Jun 09 2010

Is Evolution Science?

Evolution is, undeniably, a science. It is not only science, it is a robust and highly successful line of research and a powerful explanatory model.

But there remains confusion in the public as to exactly what it means to be scientific, on both sides of the evolution/creation debate. Even, at times, among proponents of evolution. The following comment to a recent blog post expresses some of this confusion.

Using the scientific method as the criterion, neither creation nor evolution is an established scientific theory. Evolution is stuck on the 3rd step of the 7-step process, establishing a testable hypothesis. After 150 years, the evolution hypothesis is still being “tweaked” and the 4th step, testing the hypothesis has not yet occurred. As of this date, no peer review publications have been presented that go beyond more observations or modifications to the hypothesis. So, why is evolution being pushed as a “fact”? The scientific method also requires that a proposed principle be “falsifiable”, that is, there is a method to prove the hypothesis false. Since creation is based on the existence of God, and God cannot be proven by science, it is a matter of philosophy or faith, not science. Actually, evolution suffers from that same deficit and is, until the falsifiable requirement is met, more of a philosophical speculation than a scientific theory. An excellent resource regarding the creation-evolution debate can be found at http://sechumanism.blogspot.com/p/secular-humanism.html

The author of the comment is Patrick Vosse, and the “excellent resource” he links to is a blog with a single blog post promoting his book, Secular Humanism. Perhaps he was referring to the book itself. Either way, given that he gets this one point so hopelessly wrong it is difficult to consider his writing even minimally informative let alone a reliable resource regarding evolution.

He claims that evolution is not science because it has not fulfilled the seven steps for “the” scientific method. While that article “the” is often used in haste when referring to scientific methodology (I am sure I have done so occasionally) it is misleading to speak of “the” scientific method as if it is one thing. In fact, science encompasses a range of methods.

The seven steps Vosse is referring to go something like this:

But this is a grade school cartoon of the scientific method, useful for giving students an overview to help them with their science fair project, but not as a starting point for serious philosophical discussions about empiricism.

Often a scientific investigation will begin with an observation, or even an idea. Most relevant to this discussion, the “test with an experiment” bubble is very narrow in its concept of how science progresses. The bubble should really read, “test the hypothesis.” Experimentation is only one way to test a hypothesis. Another way is to see if it is compatible with existing knowledge, especially established laws of nature. If a hypothesis violates the laws of thermodynamics, you can probably chuck it.

Further, you can test hypotheses by making further observations. Observational studies are a critical part of medical science and all historical sciences. We cannot build suns in a laboratory, but we can observe how they behave.

Evolution is largely an historical science, and so much of the hypothesis testing has been observational. But there is also a great deal of experimental data that supports evolutionary theory

Vosse wrote:

“As of this date, no peer review publications have been presented that go beyond more observations or modifications to the hypothesis.”

This is a rather bold, and entirely false, assertion. Vosse clearly does not know the first thing about evolutionary science. There are countless published observational and experimental studies that support various aspects of evolutionary theory – common descent, natural selection acting on variation brought about through mutations and recombination, and the specific relationships among organisms. Much of this evidence is summarized at talkorigins.org. But just to give one example, the long term E. coli experiments of Richard Lenski are a dramatic counter example.

Vosse next brings up the related issue of falsifiability, and claims (again, falsely) that evolutionary theory, as currently formulated, cannot be falsified. This claim is just astounding, and again demonstrates that Vosse should not write about topics that he knows functionally nothing about.

Since Darwin there have been thousands of opportunities to falsify evolution – to deal the theory such a major blow that it would have to be abandoned or at least significantly modified. Evolutionary theory has survived every such challenge. For example, Darwin introduced his theory of natural selection before genetics were discovered. The lack of a known mechanism of inheritance was a serious problem for Darwin. It is most significant that Darwinian evolution requires the persistence of favored traits – not the unlimited dilution of such traits in the larger population. Genes – discrete units of inheritance that are not diluted with reproduction but can be copied intact – provided a mechanism that allowed for Darwinian evolution.

The whole of genetics also supports common descent – the pattern of base pairs and the amino acids they code for are found in an exquisitely evolutionary pattern. Common descent could have been destroyed by looking at the genes of organisms, but instead genetic analysis has provided its strongest support.

The geographic and temporal pattern of fossils also supports evolutionary theory. As J.B.S. Haldane famously quipped – all it would take to falsify evolution is a single rabbit skeleton in a Precambrian layer. We have never found the equivalent of a Precambrian rabbit.

Vosse’s comment that the evolution “hypothesis” is still being “tweaked” is such a non sequitur it’s difficult to know what to even make of it. Scientific theories tend to be modified and tweaked over time – that does not make them less of a scientific theory.

Conclusion

The meme that evolution is not testable or falsifiable is a persistent one, despite the fact that it has been knocked down over and over again by those who actually know what they are talking about. I doubt my humble blog post will end this meme – fighting pseudoscience is often like an endless game of whack-a-mole. But at least I can do my part in giving this one mole a good whack.

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398 responses so far

398 Responses to “Is Evolution Science?”

  1. CaldenWlokaon 09 Jun 2010 at 9:02 am

    “If a hypothesis violates the laws of thermodynamics, you can probably chuck it.”

    I actually just read an excellent quotation by Arthur Eddington the other day along this point:
    “If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”

  2. Pinkyon 09 Jun 2010 at 11:07 am

    Steve, I share your frustration and I think a lot of it arises from the well known proverb, “Attack is the best form of defense.” which is all that anti-evolutionits, creationists, and so on, have to fight with.

    However, what I find comforting about this is that with every attack skeptics are forced to re-consider what the best response is for that argument.

    I feel like the defense of the scientific method as the valid approach is slowly asymptotically approaching something infinitely rigid – i.e., the only approach.

    In the meantime I’m going on the Duken Diet… (new diet, selling loads of books and resources, next article topic for you!)

  3. EmilKarlssonon 09 Jun 2010 at 11:08 am

    The blog comment that Dr. Novella is responding to is actually a comment that is being posted on many other blogs. I myself has gotten it on at least three different posts on evolution in the past week.

    Excellent dissection, as usual.

  4. SpicyCupcakeon 09 Jun 2010 at 12:03 pm

    It sounds like an advertising ploy for the book. Catch the creationists who are digging into posts that are about evolution and redirect them to your great new book telling them exactly what they want to hear. It is a very Glenn Beck style move and reeks of contempt for their audience. That is my “optimistic” view of the situation. I really prefer to think that people who write books like this know they are either full of it or really stretching to sell things.

    The problem is that day to day when dealing with people I don’t have a ton of references in my back pocket (though I’m starting to think I should). The amount of misconceptions the average person has in my area (Western Kentucky) is staggering. I have just gotten to where I’m shying away from so many topics since pseudo science seems to be turning into a web of misconceptions.

    “I’m doing this diet because (insert misconception of evolution, chemistry, and physics) and that’s how it works!” Now to explain to them how their diet really works or doesn’t work, or loses weight while doing damage, they won’t listen until you have corrected all of their misconceptions in these areas. Without demonstrating you know more than their beloved “Guru” on the subjects he confused to justify his potentially harmful advice, your friend takes his word over yours. This confuses me, since not long ago there was a study showing that people trust their friends over scientists. Why does this get by passed by a “Guru”? Is it an implicit trust or an abuse of certain personality types? Possibly their friends are the one that told them about it and that trust was transferred to the “Guru”?

  5. TimonTon 09 Jun 2010 at 12:19 pm

    If you read the entirety of the post at the “Secular Humanism” blog and the description of Vosse’s book, it’s clear he is a Christian apologist seeking to demonize Humanism.

    From the book description: “The debate is diverting Christians been from their evangelical mission. And there is a third player in this drama, one that sits in the background and manipulates both the Creationists and Evolutionists like puppets -Secular Humanism. ” [sic]

  6. SpicyCupcakeon 09 Jun 2010 at 12:28 pm

    #TimonT To be honest scrolled down the titles on the page and saw the last two. After that I only gave it a quick skim at best.
    “THE HUMANIST/PROGRESSIVE AGENDA”
    That sounds like a very Glenn Beck tag line and selling point.
    “HOW CAN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY MEET THE HUMANISM CHALLENGE?”
    This told me that it was not just a confused fellow, but someone with an ideological agenda that is opposed to evolution. What I insert behind that is a lack of desire for honesty. If they threw a conspiracy theory in the mix it does not surprise me at all.

  7. locutusbrgon 09 Jun 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Ah Yes the Psuedoscience circle of life continues…

    1. Fabricate and state as fact

    2. Ignore Objections.

    3. Dismiss facts as inconclusive

    4. Logical Fallacy

    5. GOTO 1

  8. locutusbrgon 09 Jun 2010 at 12:34 pm

    oops I forgot.

    1.5. Sell you something useless possibly dangerous.

  9. Sastraon 09 Jun 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Evolutionary theory has survived every such challenge. For example, Darwin introduced his theory of natural selection before genetics were discovered. The lack of a known mechanism of inheritance was a serious problem for Darwin.

    I once found a quote on evolution by Henry James, who was a contemporary of Darwin:

    “Evolution is a change from a nohowish, untalkaboutable all-alikeness, to somehowish and in-general-talkaboutable, not-all-alikeness, by continuous somethingelsifications and sticktogetherations.”

    Scientific explanations get more precise over time. James’ description, on the other hand, sounds very much like the current understanding of the mechanisms behind special creation, homeopathy, and energy healing.

  10. RickKon 09 Jun 2010 at 3:52 pm

    I’m very tired of religious apologists that are so very comfortable with lying.

    Here is a guy, Patrick Vosse, who states obvious falsehoods to draw people to his initially and intentionally misleading website, all as a ploy to sell his book.

    And while he is being deceitful, he probably pats himself on the back for being a good advocate for his religious beliefs.

    In the words of Lauren Becker in one of her wonderful Point of Inquiry editorials – “Stop lying!”.

  11. VRAlbanyon 09 Jun 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks Steve! You do good work by delving into these arguments and dissecting them. I will come back to this entry for reference, and even cite it if needed when I run into this argument in the future.
    The “evolution isn’t science” tactic is even more damaging than the old favorite, “it’s just a theory” approach. It covers a broader range of people to dupe.
    The latter finds favor with those who have absolutely no understanding of [the] scientific method (and usually have no interest in gaining an understanding anyway), while those who have the beginnings of a scientific education, or at least half paid attention in high school, will also be susceptible to the former.
    Usually people in the first group won’t ever resolve their misconceptions, but it’s a real pity when those who want to understand science are so shamelessly misled by shills like this guy.

  12. Rikki-Tikki-Tavion 09 Jun 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you Steve. You seemed to loose your usual distance here a little (tiny) bit.

    That’s refreshing every once in a while.

  13. rokstatueon 09 Jun 2010 at 5:35 pm

    And a good whack it is!

    Seriously, STOP LYING! If one feels even the slightest of doubts, it’s so easy to check some basic facts instead of asserting (while ignoring) that gnawing feeling.

  14. SARAon 09 Jun 2010 at 6:32 pm

    If you can get a book published, you are an expert. It doesn’t matter if the information you provide is true or not. Its in black and white and we know that information you look up in a book is true. Because when we went to school, all of the answers were in the book.

    In order to change the gullibility of the public we need to teach critical thinking and questioning attitudes from 1st grade through Phd.

    Sometimes the books are wrong. Sometimes the teachers are wrong. I think our natural diffidence toward people we perceive as authorities on a subject make us too willing to accept their words. We learn that in school. It hurts us in adulthood.

    I don’t just want to stop creationism from being taught…I want critical teaching to be taught. If we teach critical thinking, having creationism in a text book won’t be nearly as bad. It might even help the cause of recognizing false authority.

  15. Pinkyon 09 Jun 2010 at 9:22 pm

    @SARA, I think you’re describing one of the most well known logical fallacies: argument from authority. Just because an authority figure says so doesn’t mean it’s true.

    As things become more complex we rely more and more on authority figures. There almost needs to be a record kept of “People you can trust.”

    It’s also well-known that part of our brain function permits us to be controlled – i.e., be led into a war you might not survive. “Argument from authority” exploits this brain function.

  16. ccbowerson 09 Jun 2010 at 11:25 pm

    The idea that this guy is probably convincing to a lot of people reminds me of the problems with textbook inaccuracies. I remember in school learning things about the scientific method in elementary and middle school textbooks that are simply wrong. Not only did we learn a similar diagram about the scientific method as demonstrated, but also a relationship between results of the tests and the development of a scientific theory and scientific law. Apparently this misinformation was spread to a lot of folks, as many people still get confused on this point.

    Of course many of us know that a theory is just an explanation of a phenomonon (and has nothing to do with the validity of the science), and is a separate concept from scientific law (which describes a fundamental concept in science). It appears that some people still think there is a progression from theory to law, when in fact they are two distinct terms that are not describing the same things.

  17. anatotitanon 10 Jun 2010 at 9:15 am

    @Pinky

    “However, what I find comforting about this is that with every attack skeptics are forced to re-consider what the best response is for that argument.”

    Kind of sounds like evolution itself! As the creationists get fatter and fatter, sauropod-like, on their nutrient-poor diet, we theropods will respond in kind, with stronger jaws, larger claws, and more calculating minds.

    To the sauropods in the audience: I apologize for any anguish caused by this metaphor.

  18. Adam_Yon 10 Jun 2010 at 9:47 am

    If a hypothesis violates the laws of thermodynamics, you can probably chuck it.
    I have been thinking about for a while and I realized that a bunch of pseudoscientifc and conspiracy nonsense can be invalidated solely on the violation of the second law. Homeopathy violates the second law of thermodynamics. Nanothermite has issues that have never been addressed with the second law of thermodynamics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostwald_ripening). It would really be hilarious if there were more examples.

    Evolution is stuck on the 3rd step of the 7-step process, establishing a testable hypothesis.

    I would really love to corner one of these people in real life. While I am not a biologist I can’t for the life of me imagine how they would dance around how my chemistry research doesn’t fit their definition.

  19. Calli Arcaleon 10 Jun 2010 at 3:54 pm

    If a hypothesis violates the laws of thermodynamics, you can probably chuck it.

    It’s amazing how much woo specifically violates the laws of thermodynamics, as opposed to violating something else. Of course, Creationists will sometimes claim that evolution violates the laws of thermodynamics, but this is because they are applying those laws inappropriately. It seems there is a great deal of confusion in the general public as to what the laws of thermodynamics mean.

    My favorite expression of this sort of thing comes from Akin’s Laws, though, which are more oriented towards engineering (particularly spacecraft engineering) than science, but generally applicable.

    19. The odds are greatly against you being immensely smarter than everyone else in the field. If your analysis says your terminal velocity is twice the speed of light, you may have invented warp drive, but the chances are a lot better that you’ve screwed up.

  20. Paisleyon 11 Jun 2010 at 11:13 am

    Steven Novella: “Evolution is, undeniably, a science. It is not only science, it is a robust and highly successful line of research and a powerful explanatory model.

    Evolution as a historical fact is undeniable. But does the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution explain all the observable data?

  21. Paul N.on 11 Jun 2010 at 1:14 pm

    @Paisley
    I’d rather agree that evolutionary theory needs some progress.

    @Calli Arcale
    Although the ruling evolutionary theory does not contradict the second law of thermodynamics if considered in an open system, thermodynamic does not outright explain increasing complexity of biological systems during evolution. Thus thermodynamic needs some amendments too for these two powerful theories to better cooperate.

    @Adam_Y
    “Nanothermite has issues that have never been addressed with the second law of thermodynamics.”
    I’d like to learn more about it. I cannot see the relation between nanothermite and Ostwald Ripening. I guess it is consistent with my ideas about evolution and thermodynamics.

    @Steven
    Last but not least, you did a great job, but admittedly it is much easier to argue in favor of something that is widely accepted and has a lot of followers already, and whose opponents don’t fear to enter the discussion. By contrast, it is much more difficult, to introduce something new, when the opponents shy away and keep silent.

  22. bindleon 11 Jun 2010 at 6:08 pm

    “Steven Novella: “Evolution is, undeniably, a science. It is not only science, it is a robust and highly successful line of research and a powerful explanatory model.”
    Evolution as a historical fact is undeniable. But does the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution explain all the observable data?”

    Don’t substantive questions like this deserve at least a perfunctory reply?

  23. BillyJoe7on 12 Jun 2010 at 2:03 am

    Paisley and his little echo,

    Steven is probably wise enough to realise that that question is actually an answer framed as a question.

  24. bindleon 12 Jun 2010 at 2:48 am

    Let’s hope he’s wiser than you could hope to give him credit for.

  25. BillyJoe7on 12 Jun 2010 at 3:11 am

    Come clean Paisley/bindle,

    You have an unstated agenda that drives which cherries you pick; and you see everyone who has the skills to paint the big picture as a target for your proselytising rather than as a source of knowledge and understanding.

  26. bindleon 12 Jun 2010 at 3:24 am

    Right on cue. Seems someone’s afraid the answer might be more than he can handle.

  27. BillyJoe7on 12 Jun 2010 at 7:06 am

    Paisley/bindle,

    The presumed answer doesn’t matter. It is worthless. What matters is the subterfuge of framing this worthless answer as a seemingly innocent question. The conceit is in expecting a response from someone far wiser and well up to the game being played here.

  28. bindleon 12 Jun 2010 at 12:07 pm

    “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

  29. ccbowerson 12 Jun 2010 at 12:17 pm

    “Don’t substantive questions like this deserve at least a perfunctory reply?”

    Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb are back at it again with their valueless comments (you two can decide who ends in -dumb).
    No it deserves no reply, and was given the proper treatment. We have heard these same things before.

    “Evolution as a historical fact is undeniable. But does the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution explain all the observable data?”

    The modern understanding of evolution is not constrained by the definitions and labels you throw out there, and it is (like all scientific theories) somewhat work in progress. This is not a flaw at all, as this does not imply that it not a well fleshed-out theory, but the details are being adjusted as more information is obtained. You are constantly implying that not all observable data can be explained, yet you don’t elaborate in a concise way what isn’t explained. Anything not explainable in any theory would be a big deal and would result in reevaluating and tweaking of a given theory. Your implication is that we have a stagnant theory that must be replaced if new data doesn’t fit, and that’s not how science works.

  30. bindleon 12 Jun 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Another sacrificial pawn to the rescue. Is this what they’re afraid of?

    “Purpose is a quality that you attribute to an entity or idea by looking at the outcome, and is not something intrinsic to that entity or idea.” ccbowers

    So much for knowing how science works.

  31. ccbowerson 12 Jun 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Typical tactic of taking a quote out of context and not answering a direct question. The “you” in that quote is you-Bindle and your use of the word “purpose.” I am glad to see you’ve taken a liking to the quote. I like how you imply that my quote has anything to do with science… it doesnt it was a comment about your use of words.

    But, please inform us on how the modern theory of evolution doesn’t explain the data we have. For any data that doesn’t fit would be interesting. I won’t hold my breath that this information will come from you or that this will communicated concisely.

  32. bindleon 12 Jun 2010 at 12:58 pm

    We’re holding our breath for an answer to the original question. Have you presumed to answer it for Steven?

  33. Paisleyon 12 Jun 2010 at 2:25 pm

    ccbowers: “The modern understanding of evolution is not constrained by the definitions and labels you throw out there, and it is (like all scientific theories) somewhat work in progress. This is not a flaw at all, as this does not imply that it not a well fleshed-out theory, but the details are being adjusted as more information is obtained.

    I am not questioning evolution as a historical fact, I am simply questioning whether the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution (this is not my label) explains all the observable data.

    ccbowers: “You are constantly implying that not all observable data can be explained, yet you don’t elaborate in a concise way what isn’t explained.

    This is not true. I am not “constantly implying” anything. I simply asked one question – namely, “Does the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution explain all the observable data?” (That’s a fair question, that’s a relevant question to this thread, and that’s a question worthy of an honest response.)

    ccbowers: “Anything not explainable in any theory would be a big deal and would result in reevaluating and tweaking of a given theory.”

    Agreed.

    ccbowers: “Your implication is that we have a stagnant theory that must be replaced if new data doesn’t fit, and that’s not how science works.

    I merely asked a simple question: “Does the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution explain all the observable data?” I expect an honest answer, not histrionics.

  34. Paisleyon 12 Jun 2010 at 2:41 pm

    BillyJoe7: “You have an unstated agenda that drives which cherries you pick; and you see everyone who has the skills to paint the big picture as a target for your proselytising rather than as a source of knowledge and understanding.”

    My agenda is to dismantle the mechanistic and materialistic worldview which this particular blog is promoting as a scientifically established fact. If that is a point of contention for you, then you should not subject your views in the market place of ideas.

  35. bindleon 12 Jun 2010 at 4:39 pm

    ccbowers, if that quote of yours was taken out of context, could you then explain how these are not in fact your views? Because they’re completely consistent with the mechanistic and materialistic worldview that Paisley just referred to. And with Steven Novella’s own insistence here that evolution doesn’t have or serve a purpose in nature.

  36. BillyJoe7on 12 Jun 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Paisley,

    “My agenda is to dismantle the mechanistic and materialistic worldview”

    That’s the obvious bit.
    But I’m talking about your hidden agenda.

    “which this particular blog is promoting as a scientifically established fact.”

    I’ll correct you for about the sixth time:

    Materialism is the *assumption* of science.
    True, science and has been producing natural explanations for putatively supernatural phenomena for 400 years. True not a single supernatural explanation has stood the test of time. True, the fruits of this assumption are legion, and surround us at every turn.
    But, still, materialism remains the *assumption* of science’

    Okay, I admit it, we are getting pretty close. :)

    “If that is a point of contention for you, then you should not subject your views in the market place of ideas.”

    My point of contention is your agenda of destroying materialism (hey, can you make Kilimanjaro lie down?) whilst keeping your own philosophy safely hidden from view.

    I simply asked one question – namely, “Does the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution explain all the observable data?” “

    Pull the other one.

    You are not seeking knowledge and understanding, you stand poised with, what you think is a sledgehammer but, in reality, is just a little tooth pick.

    …but, let me tell you, Maxwell has a silver hammer, and it has your name on it, and it’s coming down upon your head. As soon as you have the balls to stick it out.

  37. BillyJoe7on 12 Jun 2010 at 6:15 pm

    bingle,

    “We’re holding our breath for an answer to the original question.”

    We’ve been holding our breath for months.
    We now have Lamarckism.
    (Thank you for that :) )

    Still holding on for the crackpot philosophy that drives it.
    (Oooh, I can’t wait :D )

  38. bindleon 12 Jun 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Purposive Darwinism

  39. CWon 12 Jun 2010 at 7:54 pm

    “Purposive Darwinism”

    Did Ben Stein and Deepak Chopra have a baby together? Trying to make science accountable to hollow words?

  40. ccbowerson 12 Jun 2010 at 8:03 pm

    “ccbowers, if that quote of yours was taken out of context, could you then explain how these are not in fact your views? Because they’re completely consistent with the mechanistic and materialistic worldview that Paisley just referred to.”

    These are not my views because I don’t use ‘purpose’ like you did here:

    “Purposive Darwinism”

    Please elaborate on the mechanism for this, or is it part of your philosophy that mechanisms don’t need to exist? Is purpose your god?

  41. bindleon 12 Jun 2010 at 8:51 pm

    ccbowers,
    Simply put, mechanisms exist to serve the organism’s purposes. How many times do I need to repeat that before you can grasp that at least I said it.

    And to which you then said: “Purpose is a quality that you attribute to an entity or idea by looking at the outcome, and is not something intrinsic to that entity or idea.”

    And how are those not your views if you views are consistent with the mechanistic and materialistic world view you are desperately defending here?

    And consistent with those of yet another stooge popping up to speak for Steven Novella, as if Steve is somehow at a loss to deal with Paisley’s simple question.
    Again, do you jokers really think you’re capable of speaking for him?

    And here’s another dopey giveaway of yours that makes my case instead: In asking if I hold that mechanisms don’t ‘need” to exist, you’re inferring that you of course know they need to. And what pray tell is their need if not their purpose?

  42. Paisleyon 12 Jun 2010 at 9:09 pm

    BillyJoe7: “I’ll correct you for about the sixth time:

    I suggest you correct Steven Novella; he is the one whom conflated the so-called “materialistic paradigm of science” with science itself.

    BillyJoe7: “Materialism is the *assumption* of science.

    This is not true. Historically speaking, dualism was the metaphysical assumption, although “natural philosophy” (i.e. science) was confined to natural (i.e. physical) phenomena. Decartes is actually the father of the mechanistic philosophy (a historical fact that materialists do not seem to appreciate).

    BillyJoe&: “You are not seeking knowledge and understanding, you stand poised with, what you think is a sledgehammer but, in reality, is just a little tooth pick.

    I’m still waiting for a response to my question: “Does the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution explain all the observable data?” Hitherto, no response from the materialistic perspective was forthcoming. Why is that?

  43. Paisleyon 12 Jun 2010 at 9:25 pm

    ccbowers: “These are not my views because I don’t use ‘purpose’ like you did here:

    The deterministic worldview of materialism (which is based solely on efficient causation) precludes teleological (i.e. purpose) explanations.

  44. bindleon 12 Jun 2010 at 9:34 pm

    “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.”
    Jonathan Swift

    True in Darwin’s time and still true about his legacy today. Darwin realized intuitively that Finches and Giraffes evolved to better suit their present needs and purposes. And he set about to prove that with his theory. Which he did quite well until the dunces managed to convince him that his purposes be damned for lack of such a mechanism.

    And now we’ve come to find that such mechanisms abound in nature, with purposes to match, and the dunces still confer and fulminate.
    Present company not excepted.

    Is Steve Novella one? No, but I think he’s found a good spot on the fence to watch the spectacle.

    (I see that Paisley has skewered a couple of dunces in the nonce, but what the hell, there’s plenty to go round.)

  45. ccbowerson 12 Jun 2010 at 9:35 pm

    “Simply put, mechanisms exist to serve the organism’s purposes. How many times do I need to repeat that before you can grasp that at least I said it.”

    Umm thats not what I meant. You didn’t answer the question. If the modern understanding of evolution is inadequate in some fundamental way, and you have some greater insight in your mind, through what mechanism does it occur. If you have a “new” mechanism how is it “better” than our current understanding. What does it predict that is different?

    “Does the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution explain all the observable data”

    No one is addressing the question because it is an unfair one.
    -First we have to define “neo-darwinian,” which is a term I don’t like much because it has had different meanings over time, and is not a term that is consistently used by the people you label as such (note that no one else here has self identified themselves in this way).
    -The other problem with the question is that it requires the person answering the question to know all the observable data. Since no one here is omniscient, no one is answering the question.

    Here are concise and very answerable questions for you:

    What major observations are not consistent with the prevailing modern understanding of evolution? How is this better explained by whatever theory you prefer?

  46. Eric Thomsonon 12 Jun 2010 at 10:45 pm

    cc is right, ‘neo-darwinism’ is anachronistic jargon in this day of evodevo and such. His final para is a much better way to put it.

  47. bindleon 12 Jun 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Evodevo? Another euphemism for a mechanism that still requires a disconnect between cause and purpose in the explanation. Otherwise our latest mechanistic stooge wouldn’t know or dare to mention it.

    You lackeys need to get out of the way and let Dr. Novella answer Paisley’s question. It’s completely fair and all of you should know it.

    There are no conditions to be met before he answers that are yours to make.

  48. bindleon 12 Jun 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Although Steven did say the following in an earlier post:
    “I understand why it might be disconcerting to think that our own behavior, especially our deepest emotions, were crafted by blind selective forces maximizing genetic transfer into future generations.”

    That blind selective forces thing is a bitch to fit an evodevo purpose to.

  49. Paisleyon 13 Jun 2010 at 12:42 am

    ccbowers: “No one is addressing the question because it is an unfair one.
    -First we have to define “neo-darwinian,” which is a term I don’t like much because it has had different meanings over time, and is not a term that is consistently used by the people you label as such (note that no one else here has self identified themselves in this way).

    If there is another term that you prefer (e.g. the “synthetic view of evolution” or the “modern synthesis”), then please state it.

    ccbowers: “The other problem with the question is that it requires the person answering the question to know all the observable data. Since no one here is omniscient, no one is answering the question.

    No, this is not necessarily true. And just to clarify, do you know of any observable data that the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution fails to explain?

    ccbowers: “What major observations are not consistent with the prevailing modern understanding of evolution?”

    That’s what I am asking.

  50. Paisleyon 13 Jun 2010 at 12:53 am

    Eric Thomson: “cc is right, ‘neo-darwinism’ is anachronistic jargon in this day of evodevo and such. His final para is a much better way to put it.

    This is simply a diversionary ploy.

    Following the development, from about 1937 to 1950, of the modern evolutionary synthesis, now generally referred to as the synthetic view of evolution or the modern synthesis, the term neo-Darwinian is often used to refer to contemporary evolutionary theory.[7]

    (source: Wikipedia: Neo-Darwinism)

  51. BillyJoe7on 13 Jun 2010 at 12:54 am

    bindle,

    “Purposive Darwinism”

    No, that is a euphemism for Lamarckism and is a description of your favoured brand of evolutionary science.
    Can we please have the philosophy that drives you to favour Purposive Darwinism/Lamarckism, call it what you will.

    (I say “drives your science” because the data are so meagre that a tooth pick will do to dislodge it)

    Still holding my breath though. ;)

  52. BillyJoe7on 13 Jun 2010 at 1:03 am

    paisley,

    Paisley asked: “[D]oes the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution explain all the observable data?

    ccbowers asked: “What major observations are not consistent with the prevailing modern understanding of evolution?”

    Paisley: “That’s what I am asking.”

    Okay then, let me answer the question with as much innocence as you asked the orignal question:
    None.

    ;)

    (Maybe now we’ll get a response from you listing the data you think destroys the Modern Synthesis. Either that or we can stop right here, enjoy the view, and whistle dixie)

  53. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 1:41 am

    Eric explained it this way: He said all you need to know is that the data, left to its own devices, will rot the odd Australian brain.

  54. ccbowerson 13 Jun 2010 at 2:28 am

    “That’s what I am asking.”

    That is not what you asked- you said clearly all the observable data, which is all the data that can be observed.

    “This is simply a diversionary ploy.”

    This is not a ploy. Words must be precise when we are discussing topics such as these. Its not being overly pedantic… its a necessity to have meaningful conversations.

    You apparently view wikipedia as some authoritative source on terminology. Well you should have read the whole entry where it points out the problems with the term “neo darwinian” since it was coined in 1895. Modern evolutionary synthesis is better, but I’m not sure any distinctions are necessary. It is evolutionary theory… anything different should distinguish itself, not the other way around.

    Ploys? Using wishy-washy words, vague terminology, and loaded questions are the real ploys here. The ploys exist to hide your true motives, because so far, after thousands and thousands of words, we only know what you criticize (even that is vague). What is the alternative theory? YOU should point out the data that doesn’t fit, because you are the one that thinks such data exists.

  55. BillyJoe7on 13 Jun 2010 at 5:42 am

    little echo,

    “Eric explained it this way: He said all you need to know is that the data, left to its own devices, will rot the odd Australian brain.”

    But still no data.
    And still no philosophy.
    (You think perhaps we havd all you guys – Paisley, artless Dodge, and little echo – figured?)

    :)

  56. BillyJoe7on 13 Jun 2010 at 6:35 am

    ORegarding terminology.

    The terms are often used loosely but, in general, the following applies:

    Darwinism: Natural selection
    (but inheritance of acquired characteristics not ruled out)

    Neo-Darwinism: Natural selection + Mendelian inheritance
    (inheritance of acquired characteristics ruled out)

    Modern Synthesis: Natural selection + Mendelian inheritance + Population genetics
    (inheritance of acquired characteristics ruled out)

    But let’s get past the terminology argument.

  57. ccbowerson 13 Jun 2010 at 10:25 am

    Regarding terminology: I think the terms listed above are important for describing the theory of evolution over time, but it has limited value when we are talking about current evolutionary theory.

    The reason why BillyJoe7′s response “none” is correct is that over time any data that didn’t quite fit was either later explained by more data, or it resulted in a new understanding. This is how science should be done. We don’t have rigid theories that we have to cling to (this is precisely why NeoDarwinian is misleading to use), but we adjust to new data. There is no major anomalies out there to take down the modern understanding of evolution… there are people out there frantically looking, and the things they come up with are laughable.

    If you want to believe that giraffes willfully grow their necks long because it suits their needs of reaching leaves, and this happens to fit nearly perfectly with the theory of evolution then…ok, but what is the mechanism for this? Magic?

  58. ccbowerson 13 Jun 2010 at 10:28 am

    I asume that it is understood who that last entry is written to: The philosophers Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb.

  59. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 12:12 pm

    # ccbowerson 01 Jun 2010 at 11:13 pm
    
Its hard to understand because I don’t think that it has meaning or utility scientifically. Its hard to understand because these terms have different meanings in different contexts. Choices are acts made by entities. They don’t “do” anything, such as find a purpose. Purpose is a quality that you attribute to an entity or idea by looking at the outcome, and is not something intrinsic to that entity or idea. Your perception of purpose says more about your own perspective than anything else.

    Tweedle Doofus

  60. mufion 13 Jun 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Paisley & bindle: You might take it as a compliment that folks here are curious to learn from you: Just “what major observations are not consistent with the prevailing modern understanding of evolution”?

    Of course, that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll persuade us with your answer(s). But, at the very least, we’ll learn what qualifies in your mind(s) as a “major observation” and how you interpret (or misinterpret, as the case may be) “the prevailing modern understanding of evolution.”

    But if you wish to shield your ideas from criticism, then carry on with your vague and quizzical comments. Sooner or later, folks will just learn to ignore you (at least on this topic, if not on others, as well).

  61. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 12:53 pm

    didjeridoofus writes:

    “Regarding terminology.
    The terms are often used loosely but, in general, the following applies:
    Darwinism: Natural selection
(but inheritance of acquired characteristics not ruled out)
    Neo-Darwinism: Natural selection + Mendelian inheritance
(inheritance of acquired characteristics ruled out)
    Modern Synthesis: Natural selection + Mendelian inheritance + Population genetics
(inheritance of acquired characteristics ruled out)
    But let’s get past the terminology argument.”

    We got past it, but you determinists can’t. The correct theory as I said before is Darwinism (see above). Inheritance of acquired characteristics was recognized by Darwin and the more advanced evolutionary biologists have clearly ruled it back in.
    The long term E. coli experiments of Richard Lenski cited by Steven Novella earlier failed spectacularly to recognize that.
    Why doesn’t he cite the long term experiments of the Shapiros, Jablonkas, Margulis, Lambs, Ben Jacobs, Agutters and Wheatleys, Fodors, and so many others that I’ve referenced over and over here. Because the cherry picking was on his agenda, not mine, not Paisleys.
    So of course he won’t answer Paisley’s question. He’d have to unpick too many cherries in the bargain.

  62. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 1:21 pm

    “If you want to believe that giraffes willfully grow their necks long because it suits their needs of reaching leaves, and this happens to fit nearly perfectly with the theory of evolution then…ok, but what is the mechanism for this? Magic?”
    Another ccbowersism in the making, since nobody said they “willfully” grew anything.
    But will ccbowers now protest again that: “This is not a ploy. Words must be precise when we are discussing topics such as these.”
    Probably not because this clearly was the ploy that he’s excepted.

    So what is the mechanism for such growth and change? Why it’s simply the ability to inherit acquired characteristics. How are they initially acquired? By experience. How does experience correlate with structural change? Read the literature I’ve referenced. The data is there that Steven Novella seems to want left out.

  63. Eric Thomsonon 13 Jun 2010 at 3:24 pm

    bindle: I’m surprised you cite Fodor. He has never done a single biology experiment in his life, yet you mention his “long term experiments.” He is a philosopher whose professional career has been predicated upon a studied ignorance of how biology works, much less getting his hands dirty with experiments. His recent work is merely an implementation of this lifetime of ignorance and hyperbole about biology (starting with his book Language of Thought).

    So, leaving aside the major faux paus of mentioning Fodor as an authority on anything biological, just pick a study for us to analyze together. These are merely empirical questions, not philosophical questions. Let’s see a study. Pick one that you want to analyze with us, and we’ll figure it out together.

  64. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 3:51 pm

    I purposely cited Fodor as a source where these studies and their implications are discussed with specific relevance to inheritance of acquired characteristics, plus that his latest book was written in collaboration with an accomplished evolutionary biologist – and one who has studied preadaptive strategies if my recollection is correct. So again that was not a “major faux pas” and again you are resorting to the fallacy of necessity that one alleged mistake must flatten the soufflé.

    And since we completely disagree as to Fodor’s contribution to evolutionary philosophy, and you’re so confident these are merely empirical questions, I have no expectation that we could profitably analyze and/or figure out anything together. Been there, couldn’t do that.

  65. Eric Thomsonon 13 Jun 2010 at 4:00 pm

    I hope I don’t need to clarify that by ‘study’ I dont’ mean a Wikipedia entry. Let’s look over a primary research article that you think supports a Lamarckian view of evolution.

    Here’s a list of necessary and sufficient conditions for something to count as Lamarckian evolution:
    a) Plasticity: the phenotype of an organism X changes in a way that is not merely the unfolding of a genetic program.
    b) Nonrandom: the phenotypic plasticity is not the result of some random mutation. Rather, the change is acquired by an organism in its attempt to reach basic ends such as reproducing, getting sunlight for photosynthesis, etc..
    c) Transmission: The acquired changes are passed on to the offspring of X.
    d) Genetic change: The acquired changes in the offspring of X are heritable.

    Some explanation of the conditions:
    Note on a:
    The caveat about ‘genetic programs’is important because we need to focus on non-heritable traits. For instance, growing an arm is a change in a phenotype, but is highly heritable so we wouldn’t want to say that Lamarckianism is true just because our kids also grow arms! Also, turtle sex is determined by the temperature of egg incubation (a heritable genetic program that is sensitive to environmental cues), but we don’t want to say such a change is part of evolution.

    Note on b:
    Lamarck’s vision was of animals improving, during a lifetime, at acheiving certain ends. E.g., a plant becomes better at tracking sunlight. A bacterium becomes better at processing galactose. Note this plasticity cannot merely be part of a pre-existing turtle-sex-determination type of genetic program that has already been selected.

    Note on d:
    Without this caveat, then even cultural evolution would count as biological evolution. The emergence of the behavior of washing one’s hands would count as Lamarckian evolution.

    That won’t do. If there is no heritable genetic change in the population, then it is not evolution.

    Do folks think this is a reasonable characterization of what would have to happen for us to have an instance of Lamarckian evolution? What needs to be modified, deleted, or added?

  66. Eric Thomsonon 13 Jun 2010 at 4:08 pm

    bindle: let me get this straight. we ask for a study, after you say you have given tons of references (‘out the wazoo’ I think was your phrase) and suddenly you want to pack up and go home? Now you decide to clam up? lmao

  67. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Eric, I must have absorbed that pack up and go home ploy from watching you employ that tactic one too many times.

    So you’re not competent to locate books and papers written by these people, all of whom have academic credentials that you can only hope to earn?
    And they don’t call it Lamarckian evolution any more as too many 4th stage lab rats like yourself have used the term pejoratively.

  68. Eric Thomsonon 13 Jun 2010 at 4:44 pm

    You expect me to find a study to support your view? I’m not the expert on Lamarckian evolution you claim to be. Pick the best study, the one that will blow our minds. Demolish our myopic and 4th stage lab rat minds, force us to question our silly commitment to an outmoded paradigm of evolution.

    Enlighten us with a reference to a single refereed source. It should be easy, just pick from the oodles you have putatively already mentioned. You are the worlds expert on your philosophy of evolution, please let us in with a link to a single research paper.

  69. Eric Thomsonon 13 Jun 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I assume bindle is OK with my characterization of Lamarckian evolution, the four conditions I mentioned above. I’d be curious if the others here think it is fair.

  70. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Your characterization was deliberately distorted to make it resemble the Lamarckian views of old, building a straw man you could more easily knock down. So of course the other stooges here will gladly take their whacks at your clay footed pinata.

    As to a single refereed source, which one of these should I pick:
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/index3.html?content=publications.html
    I just can’t decide all by my lonesome – here at the top of my world.

  71. BillyJoe7on 13 Jun 2010 at 5:34 pm

    bindle,

    “Eric, I must have absorbed that pack up and go home ploy from watching you employ that tactic one too many times.”

    Your specialty is keeping your beliefs hidden.
    All the words you’ve written over the past couple of months have been directed solely at keeping your own beliefs hidden whilst attacking the clearly identified beliefs of others.
    Why? What’s so embarrassing about your beliefs that you reveal them only after being dragged kicking and screaming into the spotlight? More pointedly, what is your hidden agenda?

    How long did it take to admit in a clear precise statement, instead of by the ambiguous use of the word “purpose” surrounded by further obfuscating and incomprehensible language, that what you really believe in is The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics. Out loud now:

    I BELIEVE IN THE INHERITANCE OF ACQUIRED CHARACTERISTICS.

    There, doesn’t that feel better now?

    Of course you flat out still refuse to identify the underlying philosophy that drives your belief in The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics.

    And, I say “the philosophy that drives your belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics” because the anomalous results of a few experiments don’t amount to $#!+ scientifically, so there has to be a philosophical driver there somewhere.

    Of course you also flat out refuse to reference any such experiments, prefering instead to send us off on wild goose chases to books you’ve read and probably misunderstood, if your past history on this blog is anything to go by, or that the authors have written based on their own misunderstanding of the evidence and driven by their own philosophical beliefs.

    “So you’re not competent to locate books and papers written by these people, all of whom have academic credentials that you can only hope to earn?”

    I have not read their books, but I have read some of their papers, enough to realise I’d be wasting my time reading their books. But convince us….

    All we ask is for a single reference – your best evidence – that the inheritance of acquired characteristics is a going concern. Is that really too much to ask?

    (BTW, academic credentials sometimes don’t amount to $#!+. Names like Victor Zammit, Peter Dingle, and Gary Schwartz come immediately to mind, but that is another story)

  72. BillyJoe7on 13 Jun 2010 at 5:38 pm

    …oops, my page hadn’t downloaded the last few posts before I posted the above.

    I see we now have a reference.

  73. BillyJoe7on 13 Jun 2010 at 5:48 pm

    ..oh no we don’t!

    “As to a single refereed source, which one of these should I pick:
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/index3.html?content=publications.html
    I just can’t decide all by my lonesome – here at the top of my world.”

    What we have here is 4 book references and over 100 article references.
    I assume, having referenced them, that you have read them all.
    Off the top of your head does any one of them stick out in your memory?

    Just one that will convince us to take the inheritance of acquired characteristics seriously.

  74. BillyJoe7on 13 Jun 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Oh, I see, you are trying to impress us with Shapiro’s credentials.

    Perhaps you’d also be impressed with Gary Schwartz:

    http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/investigators/index.htm#Schwartz

    Gary Schwartz, Ph.D.
    Professor of psychology, medicine, neurology, psychiatry and surgery at the University of Arizona and director of its Human Energy Systems Laboratory. After receiving his doctorate from Harvard University, he served as a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Yale University, director of the Yale Psychophysiology Center, and co-director of the Yale Behavioral Medicine Clinic. He has published more than four hundred scientific papers, edited eleven academic books, and is the co-author, with Linda G. Russek, Ph.D., of The Living Energy Universe. His most recent book is a highly controversial study of evidence for life after death, based on a scientific investigation of communications through mediums, “The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life after Death”.

  75. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I have iterated and reiterated from the start that evolution is all about the inheritance of acquired characteristics. And more than that I’ve tried to tell you why, except to a man (Paisley excluded) you’ve argued that the whys are not important.

    I’ll try again, but I’ll have to reference that word that Eric hates to hear, but loves to mock, so this is not for him:

    http://www.biology-direct.com/content/pdf/1745-6150-4-42.pdf
    Is evolution Darwinian or/and Lamarckian

  76. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Gary Schwartz is an idiot and you’re an idiot to try to lay off that load of crap on me. Well you’re an idiot regardless so why am I surprised.

    Mufi commented earlier: ‘Paisley & bindle: You might take it as a compliment that folks here are curious to learn from you: Just “what major observations are not consistent with the prevailing modern understanding of evolution”?’

    But is it in any way a compliment that the only ones that ask are the idiots?

  77. BillyJoe7on 13 Jun 2010 at 6:51 pm

    “Gary Schwartz is an idiot”

    We agree on something! :)

    “and you’re an idiot to try to lay off that load of crap on me. “

    Actually, that was just to demonstrate that having “academic credentials” is not always a good test. ;)

  78. sethvon 13 Jun 2010 at 6:54 pm

    I’m curious, bindle, what’s your opinion of Trofim Lysenko?

  79. Eric Thomsonon 13 Jun 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Wow it was like pulling teeth to get something concrete.

    Not a primary research article, but enough to track down a substantive paper and have a real discussion about whether some systems display Lamarckian evolutionary characteristics.

    If you don’t like my characterization of Lamarckian evolution, bindle, then you are free to critique any or all of the four facets in my description. If it is a straw man, then it should be easy to point out where.

  80. Eric Thomsonon 13 Jun 2010 at 7:43 pm

    I think it would be good to focus on the CRISPR-cas system as a putative model of Lamarckian evolution. Some papers include:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/315/5819/1709

    Good review:
    http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/277/1691/2097.abstract

    My hunch is ultimately we will end up arguing semantics, but indeed the CRISPR system is really cool and definitely has some of the four hallmarks of Lamarckian evolution from my list.

    What I need to think about more is what makes this different from textbook stuff on horizontal gene transfer (or mitochondrial evolution), stuff that is already well known in evolutionary biology. I will need to read over the original papers more closely before I have a considered opinion. Ultimately this is an empirical question, and the data will provide the answers.

  81. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Eric Thomson,
    To reply to your ‘straw man’ question, i was waiting for all the stooges you invited to weigh in. So far none have. But as I’ve said before, you seem to have no concept of what a strategy is in biological terms. You’ve tried to sneak in purpose again as allegedly the achieving of some long term goal that only a fool would pretend an organism like your photosynthesizing plant or animal could possibly conceive of or connect somehow with its experiences. And only a fool would want to pretend that’s what Lamarck had argued.

    So regardless of the smoke screens you’ve tried to put up next to protect your public image, you can go piss up a rope with your duplicitous maneuvering. And tell that dummy that thinks Lysenko has some relevance to this discussion to help you do it. I’m confident you’ll both find purpose in the doing.

  82. Eric Thomsonon 13 Jun 2010 at 8:53 pm

    bindle: so it seems you dislike condition b in my list.

    What is your alternate?

    The point of condition b is that the changes in the organism, during its lifetime, cannot be a merely random accident (that would be standard selectionist type of explanation which you are trying to throw doubt upon).

    If you have read Lamarck, you know the changes need to be adaptive, that they must help the organism achieve some end. Obviously that doesn’t imply that plants have a conscious goal such as increasing its exposure sunlight (that would be a ludicrous form of panpsychism that not even Fodor would swallow). Rather, it is merely a colloqualism to describe adaptive reactions as specified in certain contexts. That’s the essence of Lamarckianism. If you actually read the article you linked to, they give a very similar set of criteria.

    So, if you don’t like my list, feel free to amend it. Or explain specifically what is faulty in my reasoning. If you are here just to say people are idiots, then have fun with that. I’m sure it will convince everyone you are right and make them see your paradigm-shattering genius.

  83. Heinleineron 13 Jun 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Eric,

    If he keeps it up enough, I’m guessing ArtfulD will just get banned yet again, to resurface later under yet another alias, continuing his rave about purpose, and continuing his relentless dismantling of us so-called Neo-Darwinists. He makes every thread with a whit of evolution in it explode to obscene lengths, which is probably annoying to Steve. It is, but it’s also kind of funny, in the sad, schadenfreude sort of way.

    Shocking that he seems to think that the Lenski experiments in some way support his Lamarckism. I could’ve sworn I explained it to him a couple months ago.

    Oh well. I shall now return to the peanut gallery. Queue further rantings with an incredibly undeserved sense of superiority and an incredibly irritating refusal to elaborate intelligibly about telos, quorum sensing, idiots, dolts, dimwits, and determinism, in five, four, three…

  84. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Eric,
    I’ve said repeatedly that these purposes are based on the immediacy of short term expectations. These organisms have no long term goals such as you specifically referred to here: “the change is acquired by an organism in its attempt to reach basic ends such as reproducing, getting sunlight for photosynthesis, etc.”
    They have no such basic ends in ‘mind,’ consciously or otherwise. Lamarck did not make those a part of your reconstructed argument at all.

    It wouldn’t bother me if I thought this was simply carelessness on your part, but you’ve tried this misdirection too many times before for me to assume you didn’t know what you were doing when you wrote that.

    Lamarck believed that change was due to purposive trial and error efforts that didn’t need to meet expectations to at least have some effective, albeit unintended, consequences. The organisms adapted their expectations accordingly. They learned from that continuous chain of trial and error experience. That learning was the heart of their adaptive system. Lamarck felt intuitively that these experiences were crucial to the selection process. So did Darwin. Neither knew exactly what the mechanisms might be, but both are turning out to be right about experience being the central and controlling factor.

    The article I linked to gave a set of criteria in no way similar to yours as far as their effectiveness would be concerned. No similarity in purposes there at all.

    Amend your list? Throw the whole thing out and start over with some effort in seeing the purposes behind the mechanisms. Even if you’re wrong you’ll learn eventually that it’s important – to at least try to find out why things happen other than that they seem to do so with consistency and therefor who cares why if they’re to some extent predictable.

    And yes, any putative scientist who thinks to make his points by duplicity is not only intellectually dishonest but an idiot to even try it. It doesn’t take a genius to see through that tactic.
    Paisley saw it and I see it. (Well he could actually be a genius, but that’s beside the point.)

  85. ccbowerson 13 Jun 2010 at 9:50 pm

    bindle-

    “stooges… fool… piss up a rope… dummy”

    I’m impressed with your vocabulary, and that was just in your last post. Good arguments.

  86. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 9:59 pm

    To the newest fool to pop up here, I’ve never been banned from any forum under any name. And as far as having anything explained to me by him, it never happened and from his intellectual tone it couldn’t. Lenski’s experiments don’t support Lamarckism. My point is they could have but he deliberately caused them not to, and got a lot of flak for that. To cite him as some authority in evolutionary science is ridiculous.

  87. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Thanks, bowers, I knew you’d appreciate my purpose there. Next?

  88. BillyJoe7on 13 Jun 2010 at 10:38 pm

    bindle,

    http://www.biology-direct.com/content/pdf/1745-6150-4-42.pdf

    ————————-

    PART 1

    First of all, this is an opinion piece, not a paper on an experiment.

    The reason we asked for a reference to a paper detailing an experiment that demonstrates the inheritance of acquired characteristics is that it is then possible to see for oursleves whether the data support the opinion of the authors.

    The fact is that the opinions of authors often are not supported by the data they produce and the only way to see if that is the case is to read the data they produce for yourself. In fact, most reviewers ignore the spin put on the data by the authors and go directly to the methods and results sections.

    The only reason they read the authors comment is to see how faithful they have been to their data and how far their comments go beyond the data thay have produced.

    ————————-

    PART 2

    Nevertheless, I suppose we have a reference to an opinion piece about the significance of three types of mechanisms which impact on the question of Lamrkian inheritance (sorry, that is their term not mine, so you can blame them), and I guess that is about the best we’re going to get. So, let’s have a look:

    From the abstract:

    “Various evolutionary phenomena that came to fore in the last few years, seem to fit a more broadly interpreted quasi Lamarckian paradigm.”

    You will note the qualifiers “seem” and “quasi”. This is continued into the descrption of the three mechanisms they use to illustrate Lamarckian Inheritance (again, their term):

    Mechanism 1:

    “The CRISPR-Cas system…seems to function via a bona fide Lamarckian mechanism.”

    Here we have only one qualifier. Instead of “seems” and “quasi”, we have “seems” and “bona fide”. So they think they have a real example of Lamarckian Inheritance. A bit like saying “I think that I am certain”

    Mechanism 2:

    “Horizontal gene transfer…appears to be a form of quasi Lamarckian inheritance.”

    Back to “seems” and “quasi” so they are hedging their bets quite a bit here. A bit like saying: “I think that maybe”.

    Mechanism 3:

    “Stress-induced mutagenesis can be construed as a quasi Lamarckian phenomenon.”

    Again they use the qualifiers “seem” and “quasi” and are essentially saying “we think that maybe” this is Lamarckian Inheritance

    ——————

    PART 3:

    So far it’s not looking good. And, of course, we haven’t seen what they mean by Lamarckian Inheritance. You, of course, need a variation that demonstrates that the The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics is directed

    So I suppose we should actually read the paper:

    “The criteria an evolutionary process must satisfy to be considered Lamarckian is” (preceed all the following with the words “change in”):
    environment -> habit -> phenotype -> genome -> inheritance.

    And you’ll love this bit about the organism’s needs, bindle:

    “great alterations in the environment of animals lead to great
    alterations in their needs, and these alterations in their needs necessarily lead to others in their activities. Now if the new needs become permanent, the animals then adopt new habits that last as long as the needs that evoked them”.

    The question is, of course, did he mean this metaphorically or literally? He also saw in nature “progress to wards perfection” and explained the persistence of primitive forms by the process of “spontaneous generation”.

    However that is Lamarck.
    Now we have..um…Neo-Lamarckism?:

    “In terms compatible with modern genetics, Lamarck’s scheme entails that
    1) Environmental factors cause genomic changes
    2) The induced changes are targeted to a specific genes
    3) The induced changes provide adaptation to the original causal factor”

    This is distingusihed from Darwinism:

    “in the Darwinian route of evolution, the environment is not the causative agency but merely a selective force that may promote fixation of those random changes that are adaptive under the given conditions”

    Unfortunately, we do not have discussion of “The Modern Synthesis”, but I suspect we’re going to find that in the what the author calls the “continuum of Darwinian and Lamarckian mechanisms of evolution”:

    “The crucial difference between “Darwinian” and “Lamarckian” mechanisms of evolution is that the former emphasizes random, undirected variation whereas the latter is based on variation directly caused by an environmental cue and resulting in a specific response to that cue”

    But the question is does that make any difference. Is the Lamarckian mechanism any less random? Is the difference merely a difference in the level at which random changes act? More importantly, for your view, is it a directed change.
    I suspect all the answers are not going to be in your favour.

    So let us see their evidence for directed change which they qualify with “seems” and “quasi” in two instances and “seems” in one instance.

    —————————–

    PART 4:
    The First Mechanism: The CRISPR or CASS system:

    Here is the mechanism:

    Virus attacks bacterium. If the virus does not destroy the bacterium and the bacterium does not destroy the virus, the bacterium might incorporate the viral DNA into its own DNA. This confers immunity by the bacterium to further attack by that particular virus.

    Where is the part of the mechanism that demonstrates that the inheritance is directed as opposed to random?
    In fact the mechanism has mostly not even been worked out:

    “most of the mechanistic details remain to be uncovered”

    Moreover, as the following quote indicates, the immunity is short lived and hence cannot be a significant mechanism in evolution:

    “A peculiarity of the CASS-mediated heredity is that it appears to be extremely short-lived…as soon as a bacterium ceases to encounter a particular bacteriophage, the cognate insert rapidly deteriorates. Indeed, the inserts hardly can be evolutionarily stable…”

    ——————————

    PART 5:
    The Second Mechanism: Horizontal gene transfer:

    “Prokaryotes readily obtain DNA from the environment, with phages and plasmids serving as vehicles…The absorbed DNA often integrates into prokaryotic chromosomes and can be fixed in a population if the transferred genetic material confers even a slight selective advantage…the most straightforward and familiar case in point is evolution of antibiotic resistance. When a sensitive prokaryote enters an environment where an antibiotic is present, the only chance for the newcomer to survive is to acquire a resistance gene by HGT.”

    This is a very well known mechanism of antibiotic resistance and amounts to nothing more than random chance. In other words, as far as we know, it is random as to whether transferred genes are helpful or harmful.

    You would have to show that the transferred genes are more likely to be helpful than harmful and you have to demonstrate the mechanism whereby the bacterium directs this to be the case.

    Also, this is not very different from what occurs when an ovum incorporates the genetic material of a sperm – a well recognised mechanism of genetic variation! – with the resulting gamete being subjected to natural selection in the environment in which it finds itself. All just random variation.

    And, of course there is the theory of the origin of mitochondria and chloroplasts (and probably also the neucleur membrane). The origin of these elements is thought to be bacteria that were incorporated whole (by phagocytosis?) into cells.

    ———————-

    PART 6:
    The Third Mechanism: Stress-induced Mutagenesis:

    “Adaptive evolution resulting from stress-induced mutagenesis
    is not exactly Lamarckian because the stress does not cause mutations directly and specifically in genes conferring stress resistance.”

    In other words, the stress-induced mutations are not directly induced by stress, and the insertions can happen at almost any locus!

    Well, that about says it all: Stress indirectly induces random changes in genes – some genes are, of course more resistant to stress and some genes less resistant, but this is also random from the point of view of the stress – and the bacterium’s gene repairing apparatus attempts to repair these genes as best it can – fighting against the mutation as it were. Some random mutations suvive to be selected for in the normal way.

    How is this not consistent with the modern synthesis?
    Where is the directed evolution.

  89. bindleon 13 Jun 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Did I say that it was directed evolution? You seem to have an either or mentality, where an organism can only have one source of direction. Directions can be indirect and be so for a reason. Inference is indirect but on balance more effective than compulsion. Randomness is essential to change – it’s what we have to take advantage of. Randomness is inferential.

    But i don’t have time for this right now. Maybe later. Go back and read the article again with the above in mind.

  90. BillyJoe7on 13 Jun 2010 at 11:30 pm

    “Go back and read the article again with the above in mind.”

    Lots of laughs, bingle. :D

    Perhaps you still haven’t sorted out what you mean by “purpose”. In which case, we sure as hell won’t be able to.

    And still waiting for that one paper that destroys the Modern Synthesis.

    …and, yeah, not holding my breadth.

  91. ccbowerson 14 Jun 2010 at 12:00 am

    Despite all of this conversation, how is any of this in conflict with a modern understanding of evolution? It is not. When the fuzzy phrases like “choice will find its purpose” are missing, the fluffy thinking is hidden.

  92. Eric Thomsonon 14 Jun 2010 at 12:01 am

    ccbowers I think your analysis of the CRISPR-cas system is right. It is interesting stuff, but no more damning to evolutionary theory than freshman textbook stuff like horizontal gene transfer and the evolution of mitochondria via endosymbiosis. Very cool stuff, but not Lamarckian in the teleological sense that bungle wants.

    One nice feature of evolutionary biology is that it puts data on a pedestal. Since we learned about things like horizontal gene transfer (basic biology for many decades now), and the endosymbiant hypothesis seems right, evolutionary thinking has already realized the need to use a metaphor less tree-like, and more resembling the streets of Calcutta. This is stuff that Gould and others have harped on for many years (in addition to attacking panselectionism of course, which nobody holds).

    What’s funny about Fodor, a philosopher who has made a living out of trying to say what biologists do is either irrelevant or stupid, is that his recent book states things any freshman bio major would know (e.g., traits tend to be correlated). He then acts as if this is a paradigm-shattering discovery, and proceeds to throw out the baby (natural selection) with the bathwater (not having high school biology, he doesn’t even have the data at hand to consider that certain things like the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains are explained quite well via natural selection). Fodor finally discovers that biologists actually have a lot of great data, and still proceeds to miss the point, all the while acting as if he has great wisdom nuggets to teach the silly biologists.

    I go on like this because it seems we have a pico-Fodor here.

    One ironic thing about the work bindle refers to is that it doesn’t conform at all to his naive view that all of biology must explicitly draw on quantum mechanics. The paper presents straightforward, mechanistic, molecular biology.

    Bindle: if you actually read what I wrote, rather than continuing to read into what I wrote, then you’d see I never attributed intentionality to the organisms adapting to their environment (e.g., see what I said about plant phototaxis). Whatever, I tried to help you articulate things more clearly and that seems to be a low priority for you, so fuck it.

    Heinleiner: you got his number. I’m new to this site, and am realizing I just stepped in a big pile of shit. I’m not sure if I’ll keep reading the comment threads here I really like some of the comments but every thread becomes an exercise in futility and one upmanship. It’s fun because it is so easy to give him the smackdown, but ultimately it is a complete waste of time.

  93. Eric Thomsonon 14 Jun 2010 at 12:05 am

    ccbowers I think your analysis of the CRISPR-cas system is right. It is interesting stuff, but no more damning to evolutionary theory than freshman textbook stuff like horizontal gene transfer and the evolution of mitochondria via endosymbiosis. Very cool stuff, but not Lamarckian in the teleological sense that bungle wants.

    One nice feature of evolutionary biology is that it puts data on a pedestal. Since we learned about things like horizontal gene transfer (basic biology for many decades now), and the endosymbiant hypothesis seems right, evolutionary thinking has already realized the need to use a metaphor less tree-like, and more resembling the streets of Calcutta. This is stuff that Gould and others have harped on for many years (in addition to attacking panselectionism of course, which nobody holds).

    What’s funny about Fodor, a philosopher who has made a living out of trying to say what biologists do is either irrelevant or stupid, is that his recent book states things any freshman bio major would know (e.g., traits tend to be correlated). He then acts as if this is a paradigm-shattering discovery, and proceeds to throw out the baby (natural selection) with the bathwater. This ends up killing him, as processes like the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains are explained quite well via natural selection. It’s just funny: Fodor finally discovers that biologists actually have a lot of great data and ideas, but still proceeds to miss the point, all the while acting as if he has great wisdom nuggets to teach the silly biologists.

    I go on like this because it seems we have a pico-Fodor here.

    One ironic thing about the work bindle refers to is that it doesn’t conform at all to his naive view that all of biology must explicitly draw on quantum mechanics. The paper presents straightforward, mechanistic, molecular biology.

    Bindle: if you actually read what I wrote, rather than continuing to read into what I wrote, then you’d see I never attributed intentionality to the organisms adapting to their environment (e.g., see what I said about plant phototaxis). Whatever, I tried to help you articulate things more clearly and that seems to be a low priority for you, so screw it.

    Heinleiner: you got his number. I’m new to this site, and am realizing I just stepped in a big pile of @#$. I’m not sure if I’ll keep reading the comment threads here. I really like some of the comments but every thread becomes an exercise in futility. It’s fun because it is so easy to give him the smackdown, but ultimately it is a complete waste of time in the big picture.

  94. bindleon 14 Jun 2010 at 12:45 am

    The idea is not to destroy it but to put its mechanistic aspects in their proper place and order. Modern Synthesis sounds progressive but it’s still a closed system at its philosophical core. It’s corroded by determinism if I may be so bold. And that’s the antithesis of a philosophy that has or should have science at its core.
    Like it or not evolution is a scientific philosophy. Its strategic essence is found in the ‘philosophies’ exhibited by the creatures under its domain. You won’t know what I mean by that until you come to understand that all philosophies were meant to serve the strategic purposes of their cultures. And we’re finding that all species that we know of have a culture that enhances their overall survival.
    Yes, I’ve sorted out what I mean by purpose, but there’s much to learn about the strategies that serve them differently in every single species and subspecies in the universe. Strategies which at their core are all the same.

  95. bindleon 14 Jun 2010 at 1:17 am

    That last was for BJ. As to Eric, yes you did attribute intentionality to Lamarckism even though you’re now having second thoughts that someone may think you meant it. But purpose and intention go hand in hand, except the signal biological purpose is to attempt the trial and assess the nature of the error. Not to know the end game in advance if to ever know it at all.
    And what’s this about my “naive view that all of biology must explicitly draw on quantum mechanics.” Duplicity again in spades because I’ve never said that. And Paisley, who is the expert there and the farthest from naive, never put it that way either. All biology depends on an indeterminate universe and quantum indeterminacy is the name of the game, or are you now off the fence and back in the deterministic fold?
    Give me the smack-down? Now that IS a laugh. Every time you open your mouth a thousand real scientists plug their ears with a mixture of chagrin and disbelief.

  96. Eric Thomsonon 14 Jun 2010 at 1:44 am

    Maybe it was an imposter that wrote “quantum physics can’t be bypassed for or by biology.” Unfortunately for whomever said that, this is done all the time, and none the worse for biology!

  97. bindleon 14 Jun 2010 at 2:20 am

    Eric, Do you really think that, even in the proper context, “can’t be bypassed” has the same meaning as “explicitly draw” on something. Even if both are in their own way meaningful?
    No wonder you don’t get the meanings that you should be getting in this business. “Unfortunately for whomever said that,” you say? Unfortunately for any scientist who thinks he’s gotten away with that. Do you really cop to crap like this on your own blog?

  98. BillyJoe7on 14 Jun 2010 at 2:22 am

    bindle,

    “The idea is not to destroy [the Modern Synthesis] but to put its mechanistic aspects in their proper place and order.”

    In it’s proper place and order with what?
    You were offered the opportunity to show evidence in support of your version of Lamarckism and you failed.

    “Modern Synthesis sounds progressive but it’s still a closed system at its philosophical core.”

    I’ve explained all this before:
    The philosophy underlying science is materialism.
    This happened because the “armchair philosophy” that preceded it was getting us nowhere – there were as many philosophies as there were philosophers and no way to tell who was right and who was wrong. The role of science was to sort the wheat from the chaff. It has been finding naturalistic explanations for presumed supernatural explanations ever since.

    So it’s not that science is closed, it’s just that it has found no evidence in support of any philsosophy other than materialism. Regardless of which, it still remains the *assumption* of science.

    “It’s corroded by determinism if I may be so bold. And that’s the antithesis of a philosophy that has or should have science at its core.”

    I’ve also explained this before:
    Materialism includes both determinism and indeterminism. Indeterminism at the quantum level. Mainly determinism at the macroscopic level (though I still maintain that the indetermism that leaks through to the macroscopic level must be severely constrained, otherwise brains would not be able to make sense of the world and everything inside and outside our brains would deteriorate into chaos)

    “Like it or not evolution is a scientific philosophy.”

    Evolution is a scientific fact.
    Evolution by means of random selection and natural selection is the best fit theory to account for the facts.
    Again, you offered to present your best evidence to refute this but the evidence you offered comprehensively failed to do so.

    “Its strategic essence is found in the ‘philosophies’ exhibited by the creatures under its domain. You won’t know what I mean by that until you come to understand that all philosophies were meant to serve the strategic purposes of their cultures.”

    Okay, bindle, have it your way.
    Just remember, you were offered the chance to demonstrate this and you failed. Hey, it might still be true, but excuse me if I don’t take your word for it.

    “And we’re finding that all species that we know of have a culture that enhances their overall survival.”

    Yeah, I know, bacteria and viruses. Hey, maybe even prions. And electrons! You’ve convinced me.

    “Yes, I’ve sorted out what I mean by purpose, but there’s much to learn about the strategies that serve them differently in every single species and subspecies in the universe. Strategies which at their core are all the same.”

    Words are cheap.

  99. bindleon 14 Jun 2010 at 2:29 am

    Thanks for those cheap words.

  100. BillyJoe7on 14 Jun 2010 at 3:04 am

    bungle,

    Obviously what I meant was that they were not backed up by evidence when the opportunity was offered.
    In that sense they are cheap.

    So now you have a new moniker. Congratulations.

    And don’t say we didn’t give you a fair go.

    ————————

    I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure a similar thing happened under your artful D alias. You offered up references which I took the trouble to read and comment on – demonstrating that they did not say what you thought they said (just like in this case) – after which you just dropped it like a hot potato (just like in this case).

    It was the reason I began referring to you as artless Dodge.

  101. bindleon 14 Jun 2010 at 4:30 am

    BillyJoke, you never had an “opportunity” in your life to offer anyone. Your comments have been worthless, your “explanations” laughable.
    You’re the self-selected idiot of this village, or the dog at the gate to bark at anyone who dares to contradict your master. You’ll be the ruination of this blog but that’s not my problem. I get to hear from people like Paisley just because you’re here to play the fool – except for you it’s not an act. You have a purpose but no choice.

  102. ccbowerson 14 Jun 2010 at 10:11 am

    Bindle, are you implying that bacteria have a culture?

  103. ccbowerson 14 Jun 2010 at 10:11 am

    Sorry, I couldnt resist

  104. bindleon 14 Jun 2010 at 11:29 am

    Yes, all life forms have at least the rudiments of a culture. They communicate. Their culture is in their common “language.” It’s crucial to the evolutionary process. Of course you don/t believe that so of course you’ll likely never come to understand it. Your loss, but some other reader’s gain. No, I won’t give you any further references. Those that are truly curious can easily follow up on this.

  105. ccbowerson 14 Jun 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Bindle… it was a joke. A bad pun that you apparently didn’t get.

    As for your comment… You can view everything as existing on a continuum and equivocate if you want. You can try to use words like “language” and “choice” and “purpose” in order to describe bacteria, as if those words describe the same processes as they do in animals. Its just fluffy words for fluffy thinking

  106. bindleon 14 Jun 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I knew it was a joke because you’re not the first that’s made it. So I simply took another opportunity to expose your ignorance, and you have risen to the occasion. And yes, the process in what you separate out as “animals” in your own fuzzy mind was already underway in those bacteria.

    “Purpose is a quality that you attribute to an entity or idea by looking at the outcome, and is not something intrinsic to that entity or idea.”
    Fluffy words for fluffy thinking indeed.

  107. ccbowerson 14 Jun 2010 at 1:51 pm

    You are right, your use of the word purpose is fluffy. We are finally in agreement.

    “If putatively deterministic laws were upset even once in no matter how many eons, determinism is dead, probability reigns and choice will find its purpose.”

    This is classic bindle. Profound nonsense

  108. bindleon 14 Jun 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Yes, it is profound. Too bad I can’t take full credit for the invention.

  109. sethvon 14 Jun 2010 at 8:44 pm

    I asked about your views on Lysenko because there was a person who used to have long debates on any evolution related thread here who also used the words “choice”, “purpose”, and “strategy” and various permutations of the three quite a lot. He claimed to be working on a postmodern synthesis of evolutionary theory that was vindicating a lot of Lysenko’s ideas.

    Also, I couldn’t resist poking some fun after reading through two very long and very confused threads.

    bindle: “I knew it was a joke…” LOL

    ccbowers: “This is classic bindle. Profound nonsense”
    bindle: “Yes, it is profound.” ROFL

  110. bindleon 14 Jun 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Wasn’t me. I’m too profound.

  111. bindleon 14 Jun 2010 at 10:39 pm

    But hey, thanks for provoking me to comment further. Just looked up Lysenko on Wikipedia. Can’t see anywhere that his theories involved choice or purpose. However, since almost all theories openly involve strategies, I can’t say he didn’t consider them – but since he seems to have been involved mostly with plants, it seems he thought plants were selective but not strategic. If so, that could be where he went wrong.

    Humm – one guy tries to align me with Shwartz, another with Lysenko, another with Ben Stein and Deepak Chopra. Now it’s fine with me if you want to compare my ideas to Lamarck and Fodor – I was the first to do so here in fact. But these other jokers have never been referenced by me in any form.
    However, I’d excuse Chopra from the nutcase list because he’s a very smart religionist – just not a very smart evolutionist. Novella calls him a fraud, but then he, like the rest of you, sees consequences from his point of view as compelling evidence of what had to be the purpose from the actor’s point of view.
    Call Chopra a fraud and you might as well call all Hindus frauds – thereby pissing off a large part of a continent of Asia.
    But again and again I digress.

  112. ccbowerson 14 Jun 2010 at 11:41 pm

    “Also, I couldn’t resist poking some fun after reading through two very long and very confused threads.”

    There are some references to previous threads, so that may explain the confusion. Also, bindle is a confused individual.

    “Call Chopra a fraud and you might as well call all Hindus frauds – thereby pissing off a large part of a continent of Asia.”

    Except that Chopra is very coy about what he means when he speaks- giving all the signs that he believes only half of what he says, and makes more than a pretty penny for those who buy into what he is selling.

    Fodor’s take on evolution is embarassing. Usually going outside of your specialty to promote an ideology results in embarassment.
    Intellectual hubris + ideology +nonexpertise = embarrassment

  113. bindleon 14 Jun 2010 at 11:53 pm

    “Purpose is a quality that you attribute to an entity or idea by looking at the outcome, and is not something intrinsic to that entity or idea.”

    Chopra could have said the above, as he’s a determinist just as ccbowers is.

    Fodor’s specialty IS evolution, and he’s NOT a determinist.

    So ccbowers, by his own logic, is as much a fraud as Chopra as both are coy about what they really mean by purpose.

  114. Paisleyon 15 Jun 2010 at 1:38 am

    ccbowers: “This is not a ploy. Words must be precise when we are discussing topics such as these. Its not being overly pedantic… its a necessity to have meaningful conversations.

    Okay. Please provide me with the precise term. (This is the second time I am asking for this.)

  115. Eric Thomsonon 15 Jun 2010 at 10:28 am

    bindle said:
    “Fodor’s specialty IS evolution”

    This is simply false. It the second time you have appealed to Fodor as an authority about evolution. Fodor is a philosopher. His specialties are philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology. Not evolution.

    When it comes to the topic of evolution, he is a dilettante that has already been slaughtered by the people that do specialize in the study of evolution. Note, the fact that he is not an authority on the topic doesn’t make what he says wrong. No, what makes him wrong are his hole-filed arguments, and his failure to consider obvious refutations of his armchair musings (such as the evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria).

    Fodor is smart, but has embarrassed himself with his recent attempts to stray from his specialty and say something intelligent about evolution.

  116. ccbowerson 15 Jun 2010 at 11:48 am

    “Okay. Please provide me with the precise term. (This is the second time I am asking for this.)”

    So… you want me to tell you what you mean? I think thats up to you. What do you mean to say? The precise term for what? You said all the observable data, which is impossible to assess. I guess what you mean is all the observed data thus far? You said Neo-darwinian theory which is problematic term. It is the worst among common terms to describe the modern understanding of evolution. I’ve already mentioned that this is how I refer to evolution when distinguishing it from past understandings. I don’t think the theory of evolution needs many of these distiguishing terms, but modern evolutionary synthesis is more accurate because its a less rigid term if you need such a term.

  117. ccbowerson 15 Jun 2010 at 12:02 pm

    “So ccbowers, by his own logic, is as much a fraud as Chopra as both are coy about what they really mean by purpose.”

    Bindle, you choose to ignore inconvenient facts. I already told you that I don’t find the word purpose useful in the way YOU use it. The quote you keep bringing up is in reference to your use of the word ‘purpose’ to things that may not have the purpose you attribute to it. Its a fluffy term the way that you use it, and your attribution of purpose to something is an assumption that may or may not be accurate.

    “Note, the fact that he is not an authority on the topic doesn’t make what he says wrong”

    I agree with what you are saying 100% Eric, but the fact that he isn’t an authority on the subject says something about his intellectual hubris. That thousands experts in the field of evolution over all this time didn’t realize some of the obvious arguments he was making? Even doing the slightest bit of homework should have pointed out that these issues have already been contemplated and addressed, which makes me think that there is an ideology behind what he says. His comments on linked traits (genetic linkage) shows some lack of understanding. It is obvious that he has some understanding of evolution, but he fails to recognize his lack of expertise.

  118. bindleon 15 Jun 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Fodor is a philosopher and a cognitive scientist – you boys have somehow left that last part out. He has a number of specialties and the one that has caused the most controversy is evolution. The philosophy of evolution to be more precise.
    After all he did just write a book on the subject that knowledgeable people take seriously, enough at least for the prominent neo-Darwinists to take up arms against it.

    Yes, you boys have books and papers in mind, and even a blog or two, so that makes you equally special, right?
    One of you did point out that: “His specialties are philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology. Not evolution.” Not evolutionary psychology then, which he has written of and criticized extensively? That doesn’t count because it’s a “why” version of the evolutionary spectrum? No, of course not. Determinists don’t care why.
    You’ve resorted to the flip-side fallacy of non-authority in your desperation to make the argument that you otherwise don’t have against the other evolutionary specialists I’ve listed on this subject. And even with that ploy, you’ve come up wrong.

    I like best what Fodor himself wrote about his critics:

    “Finally, they say that whether I’m right about all this is ‘a philosophical issue’. I don’t know how they decide such things; maybe they think that philosophical issues are the ones that nobody else cares about (a masochistic metatheory that many philosophers apparently endorse). Anyhow, the kind of philosophy I do consists largely of minding other people’s business. I am, to be sure, in danger of having insufficient ‘acquaintance with the biological theory that [I aspire] to replace’; but I’m prepared to risk it. A blunder is a blunder for all that, and it doesn’t take an ornithologist to tell a hawk from a handsaw. Tom Kuhn remarks that you can often guess when a scientific paradigm is ripe for a revolution: it’s when people from outside start to stick their noses in.”

  119. Eric Thomsonon 15 Jun 2010 at 1:34 pm

    When people start to cite Kuhn in support of their subversive theories, they are usually already too far gone to be reasoned with. He should have cited Popper, and considered the data that falsify his antiselectionist viewpoint (evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains). I’m all for attacking panselectionism, but he’s gone to an equally silly extreme in the other direction.

    Should we be surprised? He is masterful at taking shaky premises and extrapolating them to ridiculous conclusions (for instance, his view that every concept, even the concept of ‘carburetor’ is innate: look it up if you don’t believe me).

    It is fun to watch the lemmings slide down the cliff after him.

  120. Paisleyon 15 Jun 2010 at 1:55 pm

    ccbowers: “I don’t think the theory of evolution needs many of these distiguishing terms, but modern evolutionary synthesis is more accurate because its a less rigid term if you need such a term.”

    Okay. What are the prominent features of the “modern evolutionary synthesis?”

  121. bindleon 15 Jun 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Eric,
    That “concept” was concerned with philosophy of language, not with the natural selection controversy, which is where the disagreement with the neo-Darwinists lies. So cherry pick away if you think you’ll draw some relevant analogy in the process. So far you haven’t.
    And Chomsky supported Fodor with respect to this particular conception in any case. Another ‘subversive’ for you to finger as a substitute for lack of any logic to bring to bear against the Shapiros and Jablonkas of evolutionary biology.
    That’s supposed to be within your area, and so far you’ve studiously avoided dealing with them in any depth. Well, depth is not your forte, so I suppose I shouldn’t have asked for that. But what is your forte anyway? For sure it’s not the philosophical side of evolutionary theory.

  122. Eric Thomsonon 15 Jun 2010 at 3:13 pm

    bindle: obviously my point was that Fodor is notorious (in all fields he touches) for overextending shaky trains of reasoning. This was only one instance. Try to keep up.

    I refuse to respond to name dumps, I will engage with arguments, evidence, and reason. So far, the lack of these elements in your posts is superlative, the active avoidance of clarity is Hegelian in its magnitude. And it just became boring, like interacting with a brain held at absolute zero.

  123. bindleon 15 Jun 2010 at 3:41 pm

    “Note, the fact that he is not an authority on the topic doesn’t make what he says wrong” Which anyone can of course agree with.

    And also with the corollary that the fact that he’s an authority doesn’t make what he says right. And I’ve cherry picked that aspect of his writings myself to see what I might disagree with. That’s how I learn (or think I do, in any case). I don’t throw out the baby with the diaper.

    Example from one of Fodor’s papers:

    “So the situation so far is this: either natural selection is a species of `selection for…’, and is thus itself a kind of intensional process; or natural selection is a species of selection tout court, and therefore
    cannot distinguish between coextensive mental states. In the former case it may, but in the latter case it doesn’t, provide an explanation either of the teleology or of the intentional content of the frogs’ snapping.

    In the literature on philosophical semantics, the present point is often formulated as the `disjunction problem’. In the actual world, where ambient black dots are quite often flies, it is in a frog’s interest to snap at flies . But, in such a world, it is equally in the frog’s interest to snap at ambient black dots. Snap for snap,
    snaps at the one will net you as many flies to eat as snaps at the other. Snaps of which the intentional objects are black dots and snaps whose intentional objects are flies both affect a frog’s fitness in the same way and to the same extent. Hence the disjunction problem: what is a frog snapping at when it, as we say, snaps at a
    fly?”

    Now that’s all well and good except from my point of view he’s got the strategy wrong. To quote what I had earlier written in my notes, “I see that frog as snapping at what his expectational apparatus leads him to predict will probably turn out to be a fly, except he won’t “know” that until after he’s able to grasp it. All of this factoring into the strategic formulation of that apparatus.”

    Significant differences there as to the biological use of strategy. But I don’t hold from this that everything he says is therefor wrong, or if either of us is wrong here, the other one will aways be right elsewhere.

  124. bindleon 15 Jun 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Well, I didn’t see that usual snark fro Eric when I posted the above.
    Eric refuses to respond from what he calls name dumps, despite fact he dumps his own as the mainstay of his rebuttals?
    Hell, he can’t even haul up and dump the ghost of Hegel with any relevance to this issue – except perhaps that Hegel would have been on his side with respect to the say of any individual in the natural selection process.

  125. Paisleyon 15 Jun 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Massimo Pigliucci answered my question…

    There have been rumblings for some time to the effect that the neo-Darwinian synthesis of the early twentieth century is incomplete and due for a major revision. . . . Evolution in Four Dimensions is the most recent addition to this genre, and contributes yet another valuable perspective to the discussion.” – Massimo Pigliucci Nature

    (source: Amazon.com’s Book Review of “Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology)” by Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb“)

  126. bindleon 15 Jun 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Oh and Eric, Paisley’s question that started this whole imbroglio is waiting patiently for input from any credible respondent. Preferably one with some credentials, but any substantive response at all would be of interest. Substantive with some degree of depth preferred.

  127. bindleon 15 Jun 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Paisley,
    Good for Massimo. He didn’t let his dislike for Fodor stop him from considering the biology put forth by others. But then again he’s been an actual biologist with reputation and publications to boot.

    And did someone just say Jablonka? Eric will be back down in the dumps accordingly.

  128. Eric Thomsonon 15 Jun 2010 at 9:17 pm

    The whole point is that Fodor is regurgitating well-worn conceptual territory discovered by biologists, but somehow ends up with the preposterous claim that natural selection does not happen.

    Yes, we know there are epigenetic factors in development. Yes, we know there is horizontal gene transfer. Yes, we know that there exists cultural evolution. Congratulations Mr Fodor , after all these years you have finally learned some real biology!

    Unfortunately, none of those factors things imply that natural selection doesn’t occur. Again, that’s the whole point of our critique of Fodor.

    Massimo wrote a great review of Fodor’s book, delivering a concise and pointed skewering of Fodor’s folly. Folks can get the review here.

    So, just to again correct your misreading of what everyone in this thread has said: it isn’t about rejecting what smart biologists have known for two or more decades. It’s rejecting Fodor’s hilarious conclusion that natural selection cannot occur in nature.

  129. Patrickon 15 Jun 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Steven, I was very interested in your comments re my blog on evolution-creationism. My premis is NOT that evolution theory is wrong, just that it has not complteted the established process demanded by the scientific method.

    While there have been thousands of observations and over the past 150 years and much modification to the original hypothesis proposed by Darwin, there are no published tests of any evolution hypothesis that establishes the modification of an organism from one species to another. Adaptations – many. Species change – none. So, from the strict requirements of the scientific method, step 4 has not yet been achieved. Even Einstein’s theories of relativity were not accepted until experiments proved them to be true.

    Evolution may be true. It certainly is an intriguing proposition. But without completing all the steps in the process, evolution remains speculation. Maybe some day a bright young scientist will conduct an experiment that proves the modification of one species into another but, until then, good science requires that we teach evolution as a concept that has not been tested and has not advance to theory, let alone fact.

    The falsifiable requirement is, perhaps the greatest challenge to the evolution hypothesis. The falsifiable test is usually presented at the same time the hypothesis test is developed. A good example is The experiment that showed light was bent by gravity thereby proving one aspect of Einstein’s concepts of relativity. Integral to the experiment was the falsifiable element – if light was not bent, that would prove the hypothesis false.

    Since any test that proves evolution true may take a considerable amount of time, the falsifiable component might also take considerable time – perhaps too much time to be observable. It should be noted that Richard Dawkins admits that evolution is not falsifiable. The fact is, there are four questions regarding natural evolution that evolutionary scientist admit cannot be answered: How did life begin spontaneously? How did eukaryotic cells evolve? Howe did animal consciousness evolve? And, how did human intelligence evolve? It is not sufficient to show how the beaks of a bird species adapt to accommodate a different diet. These questions must be answered by evidence, not speculation.

    Given the impediments to evolution as an establish theory, would it not be more honest and better science to teach evolution as a hypothesis and expose its shortcomings? Good science can overcome the shortcomings, but they have to be admitted first.

  130. bindleon 15 Jun 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Eric,
    Did you miss the part where Massimo wrote the review of Jablonka’s book? Fodor wasn’t even in the picture here when all concerned refused to deal with Paisley’s question. Or deal with those biologists you’d been refusing to take on with “I refuse to respond to name dumps.”
    But now you’ve suddenly decided to recognize them (still no names) as the source of Fodor’s mindless regurgitation? They’ve had a few things to say about your determinist, mechanistic versions of selection as well. And Massimo thought there were some valuable perspectives there.
    But you still think they’re not worth dealing with or countering directly?
    Nobody said natural selection does not happen. The issue is about the mechanism by which it happens. These people almost “to a man” say biological experience is the key. You won’t hear of it – and skipped over that completely as one of the parts Fodor supposedly regurgitated.
    Paisley’s question remains unanswered on this forum.

  131. bindleon 15 Jun 2010 at 10:12 pm

    But watch Steven as he now decides to answer that easy target, Patrick.

  132. ccbowerson 15 Jun 2010 at 11:24 pm

    I find it ironic that bindle and paisely have some respect for Massimo Pigliucci, when he openly ridicules the very same ideas you both buy into. I guess its his interest in both biology and philosophy that intrigues. Listen and read to more of him as he thinks clearly, and less of that other crap you are reading and fail to understand.

    “Paisley’s question remains unanswered on this forum.”

    Actually it was answered by BillyJoe7. I’ve addressed the question to the extent that it can be addressed. Really the question should be not asked, but answered by those who are asking the question. Even the Massimo quote refers to Neo Darwinism “of the early twentieth century.” Sorry but that was 100 years ago, and is this the theory you are referring to in your question?

  133. ccbowerson 16 Jun 2010 at 12:14 am

    I see Patrick decided to stop by and further demonstrate his ignorance of the subject. There are too many falsehoods to address.
    Evolution is falsifiable, regardless of what you claim Richard Dawkins says. Falsifiablility does not have to be done by experiment, but observation as well. Even Karl Popper (who raised the falsifiable concept) eventually acknowledged that evolution was falsifiable. Also there are many aspects of evolution to be falsified, but consistently finding modern human skeletons along side of dinosaurs would certainly qualify.

  134. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 12:31 am

    ccbowers
    Pugliucci is not a determinist. And if you think that BillyJoe is competent to answer for Steven Novella, then you surely aren’t either just by that measure.
    Pugliucci deals with Fodor on the why level, one that none of you can seem to reach. Determinists can’t comprehend that why is relevant since the what can usually if not always be determined, regardless. And ironically you share those same delusions with the hallucinating Patrick that this thread was meant to disavow.
    And Paisley is still waiting for your latest proffered wisdom in particular.

  135. Paisleyon 16 Jun 2010 at 1:48 am

    ccbowers: “I find it ironic that bindle and paisely have some respect for Massimo Pigliucci, when he openly ridicules the very same ideas you both buy into.

    What ideas are those?

    The bottom line is that Massimo Pigliucci (author and maintainer of the “Rationally Speaking” blog) has gone on record and publicly stated that neo-Darwinism is in need of a “major revision.” Moreover, he is endorsing the work of Jablonka and Lamb. The reason I cited Pigliucci is because I know that you cannot take issue with his credentials.

    ccbowers: “Even the Massimo quote refers to Neo Darwinism “of the early twentieth century.”

    I suggest you implement a new strategy. This is clearly not working for you. Richard Dawkins employs the term “neo-Darwinism.” The term is also employed in the scientific literature to refer to the prevailing form of evolutionary theory (a.k.a. as the synthetic view or the modern synthesis.) There are other theories of evolution (as bindle has pointed out). And it would appear that the orthodox theory of neo-Darwinism is a theory in crisis – especially since the completion of the genome project.

  136. M. Davieson 16 Jun 2010 at 6:20 am

    @Eric Thompson

    Fodor is regurgitating well-worn conceptual territory discovered by biologists, but somehow ends up with the preposterous claim that natural selection does not happen.

    Sorry, where does Fodor say this? I re-read his Against Darwinism paper (way to pick a terrible title, JF) and it seems to me that F. fully believes that natural selection occurs, but that there is no ‘selecting agent’, no intentional process behind evolution. Yes, good biologists have recognized this for a long time, but so what? He is not writing about good biologists but about the excesses of evo psych which assume that any trait must have been ‘selected for’ and assume that any behavior which exists must be or have been adaptive and evolutionary advantageous. It’s about how we can determine whether something is adaptive, whether it has been selected because it’s adaptive, and whether ‘selected’ and ‘selected for’ can be distinguished, among other things. It’s preposterous that bindle would recruit him to defend this claptrap about ‘purpose’ and ‘being a choosing agent of an organism’s own evolution’ since F. is writing precisely against that.

    Fodor’s hilarious conclusion that natural selection cannot occur in nature.

    Ok, could you point me to where he makes this conclusion? He has no doubts about speciation, that some organisms will procreate and others won’t and that those which do will pass on their traits, so I’m not sure where you find this conclusion in his works. He even does say the following, at least:

    . . . unlike natural selection, Mother Nature is a fiction. . .
    and . . . there is nothing that natural selection cares about; it just happens . . .

  137. Eric Thomsonon 16 Jun 2010 at 9:52 am

    M Davies:
    They conclude that natural selection cannot be used to explain the emergence of phenotypes. From his paper ‘Against Darwinism’, Fodor argues explicitly for the claim: ‘Contrary to Darwinism, the theory of natural selection can’t explain the distribution of phenotypic traits in biological populations.’

    Luckily others have pointed out the problems with his view. I like Kitcher and Block’s review of Fodor’s book which you can find here. The right hook. Then Eliot Sober weighed in from the left, a review you can find here. More good stuff. Those two are sufficient for the knockout punch.

  138. ccbowerson 16 Jun 2010 at 10:29 am

    Paisley

    I’m tired of the strawman use of “Neo darwinism” representing a modern understanding of evolution. You can keep refuting a 100 years old version of the theory if you want; it’s boring me right now. Recent data has only helped to strengthen our understanding of evolution. The theory of evolution has been refined to a great degree since that term was coined.

    “Richard Dawkins employs the term ‘neo-Darwinism’ ”
    - why do I care about this?

    I find that Massimo Pigliucci has very interesting perspectives, which are often not in line with the things I hear from you. He appears to be clear thinking without excessive influence from ideology. He brings an interesting persective as a person who started off in the sciences and later ‘discovered’ philosophy, yet still enjoys both.

  139. M. Davieson 16 Jun 2010 at 10:48 am

    Thank for you for the Sober article; I’ll give it a look. Most of the stuff I’ve seen in response to Fodor is blog garbage that hasn’t even read the original material (e.g. they think Fodor is denying evolution or something).

    However, I should say that Fodor does not conclude in AD that ‘natural selection cannot be used to explain the emergence of phenotypes’, he says in AD that it cannot be used to explain their distribution. You can account for the emergence of variation and speciation, the diversity of phenotypes, and so forth, but to explain why they are distributed like they are is an explanation of a different sort. We can say why there are different kinds of fish with different attributes but to say why one fish has gold gills and green eyes whereas another has green gills and gold eyes – is natural selection able to explain the distribution of these specific phenotypes? If you say they were ‘selected for‘ then (1) that kind of language supposes an agent* doing the selecting and (2) how do you know which attribute warranted selection? Was it the roundness of the eyes or their colour? To say that a specific phenotype was selected – how do we know? We might produce a convincing argument, and in certain experimental conditions, we might determine this for specific phenotypes**, but post hoc justifications (the stock in trade of evo psych) are just that.

    Anyway, I’m not going to be Fodor’s white knight; he can decide which battles are worth fighting. I’m not even in agreement with all his arguments! But I see so too many bad faith misreadings of his work by people who get bent out of shape at what they think he’s saying, not what he actually says (Eric, that’s not directed at you). And if Fodor is supposed to prove his biology bona fides if he wants to participate, maybe others should prove their philosophical chops before they talk about his work (ha, yeah right, I won’t hold my breath).

    *and as we agree, good biologists don’t fall into this trap, but mediocre and bad ones do
    ** I’m actually not sure if Fodor would grant this

  140. Paisleyon 16 Jun 2010 at 11:36 am

    ccbowers: “I’m tired of the strawman use of “Neo darwinism” representing a modern understanding of evolution.

    And I’m tired of you playing semantical games. The terms “neo-Darwinism” and “modern synthesis” are the terms employed today to refer to the current paradigm of evolutionary biology.

    The modern evolutionary synthesis is also referred to as the new synthesis, the modern synthesis, the evolutionary synthesis and the NEO-DARWINIAN synthesis. It is a union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution. The synthesis has been accepted by nearly all working biologists.[1] The synthesis was produced over a decade (1936–1947). The previous development of population genetics (1918–1932) was a stimulus, as it showed that Mendelian genetics was consistent with natural selection and gradual evolution. The synthesis is still, to a large extent, the current paradigm in evolutionary biology.[2] (emphasis mine)”

    (source: Wikipedia: Modern evolutionary synthesis)

    ccbowers: “I find that Massimo Pigliucci has very interesting perspectives.

    Then you should find Pigliucci’s perspective interesting concerning the current paradigm in evolutionary biology. He is advocating that it requires a major revision. IOW, the cornerstones of the prevailing orthodoxy of evolutionary theory ( natural selection, genetics, random mutations, population genetics) are insufficient to fully account for evolution.

  141. Eric Thomsonon 16 Jun 2010 at 11:48 am

    M Davies: I read him as saying that because of the free rider problem (the correlation of traits), then we cannot, in principle, explain the emergence of an individual trait X in terms of natural selection. My take is that’s the main point (e.g., see his video with Sober here where he summarizes his argument). Perhaps I missed something subtle that you are seeing, that may be possible. Let me know.

    I don’t think people need to prove their credentials before they discuss something. It’s Fodor’s arguments that bug me, not his lack of credentials (well, and that someone would cite him in an appeal to authority on biology, to actually try to push through a point, bothered me). (But also see a confession below)

    I agree that blog commentary is not very useful or even reliable. Skeptic blogs tend to be particularly awful (and frankly bring out my worst behavior for some reason I usually am not mean, even on the internet).

    I should also be honest that I have a special bias against Fodor. I got my MA in philosophy with the Churchlands before switching to neuroscience professionally. You probably know the history there, and I likely inherited some of their bias against him partly by osmosis and partly by doing extensive readings of the debates they had (e.g., connectionism versus LOT, modularity versus plasticity, and etc). Fodor is a master rhetoritician, and said some very good things about content fixation that are almost correct (but which Dretske said better IMO). [I am a huge fan of Dretske, incidentally, if anyone wants to talk about him :) ]

  142. Eric Thomsonon 16 Jun 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Paisley: the problem is that evo-devo is now mainstream, and is actively working on incorporating these really cool points into the more general evolutionary framework (e.g., they deal head on with things like ‘epigenetics’). That’s the problem I had with your original question, it wasn’t clear if you were asking about traditional old school Hardy-Weinberg-focused population genetics that typically focused on single alleles and were incrediblyl Mendelian in their assumptions. Or more modern work that includes quantitative genetics, linked traits, development, lateral gene transfer, endosymbiosis, molecular systematics, genetic drift and other non-selective mechanisms of evolution, and such.

    That, I think was why people were refusing to answer because the word ‘neo-darwinism’ can refer to the old school view (sometimes even panselectionism), while modern evolutionary thinking is way past that.

    If you had clarified your question more, I think people would have been less antagonistic. Plus, well, it’s you, and people seem antagonistic toward you already for historical reasons whether justified or not.

  143. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Fodor says this: “Speaking as a fully signed up atheist, I can’t see much difference between claiming that God intelligently selects for fit phenotypes and claiming that Mother Nature does. So I find it puzzling that many of my co-religionists insist on that distinction with such vehemence.”

    From that alone I would infer that Fodor sees the selection process as more concerned with the organisms particular purposes than with natures.

    He didn’t say so with any more specificity and I’ve never written that he did. But the many biologists that none of you want to talk about have.

    In particular I’ve referenced this paper from evolutionary biologist Mae-Wan Ho, but it’s far from the only reference I can cite as to what “purpose” really means in the context of their evolutionary theories:
    http://www.cts.cuni.cz/conf98/ho.htm#89

    Predictably, the deniers that evolution serves life’s purposes rather than their “no purposes” conception have lined up here in a neo-Darwinian drove.

    At the end, what must purpose mean in the evolutionary context? It simply means reasons. A living creature evolves for its own reasons, not mother natures. It finds those reasons from its own experiences. Mother nature didn’t find them first, unless you are, as Fodor hints, akin to a creationist in your philosophies.

  144. ccbowerson 16 Jun 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Paisley: I agree with Eric on his last post.

  145. Charles Wolvertonon 16 Jun 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Probably ignorant question:

    Isn’t “selecting for trait T” imprecise shorthand for “selecting for a gene that manifests itself in trait T – and possibly other traits as well”? And if so, isn’t the problem that those in the know will automatically do the appropriate translation – obviating issues associated with the misleading “selecting for a trait” – while those who aren’t won’t? Or am I missing the point?

    Thanks.

  146. M. Davieson 16 Jun 2010 at 12:39 pm

    @Eric Thomson

    Thanks for the video.

    I read him as saying that because of the free rider problem (the correlation of traits), then we cannot, in principle, explain the emergence of an individual trait X in terms of natural selection.

    Hrmm, possibly – but this is not a failure of evolutionary theory, I would figure, but its misinterpretation. For example, how can a theory of natural selection explain the emergence of red hair (or aggression, or magical thinking, or blue eyes, or fingernails), even in principle? Will the resulting argument be that red hair had a reproductive advantage, that it was ‘selected’ or ‘selected for’? I think implicit in Fodor’s position is any such explanation would beg the question, presuming that the trait was selected (for) and then would detail that process. But one could also argue that there was an absence of evolutionary pressure to the contrary (spandrels etc.). Then, one has to say why red hair differs from things which ‘obviously’ resulted from adaptive success, such as the aorta or particular arrangements of photo receptors, and so forth; I think Fodor’s point is that you can’t legitimately do so, post facto. Anyway, I am going to follow up on the links you sent. Again, it’s not that I think Fodor is ultimately and fully correct, I just think he warrants more than the usual ‘LOL Fodor’ or bindle’s misappropriation. Or if someone is going to say he is wrong, they should say why for the right reasons, not because they think he’s some creationist apologist or trying to undermine every biology department. I think he’s pretty clear about the specificity of his criticisms. And of course, if you’ve worked with the Churchlands and share their approach, which they defend well, yeah, Fodor’s not going to be too convincing. Cheers.

  147. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 12:43 pm

    And look at Eric Thomson now. One of his fellow travelers cautions him that Fodor’s not so bad as he had vehemently claimed and Eric’s now a fan that always knew that in his heart. And suddenly he’s understood the question that Paisley asked – except that in that wondrous light of understanding, he still hasn’t managed to contrive an answer.

  148. M. Davieson 16 Jun 2010 at 12:47 pm

    @Charles Wolverton

    Isn’t “selecting for trait T” imprecise shorthand for “selecting for a gene that manifests itself in trait T – and possibly other traits as well”?

    Do you think that is an accurate description of organisms’ behavior – that they select for particular genes?

    As far as I can tell, the crucial difference is between saying “Insect A mated with Insect B because Insect A selected for a trait/gene” versus “The mating of Insect A and Insect B selected a trait/gene, independently of the Insects’ ‘reasons’”. The connotations of each are much different, particular in the causal power we assign to a trait/gene in the selection process.

  149. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Crap. The causal power rests with the reasons the insect does anything it does, and those reasons are the results of an insects cumulative experiences over generations.
    What we call its instincts are reasons based on insect experience, not mother nature’s. There was no first naturally selected instinct that substituted for an actual experience. Your neo-Darwinism says there was – that’s the distinction that makes the difference in this entire brouhaha.

  150. Charles Wolvertonon 16 Jun 2010 at 1:16 pm

    M. Davies:

    The latter, of course – no agency assumed. The implied agency that keeps arising seems inherent in the use of “select” without prepending “naturally”.

    Your response seems to reinforce the over-arching point of my question, viz, it appears that imprecision of language is confusing the issue. If one understands the sequence of events – which I understand to be roughly “random” gene modification, trait(s) modification, enhanced reproductive success, proliferation of the trait(s) – then imprecision of language won’t matter – the hearer/reader will substitute appropriately for the “shorthand”. If one doesn’t understand the sequence, the imprecision can – probably will – cause confusion.

    My own (further?) confusion is that Fodor, his coauthor, most of those likely to have read their book obviously understand this, so the fact that the issue is hotly debated suggests that I’m missing something. What is it?

  151. M. Davieson 16 Jun 2010 at 1:48 pm

    What are you missing when it comes to the heated debate? I can think of a few things to explain the responses:

    (1) Fodor might get things wrong, and people address what he gets wrong
    (2) Fodor might get things right, and when the things he gets right undermine others’ claims, those people get defensive to the extent Fodor is an outsider to biology
    (3) Fodor’s (and his co-authors’) provocative language and titles get people defensive
    (4) Fodor’s language which is critical of evolutionary theory assumptions is accessible but the language of his philosophical framework is not. Thus, people who have a gripe with evolution take up the former without understanding the caveats of the latter
    (4) More specific to the issue you describe, it’s because there’s a lot of bad evolutionary ‘explanations’ running around that I think are precisely a result of this semantic confusion about selection. E.g. Why are men aggressive? It must be evolutionarily advantageous! Why are some men passive? It must be naturally selected! Monogamy? Adaptive! Polygamy? Adaptive! People hear Fodor critique the language and the (mis)direction it leads people in; but some readers think he is criticizing the fundamentals of the enterprise

  152. Paisleyon 16 Jun 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Eric Thomson: “Paisley: the problem is that evo-devo is now mainstream, and is actively working on incorporating these really cool points into the more general evolutionary framework (e.g., they deal head on with things like ‘epigenetics’).”

    Epigenetics smacks of Lamarckian evolution. Just for clarity, are you now suggesting that you subscribe to an element of Lamarckism?

    The concept of Lamarckian inheritance has made a comeback in recent years, as scientists learn more about epigenetics.”

    (source: “A Comeback for Lamarkian evolution” by Emily Singer 02/04/09 MIT’s “Technology Review”)

  153. Charles Wolvertonon 16 Jun 2010 at 2:16 pm

    M. Davies -

    So, it’s “the usual suspects”.

    Thanks.

  154. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 2:16 pm

    He IS questioning the fundamentals of the enterprise. He’s questioning the deterministic mechanisms that neo-Darwinists have added to the theory. Paisley has seen that problem from the beginning, prior to any introduction of the Fodor issues. I introduced Fodor and Eric made him his favorite red herring. Now he’s filet de sole for all apparently.

    The issue is still the mechanistic and deterministic views of neo-Darwinists and the purposeless apparatus they’ve constructed in their minds to make it work. IOW to give it purpose.

    Who here is ready to disavow determinism – not just halfway but with some intellectually honesty. None so far.

  155. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 2:20 pm

    That should read intellectual honesty according to my editor.

  156. Paisleyon 16 Jun 2010 at 2:24 pm

    This is to correct the link in my previous post.

    (source: “A Comeback for Lamarkian evolution” by Emily Singer 02/04/09 MIT’s “Technology Review”)

  157. ccbowerson 16 Jun 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Paisley:

    If you value Massimo Pigliucci take on evolution, in 2009 (on the SGU) he spoke about the history of “darwinism,” and argued that it withstood a lot of criticism and opposition over many years (to counter a creationist argument that its an unoposed orthodoxy), but “in the long run darwinism did win, and currently it is the only theory standing.”

    Now in this he used the term loosely since he is discussing the theory over its entire history in order to encompass the various changes over time. Do you not agree with his assessment and why if not?

  158. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Not to intercede for Paisley, but if Massimo used the term loosely, what’s your point? That your “various changes” were not really changes, or that enough was enough and no more should be expected?

  159. Paisleyon 16 Jun 2010 at 3:09 pm

    ccbowers: “Paisley: I agree with Eric on his last post.”

    Okay, then you agree with some element of Lamarckian evolution.

    ccbowers: “Now in this he used the term loosely since he is discussing the theory over its entire history in order to encompass the various changes over time. Do you not agree with his assessment and why if not?.”

    I agree with bindle. You said he used the term loosely. So, what exactly is your point? Do we have a complete mechanistic and materialistic theory of evolution or not? Or, are there major holes that still need to be addressed? Hitherto, the neo-Darwinists have been bamboozling the general public into believing that this is a theory that explains all the relevant facts. Obviously, it does not.

  160. ccbowerson 16 Jun 2010 at 3:14 pm

    My point was not regarding terminology, but asking you if you agree with his assessment. Please show me the major holes, because if they are there then why is it the only theory left standing? That is not to say that everything is completely understood… there is still much left to learn, but you exaggerate the gaps in knowledge as if they are evidence that there is something fundamentally wrong with the approach.

  161. Eric Thomsonon 16 Jun 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Paisley: In those studies that Emily cites there isn’t evolution because the changes induced are not heritable in the technical sense (so they don’t meet the four criteria to count as Lamarckian evolution). If memory serves, she even mentions that on the second page of the article which I have read before.

    Yep, I was right:
    “Feig, on the other hand, argues that while the findings are “a Lamarckian kind of phenomenon it’s still Darwinian, because the changes don’t last forever.” In Feig’s study, the offspring of enriched mice lost their memory benefits after a few months.”

    For a simpler example, the distribution of cytoplasmic mRNA in the mom’s egg has a huge effect on subsequent development (e.g., the axis of the divisions and such). But that’s not evolution, it’s not a heritable trait in the technical sense. Stress levels in a mother can affect brain development in offspring, but these changes are not heritable in the technical sense, they don’t last.

    At any rate, if shown good evidence for Lamarckian evolution (that meets conditions 1-4 in my list above) then I’ll stand corrected. Data are God, after all. We have known for many decades that natural selection isn’t the only mechanism of evolution. If it turns out that I’m wrong about Lamarck, I’ll be happy to admit it. Clearly there are instances where some of the four hallmarks of Lamarckian evolution are met, and some of them would have been very surprising to people in the 1950s even though they aren’t technically cases of Lamarckian evolution.

    Natural selection is real, contra the sophist Fodor we do explain the emergence of individual traits using it, even though it is but one of many engines of evolution and phenotypic change.

  162. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Those 4 conditions were manufactured by deterministic mechanists in anticipation of the arguments that were expected to demonstrate that learned behaviors were ultimately heritable – that heritability’s the necessary step in the establishment of instincts. Not the evo psych variety, or the Dawkins meme variety, but behaviors that have in the past met the definition of instinct, IOW, an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in animals in response to certain stimuli (and not just animals). And even then Eric has deliberately tinkered with his definition of nonrandom. “Rather, the change is acquired by an organism in its attempt to reach basic ends.” That’s dishonest crap and he know it.

  163. Eric Thomsonon 16 Jun 2010 at 4:16 pm

    OK bindle, suggest something better than my four conditions. Would you prefer that we say that the change (mentioned in condition a) is acquired during a trial and error process? Is that better?

    Make a specific suggestion, your own set of necessary and sufficient conditions for something to count as Lamarckian evolution. Improve it.

    One of my favorite Merleau Ponty quotes is ‘Refutations are uninteresting. It is far better to produce what one reproaches others for not bringing forth.’

    Do it. Improve on what I have produced.

  164. ccbowerson 16 Jun 2010 at 4:22 pm

    “Do it. Improve on what I have produced”

    That hasn’t been his m.o. thus far

  165. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Aside from that irony that two of the biggest refuteniks here are now decrying that refutations are uninteresting, I’ve obviously advised that you should start by changing “acquired by an organism in its attempt to reach basic ends” to something close to “acquired by an organism in its attempt to meet basic needs.”
    Changes your “reason what” scenario to “reason why”and takes or should take determinism out of of the picture. Just for starters because the why can take you to another level that determinists are unfamiliar with.

  166. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Then read this:
    Bacteria – The Last Stronghold of Lamarckism?
    William D. Stansfield Biological Sciences Department (Emeritus), California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. E- mail: wstansfi@calpoly.edu
    http://www.theaga.org/files/pdf/Stansfield2010.pdf

  167. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 5:11 pm

    In case you choose to miss this, here’s the conclusion of that referenced paper:
    Conclusion
    History has shown that bacteria were not “the last stronghold of Lamarckism”, but rather the source from which much of our present knowledge of epigenetics, evolutionary developmental biology, and the induction or inheritance of acquired characters has grown.

  168. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 5:12 pm

    bwahahaha

  169. Eric Thomsonon 16 Jun 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Good bindle, Merleau Ponty at least was able to convince you to contribute something substantive.

    So you suggest:
    >>I’ve obviously advised that you should start by changing “acquired by an organism in its attempt to reach basic ends” to something close to “acquired by an organism in its attempt to meet basic needs.”<<<

    I can now see why you reacted so strongly against what I wrote, given the obvious stark difference between "basic ends" and "basic needs".

    At any rate, none of the cases mentioned (even in that paper you just cited) meets all four conditions I laid out. Consider DNA methylation. If such changes produced long-term heritable changes in DNA, you'd have your example. Unfortunately it looks like the unfolding of a pre-existing genetic program that causes methylation of DNA, an environment-sensitive methylation procedure that has short-term consequences for offspring (sort of like the "weak" immunity a baby has from its mother for a while after it is born and it has to transition from umbilical cord dependence to the usual methods of taking in nutrients and oxygen).

    In other words, we have a genetic program analogous to the turtle sex-determination. For those that missed it, turtle sex is determined by temperature at which the eggs are incubated, but this is not evidence for Lamarckian evolution either. Sensitivity to environmental parameters is really cool stuff, not particularly new, but very cool and much appreciated by the evo-devo folks.

  170. bindleon 16 Jun 2010 at 6:12 pm

    How do you “know” that turtle sex determined by temperature at which eggs are incubated is not a characteristic based to some degree on the previous experiences of turtles?
    You have no alternate explanation of “why” this phenomenon exists because you’ve never tried to find that out. You’ve assumed in your admitted mechanistic way that ALL of this was accidentally determined (an untenable proposition right there in the conception).

    And the difference IS the starkest between
    “reach basic ends” and “meet basic needs.”
    One you have to know to seek, and the other you have to seek to know. Long term versus short term. Desire versus necessity.

    And the paper makes it plain that those four conditions are not those of anyone but you who hope to mother nature’s god they’re true.

  171. Paisleyon 16 Jun 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Eric Thomson: “Paisley: In those studies that Emily cites there isn’t evolution because the changes induced are not heritable in the technical sense (so they don’t meet the four criteria to count as Lamarckian evolution). If memory serves, she even mentions that on the second page of the article which I have read before.”

    Wikipedea lists two criteria…

    Lamarck incorporated two ideas into his theory of evolution, in his day considered to be generally true:

    1. Use and disuse – Individuals lose characteristics they do not require (or use) and develop characteristics that are useful.
    2. Inheritance of acquired traits – Individuals inherit the traits of their ancestors
    .”

    (source: Wikipedia: Lamarkism)

    The following LTP (long-term potentiation) experiment conducted by neuroscientist Larry Fiegs of Tufts University supports those two criteria…

    Environmental enrichment fixed faulty LTP in mice with the genetic defect; the fixed LTP was then passed on to their offspring.”

    (source: “A Comeback for Lamarckian Evolution” by Emily Singer 02/04/09 MIT’s Technology Review)

  172. Eric Thomsonon 17 Jun 2010 at 12:27 am

    Perhaps you didn’t see Feigs’ own interpretation of that work:
    “Feig, on the other hand, argues that while the findings are “a Lamarckian kind of phenomenon it’s still Darwinian, because the changes don’t last forever.” In Feig’s study, the offspring of enriched mice lost their memory benefits after a few months.”

    The reason Feigs, and modern evolutionary theorists, would say he didn’t find a Lamarckian mechanism of evolution is because condition four (heritability) in my list is not there. Transmitting something to offspring (condition three) is necessary but not sufficient (after all I transmit hand washing behavior, and mothers impart a brief period of immunity to many infections to their infants, but neither satisfy condition four of heritability).

    That said, many phenomena exhibit a subset of the four conditions. E.g., bacterial transfection, something so simple we have known about it for decades, even satisfies condition a (plasticity), c (transmission), and d (heritability) to some degree, but not condition b, and of course it is crucial for Lamarck that it be based on use/disuse or some such.

    Bindle your comment on turtle sex determination is a good case study I’ll leave people here to consider what seems reasonable: that it is the unfolding of a pre-existing genetic program that is set up to be sensitive to temperature (on one hand), or Lamarckian evolution in progress (on the other hand). For those interested, you can find a review paper on this rather amazing phenomenon here. I

    Independently of this debate with bindle, it is a great example to really familiarize ourselves with, as it is a clear case of organism-environment interactions leading to drastic differences in phenotype given the exact same genotype. I find it a great example to bring up when my nonbiologist friends are having silly fights about “nature versus nurture” and they are both at opposite (and incorrect) extremes.

  173. bindleon 17 Jun 2010 at 1:35 am

    If you start with the assumptions (as a mind experiment) that all genetic functions are behavioral at heart, and all heritable traits were at one point successful as behaviors, and that any changes in their forms had followed changes in their functions, and all such changes were reactions to cumulative experience, then you can end up with an intellectually satisfactory explanation of how any pre-existing genetic program was nevertheless a lamarckian like production.
    The point being that we won’t know if your assumptions are right or mine until we test them. And I don’t think it’s only your non-biologist friends that will dispute your version. Because the biologists I referenced have done and continue to do these tests. Did they consider alternate assumptions all that carefully? You may say they didn’t. You may not, in my view, say they had no reason to consider theirs as viable.

    As to the point in dispute with Paisley, many see t