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Can Natural Selection Defy the Odds? Not When They’re This Long.

Alan Prendergast has this story in Westword about Robert Hannum, a professor of “applied probability” at the University of Denver. Recently the management of a casino hired Professor Hannum to investigate a roulette player whom they suspected might be cheating. The house has a huge mathematical advantage in roulette, which is why the casino suspected something other than random chance was involved when the player parlayed a few thousand dollars into over $1.4 million.

Professor Hannum crunched the numbers, however, and told the casino that while the player’s run was very unlikely (about an 80:1 shot), it was not so unlikely as to suggest cheating. And sure enough, over the next few gaming sessions the player blew his entire $1.4 million stack.

What was the key assumption underlying the casino management’s request of Professor Hannum? They assumed that some events are just too improbable reasonably to attribute them to the interaction of random chance and the physical laws of nature working on the roulette wheel (i.e., “physical necessity”), and and if an event is not caused by the interaction of chance and necessity, the most likely cause of the event is design by an intelligent agent. In the particular case of gaming “design by an intelligent agent” goes by the name of “cheating.” Finally, the very fact they hired Professor Hannum suggests they understood that design leaves behind indicia that can be sussed out objectively.

Consider an example from poker. Suppose a poker dealer deals himself 13 royal flushes in hearts in a row in a five card game. The odds of this happening are easy to calculate. They are about 2.74^-71. To put that number into perspective, the dealer could deal the same 13 hands to every atom in the universe, and it is less than even money that any atom would receive that same series of hands. Conclusion: It is not, as a matter of strict logic, impossible for random chance to result in 13 royal flushes in a row, but the odds of that happing are so low that the inference to design is overwhelming.

Now the odds of the information content of even the simplest strand of DNA forming though pure random chance are even less than the odds of dealing 13 royal flushes in a row. Yet Neo-Darwinian evolution (NDE) theorists routinely discount the design inference. How can this be?

It seems to me that NDE proponents have two responses to this question. First, they inform us that when it comes to evolution, chance is only half of the equation. Just as with the roulette wheel, the other half of the equation is physical necessity. And, NDE proponents go on to say that NDE has a force of nature working for it that roulette players do not — natural selection. Natural selection, they say, sorts though all the randomness and creates specifications, such as the information content of DNA, that only appear to be designed by an intelligent agent.

Natural selection is, of course, a real force of nature, as demonstrated by the development of drug resistance by the malaria microbe through purely Darwinian processes. But, as Michael Behe has convincingly demonstrated, the power of natural selection is limited. Natural selection can provide a selective advantage by degrading a genome, as it does in the malaria example. But its power to BUILD a complex genome has never been demonstrated in the laboratory. In fact, the laboratory has shown as that over countless trillions of reproductive events, natural selection has NOT created complex new additions to the genome.

When Darwin observed the beaks of Galapagos finches, he was observing small changes in an organism’s phenotype (i.e., the organism’s body plan) that gave the organism a selective advantage and thereby increased its predominance in the population. From this observation Darwin made an inference that has literally changed the world. He inferred that the same process was responsible for creating finches in the first place. Obviously, Darwin did not observe this process create finches. He reasoned, however, that a process that could create one small change in a population of organisms could create other small changes, and over time, those changes would accumulate, and when sufficient changes had accumulated over a long enough time, an entirely new species would emerge. This entirely natural process, Darwin reasoned, was responsible for the creation of all life, from the first single-celled organism on though to human beings themselves.

The important thing always to keep in mind is this: “Darwin inferred . . .” Again, Darwin did not observe one species morphing into another through the process of natural selection. The finches remained finches. They did not change into another kind of bird, much less another kind of species altogether. Nor has anyone since Darwin observed a species morph into another.

The main point is that the power of natural selection to create large, as opposed to small, changes in the genotype and the phenotype of organisms remains, to this day, an inference from the data, not the data itself. If any NDE proponent commenting on this post disputes this assertion, I invite him or her to cite a single example of one species being observed changing into another since Origin of Species was published in 1859.

This gets me back to our discussion of probability. As I said, NDE proponents assume that natural selection has the power to beat the odds and create, for example, highly complex and specified strands of DNA, the creation of which is beyond the power of mere chance. But since no one has ever observed natural selection create complex changes in a strand of DNA (much less create the strand of DNA from scratch in the first place), how can NDE proponents be so dead certain of the staggering, almost God-like powers of creation they attribute to natural selection? One would think they would be more modest in their claims for a process that has never actually been observed. Instead, they bombastically assert that their theory has the same epistemological standing as the theory of gravity.

And what happens when someone fails to bow at the altar of NDE? Well, this brings me to the NDE proponents’ second response that I mentioned above, which I call the “shut up and sit down” response. As I noted above, NDE proponents have inferred (as opposed to observed) from the data the vast creative powers of natural selection. Sadly, the more intellectually strident among them suggest that this is the ONLY allowable inference that can be made from the data. Why is this the only inference allowed?

Because, for those who worship at the altar of materialism, the creative power of natural selection is true as a matter of simple logic before we even get to the data. Indeed, there is no need to even look at the data, because the data are irrelevant. The metaphysics is what matters, and the metaphysics leads inexorably to the inference that NDE through natural selection or something very like it is true.

An unbiased review of the data might suggest there are substantial observational difficulties with NDE, not the least of which is the fossil record, which is characterized NOT by the gradual accumulation of small changes Darwin’s theory predicts, but by sudden emergence and stasis, exactly the opposite of what Darwin’s theory suggests should be the case. But, as I said, the data are irrelevant. This is why when the data do not fit the theory NDE proponents blame the data, not the theory. In other words, if the data do not fit the theory, so much the worse for the data. In the case of the fossil record, for example, no NDE proponent denies the data, on the whole, run counter to the theory. Instead, they say that even after 150 years of development, the record is far too incomplete to make any firm conclusions. In other words, even after 150 years, the problem is with the fossil record, not the theory.

And if an ID proponent stands up and says, “Wait a minute. There is another inference that can be drawn from the existence of specified complexity in DNA and the irreducibly complex structures we observe in all living things. In fact, the most plausible inference is that both the specified complexity and the irreducible complexity are designed.” In discussions of this sort between the two camps the NDE proponents invariable get around to saying something on the order of “IDiot! Shut up and sit down. Don’t you know that under our materialist assumptions, the truth of natural selection is actually derived as a matter of logic, and therefore any assertion that denies that truth is quite literally absurd.”

Never mind that, as I and others have demonstrated, ID theory works perfectly well even given materialist assumptions. NDE proponents insist that it cannot. Never mind that an argument (such as the creative power of natural selection) that rests on an unspoken metaphysical assumption that assumes the conclusion of the argument is not very satisfying. Sit down and shut up IDiots. We have rigged the game so that you can never win.

The history of ideas has shown, however, that strategies like this, while than can win in the short run, can never win in the long run.

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43 Responses to Can Natural Selection Defy the Odds? Not When They’re This Long.

  1. Barry,
    I was reading a column in Slate, and I tripped across the following:

    “The behavior of this bacterium, once elucidated, proved to be truly chilling. Unlike previously known E. coli, O157 borrowed a gene from a completely different bacterium (Shigella flexneri) that produces the shiga toxin, which causes dysentery. This Yankee swap of genetic bits across species is what gives scientists nightmares. E. coli demonstrated evolution in action, right under our noses and at Warp 7 speed. Creationists take notice: This is the real deal.”

    You’ll find the full article at http://www.slate.com/id/2296326/ Page 2, Paragraph 5.

    I know you’re not a “Creationist”, and this is not an example of new species creation, but rather, species gene swapping. But I’m sure that you can see where the Darwinianist’s can go with this. I’m not sharp shooting you here, heck, I’m on your side! I’m just fishing for a brief rebuttal, if you will.

  2. What was the key assumption underlying the casino management’s request of Professor Hannum? They assumed that some events are just too improbable reasonably to attribute them to the interaction of random chance and the physical laws of nature working on the roulette wheel (i.e., “physical necessity”), and and if an event is not caused by the interaction of chance and necessity, the most likely cause of the event is design by an intelligent agent.

    I hope Professor Hannum was a better statistician than that.  All sequences of the roulette wheel are equally improbable. I expect the reasoning was Bayesian.  Given the management’s prior probability of plausible alternative explanations for the outcome e.g:

    a. Wheel functioning normally (very high)

    b. The individual had some way of influencing wheel (very low)

    c. Wheel malfunctioning (low, but higher than b)

    and the probability of the outcome given the explanation

    a. 1 in 80 we are told

    b. very high given his motivation to make money

    c. low, but higher than a.

    what is the probability of each explanation?  And is the probability of b high enough to justify further investigation?

  3. footnotes on the ‘house’s odds’ against evolution;

    The Universal Plausibility Metric (UPM) & Principle (UPP) – Abel – Dec. 2009
    Excerpt: Mere possibility is not an adequate basis for asserting scientific plausibility. A precisely defined universal bound is needed beyond which the assertion of plausibility, particularly in life-origin models, can be considered operationally falsified. But can something so seemingly relative and subjective as plausibility ever be quantified? Amazingly, the answer is, “Yes.”,,,

    c?u = Universe = 10^13 reactions/sec X 10^17 secs X 10^78 atoms = 10^108

    c?g = Galaxy = 10^13 X 10^17 X 10^66 atoms = 10^96

    c?s = Solar System = 10^13 X 10^17 X 10^55 atoms = 10^85

    c?e = Earth = 10^13 X 10^17 X 10^40 atoms = 10^70

    http://www.tbiomed.com/content/6/1/27

    Signature in the Cell – Book Review – Ken Peterson
    Excerpt: If we assume some minimally complex cell requires 250 different proteins then the probability of this arrangement happening purely by chance is one in 10 to the 164th multiplied by itself 250 times or one in 10 to the 41,000th power.
    http://www.spectrummagazine.or.....ature_cell

    In fact years ago Fred Hoyle arrived at approximately the same number, one chance in 10^40,000, for life spontaneously arising. From this number, Fred Hoyle compared the random emergence of the simplest bacterium on earth to the likelihood “a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 therein”. Fred Hoyle also compared the chance of obtaining just one single functioning protein molecule, by chance combination of amino acids, to a solar system packed full of blind men solving Rubik’s Cube simultaneously.

    Professor Harold Morowitz shows the Origin of Life ‘problem’ escalates dramatically over the 1 in 10^40,000 figure when working from a thermodynamic perspective,:

    “The probability for the chance of formation of the smallest, simplest form of living organism known is 1 in 10^340,000,000. This number is 10 to the 340 millionth power! The size of this figure is truly staggering since there is only supposed to be approximately 10^80 (10 to the 80th power) electrons in the whole universe!”
    (Professor Harold Morowitz, Energy Flow In Biology pg. 99, Biophysicist of George Mason University)

    Dr. Don Johnson lays out some of the probabilities for life in this following video:

    Probabilities Of Life – Don Johnson PhD. – 38 minute mark of video
    a typical functional protein – 1 part in 10^175
    the required enzymes for life – 1 part in 10^40,000
    a living self replicating cell – 1 part in 10^340,000,000
    http://www.vimeo.com/11706014

    Dr. Morowitz did another probability calculation working from the thermodynamic perspective with a already existing cell and came up with this number:

    DID LIFE START BY CHANCE?
    Excerpt: Molecular biophysicist, Horold Morowitz (Yale University), calculated the odds of life beginning under natural conditions (spontaneous generation). He calculated, if one were to take the simplest living cell and break every chemical bond within it, the odds that the cell would reassemble under ideal natural conditions (the best possible chemical environment) would be one chance in 10^100,000,000,000. You will have probably have trouble imagining a number so large, so Hugh Ross provides us with the following example. If all the matter in the Universe was converted into building blocks of life, and if assembly of these building blocks were attempted once a microsecond for the entire age of the universe. Then instead of the odds being 1 in 10^100,000,000,000, they would be 1 in 10^99,999,999,916 (also of note: 1 with 100 billion zeros following would fill approx. 20,000 encyclopedias)
    http://members.tripod.com/~Black_J/chance.html

    The Theist holds the Intellectual High-Ground – March 2011
    Excerpt: To get a range on the enormous challenges involved in bridging the gaping chasm between non-life and life, consider the following: “The difference between a mixture of simple chemicals and a bacterium, is much more profound than the gulf between a bacterium and an elephant.”
    Dr. Robert Shapiro, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, NYU

    “The statistical probability that organic structures and the most precisely harmonized reactions that typify living organisms would be generated by accident, is zero.”
    Ilya Prigogine, Gregoire Nicolis, and Agnes Babloyantz, Physics Today 25, pp. 23-28.

    Lecture On Probability – John Walton – Professor Of Chemistry – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4012749

    Stephen Meyer – Proteins by Design – Doing The Math – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6332250/

    The Case Against a Darwinian Origin of Protein Folds – Douglas Axe – 2010
    Excerpt Pg. 11: “Based on analysis of the genomes of 447 bacterial species, the projected number of different domain structures per species averages 991. Comparing this to the number of pathways by which metabolic processes are carried out, which is around 263 for E. coli, provides a rough figure of three or four new domain folds being needed, on average, for every new metabolic pathway. In order to accomplish this successfully, an evolutionary search would need to be capable of locating sequences that amount to anything from one in 10^159 to one in 10^308 possibilities, something the neo-Darwinian model falls short of by a very wide margin.”
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2010.1

    Could Chance Arrange the Code for (Just) One Gene?
    “our minds cannot grasp such an extremely small probability as that involved in the accidental arranging of even one gene (10^-236).”
    http://www.creationsafaris.com/epoi_c10.htm

  4. further notes on the ‘house’s odds’:

    Abiogenic Origin of Life: A Theory in Crisis – Arthur V. Chadwick, Ph.D.
    Excerpt: The synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids from small molecule precursors represents one of the most difficult challenges to the model of prebiological evolution. There are many different problems confronted by any proposal. Polymerization is a reaction in which water is a product. Thus it will only be favored in the absence of water. The presence of precursors in an ocean of water favors depolymerization of any molecules that might be formed. Careful experiments done in an aqueous solution with very high concentrations of amino acids demonstrate the impossibility of significant polymerization in this environment. A thermodynamic analysis of a mixture of protein and amino acids in an ocean containing a 1 molar solution of each amino acid (100,000,000 times higher concentration than we inferred to be present in the prebiological ocean) indicates the concentration of a protein containing just 100 peptide bonds (101 amino acids) at equilibrium would be 10^-338 molar. Just to make this number meaningful, our universe may have a volume somewhere in the neighborhood of 10^85 liters. At 10^-338 molar, we would need an ocean with a volume equal to 10^229 universes (100, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000) just to find a single molecule of any protein with 100 peptide bonds. So we must look elsewhere for a mechanism to produce polymers. It will not happen in the ocean.
    http://origins.swau.edu/papers.....fault.html

    How special was the big bang? – Roger Penrose
    Excerpt: This now tells us how precise the Creator’s aim must have been: namely to an accuracy of one part in 10^10^123.
    (from the Emperor’s New Mind, Penrose, pp 339-345 – 1989)

    Roger Penrose discusses initial entropy of the universe. – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhGdVMBk6Zo

    The Physics of the Small and Large: What is the Bridge Between Them? Roger Penrose
    Excerpt: “The time-asymmetry is fundamentally connected to with the Second Law of Thermodynamics: indeed, the extraordinarily special nature (to a greater precision than about 1 in 10^10^123, in terms of phase-space volume) can be identified as the “source” of the Second Law (Entropy).”
    http://www.pul.it/irafs/CD%20I.....enrose.pdf

    Linked from “Appendix C” in Why the Universe Is the Way It Is
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters ? 10^-1333
    dependency factors estimate ? 10^324
    longevity requirements estimate ? 10^45
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters ? 10^-1054
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe ? 10^22

    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^1032 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles.
    http://www.reasons.org/files/c....._part3.pdf

    Hugh Ross – Evidence For Intelligent Design Is Everywhere (10^-1054) – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4347236

    Hugh Ross – Four Main Research Papers
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1Sl5SCBtcO6xMjwgrkKysBYIOJzjZEcXX68qZ9rwh85s

    The Case for Jesus the Messiah — Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists By Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon, and Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr.
    Excerpt: But, of course, there are many more than eight prophecies. In another calculation Stoner used 48 prophecies (even though he could have used 456) and arrived at the extremely conservative estimate that the probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled in one person is one in 10^157.
    How large is the number 10^157? 10^157 contains 157 zeros! Let us try to illustrate this number using electrons. Electrons are very small objects. They are smaller than atoms. It would take 2.5 times 10^15 of them, laid side by side, to make one inch. Even if we counted four electrons every
    second and counted day and night, it would still take us 19 million years just to count a line of electrons one inch long.
    But how many electrons would it take if we were dealing with 10^157 electrons? Imagine building a solid ball of electrons that would extend in all directions from the earth a length of 6 billion light years. The distance in miles of just one light year is 6.4 trillion miles. That would be a big ball! But not big enough to measure 10^157 electrons.
    In order to do that, you must take that big ball of electrons reaching the length of 6 billion light years long in all directions and multiply it by 6 x 10^28! How big is that? It’s the length of the space required to store trillions and trillions and trillions of the same gigantic balls and more. In fact, the space required to store all of these balls combined together would just start to “scratch the surface” of the number of electrons we would need to really accurately speak about 10^157.
    But assuming you have some idea of the number of electrons we are talking about, now imagine marking just one of those electrons in that huge number. Stir them all up. Then appoint one person to travel in a rocket for as long as he wants, anywhere he wants to go. Tell him to stop and segment a part of space, then take a high-powered microscope and find that one marked electron in that segment.
    What do you think his chances of being successful would be? It would be one in 10^157.
    Remember, this number represents the chance of only 48 prophecies coming true in one person (there are 456 total prophecies concerning Jesus).
    http://www.johnankerberg.org/A.....1103-3.pdf

  5. 5
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Good morning Barry!

    I have a question. You say:

    Now the odds of the information content of even the simplest strand of DNA forming though pure random chance are even less than the odds of dealing 13 royal flushes in a row.

    Could you explain how you calculated those odds, and what your null hypothesis was (i.e. what probability distribution you were assuming for “pure random chance”)?

    Thanks!

    Lizzie

  6. I don’t understand why natural selection is a help when trying to acquire targets of high specific function. All natural selection does is end pathways; it doesn’t create them and it has no knowledge of where such targets might exist, nor any knowledge of the best path to get there.

    Since many pathways that lead to highly functioning macroevolutionary targets might in fact go down roads that natural selection would prevent, it seems to me that adding natural selection to the system can’t do anything but decrease the chances of acquiring the targets.

    Often people use strings of letters to represent the evolutionary process, as if the best pathway from random letters to “Methinks it is a weasel” is to simply change letter slots randomly until one locks in the sentence; but that’s not a valid way of looking at it, when those letters generate real-world, 3-D designs that can cause the organism to be selected against.

    If there are X amount of pathways to achieve a macro-evolutionary feature, all natural selection can do is remove a set of those pathways from being operable. Those left may or may not even be able to reach the goal; the only availabe pathway might in fact be through an area censored by natural selection – IOW, “you can’t get there from here”.

    If there was unlimited room, and unlimited resources, it seems to me that a random walk unhindered by natural selection would have a better chance at gaining macroevolutionary outcomes when one doesn’t know whether or not that outcome is even possible via steps that natural selection would allow.

    Sure, we might have a bunch of organisms with malformed, dysfunction,non-functional wings that make it really hard for them to survive, but we’d at least have a better shot at acquiring “working wings” if evolution allowed every step to succeed,instead of only those that could be locally and immediately justified in survival terms.

  7. 7
    Barry Arrington

    Lizzie, see BA77′s comments.

  8. If I were a Darwinist, I would argue that we can demonstrate the power of selection through computer programs such as GA’s, and then I would argue that the capabilities shown by GA’s are due to how well they simulate Darwinian evolution.

    Now why anyone would think that is circular is beyond me.

  9. (i.e. what probability distribution you were assuming for “pure random chance”)?

    Why wouldn’t you just assume that since he is talking about DNA, and there are four bases, that the distribution is 1/4, 1/4, 1/4, 1/4 …?

    As if that even comes close to answering the question of the information content.

    Do you still not understand, yet, (perhaps spend more time with Upright BiPed), that having a sequence of bases in DNA does not equate to having any information content, period?

    Regardless of the probability distribution.

    Red herring.

  10. 10
    Elizabeth Liddle

    I don’t see, in ba77s post, a calculation for, or reference to a calculation for:

    “…the odds of the information content of even the simplest strand of DNA forming though pure random chance are even less than the odds of dealing 13 royal flushes in a row.”

    as stated in the OP.

    I wasn’t actually talking about the probability distribution for the bases, but there’s no particular reason to suppose it would be flat, although maybe it is, I don’t know.

    I just wondered where Barry had got his number there.

  11. 11
    Barry Arrington

    Lizzie, why don’t you take a look at this paper by two avowed Darwinists. http://www.biology-direct.com/content/2/1/15

    I like to use this paper, becuase there is no chance the authors can be accused of bias against Darwin. Instead, the honestly crunch the numbers and reach a probability of 10^1080. Realizing that Dawrinian mechanisms cannot hope to bridge that gap, they invoke the multiverse to fill in the gap.

  12. Does the model of eternal inflation violate the second law of thermodynmics?

    Compared to older cosmological concepts that considered a finite universe, the MWO model changes the very notions of “possible”, “likely”, and “random” with respect to any historical scenario. Simply put, the probability of the realization of any scenario permitted by the conservation laws in an infinite universe (and, of course, in the multiverse) is, exactly, one. Conversely, the probability that a given scenario is realized in the given O-region is equal to the frequency of that scenario in the universe. From a slightly different perspective, the usual adage about the second law of thermodynamics being true in the statistical sense takes a literal meaning in an infinite universe: any violation of this law that is permitted by other conservation laws will happen – and on an infinite number of occasions. Thus, spontaneous emergence of complex systems that would have to be considered virtually impossible in a finite universe becomes not only possible but inevitable under MWO, even though the prior probabilities of the vast majority of histories to occur in a given O-region are vanishingly small. This new power of chance, buttressed by anthropic selection, is bound to have profound consequences for our understanding of any phenomenon in the universe, and life on earth cannot be an exception.

  13. Elizabeth was this what you wanted???;

    Could Chance Arrange the Code for (Just) One Gene?
    “our minds cannot grasp such an extremely small probability as that involved in the accidental arranging of even one gene (10^-236).”
    http://www.creationsafaris.com/epoi_c10.htm

    also of note as to probability of even getting a DNA molecule in the first place:

    The Origin of Life and The Suppression of Truth
    ‘ Many claims have been made that nucleotides of DNA have been produced in such “spark and soup” experiments. However, after a careful review of the scientific literature, evolutionist Robert Shapiro stated that the nucleotides of DNA and RNA,

    “….have never been reported in any amount in such sources, yet a mythology has emerged that maintains the opposite….I have seen several statements in scientific sources which claim that proteins and nucleic acids themselves have been prepared… These errors reflect the operation of an entire belief system…The facts do not support his belief…Such thoughts may be comforting, but they run far ahead of any experimental validation.”.
    http://the_wordbride.tripod.com/origin.html

    i.e. it seems that no DNA or RNA molecule has ever been observed to form ‘naturally’. But I do recall that ‘intelligence’ guided the formation of a couple of RNA letters:

    Scientists Say Intelligent Designer Needed for Origin of Life Chemistry
    Excerpt: Organic chemist Dr. Charles Garner recently noted in private correspondence that “while this work helps one imagine how RNA might form, it does nothing to address the information content of RNA. So, yes, there was a lot of guidance by an intelligent chemist.” Sutherland’s research produced only 2 of the 4 RNA nucleobases, and Dr. Garner also explained why, as is often the case, “the basic chemistry itself also required the hand of an intelligent chemist.” http://www.evolutionnews.org/2......html#more

  14. 14
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Thanks ba77!

    That is probably Barry’s source, or at least an equivalent.

    cool.

    Lizzie

  15. 15
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Barry, thanks for that link too.

    That’s helpful.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  16. I hope Professor Hannum was a better statistician than that. All sequences of the roulette wheel are equally improbable. I expect the reasoning was Bayesian.

    Not necessarily, he might have calculated 1-Pr(nobody getting a big sequence) = 1- Pr(1 person not getting a big sequence)^n (to a good approximation).

  17. Meleagar (at comment 6),

    You have nailed it precisely. The materialists would have us believe that natural selection is a probability enhancer, when, in fact (since all it is is death), it is a probability reducer.

    After all, an ensemble of monkeys isn’t going to reach Hamlet faster if you continually machine-gun some substantial fraction of them.

    It should be blindingly obvious, but there are many who do not want to see it.

  18. 18
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, it isn’t “blindingly obvious” because it’s a straw man :)

    Firstly, “natural selection isn’t “all death” – it’s differential reproduction.

    Secondly, the result of differential reproduction is that lineages that reproduce more end up with more individuals bearing the pro-reproductive traits and therefore more opportunities for a new trait that enhances that trait to appear.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  19. Differential reproduction equates to differential destruction. Destruction is not construction.

    The point is this: if one were to calculate probabilities of reaching a particular function via random variation based on no constraints of competition and no natural selection, where organisms are free to breed and reproduce their heart’s content, with no culling of the herd, those probabilities are going to be better, not worse, than if natural selection (i.e. death, i.e. differential destruction) were operating.

    Again: obvious.

  20. 20
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Hi Matteo :)

    You write:

    Differential reproduction equates to differential destruction. Destruction is not construction.

    .

    But differential reproduction doesn’t “equate to differential destruction”. I have one child; my friend has two. No child has been destroyed; yet two people carry her genes into the next generation, only one carries mine.

    The point is this: if one were to calculate probabilities of reaching a particular function via random variation based on no constraints of competition and no natural selection, where organisms are free to breed and reproduce their heart’s content, with no culling of the herd, those probabilities are going to be better, not worse, than if natural selection (i.e. death, i.e. differential destruction) were operating.

    Again: obvious.

    Well, no – not only is it not obvious, it’s wrong!

    It’s wrong several times.

    First of all, the “probabilities of reaching a particular function” are irrelevant. What we are talking about are the probabilities of reaching any of an unknown number of functions that confer greater reproductive success.

    So if all your organisms are always equally fecund, than no such function can exist.

    Secondly, even if we have infinite resources, and no death, but do have differential reproduction (some traits confer greater reproductive success than others) then the chances of one of that unknown number of reproductively advantageous structures evolving is considerably reduced than it would be if eventually some of the population died of old age and/or stopped reproducing, because the probability of gene exchange between individuals who already possess a fecund trait is less than if there is some “culling” (this is particularly true of course of sexually reproducing species).

    Thirdly, nonetheless, even in your scenario, as time goes by, a greater and greater proportion of the ever-expanding immortal population will be bearers of the fecund trait, constantly multiplying the number of opportunities for a further variant to build on that trait.

    So the probability of a complex structure that confers even greater fecundity is constantly increased.

    At least that seems “obvious” to me :)

  21. E.Liddle:Firstly, “natural selection isn’t “all death” – it’s differential reproduction.

    You people have a really hard time understanding and differentiating cause and effect, don’t you?

  22. 22
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Not at all, ilion.

    Natural selection IS differential reproduction.

    I could cite no less an authority than John Sanford on that, although simple logic should suffice :)

  23. E.Liddle:So the probability of a complex structure that confers even greater fecundity is constantly increased.

    As I said, cause and effect, and differentiation of them, seems to elude you.

    As was pointed out well over a century ago, the “survival of the fittest” does not explain the arrival” of “the fittest.”

  24. 24
    Elizabeth Liddle

    tbh, while I know why Darwin chose the term (as an analog of the “selection” practiced by farmers), “differential reproduction” would have been a better term.

    It amounts to no more or less than that. Differential reproduction means, automatically, that traits that result in more efficient/probable reproduction are going to be better represented in the subsequent generation.

    It’s precisely that mechanism that Darwin dubbed “natural selection”.

    As you imply, natural selection isn’t a cause, it’s an effect. However it also has an effect, which is the repeated concentration (distillation if you like) of the most fecund traits over generations.

    And if new traits are also being spontaneously generated, those few that endow their bearers with increased fecundity will feature in the new distillate.

  25. 25
    Elizabeth Liddle

    ilion:

    As I said, cause and effect, and differentiation of them, seems to elude you.

    As was pointed out well over a century ago, the “survival of the fittest” does not explain the arrival” of “the fittest.”

    No, it doesn’t.

    I don’t think that has eluded anyone, least of all Darwin.

  26. And I could cite no less an authority than Saint Chuckie Himself that “natural selection” is equal to “survival of the fittest.”

    “Natural selection” is like a (blind) breeder of fancy pigeons who “selects” by (mindlessly/goallessly) killing off as many individuals as he can catch.

  27. Ilíon:As was pointed out well over a century ago, the “survival of the fittest” does not explain the arrival” of “the fittest.

    Silly DarwinDefender:I don’t think that has eluded anyone, least of all Darwin.

    And yet, you silly people keep up the tradition started by Saint Chuckie Himself to pretend and assert that it does … and to, at best, ingore the people who point out that you haven’t explained anything; and, more generally, you all don’t merely ignore, but rather actively demonize those who point out that there is no there there in Darwinist “explanations.”

  28. 28
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, either you are listening to people who don’t understand the theory, or misunderstanding them.

    No, of course natural selection doesn’t produce (how could it?) the very variance that results in differential reproduction. That has to have some other cause (and there are many sources of variance). Nor does natural selection account for the first self-replicating-with-variance critter.

    To quote the Great Chuckie himself:

    It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

    The first bolded part refers to Variation – where do the fitter traits come from? – which Darwin didn’t know (he even backed Lamarckian mechanisms in the end), and the second bolded part refers to the Arrival part, which again he did not know, and indeed, in this passage, attributes to a Creator.

    Natural selection won’t even operate without some mechanism that ensures variability in the progeny of the self-replicators, because without difference there can be no differential reproduction!

    Nor can it account for the first self-replicator.

    So while there may be silly people around, I don’t know of anyone who knows anything about evolution make the claim you say they make.

    Keep better company maybe :)

    Cheers

    PS: Oh, and I don’t demonize anyone. Don’t believe in demons :)

  29. This debate on NS is hilarious.

    I got a new copy of ReMine’s The Biotic Message and re-read his chapters on Natural Seleciton and I get to see it all in action.

    Summary
    Inventive natural seelction is the distinctive evolutionary mechanism – essential to Darwinian theory. Evolutionists presume it creates new adaptations by somehow traversing the hills and valleys of the fitness terrain. But they do not attempt to defend it as testable science. Rather, for the defense they shift back to the naive version – survival of the fittest. Then they might offer some tautology to help expunge all doubt.

    When challenged, they shift between various formulations They use naive natural selection to convince the public that evolution is simple, testable, and virtually inevitable.

    When opponents point out that such continually uphill evolution is refuted by the data, evolutionists effortlessly shift away from naive natural selection. Then they charge that the opponent has a poor understanding of evolutionary theory.

    In short, evolutionists merely shifted away from criticism, then focused their arguments (and your attention) in a direction that seemed to overcome the criticism. This phenomenon occurs at several levels.

    Biological adaptation by natural selection is not inevitable, nor is the theory scientific. It had merely lent support to the philosohpy of naturalism.

  30. Chuckie:

    so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.

    In so complex a manner as to be untestable. Great.

    Having been produced by laws, which we’re still waiting to discover.

    a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection

    Well, no. No such increase is needed we now here. All that’s needed is “differential reproduction.”

    Chuckie’s not doing too well.

  31. Science tries to explain effects in terms of their causes. As cause and effect are different, the two sides of a causal explanation cannot be the same. In a tautology the cause and effect are the same. Therefore there is no explanation. A tautology gives the appearance of being explanatory when, in fact, it is not.

    – Walter James ReMine, The Biotic Message

  32. 32
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Mung: natural selection IS differential reproduction.

  33. Elizabeth, I think you may this recent article from ENV interesting:

    Psychologists Discover Their Own Biases
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....47081.html

  34. 34
    Elizabeth Liddle

    heh. Thanks ba77 :)

    Yes, there’s a lot of research into that kind of thing (showing that kind of result).

    We aren’t as rational as we think we are :)

  35. natural selection IS differential reproduction

    Well, I would certainly hope that it isn’t something that it’s not!

    natural selection IS differential reproduction

    Except when it’s something else, as needed by the evolutionist.

    But at times, I swear, it sounds like you’re claiming that the cause of differential reproduction is natural selection.

    That is to say, the cause of natural selection IS natural selection.

    No wonder people are commenting on whether you are confused about the cause/effect relationship between natural selection and differential reproduction.

    Cheers.

  36. Naive natural selection assumes that survival of the fittest (acting with reproduction and mutation) is sufficient to account for the adaptations of life.

    And boy have we seen plenty of examples of naive natural selection here of late.

  37. Inventive natural selection is the essential evolutionary mechanism for the origin of life’s adaptations. The mechanism includes survival of the fittest (acting with reproduction and mutation) plus many other mechanisms and assumptions.

  38. Formulations of natural selection fall into four groups: tautologies, special definitions, metaphysics, and lame formulations (T, SD, M, L).

    – Tautologies are not testable scientific explanations. They are definitions masquerading as explanations.

    – Special definitions are a multitude of conflicting explanations masquerading as a single unified theory.

    – Metaphysical explanations are not testable, therefore they are not scientific.

    – Lame formulations do not even address the problem of adaptation, therefore they cannot solve it.

    None of these formulations scientifically solves the problem of adaptation and design.

    The illusion that “natural selection is science” was created by shifting back and forth between formulations. The shifting was concealed by various factors:

    – Vague and ambiguous keywords (like fitness

    – Rapid shifting between formulations

    – Over-emphasis of peripheral issues, like reproduction and probability

    Walter James ReMine, The Biotic Message

  39. 39
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Mung, are you seriously querying that natural selection and differential reproduction are the same thing?

    In what sense are they not?

    Of course one doesn’t “cause” the other.

    That really would be a tautology.

  40. Mung, are you seriously querying that natural selection and differential reproduction are the same thing?

    Absolutely. Natural selection and differential reproduction are the same thing when the evolutionist needs them to be. When the evolutionist needs for natural selection to mean something else then it means something else.

    In what sense are they not?

    When natural selection needs to be used to explain the appearance of design, or become explanatory rather than tautological, or be applied to a specific case in nature, or be testable, etc., etc.

    Even the Wikipedia page on natural selection admits to different meanings of the term.

  41. 41
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well natural selection can explain the appearance of design, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the same thing as differential reproduction!

    The two terms mean the same thing. The only caveat I would make (but it applies to both terms) is that both normally applied to differential reproduction as conferred by heritable traits.

    But natural selection/differential reproduction can also be applied to non-heritable traits (or traits not heritable by genetic means).

    I wish myself that differential reproduction was used more widely, as it is less likely to mislead people into thinking of it as an external agent, and using phrases like “natural selection selects”.

    Natural selection refers to no more and no less than the phenomenon of heritable traits having phenotypic effects that affect the probability of successful reproduction in a given environment.

  42. Natural selection refers to no more and no less than the phenomenon of heritable traits having phenotypic effects that affect the probability of successful reproduction in a given environment.

    What is the cause, and what is the effect?

  43. No response from Lizzie.

    The question was simple:

    What is the cause, and what is the effect?

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