Re: MD On Faith - Improbability ?

From: Jim Ledbury (
Date: Sat Oct 16 2004 - 05:24:42 BST

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    Hi Scott,

    Scott Roberts wrote:

    >Mark, Jim,

    >[Scott:] That's my point. There is no scientific way to tell. So why call
    >evolution "solely by chance and natural selection" scientific? Why isn't it
    >called dogma?

    Because Darwin made a few 'predictions' which turned out to be correct.
    It's not much different to a mathematician predicting that something
    should be provable as opposed to asserting that something is provable:
    given A & B we should find C - as Darwin did with soft-bodied fossils
    and cetacean precursors. Dogma is saying that I 'know' in A and B, I
    will reject any evidence that not C. Okay, this is somewhat
    teleological - Darwin knew the end point, theorised the mechanism and
    interpolated. I agree that this is far from proving that evolution is
    "solely by chance and natural selection". But I think you are
    underestimating the possibilities allowed by chance and natural
    selection. At best evolution is highly myopic: given the problems of
    giving birth to a larged brained animal through a small birth canal I
    can think of very few reasons to believe that there is some form of
    evolutionary design other than that which is survivable in the short
    term and which meets certain hormone driven aesthetics. The problem
    occurs with the mutations to be sure. Almost all are detrimental. But
    given evolutionary myopia, even some form of neo-Lamarkism would not be
    far off random in the long run. However it is generally thought (amonst
    evolutionary biologists) that the progressive mutations are minor and
    there is a large degree of interplay with them and other genes that
    express themselves ultimately through recombination (which natural
    selection acts on in fairly predictable ways). So you don't get the
    problems of how a random mutation gives rise to an eye or ear, rather
    each bit does happen piecemeal and that each advance is subject to a
    'sanity check'. Due to the paucity of the fossil record, this often
    seems like an assertion. AFAIC this assertion means "it might as well
    be random". Personally I think that we still understand too little of
    the genetic mechanism (we're still obsessed with coding DNA and are only
    just coming to terms with the DNA that controls gene expression) and
    that we continually underestimate the intelligence of cells to make any
    serious predictions of any mechanism other than mutation through
    transcription errors or environmental factors (which are plentiful in
    evolutionary terms). However, even if macroscopic evolution does rely
    on some form of neo-Lamarkism (for which there is no evidence other than
    wishful thinking) through cellular feedback into the genome by
    mechanisms other than sexual selection, as I said it would be
    essentially random.

    I will however agree that some neodarwinists are incredibly dogmatic.
    Dawkins springs to mind. I remember reading a few years ago in New
    Scientist of some observation and modelling about characteristics of the
    'health' of an ecosystem (sorry details elude me) and Dawkins railing
    that this was impossible because there is no way for the characteristics
    of an ecosystem to be genetically transmitted. Although his punctilious
    approach may well stop some sloppy science, I feel he is missing
    something in appreciating collective behaviour on this particular point.


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