Home » Intelligent Design » University indoctrination program launched, but one professor sees the light

University indoctrination program launched, but one professor sees the light

Biologist Stanely Salthe at Binghamton University is at the top of the Discovery Institute’s Dissent from Darwin honor roll.

Stanley Salthe

I am a critic of Darwinian evolutionary theory — which was my own erstwhile field of specialization in biology. My opposition is fundamentally to its sole reliance on competition as an explanatory principle (in a background of chance). Aside from being a bit thin in the face of complex systems, it has the disadvantage, in the mythological context of explaining where we come from, of reducing all evolution to the effects of competition. …
….
Being materially empty, it appears capable of explaining almost anything, and so we need to be cautious about its use. Is it a Borgesian cognitive poison?

The irony is this “cognitive poison” is being indoctrinated into young minds at his school:

Evolution for Everyone: How to Increase Acceptance of, Interest in, and Knowledge about Evolution

Evolution is famously controversial, despite being as well established as any scientific theory. Most people are familiar with the dismal statistics, showing how a large fraction of Americans at all educational levels do not accept the theory of evolution [1], how efforts to teach evolution often fail to have an impact [2], and how constant vigilance is required to keep evolution in the public school curriculum [3]. Even worse, most people who do accept the theory of evolution don’t relate it to matters of importance in their own lives. There appear to be two walls of resistance, one denying the theory altogether and the other denying its relevance to human affairs.

This essay reports a success story, showing how both walls of resistance can be surmounted by a single college course, and even more, by a university-wide program. It is based on a campus-wide evolutionary studies program called EvoS (http://bingweb.binghamton.edu/~evos/), initiated at Binghamton University in 2002, which currently includes over 50 faculty members representing 15 departments. Enthusiasm at all levels, from freshmen students to senior administrators, makes EvoS a potential model for evolution education that can be duplicated; the basic ingredients are present at most other institutions, from small colleges to major universities.

Students who indicate exceptional interest are referred to books that are both authoritative and accessible, such as Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea [10–15].

What theory of physics or chemistry requires an indoctrination program to maintain it’s acceptance? Do theories of gravity and electricity require an indoctrination campaign like this to get students to accept it?

Thankfully, while students are indoctrinated at Binghamton, brilliant minds, like Salthe’s remain open.

Stanley Salthe

The following is a wonderful essay by Salthe. I don’t get the feeling however, that this essay will be studied by most students who sign up for university indoctrination into Darwinian evolution. Salthe makes a devastating critique of the idea he once espoused and studied diligently:

Analysis and critique of the concept of Natural Selection (and of the Darwinian theory of evolution) in respect to its suitability as part of Modernism’s origination myth, as well as of its ability to explain organic evolution.

(thanks to Teleologist for alerting me to the developments at Binghamton)

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55 Responses to University indoctrination program launched, but one professor sees the light

  1. Scordova: Why is this indoctrination? Because the students at the end of the course in general display more support for the TOE? Is it remotely possible that these COLLEGE students could actually make their own decision in this direction after receiving more information about the evidence for evolution? Or are they just stupid sheep being shown propaganda by the evil machine?

    By this logic, you might as well start calling physics and chemistry classes indoctrination as well. After taking the course, most students have a better understanding and more support for the theories being presented. Indoctrination!!

    Or, is it possible that one cries “indoctrination” anytime a student makes a cognitive choice to support a theory that you have a problem with?

    You also said:
    “What theory of physics or chemistry requires an indoctrination program to maintain it’s acceptance? Do theories of gravity and electricity require an indoctrination campaign like this to get students to accept it?”
    - No, they do not! Why is that? Because they are not under constant attack from those who’s beliefs are threatened by them. As soon as “Intelligent Falling” theory starts to gain serious political momentum, we will be have to do the same for gravity! Then you will start to cry Indoctrination for every basic physics class…

  2. It would be great if someone from this board could rebut the conclusions of this guy
    At http://library.lib.binghamton......oslecture/
    Title:Intelligent Design versus Evolutionary Theory
    Presenter:
    Elliot Sober
    E-Mail:
    Date: Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    About 40 minutes into his lecture he speaks about the watch and the human eye.

    And dosn’t even consider asking this question.

    Which one is more complex (scientifically)? The watch or the Eye?

    IF the eye is more complex , therefor the intellegince(human intelligence) that made the watch is LESS intelligent than the designer of the eye(Unknown intelligence)

    IF the watch is more complex , therefor the intellegince(human intelligence) that made the watch is MORE intelligent than the designer of the eye(Unknown intelligence )
    How do you define complexity from oberserved , measured observations, scientifically.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_system

    Must have the follwoing properties

    * 3.1 Relationships are non-linear
    * 3.2 Relationships contain feedback loops
    * 3.3 Complex systems are open
    * 3.4 Complex systems have a history
    * 3.5 Complex systems may be nested
    * 3.6 Boundaries are difficult to determine
    * 3.7 Dynamic network of multiplicity

    Eye complexity = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.....amic_range (secular source) and

    Mechnical watch complexity = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watch

    You answer the above questions(3.1 > 3.7) with a weighed scale(say 1 to 100 where 100 is the maxium complex device) for each questions with your measuments, do come up with the answers of which is more complex. Hmmmmmm I wonder what would be the results

    It would be great if someone from this board could rebut the conclusions of this guy

    Someone has. -ds

  3. 3
    LowenheimSkolem

    Rob, I’ve taught first year college students and in my experience, most of them aren’t even close to being ready to make good arguments in this area or deal with the full implications of NDE. Maybe you teach at an elite college or university where the first semester freshman are on par with many of the seniors at my institution. In that case I’ll hesitantly give you a pass, although having done my undergrad work at a school on the cusp of the elite, I still don’t think students at such places show up first semester with solid grounding in logic or philosophy.

    Many first year students don’t know the difference between induction and deduction, let alone how to critically evaluate the specious reasoning involved in many of the more radical biological claims they’ll encounter (for example: most of what’s coming from the evolutionary psychology camp).

    I also have to chuckle a bit at the idea that Dennett is being hailed as an authority. Again, if they’re selling philosophical arguements to kids who haven’t yet purchased their philosophical toolkit, how can this be a good thing?

    Agreed. I took a class in formal logic at SUNY. I got a perfect score on every exam and didn’t spend any more time on the class than the time spent sitting in the classroom and I cut class as much as I could get away with. Most of the class flunked out. I couldn’t believe it. The same thing happened in a microprocessor architecture class where the only things you had to know were first year Fortran (a prerequisite) and Boolean logic (not a prerequisite that I recall). Boolean algebra was a course given to me in the military before attending college so I suppose I had a bit of an advantage there. -ds

  4. Robc, indoctrination campaigns exist because Darwinists adhere to naturalism before doing empirical investigations. They are practicing ontologists before
    being scientists. As a judge in Arkansas said “If it’s science, why do we need a law to teach it?” Likewise, if Darwinian evolutionary theories are science, then why do we need indoctrination campaigns?

  5. Darwinian evolutionary theory requires indoctrination because many of its basic tenets are full of logical and evidential holes, unlike the hard sciences. This is why consensus is constantly invoked in support of Darwinism, but never is for the hard sciences, which are solidly enough established that no one ever feels the need to invoke consensus.

  6. idadvisor,

    They [Darwinists] are practicing ontologists before being scientists. As a judge in Arkansas said “If it’s science, why do we need a law to teach it?” Likewise, if Darwinian evolutionary theories are science, then why do we need indoctrination campaigns?

    Thank you for you comment.

    Robc,

    Welcome to our weblog. Though we disagree, thank you for participating.

    The point of my post was to show the curious fact a professor of biology at Binghampton university, a highly schooled former Darwinist, puts forth very devastating arguments against a theory that is simultaneously being promoted in school.

    Electrodynamics, atomic chemistry, celestial mechanics, thermodynamics, information science, bio-chemistry: those are real scientific disciplines. Engineers build space ships and airplanes with these things. Scientists make pharmaceuticals with knowledge of biochemistry. Those are real and operationally useful sciences. Furthermore, they are very much open to serious falsification. If Maxwell’s equations are wrong, well, we’d know right away. Students can experience the truthfulness of those theories every day of their life. That is not the case with Darwinian evolution….

    As far as beliefs being threatened, Darwinism is not being rejected soley because of religious beliefs, it is being rejected today because it has failed as a scientific hypothesis. Darwinism is bad theology, bad philosophy, and bad science.

    Salthe’s essays should be part of that class as well as this book:
    Genetic Entropy by Cornell Geneticist John Sanford.

    What is distressing is there are such major problems with Darwinian evolution, it should not even be seriously considered scientific in it’s major claims.

    I invite you to get ahold of Sanford’s book, to study it dilengently. If you truly comprehend Sanford’s agruments, then at that point I think you’ll understand why I label what’s going on indoctrination.

    It’s indoctrination to claim Darwinian evolution is “as well established as any scientific theory” when it is not, and when the proponents know it’s not. How can they be so shameless to make such claims when there is a university professor, a biologist, in Stanley Salthe, at that very school who points out otherwise. I hope you appreciate the irony of the situation.

    And this peculiar irony at Binghampton plays out on numerous secular campuses either privately or publicly. We were just lucky enough to have information on what’s happening out there.

    Sanford was one scientist at a secular school who dissents from Darwin, Salthe is another, and here is yet another, Bryce Paschal, etc.

    If I may ask robc, what makes you think Darwinism is the major vehicle for the designs in life? What scientific literature persuades you?

    Salvador

    PS
    Salthe is not pro-ID, but he is clearly anti-Darwinian

  7. In response to Gil, your reference to consensus is curious, considering most ID proponents use the same argument as support for teaching ID in schools, citing polls that show parents support the teaching of ID, etc.

    In fact, the scientific community doesn’t suggest we should teach evolution on the basis of polls or some other democratic process, quite the opposite. If you are suggesting there is consensus among the scientific community about the truth of evolution, I agree wholeheartedly, there most certainly is consensus on that point. But you can’t have it both ways, so kindly clarify your statement.

    We can all vote on whether we believe in the Theory of Gravity or not, and whether or not we should teach it in school. The result would have no impact on the truth of the theory, it would still be true even if 50% of the population voted not to teach it.

    In response to Salvador, thank YOU for welcoming participation from the other side of the argument, such is not always the case on this blog. And you made a point to mention twice that Binghamton is a secular university, I am a Binghamton alum, I can assure you, the concept of ID would find very little safe harbor there. I also noted Slathe is a visiting scientist, his bio indicates he teaches at CUNY in Brooklyn.

    So I don’t find much irony in one person designated as a visiting scientist who is critical of evolution (though, as you astutely point out, no fan of ID). Being critical of evolution is fine, in fact its necessary to our learning. However when being critical and identifying gaps in our knowledge of the history of the universe, of which there are many, we should attempt to fill those gaps with naturalistic explanations, as those are the only ones for which we can find proof. Even incomplete proof with further research is better than, “God designed it that way.” Scientifically, where do you go from there?

    Considering there isn’t any way to test or prove how, why, or when God did anything, you won’t get very far.

    In fact, the scientific community doesn’t suggest we should teach evolution on the basis of polls or some other democratic process, quite the opposite.

    Correct. They rely on appointed judges to rule that any criticism whatsoever of Darwinian evolution violates a constitutional prohibition against government establishment of a religion. You’re quite right in there being nothing at all democratic about that process. -ds

  8. idadvisors, good points all…

    “why do we need a law to teach it?” should be a banner held high for all to see and it should be an embarrasment to scientist. I do not mind teaching evolution as a theory. But for judicial tyranny to enforce certain science theory without rebuttal is a dictatorial relationship between the people and government. Judges should not be allowed to dictate local governing bodies over childrens education.

    The only perogative of federal, state and local governments is to insure students excel by standard, verifiable test that students are on par with national standards.

    As we see today, public education is a morass of poor planning and administration. Evolution is taught in our schools and look at the pathetic output. Yet evolutionist claim somehow it can get worse if you teach children it has flaws. This is the ultimate misdirection play.

    Can you imagine a law that enforces we must accept the Big Bang as the final theory for our universe? The ACLU sues Dover for allowing criticism of the Big Bang and recommending students read materials which argue for evidence against it! There are still many scientist who disagree with Big Bang, but its not singled out for legalistic maneuvering by the ACLU and others.

    Why not? Does not the Big Bang effect our very purpose for being here today, alive on this planet? If there’s no Big Bang, then what?

    Teachers discuss openly the short-comings of Big Bang theory and look at other theories without fear of reprisal, job discrimination, possible job loss or lawsuits.

    This is how all science education should proceed. With open discussion of faults when found in all scientific theory. Evolution does not alone deserve special recognition.

  9. “Binghampton” is spelled wrong!!

    It should be “Binghamton”. I should know-I work at this school’s bookstore.

    Best regards,
    apollo230


    Many thanks apollo230! I fixed the problem. — Sal

  10. Leo1787,

    Leo wrote:

    In response to Salvador, thank YOU for welcoming participation from the other side of the argument…

    You are welcome, and welcome as well to our weblog.

    I view the comminication of ID in approximately 2 phases:

    1. ID-prerequisites (arguments against Darwinian evolution and prevailing naturalistic theories)

    2. ID theory proper

    I think #1 can and should be admitted and discussed freely. Salthe makes a very good non-ID critique of Darwinian evolution. He is an author of evolutionary biology textbooks and has been published by MIT press. It is understandable he is listed prominently in the Discovery Institute honor roll.

    Whether one hesitates to explore #2 is understandable, but there is plenty of serious and legitimate science that can be done on #1 that should be far above any issue of metaphysics, religion, or philosophy.

    Leo wrote:

    Even incomplete proof with further research is better than, “God designed it that way.” Scientifically, where do you go from there?

    Simply knowing that a play, poem, or a work of music is designed by an intelligence does not discourage it’s study, quite the opposite. In fact, it is so natural that when one is enamored by the genius of a musical composer, that one is strangely motivated to study even his most obscure and less prominent works.

    Such is the case if nature is designed. If nature is designed, particularly by God, a supreme intelligence, I find this to be a greater motivation to study nature and experience it, even the suppossedly “lesser works” of God.

    Finally from a practical standpoint, about 1/3 of freshman bio majors today are possibly design friendly. (the exact number would be a worthy poll question!). University administrators should be senstive to the fact they may be needlessly driving away fine minds away from the study of biology.

    Several of the students in the Virginia IDEA chapters are biology majors and had to endure a hostile academic environment. I’m very concerned that needless animosity is being generated and fine minds are being troubled if not even being wasted.

    I’d like to point out a related development at UCSD (home of IDEA):
    40% of freshman in UCSD’s sixth college reject Darwinism

    Whether ID is right or wrong is an important question, but as it stands, I think schools systems (high school and college) could do a better job in their treatment of a substantial number of prospective pro-ID students.

    Salvador

  11. I liked this:

    so we see that randomness is not really the best way refer to what the Darwinians
    need here. Richard Lewontin has suggested that they use ‘capriciousness’ instead. Each and
    every change must be capricious, reflecting pure contingency. This means also that choice is being
    made here between two major interpretations of randomness — as being a result of ignorance on the
    part of the observer, or as reflecting a basic indeterminacy in a system. For neoDarwinians the
    choice must go to the latter. Otherwise, again, some external force, unknown to us, might be
    influencing relevant statistical moments.

  12. Tribune7 wrote:

    I liked this:

    Salthe Rocks!

    His corollary ion to Fisher’s fundamental theorem may be getting some empirical confirmation.

    More Darwinian Assumptions Shot Down

    Harsh environmental conditions were associated with strong selection for increased birthweight but low genetic variance, and vice versa. Consequently, the potential for microevolution in this population is constrained by either a lack of heritable variation (in poor environments) or by a reduced strength of selection (in good environments). More generally, environmental dependence of this nature may act to limit rates of evolution, maintain genetic variance, and favour phenotypic stasis in many natural systems. Assumptions of environmental constancy are likely to be violated in natural systems, and failure to acknowledge this may generate highly misleading expectations for phenotypic microevolution.

    Salthe was right on! He prophetically pointed out:

    (10) The internal contradiction in its [Darwinism's] major theoretical cornerstone — Fisher’s fundamental theoremAs mentioned above, Fisher’s theorem has it that population variance in fitness is exchanged over the generations for population fitness increase — that is, for adaptedness. A corollary would be that traits having been subjected to heavy selection pressures, because of their importance in the lives of the organisms, should be less variable than less important traits. This has been found in traits judged to be of importance for jumping in frogs (Salthe and Crump, 1977), while these same traits were not found to be significantly less variable than others in populations of frogs that walk
    but do not jump. Now, at the same time, note that when asked which traits are most likely to be able to evolve, evolutionary biologists, again citing Fisher’s theorem, will reply, “those that have more variability in fitness”. That is to say, traits that have been most important in the lives of organisms up to this moment will be least likely to be able to evolve further! So Fisher’s theorem is “schizoid” when one compares its postures facing the future or the past.

    Salthe demonstrated a fatal internal contradiction in the theory. The guy absolutely rocks!

  13. Leo1787: “However when being critical and identifying gaps in our knowledge of the history of the universe, of which there are many, we should attempt to fill those gaps with naturalistic explanations, as those are the only ones for which we can find proof.”

    At some point this philosophical approach produces absurdity, and its explanatory limitions should be admitted. Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony is not the grand product of physics, chemistry and stochastic processes.

  14. Salthe Rocks!
    Ditto that. I just finished the paper.

  15. 15
    sagebrush gardener

    Leo wrote:

    … “God designed it that way.” Scientifically, where do you go from there?

    This is an argument that has always puzzled me deeply. “X is designed”, therefore “X is not worthy of further study”. This is often followed by dire predictions of The End of Science as We Know It: scientists will just say “goddiddit”, throw off their lab aprons and go home.

    Is there anyone, I mean anyone who thinks like this? Maybe I have blinders on because my profession, for the past two decades, has primarily involved working with highly complex, intelligently designed systems (computers). But I can assure you in the strongest terms possible that my knowledge that the systems I work on every day are intelligently designed in no way whatsoever lessens my understanding, my curiosity, or my desire to learn more. Just the opposite, in fact. Knowing that I will find order and purpose within any aspect of the systems I work on encourages me to explore further – to determine the purpose, the function, and the thoughts of the designer. If one can be so intellectually absorbed in a system designed by men, how much more fascinating would it be to be studying a system designed by God?

    A large branch of Computer Science and other sciences as well, is Reverse Engineering, the process of analyzing complex, designed systems in order to discover their technological principles. Why should biology be any different?

  16. Sagebrush, well said.

    A living example opposed to such false exaggerated claims is Dr Sanford. He was lead by genetic research, practical commercial applications and years of study to belief in an Intelligent Creator. He didn’t suddenly throw up his hands, shout Eureka!!! And then leave good science behind him.

    To the contrary, he continued to pursue science exploration and contribute excellent work.

    False statements that people suddenly become dumb, lazy and unproductive in scientific fields are mere forms of intellectual snobbery and putdowns.

    Its a psuedo-intellectual swipe of the heh heh, ahuh, heh heh heh Beevis and Butthead logic. Heh, eh, uhhh, they, snicker, snicker believe in God, snicker, snicker.

    Beevis says, Dude, lets go get beer and watch all the Christians go to church. We can belch, fart, and laugh, heh heh, snicker, huhhuhhuhh.

    Beevis yells across the road at Christians entering the Church… Hey Christian, who created the Dung Beetle?

    Butthead joins in, yeah, heh, heh, did like, God, like Dude, did he strike the ground with lightning and suddenly Bamb! Dung Beetle Dude! Why would anything eat elephant dung Dude? eehh huh, huh, huh… snicker, huhhhuhhuhhhuehehehehe… uhhhhhhhh…. accccccchhkkkk, coughs, cough, ackkkk, Beevis, help dude, cough, cough, I, I’m choking!

    Beevis panics! He crashes a beercan on Butthead’s face. Butthead still coughing, turning pale, falls to the ground, hands waving, feet flailing, passing out. Beevis does a knee drop to the belly! Nothing! Beevis stares and drinks his beer and begins to laugh at the colors of Buttheads face.

    A Christian across the road, see’s whats happening, leaps to action, saves Beevis with the Heimlich Maneuver as he upchucks a lodged vancamp beenie weenie and beer onto the road.

    Butthead had an epiphany while he was passed out on the ground. He saw utter darkness and red tailed demons with pointy horns and scary teeth(because this is the way media and artist portray satan even though the Bible itself does not). But then, he’s jolted and lifted up, he see’s a light, a small light at the end of a tunnel. He hears a voice beckoning him, saying, come away from the beenie weenie darkness Butthead, come away from beenie weenie land into the light Butthead, into the light of Design. The true light of God! For a moment he experiences purity, bliss and well being understanding fully all purpose of his being and others, before suddenly being jolted back again to life and light! This time with the Christians arms firmly wrapped around him after saving his life and the sun shining brightly in his face.

    Dude! He says to Beevis, thats some wicked beer and beenie weenies he says. I saw the devil and I think I heard the voice of God. Beevis says, really? Cool, heh, eheh, uhuh, hey, man, choke me, choke me! I want to see satan! Snicker, snicker, eh eh heh, heh. Give me, give me, give me some beenie weenies!

    Beevis laughs, Heh, ehhh, uhhh, wow Christian Dude, thanks… you Bible Thumpers are good for something…. saving lives…

    The Christians says, we’re good at saving souls too….

  17. Salthe demonstrated a fatal internal contradiction in the theory.

    No he didn’t. He points out that (additive) genetic variance is depleted by selection – something that is well accepted. He then writes

    Now, at the same time, note that when asked which traits are most likely to be able to evolve, evolutionary biologists, again citing Fisher’s theorem, will reply, “those that have more variability in fitness”.

    OK, first this is actually false: the strength of selection is important as well, and also the variation in fintess needs to be additive genetic variance. But even to the extent that it’s correct (i.e. that additive genetic variation is important), there is no contradiction. Once something has become well adapted, there’s little improvement that can be made (to be technical, it’s at/near the top of a fitness peak), so it’s not going to be able to evolve anyway. However, whilst it was evolving, there would have been genetic variation in the trait, but that’s in the past and the variation may have been depleted.

    To use an analogy to show the poverty of the argument: bank accounts which have been important in paying out large sums of money are least likely to be able to do so in the future.

    Bob

  18. Are universities morally responsible to indoctrinate freshman life science majors about the inherent philosophical, theoretical, and scientific difficulties of Darwinism? Statements might be:

    1) Understand that there are severe difficulties in the philosophical and scientific foundations of
    Your selected area of study.

    2) As morally responsible scientists we strongly recommend using not our time , but that of other
    Professors in this schools philosophy department in order to explore these difficulties. Be advised , no
    difficulties are ontologic.

    3) Cellular growth and processes occur entirely independent from any linguistic structures and information content in complex biostructures. The message in DNA’s instructions is of a material, purposeless, unintelligent origin. The proposition “unintelligent, random events cause an organism to attain goals, such as propulsion or vision is to be adhered to. (Any life science student found to visit or communicate with any linguistics or psycholinguistics departments will be expelled from this university)

  19. Bob OH,

    Thank you for your comments.

    Given that some of the readers here have specializations in field other than population genetics perhaps elaborating some terms and concepts would be helpful.

    I said:

    Salthe demonstrated a fatal internal contradiction in the theory.

    You said

    No he didn’t. He points out that (additive) genetic variance is depleted by selection – something that is well accepted.

    I disagree. Salthe stated well accepted fact but then argue why this fact leads to a contradiction.

    But first, something that concerns me in your post is an equivocation

    The concept of additive genetic variance is associated with mathematical concept of variance (as in standard deviation squared) and is tied to the the amount of variation in a phenotypic trait. It roughly is a partial description of the distribution of traits. It is not defined in terms of “variability of fitness” (as far as I can tell in the textbooks I have, though I’m willing to be corrected).

    The word variance in additive “genetic variance” is not conceptually the same as word variability in “variability in fitness”. That is an equivocation.

    Variability implies changeability of trait, whereas variance in the case of additive genetic variance refers to a distribution of traits in an existing population.

    A trait can be the result of genetic variance, but it does not imply the trait has “variablitiy in fitness”.

    In light of this, I think your comments on genetic variance are not consistent with what salthe is saying below. In essence, you probably knocked down an argument which Salthe did not even make.

    Salthe said:

    Now, at the same time, note that when asked which traits are most likely to be able to evolve, evolutionary biologists, again citing Fisher’s theorem, will reply, “those that have more variability in fitness”.

    On inspection of the derivation of additive genetic variance as it is related to fitness, perhaps the proper perspective is to assert the variability of the genetic variances, which is a far more cicuitous expression than saying “variability of fitness”.

    If I am incorrect on this point, I welcome technical input.

    But finally since we are talking in somewhat Mendelian terms, were talking about the shuffling existing genetic material and the change in gene frequencies, not the emergence of novelty. So in some sense, the bearing Fisher’s theorem on the emergence of novelty is moot.

  20. Sal –

    First, I should just correct something I wrote: “…and also the variation in fintess needs to be …” is better as “…and also the variation in fitness needs to include …”

    Second, on hte equivocation point, your comment here is wrong (albeit in an interesting way):

    Variability implies changeability of trait, whereas variance in the case of additive genetic variance refers to a distribution of traits in an existing population.

    The point behind Fisher’s fundamental theorem is that additive genetic variation in a trait does imply changeability. In essence, if you select for larger/smaller trait values in individuals, then the trait mean in the offspring will change. We can calculate the change from the Breeder’s equation:

    R = h^2 S

    where R is the response to selection, h^2 is the heritability (the additive genetic variance divided by the total genetic variance), and S is the strength of selection. It’s obvious therefore that the traits that are most likely to evolve are those either with a high heritability, or a high strength of selection. I can only interpret Salthe’s comment to refer to the high heritability.

    Variation in the trait will lead to variation in fitness if the covariance between the two is non-zero. Incidentally, you can of course) consider fitness as a trait in its own right.

    You’re right that the “variability in fitness” needs to be additive genetic variance: this is one of the corrections I was making to that comment of Salthe’s.

    Bob

  21. Bob OH,

    Thank you again for your comments.

    As I looked again at my textbook on the topic of additive genetic variance, it struck me that Fisher’s theorem said nothing of the likely hood of the emergence of novelty but the frequency of various features….

    Thus if there is no emergence of novelty, even high selection for that potential novelty will not be of any use.

    In any case, I think your criticisms were some of the best I’ve seen in several months on this weblog. Thank you.

    Salvador

  22. Salvador,

    Be sure to re-read Walter ReMine’s coverage of Fisher’s Theorem.

    I invite you to get ahold of Sanford’s book, to study it dilengently. If you truly comprehend Sanford’s agruments, then at that point I think you’ll understand why I label what’s going on indoctrination.

    Be critical of it thought, not blindly accepting. I think Sandford got two important issues wrong. Haldane’s Dilemma and Cost Theory.

  23. …h^2 is the heritability (the additive genetic variance divided by the total genetic variance)…

    Bob,

    Could you explain heritability to a layman, or refer me to some resources which would help me to understand it? Also, why is heritability important? Can you put some of this stuff in plain english, lol?

  24. Mung,

    I’ll look Sanford’s book over again, but ReMine was in the acknowledgement section because he did some computer simulations for Sanford. I can’t imagine the two didn’t collaborate, and also Sanford mentions ReMine in conneciton with Haldane’s dilemma.

    In any case, I thank you for your caution. I view the internet as an opportunity to iron out any kinks in our collective arguments.

    Salvador

  25. For the readers benefit my information comes from Hartl and Clark’s, Principles of Population Genetics chapter 9.

    In a strongly selective environment, one is killing off the creatures who are lacking the most desirable traits, thus the population tends to be more homogenous and lacking diversity. This sound sensible to me.

    The discussion is how this is reflected mathematically.

    A measure of diversity is additive genetic variance when dealing with a number of genes for a single trait

    additive variance = Summation [ 2pq[a + (q-p)d]^2

    d/a = measure of dominance
    p,q = allele frequencies

    and the summation is carried out over all genes involved in the trait

    it was this equation where I said “variability of fitness” is not directly mentioned. Additive variance is an statistical aspect of the population’s composition of genes and expressed traits.

    But let say the “trait” we are looking at is something like the number of bristles or finch beak thickness, it does not relate to the emergence of novelty.

    Salthe’s thesis, suggests to me on the generous assumption novelties can arise, they would have to be below the radar of natural selection. If an organ for example is life critical, that’s potentially the worst time for it to be participating in evolution.

    I think Bob OH’s comments helped clarify issues with Salthe’s statement. However it seems to me, traits that are life critical tend to resist large scale novel changes. I believe that is Salthe’s point, but I shall search for a better phrasing of the argument.

    Salvador

  26. Actually h^2 = additive genetic variance/total *phenotypic* variance (*phenotypic* replaces *genetic*).

    This is an important distinction, since it says something about the proportion of *observed* phenotypic variance that can be transmitted to offspring in the form of additive genetic variance. Even if all genetic variation is of the additive kind, heritability can still be low if swamped by phenotypic variance.

    Another technical note: strictly speaking Fisher’s theorem is only valid for a single gene locus. For multiple loci, mean fitness need not increase from one generation to the next, and in fact it typically does not.

  27. Bob says,

    “Once something has become well adapted, there’s little improvement that can be made (to be technical, it’s at/near the top of a fitness peak), so it’s not going to be able to evolve anyway.”

    So how do evolutionist know Darwin’s finches were truly becoming a new species? How do you predict with confidence any level of evolutionary STOP patterns in a finch? Why would a beak size indicate a new species is evolving? Give me the math that predicts it would evolved into a new species. And then in the lab, produce macro-evolution of the finch. If we know there are FULL levels of evolution, then we should know the intermediate levels and there should be clarity.

    What about reptiles today? Are they evolving into birds? Do you consider the present reptilian representation as still evolving or fully evolved? If they’re still evolving, then shouldn’t RM&NS mechanisms experimentally explored in laboratory conditions create new steps in evolution on the way to the creation of birds?

    It is not readily apparant to me you can predict anything at all based upon RM&NS. It appears that definitions are being made in the present for STOP points and data is just being interpreted from extinctions. Extrapolations are being made but there is no real consistency in the science. If RM&NS is a true mechanism for developmental structure of morphology. And as you say certain species are fully evolved. The we should identify the ones that are 1) Stopped evolving, 2) in intermediate steps, 3) those forms which can be experimented on to bring about final evolution to a stopping point.

    I’m curious if anyone thinks I’m making sense here. Or have I over-simplified the science?

    You’re making plenty of sense. No one can demonstrate that evolution hasn’t stopped except for the generation of sub-species. That’s one of the more painful truths Darwinists have to admit to themselves. They’re in denial. -ds

  28. One shoudln’t forget that macro-evolution takes quite a bit of time. Even the cambrian explosion took millions of years. Asking for it to be produced in the lab is a bit like asking an astronomer to produce a supernova in the lab. However, if you can point out an agency that gives away grants for million-year research projects, please let me know.

    Here’s an example of a very recently evolved frog species:
    http://www.brightsurf.com/news.....leID=21625

    So the claim that random mutation plus natural selection can create novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans isn’t verifiable? It isn’t science in that case my friend. It’s an article of faith. Faith is fine for religion but science is about demonstration. -ds

  29. I’m curious if anyone thinks I’m making sense here. Or have I over-simplified the science?

    Sorry to say, but I think you’re mangling it.

    First, your quote from me says nothing about speciation: it’s just about adaptation. I don’t understand your comment about STOP patterns: .

    For specific traits, it can be possible to see if a popuation is ‘well adapted’ by estimating the fitness of individuals with different values of the trait. One can then look to see if the distributiuon of the trait values in the population is at/near a maximum. In practice this isn’t so easy, for example because you need a lot of data, and you have to be sure that there’s a constant environment.

    Speciation is caused by divergence, not by adaptation per se. Adaptation can have a role in speeding up divergence, but it’s not necessary: if Darwin’s finches are speciating, then it’s probably because they are drifting apart. Whether this will lead to speciation will depend on the ecology of the species. I’m sure someone has modelled this, but it’s not a literature I’ve looked at.

    Bob

    I don’t know of any serious claims that evolution has stopped

    I don’t know of any serious evidence that evolution beyond the production of sub-species is still in progress. Plenty of extinctions in recorded history. Extinctions are happening on a daily basis if you believe the tree huggers. Name just one novel species that evolved to replace any of the very many recently extinct ones. I’m not talking about polyploid mutations but an actual new species that can be identified by the traditional method of unique anatomical features. -ds

  30. Raevmo,

    Thank you for your technical inputs, though we disagree, I value your input. Most of the contributers to our weblog are involved in other scientific and technology disciplines outside of biology.

    Like William Dembski, I use the internet to iron out kinks in materials I intend to publish and distribute, and thus, these sort of interaction are highly beneficial to me…

    Let me make an offer. If you’d be willing to read John Sanford’s book, I’d be willing to make arrangements to get you a free copy.

    I’m highly recommending the books to the IDEA chapters, and I would be appreciative of a review over technical issues from a non-IDer.

    sincerely,
    Salvador

  31. In reading my earlier postings, let me try to clarify things a bit more in the discussion of genetic variance.

    If, for example, a population underwent extreme selection pressure for small weight. What will happen? Well, they will all evolve to be the minimum size feasible, and presumably hit some sort of limit. When that happens the degree of difference from one oranism to the next will be a lot less than before the selection pressure was applied.

    Statistical measure of the degree of difference can be expressed as standard deviations or variance (standard deviation squared). As Mendel discovered, the actual morphological (and other) features of an organism are not 1-for-1 with the genes, even though genes are highly influential. The non-genetic aspects of an organism are roughly referred to as the phenotype and the genetic aspects as the genotype.

    We can approximately partition the organism into a phenome (the collection of phenotypic features) and the genome (the collection of genotypic features).

    When there is a change in a phenotype, there may or may not be a change in the genotype.

    “Additive genetic variance” is a measure of the differences in the genomes.

    additive genetic variance = Summation [ 2pq[a + (q-p)d]^2

    Phenotypic variance would be a measure of the differences in the population of a particular trait such as body weight, and it is easier to measure.

    I point out 4 things:

    1. the most basic equations of population genetics don’t speak to the likelihood of novelty emerging, the equations are generally agnostic to the issue

    2. the more advanced theories of population genetics (Kimura, Crow, etc.) argue selection can not be statistically justified as the major driver of evolution because of the cost issues (one would be having to hack to death too much of the population and make too many babies to achieve the changes!)

    3. Sanford argues selectively beneficial mutations in a stable have not theoretically and empirically been demonstrated to provide sufficient novelty to create biological innovation in geological time.

    4. Sanford show that all this is further complicated by the signal-to-noise problem. The “h^2″ (heritability, mentioned in the equations above) is the signal strength, and it is too small to overcome the noise of the real world. If a radio receives too weak a signal amonst all the “static” it can not be heard. A similar situation applies with the selection signal.

    There is not term for noise in most population genetic equations (something unthinkable in the world of information systems engineering, ala Claude Shannon). Sanford is among the first to address this oversight. I mentioned partial empirical validation of Sanford’s thesis in passing here: Darwinist chastised

    Indeed, after 50 years of investigation, we can’t convincingly demonstrate selection for most of the red-blood-cell diseases, other than sickle-cell anaemia, that are probably coevolving with the strong selective force of malaria. Other best-case scenarios for human genetic adaptation, such as adult lactase persistence and skin colour, are also incomplete.

    This is not soley because we don’t know enough, it is because of the noise problem.

    That said, I think Salthe’s argument are not phrased as effectively as they could have been, and I’m appreciative of Bob OH and Raevmo’s comments. I will explore ways of getting that section of Salthe’s argument improved for use in future discussions. In the meantime, if micro evolution is restrained, that is a restriction on macro evolution. I still think one should ponder the meaning of this in light of Salthe’s comments:

    Harsh environmental conditions were associated with strong selection for increased birthweight but low genetic variance, and vice versa. Consequently, the potential for microevolution in this population is constrained by either a lack of heritable variation (in poor environments) or by a reduced strength of selection (in good environments). More generally, environmental dependence of this nature may act to limit rates of evolution, maintain genetic variance, and favour phenotypic stasis in many natural systems. Assumptions of environmental constancy are likely to be violated in natural systems, and failure to acknowledge this may generate highly misleading expectations for phenotypic microevolution.

    Salvador

  32. I should add, this topic of genetic variance in a highly selective environemnt as a twist I just realized: Interference Selection

    That is if were selecting heavily for one beneficial trait, we’re potentially annihilating simultaneously numerous other beneficial traits.

    The persistence of sickle-cell anemia in a strongly selective environment of high rates of malaria is a strong (albeit unfortunate) example.

    Salvador

  33. A few comments:

    1. the most basic equations of population genetics don’t speak to the likelihood of novelty emerging, the equations are generally agnostic to the issue

    True: of course that was never the purpose of the models.

    2. the more advanced theories of population genetics (Kimura, Crow, etc.) argue selection can not be statistically justified as the major driver of evolution because of the cost issues (one would be having to hack to death too much of the population and make too many babies to achieve the changes!)

    I think you’re conflating two very separate issues. Kimura’s most famous work was on neutral evolution, i.e. when htere is no difference in fitness. The argument was that a lot of evolution could be neutral, and hence much of the variation we see in the wild could be neutral. This has nothing to do with cost.

    The cost issues were initially raised by J.B.S. Haldane, and are an entirely different issue. I think Crow might have done some work on it, but I’m not sure. Anyway, this is something that has disappeared from the radar now: it’s not seem as an issue.

    3. Sanford argues selectively beneficial mutations in a stable have not theoretically and empirically been demonstrated to provide sufficient novelty to create biological innovation in geological time.

    Ah, so evolution doesn’t happen in domesticated horses. :-)

    More seriously, I don’t know Sanford’s argument, so I can’t comment further.

    4. Sanford show that all this is further complicated by the signal-to-noise problem. The “h” (heritability, mentioned in the equations above) is the signal strength, and it is too small to overcome the noise of the real world. If a radio receives too weak a signal amonst all the “static” it can not be heard. A similar situation applies with the selection signal.

    (minor quibble: heritability is h^2, not h)
    I don’t see this as a problem: a lower heritability will mean that evolution will proceed more slowly. Rerasonably sized heritabilies are now regularly measured from wild populations, so the necessary variation does exist.

    There is not term for noise in most population genetic equations (something unthinkable in the world of information systems engineering, ala Claude Shannon). Sanford is among the first to address this oversight.

    Rubbish! You’ve been discussing uantitative genetics, where the “noise term” is the environmental variation (depending on which way you want to strain the analogy, it could be the non-additive genetic variation as well). It’s right there in the calculation of heritability.

    If you’re talking about the simpler population genetic models, where the allele frequencies are measured, then the effect of the noise would be to shrink the relative fitness towards 1. So, it’s there if you know where to look!

    Bob

    It sure seems there are alot of epicycles required to make the phlogiston of accidental evolution work out in the details. And more epicycles are needed to fill in the many gaps in the neoDarwinian aether. This would be comical if it wasn’t being forced down the throats of impressionable youngsters through legal chicanery. -ds

  34. Bob,

    The argument [kimura] was that a lot of evolution could be neutral, and hence much of the variation we see in the wild could be neutral. This has nothing to do with cost.

    I believe it was stronger than that. In the book he co-authored with ohta, he pointed out the majority of evolution had to be concealed from selection. I used the word cost, but there are equivalent formulations of the same argument using cost (ReMine). Simply because a different terminology or conceptual description of the same issue is offered, does not imply it has nothing to do with “cost”. One can define Newtons second law in terms of force or changes in momementum. In comparable manner, the issues of the limits which natural selection can participate can be defined in temrs of cost.

    Haldane described it in his 1957 paper in something of a speed limit, information engineers understand information infusion in terms of bit rates….

    Ah, so evolution doesn’t happen in domesticated horses.

    I did not say that or imply that, I was referring to proportion of selectively beneficial mutations. Lenski estimates 1 per 1,000,000

    Salvador

  35. Sure Salvador, I’d be willing to read Sanford’s book if you can get me a free copy. You got my email from the registration, so contact me and I’ll tell you where to send it. Thanks for the offer.

    I agree with Bob OH that noise has been taken into account, at least to some extent, in population genetics (PG)/quantitative genetics (QG). In PG there has been work on selection in stochastically fluctuating environments, and Kimura’s work (and of many others) has focussed very much on the stochastic aspects of selection in finite populations. One of Kimura’s main tools is diffusion theory, now a standard technique in PG, as in other fields that rely on stochastic modelling (lots of physics of course). Incidentally, Kimura did use Haldane’s argument in favor of his proposition that most molecular evolution must be neutral or nearly. Some theorists now consider the debate closed after the work of, e.g. Ewens, but others (see the book of eminent biologist GC Williams 1992) don’t think so. I am not confident to call it settled.

    In QC the signal to noise ratio is right there in the h^2=VA/VP, VA additive genetic variance and VP phenotypic variance, the latter including all sources of noise. Like Bob said, h^2 has been measured numerous times in the field, and values are all over the place from low to high (there was an interesting paper in Nature a couple of years back where they showed average measured h^2 is actually increasing over the years in publications, evidence of publication bias).

    However, the PLOS paper from the Kruuk and Clutton-Brock groups you’re referring to shows that h^2 may vary a lot from year to year (and probably from place to place), and this might be a source of noice that’s not sufficiently acknowledged. But remember, it takes a huge amount of work to collect that kind of data, and unfortunately there isn’t much $$ to support long-term projects such as the great work on sheep and deer on the Scottish islands.

  36. Ah, so evolution doesn’t happen in domesticated horses.

    I did not say that or imply that, I was referring to proportion of selectively beneficial mutations. Lenski estimates 1 per 1,000,000

    Sorry, that was a joke about your refernce to stables.

    Bob

  37. Rubbish! You’ve been discussing uantitative genetics, where the “noise term” is the environmental variation (depending on which way you want to strain the analogy, it could be the non-additive genetic variation as well). It’s right there in the calculation of heritability.

    If you’re talking about the simpler population genetic models, where the allele frequencies are measured, then the effect of the noise would be to shrink the relative fitness towards 1. So, it’s there if you know where to look!

    Environmental issues like nurture and luck are not factored. Environmental noise terms are not there. Large amounts of elimination and preservation are not do to any sort of abundance of selectively beneficial mutation, but just dumb luck. This is hard to model, but it does not mean it does not exist. Quite the contrary. See: Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck by Raup.

    Salvador

  38. I said, “Environmental noise terms are not there”, but let me clarify. The h^2 term is analogous to S/N ratio ( signal strength divided by amount of noise), the environmental noise is not given as this is an equation for realized heretibility in artificial selection not natural selection! What S/N is basically one number, it is not decomposed into signal and noise, simply the composite ratio.

  39. Environmental issues like nurture and luck are not factored. Environmental noise terms are not there.

    Sorry, this is simply factually incorrect. Quantitative genetic models include nurture (maternal effects), luck (drift) and environmental noise (both common environment, which can also be nurture, and within environmnt effects). Check a quantitative genetics text book, like Lynch & Walsh (and check the notes for Volume II as well). I’ll agree that we don’t yet understand all of the details, but we’re working on it. Science would be boring if we knew everything!

    “Dumb luck” has been considered in population genetic models since the 1920s: Sewell Wright argued that it was important, for example. And of course that’s what Kimura’s neutral theory is all about.

    Bob

  40. “So the claim that random mutation plus natural selection can create novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans isn’t verifiable? It isn’t science in that case my friend. It’s an article of faith. Faith is fine for religion but science is about demonstration. -ds”

    Indeed science is about demonstration. And indeed it hasn’t been shown conclusively (at all if you like) that novel cell types, tissue types, organs and body plans can be created by RM+NS alone. That doesn’t mean it’s unverifiable. Right now I don’t see that being replicated in a lab anytime soon, but what do I know. Maybe it can be verified or falsified some day. I don’t see why it would be impossible in principle. In fact, if in a petri dish a colony of bacteria would evolve, say, a nucleus, from one day to the next, a lot would be falsified, wouldn’t you agree?

    Actually it does mean it’s unverifiable until such time as a method of verification in principle can be outlined. Hypotheses don’t get a free lunch of being verifiable until proven unverifiable. They’re unverifiable until some investigator comes up with a plausible method of verification or at least falsification. None exists for the macroevolutionary claims of RM+NS. One is asked to take it as a matter of faith that RM+NS to the Nth power equals macroevolution. Faith is for religion. Demonstration is for science. Show me the evolution! -ds

  41. I said, “Environmental noise terms are not there”, but let me clarify. The h^2 term is analogous to S/N ratio ( signal strength divided by amount of noise), the environmental noise is not given as this is an equation for realized heretibility in artificial selection not natural selection!

    Not quite true: it’s the noise in the environment where the trait was measured. There are now several examples where this has been done in wild populations (e.g. Soay sheep, swans, red deer, flycatchers). Do a literature search for people like Kruuk, Coltman, and Sheldon.

    Bob

    I don’t know about these but I’ll make a prediction based upon ID – they’re all still sheep, swans, deer, and flycatchers. Am I right? -ds

  42. Not quite true: it’s the noise in the environment where the trait was measured.

    But that is exactly the point, the environmental noise term is not explicitly expressed in the derivation h^2 it is only post dictively derirved and not segregated from the organismal issues.

    The inexatness is understandable given the difficulty of the measurement, but that does not detract from what I was trying to say.

    To get a measure of environmental noise:

    calculate h^2 in an artificial breeding environment

    then calculate h^2 in the natural environnment

    One can then derive an idea of the environmental noise for that environment.

    PS: even without environmental noise, for complex triats Kimura estimated the heretability values at (.004) often approaching zero, this is a signal-to-noise ratio of 1/250. 99.6% of phenotypic selection for fitness is wasted. It would be expected environmental noise would make this worse.

  43. Dave, what happened to my post answering Salvador? I’m asking because a later post has already shown up here.

    I think I deleted it but I don’t recall why now. It’s been a busy day. -ds

  44. Environmental issues like nurture and luck are not factored. Environmental noise terms are not there.

    Sorry, this is simply factually incorrect. Quantitative genetic models include nurture (maternal effects), luck (drift) and environmental noise (both common environment, which can also be nurture, and within environmnt effects). Check a quantitative genetics text book, like Lynch & Walsh (and check the notes for Volume II as well). I’ll agree that we don’t yet understand all of the details, but we’re working on it. Science would be boring if we knew everything!

    BobOH,

    I believe we are talking past each other and part of the issue is that I did not articulate my position in a clear manner.

    One could observe heretability in an artificial environment and then compare the heretability in a natural environment. The basic breeders equation for artificial seleciton which you cited stated:

    h^2 = R/S

    does not have an explicit noise term. The value of an explicit noise term is one has a marginal method of relating heretability values in various environments.

    In any case, I thank you for the references to Lynch and Walsh books. I will atempt to purchase them. I thank you for the time you invested in responding to my comments.

    Your comments will help me improve future presentations of my ideas.

    Thank you.

    Salvador

  45. Dave, you know of course very well that evolution has been demonstrated in the lab. Not macro-evolution in the sense referred to above. I suppose a necessary condition for demonstrating macro-evolution in the lab would be to dramatically speed up evolution in the lab, otherwise it would take too much time. Maybe future developments in genetic engineering will make this possible. I certainly hope so. I don’t really care whether one can call something science only if it can be demonstrated in the lab in theory. As long as the grants pay for it, I say go for it.

  46. Sure Salvador, I’d be willing to read Sanford’s book if you can get me a free copy. You got my email from the registration, so contact me and I’ll tell you where to send it. Thanks for the offer.

    I’ll be e-mailing you soon to get your address.

    Incidentally, Kimura did use Haldane’s argument in favor of his proposition that most molecular evolution must be neutral or nearly. Some theorists now consider the debate closed after the work of, e.g. Ewens, but others (see the book of eminent biologist GC Williams 1992) don’t think so. I am not confident to call it settled.

    I VERY much appreciate your candor here!

    For the other readers, Walter ReMine had his work reviewed by Warren Ewens incidentally. His account is here:
    Haldane’s dilemma and peer review

    Salvador

  47. The basic breeders equation for artificial seleciton which you cited stated:

    h^2 = R/S

    does not have an explicit noise term.

    Write heritability out in full:

    h^2 = V_A/(V_A + V_D + V_M + V_E)

    (there could be other terms as well). And lo! V_E is the “noise term”. And V_M as well, if the noise is affecting whole families.

    Bob

  48. BobOH Raevmo,

    I have looked through the table of contents of Lynch and Walsh’s book, and it seems the material of interest to me will be in their yet unpublished Volume 2.

    I have various texts on Population Genetics, but Hartl and Clark seem to be the most usable in my collection. If there are other titles you use, feel free to specify them.

    For the readers, there was some discussion of Haldane and Kimura in this thread, I will quote from my copy of a collection of 30 years of Kimura’s selected papers with a foreword by James Crow.

    Kimura first presented his neutral theory of molecular evolution in 1968. This proposal was blasphemy to evolutionists accustomed to thinking of natural selection as being the sole directive force in evolution…needless to say the neutral theory does not contradict the Darwinian theory as the basis of changes in form and funciton. The detailed reconciliation of molecular and phenotypic changes is a major agenda item for future research

    James Crow

    and from Ohta and Kimuras book, Theoretical Aspects of Population Genetics, regarding Haldane’s 1957 paper, The Cost of Natural Selection

    page 25:

    This gives a rate of nucleotide substitution per generation of at least 20, making the contrast still grater with Haldane’s (1957) estimate of 1/300 per generation as the standard rate of gene subsittuion in evolution. Considering the amount of selective elimination that accompanies the process of gen substitution(substitutional laod, see Chapter 5), the most natural interpretation is, we believe, that a majority of molecular mutations that participate in evolution are almost neutral in natural selection

    IDers argue that natural selection is not the sole directive to evolution, it could not even be the majority directive, and in fact it could not even be a few percent of the directive to evolution based on the inferences of population genetics available in existing professional literature. The attribution of the majority of evolution to Darwin’s theory natural selection, I believe at this stage, is only obligatory and ceremonial.

    I’m not saying Kimura’s findings necessarily imply ID, or that his netural theory is completely correct, but I believe his refutation of natural selection as the major force driving evolution is theoretically sound.

    As Will Provine, at Cornell, recently said at the Woodstock of Evolution

    Natural selection does not…really do anything at all.”

    Salvador

  49. IDers argue that natural selection is not the sole directive to evolution,…

    Good. It’s nice to know that we all agree. In evolutionary biology, we recognise that there are many factors that influence evolution: drift, selection, demographics, mutation, environmental variation etc. One of the tasks in modern evolutionary biology is to tease apart the different factors and see, for example, whether the observed divergence between populations is due to selection, or if drift would be enough.

    I’m not saying Kimura’s findings necessarily imply ID, or that his netural theory is completely correct, but I believe his refutation of natural selection as the major force driving evolution is theoretically sound.

    However theoretically sound it might be, it’s liable to run up against a major problem: the real world. Fortunately, his ideas can be tested. And indeed they are frequently: in the last couple of weeks there have been reviews about investigating selection in both humans and thale cress. With the advent of genomics, there’s a lot of data being produced, and we’re still trying to synthesise the results. But there is certainly evidence for selection at several genes.

    As Will Provine, at Cornell, recently said at the Woodstock of Evolution

    Natural selection does not…really do anything at all.”

    I think I’ll leave a discussion about the way we assign causation (which is what Provine was on about) to another time!

    Bob

    Bob, does evolutionary biology acknowledge any source of heritable change that isn’t ultimately devoid of planning? -ds

  50. Hartl & Clark is an excellent undergraduate text. For the more mathematically inclined go for Crow & Kimura (1970) or Gale (1990), both great introductions to population genetic modelling.

    Big parts of the second volume of Lynch & Walsh can be downloaded from the authors’ website.

  51. With the advent of genomics, there’s a lot of data being produced, and we’re still trying to synthesise the results. But there is certainly evidence for selection at several genes.

    I would expect there to be some selection. That has not been in question.

    Regarding (not necessarily the studies you cited) my deep concern here is the selection inference is often derived though the degree of similarity and amount of material “conserved”. This leads to circular reasoning (ie. high similarity implies natural selection, natural selection proven because of high similarity).

    In fact, I expect high degrees of deeply conservered regions that don’t have immediate function, and which will be in violation of neutral theory. We have the situation where the neutralist and selectionists views are finding fatal flaws in each other’s theories. If then the two theories have mutually destroyed each other, IDers argue that leaves an opening for them.

    In any case, thank you for your technical comments!

    Salvador

  52. Regarding (not necessarily the studies you cited) my deep concern here is the selection inference is often derived though the degree of similarity and amount of material “conserved”. This leads to circular reasoning (ie. high similarity implies natural selection, natural selection proven because of high similarity).

    I don’t think you’re characterising the situation correctly: the reason we can infer selection is that we can compare the patterns we see to the patterns we would expect under neutrality.

    In fact, I expect high degrees of deeply conservered regions that don’t have immediate function, and which will be in violation of neutral theory. We have the situation where the neutralist and selectionists views are finding fatal flaws in each other’s theories. If then the two theories have mutually destroyed each other, IDers argue that leaves an opening for them.

    I don’t think the theories won’t mutually destroy each other: what I expect to happen is that we’ll settle down to a position where we assess the relative strengths of the different forces acting on the genome. Different parts of the genome will be subject to differing amounts of selection, drift, mutation etc. and the task will be to assess the strengths on a case by case basis. This is more or less what’s happening in evolutionary ecology now, and I don’t see why it should be any different in evolutionary genomics.

    Thanks for being a polite discussant!

    Bob

  53. [...] And another signatory of the Discovery Institute’s Dissent from Darwin list, Stanley Salthe, pointed out: The internal contradiction in its [Darwinism’s] major theoretical cornerstone — Fisher’s fundamental theorem. As mentioned above, Fisher’s theorem has it that population variance in fitness is exchanged over the generations for population fitness increase — that is, for adaptedness. A corollary would be that traits having been subjected to heavy selection pressures, because of their importance in the lives of the organisms, should be less variable than less important traits. ….note that when asked which traits are most likely to be able to evolve, evolutionary biologists, again citing Fisher’s theorem, will reply, “those that have more variability in fitness”. That is to say, traits that have been most important in the lives of organisms up to this moment will be least likely to be able to evolve further! … So Fisher’s theorem is “schizoid” when one compares its postures facing the future or the past. [...]

  54. [...] Stanley Salthe, a known dissenter from Darwin, trashed by Darwinists, appears in the film. [...]

  55. [...] Stanley Salthe, a known dissenter from Darwin, trashed by Darwinists, appears in the film. [...]

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