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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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.

Mostly, I just stop caring, after a few responses.  You come out with the most outlandish claims.  It's just like the claim I've heard out of creationists (and I don't mean to say you're just like a creationist; that's just who I've heard making this argument), about evolution being a theory in crisis, because Natural Selection is being challenged by Punctuated Equilibrium.

It's not a freaking challenge to Natural Selection!  It's just a refinement of some of the nuts and bolts.

The one good point you've made is bringing up Shapiro's book, but I suspect you're picking out the few little bits that you like, which you think tear down Natural Selection.  You're missing the greater point, that it's just a nuts-and-bolts discussion of the mechanisms involved within evolutionary theory.

The biggest problem you have is that after I read your wild assertions of supernaturalism and all of the other crap in the third and fourth paragraphs of your initial post, I want to know where you got all of that crap from.  I no longer care about the nuts and bolts discussion, because the conclusions you've drawn are so insane.

I took short cuts shooting you down, because so much of what you've said requires remedial education on the subject, and I just don't have the time or the inclination for that.

"Modern synthesis"? If you imagine that any science can be synthesized with supernatural, or fairy dust, or elves, you just don't understand what science is.

Go back to fundamentals, please.

There is a huge logical fallacy. "How else can one account..." thus god/magic must be the cause. Argument from Incredulity. Even if we could NOT account for this, a supernatural explanation is not justified as it has no explanatory power and is just replacing a mystery with an even bigger, less comprehensive mystery. But of course understanding logic and having the ability to construct fallacy-free arguments is not a requirement to be a blogger (though it should be). The other guy explained the typical mechanism but even if there was NO explanation, invoking the supernatural is unjustified until you can show evidence that it even exists and only then if you can create a causal link that explains how the supernatural conducts this function. And at that point you would have only a hypothesis and would need to come up with a way to TEST the idea.

You seem to be willfully misunderstanding my point. I am accusing modern evolutionary theory of resorting to supernatural explanations. I am calling for a non-supernatural explanation in place of it. You seem to criticizing me for making exactly the point you are making.

You seem to be willfully misunderstanding my point.

No he isn't, Shaun.  Your point was freaking stupid.  The book that you finally brought up doesn't demonstrate anything that you seem to think it does, and your verbiage is inflammatory and wrongheaded.

Does the current model of natural selection contain every detail of every tiny piece of the mechanisms that drive the process?  Of course not; don't be ridiculous.

Does having a few details wrong in the model mean that the model includes the supernatural?

What the fuck, man?  How the hell do you connect those two points?  You're pulling the accusations of super-naturalism straight out of your ass.  Name one serious scientist in the field who includes the supernatural in their working model.

The entire point of this discussion that you created is idiotic and shows that you don't understand a damned thing about natural selection.  When we discover new mechanisms that influence natural selection, they're included in the model, as punctuated equilibrium was.  The introduction of punctuated equilibrium didn't demolish the theory of natural selection; it was just a small tweak in the nuts-and-bolts of the theory.  Shapiro's book discusses a similar potential tweak to the working theory.

And once again, where the fuck are you getting this supernatural accusation of yours?

Learn how to use a comma.

I appreciate that all you find incorrect in my post is the use of commas. I regard that as praising with faint damns.

You still haven't answered my question, where you think they're inserting a supernatural element.  All you've done is give a vague accusation with no detail.

Let me repeat:

  • 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.

Is that OK?

  • 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.

Is that OK?

  • For that time [millions of generations] to be available [for beneficial mutations to become significant] something must be suppressing the accumulation of the harmful mutations that would otherwise lead to extinction in just a few generations [see bullet one].

What is it that suppresses the effect of the more numerous harmful mutations that would otherwise lead to rapid extinction, giving the occasional beneficial mutations time to slowly increase in frequency?

  • That can only be supernatural powers in the beneficial mutation.

In the absence of any explanation, I assumed a supernatural cause was being invoked. If not, what is the correct explanation?

Natural selection's effect, being so slight, can do little to slow that accumulation.

Bullshit.  Where are you even getting this crap?

That can only be supernatural powers in the beneficial mutation.

That is an amazingly grotesque argument from ignorance.  How do you justify the usage of the term supernatural?

In the absence of any explanation, I assumed a supernatural cause was being invoked. If not, what is the correct explanation?

Dude, and then you just explicitly stated the argument from ignorance and expect us to accept it as making your point for you.  Do you not even know your most basic logical fallacies?  Holy shit.

Natural selection's effect, being so slight, can do little to slow that accumulation.

  • Bullshit.  Where are you even getting this crap?

It's central to population statistics that the efficiency of natural selection is very low. Usually quoted as around 1-2%. If there are 1000 times as many harmful mutations as beneficial mutations, then the action of natural selection is much too small to offset how much more damage than benefit accumulates, from mutations.

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