Game over for antievolutionary No Free Lunch argument

| 254 Comments

This has been obvious from the start, but as far as I know it has taken 10 years for the ID guys to finally admit it. Winston Ewert writes at the Discovery Institute blog:

However, Felsenstein and English note that a more realistic model of evolution wouldn’t have a random fitness landscape. Felsenstein, in particular, argues that “the ordinary laws of physics, with their weakness of long-range interactions, lead to fitness surfaces much smoother than white-noise fitness surfaces.” I agree that weak long-range interactions should produce a fitness landscape somewhat smoother than random chance and this fitness landscape would thus be a source of some active information.

GAME OVER, MAN. GAME OVER! The whole point of Dembski et al. invoking “No Free Lunch” theorems was to argue that, if evolutionary searches worked, it meant the fitness function must be designed, because (logical jump herein) the No Free Lunch theorems showed that evolutionary searches worked no better than chance, when averaged over all possible fitness landscapes.

Emergency backup arguments to avoid admitting complete bankruptcy below the fold, just so I’m not accused of leaving out the context.

We disagree in that I do not think that is going to be a sufficient source of active information to account for biology. I do not have a proof of this. But neither does Felsenstein have a demonstration that it will produce sufficient active information. What I do have is the observation of existing models of evolution. The smoothness present in those models does not derive from some notion of weak long-range physics, but rather from telelogy as explored in my various papers on them.

As always, the ID objections to evolution, when stripped of pseudo-technical camouflage, boil down to “I just don’t buy it because (gut feeling).”

See also: recent PT posts and Jason Rosenhouse at EvolutionBlog.

254 Comments

Ewert says:

“The smoothness present in those models does not derive from some notion of weak long-range physics, but rather from telelogy as explored in my various papers on them.”

Total bunk. Go back to high school and learn some chemistry and physics for Pete’s sake.

Teleology is an anthropomorphic metaphor. There is no real teleology in chemistry and physics; and they still get the job done.

Well, considering all of the evidence that evolution has indeed occurred and the complete lack of evidence for any intelligent designer, the burden of proof is on those who would claim that evolution is impossible. And having failed to demonstrate this, they cannot now decline the burden, simply because of pig headedness. As usual, they probably don’t even realize just how devastating this latest admission is. Man, no wonder Dembski decided to call it quits. Even he must now realize that he never had anything at all convincing. Way to go Joe!

You know this comment is very interesting

The smoothness present in those models does not derive from some notion of weak long-range physics, but rather from telelogy as explored in my various papers on them.

Thus is easily shown. There are many experiments that one could look at, determine the smoothness of the fitness landscape of the reality rather than the model.

Lenski’s work comes to mind as an example. Joyce’s Darwinian evolution on a chip could be used too. Especially since the latter is beyond, I think, what Behe would consider possible (4 mutation families, with multiple mutations in each family… in 72 hours).

So why doesn’t one of the experts at ID Central take this on? Oh yeah, they don’t do science…I forget… carry on.

DS said:

Well, considering all of the evidence that evolution has indeed occurred and the complete lack of evidence for any intelligent designer, the burden of proof is on those who would claim that evolution is impossible. And having failed to demonstrate this, they cannot now decline the burden, simply because of pig headedness. As usual, they probably don’t even realize just how devastating this latest admission is. Man, no wonder Dembski decided to call it quits. Even he must now realize that he never had anything at all convincing. Way to go Joe!

It’s worse than that.

They have, from the beginning, declined the burden of describing an alternative. “Intelligent Design” are empty words. All they have to offer is, there has to be a better explanation than one involving natural processes like evolution.

Political revolutions can proceed without offering an alternative to the present condition, but has there ever been a scientific development like that?

What they have been offering is, at best, a demonstration that a particular mathematical model does not describe the physical reality. However convincing one may think that model may be, the rational response ought to be that there is something wrong with the model. It reminds one of the “urban legend” of the engineer who demonstrated that bees can’t fly.

Kevin said:

Thus is easily shown. There are many experiments that one could look at, determine the smoothness of the fitness landscape of the reality rather than the model.

This is, of course, the nub of the thing.

ID insists on arguing mathematical model of the fitness landscape, and, of course, there are various issues that muddy the theoretical waters and make getting a precise number difficult, which is exactly what they want.

But in reality this is not something you need to rely on theoretically models for. You can step outside and actually measure it.

It’s like the old tale about how all the aerodynamic models show that bumblebees can’t fly.

Reasonable people would look at that and understand that the models are wrong because all the evidence shows that bumblebees are, in fact, airworthy. The DI looks at the model and argues that bumblebees don’t exist.

stevaroni said:

Reasonable people would look at that and understand that the models are wrong because all the evidence shows that bumblebees are, in fact, airworthy. The DI looks at the model and argues that bumblebees don’t exist.

Well, ID/creationism is, at its core, sectarian presuppositional apologetics; dogma first, all else bent and broken to fit.

If the scientific facts don’t fit the “model,” the science is wrong. They actually say this in so many, many, many words; and the words are meant to cover up the rather obvious inadequacies of the “mathematical model.”

stevaroni said:

The DI looks at the model and argues that bumblebees don’t exist.

It’s more like they argue that FLIGHT itself can’t happen.

Thanks, Nick (and thanks, DS). I hope to post a more specific reply to Ewert’s recent ENV posts here in the next few days.

The whole point of Dembski’s Complex Specified Information argument, and his No Free Lunch argument, and the more recent Search For a Search argument, was to present some math that showed that evolution could not lead to the good adaptations that we see, or that it could only if there was a Design Intervention. And the whole point of our refutations was that the math did not work to establish that there is some such barrier.

It was they who were presenting an impossibility proof (or an extreme improbability proof).

Now suddenly, in Winston Ewert’s hands, the argument is about something else. It seems that the burden was on us. It was not good enough to show that evolutionary forces such as natural selection were in principle capable of doing the job. It was not good enough to show that there was no mathematical argument preventing that.

No, apparently, according to Ewert, we have to demonstrate that all these adaptations, in all these species, can actually be achieved.

A brief reading of anything by Dembski or Ewert will make it clear that they did in fact intend to present an impossibility-or-extreme-improbability proof. And they just haven’t got one.

Well that’s pretty typical. They didn’t really understand their argument and so, inadvertently destroyed it. And they did this without realizing that they had in fact given up the one critical point. So to review, all Dembski has proven is that evolution will not work given completely unrealistic assumptions about fitness landscapes. What he has not provided is:

1) Evidence that evolution cannot work in the real world

2) Evidence that evolution has not worked in the real world

3) Any alternative explanation for how all of the adaptations occurred (except some vague mumbo jumbo about how god is somehow still required don’t ya just know it)

And this after twenty years of mathematical obfuscation.

It’s a little late to be shifting the burden of proof now guys. Why should we have to show that something is theoretically possible when we have evidence that it did in fact already occur? Why should we have to explain anything, unless and until they address all of the available evidence first? I say, stick Dembski’s face in the chromosome data. Make him come up with an explanation that is better than descent with modification. Make him admit to common descent of humans. Then even die hard dead heads like Floyd won’t have a leg left to stand on.

Won’t they just now claim this proves the physics is designed?

Joe Felsenstein said: A brief reading of anything by Dembski or Ewert will make it clear that they did in fact intend to present an impossibility-or-extreme-improbability proof. And they just haven’t got one.

Neither you, nor Dembski, have a background in either physics or biochemistry so why are you pretending to claim something for which you have no knowledge of whatsoever?

“Felsenstein, in particular, argues that the ordinary laws of physics, with their weakness of long-range interactions, lead to fitness surfaces much smoother than white-noise fitness surfaces.”

Really? And what experimental evidence do you have to make such an assertion?

From the blog: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/1[…]g101391.html

“Darwinian evolution has to account for finding rare protein folds and complex functional systems.”

What do Felsenstein and English have to say about natural selection, by way of random exploration, finding extremely improbable protein folds (out of a near infinite number of amino acid sequence combinations)? Obfuscating the subject with math can’t overcome the formidable biophysical/chemical problem at hand.

I figured I might as well correct Ewert’s statement:

“The smoothness present in those models does not derive from some notion of weak long-range physics, but rather from magic as explored in my various papers on them.”

-W. Ewert, Baylor aka Texas Hogwarts

Ravi said:

From the blog: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/1[…]g101391.html

“Darwinian evolution has to account for finding rare protein folds and complex functional systems.”

What do Felsenstein and English have to say about natural selection, by way of random exploration, finding extremely improbable protein folds (out of a near infinite number of amino acid sequence combinations)? Obfuscating the subject with math can’t overcome the formidable biophysical/chemical problem at hand.

Where did you get the idea that the laws of physics and chemistry have to proceed according to the dictates of ID/creationism?

ID/creationism is a pseudoscience that gets everything about the universe dead wrong; so of course ID/creationists can only see an insurmountable problem of their own making.

Real scientists know otherwise because they have learned things that ID/creationists skipped over or distorted to comport with their presuppositional sectarian dogma.

Why don’t you check out the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry and explain to us why Dembski, Ewert, and Marks didn’t win the Nobel instead of those real scientists who actually know what they are doing?

Ravi said:

From the blog: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/1[…]g101391.html

“Darwinian evolution has to account for finding rare protein folds and complex functional systems.”

What do Felsenstein and English have to say about natural selection, by way of random exploration, finding extremely improbable protein folds (out of a near infinite number of amino acid sequence combinations)? Obfuscating the subject with math can’t overcome the formidable biophysical/chemical problem at hand.

Protein folds are the emergency backup-backup-backup argument after claims about specified complexity, “evolution can’t produce new information”, “evolution can’t produce new genes”, etc., have been debunked and tacitly abandoned. Most protein folds are very widespread (shared not just among animals but across eukaryotes and often prokaryotes also) so their origins must be very ancient – the argument that Meyer, Luskin etc. have been making lately, which is that a whole bunch of new protein folds had to originate in the Cambrian Explosion, is just ignorant crazypants.

So the origin of protein folds will typically be rarer and more ancient than almost anything short of the origin of life itself, and thus harder to study. But all that said, there is nevertheless a lot that can be said. In fact, there are known cases where tiny amounts of mutation can convert one protein fold into another one.

Look up: Nick Grishin. https://scholar.google.com.au/schol[…]as_sdt=0%2C5

Michael Buratovich (2015). Leaving the Fold. “Darwin’s Doubt and the Evolution of Protein Folds.” Reports of the National Center for Science Education Vol 35, No 5 (2015) http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/r[…]view/379/751

I don’t understand why protein folds are considered “hard”.

See P.Z.Myer’s recent post on the subject.

Sure, proteins can fold in an almost infinite number of ways. Sure, figuring out the sequence for a given folding pattern (shall we say, a “specified” pattern) is an NP-hard problem, computationally. But, the proteins aren’t “computing” anything, and there is no specific “target”. Proteins are going to fold in some way, no matter what. Once you have a mechanism that folds a protein, if that folded configuration is useful, and if the “mechanism” is heritable, then “Evolution”.

My mental image is that sequences of amino acids are like building blocks; strange shaped building blocks to be sure: some curlicues, some funny ribbons, and the like, but building blocks none the less. The mechanism of the cell takes these building blocks and builds interesting three-dimensional objects out of them (i.e. folded proteins). If the blocks don’t fit together, or if the resulting three-dimensional object isn’t “useful” (in some sense), then the cell (over time or over generations) will stop making those proteins, and will make something else.

Sure, the protein-folding “space” that can be “explored” is huge, but there are lots of bacteria doing the “exploring”. Wiki has an estimate of the number of bacteria in the world of 6x1030. If each cell folds one protein every second, in 3 billion years that’s ~1046 operations, where each operation could be considered a “computation”.

Yeah, the DI folks keep talking about really big scary probabilities. Even if you ignore contingency and take their simplistic probabilities at face value, they keep ignoring the really, really big numbers of cells cranking away on these “problems” in parallel, making the probability of finding something that is “useful” to be almost a certainty in very short order.

Why is this “search” considered “hard”?

Oh, and “building blocks”. Once the cell has “learned” how to fold a particular set of amino acids into a curlicue (for example), it doesn’t have to figure out that whole sequence again for the next protein, or the next. In fact, once it’s figured out how to fold a sequence of amino acids into a single helical loop (like a locking washer), the cell doesn’t have to figure it out again, just to make the curlicue longer. It just repeats the pattern “X” times. That’s the “contingency” part, which the DI completely ignores when it uses the simplistic probability computations of “random” events.

(In the following, I’m totally mangling the words, particularly of “probability”, but I’m no expert, no biologist, chemist, or mathematician. So sue me. I’m just trying to get the gist right, using those “big number” that the DI is so fond of)

Let’s say (for example) that a single coil in a curlicue requires 10 amino acids. (I have no idea what a “curlicue” is, but such a pattern keeps showing in the simple stick pictures that I see of folded proteins. It looks like a corkscrew or “curlicue”, so that’s what I’m calling it. Given how common it seems to be, I’m sure there’s a name for it.) Let’s say you have a coil that is 10 loops long, for a total length of 100 amino acids. If the raw probability of combining each amino acid is “X”, then the probability of randomly combining those 100 amino acids together would be X100, which is prohibitively large, no matter what the base “X” is. It’s a big, scary, Intelligently Designed number.

But building the curlicue isn’t “random” at all. Let’s say that the first loop of ten amino acids was built “randomly”, requiring X10 “steps” of some sort. (Even that’s not very big. 210 is just 1,024, which isn’t that big.) But the next loop isn’t random at all. It’s just repeating the first loop, giving X10*X, or X11. For the total 100 amino acid chain, the total “probability” reduces from X100 down to just X19, which is a much more manageable number.

Building blocks simply aren’t “random”. Any kid with a set of Lego bricks can tell you that.

Nick Matzke said: Protein folds are the emergency backup-backup-backup argument after claims about specified complexity, “evolution can’t produce new information”, “evolution can’t produce new genes”, etc., have been debunked and tacitly abandoned. Most protein folds are very widespread (shared not just among animals but across eukaryotes and often prokaryotes also) so their origins must be very ancient – the argument that Meyer, Luskin etc. have been making lately, which is that a whole bunch of new protein folds had to originate in the Cambrian Explosion, is just ignorant crazypants.

The issue of how biologically useful protein folds arise is absolutely fundamental. And it is Douglas Axe and Mike Behe, not Stephen Meyer and Casey Luskin, who have the most to say about protein folds because they have written extensively about the enigma:

Estimating the prevalence of protein sequences adopting functional enzyme folds:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15321723

“Combined with the estimated prevalence of plausible hydropathic patterns (for any fold) and of relevant folds for particular functions, this implies the overall prevalence of sequences performing a specific function by any domain-sized fold may be as low as 1 in 10^77, adding to the body of evidence that functional folds require highly extraordinary sequences.”

So the origin of protein folds will typically be rarer and more ancient than almost anything short of the origin of life itself, and thus harder to study. But all that said, there is nevertheless a lot that can be said. In fact, there are known cases where tiny amounts of mutation can convert one protein fold into another one.

According to evolutionary theory, many important genes, like hox genes with the distinctive helix-turn-helix homeodomain, did arise close to the Cambrian period. So Meyer is right to point this out.

But let me ask, again, how is Felsenstein - a theoretical population geneticist and bioinformatician - capable of commenting on the biophysics of protein function and structure? Has he published any research on the subject?

Scott F said: Why is this “search” considered “hard”?

Because it is blind. The independently foliding homeodomain, for example, contains 60 amino acid residues. The number of possible amino acid combinations for a sequence of that length is 1.153 * 10^78. That is roughly the number of electrons in the entire universe! Now, the homeodomain sequence is variable, of course, but only up to a point. The chance of a random search finding such a sequence is effectively zero. Natural selection only works if there is something useful to select. Assuming a smooth fitness landscape, with incremental steps along the way, is just nonsense.

Ewert writes:

We disagree in that I do not think that is going to be a sufficient source of active information to account for biology. I do not have a proof of this. But neither does Felsenstein have a demonstration that it will produce sufficient active information.

Proof? He’s reduced to using “active information” as a rhetorical device, invoking the notion nebulously when it suits him, and deep-sixing measurements that explode his dogma. In the first of his ENV responses, “These Critics of Intelligent Design Agree with Us More Than They Seem to Realize,” to the PT post by Joe Felsenstein and me, he entirely ignored the GUC Bug model. I called him down for that in “The Law of Conservation of Information Is Defunct.” So now he addresses the GUC Bug ad hoc, and ignores the highlight of our post, a lower bound on the active information of the evolutionary process with respect to the fittest genotype. He abandons not only active information in a little calculation meant to squash the scary bug, but also the Dembski, Ewert, and Marks (DEM) model of “search.” To appreciate the irony fully, you have to recall that our post was motivated by Dembski’s complaint that Joe had neglected the work of DEM.

Winston Ewert wants nothing to do with our formal calculation of the bias (“active information”), due entirely to selection, in a simple evolutionary process. That word proof comes from a part of him that knows he as at a complete loss for a technical response.

Like Joe, I am preparing a post. Mine will appear at The Skeptical Zone.

Tom English said: The Law of Conservation of Information Is Defunct.

And, yet, all of the empirical evidence suggests that genetic/biochemical information is pervasively conserved by natural selection, so why do you want to show otherwise? Makes no sense.

Ravi said:

But let me ask, again, how is Felsenstein - a theoretical population geneticist and bioinformatician - capable of commenting on the biophysics of protein function and structure? Has he published any research on the subject?

But let me ask, again, how is Ravi - who probably isn’t even a biologist of any kind - capable of commenting on the biophysics of protein function and structure? Has he published any research on the subject?

If you want to play the authority game, creationists always lose. Why they go there I don’t know.

DS said: But let me ask, again, how is Ravi - who probably isn’t even a biologist of any kind - capable of commenting on the biophysics of protein function and structure? Has he published any research on the subject? If you want to play the authority game, creationists always lose. Why they go there I don’t know.

It isn’t about authority. It is about knowledge. Felsenstein and English, and also Dembski for that matter, are talking about algortithmic searches that don’t have anything of consequence to say about the biophysics of protein folding. Hence, whatever they come up with, may well by biologically meaningless. Felsenstein can’t make sweeping claims about the physics of the fitness landscape of protein evolution without actually doing some experimental research of his own.

I do not think that is going to be a sufficient source of active information to account for biology. I do not have a proof of this. But neither does Felsenstein have a demonstration that it will produce sufficient active information.

So, basically, they’ve gone back to raw argument from incredulity. ‘Nobody can calculate the fitness landscape’s exact smoothness. Therefore Jesus.”

Ravi,

This thread is about the No Free Lunch theorem and how the ID guys have tried to use it, not the origin of protein folds. C’mon, let’s have it, do you agree that it was correct for the ID guys to say that the No Free Lunch theorem had implications for evolution, given that the No Free Lunch theorem is a statement about searches averaged over all possible fitness functions (most of which will be totally random and thus ridiculously rough), when biological evolution is functioning in a world with laws of physics that specify all sorts of smooth and smooth-ish gradients everywhere (temperature, precipitation, nutrient levels, etc.).

Re: origin of protein folds. Have you read Nick Grishin? Have you bothered to Google Scholar the origin of hox genes? Do you think there is any chance that hox domains are part of a larger class of protein structures with a wider distribution? You obviously didn’t bother to check – why not? Are you lazy? Do you think being an ID proponent gives you the right to just say stuff and accidentally be right about it without bothering to do the bare minimum of due diligence on the topic? Why do you think anyone working in real science should take you ID guys seriously when we do have Google Scholar abilities and can clearly see you aren’t doing the basic background research to even get to the starting point of an informed discussion on the matter?

Ravi said:

Scott F said: Why is this “search” considered “hard”?

Because it is blind. The independently foliding homeodomain, for example, contains 60 amino acid residues. The number of possible amino acid combinations for a sequence of that length is 1.153 * 10^78. That is roughly the number of electrons in the entire universe! Now, the homeodomain sequence is variable, of course, but only up to a point. The chance of a random search finding such a sequence is effectively zero.

Yup. That’s why nobody in the mainstream is proposing any such idiotic idea.

Natural selection only works if there is something useful to select.

Yup. Are you familiar with Behe’s Blunder as to how often something selectable will arise?

Assuming a smooth fitness landscape, with incremental steps along the way, is just nonsense.

Ah, the old argument from incredulity.

Your ignorance is showing.

Don’t feel bad, that’s all of what all ID arguments boil down to.

Ravi said:

Scott F said: Why is this “search” considered “hard”?

Because it is blind. The independently foliding homeodomain, for example, contains 60 amino acid residues. The number of possible amino acid combinations for a sequence of that length is 1.153 * 10^78. That is roughly the number of electrons in the entire universe! Now, the homeodomain sequence is variable, of course, but only up to a point. The chance of a random search finding such a sequence is effectively zero. Natural selection only works if there is something useful to select. Assuming a smooth fitness landscape, with incremental steps along the way, is just nonsense.

Here is a basic ID/creationist puzzle for Ravi to do some ID/creationist critical thinking about.

What are the odds of finding a nugget of copper that has a mass in the vicinity of, say, 64 grams?

Here is the ID/creationist answer almost verbatim.

Oooh, oooh, oooh, pick me; I can do this one!

This is almost exactly like the problem of finding 500 flips of a coin coming up all heads!

There are 118 chemical elements. The number of repeated atoms of exactly copper in 64 grams is 6x10^23. (I looked up moles in a dictionary)

Therefore the odds of finding an assembly of atoms that came up all copper atoms 6x10^23 times in a row is one out of 118^(6x10^23).

Conclusion: You will never find such and arrangement of copper atoms in the lifetime of the universe unless it was intelligently designed.

Ravi said:

DS said: But let me ask, again, how is Ravi - who probably isn’t even a biologist of any kind - capable of commenting on the biophysics of protein function and structure? Has he published any research on the subject? If you want to play the authority game, creationists always lose. Why they go there I don’t know.

It isn’t about authority. It is about knowledge. Felsenstein and English, and also Dembski for that matter, are talking about algortithmic searches that don’t have anything of consequence to say about the biophysics of protein folding. Hence, whatever they come up with, may well by biologically meaningless. Felsenstein can’t make sweeping claims about the physics of the fitness landscape of protein evolution without actually doing some experimental research of his own.

So it’s about knowledge. Well, you certainly haven’t proven that you are qualified Joe Felsenstein is a real biologist, so am I for that matter. And while we are on the subject, no real biologist, you know the guys with all of the knowledge about real biology,. have concluded that evolution could not happen. None. So, according to your own logic. all of the people with the knowledge agree and Bill has no right to even question that conclusion, because he has absolutely no knowledge or understanding of biology. Therefore, Joe’s qualifications a are irrelevant, since no real response to a fake challenge was ever needed. Glad we got that straight.

Nick Matzke said:This thread is about the No Free Lunch theorem and how the ID guys have tried to use it, not the origin of protein folds. C’mon, let’s have it, do you agree that it was correct for the ID guys to say that the No Free Lunch theorem had implications for evolution, given that the No Free Lunch theorem is a statement about searches averaged over all possible fitness functions (most of which will be totally random and thus ridiculously rough), when biological evolution is functioning in a world with laws of physics that specify all sorts of smooth and smooth-ish gradients everywhere (temperature, precipitation, nutrient levels, etc.).

Biological evolution does, indeed, encounter the problem of rough fitness landscapes. That is why it is proposed that stochastic “tunnelling” rather than selective “traversing” may be the appropriate course: http://www.nature.com/nrg/journal/v[…]nrg3744.html Yes, many adaptations may require just a few mutations, but these are mostly minor adjustments/tweaks to function (many degradatory) even if they have a larger effect on fitness.

Re: origin of protein folds. Have you read Nick Grishin? Have you bothered to Google Scholar the origin of hox genes? Do you think there is any chance that hox domains are part of a larger class of protein structures with a wider distribution? You obviously didn’t bother to check – why not? Are you lazy? Do you think being an ID proponent gives you the right to just say stuff and accidentally be right about it without bothering to do the bare minimum of due diligence on the topic? Why do you think anyone working in real science should take you ID guys seriously when we do have Google Scholar abilities and can clearly see you aren’t doing the basic background research to even get to the starting point of an informed discussion on the matter?

The homeodomain is a DNA-binding domain. We know that 10 of the 60 residues are absolutely essential to its function: 6 bind to the major groove of the DNA molecule and 4 to the minor groove. If you delete one or two of these critical residues, you have a non-functioning hox protein: irreducible complexity! You didn’t know that, did you? Game over, pal!

DS said: So it’s about knowledge. Well, you certainly haven’t proven that you are qualified Joe Felsenstein is a real biologist, so am I for that matter. And while we are on the subject, no real biologist, you know the guys with all of the knowledge about real biology,. have concluded that evolution could not happen. None. So, according to your own logic. all of the people with the knowledge agree and Bill has no right to even question that conclusion, because he has absolutely no knowledge or understanding of biology. Therefore, Joe’s qualifications a are irrelevant, since no real response to a fake challenge was ever needed. Glad we got that straight.

Felsenstein is not a biophysicist and has published no research in biophysics. His expertise is in phylogenetics, mathematics and bioinformatics. He has not shown how evolution can overcome extremely rough fitness landscapes that separate potentially functional sequences.

eric said:

Ray Martinez said: [Science] completely rejects Intelligence to have any role in the production of reality.

How can you type that into a computer without seeing the idiocy of your own claim?

What idiocy? Your bluff is called.

1. There is no such thing as adequate fitness or the fittest organism. Its just one of those evolutionary memes that muddy your thinking. The organism is either fit (alive) or unfit (dead). Changes to organisms are made in order to keep the lineage fit (alive). Saying one offspring is fitter than another is meaningless. There will always be at least one fit offspring or the lineage will die off. There is no chance or question on the matter. Organisms dont run through the jungle blind. They have always had the tools to make the changes that are required to stay fit (alive).

2. There is no such thing as better sets (another evolutionary meme). It only has different sets. A better set today is a worse set tomorrow so it adds nothing to talk about better or worse. Only what works. The organism that has the right set today could kill it tomorrow. That is why excess reproduction is a prerequisite for variation and selection. A continouse stream of variation guarantees a minimum of offspring will survive to the next reproductive round. There is no question about it.

These evolutionary memes create the impression that organisms are always on the precipice of oblivion. Its just not the case. They are in continuous flux as is the environment. And that’s no thanks to non-teleological step-wise change.

3. There is no strawman argument. The strawman is you imagining organisms could reproduce zillions from the get-go. You have no supporting evidence for this. In fact, non-teleological step-wise change requires the first proto-cell to start from 0 to 1, then 1 to 2, etc. How did early organisms go from 0 to a zillion in 6 seconds? Unless they were Bugatti’s. But then in that case you would be talking teleology and design.

4. Your lottery analogy is also yet another evolutionary meme. Even a billionth of a chance you will take as evidence for non-teleological step-wise change. But look closer at your analogy. The lottory is in fact designed to have winners. That is why they chose 6 numbers from 1-60. But lets say we design a new lottery with 12 numbers from 1-150. What do you think the results will be? Needless to say, the lottory designers would either get beaten up in a back alley by frustrated lottery buyers or jailed for fraud. Either way, there won’t be any winners in several lifetimes.

In fact, your lottery analogy works better as a designed explanation, i.e. the amount of excess reproduction is calibrated to ensure there is always at least one winner within the reproductive lifespan of the organism.

stevaroni said:

Steve said:

Let’s take that first multi-cellular organism for a start. It has maximum fitness by virtue of its very existence.

No, it has adequate fitness to survive. That is all it needs.

It may be the one of the fittest organisms on the planet at this particular point, but that doesn’t matter all that much at the moment, since the survival landscape is mostly driven by the need to survive the environment.

This logically implies it has the correct set of components and cellular processess to stay alive.

No, this logically implies that it has a sufficient set to survive. There will eventually be much better sets, but at the moment, this one is good enough.

Next we assume (from a non-teleological, step-wise change POV) this first multi-cellular organism was capable of only a single replication.

Why?

Using the popular non-teleological step-wise change evolutionary meme again, what would be the effect of a single, random variation in any one of the components/chemical processes of this obviously extraordinarily successful configuation of matter?

How was it logically possible for this organism to survive even one single variation without pre-existing machinery (information)?

Ah. now we get to the meat of your argument.

But it’s a straw argument, isn’t it?

Your entire model imagines one organism that replicates one time, and that’s not how it works.

Most simple organisms (aided by their offspring) would have been capable of multiplying zillions of times. And, of course, some of them would be mutated, especially with a simple primitive genome with little backup.

And, of course, most of those mutations would have been disastrous, because there was very little DNA to begin with, and it was all pretty important and the odds of having a useful mutation are tiny, and therefore almost all mutations would have been fatal.

This is readily apparent by the slow, slow rate of progress from single celled organisms 3+ billion years ago to even simple multicellular animals maybe 700mya.

Compare that rate of change to modern rates and the progress is glacial.

But this is to be expected, if you want to use the “computer program” analogy, in the early days you’re a simple machine with not much more than an operating system aboard, and almost any change will break you, not make anything better, and the record shows this.

In fact, you probably couldn’t have many mutations at all until you had initial mutations that duplicated some of the DNA so there were pieces that could break in the first place without killing the organism.

But “almost none” is not none, and even astonishingly long odds, when multiplied by enough tries, turns up winners.

Just ask these lottery winners, who all beat vanishingly tiny odds to score that winning ticket.

Poor Steve once again displays his ignorance. Look up the word “fitness” Steve. It doesn’t mean what you think it means. And calling something a meme is not an argument. All of your bluster is meaningless. Grow up, learn some real biology, then go away, not necessarily in that order.

Time to close this thread. Game over indeed.

Ray Martinez said:

eric said:

Ray Martinez said: [Science] completely rejects Intelligence to have any role in the production of reality.

How can you type that into a computer without seeing the idiocy of your own claim?

What idiocy? Your bluff is called.

Computers are part of reality, Ray. Scientists don’t reject the notion that intelligence was involved in their production, and its incredibly silly to claim that they do. Yes, there are intelligently designed things in reality. That does not mean every ID hypothesis is good or scientific; each must be evaluated on its strength, and “species were poofed into existence in their present form via divine miracle from an intelligence which shall go unnamed” is a much weaker ID hypothesis than, for instance “this computer was designed by humans” or “this rock’s fractured surface is a result of hominid intentional sharpening rather than tumbling.”

Steve said: 3. There is no strawman argument. The strawman is you imagining organisms could reproduce zillions from the get-go. You have no supporting evidence for this.

Sure we do; organisms that produce more than once. Chemical catalysts that catalyze the same reaction more than once. Cyclical biochemical reactions, where the cycle occurs over and over again. We observe the process you claim is impossible, and so we reject your claim.

You have yet to answer Stevaroni’s question: why assume replication reactions can only occur once per organism? What law of physics or chemistry prevents a set of biochemicals from going through the same set of reactions second time?

Ahh, but Eric, reproduction and repetitive chemical reactions are two different animals.

Its understandable that you would want to try and shift the focus to the simplest aspect of what’s happening during reproduction. That way you feel you won’t have to confront the teleology that is apparent; like the timing of reactions, the ordering of processes, etc.

Chemical reactions are the most mundane and uninteresting of aspects of what is taking place during reproduction.

As to Stevaroni’s question, I have indeed answered it. Non-teleological step-wise change inherently starts with a single reproduction at a single speed (assumed to be the speed of replicating amino acids since that is the only evidence we have of replication speed in early life). It DOES NOT start with a rapid replicating capability.

But that won’t do for your non-teleological step-wise change explanation. In order to kick start it, you have to assume rapid reproduction, you have to assume replication errors occurred from the get-go, you have to assume the variation would not hinder the organism’s next round of reproduction, you have to assume that if the organism could successfully reproduce with the variation, that the variation would not weaken the offspring’s viability and shorten its lifespan.

With such a long string of unwarranted assumptions being made on your (pl) part, we are justified in rejecting YOUR claims that non-teleological step-wise change can do much of anything without a slew of already designed objects already in place.

eric said:

Steve said: 3. There is no strawman argument. The strawman is you imagining organisms could reproduce zillions from the get-go. You have no supporting evidence for this.

Sure we do; organisms that produce more than once. Chemical catalysts that catalyze the same reaction more than once. Cyclical biochemical reactions, where the cycle occurs over and over again. We observe the process you claim is impossible, and so we reject your claim.

You have yet to answer Stevaroni’s question: why assume replication reactions can only occur once per organism? What law of physics or chemistry prevents a set of biochemicals from going through the same set of reactions second time?

Steve said: As to Stevaroni’s question, I have indeed answered it. Non-teleological step-wise change inherently starts with a single reproduction at a single speed (assumed to be the speed of replicating amino acids since that is the only evidence we have of replication speed in early life). It DOES NOT start with a rapid replicating capability.

This is so much gobbledygook. A biochemical system will do the same thing every time you create the same circumstances. If the system is one that can create a copy of itself, then every time you give it the same environment and reactants it will make copies of itself. The equations governing reactions don’t distinguish between DNA strand #1 original and DNA strand #1,000,000 clone; if the former would replicate in some circumstance, the latter would too. The ability to “reproduce” on a biochemical scale is just a consequence of how physics works.

In order to kick start it, you have to assume rapid reproduction,

Define ‘rapid.’ I think mainstream science expects that carbon backbone polymer reactions 3 billion years ago operated at the same speed we observe carbon backbone polymer reactions occurring today.

you have to assume replication errors occurred from the get-go, you have to assume the variation would not hinder the organism’s next round of reproduction, you have to assume that if the organism could successfully reproduce with the variation, that the variation would not weaken the offspring’s viability and shorten its lifespan.

We don’t make these assumptions. The first is an observation rather than an assumption: we observe the rate at which errors occur. Your complaints #2 and #3 show you don’t understand evolution, because evolution expects that many if not most variations will inhibit reproduction or weaken the organism.

With such a long string of unwarranted assumptions being made on your (pl) part, we are justified in rejecting YOUR claims that non-teleological step-wise change can do much of anything without a slew of already designed objects already in place.

Well, except that all of your assumptions are wrong. The first isn’t an assumption and in the last two cases we appear to agree with you about the expected result of most variation.

stevaroni said:

This is readily apparent by the slow, slow rate of progress from single celled organisms 3+ billion years ago to even simple multicellular animals maybe 700mya.

Compare that rate of change to modern rates and the progress is glacial.

This is one of the arguments that’s always bothered me. Why is it assumed that the rate of evolution was “glacial” in the first 3 billion years, or so? Presumably, since the first self-replicator, evolution was occurring. By the time we get to the first multi-cellular organism, the individual cell is, itself, very, very complex and highly evolved. Just because we can’t see it in the fossil record, evolution must have been occurring at a furious pace to create all of the various cellular “engines”, repair mechanisms, etc.

I’m not a biologist in any sense. But it’s always seemed to me that all of the grand variation in multi-cellular forms is nothing compared to the inner mechanisms of the cell itself.

Also, the notion that there was just one least common ancestor, just a single “first replicator”. To my untrained eye, the eukaryotic cell itself appears to be a fossil record of multiple origins of life. Just look at its components: mitochondria, chloroplasts, the nucleus itself. This suggests that there were different kinds of replicating organisms, some of which eventually cooperated (or were co-opted) into creating a more complex replicator.

Steve said: on Dec 17

Let’s take that first multi-cellular organism for a start. It has maximum fitness by virtue of its very existence.

Steve said: on Dec 23

1. There is no such thing as adequate fitness or the fittest organism.

This is nonsense. You can’t have it both ways. First you claim that an organism can have “maximum fitness”. A week later (in the same thread) you claim there is no such thing as “the fittest organism”. If an organism has “maximum fitness”, then by definition it must be “the fittest organism”.

Scott F said: Also, the notion that there was just one least common ancestor, just a single “first replicator”. To my untrained eye, the eukaryotic cell itself appears to be a fossil record of multiple origins of life. Just look at its components: mitochondria, chloroplasts, the nucleus itself. This suggests that there were different kinds of replicating organisms, some of which eventually cooperated (or were co-opted) into creating a more complex replicator.

I’m not a biologist either, but I believe you’re expressing an idea similar to one current hypothesis: that lateral gene (and larger structure) transfer between organisms played a big role in early life. This would mean that we wouldn’t have a “family tree” with a traditional trunk and branches early on. Instead, the early ‘tree’ would look more like interconnected webbing; all organisms related, but not hierarchically so, because lineages would trade or aggressively co-opt components of other lineages a lot more than multicellular life can or does today.

Steve said:

Chemical reactions are the most mundane and uninteresting of aspects of what is taking place during reproduction.

What do you think that reproduction is, if it isn’t mundane and “uninteresting” chemical reactions?

I’m not a Reductionist by any means (I’m a big fan of Mike’s “emergent properties” at all levels of organization of condensed matter), but “life” is chemical reactions. The former would not exist without the latter.

(Well, to be precise, that’s an unproven assumption. We don’t know for certain that “life” (of some sort) could not exist without chemistry. But it certainly holds true for “life” as we know it.)

Despite what creationists say, there is no magic poof-ism line separating “life” from “chemistry”.

eric said:

Scott F said:

Also, the notion that there was just one least common ancestor, just a single “first replicator”. To my untrained eye, the eukaryotic cell itself appears to be a fossil record of multiple origins of life. Just look at its components: mitochondria, chloroplasts, the nucleus itself. This suggests that there were different kinds of replicating organisms, some of which eventually cooperated (or were co-opted) into creating a more complex replicator.

I’m not a biologist either, but I believe you’re expressing an idea similar to one current hypothesis: that lateral gene (and larger structure) transfer between organisms played a big role in early life. This would mean that we wouldn’t have a “family tree” with a traditional trunk and branches early on. Instead, the early ‘tree’ would look more like interconnected webbing; all organisms related, but not hierarchically so, because lineages would trade or aggressively co-opt components of other lineages a lot more than multicellular life can or does today.

Yes, indeed. That’s an interesting way of expressing it too. The notion that organisms could “attack” other organisms, not to acquire raw materials for growth, but to acquire new capabilities. Almost like an organism soup. Only later does Evolution settle down to the notion of “separate” and distinct organisms that cooperate to achieve new capabilities. (Maybe. That’s just a vague notion, rather than a well thought-out proposal.)

Scott F said:

Steve said: on Dec 17

Let’s take that first multi-cellular organism for a start. It has maximum fitness by virtue of its very existence.

Steve said: on Dec 23

1. There is no such thing as adequate fitness or the fittest organism.

This is nonsense. You can’t have it both ways. First you claim that an organism can have “maximum fitness”. A week later (in the same thread) you claim there is no such thing as “the fittest organism”. If an organism has “maximum fitness”, then by definition it must be “the fittest organism”.

Well remember, this is the guy who refused to define the term “fitness” and refused to identify which type of fitness he was trying to describe. Apparently to him it means “something I don’t understand and don’t care to become educated about.” So when you refuse to define the term, is it any surprise when you try to switch meanings? Steve can argue his own misconceptions into the ground. No one cares. In the end he won’t have touched the modern theory of evolution at all, except of course in his own mind. Must be a lot of echos because of all the empty space in there.

Scott F said: The notion that organisms could “attack” other organisms, not to acquire raw materials for growth, but to acquire new capabilities.

Well it was more the reverse situation I was thinking of. Like a virus: one organism injects its own DNA into a second, and the second then propagates a “chimera” daughter. Generally organisms try to be the invader, not the invadee. Though I guess if you think of examples such as mammalian gut bacteria, there’s an argument to be made that organisms still sometimes practice a successful ‘be an invadee’ strategy in an epigenetic rather than genetic manner.

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