Myers replied to my observation that Darwin's theory reduces ultimately to 'stuff changes and survivors survive'-- which can be stated more rigorously, but less succinctly-- 'organisms heritably vary and relatively successful reproducers relatively successfully reproduce.'
Darwin's assertion that adaptation is the consequence of random variation and natural selection is banal (random variation) and tautological (natural selection). Stuff changes and survivors survive isn't much of a theory.
When challenged, Darwinists defend this witless 'theory' as if you had just taken a axe to their mother. Why?
Atheists are not a notably pacifist crowd, and when you mess with their creation myth, they try to make you pay. Take a look at the comments on my post questioning my professional competence, my sanity, my honesty, you name it. Of course, I'm relatively immune from these nasties, but imagine if you're a young student, or a new post-doc, or a researcher trying to get established, and you have 'a few questions about Darwin's theory'. If you don't genuflect, you're toast, professionally.
So, on to Myers' reply.
First of all, it is a significant advance to recognize that species are not fixed and do change over time. There was a time when this hypothesis was flatly rejected, and it's a sign of progress that even the creationists nowadays are forced to recognize evidence of patterns of change in species — they just usually try to impose artificial, unsupported claims of barriers that limit change. This is the fact of evolution: life has changed significantly over long ages, and we are all related to all other forms on earth.So Darwin taught us that species are not fixed and do change over time.
Darwin did not come up with that, though.Oh. Yea, that's right. Animal breeding had been going since the dawn of man, and it's fairly obvious even to hunter-gatherers that changes in environment (e.g. predators) could change a population.
Darwin's contribution was an explanation for how that change occurred through differential reproductive success of variants in populations.
"Differential reproductive success of variants in populations", which means precisely that "relatively more successful replicators relatively more successfully replicate". Colloquially, 'survivors survive'.
Myers invokes an obvious tautology.
Darwin's contribution was an explanation for how that change occurred through differential reproductive success of variants in populations.Then he asserts that my simple observation of this
Egnor has distorted that principle through a fallacious reduction to "survivors survive".There's nothing fallacious at all about the reduction. 'Survivors survive' is just a colloquial way of saying "relatively more successful replicators relatively more successfully replicate", which is a precise restatement of Myers' "Differential reproductive success of variants in populations".
It's a tautology.
That is not what scientists study. We do not go to a field area for a few years, notice that each generation of birds is the progeny of the living individuals of the previous generation, and declare victory; that would be a tautology. (The alternative, that the birds were spawned by the dead zombie corpses of the failed members of the previous generation, would be rather interesting though. Hasn't happened yet.)Indeed evolutionary scientists don't do that. Scientists study adaptations, often in considerable detail, and then declare that the adaptations evolved in accordance with Darwin's theory.
Scientists study adaptations, often in considerable detail...
... and then declare that the adaptations evolved in accordance with Darwin's theory ('relatively more successful replicators relatively more successfully replicate').
Darwin's theory is a narrative gloss. The real science is the study of the adaptations.
Darwin's theory does no conceptual work. No lifting.
Let's fix Egnor's erroneous reduction. "living things vary heritably and survivors survive" doesn't reduce to l"survivors survive". More accurately, it should be "living things vary heritably and better adapted variants survive and increase their frequency in the next generation".Myers' "better adapted variants" are defined as those who "survive and increase their frequency in the next generation". What else could "better adapted variants" possibly mean? Variants that were... greener? Variants that were... silkier? Variants that were... fluffier?
The functional definition of species adaptation is 'survival in the environment'. There is no other consistent testable meaningful definition of 'adapted'. And of course survival is a prerequisite for relative reproductive success, and more or less correlates with it.
Survival at the species level means relative reproductive success at the individual level. Species survive because individuals reproduce successfully. 'Successful replicators successfully replicate' is natural selection at the individual level. 'Survivors survive' is natural selection at species level.
'Survivors survive' is a perfectly accurate synopsis of natural selection at the species level.
It's a tautology.
That is not a tautology. We can assess degrees of adaptation to local conditions independently of simple survival.
That's the best Myers can do? Play on the difference between survival and relative reproductive success? 'Individuals replicate' and 'species survive' mean the same thing, on different levels. Replication of individuals is how species survive.
Myers is pitiful.
Myers provides a real-life example of the 'power' of Darwin's theory:
For example, look to the work of Peter and Rosemary Grant in the Galapagos (hey, look, we even have online exercises in which you can analyze the data!).'Online evolutionary exercises': 'Ok class, one, two, three, four... keep those tautologies up... no slacking...!'
They examined, for instance, the effects of a major drought on their study island; they did not simply say, "some birds will die, some will live, survivors will survive", but instead made specific predictions that variants that were better able to exploit difficult or marginal resources in this time of starvation would be better able to survive. And that is what they saw: larger beaked birds that were able to crack the spiny, hard-shelled Tribulus seeds were better able to live through the drought, while the smaller beaked birds that couldn't eat Tribulus seeds at all died off in large numbers. And in the next generation, what they saw was a genetic and morphological shift in that beaks were on average significantly larger.Let's focus on the woo:
they did not simply say, "some birds will die, some will live, survivors will survive"...
No no no... make sure you're seated...
...but instead made specific predictions that variants that were better able to exploit difficult or marginal resources in this time of starvation would be better able to survive.Translated from 'evolution talk' to English, this means:
...but instead made specific predictions that variants that were better able toMy head hurts.
exploit difficult or marginal resourcesget food in this time of starvation would be better able to survive.
"Survivors survive" may be tautological, but "large beaked birds survive" is not.Damn right. No tautology there. The Grants made specific predictions that birds who were better able to get food in a time of starvation would... be better able to survive. This I guess was in conflict with the research teams who predicted that birds who were better able to get food in a time of starvation would... be less able to survive. Evolutionary biology is contentious.
Neither Coulter nor Egnor seem to have the slightest clue about what evolutionary biologists actually do...I do now. It's not pretty. How much did we pay for this?
...and their proud ignorance invalidates what they claim to understand as the subject of study in evolution. Every study of evolution is built around specific hypotheses about mechanisms, not dumb blind counts of nothing but the living and the dead, but measures of differential reproductive success against some detailed parameter of their genetics.Darwin's theory: 'Organisms heritably vary and relatively more successful replicators relatively more successfully replicate'.
All those terms Egnor cluelessly throws around — "natural selection, sexual selection, kin selection, group selection, reciprocal altruism, disruptive selection, diversifying selection, selective sweeps, background selection, adaptive radiation, punctuated equilibrium" — have specific, different meanings, and do not reduce to merely "survival".Different shades of lipstick.
As expected, the outcome of the first Coulter Challenge is that one fool, Coulter, is multiplied into two publicly exposed fools, Coulter and Egnor. I like this game, let's play some more. Next?I like this game, too. Let's keep playing.
A while back, I asked Myers (and other atheists) eight important questions-- about existence, laws of nature, moral law, etc. Myers' answers were pitiful. The sort of answers that atheists have no choice but to give.
Yet Darwin's theory animates atheists. It replaces 'shit happened' with 'organisms heritably vary and relatively more successful replicators relatively more successfully replicate'. Much of evolutionary theory is dedicated to hiding this banality and tautology under shovelfulls of science jargon.
Meanwhile, the real work of biology-- biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics, cell biology, microbiology, physiology, etc. goes on. Biologists learn early that they must pay homage to atheism's stupid creation myth if they are to continue their work and remain in the profession. Atheists are the gate-keepers.
Richard Dawkins asserts that Darwin's theory allows one to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. As an example of the deep scientific insight provided by Darwin's theory, Myers notes that more successful replicators relatively more successfully replicate, and that birds that are better able to get food during famine are better able to survive.
Myers is an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
Atheism is a small cup.