Tuesday, 29 June 2010

How evolution does NOT work

Can anyone spot what is wrong with this description of evolutionary 'outcomes' from the BCC's "Science and Environment" pages?
Several prehistoric creatures developed elaborate body traits in order to attract members of the opposite sex, according to new research.
BTW I'm not blaming the researchers or questioning evolution per se, but this sort of presentation is typical of the muddled thinking that prevails in the popular mind.

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24 comments:

  1. It's basically completely and utterly backwards in cause and effect with atheistic evolution - it makes the driving force pragmatism (making it out to be a chosen path, like cosmetic surgery), not pure chance. Of course, this has a ton of metaphysical implications.

    It's not like these dinosaurs got something in order to attract the opposite sex, it's that they had a genetic mutation that the opposite sex were attracted too. Unless, of course, there was some sort of guiding force, directing evolution other than sheer chance (I'm not going to make any statement as to the truth of any theory here), then the BBC has twisted the science in order to make a better story.

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  2. It's a sort of semi-Pelagian evolution where the organism makes the decision to change, for its own benefit.

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  3. They fall back into lamarckism.

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

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  4. Simple - according to Neo-Darwinism, *nothing* is developed "in order to" enhance survivability in any way - any change simply *happens* through mutation and some of these *happen* to aid survival in any given or postulated environment. There is no mind - animal, human or divine - directing the process.

    R. Dawkins

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  5. R Dawkins: '"change simply *happens* through mutation'. Handy, eh?

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  6. Tess wrote

    "It's a sort of semi-Pelagian evolution where the organism makes the decision to change, for its own benefit."

    This sounds very much to me like Anglicanism...

    Chris Bishop
    Devon

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  7. Random mutation in the DNA undoubtedly causes the body of an animal to change, usually with a negative outcome. But how does one prove that all change in the DNA is by random mutation? It is genuinely difficult to prove. That, however, does not mean it is untrue!

    Yours

    Tim Ward, W Sussex

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  8. Surely this is no different to peacocks today - why the fuss? The mate with the biggest display (an more pedestrian example being the dark brown 'bib' of the male common sparrow, the bigger and darker the bib the more testosterone the bird has - hence likely to be stronger).

    Ken Simpson
    Altringham

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  9. "R Dawkins: '"change simply *happens* through mutation'. Handy, eh?"

    Just so! :) (h/t Kipling!)

    R. Dawkins

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  10. Dawkins, nice irony with the Kipling!

    What I like is the way the Big Bang just *happened* to contain the perfect conditions for the compound eye - and blogging.

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  11. I think the main thing wrong with it is pointed out by this question:

    How did they reproduce until they had made themselves attractive to the opposite sex?

    All the other things pointed out by the commentators are also true, of course. But unless they developed their elaborate body traits the way my son hopes to develop his biceps, they had to be sufficiently attractive to the opposite sex to begin with IN ORDER TO develop these elaborate body traits.

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  12. They may have just been very dutiful
    (John - I can comment from other pcs, just not my own, it would seem)

    Darren Moore
    Tranmere

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  13. "What I like is the way the Big Bang just *happened* to contain the perfect conditions for the compound eye - and blogging."

    Well, it has been said that millions of monkeys typing for millions of years would eventually come up with the works of Shakespeare.

    We now know form the internet that this is not true.
    R. Dawkins

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  14. 'FROM the internet' - curse you, inner monkey!

    R. Dwakins

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  15. A disciple of Jesus.

    'In the beginning of creation, God made them male and female' Mk ch 10 v6. I guess the Creator knows more than the creature, why don't we listen to His explantion as to why and what sexaul attraction is?

    S Bazlinton

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  16. Dawkins,

    "We now know form the internet that this is not true."

    I think you've just shown rather neatly why the monkeys hypothesis has nothing to do with anything when it comes to getting from the Big Bang to you or me.

    Even when there is an intelligent us doing the typing, typos happen. I think it is John Lennox who provides a mathematical demonstration of why the monkeys are irrelevant.

    The other problem is, of course, first you need your monkeys and typewriters ... and a concept of 'Shakespeare'.

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  17. Tess has put her finger on what is wrong with the quotation. The verb uses the active voice when it should use the passive voice: according to evolutionary theory, no organism is an active subject in its own evolution. Development is something that happens to it, not something it does. But as Romans 1:18 shows, the finger prints of the creator are all over his creation, and we all recognise this, even though we try to suppress it. So we smuggle the language of design and intention back in by talking of organisms "developing" their own characteristics.

    Stephen Walton
    Marbury

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  18. I just don't believe in an "R. Dawkins"

    Darren Moore
    Tranmere

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  19. I think that, to be fair to scientists, most of them when pushed will admit that when talking about natural selection as an active rather than a passive process (on the part of the species concerned) they are talking symbolically. However, they often forget this when talking informally. But then, extreme biblical literalists often do the same thing!

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  20. 'How did they reproduce until they had made themselves attractive to the opposite sex?'

    'How do homosexuals reproduce?'

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  21. OK, full disclosure: I'm not really R. Dawkins. The 'infinite monkeys hypothesis' isn't true.
    Life didn't come from outer space ('panspermia').
    The chance of life 'happening' by accident is asymptotically zero.
    There is no evidence of a multiverse.
    Science depends on mathematics - but mathematics isn't 'natural', it's intellectual in character (h/t: Kant).
    Science depends on non-scientific reasons to be true.
    (not) R. Dawkins

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  22. Not the real Richard Dawkins? Dammit! I think I'm pretty much with you on the other statements, though.

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  23. Never mind about the sexual attractiveness of big beaks and bulging biceps. How about the green spoonworm which hosts 20 males inside her uterus for life as she lives at the bottom of the Med. This makes reproduction a cert and an effortless doddle.

    S Bazlinton

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