Author Topic: What can we do?  (Read 25921 times)

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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: What can we do?
« Reply #406 on: February 10, 2012, 04:56:27 PM »
First off, no, I'm not talking about Lamarckian evolution of an individual's traits.  I mean heritable traits, passed down from previous generations.

Williams's contention is that "the Kirschner–Gerhart properties inversely cause the development of the adult from the zygote", that body parts which only have a function in the adult start forming in the zygote (meaning that the end result causes the initial development).  His assertion is that this demonstrates inverse causality (and thus an intelligent designer) because those functions are all in the zygote's future.  In other words, in his view, something (an intelligent designer) has to plan for these future events and program all potential necessary changes into the progenitor organism to cope with them.

This is not the case.  An organism does not have to have foresight planned for in its genome for it to be able to adapt.  It simply needs to be able to survive well enough in a changing environment for that adaptive capacity to start coming into play.  That capacity does not anticipate future needs, it simply reacts to opportunities and stress by trying different things out.  If the changes that happen as a result work well, they get passed on; if they do not, the organism that expresses them dies out, but the change itself can be present in other organisms and still be present.


Scientific laws describe something, whereas scientific theories explain it (in a way consistent with observations).  For example, the law of gravity describes the attractive forces of two masses; the theory of gravity explains how that attractive force works.  A law can often be written out as a mathematical explanation.  But Williams's "laws" are explanatory in nature.  For example, his "law of irreducible structure" attempts to explain the reason why the properties of atoms cannot by themselves describe the properties of life as being due to "coded information".  His "law of survival" attempts to explain the reason why life is flexibly adaptive as being because of reproduction, self-repair, and self-maintenance.  And so on.


The problem is, Williams is completely disregarding benign mutations which have no effect in and of themselves, good or bad.  Such a mutation can easily have an effect which is either good or bad, depending on the environment, but the mutation itself does no damage at all.  That is how variation is increased by mutation.  I don't deny that some mutations are going to cause damage, but they are by far in the minority compared to benign ones.  Basically, if the mutation does not in and of itself interfere with a child organism growing to maturity so that it can pass on its genes, it is benign(not harmful) and increases potential variation.  It is true that a benign mutation can be selected for or against by the environment, but that is not the same as the mutation itself doing harm or good

That is what Williams neglected to consider in his statement about advancing extinction.  He states that selection takes variation out of the gene pool, and mutation damages what remains.  But most mutations do not cause damage, and therefore increase variation, since there are more options available due to the presence of these mutations.  That is how variation can increase within a species's gene pool.
Nullus In Verba, aka "Take nobody's word for it!"  If you can't show it, then you don't know it.

Offline Quesi

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Re: What can we do?
« Reply #407 on: March 03, 2012, 10:07:04 AM »
I agree.

Nonetheless, I'd like us to stay on topic now and try to think of more things that we can do.

EDIT: I had an idea. What if someone made a nice software program that simulates natural selection? But it would be simple enough for someone to use without a background in math. It would include various mechanisms and would show how increasing complexity accumulates over time.

Like these?

Darwin's Evolution Game -

Natural Selection Game -

Thanks for the links!  My 5 year old is enjoying the Darwin's Evolution Game.  She really grasped the concepts that certain characteristics are beneficial in certain environments and detrimental in other environments after a few games.  And that still other characteristics are neutral.  She understood that species that had characteristics that worked in a specific environment survived, and lived to have lots of babies who had those characteristics.   

She is very interested in “endangered species” because she just did a presentation on jaguars in her kindergarten class.  She explained that many jaguars are dying out because their environments are being destroyed and they don’t have prey to hunt or access to water that is far away from developed human communities.  So she really grasped the concept that certain kinds of animals thrive when the climate is right for their physical characteristics and food is available, but that when changes occurred, they might not survive.  And she loved that when it got cold, furry animals survived, and their really furry offspring survived and then everyone was really furry!

We are very familiar with the Charlie and Kiwi game and book, because the whole concept sprouted from an exhibit at our local science museum, the New York Hall of Science.  I’m going to be reading the Charlie and Kiwi book in her kindergarten class this month.

Although I don’t like the fact that it uses an imaginary time machine to help demonstrate how the process of natural selection works in one, very specific circumstance, I still think it is a marvelous book that helps kids understand that the concept of natural selection is not just “random.”  I also love that in the book, Darwin’s great great great great great grandson is biracial.   :)  It is never mentioned in the book, but it is just more rich content to talk about with little kids.