Home » The Design of Life » Today at the Design of Life blog – Mustangs vs. breed horses

Today at the Design of Life blog – Mustangs vs. breed horses

There has been a Darwinian vs. human-directed evolution experiment running in North America for centuries. It is the horse.

That is, the mustang vs. humanly directed horse breeds. What did natural selection do? What did intelligent design (specified complexity) do?

For more, go here.

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32 Responses to Today at the Design of Life blog – Mustangs vs. breed horses

  1. I’m sorry. I read this article, and was painfully unimpressed. What the article did not discuss was the Darwinian doctrine of sexual selection. It is well believed, for instance, that the reason the peacock has its tail is to attract peahens. If the Darwinian community is correct, it would appear that sometime in ancient history, the peahen was attracted to a large tail. The peacock took that idea to the extreme. I see no fundimental difference between the peahen getting a penchant for long tails and humans getting a penchant for particular whimsical characteristic.

    This is not an impressive challenge to the neo-Darwinian model in my books.

  2. From the article: -

    “Mustangs, descendants of European horses that escaped their human handlers and became feral, are uniquely ADAPTED to their environment. They share many traits with the wild horses noted above and PROVIDE A DEMONSTRATION OF DARWINIAN EVOLUTION IN ACTION.” (my emphasis)

    Well, I never thought I’d see a statement like that on UD !

  3. 3

    duncan said,

    “They share many traits with the wild horses noted above and PROVIDE A DEMONSTRATION OF DARWINIAN EVOLUTION IN ACTION.” (my emphasis)

    Well, I never thought I’d see a statement like that on UD !

    That is DARWINIAN MICROEVOLUTION — not DARWINIAN MACROEVOLUTION.

  4. Larry Fafarman (3)

    Oh, OK. Thanks.

  5. I still don’t really get this post.

    As I understand it, Darwinist theory holds that evolution has no objectives. It says that living things evolve randomly, and the mutations that provide advantage prevail. If the advantage accrued from natural evolution is only x%, against an advantage accruing from human-managed evolution that is > x%, so what?

    When humans interfere in breeding there is no dispute that there’s an outside intelligent agent contributing to the process. What relevance does this have to the contrary situation i.e. no definable intelligent agent?

  6. A few things here.

    Duncan, I have made the claim that 99.5% of the species on the planet have arrived by Darwinian processes. I have no estimate of the actual number but the large percentage of species are just trivial difference from each other (e.g. 300,000 beetle species, 2,000 chiclid species) and Darwinian processes is the most likely source for their origin. It is a major misconception to think that this is not true. As Larry Fafarman has said it is Darwinian macro evolution that is in question and has no support not micro evolution.

    So it is reasonable to recognize that natural selection is a viable process for the origin of most new species.

    All these breeds of horses are just one species. And while kept isolated they form separate populations and separate gene pools but are still one species. Some of the gene pools will be bigger than others and different gene pools will have different sets of alleles. If these populations are allowed to interbreed than the gene pools will expand. If they are separated even further and bred for certain characteristics the gene pool will contract. Think of all the dog breeds.

    If they are let out into the wild the gene pool will probably fluctuate, expanding at first and then contracting some as natural selection favors certain allele combinations. There may also be an occasional mutation that could add to the gene pool. But again there would be only one species.

    But none of these changes will probably produce a new species only variants of the basic species. If there were no human intervention then maybe after thousands of years there might be some circumstances that would cause the inability to interbreed and then there would be a new species.

    A final point is that there is no accepted definition of just what a species is. Every definition proposed has problems.

  7. 7
    sagebrush gardener

    Sorry, I can be a little dense at times, but what was the point of this article? Even YECs accept that limited variation within “kinds” can occur due to either natural or artificial, human-directed selection. All I got out of this is that different characteristics are selected for between wild horse populations and domesticated horse populations, a point that seems obvious and non-controversial. Nature selects for characteristics that enhance survival in the wild while humans select for characteristics that are desirable in some way to humans. What am I missing?

  8. sagebrush gardner,

    You are missing nothing.

  9. From the article:

    “Intelligent causes can mimic unintelligent ones when they choose to do so. But unintelligent causes cannot mimic intelligent ones.”

    I think that’s the point, folks. At least the point I got!

  10. 10

    bFast

    What the article did not discuss was the Darwinian doctrine of sexual selection. It is well believed, for instance, that the reason the peacock has its tail is to attract peahens. If the Darwinian community is correct, it would appear that sometime in ancient history, the peahen was attracted to a large tail. The peacock took that idea to the extreme. I see no fundimental difference between the peahen getting a penchant for long tails and humans getting a penchant for particular whimsical characteristic.

    If a long tail is somehow inferior in terms of survivial, why would natural selection select a spouce that favors a long tail? Wouldn’t it select a spouce that favors a short tail? Then, the offspring are more likely to have short tails and are more likely to favor short tails and those offspring are more likely to survive. Hence, the spouces that favor short tails are more likely to have offspring that survive and they are also more likely to find a spouce since the spouces with short tails survive better. The offspring who favor short tails are also more likely to find spouces since short tails survive better. It makes no sense that natural selection would ever select a spouce that favors an inferior trait.

  11. 11

    My blog has an article about artificial selection in race-horse breeding:

    http://im-from-missouri.blogsp.....orses.html

  12. 3. ,,That is DARWINIAN MICROEVOLUTION — not DARWINIAN MACROEVOLUTION.”

    I do not know what is ,,microevolution” or ,,macroevolution”, I see these words not in biologie text. Can you please explain or show me a Link?

  13. As I said in response to another set of comments on a different post:

    “In reality, natural selection has never been anything other than a conservative force in nature, and the source of useful variations (on the schedule that is actually needed) is still missing. ”

    That is the point of Jane Harris’s post at Design of Life blog.

    After centuries, the mustang was simply a better adapted horse for living free on the North American prairie. It never developed any new traits, it simply bred back to old ones.

    That is what Darwinian evolution does. It preserves survival friendly traits.

    It is NOT a source of innovations that add complexity.

    (As Michael Behe showed in Edge of Evolution, it can be a source of the LOSS of complex traits quite easily. )

    The true source of innovations is not what Darwin, currently glorified in museum exhibitions, thought.

    We should try to find it rather than defend his exploded theory.

    And the hagiography is a public scandal.

  14. 14

    Abdul Alhazred.. I KNOW you are excited about Berlinski’s THE DEVIL’S DELUSION. But you just have to wait for it like the rest of us.

  15. 15

    This link might tide you over till April 1st.

    http://www.randomhouse.com/cat.....96266.html

  16. Ahmed Aouin,

    There are no good definitions of micro evolution and macro evolution. Micro evolution is much easier to understand and essentially means a change in the frequency of the alleles in a gene pool. It essentially means that nothing new has arisen in the alleles of a population and if it has, it is a trivial addition. Micro evolution essentially reshuffles the genes in a population as its members adapt to environmental changes.

    Macro evolution has no good definition but essentially means that major changes have happened to the gene pool of a population such that the members have developed new capabilities because of complexity added to the organism in question. It is best illustrated by example: bats with wings and echolocation, giraffes with complex adaptive blood pressure system, birds with wings and unique oxygen systems, mammals with four chambered hearts and warm bloodiness, humans with speech and increased intelligence, whales and other cetaceans with unique features for living in water, insects with wings etc. There are thousands of such examples and they are very different from the small changes that created most of the world’s species for which nearly all can be explained by Darwinian processes and are really the result of micro evolution.

    There are a lot of species which used to be considered the result of macro evolution but which are probably just due to micro evolution working over long time periods. A lot of fish and birds and many mammals that are physically very different may be the result of micro evolution operating over millions of years and all they have done is essentially made small changes in their genomes but have produced some dramatic changes in their appearances. It will not be known just what has caused the changes till these genomes are compared which will probably be some time in the future.

    So there are many species that are the obvious result of micro evolution and many species which cannot be explained by any naturalistic means and others which fall in between and it will probably be years before any obvious origin is demonstrated.

  17. leo,

    you said

    “Which then raises the question as to exactly what distinction this essay made as it basically said that evolution and intelligent designers are equally inacapable of developing new traits.”

    How did you ever come to that conclusion? The original gene pool is best explained by an intelligent designer and in the gene pool some very different traits appeared. The rest gets played out over time by natural selection except where humans have interfered.

  18. Ahmed Aouin, let me try for a slightly more formal definition.

    Microevoution is defined by biology as evolution within a species. Macroevolution is defined as evolution that spawns a new species.

    However, when Jerry (8) says:

    A final point is that there is no accepted definition of just what a species is. Every definition proposed has problems.

    he is fairly correct. Two groups of animals have come to be seen as being of separate species “if they do not normally interbeed.” However, if I take a pair of rabbits onto an island, by this definition they are a separate species because the do not normally interbreed with the mainland rabbits.

    The ID community sees “macroevolution” in a different light than mainstream biology does. We see macroevolution as evolution requiring new information.

    I have proposed that the ID community respect the fact that the biological community already has a much less significant definition for the term. I have proposed that we develop a new term rather. I have proposed the term system-evolution. Evolution that involves the development of new systems. This is the true point of contention that ID has with the neo-Darwinian model of evolution.

    We tend to see species in a separate light also. By the original definition of species, two groups are separate species if they cannot interbreed to produce offspring that can reproduce. However, as Jerry stated, this definition has all manner of trouble too. The line between species is just difficult to draw.

  19. Denyse wrote, “After centuries, the mustang was simply a better adapted horse for living free on the North American prairie. It never developed any new traits, it simply bred back to old ones.”

    I totally agree. The mustang is a mongrel breed of the escapees. In Australia we have a similar scenario, but we call then Brumbies. The Brumby has been created by the mixing initially of many British horses, including, draught horses, mixing it with Arabians and Thoroughbreds, and also throughout the desert and highlands (Australian Alps) of Australia.

    What has been the result of a couple of centuries breeding? A similar scenario as that found in America. The survivors are those that can sustain an existence in the wild, and the ‘refined’ aspects created due to human intervention suffer as they are not useful in the harsh environment.

    “It never developed any new traits, it simply bred back to old ones.”

    Yup

  20. The primary question then is WHAT is the actual source of new traits in evolution.

    It is NOT Darwin’s natural selection. Darwin was simply wrong.

    An immense industry seems to have grown up, defending what is essentially a scam.

    Neither in the lab, as Michael Behe has demonstrated nor in the wild, as the Australian brumbie and the North American mustang demonstrate, do we get new traits, just durable versions of the old ones.

    There is a great discovery awaiting the scientist who can put aside the thick fog and coke bottle glasses of Darwinism, and determine the true source of new traits.

  21. Denyse

    I must admit that my knowledge of Darwinism is something like High School level i.e. not sophisticated, but – in anticipation of their objections to your post – wouldn’t a Darwinist say that (i) there are thousands of transitional fossils, and (ii) these all demonstrate that evolution is the source of new traits?

  22. “It never developed any new traits, it simply bred back to old ones.”

    How do we know if they are the same ‘old traits’ if we have yet to determine the genetic foundation of those traits.

    Here is an experiment for IDers: Genotype these animals and determine if the alleles that cause these traits are the same, i.e. old traits are bred back, or are different, i.e. new alleles in different genes (or potentially the same genes) cause similar phenotypes.

    Until these studies are done, the conclusion of a return to ‘old traits’ is premature.

  23. leo,

    These types of studies have been going on for years by the biology community. They are ID studies and are just not thought of as such. Even the researchers do not know they are conducting ID research. And so far there has been radio silence from them on the finding of new alleles or gene combinations that are novel and complex. That says more than anything. There is a nobel prize in it for anyone who does find such a combination.

    Besides there would be reports from those who have observed the horses if there were anything that was new and complex about them. Maybe there is something that is so far hidden but it is unlikely nothing more than just the reshuffling of the genes that the modern synthesis has always predicted. It is all it has ever shown.

    All you are trying to do is take a pot shot at the obvious. Load your gun up with something more intelligent.

  24. jerry,

    You don’t know what causes these specific phenotypes, nor do I. Before one makes any assumption either way, wouldn’t it be best to figure that out?

    If the traits are caused by a reversion back to the ‘old’ state, then Ms. O’Leary’s conclusion is correct. If, however, the traits are due to changes in different genes or new alleles of the same genes than the opposite conclusion would be warrented and this would be a case of convergent evolution, correct?

    So, it is a simple task. Do the research and then come up with the conclusions. It a simple formula and one usually has a stronger argument if you have data to back yourself up when all is said and done.

  25. Leo,

    You apparently do not understand the debate. You can only get what is in the gene pool. Nothing will ever be exactly the same but what appears comes from the gene pool. The statement of reverting to the original is probably an over statement but reflects that the new wild will be very similar to the old wild and not to the selective breeds that were designed.

    Convergent evolution is a concept that does not apply here. It is relevant to unrelated species that develop the same characteristics starting with unrelated gene pools. If the capability is within the gene pool then one could not call it convergent evolution.

    The neo Darwinists have been doing this research for years and what they get is what was there before. Otherwise you would have been hearing a lot of different stories.

    I suggest you read the Arthur Conan Doyle story, “Silver Blaze.” In it is the famous tale of the dog barking in the night. Except there was no dog barking and that is how the mystery was solved by Sherlock Holmes. It is the same behavior here. No Darwinist barking means no changes that mean anything. It’s human nature. Darwinist like to bark so when they don’t, it is telling.

    You can do the same on this blog. When people do not bark it means they have no objection to what is being said. It is very telling. We have many Darwinists here who never bark or only bark at trivia or minutiae. As I said it is very telling.

  26. There are two leo’s here. Leo the biologist and Leo Stotch. So I will have to be careful with how I address my comments since I used just “leo” for each.

  27. leo stotch wrote:

    Well, at least until the breed a Darwinist with a life span of millions of years.

    Hey leo,

    Why are millions of years needed? Isn’t the number of generations more important than an arbitrary absolute number of years? (If not, what do the years themselves add, except for more breeding/generation opportunities?)

  28. Atom:

    Why are millions of years needed? Isn’t the number of generations more important than an arbitrary absolute number of years?

    While the number of generations is the point, the length of generations of the wild horse is measured in years. If you need lots of generations you need lots of years. If you have lots of years, which you do, then you have lots of generations.

    Now, natural selection is never given credit for providing new information, for creating new traits. That is the role of random mutation, or Non-Foresighted Variation, to keep Allen MacNeill happy. The process of producing new traits via random mutation takes lots of generations. Lots of generations are required to pull off good traits amongs the mutational accidents. Lots of generations are required for natural selection to filter out the bad, and filter in the good. This is the theory of evolution. We may as well begin by understanding the theory, then start disassembling it.

    Again, natural selection doesn’t produce new traits, random mutation produces new traits. Random mutation, filter by natural selection takes many generations. With horses, many generations takes many years.

  29. bFast,

    I appreciate your point, but here is what leo stotch was responding to:

    The neo Darwinists have been doing this research for years and what they get is what was there before.

    I didn’t see a reference to horses in particular in there, and leo’s reply was more general than just horse generations. He seems to imply that millions of years are necessary to see any significant change in the lab, which is why I wanted his clarification.

    I don’t disagree with you on horses. But leo’s point seems more general.

  30. Thanks for responding leo.

    His response was the very simple answer that the virus “changes over time.”

    Yes it does. I think we can see change in the lab, since the number of generations is what matters, not the absolute amount of time. Viruses reproduce very quickly, producing more generations in a human lifetime than all the generations of mammals that have ever existed.

    So if we don’t see enough major, functional, morphological change by unguided mechanisms with that many generations of virii (or bacteria), then it is implausible to assume Darwinism as an explanation for the functional morphological change we see in mammalian history, which have had far less generations (opportunities for change.)

  31. Yes, Atom, I think you are right on this one. This seems to be the heart of Behe’s case in “The Edge…” We do see viruses evolve some, we see bacteria evolve a little bit. However, we don’t see in either the kind of change necessary to manage the blood-pressure issues in the giraffe. We don’t see the kind of changes necessary to produce the bovine digestive system. We don’t come close to seeing the kind of changes that are required to turn a four-legged beast into a whale.

    Evolution by natural means happens. The case for evolution by natural means being adequate to explain the last 60 million years of mammal history (at the end of the era of dinosaurs, mammals existed but had very little variety) is sketchy to say the least.

  32. 32

    Doesn’t Behe say in The Edge of Evolution that naturalistic evolution only has the power to distort the original design?

    Or something like that?

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