Puzzle--how to get around these apparent dependencies of the modern synthesis on supernatural powers?

Natural selection works by whittling down the number of less-fit variations. As fast as it does so some agency must add new variations, otherwise natural selection would run out of variations to select from and evolution would cease. Failure to find a non-supernatural agency able to account for the creation of new variation led to natural selection being almost abandoned after Darwin's death.

But did the addition of genetic mutation help? Genetic mutation by itself leads to harmful mutations that, accumulating generation by generation, would lead to rapid extinction. Natural selection's effect, being so slight, can do little to slow that accumulation. But according to population statistics, when that slight effect acts in favor of beneficial mutations it can increase their incidence to make them the dominant form of their gene, although that would take millions of generations. For that time to be availalble something must be suppressing the accumulation of the harmful mutations that would otherwise lead to extinction in just a few generations. That can only be supernatural powers in the beneficial mutation.

Illustration: Take two species competing in the same niche. Both suffer genetic mutation but the second one has a perfect repair mechanism so no mutations survive into its phenotype. Until beneficial genes appear in the first species it accumulates harmful genes and extinction threatens. But once a beneficial gene appears, all that accumulation of harmful genes must supernaturally disappear and only beneficial mutations will increase in incidence, leading after millions of generations to eventual evolution and dominance in the niche. Without this supernatural power of the beneficial mutation, how else how can one account for mutations helping species evolve?

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Your third paragraph is a great deal of gobble-de-gook.  Of course something is suppressing the accumulation of harmful mutations: the highly-increased rate-of-death amongst those with that harmful mutation.  How is that so hard to understand?

You're also leaving out neutral mutations, which make up the vast majority of mutations.  Your classification of mutations as either harmful or beneficial is just wrong.

Finally, your assertion that it takes millions of generations for a beneficial mutation to become dominant is ridiculous.  Where are you even getting that from?  I've never heard anything of the sort from anyone who understands evolutionary theory.  In a high-pressure selection environment, such as that caused by the introduction of a new predator or a major change in the food supply, you could see a huge change in gene frequency over a few dozen generations.

Why do you keep bringing up this sort of stuff?  Anyone with a basic education in evolutionary theory should be able to spot your many wrongheaded assertions.  At least link us to an article by someone who understand what he/she is talking about.

Both suffer genetic mutation but the second one has a perfect repair mechanism so no mutations survive into its phenotype.

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Without this supernatural power of the beneficial mutation, how else how can one account for mutations helping species evolve?

Those two statements are just complete bunk.  Beneficial mutations happen randomly, the same as harmful mutations.  How the hell is a beneficial mutation automatically supernatural?  You make zero sense.

And what the fuck is a perfect repair mechanism that prevents mutations from occurring?  How would the genetic repair mechanism know what is the original genetic code and what is a mutation?  Do you even have a specific mechanism in mind, or are you pulling something straight out of your ass?

God of the gaps. Go learn how evolution work before insulting our intelligence. And by our, I mean the people who HAVE done their homework and not been taken in by former Networking engineers who don't understand it either.

I think someone probably mentioned this, but evolution doesn't happen over millions of generations, it happens in small ways in EACH generation. Every successive generation of any species is slightly different from the parent generation. These differences being selected for on the basis of successful reproduction.

And some mutations carry on for generations before the adaptation becomes useful. Why are we even discussing this? It's basic stuff.

I dunno, it's not necessarily fair to him to say that he doesn't know the basics, I guess.  He knows that mutations and the selection by survival is what drives Natural Selection.  He just doesn't seem to know anything in any kind of detail.  He knows what I learned about biological evolution in middle school, and he hasn't learned anything beyond that.

The conflation of beneficial mutations with supernatural agency blows my fucking mind, though.

The conflation of beneficial mutations with supernatural agency blows my fucking mind, though.

And yet he claims to be an atheist

I dunno, this guy baffles me.

I challenged him on the god-question, in one of his blog posts, and he stuck to his guns.  I've just never seen this kind of seemingly-willful incomprehension about Natural Selection, from anyone other than a fundamentalist creationist.  I don't know what to make of Shaun.

 

It was pretty funny seeing the accusation from the other direction, though, as ignorant as it may have been.  "You don't want to believe in Evolution, guys.  That's God-stuff!"

Thank you, I have read and appreciated all comments. Pleased to blow your mind.

  • Of course something is suppressing the accumulation of harmful mutations: the highly-increased rate-of-death amongst those with that harmful mutation.

If mutations lead to rapid death, ie the rate-of-death is highly-increased,  those are lethal, not merely harmful, mutations. The increased rate-of-death amongst those with that harmful mutation is the mechanism of natural selection. It cannot eliminate all harmful mutations, merely nibble away a few.

  • You're also leaving out neutral mutations, which make up the vast majority of mutations.

Only beneficial and harmful variations are relevant to how mutations induce the action of natural selection.

  • that it takes millions of generations for a beneficial mutation to become dominant is ridiculous.

Significant evolution, to create new species, typically takes time of the order of a millions years, I believe. Of course, measurable changes in change frequencies can be detected in less than that, but not, I think, the evolution of notably new species.

  • How would the genetic repair mechanism know what is the original genetic code and what is a mutation?

I don't know how, but I got the information from Shapiro: Evolution: View from the 21st Century. There is a repair apparatus, and it is amazingly efficient.

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I seem not to have made myself plain. Some points:

  • When you make changes to a blueprint at random, harmful results will be much more frequent than beneficial ones. Consider making changes at random to the blueprint of a two-stroke engine, how often would your random changes improve the performance of engines made from it? In almost all cases your random changes will be disastrous, improvements will be extremely rare.
  • Do this session after session (in each "generation") and this damage will accumulate, until  engines made from this blueprint no longer work.
  • Now suppose one random change is actually an improvement. Nice, but it can't outweigh the much greater amount of damage that's accumulating as you keep making random changes. You're just making many more harmful than beneficial changes as you go along.
  • Now suppose there's a process (like natural selection) that makes harmful changes1% less frequent, and improvements 1% more frequent with each new session, and continue random changes. You've made almost no difference to the number of harmful changes, so they'll go on accumulating almost as before. Their effect is still overwhelmingly greater than that of the improvement. That process would have to 100% efficient for harmful changes to have less impact than the improvements.
  • Now wonder how many of those improvements you'd need to turn that blueprint for a two-stroke engine into a blueprint for a four-stroke engine, comparable to turning a jellyfish into a frog, say. That gives some idea of the challenge facing random changes plus natural selection to effect that change.

You can't attribute what you can't explain to Jesus of Nazareth fucking the Easter bunny while Mohammed watches and jerks off.

Pleased to blow your mind.

Blowing my mind with your ignorance of the subject you're bashing is not an achievement, man.

Significant evolution, to create new species, typically takes time of the order of a millions years, I believe. Of course, measurable changes in change frequencies can be detected in less than that, but not, I think, the evolution of notably new species.

Considering that we've observed speciation events in the lab, and we haven't had labs for millions of years, I'd say you're slightly wrong, by several orders of magnitude.

I don't know how, but I got the information from Shapiro: Evolution: View from the 21st Century. There is a repair apparatus, and it is amazingly efficient.

That is an inherent repair mechanism of DNA duplication you're speaking of, I believe, and is therefore not something that one species would have and another not have.  And once the gene mutates due to a failure of the transcription mechanism, there is no repair system to weed out bad mutations and restore them to a previous, non-mutated form, in daughter cells.

I suspect that you're quote-mining the living hell out of that book.

When you make changes to a blueprint at random, harmful results will be much more frequent than beneficial ones. Consider making changes at random to the blueprint of a two-stroke engine, how often would your random changes improve the performance of engines made from it? In almost all cases your random changes will be disastrous, improvements will be extremely rare.

That's a very bad comparison.  Two-stroke engines are precision, designed systems with very little tolerance for variation.  Most mutations involve a slight variation within a protein, not a complete migration of vital components to a random place in the engine.

When you have an engine that goes through an embryonic stage instead of an assembly line, you'll have a valid comparison.  This one is crap.

Do this session after session (in each "generation") and this damage will accumulate, until engines made from this blueprint no longer work.

No, they won't, because the embryos with "damage" will probably die before adulthood and will not reproduce.  I think you're grossly underestimating the power of the sifting mechanism, in Natural Selection.

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And the rest of your argument falls apart under the weight of your bad metaphor.

You're aware that Shapiro's book just adds additional complexity on top of the existing Natural Selection framework, right?  It doesn't nullify Natural Selection, any more than Punctuated Equilibrium did.

The answer to your title question is still no, and your use of the word supernatural is as idiotic as ever.

I do appreciate your patience in exploring my post. Every so often I like to try out my latest framing of what I see faulty in "darwinism" and see how it flies, each time trying to make it briefer. This time I employed the idea of the modern synthesis requiring supernatural aid, but that's obviously not gone over well.

I feel you've taken short cuts in shooting my ideas down. It is hardly fair to take lab experiments as typical of evolution, since in that context species can be defined as displaying any inherited change at all, no matter how minute. I mean evolution in the usual sense, new creatures impressing themselves as new species on naturalists in the field. And "the embryos with 'damage' will probably die before adulthood and will not reproduce," those are lethal, not merely harmful. I take harmful to mean, they persist indefinitely despite reducing fitness. Jim said "evolution doesn't happen over millions of generations, it happens in small ways in EACH generation. Every successive generation of any species is slightly different from the parent generation. These differences being selected for on the basis of successful reproduction." But that's the point--what Darwin referred to as evolution was the summary of many small changes. It's the sum that's usually referred to as evolution, not each contributory small change.

By employing such nit picks you avoid dealing with the substantial issue.

More problematic, you say "And once the gene mutates due to a failure of the transcription mechanism, there is no repair system to weed out bad mutations and restore them to a previous, non-mutated form, in daughter cells." I think you're wrong here, and it matters. The repair system does exactly what you deny, it repairs faults to DNA after duplication and before the DNA appears as phenotype. At the least this means the mutations appearing in phenotypical form are not random, they are those the repair apparatus cannot repair, which is likely to be a small subset of those created at random during duplication. So "random" requires qualification as "those surviving repair," which may not be random at all.

And it is hardly fair to say of a thought experiment, one of the options isn't so (two species differing in how effective their repair mechanisms are), so there's no point in making the comparison. I doubt you feel that all thought experiments are illegitimate. Only the ones I propose?

So I feel you dismiss my arguments inauthentically.

My issue is, in Ronald Fisher's 1930 analysis of how beneficial mutations will spread to become dominant alleles and so contribute significantly to macroevolution he applied his formulae to only the effect of natural selection with a small efficiency of around 1% acting on beneficial genes over millions of generations, but not on the much more numerous harmful genes. I believe if he had done so he would have seen that the effects of harmful genes would have overwhelmed the effects of the much less common beneficial genes. This calls into question the entire field of population statistics to the extent it's based on Fisher's work. I'm not a statistician, so I can't prove this, but that he made this error is borne out by explanations I've read of Fisher's work by people who are--they mention only how he applied his analysis to beneficial mutations, with no reference to how he dealt with those that are harmful.

Any statisticians familiar with Fisher's work among you who can point out my error?

I'm interested in coming up with ways to raise the issue for the general public, without bring in statistics. The National Academy of Sciences published a manual for teaching evolution that fudged this issue, I challenged their account in their own terms, but heard nothing from them. Story here.

How can I get this issue seriously examined? It does matter if the modern synthesis rests of a faulty basis, no matter how intuitively sound it seems once you accept it.

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