Friday, September 15, 2006

Better not to speak out and remove all doubt

Ok, does anybody want to have a go at defining Orrin's latest theory of evolution?

55 Comments:

Blogger Duck said...

Orrin is playing semantic games. I once asked him if footprints in the sand are intelligently designed because an intelligent being created them as a byproduct of some intentional activity, and he said yes. Its his way of surrendering to Darwinism and making it appear to be a victory. It's a very Clintonian argument. You can bend words to mean the opposite of what they mean.

September 15, 2006 6:02 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Kudos to Lou Gots for his argument! If he keeps this up we'll have to invite him into the PostJudd alliance in the near future (only after a vote of the members, of course!)

September 15, 2006 6:04 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Lou is cruisin' for a deletin'.

I think Orrin's theory goes like this:

Intelligent design is any kind of process involving intelligent beings doing things (eg. humans), even if the process is unintentional. Therefore, since Darwinism applies to humans, Darwinism is really just the same as Intelligent Design.

Therefore, Darwinism states that there is an Intelligent Designer acting in evolution. This is correct, therefore Darwinism is correct. However, Darwinism is wrong. And so is Intelligent Design, because they are same. Except they are different, because Intelligent Design is misguided, whereas Darwinism is evil and responsible for Nazism. Therefore we should go to Church. Amen.

September 15, 2006 6:12 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I'm beginning to suspect the Google ads that surround these threads are divine mischief to keep us all looking ridiculous. This one just appeared here. The other day Orrin went off on one of his quirky tirades against keeping pets, which he called anti-human, and up popped the cutest ad for Alpo you've ever seen.

September 15, 2006 6:49 AM  
Blogger David said...

Well, Orrin is constantly trying to jam round templates into square analogies, but you guys are being much too dismissive. Do you really mean to suggest that intentionally breeding high-yield sheep together is not the intelligent design of even higher yield sheep. Orrin was right to laugh at the yutz who claimed to have disproven intelligent design because he recreated natural selection in his laboratory; that was laughable. Or, to take one of my personal favorites, when AOG told OJ "You are completely wrong that feedback looops require intelligence. I know, I design them for a living."

Now, when it comes to OJ's claim that the evolution of populations of drug-resistent bacteria is the result of intelligent design, he's wrong or at least stretching the point too far. But that is the example that disproves natural selection.

September 16, 2006 9:58 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

I think we have to utilize Quantum theory to understand Orrin's definition of evolution. The definition has a Quantum state that is unknowable and undefinable until it's observed. Like a Quantum particle, at the point it's observed within some context by some measurement (in OJ's case, a post or comment), a definition exists for an instant. However, between posts and comments, it reverts to an undefined state, and, when it's measured again by the next post or comment, has taken on a different definition.

As creeper once put it, getting OJ to clarify his definitions is "like trying to nail jelly to a wall."

September 16, 2006 11:04 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Quite right, David. It's sheep-breeders all the way down.

But don't forget you are arguing with chaps who think Hamlet and the Corvette Stingray are products of random evolution that can't really be said to have been designed.

September 17, 2006 6:10 AM  
Blogger David said...

I would love to know how OJ developed his unique style of argument in which he defeats arguments ad absurdum by always embracing and celebrating the absurd implications of his arguments.

September 17, 2006 7:36 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

David:

If you set up a computer programme or an experiment with bacteria in a lab, where you decide some rules, then sit back and watch what happens without interfering in the process, then the analogy with natural selection is clear.

In natural selection, there are basic rules: things reproduce, there is variation, there is mutation.

The mistake that you, Orrin and Peter make is to think that the programme or the lab experiment are analogous to Intelligent Design.

If you argue that God just set up the rules stated above, then sat back and watched what happened without interfering with the process, you are not an Intelligent Design theorist. You are a Darwinist.

The only difference between you and the Duckians would be that we are Dunnoist about whether God set up the rules, and you are asserting that he did.

September 17, 2006 7:56 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

brit wrote: "If you set up a computer programme ... in a lab, where you decide some rules, then sit back and watch what happens without interfering in the process, then the analogy with natural selection is clear."

Mostly, except for a couple of subtleties. For example, if you sit back and watch what happens but because of your omniscience knew ahead of time what the results were going to be, then the analogy with natural selection is still clear, but it might also be considered Intelligent Design (or not - it's a subjective call).

September 17, 2006 9:25 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

That wouldn't be what Intelligent Design theorists mean. They think that God tinkers.

September 17, 2006 10:23 AM  
Blogger David said...

Brit: You really just don't get "omniscience" and "created," do you?

G-d is not the prisoner of time, time is G-d's creation. G-d experiences now as now, and the Big Bang as now, and the energy death of the Universe as now.

You also slice the pie too finely. You try to argue that, when I pull the trigger, I'm just setting up the initial conditions and when the bullet hits the target, that's not my action.

All of space and all of time are a single known fact to G-d.

September 17, 2006 11:45 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Darwinism is the study of the dynamics of the bullet's flight.

It has nothing to say about who pulled the trigger.

I dunno if your speculations on the unknowable have any meaning or validity, but they are entirely compatible with darwinism being true.

September 17, 2006 3:46 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Everything always is.

September 17, 2006 4:09 PM  
Blogger David said...

... since it's a tautology.

September 17, 2006 7:35 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

No, but the basic premise is disarmingly simple, which is why you get stuck.

September 18, 2006 1:43 AM  
Blogger David said...

The fit survive, "fit" being the trait of surviving.

September 18, 2006 8:21 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

You keep saying that as if you alone have spotted a flaw in the whole project.

The flaw is your inability to just accept the simplicity of the principles on face value.

There is reproduction. There is mutation. There is variation.

These things happen in an environment. That which becomes reproduced depends therefore not on what God does, nor on its being part of a path to a predetermined aim, but simply on its ability to survive long enough to reproduce in its environment ('fitness').

Your error is to constantly slip into thinking of 'fitness' as a single attribute with a single definition that can be applied to everything that is alive.

In fact, there are indefinite numbers of ways of being 'fit', indefinite numbers of attributes that confer 'fitness', and what conveys fitness in one environment or time will not do so in another.

Darwinism involves the study of the details and the interconnections of those ways in alive and extinct flora and fauna.

Thus, put crudely, when a darwinist (or natural historian, for it's the same thing) works out why giraffes have long necks, he does not say "Hurray, this proves yet again that that which survives survives! QED". He says "Ah, so that's why long necks have conveyed fitness to giraffes."

September 18, 2006 8:45 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

Or, to take one of my personal favorites, when AOG told OJ "You are completely wrong that feedback looops require intelligence. I know, I design them for a living."

I remember it well. OJ's response proved he missed the point entirely.

There may well have been a Designer that set up the feedback loop that is Natural History. Or that feedbac k loop may have been an accidental emergent property of a universe whose Designer was far more taken with galaxies than beetles. Or there may be no Designer at all.

Who knows. But it doesn't matter. AOG's point was that once the feedback loop is operating, it requires no further external guidance whatsoever.

So when OJ responds that makes AOG an IDer, OJ is really labeling himself a Darwinist.

This is also relates to Brit's point refuting the notion the "fit" is tautological. Natural History is a recursive system (a point so blindingly obvious that not even OJ can dispute it, except he does). "Fit" organisms are those that propagate their genes into the next recursion; "unfit" are those that do not.

Nothing tautological there. Further, unless the selection of fit from unfit is completely random, then evolution has plenty of grist with which to work over the time spans available.

September 18, 2006 12:57 PM  
Blogger M Ali said...

By oj:

"More significantly, we must jettison reason in favor of faith in order to believe in Reason

Reason is a subset of faith."

I'm not getting the logic.

September 18, 2006 3:54 PM  
Blogger David said...

Brit: You say that Darwinism is natural history. That is a brilliant insight that cuts to the very heart of the matter. Only a churl would point out that you might have heard that view somewhere else.

September 18, 2006 4:52 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

That may have been me you were referring to WRT to Natural History.

I have long used that term to indicate that evolution exists as part of a total system -- it is impossible to consider evolution without also taking into account continental drift.

I have said it before, but it is worth saying again: all land masses have transited all climatological zones. That there is climatologically specific life on all of them constitutes a very large number of experiments, each of which demonstrates that evolution does work, and also contradicts:

Over a long period of time, there were a bunch of random mutations. Some were expressed and, of those, a random subset of the ones not incompatible with survival survived, depending upon whether the carriers successfully passed on the affected gene prior to death. True, tautological, uninteresting: trivial.

If survival was truly random -- true randomness being a very tall order, BTW -- then there would be no life on earth.

September 18, 2006 5:57 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

M Ali:

More significantly, we must jettison reason in favor of faith in order to believe in Reason

Reason is a subset of faith.


The logic, to the extent there is any, is that reason's central assumption, that we exist, or that there is anything like existence in the first place, requires faith, hence reason is a subset of faith.

That sounds almost plausible, but it ignores how reason works: based upon the available evidence, reason concludes that existence as we perceive it is the best available explanation, but is amenable to change the moment new information arrives.

There is no need to jettison reason in favor of faith because there is no need to believe the evidence is anything other than provisionally true.

And it also begs the question of just what he means by Faith.

Anyway, that's all I've been able to get out of that line, repeated ad nauseum.

Well, that and one other thing: Caring parents don't let their children take philosophy classes.

September 18, 2006 6:06 PM  
Blogger David said...

Skipper: 1. Brit said, Thus, put crudely, when a darwinist (or natural historian, for it's the same thing) works out why giraffes have long necks, he does not say "Hurray, this proves yet again that that which survives survives! QED". He says "Ah, so that's why long necks have conveyed fitness to giraffes."

This is wrong. The natural historian is assuming that there must be a "fitness" reason for the long neck, but there doesn't have to be. Maybe the part of the genome having to do with neck length is just more subject than most to copying errors.

2. You really want to rethink what you just said about randomness. If mutations are not random, than they are teleological, and if they're teleological, than they're directed, and if they're directed, I'll see you at Rosh Hoshonah services this Saturday.

September 18, 2006 8:05 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

It is one thing to argue that at any point in time we will not have evidence for every part and connection of a picture that makes up our worldview (i.e faith). We necessarily must interpolate, extrapolate, fill in blanks and connect dots to create a worldview, so faith can be seen as this interpretive aspect of human reasoning.

It is another thing to use this aspect of our reasoning function to say that all leaps of faith are equally "reasonable". Most people would agree that it is a reasonable leap of faith to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow. The efficacy of the "sun will rise" faith does not confer validity on the "Son will rise" faith.

September 18, 2006 11:26 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

David:

Wrong end of the stick. The point was to illustrate that you've got too hung up on the idea of 'fitness' as a single attribute in your conceptual 'tautology' objection to darwinism.

But your comment does bring up an important facet of evolution. For the darwinist, there can be no intermediary stage that is not useful to the organism at the time, ie. does not confer fitness (and thus, Peter's glib remark above about 'everything being compatible with darwinism' is wrong). Think about that in relation to giraffe's necks.

This brings us to your random mutation point above.

You keep making the same mistake over and over. Mutation is random. Which mutations survive (get selected for) is NOT random, because it is dependent on the environment.

September 19, 2006 1:40 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

The natural historian is assuming that there must be a "fitness" reason for the long neck, but there doesn't have to be. Maybe the part of the genome having to do with neck length is just more subject than most to copying errors.

Okay, fine. Let's say they do.

Those copying errors still have to make it through the sieve filter of respiration for sufficient time to reach multiplication.

. You really want to rethink what you just said about randomness. If mutations are not random, than they are teleological, and if they're teleological, than they're directed, and if they're directed, I'll see you at Rosh Hoshonah services this Saturday.

I suspect you misread my comment, which said "If survival was truly random -- true randomness being a very tall order, BTW -- then there would be no life on earth.

So, no, I don't want to re-think my comment that respiration to the point of multiplication has a non-random component, and even a very small one will do.

Here is a real world example. In a variant on the traveling salesmen problem, network designers have the easy to explain, but impossible to solve (in terms of proving the solution is optimum) problem of determining the least cost configuration of a topology containing numerous nodes and bandwidth/expense tradeoffs.

So these clever network designers concocted software that mimics the location and number of nodes, then adds requirements for bandwidth, and the possible server combinations, with the goals being minimum cost and maximum performance.

Then throw in any arbitrary initial configuration, and let the recursive program run. It introduces random mutations of topology and hardware, testing each recursive result against its predecessor. Less optimum, it dies (that is to say, that recursive result is rejected in favor of the predecessor configuration), more optimum, it becomes the basis for the next pass. (IIRC, this software also runs in parallel, with different descendants competing against each other).

The mutations are random, but the likelihood of survival is not.

While it is impossible to prove that the final configuration is in fact optimum, in all cases random mutation combined with non-random survival always produces better results than "Intelligent Design."

No teleology involved, only the requirement for continued respiration.

Which is why I keep coming back to plate tectonics and the fact of terrestrial life. Unless you are willing to involve some deus ex machina in every tot and jittle of Natural History, the only possible explanation for every one of those mobile land masses continuing to host climatologicaly specific life is if life is a self-adaptive system.

Those who say evolution isn't proven are incapable of integrating geology and life, and thereby failing to note the clear outcomes of ongoing experiments across the entire globe.

September 19, 2006 1:17 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Then throw in any arbitrary initial configuration, and let the recursive program run. It introduces random mutations of topology and hardware, testing each recursive result against its predecessor. Less optimum, it dies (that is to say, that recursive result is rejected in favor of the predecessor configuration), more optimum, it becomes the basis for the next pass. (IIRC, this software also runs in parallel, with different descendants competing against each other).

I think now I understand.

September 20, 2006 5:05 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

OT, but isn't the BBC News website terrific?

Terrible left-wing bias to their TV news these days, but their online service is the best I can think of.

September 20, 2006 5:14 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Science class doesn't have to be dull, those the few I ever had were.

A guy at Caltech has designed one for young kids called Project SEED, which is hard on the teachers but great for the kids. All hands on.

We used it in our county for a while, but the bureaucracy never understood it and eliminated the necessary support system during a budget crunch.

September 20, 2006 9:51 AM  
Blogger David said...

Brit: You say mistake, I say argument. You think that "nature red in tooth and claw" is such a fine sieve that only mutations conferring fitness survive. I say that almost any mutation can survive and that there is no basis for assuming that the survival of any particular mutation was anything but random.

Take for example the very nice mutation by which H. sap. was losing a couple of teeth. This did give a fitness advantage, because impacted wisdom teeth could cause death at puberty. But then the environment changed (that is, modern dentistry was invented) and now neither phenotype is more fit. (You are, by the way, completely wrong is suggesting that I don't understand what you mean by fit. I understand it perfectly.)

A couple of million years from now, when the intelligent cockroaches dig up a couple of skulls, they'll figure they've got two different species and come up with very credible explanations of the fitness advantage we got from more teeth.

September 20, 2006 5:06 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

In response to David's example I found this discussion about the possible causes of impacted wisdom teeth.

The reason why some wisdom teeth are impacted is not an easy question to answer. A primary cause of wisdom tooth impaction is simply that there is inadequate jawbone space behind the person's second molar. Why this lack of space exists is not fully understood, however there does seem to be a correlation between large tooth size, tooth crowding, and the presence of impacted wisdom teeth.

It has been theorized that the coarse nature of stone age man's diet had the effect of causing extensive tooth wear, not only on the chewing surface of the teeth but also on the sides of the teeth where neighboring teeth rest against them. The net effect of this wear would be a reduction in the collective "length" of the teeth as a set, thus creating enough jawbone space to accommodate the wisdom teeth by the time they erupted. In comparison the diet of modern man does not usually cause a significant amount of this type of tooth wear.

It has also been argued that the coarse nature of stone age man's diet, as compared to modern man's relatively soft diet, probably required more activity of the "chewing" muscles. This activity could have stimulated greater jawbone growth, thus providing more space for wisdom teeth.

The harsh and threatening world of the cave man no doubt often lead to the occurrence of broken teeth and even tooth loss. Once a tooth (or a portion of it) is missing the teeth behind it have a tendency to move forward. This shifting would make more jawbone space available for the wisdom teeth. In comparison, with the advent of modern dentistry there are relatively few reasons why a tooth would be lost or remain in a state of disrepair.

In this view wisdom teeth, in the context of the environment in which they evolved, was not a "bug" but a "feature". For a young adult who has likely lost molars or ground them down to a smaller size, the appearance of wisdom teeth gives greater prospects for a prolonged life.

David, your argument would argue against evolutionary dead ends, wouldn't it? You wouldn't expect to find extinct lines if very few, if any, mutations conferred unfitness.

September 20, 2006 11:09 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Percentage-wise, pretty much everything that has ever lived is extinct.

September 21, 2006 1:28 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

I say that almost any mutation can survive and that there is no basis for assuming that the survival of any particular mutation was anything but random.

I say you are wrong. True randomness is extremely difficult to achieve. Given the time scales involved, even the tiniest survival pattern will make a huge difference.

Which is why I keep banging on about plate tectonics, because it directly contradicts your assertion that any mutation can survive.

As for impacted wisdom teeth, I have read elsewhere (I am relying on memory here) that we have the same number of teeth as our ancestors, but, for whatever reason, a flatter face.

As a hypothesis, speech required a flatter muzzle. Speech was more advantageous than impacted wisdom teeth were disadvantageous.

Evolutionarily speaking, there is absolutely no surprise here.

One can't help but wonder, though, why a Designer possessed of anything more than comatose wisdom would not have deleted that particular option.

September 21, 2006 5:06 AM  
Blogger David said...

Jeff: The difference in number of teeth is a modern mutation that is currently working its way through the population -- or not.

Now who's mistaking fitness for an immutable characteristic?

Why do you expect me to defend Intelligent Design?

September 21, 2006 7:52 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

David:

Do you see Skipper's point about plate tectonics or not?

Any particular crap mutation can survive, and any particular good mutation can fail to thrive, if it is not subject to selective pressure.

That's why natural selection is all about 'just enough' (hence wisdom teeth pain, lower back pain and piles).

The environment, and especially a changing environment, provides selective pressure (actually it's a bit more complex than that because there is also sexual selection).

But the evidence from biogeography across all the continents clearly shows the effects of local environmental selective pressure on the local flora and fauna.

That couldn't happen by random mutation alone (or it could, but it would be an order of improbability so absurdly huge and difficult to comprehend that no computer could ever make the calculation).

September 21, 2006 8:12 AM  
Blogger David said...

And yet, all mutation is random.

September 21, 2006 1:11 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

The difference in number of teeth is a modern mutation that is currently working its way through the population -- or not.

The problem is that we have the same number of teeth as our predecessors, but put them into a much flatter face (that is to say, humans do not have a muzzle). We also have sinus drainage problems for the same reason.

And yet, all mutation is random.

Which pretty much eliminates the possibility of Intelligent Design, does it not?

Life is a recursive system. Mutation is random; survival to reproduction is not.

Do you see my point about the interaction of plate tectonics and evolution?

September 21, 2006 2:46 PM  
Blogger David said...

I understand the point that Skipper thinks he's making with plate tectonics. We've long since disproved it. It is, in any event, an awkward refugee from the argument you guys want to have about Creationism and ID, neither of which I believe in.

Jeff: Why is it a "problem" that we have the same number of teeth as our ancestors. That's thinking about fitness as an immutable characteristic, which is, I'm told, a no-no. The environment changed, modern dentistry came along and voila no problem. So here we are, stuck with a species with two genotypes, neither of which confers a fitness advantage. Similarly, I can show you two savannah dwellers, one with a long trunk and one with a long neck. It's a pretty big sieve that can let an elephant and a giraffe through.

September 21, 2006 4:52 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

If natural selection is out, creationism is out and ID is out, what's in?

September 21, 2006 6:22 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

I understand the point that Skipper thinks he's making with plate tectonics. We've long since disproved it.

Huh? Please fill me in.

Jeff: Why is it a "problem" that we have the same number of teeth as our ancestors.

From an evolutionary point of view, there is no problem. Wisdom, pre-modern dentistry, caused an amazing amount of pain, and even death. But rarely before the next loop in the recursive cycle, hence we still have them, regardless of modern dentistry (as well as lower back pain, and piles).

Similarly, I can show you two savannah dwellers, one with a long trunk and one with a long neck. It's a pretty big sieve that can let an elephant and a giraffe through.

IIRC, elephants and giraffes have entirely different diets.

In case you haven't notice, there are a lot of niches to be filled. Lots of niches = big sieve.

September 21, 2006 6:37 PM  
Blogger David said...

Harry: I accept evolution, I just think that natural selection is a minor facet.

Jeff: Exactly. Lots of niches, big sieve.

September 21, 2006 7:24 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Ah, I see, like Tiger Woods knocking the ball 300 yards down the fairway without using a club.

September 21, 2006 10:47 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Come on, David, we're not going to let you get away with Orrin-like mysterious one-liners here.

If natural selection is a minor facet in evolution, what is a major one?

September 22, 2006 1:54 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Heh, heh.

September 22, 2006 3:16 AM  
Blogger David said...

"Driver," huh? You guys are just irredeemably teleological. You remind me of something I once said to creeper: "Natural selection" is simply an anthropomorphic metaphor for a special case interaction of genetics and the environment.

Anyway, I think that evolution happens in all the usual drifty, copy-error, population splitty ways. I just think that almost any mutation that can be expressed in a living creature can survive. And that many otherwise viable mutations die off because random bad things happen to the phenotype; that the baby with the infrared eyesight dies in infancy of malaria.

As for what takes the place of natural selection as the "driver", I think that the mechanics of mitosis (that is, copying errors) has a much greater role in evolution than it is typically given credit for.

September 22, 2006 8:15 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Harry:

If natural selection is out, creationism is out and ID is out, what's in?

Even scarier, what if they're all in.

September 22, 2006 8:52 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

How very odd. A few questions occur:

1. Why do you think this?

2. You do accept that populations of species do look like each other, and that whole populations frequently go extinct?

3. In what sense are you not a darwinist, albeit an idiosyncratic one?

September 22, 2006 8:53 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

Don't forget viruses (evolutionary biologists do not, but most everyone else does), the original genetic engineers.

I have no idea where you come up with teleology, except possibly by quote mining economic phraseology.

September 22, 2006 9:40 AM  
Blogger David said...

I have no idea where you come up with teleology, except possibly by quote mining economic phraseology.

I'm not sure I get it. I was riffing off of Harry's comparing natural selection to Tiger Wood's driver, with which he drives the ball towards the hole. I take it that Tiger is evolution, we're the ball and the hole is fitness/survival. Tiger is, of course, goal oriented.

Brit: 1. Because it seems to best comport with the evidence, and with the mechanism of genetics.

2. I don't know about "frequently," but otherwise sure. So what?

3. Depends what the meaning of "darwinist" is. I accept evolution as the theory that best comports with the evidence. I think it is true, tautological, uninteresting: trivial. Darwinism has become, as we've all agreed, a synonym for natural history; the story of what happened. I find genetics (the explanation of how it happened) significantly more interesting.

September 22, 2006 10:08 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Maybe I should have taken a fairway wood, instead of a driver, out of Tiger's hands.

Less flippantly, the driver is thermodynamics: add energy to any mixture of compounds and you get different compounds.

September 22, 2006 1:15 PM  
Blogger David said...

If the driver is thermodynamics, why was the question directed at me?

September 22, 2006 2:08 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

David:

It's just not a viewpoint I've come across before: the dismissal of the importance of the environment in evolution, in favour of pure random genetic mutation.

I can't see how your version of darwinism fits the evidence.

For example, evolution by natural selection also explains population stasis, or the lack of evolution in the absence of selective pressure. eg. archaeabacteria, crocodiles and coelacanths.

How would your random mutation theory explain that?

September 23, 2006 12:04 AM  
Blogger David said...

That will take some answering, so first I'd like us to agree on a definition of "fitness." Is fitness the property of surviving to reproduce? Is it a probabilistic characteristic of the genotype, which can be expected, caterus parebus, to have an advantage against other genotypes? Or is it an emergent property located at the intersection of genetics and the environment? [Feel free to offer your own definition.]

September 23, 2006 5:10 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

I say 'fitness' simply to refer to an individual's likely ability to reproduce, but thinking I could get caught out here, I looked at this page.

So it depends on what exactly you're talking about. You can talk about fitness in retrospect (whether it did reproduce), or probabilities before reproduction, or relative fitness, and you can measure it.

September 24, 2006 3:32 AM  

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