Joined: April 2005
An Evolutionist’s Guide to Some Darwinian Errors and Misconceptions
This one is for those that can see the evidence for evolution but cannot swallow the Darwinian myth. Were Darwinism a real scientific theory that explained the origin of species the numerical predictions would match measurement. One of the few relatively unambiguous measured quantities for a species is its gene count. From the known rate of “random” genetic change it is possible to estimate the average rate at which novel useful genes should appear in the world, but no published estimate comes close to the observed and necessary rate of several per year. Worse, for a theory based on “random” change, these novel genes are known almost exclusively from the miniscule proportion of living things comprising the “advanced” species. Darwinism provides no clue how organisms with a couple of thousand genes and a few hundred genetic mechanisms evolved into a wide range of complex organisms with a few tens of thousands of genes and a few thousand genetic mechanisms at a rate that is astoundingly consistent in the face of factors like plant/animal, tropical/polar, marine/terrestrial and above all population size. It is a stunningly non-random distribution with individual species accumulating genes at rates many trillion times higher than the already suspiciously high average.
In the absence of a usable numeric formulation of evolution the Darwinists have been forced back on word based descriptions. This results in misconceptions arising from different meanings of words. Is a tiger a cat? The answer depends on which meaning of the word “cat” is being used. Many, if not most, words have a number of significantly different meanings. In real science a definition is a pointer to a theoretical term in a mathematical model and the model defines the meaning. Depending on your viewpoint Darwinism is either a con or a farce depending on misleading meanings of words and hidden changes in meanings of words.
So for evolution:
A species has predecessor and successor species that, of necessity, have somewhat different genetic messages in their DNA.
There is, in some sense of the word, “variation”.
Genes and genetic mechanisms do not come with instructions so there is a large element of trial and error in determining viable changes.
The process is, in some sense of the word, “random”.
Not all variants from a species survive.
There is, in some sense of the word “selection”.
The process conforms to the scientific laws of nature.
It is, in some sense of the word “natural”.
Darwinists say – look we have a theory of evolution based on random variation and natural selection. What more could one want? The answer, apart from accurate predictions, is that one could ask for the meanings of the words in Darwinism to be appropriate to the meanings in evolution. Have they got the meanings of those four words right? The answers are: No, No, No and No. This is a good starting point for exposing Darwinism as in the description “random variation, natural selection” each word encapsulates at least one piece of misinformation.
Darwinists would have you believe that evolution and biology were matters of genes. In reality a gene is actually only a component, like a transistor, resistor of capacitor. Evolution and biology are mostly matters of genetic mechanisms – a set of genes interacting to achieve a function similar to that of an electronic circuit. Only rarely does a single gene serve a purpose without support from other genes. Evolution covers all the processes that result in new genes, transmission and collection of genes, their assembly into genetic mechanisms, and the adjustment of those mechanisms to the requirements of living in a particular environment. There are many processes that affect one or more of the steps in assembling, tuning and deleting genetic mechanisms.
Variation is a collective term for all the variety of processes that modify a genetic message and the genes and genetic mechanisms. It covers a range from common radiation damage and transcription errors through to complex interactions like retroviruses and exceptionally rare phenomenon like acquisition of mitochondria and chloroplasts. The effects of radiation damage are different for external radiation and decay of a carbon 14 atom in a stretch of DNA. This tells you nothing about other forms of variation. There is a slightly different bias in transcription errors between bacterial and non bacterial species that allows the probable source of a novel gene to be distinguished. This tells you nothing about other forms of variation. The rate of transmission of AIDS depends on sexual preferences. This tells you nothing about other forms of variation. And so on. The word “variation” behaves like “product” for which totally different rules apply to mines, foundries, orchards and airlines. Apart from changing the genetic message there is nothing significant in common between forms of variation. They all have their own rules and characteristics. They vary widely in every characteristic and the type and magnitude of the change to the affected species.
Evolution meaning: A ratbag collection of phenomena with the only common factor a change in the genetic message.
Darwinist meaning: The small subset of common changes that essentially correspond to changes in the tuning of existing genetic mechanisms.
You could write a book on the peculiar meanings that have, at one time or another, been ascribed to this word. The word is so frequently misunderstood that it should be avoided, as it is in most sciences. A favourite trick of Darwinists is to introduce “random” under one, often unconventional, definition and then reuse it with a different meaning. Start with a dictionary. There are two families of meanings for the word “random” - colloquial and technical. For the purposes of science the situation is simplified. The test for correctness of a scientific theory is agreement between theory and prediction/measurement. For each meaning of the word “random” in your dictionary ask the question “How would I use this definition of ‘random’ to obtain a predicted value which could be checked against observation?”. Only the statistical meanings of “random” pass this test. This is not to deny the usefulness of other meanings, only to say that if you wish to use one of the colloquial or philosophical meanings of “random” it is preferable to use a different word or phrase that exactly and unambiguously encapsulates the particular intended meaning. Better still if the meaning can be tied to a body of science. There is a characteristic of evolution that an arbitrarily small variation early in an evolutionary sequence may lead to arbitrarily large consequences in descendant species and their companion species. The technical term “Chaotic” may be used to express this far more clearly than “random” and has the advantage of tying the intended meaning to established Chaos Theory.
The real problem with “random” lies a little deeper. If you are familiar with statistical theory you will be aware that there are two different contexts for discussing randomness which have slightly different formulae. In the context of evolution the distinction is crucial to an understanding although Darwinists carefully avoid making it. The distinction can be seen clearly in examples like Lotto where bets are placed on combinations of numbered balls and the game battleships where one attempts to identify and sink an opponent’s ships placed on a grid. In these cases there is an objective that can only be achieved through a randomised process. Predictability would defeat the objective. However in each case there is a party to the transaction who has control over it and has the power vary the rules for the randomising process. In this case the randomness is encapsulated within a set of rules. In contrast the raw form of randomness seen in radioactive decay and noise in communication where the rate and type of random activity is dictated by laws of nature. It is the fact that the owner of a random process can have exact knowledge of the random process which must otherwise be inferred that leads to the slightly different statistical formulae. It is in the interests of a Lotto operator that the biggest prize is usually but not always won leading to jackpots and they will occasionally change the options offered to achieve this. It is the aim of a “battleship” player to locate the enemy units and if they suspect their search algorithm is becoming stylised to their opponent’s advantage they may change it. The difference between the two cases may be summarised by the possibility of asking the question of a random process “Are the parameters of the random process appropriate to an objective or should they be changed?”. If change is possible then it is an encapsulated random process. If it is not possible then it is a raw random process.
Darwinists persist in regarding all random processes as raw although it is abundantly clear that certain crucial changes are encapsulated. The best documented cases come from antibiotic research. Bacteria exposed to antibiotics, or any other toxic material, have an increased rate of variation. Note first that the increase in variation is determined by the genetic mechanisms in the bacterium, not external circumstances. It is the bacterium that determines when the increase occurs and when it ceases. There is a balance between the advantages and disadvantages of increased variation and it is the bacterium that determines the actual rate. The factor that unequivocally marks the process as encapsulated randomness is the particular type of variation that increases. A typical population size and a specific increase in rate gives a number of random probes that can be made into a pool of genetic variation. For different forms of genetic variation there are differences in the proportion of beneficial variations. The only forms of variation for which bacteria increase rate are those for which the expected number of probes required for location of a beneficial variation is less than the number available to the species exposed to the toxic material. If the odds against a useful beneficial variation are a trillion to one and a population of bacteria increases their rate of mutation to the point where there are a few trillion probes they will succeed in finding a mutation that allows the species to continue. The overall outcome is almost totally predictable. The particular genetic solution found is not predictable, the particular individuals who will gain a genetic solution are unpredictable, but the fact that some individuals of the species will gain a genetic solution is predictable. This is a managed random process, not a raw one. Functionally it is a distributed genetic search engine (DGSE). There are several different DGSE’s mining different strata of genetic variation. Actual genetic search engines tend to be more sophisticated than this simple description suggests. It is these genetic mechanisms, the “Googles” of the evolutionary world, that Darwinists do not want to know about and do not want you to know about. It is these mechanisms that allow species to “cherry pick” a far higher proportion of helpful mutations than would be expected from a raw random process.
Evolution meaning: Any of a wide variety defined situations, encapsulated or raw, where a probability can be assessed.
Darwinist meaning: Any meaning that avoids discussion of distributed genetic search engines, or, if possible, any other probability calculations.
Who can argue with Natural? There are several different takes on the word. One refers to ordinary common situations. Another refers to compliance with laws of nature. A third distinguishes between human activity and the natural environment in which it occurs. Geologists fell into this trap with Uniformitarianism – the idea that all geology could be explained through processes visible today. It soon became apparent to them that rare processes like ice-ages and large meteorite impacts had to be factored in. These are processes and situations that, because of their rarity, are seen, in one sense of the word, as “unnatural”. Every thing alive today has an evolutionary chain of descent going back billions of years to the earliest forms of life. As everyone knows a chain is only as strong as its weakest link(s). These weakest links are the points at which the species changes and they are rare. The time scale is tens of thousands of years. In that time scale there can be fairly extreme variations in nature. The correct use of “natural” includes the rare, one in ten-thousand year phenomena, the Darwinian use of “natural” considers only the everyday phenomena. There are no grounds for the Darwinist assumption that observation of day-to-day changes will identify the dominant factors in one in ten thousand year phenomena.
Evolution meaning: Referring to any of a wide range of circumstances that occur in an evolutionary timescale.
Darwinist meaning: Referring to only those circumstances that occur commonly within a narrow range of time and location.
When you select a sports team, jury, present for a child or whatever you end up with a team, jury, present for a child or whatever. The process which determines which members of a species leaves descendants and which do not leave descendants can and sometimes does end up with none. One of the most distinctive features of the fossil record is that the first examples of a new species are almost always roughly contemporary with the last of the predecessor species. In these cases no members of the extinct species was selected to leave descendants of that species. The descendants, forming the new species, were filtered out using a different measure, although still a “natural” one. The deficiencies of the concept of selection have been noted and many accounts of evolution correctly point out that the essential issue is the differential probability of successor individuals with the individual’s genetic heritage. The simple model of selection has to modified not only by radical changes in environment but also by peculiarities of genetic transmission like selfish genes (or more correctly genetic mechanisms) and the group selection shown in social insects and distributed genetic search engines (DGSEs). Note carefully that in the case of a DGSE it is not the species that is selected, it becomes extinct. It is not the individuals that are successful, they are basically determined by a lottery. What is selected is the genetic mechanism that leads to a new species carrying on the genetic line and containing the evolutionary genetic mechanism.
Evolution meaning: The filtering arising from any differential reproductive success of any pattern of genetic mechanisms at any point in the evolutionary process.
Darwinist meaning: The filtering arising from the differential reproductive success of specific variant individuals within a narrowly defined environment.
There are other areas where Darwinists use language misleadingly.
Survival of the fittest
Anyone who has followed the Darwinist debates will be aware of the empty circularity of the term “fittest”. Some of the objections to the concept of “fittest” have been mentioned under “selection”. There are other objections to the term.
One of the most important is that under conditions of extreme “selection” where only a variant of a species can survive “fittest” is determined by the ability of the individuals in the species to access appropriate sources of genetic change and also to remain functional during and after the associated physiological changes associated with the genetic change. Over the totality of evolution there is extreme filtering for species that can manage such changes without disruption. The changes that some insects go through within a lifetime – egg, larva, pupa, adult – are far greater than are normally found in the progression of a species to its successor. Darwin noted this “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Distributed genetic search engines involving lateral gene transfer can assemble novel genetic mechanisms that radically alter the individuals’ physiology and only those species with internal control mechanisms that can survive such radical overhaul will leave descendants.
A second major criticism of the implications of the term “fittest” is that all species, especially plants, are more affected by excesses or deficiencies of critical chemicals, especially water than by any other environmental factor, such as predators. It is very clear in the case of bacteria, but over all of evolution a better case can be made for the driving environmental changes being essentially chemical in nature than for the “athletic” changes suggested by “fittest”.
Given Long Enough
All theories involving randomness and combinations have a theorem that states that if a combination of circumstances is possible then given enough time it will occur. These are theoretical curiosities of no practical importance. If you stir some milk or sugar into your coffee then the molecules of milk or sugar get randomly distributed in the coffee. One of the possible random distributions has every molecule back where it started, and this is a physically possible state since it is what you started with. However it is possible to calculate how long it would be before such a rearrangement could be expected. The answer is many, many trillions times the age of the universe. In practice it never occurs. Air has 20% oxygen molecules randomly distributed so it is possible by chance to breathe a lungful of pure oxygen – so long as you keep breathing for many, many trillions of times the age of the universe. In practice it never occurs. There are not that many distinct genes, most are duplicated among many species. New ones occur only a few times per year. So one can calculate how long it would take for humans to acquire those genes that distinguish them from other apes. Humans were about a trillionth of a trillionth of the world’s population of organisms so the expected time is in the range of a trillion, trillion years. The universe is only about 13 billion years old. Yes it is true that given enough time humans could have evolved from a miocene ape by Darwinian evolution. Since the time required is impossibly long it is equally true that in practice that could not have occurred and some other explanation is required.
The basic error contained in arguments based on “long enough” is the assumption that if some amount of time; four billion years of evolution, 650 million since the Cambrian “explosion”, or 65 million since dinosaurs is all the time available; then it must be “enough”. There is no upper limit to the numbers that can be written in front to the word “years”. There are plenty of combinatorial phenomena for which the universe is simply too small and too short lived for them ever to occur. The argument relies on the times seeming unimaginable to an audience. In fact 650 million is not a particularly large number, it is about the number of bytes on a CD and far less than on a DVD, it is less than the population of China or India and far less than the wealth, measured in dollars, of the richest people in most countries.
No direction to evolution
There is a Darwinian claim that there is no direction to evolution. In just about any other field a direction is associated with a scale. There are local and global directions. This is reflected in pairs of words like strategy and tactics. There is no global direction to evolution in that there is no script or controlling “force” that pushes evolution into a specific direction. However local directions are a different matter. The most obvious and significant examples of a local direction arises when an environment changes. The effect of a change in environment does not usually affect all the species in the environment equally. A situation can arise, and often does, that there a few, possibly only one, species that thrives in the changed environment because they or it possesses a genetic mechanism that manages the deleterious effects of the change. In this case the other, failing, species have a definite direction to their evolution. If they too had the genetic mechanism they too would be more likely to survive. As everyone should be aware, in an environment changed by addition of an antibiotic that also contains a species that does have a genetic mechanism giving immunity from the specific antibiotic, those bacterial species that do not have those mechanisms respond by acquiring the mechanism. Although the actual process is relatively complex it is a simple case of a directional stimulus and a response (involving a distributed search engine) that moves the species in the locally indicated direction.
Note that this is not a peculiarly bacterial phenomenon. Advanced species of necessity have internal fluids to provide the necessaries of life to internal cells. Since these fluids are nutritious they periodically get bacterial populations. This leaves all cells of an individual of the advanced species with the same access to genetic material from another species that is enjoyed by bacteria in the case of antibiotic resistance transfer. Since advanced species are descended from bacteria with the ability to acquire genetic material there is the expectation that such a useful ability would be retained. The distribution of genes between species makes it abundantly clear that this is actually the case. The number of unfamiliar genes in a bacterial species that evades an immune system is so low that a DGSE operating in this area can be successful with very small populations – in the range of thousands.
There is an obvious objection to Darwinism that the bigger the evolutionary change the less plausible the Darwinian explanations become. Many are laughable. A Darwinist response is to claim that there is no fundamental difference between micro evolution (which works) and macro evolution (which does not). The argument is ridiculous – there is no specific sum of money at which one becomes rich therefore there is no difference between rich and poor? Any plausibility of the case depends on the differences in the characteristics of the evolving species – the phenotype. Butterflies and their caterpillars have the same DNA differently expressed. Small changes in genes can radically affect gene expression and the consequent external form of an organism. There is no natural boundary to the size of changes to the phenotype.
At the level of the genes there are two quite different distinctions that can be drawn although the boundaries are similar. Firstly one can note the difference between changes in an organism that arise from adjustments made to a genetic mechanism and those arising from the acquisition, by any means, of a novel genetic mechanism. A bacterium that is antibiotic resistant because of a novel genetic mechanism looks identical to one without the mechanism but the bacterium is significantly different. At the genetic level one can therefore define micro evolution as that involving variation within an existing genetic repertoire and macro evolution as that involving changes to the number of genetic mechanisms in the repertoire.
A more enlightening distinction is based on the extremely wide variation in different types of genetic change. For any given type of genetic change within any given size of population there are two time scales. The first concerns the rate at which potentially useful mutations arrive in the population. The second concerns the typical time scale taken for a novel mutation to be resolved and become either rejected or common in the population. Very small changes, like allele changes occur very frequently and usually confer small advantages that typically take many generations for the small selective advantage to achieve resolution. Conversely very large changes, like the addition or loss of a genetic mechanism, occur very rarely but confer a large selective advantage that often takes only one generation to achieve resolution. In the former situation the arrival interval is less than resolution time and the population will contain a diversity of mutations in the process of resolution. In the latter case the population will usually contain none of the mutation variants and each change will be resolved individually as they occur. A central feature of Darwinian theory is that a change in environment changes the relative advantages of variants essentially resorting their respective advantages. This can only happen for those mutations for which arrival times are less than resolution times. It is not possible to usefully sort nothing, or one single item. This divides the mutations into two classes, sortable and non-sortable. For sortable variants there is a greater possibility of advantage if there is a wide spread in characteristics. For non-sortable variants there is a greater possibility of advantage if the incidence of the changes is synchronised with the environmental change. Thus one can use a definition where micro evolution involves smaller changes that are not synchronised with environmental change and macro evolution involves larger changes that are synchronised with the environmental change.
Evolution is about changes in the proportions of alleles.
There is a type of logical argument called “reductio ad absurdum” in which an assumption is demolished by demonstrating that an impossible conclusion would follow were it true. This is the absurdum. The number of genes in advanced species is tens of thousands more than in earliest life. The substitution of one allele of a gene by another only alters the effect of that gene, it does not change the number of genes (or even of genetic mechanisms). The logical conclusion from the initial assumptions of Darwinian evolution, as supported by the data is that a number can be made bigger by adding zero a vary large number of times. It is difficult to see how anyone could rationally support this absurdity. An irrational determination to believe in the adequacy of Darwinism is apparently stronger than any propensity for logical thought. Anyone familiar with conservation principles will see the error. If some characteristic is conserved under a transformation then any multiple of that transformation will also conserve the characteristic. For those small variations that involve only the tuning of an already existing genetic mechanism by replacing one allele of a gene with another the Darwinist model of evolution works well. It is about the only type of evolution for which it works at all. However the number of genes and genetic mechanisms is conserved in an allele substitution. The difference between a bacterium and a human is not that the genetic mechanisms from the bacterium have been tuned differently. There are thousands of extra genes. There are thousands of extra genetic mechanisms (individual genes often appear in more than one genetic mechanism). It is these extra genes and genetic mechanisms that make the difference. You can no more add a genetic mechanism by varying alleles than you can convert “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” to Shakespeare’s Macbeth by varying the font of the characters. The variations in species arising from allele substitution may be interesting in their own right but they cannot contribute to the explanation of an increase in the number of genes and genetic mechanisms. There is one advantage of this statement. If you find it as a functional assertion in a textbook or article then you know the author is unable to think rationally about the subject. This means that you are going to have to check everything they say against a more reliable source. You can chuck the book/article in the rubbish bin in perfect safety.
The unspoken false assumption
At the time of Darwin geologists were cracking down on extravagant explanations of geological formations in terms of peculiar catastrophes by adopting the principle of Uniformitarianism – that only mechanisms observable today could be used in geological explanations. The principle did not survive as it became clear that there were epochs where conditions were substantially different and factors like ice ages and large meteoric impact, not seen today, needed to be included. At the time, and reasonably, Darwin assumed that the types of variation and selection observed today were typical of all epochs in the past. Although unstated, this remains an assumption of Darwinism. However, given the statistical mismatch between Darwinian mechanisms and the characteristics revealed in the fossil record and current day distributions of species, genetic mechanisms and genes it is an assumption that is clearly questionable.
In any selection process any small scale culling will favour individuals close to an optimum and will tend to produce convergence to a norm. Conversely large scale culling eliminates the population at the previous norm and the only favoured individuals are far from the norm and this tends to produce divergence. The logic of convergent evolution is different to that of divergent evolution. This distinction provides a simple basis for their being epochs in which the evolutionary patterns differ.
Darwinism has several other cases of words being used to mislead. However the above notes cover some of the most important ones. There are two interesting issues to be settled. Can evolution of species be explained without DGSEs or something essentially the same? Can Darwinism be extended to include DGSE’s or anything essentially the same?
Are DGSE’s necessary in an evolutionary theory?
The average rate at which raw random changes occur in DNA is known. Calculation shows that advanced species have too few members for the required numbers of genes and genetic mechanisms to arise by chance. DGSEs can assemble the genes in bacteria and transfer them to advanced species at the required rates.
Darwinian evolution works best for large numbers of a species spread over a variegated environment where different variants can be concentrated and accumulated in separate locations. This can produce novel species – a well known example being the Colorado Potato Beetle. In such cases, the original species, being numerous and well distributed will normally survive and be coexistant, as is true for the Potato Beetle. For DGSEs the maximum effect occurs when all members of the species are active, that is when the species is approaching extinction. In this case the new species will usually appear in place of the original species. The fossil record has the DGSE pattern as predominant.
Where a population of a species exercising a DGSE is significantly more numerous than is required to locate a genetic solution to an environmental threat it is possible for multiple solutions to be found before the first individuals with a solution come to predominate in the population. The effect is particularly noticeable for a DGSE assembling a genetic mechanism. This situation appears in the fossil record as an essentially instantaneous appearance of several different but related novel species. There are many cases of this pattern in the fossil record. Darwinism requires a first member species which subsequently diverges. This requires the absurd assumption that in every single case there was an unusual set of circumstances that resulted in none of the steps required by Darwinism appearing in the fossil record. While the deficiencies of the fossil record could conceal a few such sequences it is a ridiculous improbability to assume that all could happen to be thus concealed.
Execution of DGSE’s involving lateral gene transfer leaves a totally different distribution of genes from that expected from Darwinism. In Darwinism every instance of a gene appearing in two or more species should be traceable back to a common ancestor. DGSEs tend to transfer genes from common bacterial species to any other species sharing the environment and in difficulties. Once transferred the inheritance path of a gene does follow Darwinian inheritance rules. The actual distribution of genes does not conform to the Darwinian expectation but appears to be what would be expected from DGSE’s.
Last, a major statistical hurdle for any theory of evolution. For any proposed source of genetic novelty there will be a tendency for more numerous populations to get more of it. It is like a lottery, more tickets, more chances of a prize. There are lots of factors that could affect the rate at which a species evolved. As mentioned, obvious factors include plant/animal, marine/land, tropical/arctic, hunter/hunted. At the current time, after 4 billion years of evolution, the number of genes in the majority of advanced species from any source fall into a very narrow band indeed. Most have acquired between 15,000 and 30,000 genes in the last 600 million years. This is a variance of less than 25% in the average rate. Any theory based, as is Darwinism, on raw random processes will predict a vastly greater spread. There are plausible DGSE mechanisms that can yield such uniformity.
Can DGSEs be fitted into Darwinism
The answer has to be no. There are all the technical difficulties associated with the differences in the required meanings for the fundamental concepts. The following issues would need to be addressed:
Source of genetic change: Predominantly internal/predominantly external
Rate of genetic change: Continuous/saltatory
Unit of change: Allele/genetic mechanism
Typical size of change: Very small/very wide range
Environmental change: Gradual/abrupt
Direction to evolution: None/a major driver
Direction to change: Reversible/irreversible
Control of genetic change: None, a selection criterion
Time for new species: Many generations/at most one
Extinction: Incidental/coupled and matched
Individuals varying: One/several
However the greatest incompatibility is philosophical. Darwinism has all species (with the occasional exception made for, of course, humans) as unwitting victims of random events, over which they have no control, which shape their evolutionary path in an arbitrary way. The addition of DGSEs radically changes the model as evolution becomes something, like eating and reproducing, that organisms do, albeit only vary rarely. Evolution becomes part of the genetic repertoire of species not something external.
So a new theory of the origin of species is required. The great advantage of building in DGSEs is that the numbers come out right and most those “mysteries” cease to be mysteries and have simple logical explanations.