One Hundred Fifty Years

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You’ll be hearing that a lot on science blogs over the next year-and-a-half in the run-up to November 24, 2009, the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s “Origin of Species”. But we should start with another 150th anniversary that is marked today, July 1, 2008…

One hundred fifty years ago, this date fell on a Thursday. On that Thursday, the meeting of the Linnean Society in London had a reading of an essay by Alfred Russel Wallace and a manuscript chapter extract and a letter from Charles R. Darwin on the topic of tranformism, or the evolution of new species from existing species. This collage of material was presented under a single title, On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection.

The reading itself produced hardly a ripple in the currents of scientific discourse; the Linnean Society president Thomas Bell noted in his journal that nothing of importance took place in that year. The real story lay in how it came to be that there was a joint presentation of material from Wallace and Darwin, rather than Wallace alone, and in the course of history that followed on.

(Original posting at the Austringer.)

Wallace was a naturalist in the field, his field being first the Amazon basin and later the Malay Archipelago. One of the hazards of being a European naturalist out in those regions was disease, and Wallace suffered an attack of malaria. While feverish, Wallace worked out the basics of how natural causes could explain the adaptations that mark different species of organisms. Once recovered, he wrote out an essay on the subject, and sent that on to Charles Darwin, with whom he had previously corresponded on the topic of transformism.

The essay, titled “On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the Original Type”, caught Darwin rather by surprise. While Darwin appreciated Wallace’s previous paper promulgating the “Sarawak Law” that all species are found in geographic proximity to allied species, Darwin had apparently classed Wallace’s views on tranformism as corresponding to progressive creationism. In the essay Darwin read in spring of 1858, though, Wallace clearly laid out the very mechanism of natural selection that Darwin had cogitated over for about twenty years. Clearly, Wallace’s essay deserved publication, but what of Darwin’s own, unpublished, work on the topic? Darwin took the matter to his friends, Charles Lyell and Joseph Hooker. They have a preface to the piece read to the Linnean Society 150 years ago that explains their solution to the problem.

MY DEAR SIR,—The accompanying papers, which we have the honour of communicating to the Linnean Society, and which all relate to the same subject, viz. the Laws which affect the Production of Varieties, Races, and Species, contain the results of the investigations of two indefatigable naturalists, Mr. Charles Darwin and Mr. Alfred Wallace.

These gentlemen having, independently and unknown to one another, conceived the same very ingenious theory to account for the appearance and perpetuation of varieties and of specific forms on our planet, may both fairly claim the merit of being original thinkers in this important line of inquiry; but neither of them having published his views, though Mr. Darwin has for many years past been repeatedly urged by us to do so, and both authors having now unreservedly placed their papers in our hands, we think it would best promote the interests of science that a selection from them should be laid before the Linnean Society.

Taken in the order of their dates, they consist of:—

1. Extracts from a MS. work on Species*, by Mr. Darwin, which was sketched in 1839, and copied in 1844,2 when the copy was read by Dr. Hooker,3 and its contents afterwards communicated to Sir Charles Lyell. The first Part is devoted to “The Variation of Organic Beings under Domestication and in their Natural State;” and the second chapter of that Part, from which we propose to read to the Society the extracts referred to, is headed, “On the Variation of Organic Beings in a state of Nature; on the Natural Means of Selection; on the Comparison of Domestic Races and true Species.”

2. An abstract of a private letter addressed to Professor Asa Gray, of Boston, U.S., in October4 1857, by Mr. Darwin, in which he repeats his views, and which shows that these remained unaltered from 1839 to 1857.1

3. An Essay by Mr. Wallace, entitled “On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the Original Type.”2 This was written at Ternate in February 1858, for the perusal of his friend and correspondent Mr. Darwin, and sent to him with the expressed wish that it should be forwarded to Sir Charles Lyell, if Mr. Darwin thought it sufficiently novel and interesting. So highly did Mr. Darwin appreciate the value of the views therein set forth, that he proposed, in a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, to obtain Mr. Wallace’s consent to allow the Essay to be published as soon as possible. Of this step we highly approved, provided Mr. Darwin did not withhold from the public, as he was strongly inclined to do (in favour of Mr. Wallace), the memoir which he had himself written on the same subject, and which, as before stated, one of us had perused in 1844, and the contents of which we had both of us been privy to for many years. On representing this to Mr. Darwin, he gave us permission to make what use we thought proper of his memoir, &c.; and in adopting our present course, of presenting it to the Linnean Society, we have explained to him that we are not solely considering the relative claims to priority of himself and his friend, but the interests of science generally; for we feel it to be desirable that views founded on a wide deduction from facts, and matured by years of reflection, should constitute at once a goal from which others may start, and that, while the scientific world is waiting for the appearance of Mr. Darwin’s complete work, some of the leading results of his labours, as well as those of his able correspondent, should together be laid before the public.

We have the honour to be yours very obediently,

CHARLES LYELL.

JOS. D. HOOKER.

As solutions to wrangles over scientific priority go, this one is near the lead for deference being paid all around. Wallace and Darwin became, via this joint presentation, co-discoverers of natural selection and its proposed role in the production of new species from existing ones. The reading also forced Darwin’s hand, and the following months saw him discard his long-term project of writing a large monograph on natural selection, and instead hurry to produce an “abstract” of his work. That “abstract” is what we now know as the book, “Origin of Species”, published in November, 1859.

The Lyell-Hooker solution of producing a joint presentation to the Linnean Society has been endlessly argued over. The primary question posed would be, was the solution unfair to Wallace, whose essay lays out the logic of natural selection in graceful and economical prose, preferred by some to Darwin’s own explication? There’s a book length treatment by Brackmann of the argument that Wallace was thoroughly swindled by Darwin and Darwin’s colleagues, set to play a subordinate role to the elder naturalist. Brackmann, though, appears to have been letting a general animus for Darwin determine his approach to the material. The record of continued cordial correspondence between Darwin and Wallace, though strained at times by their varying views of selection with respect to human mental capacity, seems to run counter to various conspiratorial readings of the situation.

I’ll close this post with the final paragraph of Wallace’s Ternate essay, the last part of the presentation given to the Linnean Society 150 years ago today.

We believe we have now shown that there is a tendency in nature to the continued progression of certain classes of varieties further and further from the original type—a progression to which there appears no reason to assign any definite limits—and that the same principle which produces this result in a state of nature will also explain why domestic varieties have a tendency to revert to the original type. This progression, by minute steps, in various directions, but always checked and balanced by the necessary conditions, subject to which alone existence can be preserved, may, it is believed, be followed out so as to agree with all the phenomena presented by organized beings, their extinction and succession in past ages, and all the extraordinary modifications of form, instinct, and habits which they exhibit.

Check out material on this anniversary at the Beagle Project, too.

159 Comments

It seems to me that this “priority dispute” is not the central point of the observation of evolution and a proposed mechanism.

Rather, it illustrates that when certain ideas are “in the air”, as they say, more than one person can recognize what Nature is telling them. Darwin may have been influenced by Malthus and by artificial selection; Wallace certainly would have known about these also. But the evidence they both saw in the natural world fell into place for both of them within a relatively short period of time.

These kinds of co-discoveries happen often enough in science that they illustrate more dramatically the objective nature of evidence and the explanatory power of a good theory followed by the convergence of agreement and the opening up of active areas of research.

This is in stark contrast to sectarian dogmatic arguments that go on interminably with no resolution and with continual splintering into thousands of mutually suspicious sects (the same can be said for pseudo-science). Too often members of these warring sects project their own warring perceptions onto the scientific community and try to start wars in the public domain over which person is right. This in itself demonstrates how far sectarians miss the fundamental processes of science and the role of evidence.

The human desire for recognition and reward within the context of human society only clouds the real objectives of science, and so priority disputes loom larger than they should. Unfortunately they make for better press coverage than the science itself.

When Nature speaks, there ultimately has to be multiple, and often simultaneous, agreements among people who see and understand the evidence in the context of a good theory. From that point on, things start checking out for others as well; and that is the mark of good science, priority dispute or not.

It must have been very cool to be at that Royal Society meeting when Darwin spoke. I’m sure drafts of his theory had circulated prior to the meeting, but that must have been very special as Charles laid out the results of his three decades of research.

Many people think that Darwin just came up with his theory out of the blue, but he spent years and years accumulating data before he was comfortable in expressing the theory to fellow naturalists.

Damn we don’t have a video of the proceedings!

Considering how Darwin has been treated since his time, we may well judge that he did Wallace a favor. Reminds me of the old Lincoln story about the man who had been tarred and feathered and run out of town on a fencerail:

“Enjoying the ride?”

“Well, if it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I’d rather walk.”

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwin.html

Doc Bill wrote

It must have been very cool to be at that Royal Society meeting when Darwin spoke. I’m sure drafts of his theory had circulated prior to the meeting, but that must have been very special as Charles laid out the results of his three decades of research.

Well, aside from the fact that it was the Linnean Society and neither Darwin nor Wallace was there so both papers were read by the Secretary of the Society, yeah, it would have been cool. :)

Let me be the first to propose that, as of November 24, 2009 the theory of evolution henceforth be referred to exclusively as the Law of Evolution.

Please put this item on the agenda at the next secret meeting of the Darwinist society or bring it to the attention of the powers that be. I really don’t know who gets to decide these things or who gets to vote, but it is time for this change to occur.

Really, 150 years is long enough. I mean, how many times must a theory be tested before it becomes a law? How many different observations must it explain and how many different fields must it unite? Besides, we call one idea the Law of Independent Assortment. If that can be called law then why not evolution?

Besides, “it’s just a law” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

David Stanton said:

Let me be the first to propose that, as of November 24, 2009 the theory of evolution henceforth be referred to exclusively as the Law of Evolution.

Please put this item on the agenda at the next secret meeting of the Darwinist society or bring it to the attention of the powers that be. I really don’t know who gets to decide these things or who gets to vote, but it is time for this change to occur.

Really, 150 years is long enough. I mean, how many times must a theory be tested before it becomes a law? How many different observations must it explain and how many different fields must it unite? Besides, we call one idea the Law of Independent Assortment. If that can be called law then why not evolution?

Besides, “it’s just a law” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

How about making the 1st April ‘All Trolls Day’ as well ??

“Well, aside from the fact that it was the Linnean Society and neither Darwin nor Wallace was there so both papers were read by the Secretary of the Society, yeah, it would have been cool. :)”

Obviously I didn’t consult the Great Google Oracle before writing that. Or perhaps I should have tried to stay awake in my History of Science class. Dammit, Jim, I’m a chemist not a bricklayer!

romartus said:

How about making the 1st April ‘All Trolls Day’ as well ??

To paraphrase my answer to my 7 year old’s question about the date of “Children’s Day”

“Every day is Troll’s Day”

What is the number of species in production today via natural selection versus the number going extinct?

It would seem that from an operational standpoint Darwin’s theory is being falsified by evidence today. Can someone at least give the number of speciation events in today’s world via natural selection.

These seem legitimate scientific questions before we go off arguing that Darwin made some sort of discovery. I don’t think his theory has been confirmed.

Blyth had the more accruate conception of natural selection, namely the preservation of species. Wallace and Darwin got it wrong.

Further, based on Fisher’s fundamental theorem of natural selection, it appears a contradiction to assert selection can create more diversity by reducing diversity. Natural selection has to be disengaged for diversity to take place. One could argue diversification occurs by lack of selection!!!

Can’t we have speciation events in the absence of selection (like say geographic isolation).….

Darwin and Wallace got it wrong.

So then please state how Intelligent Design “theory” gets it right, then.

No one from Intelligent Design “theory” has bothered to state how Intelligent Design “theory” works beyond making intentionally vague appeals to a mysterious, unknowable, ineffable Designer, and making maliciously incorrect assumptions that “Darwinism” (sic) is somehow wrong for the past 15 to 20 years ever since its inception by Philip Johnson.

In other words, Mr Cordova, please put up or shut your smarmy mouth.

Salvador T. Cordova said:

What is the number of species in production today via natural selection versus the number going extinct?

It would seem that from an operational standpoint Darwin’s theory is being falsified by evidence today. Can someone at least give the number of speciation events in today’s world via natural selection.

These seem legitimate scientific questions before we go off arguing that Darwin made some sort of discovery. I don’t think his theory has been confirmed.

Blyth had the more accruate conception of natural selection, namely the preservation of species. Wallace and Darwin got it wrong.

Further, based on Fisher’s fundamental theorem of natural selection, it appears a contradiction to assert selection can create more diversity by reducing diversity. Natural selection has to be disengaged for diversity to take place. One could argue diversification occurs by lack of selection!!!

Can’t we have speciation events in the absence of selection (like say geographic isolation).….

Darwin and Wallace got it wrong.

Just for grits and shins, I think I’ll comment on one of Cordova’s posts…

What is the number of species in production today via natural selection versus the number going extinct?

How can such a question be answered? Speciation takes thousands of generations, often approaching a million years before a clear branching event can be unambiguously identified. Extinction events happen in a day (the day the last individual dies). I’d guess that, within a few orders of magnitude, there are a hundred million potential speciations taking place at any given time, not all of which lead to a clean break. Come back in a million years and get an update.

(I think if we had complete data on all breeding of all organisms, we’d find that EVERY breeding population is in the process of multiple incipient speciation events, most of which abort.)

It would seem that from an operational standpoint Darwin’s theory is being falsified by evidence today. Can someone at least give the number of speciation events in today’s world via natural selection.

Wait a minute. Sal here is very carefully and deliberately conflating WHETHER speciation happens, with HOW speciation happens. No honest person would suggest any number of speciations-in-process within a couple orders of magnitude, because the timeframe since biology was invented is much too short to get a frame of reference.

These seem legitimate scientific questions before we go off arguing that Darwin made some sort of discovery. I don’t think his theory has been confirmed.

Is this the theory that speciation happens, or the theory that selection contributes to it? I take it Sal’s argument here is that since we can observe nearly none of the speciation currently happening (need a baseline of at least half a million years of observation to come close), therefore it’s not happening at all, and therefore natural selection is not the cause of what’s not happening. And therefore goddidit, I guess?

Blyth had the more accruate conception of natural selection, namely the preservation of species. Wallace and Darwin got it wrong.

A basic (and I’d say deliberate) distortion of the concept of selection. Selection presumably works to adapt organisms to an environmental niche. Where they fit, selection keeps them there. Where they don’t fit (or a new niche opens up), selection acts to facilitate (or not act to discourage) the origination a new species to fill it. After which selection acts to preserve that new species so long as the niche lasts.

Further, based on Fisher’s fundamental theorem of natural selection, it appears a contradiction to assert selection can create more diversity by reducing diversity. Natural selection has to be disengaged for diversity to take place. One could argue diversification occurs by lack of selection!!!

Same conceptual error, of course. Selection’s complex powers have completely escaped Sal - or, more likely, he recognize them and decides to hand-wave them away. Selection creates diversity when environmental diversity presents opportunities, and preserves or reduces diversity when those opportunities are taken advantage of.

Can’t we have speciation events in the absence of selection (like say geographic isolation).….

Geographic isolation, and indeed anything that leads to breeding isolation, is often a precursor to speciation for a variety of reasons. But selection remains unavoidable - there are ALWAYS more individuals produced than their environment can carry. Always. And there is always variation to be selected from. I don’t see how this can be denied.

Darwin and Wallace got it wrong.

In what way? By saying new species arise, or by saying selection is a contributing cause to this? Nobody claims Darwin and Wallace got it complete, nobody even thinks current understandings are complete. But incomplete isn’t wrong.

Charles R. Darwin:

No one ought to feel surprise at much remaining as yet unexplained in regard to the origin of species and varieties, if he makes due allowance for our profound ignorance in regard to the mutual relations of all the beings which live around us. Who can explain why one species ranges widely and is very numerous, and why another allied species has a narrow range and is rare? Yet these relations are of the highest importance, for they determine the present welfare, and, as I believe, the future success and modification of every inhabitant of this world. Still less do we know of the mutual relations of the innumerable inhabitants of the world during the many past geological epochs in its history. Although much remains obscure, and will long remain obscure, I can entertain no doubt, after the most deliberate study and dispassionate judgement of which I am capable, that the view which most naturalists entertain, and which I formerly entertained – namely, that each species has been independently created – is erroneous. I am fully convinced that species are not immutable; but that those belonging to what are called the same genera are lineal descendants of some other and generally extinct species, in the same manner as the acknowledged varieties of any one species are the descendants of that species. Furthermore, I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the main but not exclusive means of modification.

The only thing that people can argue about in the above, AFAICT, is the claim that natural selection is the main means of evolutionary modification. As Richard Dawkins put it in a radio interview, while most change at the level of the genotype and proteins is neutral, most change in the characters and traits visible to human inspection of organisms has been touched by natural selection. Darwin was mostly limited to the view of things appreciable via gross morphology, thus it is quite natural that he would be convinced that natural selection was the main but not exclusive means of descent with modification. This is hardly a basis upon which to make a bald statement that “Darwin was wrong” upon.

Salvador Cordova has a long history of being egregiously wrong. We have another example here now.

Sal:

What is the number of species in production today via natural selection versus the number going extinct?

It would seem that from an operational standpoint Darwin’s theory is being falsified by evidence today. Can someone at least give the number of speciation events in today’s world via natural selection.

Sal clearly does not understand speciation, which is a process not an event. To use an analogy he might find easier to understand: Sal, how many of the world’s babies turned into toddlers (or preschoolers) in the last hour? Why is this a difficult question to answer? Why might it be difficult to answer how many speciation ‘events’ are taking place right now?

chuck said:

romartus said:

How about making the 1st April ‘All Trolls Day’ as well ??

To paraphrase my answer to my 7 year old’s question about the date of “Children’s Day”

“Every day is Troll’s Day”

Every day has its Troll ! Are the really nasty ones Grade One Goblins ??

Every day has its Troll ! Are the really nasty ones Grade One Goblins ??

No, it just feels that way sometimes ;)

I find it hard to believe Sal C. has learned almost nothing about evolution in all the years he’s been worrying at it like a dog with a chew toy. Just plain dishonesty seems the more likely explanation at this point.

Hi, Sal, glad yuou could join us…

Salvador T. Cordova said:

What is the number of species in production today via natural selection versus the number going extinct?

Who knows?

By definition, speciation events can only be identified in retrospect. After all, how are we to tell of the evolution of TTX resistance in garter snakes (for instance) is the beginning of a speciation event or not?

Additionally, given how many species remain unidentified (for which estimates vary, as is to be expected), how are we to know when a new species arises?

It would seem that from an operational standpoint Darwin’s theory is being falsified by evidence today.

What? What evidence?

You seem to have missed something - the absence of speciation events at any one specific time does not constitute evidence against modern evolutionary theory (that I call MET). Periods of stability are quite possible within the theory, because selection pressures depend on the environment, and if an environment remains stable, selection pressure on organisms inhabiting that environment tend to relax. This is entirely in accordance with both Darwin’s concept of natural selection and Eldredge and Gould’s idea of punctuated equilibrium.

Can someone at least give the number of speciation events in today’s world via natural selection.

This is irrelevant to anything except “stamp-collecting”. What do you think that number (if it could be known) might mean?

These seem legitimate scientific questions…

I think you have to justify this. In what way are these questions scientific? What insight into the natural world would the answers offer us?

…before we go off arguing that Darwin made some sort of discovery. I don’t think his theory has been confirmed.

It was a monumental discovery. As important as those of Maxwell, Einstein, Newton and Planck. What Darwin and Wallace achieved was to explain what had hitherto been a mystery.

And, while Darwin’s original theory is now recognised as having been incomplete, and has been much embellished as new discoveries have informed the science, the core of his theory is still a key part of MET. It has been confirmed so many times and by such a wealth of observations that even if it is wrong it is at least a good approximation to what happens in reality.

Meanwhile, no contender has appeared to challenge it. The rebranding of religious ideas as so-called “creation science” or “intelligent design” has not changed the fact that they are religious dogma masquerading as something they are not. Or, IOW, lies.

Blyth had the more accruate conception of natural selection, namely the preservation of species. Wallace and Darwin got it wrong.

No. If sepcies are preserved, then where is the fossil record of hominids in the Permian? Where are the Tyrannosaurs today?

Species are quite clearly not preserved. The inevitable conclusion from the fossil record is that life changes. This is a fact. Deal with it.

Further, based on Fisher’s fundamental theorem of natural selection, it appears a contradiction to assert selection can create more diversity by reducing diversity. Natural selection has to be disengaged for diversity to take place. One could argue diversification occurs by lack of selection!!!

This has the appearance of a deliberate mischaracterisation of MET. Your logic is so poor that it is hard to conceive that you might actually believe this.

Variation occurs within any and every population. This is how we are able to distinguish individuals from one another. This is a trivially simple observation to make and understand. Some of this variation is environmentally-induced, and some is genetic. The genetic portion is heritable (well, duh!). Similarly, within any population, not all individuals survive to reproduce (except, perhaps, a very few populations of humans). Some of the elimination of individuals is by chance, some of it is influenced by traits that the individuals have inherited. Wherever a selection pressure is quite modest, all variants that possess a certain basic adequacy will survive and persist. Strong selection pressures can eliminate all but the most successful traits (thus causing “genetic bottlenecks”), or make a species extinct.

So, your words are nothing more than a carefully phrased game to build a strawman at which you can point and laugh. But your caricature of evolutionary theory has neither evidence nor reason to support it.

Can’t we have speciation events in the absence of selection (like say geographic isolation).….

Yes, this is called genetic drift. It is a component of MET. Geographic isolation does not cause this, and geographic isolation may often play a role in selective speciation events (e.g. if a population is divided into two populations that live on in different habitats, selection will cause them to diverge in character).

Darwin and Wallace got it wrong.

No. You got it wrong, as I have shown.

Flint said:

Just for grits and shins, I think I’ll comment on one of Cordova’s posts…

He makes our day just by commenting, he can’t do the math he thinks he knows, and he doesn’t get speciation. Yet he tries to comment on science. Perhaps he has science envy. Well, sorry, but Impoverished Design can’t measure up to biology.

Flint said:

I take it Sal’s argument here is that since we can observe nearly none of the speciation currently happening (need a baseline of at least half a million years of observation to come close), therefore it’s not happening at all, and therefore natural selection is not the cause of what’s not happening.

Picture a creationist staring into the skies. For him the Sun wouldn’t orbit the galaxy, in fact all stars would hang there, because observable velocities (if in fact a creationist would use telescopes to actually do observations - but why would he, the universe is no larger than 6000 light years) surely are too small to account for an entire orbit, therefore orbiting is not happening at all, and therefore gravity can’t affect stars.

Flint said:

Further, based on Fisher’s fundamental theorem of natural selection, it appears a contradiction to assert selection can create more diversity by reducing diversity. Natural selection has to be disengaged for diversity to take place. One could argue diversification occurs by lack of selection!!!

Same conceptual error, of course. Selection’s complex powers have completely escaped Sal - or, more likely, he recognize them and decides to hand-wave them away. Selection creates diversity when environmental diversity presents opportunities, and preserves or reduces diversity when those opportunities are taken advantage of.

I think Sal’s slight of hand is raising a giant strawman over Fisher’s theorem

“The rate of increase in the mean fitness of any organism at any time ascribable to natural selection acting through changes in gene frequencies is exactly equal to its genetic variance in fitness at that time”.

because he can’t handle the the precise math.

Notably there is nothing about speciation and so species diversity here, only allele frequencies and fitness variances. Not all differences are created equal, even if Sal in his inimitable quixotic style tries to conflate them all on the lanza he waves about.

Nigel D said:

Geographic isolation does not cause this, and geographic isolation may often play a role in selective speciation events (e.g. if a population is divided into two populations that live on in different habitats, selection will cause them to diverge in character).

Hmm. If I would look at it from a naive physics model of populations, I would conclude that geographic isolation mostly acts as boundary conditions that affects the trajectories of populations.

The same population would follow individual trajectories even if the environment where the same, by drift and/or contingency. So a large population that were divided into sufficiently large parts and isolated by say mountain production would just continue happy evolutionary trajectories.

This is the same way that a divide can split a river into two. The divide just acts as a boundary condition on the same hydrodynamic description.

Now real life biology is messier, with potentially spreading demes instead of geographically fixed homogeneous populations et cetera, but it seems IMHO still crude to describe geographic isolation as a bona fide mechanism, in the first approximation.

Besides, it seems really difficult to look Paris Hilton’s pets in their eyes and and imagine that “they are still just wolves” after thousand of years of selection. Put them in the woods and they are wolf food more likely.

Torbjorn, I think you have a point, and I may not have been very clear.

When I referred to geographic isolation playing a role in speciation, I referred to it not as a mechanism of change in and of itself, but as a means of dividing a species into two populations that thus become forced* to evolve in different directions. In this sense, I guess it is acting as a boundary condition.

*BTW, I use this term here because my preceding example had the two populations of the progenitor species occupying different habitats. they would therefore accumulate different sets of adaptations and, over many generations, become distinct species.

See my entry on Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem here with some math examples:

http://tinyurl.com/6hjhw5

many genomic features could not have emerged without a near-complete disengagement of the power of natural selection

Michael Lynch opening, The Origins of Genome Architecture

I notice no one answered a rather straight forward question:

What is the number of species in production today via natural selection

Even a good guess would be welcome. 10, 20, 400 per year? C’mon if selection is as obvious as gravity we ought to have some observed examples today.

Richard Simmons:

To use an analogy he might find easier to understand: Sal, how many of the world’s babies turned into toddlers (or preschoolers) in the last hour?

About as many as there are babies born every hour, just slightly less on account of 2 factors:

1. increasing populations 2. infant mortality might be higher than todler aged deaths

This would be approxmiately true what ever definition of toddler was offered!

Bottom line, there is a reasonable estimate by inference!

And if Darwinism is as obvious as gravity, my question doesn’t seem like it should be that hard a question. And if one considers the notion of Darwinian species rather nebulous, then that speaks poorly of Darwin not me.

Nigel D:

I think you have to justify this. In what way are these questions scientific? What insight into the natural world would the answers offer us?

The question relates to the fact that if over the last 150 years, if the number of speciations has been outnumbered by extinctions, then it would appear from an operational standpoint the evidence refutes Darwinian evolution. The only justification for Darwinian evolution would not be observed empirical operation of biology today, but little more than pure assertion not backed up by direct operational measurements of biology today…

Some biologists who are not ID proponents speculate that non-Darwinian mechanisms were the major cause for biological diversification, that natural selection must be disengaged for diversification to occur. This would seem consistent with Fisher’s Fundamental theorem of natural selection.

An example Lewontin gave was rhinos with two horns versus one. Was selection responsible for the fixation of these traits in to subspecies? Doubtful.…mechanisms of geographical, isolation, mutation,drift, and isolation could be just as effective in creating such subspecies.

Accepted population models with realistic parameters lead to error catastrophe.

Jody Hey’s simulation defaults to parameters that prevent error catastrophe, but to his credit the parameters are user selectable. When realistic parameters are input into Hey’s model, they lead to error catastrophe. So not only is Darwinism refuted by empirical observation, theoretical population models support Sanford’s thesis of of Genetic Entropy, not Darwinian evolution.

See Hey’s lab here: http://lifesci.rutgers.edu/~heylab/

Cornell Geneticist John Sanford will give a presentation at ICC 2008 this August to independently confirm Hey’s model with realistic parameters. Stay tuned…

I think it is premuture to celebrate Darwinian evolution as true.

Salvador T. Cordova said:

I think it is premuture to celebrate Darwinian evolution as true.

So please explain why “Darwinian evolution” is false because speciation, which takes hundreds to thousands of generations to occur, occurs more slowly than extinction, which occurs when either the last individual of a species or population dies, or is no longer capable of reproducing, and please explain in great detail why Intelligent Design “theory” is a superior explanation, despite the fact that no one has ever bothered to demonstrate how Intelligent Design “theory” is capable of explaining anything, despite demands of countless scientists and numerous court supoenas.

Or, Mr Cordova, are you going to go on and on like a flapping-jawed moron in ignoring this gaping fatal flaw like you did last time when I asked you to explain why a literal interpretation of the circumstances of Noah’s Ark is a better explanation of the origin of beetle diversity than fossil and genetic evidence suggesting that beetles diverged from scorpionflies during the Carboniferous over 220 million years ago?

Nigel D said:

Darwin and Wallace got it wrong.

No. You got it wrong, as I have shown.

Thank you for that earth-shakingly shocking statement, Nigel.

Salvador T. Cordova said:

See my entry on Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem here with some math examples:

http://tinyurl.com/6hjhw5

Ah yes, Fisher, who Sal made part of that horrible Gambler’s Fallacy argument where I showed he was making shit up and cutting and pasting things he didn’t understand every step of the way. And yet here he comes, shamelessly doing the same thing:

Richard Simmons:

To use an analogy he might find easier to understand: Sal, how many of the world’s babies turned into toddlers (or preschoolers) in the last hour?

Sal said:

About as many as there are babies born every hour, just slightly less on account of 2 factors:

1. increasing populations 2. infant mortality might be higher than todler aged deaths

This would be approxmiately true what ever definition of toddler was offered!

Bottom line, there is a reasonable estimate by inference!

Bottom line, Sal is talking out of his ass, again. Not only did he completely miss the point of the analogy (revise it to be how many people became arthritic in the last hour and you might get the point), he can’t even do the SIMPLE math involved in coming up with an answer to the question! His #1 should read “increasing births”, not increasing population, since the latter could come about through increased longevity. His #2 above makes no sense at all. In a population with increasing births, the number of babies becoming toddlers is going to be smaller than the number of babies born REGARDLESS of the relationship between infant mortality and toddler mortality. This should be obvious, to wit:

B(t) = births at time t

T(t) = babies becoming toddlers at time t

Toddler age = a

Now, our birth rate is increasing, so B(t+x) > B(t) for all x. Thus B(t+a) > B(t). Our birth and toddler mortality are greater than zero, so B(t) > T(t+a). So B(t+a) > B(t) > T(t+a), QED. The relationship of toddler mortality and infant mortality is completely irrelevant.

Sal said:

The question relates to the fact that if over the last 150 years, if the number of speciations has been outnumbered by extinctions, then it would appear from an operational standpoint the evidence refutes Darwinian evolution.

Only to someone completely ignorant, or a shill for the ID crowd trying to make any argument, no matter how absurd, against MET. Suffice it to say there is nothing about MET that says life must continue forever.

The question about rates of speciation and number of speciation events is based on a fundamental misconception about the process of speciation. It might even be legitimate to say that every breeding population is undergoing a great many incipient (or potential) speciation trends, some of which might or might not result in what someone in the future decides is or is not a new species. Sal, like any creationist, can’t seem to get past the model of new species appearing POOF overnight, distinct and unambiguous, according to the whim of the Designer.

And so when one poster after another points out the conceptual error on which Sal’s question is based, which renders the question itself meaningless, he crows that “nobody has answered the question.”

Still, the historical record shows numerous mass extinctions at times in the past. Whatever caused these, it’s still the case that extinctions exceed speciation by orders of magnitude at specific times. And by observation, after each of these events new species radiated rapidly to fill the gaps. So I suppose we could say that during non-mass-extinction periods, there’s a rough equilibrium between extinctions and speciation, with probably a slight edge to speciation. During catastrophic periods, extinctions have a big edge. Immediately following them, speciation has a big edge.

But what does this pattern have to do with creationism? How does it make Darwin wrong? How does it relate to the power of selection? I’m guessing that Sal’s unstated thesis is that ordinary evolutionary processes can’t explain all the diversity he sees, because if it DOES explain that diversity, Sal’s Designer either works through evolution, or does nothing.

And so if extinctions consistently exceed speciation through Darwinian processes, then Sal’s Designer must be hard at work making up the difference. And to make this argument, he carefully distorts the speciation process as required to fit his foregone conclusion. The fact that Sal’s distortion just happens to fit the creationist POOF model is surely not an accident.

Flint Wrote:

And to make this argument, he carefully distorts the speciation process as required to fit his foregone conclusion. The fact that Sal’s distortion just happens to fit the creationist POOF model is surely not an accident.

And neither am I convinced that this is simply an innocent process just to build some kind of consistency with sectarian dogma.

It takes far more effort and mental gymnastics to mangle scientific concepts repeatedly than it does to actually sit down and learn the stuff properly; especially since there are so many corrections to these mangled concepts that are available to anyone who wants to get the ideas right. And in this process, Sal betrays his training and motivations. He is conscious of doing this, as are the entire DI crowd. These distortions are thought through, tested against “evilutionists”, and reworked until rubes begin to adopt them and use them routinely.

Then the DI crowd pulls a disappearing act and lets the rubes take all the heat for all the misconceptions that have been so deliberately built in.

Sal’s narcissistic fantasies about being a multi-degreed math/science/engineering genius just make the game more obvious and ridiculous. The comedy has worn off long ago.

Sal takes advantage of the fact that genius and gibberish look the same to the sufficiently ignorant.

Sal,

According to your own calculations, the doubling rate for the number of species of beetles produced by speciation is more than sufficient to produce over 300,000 species in less than 6,000 years. Obviously, speciation is more than capable of exceeding extinction rates and often has in the past.

If you want to know how many species are being produced at this instant, the answer is 47, everyone knows that. The number will be different tomorrow and so will the number of extinctions. As Flint pointed out, even if speciation cannot keep up with extinctions, it still does not invalidate evolution. Life on earth would end, but Darwin would still be correct.

If you think that there is another mechanism acting to produce new species, by all means present your evidence. Wishful thinking and creative math will not suffice. Maybe a nice video of POOF would convince someone.

I am guessing that Sal will not vote for my proposal to call it the Law of Evolution from now on. Hopefully, more informed opinions will prevail.

Mike Elzinga said:

It takes far more effort and mental gymnastics to mangle scientific concepts repeatedly than it does to actually sit down and learn the stuff properly; […]

I tend to agree with you.

In physics, the concept of entropy is well defined (e.g. Feynman, Vol 1, ch 44). Here, on Panda’s Thumb, we can read about “entropy barriers” that contradict the theory of biological evolution. Also, I noted the concept of “Genetic Entropy”, which I am totally unfamiliar with.

Please, could you tell me (us), how the use of the concept of entropy in these examples relates to the concept of entropy in thermodynamics.

Regards

Eric

Torbjorn, I stand corrected - there are occasions when information theory can legitimately be applied in a biological context.

Salvador Cordova has a long history of being egregiously wrong. We have another example here now.

Does Cordova accept natural selection as causing evolutionary change?

Ray

No, he does not: in fact, in a previous thread, he made an unsubtle hint that he apparently finds the Biblical account of Noah’s Flood to be a more plausible explanation for the origin of the diversity of all terrestrial life.

Ray Martinez said:

Salvador Cordova has a long history of being egregiously wrong. We have another example here now.

Does Cordova accept natural selection as causing evolutionary change?

Ray

Stanton Wrote:

No, he does not: in fact, in a previous thread, he made an unsubtle hint that he apparently finds the Biblical account of Noah’s Flood to be a more plausible explanation for the origin of the diversity of all terrestrial life.

But a lot of people who claim that also concede that “RM + NS” causes “microevolutionary” changes. Unfortunately they get quite silent when asked exactly where “microevolution” leaves off, and what else happens (saltation? new origin of life events?) instead of “macroevolution.”

But all those and other irreconcilable differences (age of life, Earth, etc.), and efforts to cover them up by the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ID community, will finally be put to rest when Ray - an Old Earth, Young Life Creationist - publishes his long-awaited paper.

Stanton said:

No, he does not: in fact, in a previous thread, he made an unsubtle hint that he apparently finds the Biblical account of Noah’s Flood to be a more plausible explanation for the origin of the diversity of all terrestrial life.

.

What does the Flood have to do with causation (accepting or rejecting natural selection)?

Cordova accepts God-Divine causation to explain the existence of species, like any given Creationist?

Ray Martinez, species immutabilist.

Ray Martinez said:

Salvador Cordova has a long history of being egregiously wrong. We have another example here now.

Does Cordova accept natural selection as causing evolutionary change?

Ray

I don’t know what Sal does or doesn’t accept; I just have to work from what he writes:

Darwin and Wallace got it wrong.

Given the context, Sal is egregiously wrong whatever he “accepts”.

Sal is funny, in a sad sort of way. He craves approval and attention and pretends to be interested in science while at the same time showing an incredible unfamiliarity with it. Combine this with a dual personality and we come to understand why some see him as funny, in a sad sort of way. Then again Sal and Denyse would make a great couple.

PvM said:

Sal is funny, in a sad sort of way. He craves approval and attention and pretends to be interested in science while at the same time showing an incredible unfamiliarity with it. Combine this with a dual personality and we come to understand why some see him as funny, in a sad sort of way. Then again Sal and Denyse would make a great couple.

Oh, won’t someone think of the children!!!

Oh, won’t someone think of the children!!!

Of course, the serious answer to that is that pushing for good science education is thinking of the children! ;)

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This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on July 1, 2008 6:39 PM.

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