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Have creationists found ten reasons why evolution cannot be true?

Post of the Month: Sept 2007


Subject:    | 10 Reasons Natural Selection Cannot Be True
Date:       | 09 Sep 2007
Message-ID: |

Veritas <> wrote:
> 10. Natural selection cannot through use maintain multiple homeostatic
> mechanisms

According to your webpage, this is because natural selection can only favor "the single most critical factor" at any given time. If one is talking about bacteria evolving antibiotic resistance, this is probably true. In most populations, though, there might be many reasons why an individual is more successful than average at passing on its genes, and there is no reason that the survivors in any generation might be survivors for various different reasons.

> 9. Natural selection reduces, cannot create, variation

Actually, there is such a thing as frequency-dependent selection (the classic example is sickle-cell trait, which is beneficial only when it is somewhat uncommon): in such cases, natural selection may maintain variation. But again, your webpage seems wrong when it implies that mutations are always or usually harmful; most mutations are neutral, and a number of beneficial mutations are known.

> 8. Mathematical support for natural selection is lacking

According to your webpage, this means that for most species, mutations rates are not really known, nor is the precise relationship between mutation rates and the rate of evolution. First of all, this is not a reason natural selection cannot be true; it is at most a reason to hope, or fear, that, e.g. mutation rates might be insufficient. Now, it seems to me that it's probably safe to extrapolate from cases where mutation rates have been measured to other species with similar genetic arrangement. And you ought to know that some work has been done on measuring mutation rates and mathematical modeling of evolution since 1989.

> 7. Natural selection cannot select for gene clusters

Are you sure it needs to? Your webpage states, for example, that many adaptions to aquatic life took place simultaneously in whales. I think the fossil record is not good enough to establish this, for the relevant sense of "simultaneous;" it's not as though we have a generation-by-generation fossil record of the evolution of whale or elephant anatomy. You go on to state that no one knows why natural selection should favor the conservation of gene order in distantly- related species. One might as well note that no one knows precisely why many features of living things were naturally selected. "We don't have an explanation yet" might be a reason to prefer some alternative theory that provided an explanation for these theories, but it is no reason to suppose that "natural selection cannot be true."

> 6. Darwin may have over-rated the efficiency of Natural selection

Your webpage, explaining this statement, seems to assume that "competition" means simply direct confrontation with conspecifics over resources. Yet the threat of parasites and predators, which your page mentions, are themselves a form of competition between conspecifics: if a parasite weakens one individual less than another, the less- weakened one is more likely to leave descendants, even if it never fights against its weaker conspecific. The advantages of being better able to hide from or evade predators are obvious, even if one never actually tosses a conspecific to the predator.

Incidentally, I do not think any evolutionist ever proposed that trees produce lots of seeds so that they'll compete against one another for the betterment of the species. Natural selection is not supposed to work that way. Rather, they produce lots of seed because there are a lot of animals that eat seeds, and the more that are produced, the more likely some are to survive (and, for that matter, your own suggestion that the more seeds are produced, the more likely at least one will find fertile ground is, itself, a description of a selection pressure).

> 5. The pace of evolution's "progress" rules out natural selection

Yet observations of actual evolution in laboratory settings has repeatedly seen evolution happening much, much faster than is needed to account for changes seen in the fossil record or inferred from comparisons of living species. Fine: elephants breed slowly. But it's not as though they've spawned species as prolifically as, say, Hawaiian fruit flies: there's no reason to suppose their breeding rate is too slow to account for the actual speed of evolution inferred from the fossil record.

> 4. Natural selection cannot account for altruism

Your webpage seems to assume that either our genes or our brains calculate how each act of kindness is likely to benefit our chances of leaving descendants. Yet genes don't have to calculate anything, and neither do we. If certain mutations rewire our brains so that we are more likely to develop a disinterested benevolence, and if, in the environment of evolutionary adaption, such benevolence in fact usually pays off, such genes will spread through the population. One need no more assume that the altruistic individual (or her genes) desires or calculates such a genetic advantage, than one need assume that a polar bear (or its genes) desires some reproductive advantage from having thick white fur. One might even be unastonished to learn that such altruistic tendencies, selected because they benefitted individuals who bore copies of one's own genes, can in practice extend to individuals who don't share copies of one's distinctive genes, or even to individuals of other species.

> 3. Natural selection cannot account for human talents.

Now, here, again, you seem to confuse "no one has shown how natural selection accounts for certain features" to "someone has shown that natural selection cannot possibly account for these features." The most intelligent primates are social creatures which use their intelligence, in large part, in intragroup struggles for dominance. It has been suggested that human intelligence has evolved to do this in more complicated social structures, and also serves to enable slow- breeding, vulnerable individuals to maximize their use of local resources ("I remember from years back being told that if other food is scarce, one can eat such-and-such which is found over there"). All such explanations are controversial, but "natural selection cannot account for human talents" is rather a lot to infer from vague and controversial explanations.

> 2. What natural selection claims to do, is insufficient

This seems to mean that, since natural selection cannot explain everything, it cannot explain anything. You don't seem to be a typical creationist, but this is oddly reminiscent of typical creationist arguments.

> 1. Natural selection blinds us to other prospects.

I don't think that "natural selection is particulate" (that is, one can inherit some genes from an ancestor without inheriting all his genes, and over many generations natural selection can favor certain genes rather than all the genes of any given ancestor) means that "the term 'genetic blueprint' is literal, and each gene corresponds to a particular discrete feature of the organism." Showing that each trait needs multiple genes to construct and that each gene can have multiple effects does not mean that inheritance is particulate. Certainly, from Darwin on, evolutionists have noted that natural selection is one of several influences on evolution, and have speculated and investigated what other influences might be and how they might work. Simply rejecting natural selection in favor of something else undefined is not providing another prospect.

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