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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Joseph, I've been following this thread for a while. Considering I'm not a biologist, nor have training in any other branch of life science, I don't feel qualified to to tender an opinion on the specifics of what you have been discussing. I would, though, offer a qualified agreement with you. I don't particularly believe Shaun is a theist. I've not seen him invoke Jesus, Yaweh, Allah, or Ganesh the Hindu Elephant god.

HOWEVER, I would posit that he is a Deist. One who embraces the idea  that there is a magical, mystical, force in the universe that is responsible for the development of life. In other words, a belief in some form of ju-ju magic. And, following this thread, I can't disagree with your assessment of his ability as a rational thinker.

I'm not a biologist either, but I'm heavily read on the subject.  My biggest complaint on the subject is Shaun's repeated inability to present any literature on the subject that supports his insane accusations.  He grossly misrepresented the only book he presented, which at best presents a very slight shift in evolutionary theory, similar to that of Stephen Jay Gould's presentation of punctuated equilibrium, a few decades back.

After my repeated attempts to get him to give us something substantial, rather than a restatement of the bullshit in his main post, he finally admitted that he won't be able to convince me.  I guess I'm just too unreasonable, demanding evidence.

My impression is that he's using supernatural as a pejorative.  He's trying to emotionally manipulate us into agreeing that supernatural is bad, and if natural selection requires the supernatural, then ...

Unfortunately for him, I don't react well to emotional manipulation.  I spot it, and it just pisses me off.

I don't know if he's specifically a deist, but either way, I don't think he's quite stupid enough to admit it, given the site's terms of service.  I've exposed and had kicked from the site several stealth theists.

There was some idiot who posted some YouTube video to the effect of "All of these great scientists of the past believed in God!  What should we draw from this fact?" ... and of course several of the scientists in the video, such as Einstein, are known from their private letters to have been nonbelievers, but that's beside the point.  After a few rounds of back-and-forth, in the comment section of the video, I finally got him to state that he thinks that there probably is some sort of god ... and bam, he's gone.

More than anything else, Shaun just smells like a Christian apologist, in style, if not in substance.  The structure of his arguments is very similar to those of WLC and Jerry McDowell.  And like almost all theistic arguments, there's that huge argument from ignorance stuck on the end to get from where they think the argument actually got them, the rest of the way to their god.

At least WLC tries to justify it, even if his list of requirements that are answered only by his Christian God are so obviously ad hoc as to be laughable.  Shaun doesn't even go to that much effort.

Joan, I regret the way I expressed my point. My point is simple math:

  • if in each generation there are 1002 harmful mutations and 2 beneficial mutations, and all carry a value of fitness of plus or minus one, then the sum of harm and benefit together in each generation is -1000 units of fitness (- 1002 + 2). If natural selection had zero effect, then as generations pass the sum increases in arithmetical proportion as, -1000, -2000, -3000, -4000 etc until the loss of fitness reaches the point of making the species go extinct. Note; "harmful" means mutations persist, they are not lethal until their cumulative effect is lethal.

  • Now give natural selection some effect, instead of zero, say, 2%. Let's assume it lets all beneficial mutations through but reduces the number of harmful mutations in each generation by 2%. Then the totals change to around  - (1002 - 20) + 2 = 980 in generation one (compounding won't have much effect on numbers of harmful mutations for several generations) : -980, -1960, -2940 etc, ie natural selection does reduce the amount of harm passed on, but not by enough to prevent extinction.

  • To prevent extinction you need to get rid of at least 99.9% of harmful mutations in each generation, for the accumulation of fitness to be to be positive in each generation, as this mechanism of evolution would demand. That's an efficiency of natural selection of close to 100%.

So it's a mathematical problem. So far, I've not found anyone who can explain to me where the problem is. I see only four answers:

  1. the efficiency of natural selection really is 100%

  2. "Harmful" really means "lethal" so they disappear of their own accord, you can ignore them.

  3. my logic and maths is faulty (no one has yet pointed out where I've made an error grave enough to account for the problem)

  4. the maths are applied differently to beneficial mutations and harmful mutations (I sarcastically referred to that as "supernatural.")

If 3, can you point out my error?

I know I should have put it this way first, but when I do no one takes it seriously, So I made a joke of it, saying I believed answer 4, and challenging anyone to prove me wrong. Sorry.

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