November 28, 2004


Lizards Help Explain Survival of the Not-So-Fittest (John Roach, November 24, 2004, National Geographic News)

Glance at a crowd at just about any big sporting event and you'll notice that humans are a diverse bunch. Not only the fittest have survived.

Natural selection depends as much on behavior and environmental conditions as it does on physical prowess, as demonstrated by two studies of lizards in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature.

"People have a very simple view of how natural selection shapes traits," said Barry Sinervo, an evolutionary biologist who was not involved in the studies. A biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Sinervo said the studies demonstrate the complexity of evolution.

"When behavior or physiology complicates what traits are involved, the results of natural selection are often thwarted or attenuated when compared to our naive perspective," he added.

As the great Darwinists Ernst Mayr acknowledges:
Metaphors play an important role in the history of science. There are felicitous metaphors and those that are unfortunate. Darwin's term "natural selection" is on the borderline of the tweo categories and was strenuously resisted by the majority of his contemporaries. [...] When, at the urging of hios friends, Darwin adopted Spencer's term "survival of the fittest," he jumped from the frying pan into the fire, because his new metaphor suggested circular reasoning.

The article above nicely illustrates the danger of circularity: let a Darwinist look at a species and reason that selection should have favored a certain feature but instead disfavored it for another and because trapped within the circle they must argue that the adaptation that survived must somehow have been fitter, even if this is nonsensical. By definition, anything that survived has to be fitter than what didn't, else the ideology evaporates. One must never look outside the circle lest it collapse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 28, 2004 1:01 PM

What is it about the evolution debate that makes people, well, stupid. If you accept as true everything about random variation and natural selection that evolutionists advance, you are not going to see evolution of a species with a 18-year generational cycle in historical time.

Of course, cultural evolution trumps biological evolution. If you want to say that conquering infectious disease or attaining plentiful food supplies is counter-evolutionary, that is only because our cultural evolution is unfinished.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 28, 2004 3:37 PM

Yes, hard to imagine anything stupider than to "accept as true everything" and imagine you're being scientific.

Posted by: oj at November 28, 2004 3:46 PM

Shades of D'Arcy Thompson (On Growth and Form) -- who'd have thought that environmental factors shaped the expression of genes!

Consider what a hash the investigators made of their study:
"According to the results of the study, both happened. The brown anoles began to spend more time up in the trees. And since they also spent some time on the ground, successive generations had larger bodies and longer legs. ... 'Our interpretation is that the lizards exhibited a behavioral change to avoid the curly tails ...' Losos said."
Isn't it just as likely that the predation eliminated the smaller lizards and those who spent more time on the ground? How does spending only some time on the ground result in larger bodies and longer legs compared to those who prefered the ground exclusively? Finally, they predict that the result of spending more time in the trees will result in smaller size and shorter legs! What a muddle of confused thought.

Posted by: jd watson at November 28, 2004 5:13 PM

Naive is the operative word.

Orrin spends a large fraction of each day pounding a view of darwinism that no darwinist ever held.

Behavior doesn't do much to explain which plants survive and which don't. Anyone interested in getting a practical sense of how fine is the difference between survival and death can come help me weed my garden. There are zones just a few inches square where the same species keep recurring, though they cannot make it anywhere else in my yard.

Natural selection is, indeed, more complicated than naive creationists are going to accept.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 28, 2004 8:03 PM


From deep within the metaphor...

Posted by: oj at November 28, 2004 9:27 PM


Natural selection is very simple. It's your garden that is a mess.

Posted by: Peter B at November 29, 2004 4:58 AM

"Natural selection is very simple" ?

Care to explain ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 29, 2004 5:57 AM


Sure. Relativity is a simple theory. Building a nuclear warhead is not simple. If the theory of natural selection and all the historical details of its application are now one and the same, it's got a very big problem. It ain't theory anymore, just a historical description of everything that ever happened.

Posted by: Peter B at November 29, 2004 6:11 AM

I can only assume that, by accepting a Gardner actively Weeding, Harry is just taunting us.

Michael: After Watson and Crick, natural selection is trivial. Mutations happen. Will they propagate? Only if the host doesn't die before reproducing.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 29, 2004 11:32 AM


The thought of Harry trundling out to his garden with a copy of Mayr while his neighbours are all using gardening manuals is to be savoured, no?

Posted by: Peter B at November 29, 2004 12:28 PM

I like to watch.

Posted by: Chauncey Gardener at November 29, 2004 1:00 PM

You have that backward, Peter.

The real insight of Darwin (and the other modernists) was not natural selection, or evolution, or biogeography, useful as all those were.

The real change came when a few men stopped telling Nature how it must behave and started asking Nature how it did behave.

I am not smart enough to have drawn any conclusions from my weeding, but other men have drawn them, and I can see them working out clearly enough.

It is hilarious that people who believed that a barnacle could turn into a goose -- believed enough to bet their immoral souls on it as a fact -- make such heavy weather about the infinitely smaller changes required by darwinism.

Matthew 23. 24.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 30, 2004 2:12 AM


"The real change came when a few men stopped telling Nature how it must behave and started asking Nature how it did behave."

That is what story of the apple in the Garden of Eden is all about. The real change came when men began to delude themselves into thinking they were asking that question for the first time and that they were genuinely open-minded as to the answer.

Posted by: Peter B at November 30, 2004 7:07 AM


No one questions the infinitely small changes that are actually made by Darwinism--it's when you take the next step, of the branacle eventually turning into a goose that you depart Reason and Science.

Posted by: oj at November 30, 2004 8:52 AM

Will the circle be unbroken?

Posted by: Mike at November 30, 2004 4:08 PM


Would you mind doing me a favor?

Please take a look at the fossil record and find the unbridgable gap between dinosaur and bird for me.

I just can't find it, and am relying on your expertise in this matter.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 30, 2004 8:32 PM

Sure, Peter, and the pelican feeds her nestlings on her own blood.

Nobody accepts any of that Christian nonsense any more, not even Christians.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 30, 2004 10:29 PM



Posted by: oj at November 30, 2004 11:15 PM

"You are like whitewashed tombs, which look fine on the outside but are full of bones and decaying corpses on the inside." (Matthew 23:27) I know I'm taking this text out of context, but as it fit the teachers of the Law and Pharisees in Jesus' day it fits the Darwinists of today.

Posted by: Phil at December 1, 2004 12:30 PM


Please be specific. Perhaps you could name one for me, and back it up with fossil evidence.

I don't care what kind of class you are taking, that answer would earn an F.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 1, 2004 7:01 PM

You said gaps--I agreed.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 7:45 PM

Well, there are lots of gaps, but all you need is one lack of gaps to show that it can happen.

There are aplenty examples of those.

Orrin won't accept them, but the evidence speaks for itself.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 1, 2004 8:43 PM

There is noplace where there's a lack of gaps.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 8:50 PM


The question is specific: Reviewing the fossil record from ornithician dinosaurs to birds, where precisely is the gap too great for Evolution to bridge.

If there are as many as you say, then you should not have any problem picking one out and stating precisely why the gap was unbridgeable.

And, oh BTW, I most certainly did not say "gaps."

But that is par for your prevarication course.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 2, 2004 7:39 PM

None of the gaps are too big for Evolution to have bridged, by definition. All are too big for Darwinism to have bridged, by observation and experimentation.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 7:56 PM