua non of the Darwinian myth, never had anything to do with the appearance of any true species or of any other higher taxanomic category. Get used to it as Leo Berg, Pierre Grasse, Otto Schindewolf, William Bateson, Reginald C. Punnett, Robert Broom all did: and so have I!

  7. I don’t get it. How does harvesting differ from any other environmental factor that might cause death?

    Someone said a lightning strike, and that sounds reasonable, but some trees survive a lightning strike.

    Is there something I am missing?

  8. 8

    Has Alfred Russel also muzzled John A. Davison from any further participation on his thread as William Dembski and Gil Dodgen already have?

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