"Censorship of anti-Darwinism" draws troll?
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Searching for "censorship by Google of anti-darwinism" led to me to reddit.com and from there to creation.com and a relevant quote from Google's internal guidelines. I signed off at reddit by quoting those guidelines: Google has made public the internal guidelines used by their evaluators to judge search results quality. Buried deep in this document on page 108 is this innocuous statement:
The following should also be rated "Fails to Meet" because they lead to very poor and upsetting user experiences: …
● Pages that directly contradict well-established scientific or medical consensus for queries seeking scientific or medical information, unless the query indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.
I had my answer: Google does feel entitled to suppress anti-Darwinist opinions.
My quoting of these guidelines drew the following reponse:
[Google does feel entitled to suppress anti-Darwinist opinions] Because "anti-Darwinism" (You're just anti-evolution) is wrong and stupid and therefore google doesn't link people who want factual information to your site. Google also doesn't link people to flat earth sites when people search for earth
[I was directed to creation.com.] No, you searched some shit and then clicked on the site that you thought aligned with your views
[Pages that directly contradict well-established scientific or medical consensus for queries seeking scientific or medical information, unless the query indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.] Yea google doesn't link to known bullshit unless the user themselves searches for the bullshit. Evolution is real, everyone aside from a few dumbasses know it's real and therefore google doesn't show pages saying it's not real.
Is this trolling? Or a representative of the people?
Modern evolutionary theory is a myth
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We need a secular origin story, but is this the best we can do?
Darwin came up with his mechanism for evolution backwards, said his mentor Sedgwick. He came up with his theory first, then gathered evidence to support it. The result was a ramshackle bundle of assertions nicely skewered by Gertude Himmelfarb in her 1959 book "Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution," Part V.
Founders of the modern synthesis followed the same strategy. They too came up with assertions first, about genetics mainly, to provide them with entities they could apply mathematics to. They came up with random mutations, essentially random damage to existing genes, that by manifesting themselves in the phenotype would present targets for natural selection. They assumed genes contributed independently to the course of evolution and so their individual effects could be summed statistically, as the effects of atoms can be summed statistically to account for pressure in a gas.
The resulting "population statistics" became the basis for modern evolutionary theory. When evolutionists are challenged on some aspect of natural selection or mutation they typically claim their theory rests not on those concepts but on population statistics itself. But I believe those statistics were based on selection and mutation, by Ronald Singer for example, and if garbage went into the maths through flaws in the assumptions behind it then we can expect garbage to come out. And in books like Pigliucci and Kaplan's book "Making Sense of Evolution," even though their intent is to prop up the modern synthesis, garbage does seem to be all that’s come out.
So I regard the modern synthesis as not theory based on science, but an origin story based on mythical entities. Then the most appropriate questions are, what natural philosophy is being supported by the story, and what is its relation to our other origin stories?
While he was speculating about evolution Darwin read a review of Auguste Comte's "Positive Philosophy," one in a series of books Comte wrote in support of his reductionist thesis, that all scientific knowledge should be based on sciences at a more fundamental level. According to John Stuart Mill's account of Positivism, scientists were to omit any consideration of "volition, natural or supernatural." This omission of human volition might be essential for experiments to repeat precisely each time, but the effect could be to exclude human volition even when it was a vital part of the object of study, as in the case of human evolution it certainly was. By limiting himself to only purely physical mechanisms, in accordance with Positivist principles, Darwin illegitimately excluded human consciousness, creativity and free will from his tally of what a theory of evolution had to account for.
Scientific acceptance of Darwin's purely physical mechanism ended up denying any physical reality to human mental powers. This shielded Positivism from having to account for those powers, making Darwin's mechanism of natural selection very precious to scientists basing their work on Positivist principles. Taken as a myth, Darwin's theory supports Positivism and the natural philosophy based on it, physicalism.
Of course, this put Darwin's theory in opposition to Christianity, for which the mental powers Darwin omitted were vital components of the soul. Creationism is an origin story created to justify belief in the soul, in which God functions as the primary supporting myth.
This raises the possibility that other myths might be created to support other natural philosophies. I'm engaged in coming up with a theory of evolution able to account for consciousness, creativity and free will to serve the natural philosophy scientists like to call "folk psychology." Google "darwin vs galileo" for a video sample.
Appendix: what's mythical in modern evolutionary theory?
Natural selection implied a continuous source of variation, to replace the variations selection eliminates as it operates. By taking such a source for granted, Darwin was in effect calling on a mythical agent such as the Ancient Muses, able to prompt creation of variations at will, out of nothing.
For this source of variation population statistics would later conjure up the concept of random mutations to genes. No other source of variation now need be considered, any genetic variation found could be assumed to originate through random mutation. In fact, though, even if mutations exist they do not survive into the phenotype at random; the results of gene duplication undergo an extremely powerful repair process, so what is presented to natural selection is no more than whichever particular kinds of damage survive the repair process. And some genes are thought to be so essential they are conserved, protected from mutation; if so, then clearly mutation is not all random. If some of it is not random, perhaps none of it is.
To make mutations suitable for feeding into population statistics equations, they are divided up into categories: lethal, harmful, neutral and beneficial. For those equations, lethal and neutral are ignored—they are included only to give an air of authenticity. Harmful mutations are those that reduce fitness, beneficial mutations are those that increase fitness. Both survive in the gene pool, subject only to the effects of natural selection. Equations can now be written that sum up the effects, generation by generation, of the effects of natural selection on beneficial and harmful mutations. It is granted that random damage to the specs for a very complex living creature are much more likely to be harmful than beneficial. So in the absence of a beneficial mutation the much greater number of harmful mutations are bound to accumulate generation by generation, thwarted only slightly by natural selection, leading to a rapid increase in harm and speedy extinction.
Particularly mythical is the beneficial mutation. Such mutations will be favored by natural selection in every generation, so there is a similarly slight tendency for them to increase in incidence over many generations, until eventually they become the primary allele at their location. However, since this would take very much longer than it would take the harmful genes to drive the species into extinction, presence of a beneficial mutation must somehow banish all those harmful mutations, or render them impotent—the mechanism is not specified.
Beneficial mutations are as mythical as unicorns. If a change to a gene appears, whether on not it is beneficial cannot be established until millions of years have passed (except for micro mutations in labs, that I discount). Suppose a gene for salt tolerance is identified in elephants, is that a favorable mutation? Or neutral? Or is it noise in the system, amounting to harm? Only a time traveler could tell—do elephants take to the sea in ten million years? The concept of a mutation being beneficial is a myth, similar to the square root of minus one, created solely for insertion into an equation.
The use of myth in the modern synthesis has the same function, I believe, as natural selection alone—to support physicalism. Physicalism as a belief system requires that our evolution employ only purely physical processes. Since we’re probably several hundred years from coming up with the concepts necessary for truly understanding evolution, myth is the best we can do, and any myth that can be concealed behind a wall of impenetrable statistics can serve the cause of physicalism, for the time being.
Logical flaws in darwinism
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How elementary could the flaws in Darwin's logic be? How's this?
Only one or two of each living creature's progeny get to reproduce and pass on their genes (natural selection). Every few hundred million years there's a huge meteor impact. Therefore, natural selection causes meteor impacts.
Compare that with the following:
Only one or two of each living creature's progeny get to reproduce and pass on their genes (natural selection). Over millions of years species of living creatures tend to evolve. Therefore, natural selection causes evolution.
I think the logic in both is the same. Both are examples of post hoc ergo propter hoc, the fallacy of assuming that because one thing happens before another it must have caused the other.
I suspect that few people will appreciate this, because natural selection and evolution have come to seem logically linked. But let's try this another way.
Consider two worlds, both with living creatures that reproduce genetically. In both worlds creatures' genes vary and there will be a greater tendency for creatures that are better genetically endowed to survive to reproduce (natural selection). In one world, natural selection contributes very little to evolution, in the other it is the primary cause of evolution.
Is that possible? I think it is. I see natural selection logically as inevitable, it is bound to occur. But its effect could be negligible. Compare natural selection to friction in driving a car. Friction is inevitable. But must it be what drives the car? Every so often while driving a car one will park on a hill and engage the brake to exploit friction. In this instance friction helps us manage the motion of the car. But the rest of the time friction has much less effect than the engine. Similarly the effect of natural selection could be always present, sometimes beneficial, but usually with negligible effect. The mere fact that the effects of natural selection and evolution tend to operate in the same direction does not mean one causes the other.
Which world do we live in?
For a far better critique of the flaws in Darwin's work see my review of Gertrude Himmelfarb's book on the subject.
Darwinism’s implausibility tells against it.
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Our experience of successive scientific discoveries first appearing counterintuitive then proving true has prepared us to take darwinism’s counterintuitiveness as an indication of its truth, when in fact it should warn us darwinism is false. I show why below.
The more implausible the better?
Darwinism shocked the bourgeoisie. Then so did quantum theory. And the Big Bang. And black holes. And string theory. All at first seemed shockingly counter-intuitive, obvious fallacious. But time and again we were forced to yield, in time coming to savor the violation of our assumptions, until we began to yearn for each new raping of our credulity by this stern logic: the more implausible, the more likely to be true.
By this standard, multiple implausibilities in the theory that genetic mutation and natural selection together drive evolution (“darwinism”) can make it seem plausible overall. But sometimes such logic could lead us astray. Each additional implausibility should make a theory less plausible, rather than more.
I’ll take the claims supporting darwinism, one by one, and lay out the fallacies I see behind them. Together they add up to darwinism being one big fallacy.
Claims behind darwinism
- The variation natural selection acts on to drive evolution originates in random damage to genes.
- Random damage to genes could make creatures specified by these genes better adapted to their environment, hence more likely to survive, which will increase the incidence of those genes in the gene pool.
- Evolution is driven by the increase in the gene pool of beneficial genes.
- The accumulation in the gene pool of the greater number of harmful genes resulting from genes being damaged at random can be ignored.
- Over a long enough time, the increase of beneficial genes in the gene pool will amount to macro-evolutionary benefits such as elephants growing trunks and humans becoming able to speak.
Below, the fallacies I see invalidating these claims, taking the claims one by one.
The variation natural selection acts on to drive evolution originates in random damage to genes.
Fallacy 1. Natural selection acts on random damage to genes.
Not necessarily. Damage to genes is repaired by extremely efficient repair mechanisms in the nucleus of the cell before characteristics coded for by those genes are exposed to the action of natural selection. Changes to genes that get exposed to natural selection originate in either small subsets of damage not fixable by that mechanism or other non-random origins.
Fallacy 2. Natural selection acting on mutations results in the genetic changes associated with evolution, that drive evolution.
Not necessarily. Just because mutation and selection cause changes to the gene pool, and we associate evolution with changes to the gene pool, doesn’t mean one is the cause of the other. The changes associated with evolution could originate through some entirely different mechanism. Evolution may even not be driven by genetic changes, they could be a mere byproduct of whatever does drive it.
Imagine a world in which evolution is not driven by mutation and selection; those physical processes are still bound to occur even though they're no longer the driver. Their mere existence doesn’t prove that the changes they make to the gene pool are those associated with evolution.
This fallacy resembles the post hoc proctor hoc fallacy: because such and such happened first (selection) and something else happened afterwards (evolution), then selection must have “caused” evolution. No, no connection between them has been established.
Random damage to genes could make creatures specified by these genes better adapted to their environment, hence more likely to survive, which will increase the incidence of those genes in the gene pool.
Not necessarily. First, damage is much more likely to make genes harmful, making members of a species less adapted overall and leading to its extinction, beneficial genes, gene pool and all.
Second, because most genes will be harmful, beneficial genes must occur alone; additional mutated genes are likely to be harmful and result in no net adaptive benefit being presented to natural selection. But if beneficial genes must be presented to natural selection without any accompanying harmful gene, they will be very rare, maybe less than one per generation if the number of harmful genes is vastly greater. The impact of so few beneficial genes may be so small as to be unmeasurable.
Evolution is driven by the increase in the gene pool of beneficial genes
That random damage to genes can result in them being beneficial is postulated by darwinists but can’t be more than a hypothesis. Only millions of years later when you can tell evolution’s taken place could you tell if a gene has been beneficial, at which time it is impossible to know if what made the gene beneficial originally was random damage. The argument is circular: mutation/selection leads to certain genes (“beneficial”) accumulating in the gene pool; evolution is found to be associated with genetic change; therefore evolution is due to these “beneficial” genes. Faulty logic.
The accumulation in the gene pool of the greater number of harmful genes resulting from genes being damaged at random can be ignored.
This is flagrantly illogical. Obviously, unless natural selection is close to 100% efficient in favoring beneficial over harmful genes, the contributions of the much more numerous harmful genes will predominate and lead to rapid extinction.
Over a long enough time, the increase of beneficial genes in the gene pool will amount to macro-evolutionary benefits such as elephants growing trunks and humans becoming able to speak.
The first fallacy here is ignoring that selection is for individual genes providing some small benefit today, instead supposing it can select today for the genes that in a remote future will be needed to support some entirely new major benefit, such as growing a trunk or adopting a marine lifestyle, involving thousands of genes all working in concert. This would be like Aristotle supposing final causes drive material causes, or Plato supposing the forms—“cat,” “dog”-- actually drive the evolution of species of cats and dogs.
Another fallacy is supposing all the changes needed for the evolution of something like the elephant’s trunk can be selected for through the selection of mutated genes one at a time in the order they’re needed within mere tens of millions of years. Even that may not be long enough. Some possibilities, such as a chimp typing the works of Shakespeare, may take longer than we’ve time available. Elephants in each lifetime generate only around three times as many individuals as needed to replace themselves, that is they expose to natural selection only two individuals for culling for each survivor in each 50-year lifetime. In such a species, could all the genes needed to grow a trunk and spread it throughout a species appear through mutation and selection of particular genes in the right order in mere tens of millions of years? Assuming it’s possible is a fallacy.
Some changes that are conceivable may not even be possible. There’s no way a hurricane in a motorbike junk heap could generate a spaceship because the junkyard won’t contain the necessary fuel. Similarly, it just may not be possible for mutation/selection in microbes to generate elephants, no matter how long you allow them to operate. Assuming it’s possible at all is another fallacy.
Telling against Darwinism are all the disproofs above, stripping plausibility from each and every claim made for it. But supporting darwinism is yet another widespread fallacy: darwinism must be true because living creatures do evolve. To see that as a fallacy you have to be ready to. But until you do, none of the others are persuasive. I know that.
How writing a play highlighted two fallacies in Darwinian evolution
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I've just rewritten a small section of a play I perform for students involving a conversation between Darwin and Galileo. Darwin is describing how random damage to genes can act as variation for natural selection to work on. Galileo follows up by asking a question.
DARWIN: What makes it work is natural selection. Every once in a while, just by chance, the result of damage [to the genes] will actually be an improvement. Natural selection will keep selecting in favor of each of those improvements until there’s enough of them to provide some entirely new benefit, like an elephant’s trunk.
GALILEO: All that’s needed to make an elephant’s trunk, you say, is enough genes that, despite having been damaged, provide each some particular benefit for which they continue to be selected.
I think you may have left something out. Think what you are asking of the living creature! It must take all those genes, each one providing its own small benefit, and turn them into machinery so perfect that together they now fashion some entirely new benefit, even something as complex and intricate as an elephant’s trunk, not just in the adult but at every stage along the way.
What an amazing feat of engineering that is, out of such crude and unpromising materials, to fashion such exquisite machinery!
Here’s my question. Given that they have such an amazing capability to re-engineer their own genes, why do these creatures need those genes to be damaged, in the first place? If they must be damaged first the creature clearly has the capability to damage them itself, just the ones it wants, whenever it wants. So, my second question is --since a living creature is so capable an engineer of its own genes, why do you need some other mechanism to damage its genes, at random, in the first place?
DARWIN: No, no, you’ve got the process all backwards. It’s the random damage that pre-engineers the genes, so they come all ready to fit exactly into the machinery. That's what they get selected for; they don’t have to be selected for something else while they wait to be made part of the machinery, they arrive exactly when they’re needed. Random damage can engineer genes as precisely as you like, provided you allow enough time. Oh, wait a moment, then they can’t arrive exactly when they’re needed. There seems to be some kind of contradiction here. I must be missing something. I’ll think it up right now.
(Pause.) Oh, I can’t do this on the spur of the moment. I can’t explain it, even to myself! (Dejected, to Galileo) OK, you win.
I propose that Darwin, along with evolutionists in general, is guilty of a couple of fallacies. One is the fallacy that the products of a random process modified by a filter (a stochastic process) can amount to a design process of any degree of complexity in less than the duration of the universe. An example is, can a chimp banging away on a typewriter keyword compose the entire works of Shakespeare? Yes, but not in less time than the duration of the universe. Here's another example: How long will it take a hurricane centered over a vast motorcycle junk yard to blow together a four-stroke, four-wheeled, car capable of being driven out of the junk yard? Here even eternity might not be long enough. That's because of a second fallacy: the eternity=plausibility fallacy. Some things just aren't possible even if you set a random process to work for eternity, despite how potent an eternity of randomness seems (to some people). The hurricane in a motorcycle junk yard will never blow together a rocket capable of going to the moon because the junkyard doesn't contain the necessary fuel.
So how about genetic mutation and natural selection? Could they in combination "evolve" an elephant's trunk in, say, 10 million years, Suppose it takes two thousand alterations to genes to code for the trunk, they get supplied one at a time as single-gene mutations, and they are needed in a particular order. If elephants live for around 60 years we have 5000 years per mutation, or around 80 elephant lifetimes. The efficiency of natural selection is so low that to alter the frequency of a gene mutation it probably has to be presented to natural selection around 80 times, or once per lifetime in the breeding population. Each female averages six offspring (according to Darwin) so natural selection has only a couple of culls per elephant that survives to operate with. With each mutation a particular point mutation has a one in three billion chance of expressing itself. I can't do the math, but to me this seems orders of magnitude short of plausibility.
That's an indicator of fallacy 1, belief that the products of a random process modified by a filter (a stochastic process) can amount to a design process of any degree of complexity in less than the duration of the universe.
Now fallacy number 2. Starting with bacteria, can you through mutations of bacterial genes over any period at all create the bone, muscle, gristle and nerves needed to make a mammalian leg? Possibly, no. The potential of bacterial genomes may not include being turned by single-point genetic mutations into mammalian tissues. But proponents of the creativity potential in random processes may judge yes, just because of the intoxication induced by contemplation of the productivity of random processes operating over millions of years. And they're the ones who insist that the rest of us cannot possibly appreciate what's possible in a million years!