Post to Congressman Pete Stark re Darwin Day

I write about your proposal to establish Darwin Day. Please allow for the opinion that Darwin does not merit such recognition, on grounds apart from creationism. Evolution had been fully disclosed in 1844 in "Vestiges..." Darwin's main claim to fame is the mechanism he proposed for it, natural selection. But this failed by not accounting for the variation it needed to work on. Genetic mutation does not solve this problem, the great preponderance of harmful over beneficial mutations not being reversable by such an inefficient process as natural selection. Darwin's theory was promoted by others to break the Church of England's grip on tenure at universities and entry to the professions in 19th C England. I urge you to keep science separate from politics and social movements. It would now be embarrassing to have celebrations of Locke for Associationism, Watson for behaviorism or Galton for eugenics. A celebration of Darwin for what is still an unsupported hypothesis could similarly be embarrassing. Darwin should be judged as a scientist, not used by social groups jockeying for public support.


#4 Shaun 2015-02-01 02:20
In support of my assumptions, I refer to Julian Huxley's "Evolution: The Modern Synthesis." He refers to harmful mutations, relative to beneficial mutations, as being in the great majority. That sounds to me more like 100 to one than ten to one. And in an exercise he supplies a value for the efficiency of natural selection of 2 or 3%. I take that to be the ultimate authority re the modern synthesis, I use his assumptions. I think yours are out of line.

My apologies for not replying sooner. I seldom get comments, and did not get an email that you'd replied. I'm delighted to get your comment.
#3 Tomato Addict 2013-10-28 03:34
Reposting comments originally made at the request of Mr. Johnson to review this post:

>"According to how the modern synthesis ..."

This opening sentence has three significant errors, so I can't tell you it's a good opening.

>"But unless natural selection is 100% efficient this is not possible."

This second sentence is your thesis. You should open with it.

>"I propose we assume harmful mutations start out 100 times as prevalent as beneficial mutations."

That's OK, and if the overall mutation rate is high, then your thesis would be correct: Life could not survive if harmful mutations are strongly prevalent. The difficulty is you are assuming a very high overall mutation rate and/or ignoring neutral mutations.

For my convenience, I'm changing the assumption to Harmful mutations are 10 times as prevalent as Beneficial ones, and a 99% overall mutation rate:

Beneficial mutations = 9%
Harmful mutations = 90%
Neutral/no mutations = 1%

This would quickly kill off any population subject to this mutation rate. It's not mathematically stable, and the species cannot even successfully reproduce over time. The species quickly dies off.

Now let's do this again with an 11% mutation rate:

Beneficial mutations = 1%
Harmful mutations = 11%
Neutral/No mutations = 89%

In this setting, 11% of offspring will have some harmful mutation, and to will have fewer offspring. 89% of the new generation will be essentially the same, carrying on the species (making it mathematically stable). 1% of offspring will have some potentially beneficial mutation, and will tend to have more offspring.

Key point: If the overall mutation rate is low enough for species to survive, then beneficial mutations always propagate in the population.

In summary, your thesis is true given your assumptions, but your assumptions are not reasonable. The mathematics of evolution and mutation rates as a sort of search algorithm for genetic fitness are not too hard to demonstrate. Richard Dawkins (in)famously did so with his WEASEL algorithm.
#2 Shaun 2012-10-20 08:26
September 30 I issued a press release through PRweb saying I had received no response to my letters sent in May to the NAS committee. In the three weeks since I posted the release this page has had around 230 visits but I've received no response. I'm disappointed user rating remains at 1. Is it not worth more than that?
#1 Shaun 2012-06-03 04:07
May 3, no answer yet from any of the 14 committee members I sent letters to, except for an acknowledgment of my letter by Gil Omenn.

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