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The Evolution of Serendipity

A key question for evolution has always been: How does biological variation arise? Darwin’s theory of evolution explained that natural selection killed off the less-fit variations, but how did the variation arise in the first place? In the nineteenth century the mechanisms of biological variation were not well understood and it was possible to imagine a sort of simple, perturbing force at work which gradually altered designs. This model did not match up very well with what Gregor Mendel was discovering about change in pea plants. About the same time that Darwin was working on revisions to his book Mendel was uncovering the fundamental laws of genetics. But Mendelian genetics would call for discrete jumps in biological variation rather than gradual modifications. It would take much work but about half a century later Mendel’s findings were integrated with Darwin’s theory of evolution. This neo-Darwinism was thought to be a great advance. Was not the poorly understood source of biological variation now revealed and reconciled with Darwin’s theory? But the neo-Darwinists had turned a blind eye to the elephant that was now in the room: Evolution now required a complex Mendelian machine to generate the needed biological variation.  Read more

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16 Responses to The Evolution of Serendipity

  1. “In order for evolution to occur evolution first had to create the complex Mendelian variation machine.”

    1) Evolution had been occurring a couple of billion years before Mendelian inheritance started occurring.

    2) I have never heard of a Mendelian variation machine. Could you please provide a reference from a scientific article?

    3) While the processes that cause Mendelian inheritance might create novel phenotypic variants by bringing certain alleles together, it is not the cause of variation at the DNA level.

    “Somehow the first cell arose in the distant past with the Mendelian machine intact.”

    Do you even understand what Mendelian inheritance is? I hope you don’t teach students this.

  2. Did the elephant in the room evolve? If so, what was in the room before?

  3. 3

    hdx 1:

    “I hope you don’t teach students this.”

    Good point. That was an unnecessary aside which I fixed.

    “1) Evolution had been occurring a couple of billion years before Mendelian inheritance started occurring.”

    Evolution continued by constructing mechanisms of change.

  4. 4

    There need be no “force” accounting for biological variation. Variation is the failure of a parent to make a perfect copy of itself in its progeny.

    The Second Law of Thermodynamics ensures that self-replicators, no matter how simple, do not always make perfect copies of themselves. All biological organisms that we observe begin life with at least one cell. It seems highly unlikely that any parent would propagate an offspring with a cell identical to one of its own.

    Darwinian gradualism is not a claim that evolution is a continuous function of time. Changes arise as differences between parents and offspring (i.e., with non-infinitesimal steps in time). Thus the changes must be discrete, as in Mendelian genetics.

  5. 5

    BTW, if we must resort to analogy, then it is more appropriate to say that Darwinian evolution is a process of serendipitous discovery than to say that it is a process of search.

  6. 6

    Sooner 4:

    There need be no “force” accounting for biological variation. Variation is the failure of a parent to make a perfect copy of itself in its progeny.

    A great illustration of evolutionary “science” at work. This is where evolution leads. Evolution relies on ignoring scientific facts and replacing them with vague, meaningless statements such as these.

  7. I couldn’t post on your blog and don’t have time at the moment to figure out what was goig on with my wordpress ID, so I’ll just post this response to zachriel here, for now:

    Zachriel,

    Just to point out a couple errors in your posts:

    Most ID propents believe common descent to be true. It has nothig to do with the natural production of functional, complex, specific information, though.

    Arguments from authority (they can’t all be wrong) are vacuous. The evolutionary synthesis is the perfect candidate for a wrong theory that can go decades unchecked… It is the cornerstone of the worldview of many of it’s most powerful proponents and it is not only unsavory for anyone who matters to even question it, it is many times grounds for expulsion from the field.

    There is a fundamental difference between complexity and specified complexity. A pile of sand is complex. The odds that that exact pile formed the way it did, with each grain located at that specifc location, are astronomically improbable. But we wouldn’t give a second thought. Now if the pile formed an image that is a perfect replica of the The Starry Night Over The Rhone, we would question it’s “accidental” formation. That is why simple complexity is simply boring.

    Do you have a link to the random amino acid sequences forming novel “machines”? What are their functions?

    “Fruitful” abiogensis research is one thing, although it depends on your definitin of “fruitful”. If you mean findings that can give anyone without unyielding faith in naturalism that life formed on its own, I would have to disagree. Because in the end it just comes down to FCSI, and law and chance are mathematically incapable of producing the minimum amount needed for the simplest imaginable self-reproducing life forms. The probabilistic resources of this universe are simply inadequate.

    How about this for evidence that a theory doesn’t had to be proven or even true to be widely accepted by scientists. Obviously abiogenesis fits the “unproven” description. But an OU biologist was recently given a grant from the NAS for $500,000 to design a program to teach abiogenesis in public high schools. This coming from the same people who militanty defend in court against anything “unproven” and “religious” being put into public curriculuums… That is EXACTLY what is being done with abiogenesis! It is not even close to proven, it is an utterly irreplaceable cornerstone of the naturalist’s faith, and that (and that alone – it certainly isn’t the evidence) is why it is “fact”. Because naturalists don’t have “faith”, they have pure reason and “fact”.

    Also there is a provable, testable ID hypothesis. First, it is based on mathematics and laws of information theory. Second, it’s easily testable whether or not intelligence is capable of producing FCSI. This comment is a suitable example of it’s confirmation. It is yet to be shown that law and chance alone are capable of producing it without intelligent guidance or some kind of teleology.

  8. 8

    uoflcard at 7,

    Also there is a provable, testable ID hypothesis. First, it is based on mathematics and laws of information theory. Second, it’s easily testable whether or not intelligence is capable of producing FCSI. This comment is a suitable example of it’s confirmation. It is yet to be shown that law and chance alone are capable of producing it without intelligent guidance or some kind of teleology.

    Excellent! Please provide the mathematically rigorous definition of FCSI so that I know exactly how to measure it, and I’ll be happy to do some tests of ID.

  9. 9

    uoflcard:

    “I couldn’t post …”

    The post is too long. Just cut it into two posts and submit separately.

  10. Isn’t life itself, i.e. any organism capable of reproduction, a “complex Mendelian variation machine”? Aren’t you actually saying that evolution needs life to work.

  11. 11

    10:

    Well evolutionists imagine OOL scenarios that do not require this. But regardless of what one thinks of OOL, setting that aside for a moment, what cannot be denied are the complex adaptation mechanisms that evolutionists say have been the engine of biological variation evolution needs.

    According to evolutionists, not me, evolution created these mechanisms which then enabled further evolution. It is a profound and incredible claim. The blind process of evolution just happened to create these complex structures and processes that could then enable evolution to continue? This is absurd.

    I’m trying to be charitable here, but we also need to call a spade a spade. This theory is simply ludicrous.

  12. Cornelius Hunter, #11

    I’m trying to be charitable here, but we also need to call a spade a spade. This theory is simply ludicrous.
    ————————————
    The question is, which theory are you talking about?

    Until an organism can reproduce itself, it is not subject to the Theory of Evolution. But since any method of reproduction naturally involves random variations through mutation, your mechanism is already present when evolution does kick in.

  13. Excellent! Please provide the mathematically rigorous definition of FCSI so that I know exactly how to measure it, and I’ll be happy to do some tests of ID.

    An honest critic doesn’t need this.

    After all, natural selection is perfectly capable of imitating design.

    One must either abandon the claim that natural selection can imitate design, and that therefore all “design” in nature is mere “appearance of design,” or one must be prepared to accept that there is an objective way of discerning design.

    You CANNOT have it both ways. Sorry. (Well, not really.)

    Evolutionists admit that there is the appearance of design in nature. They then argue that natural selection can account for this appearance of design.

    But then they claim that there is no objective way to identify design.

    Do I have a right to be confused?

  14. Until an organism can reproduce itself, it is not subject to the Theory of Evolution.

    This is just silly.

    1. What sort of organism do you have in mind which (1) cannot reproduce itself AND (2) is not subject to the theory of evolution (admitting that I am scratching my head at what it means for an organism to be subject, or not, to some theory).

    2. Organisms which cannot reproduce themselves are AUTOMATICALLY subject to “the Theory of Evolution” (whatever that means today).

    If you do not understand #2, I give up. Hint: Organisms which do not leave offspring leave fewer offspring than those who do. If that’s not “evolution” I sure as heck don’t know what is.

    You’re claim is that the theory of evolution doesn’t apply in that case?

  15. #13 Mung:

    Evolutionists admit that there is the appearance of design in nature. They then argue that natural selection can account for this appearance of design.

    But then they claim that there is no objective way to identify design.

    Do I have a right to be confused?

    This seeming paradox has a simple solution: “Appearance” is subjective, not objective.

    Perhaps there is an objective way to detect design, but Dembski’s methods do not seem to be leading us in the right direction on that.

  16. Mung, #14

    My mistake, I should have used “object” in place of “organism”. The Theory of Evolution does not apply to objects until they can reproduce. That is why you will never see a rock evolve.

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