Natural selection is really not such a hard concept to "get". I am no scientist, and yet I can see why a pack of wolves charging a herd of caribous will preferably go after the weaker individuals, hence reducing their chances to pass on their genes to the next generations. It’s a logical behavior motivated by the harsh requirements of their subsistence. (No need to invoke a mysterious force behind it.) Changing environmental conditions, including competition with other predators and preys (who themselves keep evolving) will keep changing the parameters of the equation, and lead to fortune reversals. For example, under certain conditions, it may be advantageous for a given species to become larger. Should the environment change (e.g., isolation of a population from the mainland), the opposite may become true. The fact that natural selection favors one evolution trend under certain conditions, and another (perhaps opposite one) under other conditions, hardly makes it irrelevant.
To go back to the moth example, maybe it’s true that natural selection will lead to the extinction of the slow white ones, given the evolutionary pressure they are facing (see the dodo for a real life example). But let’s not forget that it’s also natural selection that caused them to be slow and white in the first place. They are now at a disadvantage simply because something has changed in their environment. Being fast and dark is temporarily the winning combination of attributes, until something else changes yet again.
As for the relative stability of species, I would venture that fitness to a particular environment is always a matter of optimization under (many) constraints, and the capacity to adapt is one of critical components of success. Many species have become too "perfect" for their own good, and ended up extinct.
First off, I would agree that Natural Selection is not a hard concept to “get” but that is precisely because, as my original argument stated, Natural Selection is trivial. In fact, Darwinists play on their loose defining of this term to their advantage (and we see many examples of this in Anonymous’s post). But let us survey some of the popularist Darwinists. First, let us consult the glossary that Mark Ridley has in his textbook, Evolution to give us the starting framework (note, in all quotes that follow, the italics is in the original):
natural selection The process by which the forms of organisms in a population that are best adapted to the environment increase in frequency relative to less well adapted forms over a number of generations (Ridley, 2004 p. 686).This leads us to look at the definition of “population” which is:
population A group of organisms, usually a group of sexual organisms that interbreed and share a gene pool (Ripley 2004, p. 687).Compare this to the definition for fitness:
fitness The average number of offspring produced by individuals with a certain genotype, relative to the number produced by individuals with other genotypes. When genotypes differ in fitness because of their effects on survival, fitness can be measured as the ratio of a genotype’s frequency among the adults divided by its frequency among individuals at birth (Ripley 2004, p. 684).Now these definitions are fairly dry, but they serve an important purpose. First, they are about as precise as you will ever see a Darwinist define the terms. But how precise is that? Look at the definition for Natural Selection once more. There is nothing in that definition that is inconsistent with Creationism. All Natural Selection is, according to Ripley, is when one population (which is a shared gene pool) increases in number (frequency) because it is the most adapted to the environment while maladapted organisms decrease.
And this is a problem for Creationism because…?
This definition will hardly do for the Darwinist to stake his claims. Let us therefore look at what Ernst Mayr wrote:
Almost all of those who opposed natural selection failed to realize that it is a two-step process. Not realizing this, some opponents have called selection a process of chance and accident, while others have called it deterministic. The truth is that natural selection is both.First I must note that if it is true that “[a]lmost all of those who opposed natural selection failed to realize that it is a two-step process” it is equally true that Ripley failed to realize this. In reality, Mayr is synthesizing two aspects of Darwinism together and fusing it all under the term Natural Selection, which is improper. Only the last paragraph of what Mayr wrote actually deals with Natural Selection. That is, selection is a winnowing process; the “first step” Mayr proposes is actually a separate entity, namely chance mutation.
At the first step, consisting of all the processes leading to the production of a new zygote (including meiosis, gamete formation, and fertilization), new variation is produced. Chance rules supreme at this step, except that the nature of the changes at a given gene locus is strongly constrained.
At the second step, that of selection (elimination), the "goodness" of the new individual is constantly tested, from the larval (or embryonic) stage until adulthood and its period of reproduction. Those individuals who are most efficient in coping with the challenges of the environment and in competing with other members of their population and with those of other species will have the best chance to survive until the age of reproduction and to reproduce successfully (Mayr 2001, p. 119).
But what is most interesting about this quote is the fact that Mayr seeks to demonstrate that Natural Selection is “deterministic.” And this deterministic pressure is on every stage of the organism, from larva (or fetal) up through reproduction. However, just 22 pages later, Mayr writes:
Much of the differential survival and reproduction in a population are not the result of selection, but rather of chance. Chance operates at every level in the process of reproduction, beginning with the crossing-over of parental chromosomes during meiosis to the survival of the newly formed zygotes. Furthermore, potentially favorable gene combinations are undoubtedly often eliminated by indiscriminate environmental forces such as floods, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions before natural selection has had the opportunity to favor specific genotypes (Mayr 2001, p. 141).So which is it? Is it deterministic, or is it chance? Darwinists are hardly clear on this issue, so it’s no wonder their followers cannot speak cogently on it. One thing is certain: Natural Selection cannot be teleological!
Another widespread erroneous view of natural selection must also be refuted: Selection is not teleological (goal-directed). Indeed, how could an elimination process be teleological? Selection does not have a long-term goal. It is a process repeated anew in every generation (Mayr 2001, p. 121).(Note that this quote on page 121 demonstrates that Mayr is fully aware that Natural Selection is only “an elimination process” and not his two-step process he claimed on page 119.)
So, while Mayr seeks to synthesize two aspects together under the term Natural Selection when it suits him, he is quick to keep them separate when it does not suit him to combine the ideas.
With this in mind, let us return once again to Anonymous’s comments. He said:
I am no scientist, and yet I can see why a pack of wolves charging a herd of caribous will preferably go after the weaker individuals, hence reducing their chances to pass on their genes to the next generations.I assume that anonymous meant the reduction in chances to pass on genes to the next generation occurs for the “weaker” caribou and not the wolves that pursue them…
In any case, the language of this sentence requires us to ask an immediate question. What does this term “weaker” mean?
It is actually wrong for Darwinists to use the term “stronger” or “weaker” in describing organisms during the process of evolution. In evolution, we are only interested in one thing: the fitness of an organism. The fitness of an organism has nothing to do with ideas of strength (reread the definition provided above) but is only about reproductive success. Indeed, if it did refer to strength and weakness then Darwinism would be teleological after all. It would have a progression. Yet Gould points out:
Darwin waged such a long-standing internal battle over the idea of progress. He found himself in an unresolvable bind. He recognized that his basic theory of evolutionary mechanism--natural selection--makes no statement about progress. Natural selection only explains how organisms alter through time in adaptive response to changes in local environments--"descent with modification," in Darwin's words. Darwin identified this denial of general progress in favor of local adjustment as the most radical feature of his theory. To the American paleontologist (and former inhabitant of my office) Alpheus Hyatt, Darwin wrote on December 4, 1872: "After long reflection, I cannot avoid the conviction that no innate tendency to progressive development exists." (Gould, 1989 p. 257)Therefore, it is quite improper for the Darwinist to use terms like “weaker” to refer to those who die out, for that term implies progress, which Darwinism cannot do. However, Darwinists constantly slip into this error.
So we see that what is really going on is that predators must go after those animals that are less fit. But how do we know which animals are less fit?
Well, fitness is defined as those animals that survive to produce offspring. So the only way to tell if an animal is less fit is if it dies before it produces offspring.
Of course, we could use a different term. We could say that those that die are “less adapted” to their environment. And how do we determine which organism is most adapted?
Adaptation is a completely a posteriori phenomenon for a Darwinian, that is, it is based on the inductive assessment of facts. In every generation, all individuals that survive the process of elimination are de facto "adapted" and so are their properties that enabled them to survive. Elimination does not have the "purpose" or the "teleological goal" of producing adaptation; rather, adaptation is a by-product of the process of elimination (Mayr 2001, p. 150).This, however, leads to an immediate problem, one that Gould recognized even if Mayr didn’t:
Arguments that propose adaptive superiority as the basis for survival risk the classic error of circular reasoning. Survival is the phenomenon to be explained, not the proof, ipso facto, that those who survived were "better adapted" than those who died. This issue has been kicking around the courtyards of Darwinian theory for more than a century. It even has a name--the "tautology argument" (Gould, 1989 p. 236)Note that Gould was a Darwinist and yet he made the same claims that I have made. If survival is the proof of adaptation, then we are left with a tautology. Gould then informs us of how we can avoid this problem:
In fact, the supposed problem has an easy resolution, one that Darwin himself recognized and presented. Fitness--in this context, superior adaptation--cannot be defined after the fact by survival, but must be predictable before the challenge by an analysis of form, physiology, or behavior. (Gould, 1989 p. 236).Note first that we have to redefine the term “fitness” to no longer mean “The average number of offspring produced by individuals with a certain genotype, relative to the number produced by individuals with other genotypes.” No, now we define it as “superior adaptation” which is a rather convenient way to resolve a problem—define it away! But note even if we grant this, Natural Selection must therefore become “predictable.” That is, we must be able to predict beforehand “by an analysis of form, physiology, or behavior” which organisms would survive.
I must ask: how does what Gould write differ from what I wrote in my original post?
In any case, Gould immediately admits:
But if we face the Burgess fauna honestly, we must admit that we have no evidence whatsoever--not a shred--that losers in the great decimation were systematically inferior in adaptive design to those who survived. Anyone can invent a plausible story after the fact. For example, Anomalocaris, though the largest of Cambrian predators, did not come up a winner. So I could argue that its unique nutcracker jaw, incapable of closing entirely, and probably working by constriction rather than tearing apart of prey, really wasn't as adaptive as a more conventional jaw made of two pieces clamping together. Perhaps. But I must honestly face the counterfactual situation. Suppose that Anomalocaris had lived and flourished. Would I not then have been tempted to say, without any additional evidence, that Anomalocaris had survived because its unique jaw worked so well? If so, then I have no reason to identify Anomalocaris as destined for failure. I only know that this creature died--and so, eventually, do we all. (Gould, 1989 p. 236-237).So even granting everything in the redefinition, the Darwinist is not helped out at all.
Once more we see that Darwinists play shell games with the term “Natural Selection.” It means one thing in one context, but it evolves to mean something else when they need it to mean something else. There is no precision in the term Natural Selection (because a precise term neuters it—a precise definition of Natural Selection is agreeable to the Creationist, after all!).
Now that we have seen this, the rest of Anonymous’s comment falls in short order. But to be complete, let us go through it now:
For example, under certain conditions, it may be advantageous for a given species to become larger.This is a tacit admission that we are concerned with fitness, not whether an organism is “stronger” or “weaker.” After all, what is advantageous in one environment is not in another. Yet if this is the case, then Natural Selection must remain a tautology: those organisms that survive are those that survive. There is nothing of substance to Natural Selection after this admission by our anonymous commenter.
The fact that natural selection favors one evolution trend under certain conditions, and another (perhaps opposite one) under other conditions, hardly makes it irrelevant.The use of the term “favors” in the above is smuggling teleology in through the back door. There is no consciousness in Natural Selection. It cannot favor anything. Instead, we only have “certain animals survive in certain environments, and we call this Natural Selection.” Very illuminating…
To go back to the moth example, maybe it’s true that natural selection will lead to the extinction of the slow white ones, given the evolutionary pressure they are facing (see the dodo for a real life example). But let’s not forget that it’s also natural selection that caused them to be slow and white in the first place.Again, only objects that exist can “cause” anything. Natural Selection is not an object. It does not have any existence. It doesn’t cause anything. Saying Natural Selection “caused them to be slow…” is to once again attempt to smuggle teleology in through the backdoor. Everyone knows that teleology is there, but to admit it is to deny Darwinism. That is why we have to smuggle this stolen concept in.
As for the relative stability of species, I would venture that fitness to a particular environment is always a matter of optimization under (many) constraints, and the capacity to adapt is one of critical components of success. Many species have become too "perfect" for their own good, and ended up extinct.Except the reason I brought up the stability of species was to demonstrate that even granting Darwinist views of Natural Selection as an actual entity that works in nature, it doesn’t mean Darwinism is true. Darwinism has far greater hurdles to mount, and Darwinists use the trivial portions of their theory as the capital for assuming the rest.
Indeed, allow me to propose an analogy of how Darwinism works. Suppose that Chuck Darwin, Charles’s great-great-great-great-great grandson, read a book by Tommy Malthus entitled “An Essay on the Principal of Physical Motion.” In Tommy’s essay, he provides overwhelming evidence that Newton’s Laws of Motion are correct, specifically noting that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Tommy proposes that this means when you step on the accelerator of your car, the tires of your car are actually pushing the Earth backwards.
Chuck examines his vehicle and sees that it is so. Then he realizes something else and makes a connection no one else has done yet. The Earth is rotating, see. But why is it rotating?
Well, if every force has an equal and opposite reaction, then it is most certainly possible that if you had enough cars accelerating over enough time in the same direction, a stationary Earth would eventually begin to spin.
Chuck pens a book entitled: “On The Origin of Earth’s Rotation by Means of Vehicular Acceleration.” In this book, he proposes that over the last several billion years, there have been cars that always go in the same direction which provide just enough kick to get the Earth moving at the rate it is currently spinning.
Naturally, there are skeptics. Chuck is not dissuaded. “Park a car on gravel and accelerate. You will see the gravel spray out behind the vehicle.” And indeed it is so. Of course, we cannot test the entire Earth for this…but that is a simple extrapolation from the available test. Soon, Chuck’s theory is accepted by every scientist. After all, if all the elements were just right, the theory would actually accomplish what it says. And we have scientific proof in the form of watching cars accelerate right now that is consistent with Chuck’s theory. And to top it all off, the theory is based on Newton’s laws which only the Einsteinian fundamentalists have any problems with!
And so in the space of just a few generations, Chuckians use “evidence” that is trivial to prove a theory that is absurd. So goes the course of science…