I think the evolution of flight is one of the clearest examples that the standard theories of evolution purely by mutation and natural selection are still lacking explanatory power. I understand that the theory of Common Descent has ample evidence but let’s not conflate that with the other theories (about HOW genetic drift happens in macroevolution) and turn “evolution” into a religion in our quest to replace creationist accounts. It is a catch-all umbrella term to describe many theories, from “punctuated equilibria” to the “modern synthesis”, which still are in their infancy as the luminiferous aether or phlogiston as physical theories.
I find there is too much suppression of dissenting views in evolutionary and climate science, for my taste. I am talking about universities and publishers taking concerted political action against what is perceived as going against the current establishment.
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. - Max Planck
In many circles, publishing anything critical on scientific grounds is like publicly criticizing capitalism in USA or Islam in Saudi Arabia. A lot of time you get instant downvotes and hostile responses from laypeople.
If you’re curious what I’m talking about, here is probably one of the better treatments of the mathematics behind current theories, for example:
We can infer that bats gradually evolved true flight from a gliding arboreal ancestor, possibly using the gliding membrane as a sort of "net" while the flight stroke evolved.
We can infer this because we beg the question, i.e. the only way evolution can happen is random mutation and natural selection. And so, we postulate the theory as true fact and then we get the result that it must have happened some way that is consistent with the theory.
I am just generally remarking on the fact that all that seems to be required in today's scientific environment is to describe what could have happened with some arboreal ancestor gaining, say, webbed wing-like arms for some reason, and then over thousands and millions of generations for some reason, before the webbed arms could help them glide, they were accepted instead of shunned by their mates for their mutation, and the mutant population survived and genetically drifted in that direction, until finally they could glide... and then fly.
The fossil record is incredibly limited and I'd bet against such a fossil ever being found even if the animal existed, but in principle it is a falsifiable theory.
When the stories don’t even make consistent sense (eg how do exclusively gay or asexual people exist if many theories of evolution predict such a trait would have been practically weeded out of the population by now, but it keeps coming back) people grasp at straws to say “well it HAS TO have SOME fitness advantage” because they just stick to the same basic theoretical framework no matter what the data says.
Some things can't be weeded out by evolution, e.g. we will never lose major traits that are developed in the first weeks of an embryo's development, as everything that develops in the later stages depend on the first.
Non-hereditary traits aren't obviously weeded out either, and I don't think homosexuality is (always) hereditary.
Has there really been any research by evolutionist biologists suggesting that homosexuality should have been weeded out and it's an anomaly in our theories?
We don't know what causes people to be straight either, but that doesn't seem to stop evolutionary biologists proposing evolutionary explanations for the existence of straight sexual desire.
Evolution works on populations not individuals. Exclusively gay people are the non-breeding worker ants of humanity, they don't pass their genetics along but the do their bit for the survival of the colony. That's only if there is a genetic component to homosexuality of course, which is heavily disputed.
And that's a just so story. There is zero evidence that this actual reason for the continued existence of non-heterosexual humans in the population.
It's not clear to me that same gender attraction requires any more of an explanation than opposite gender attraction. It's only a particular, narrow evolutionary lens that makes homosexuality look like a puzzle to be solved, rather than a fairly obvious consequence of the fact that people of the same gender can get each other off and have feelings for each other.
Honestly, we gays seem to have the worst luck in this respect. A couple hundred years ago people didn't think we fit into "God's plan". Now they agonize over how exactly to fit us into evolutionary theory. (I think there are about as many theories of the evolutionary origins of homosexuality as there are evolutionary biologists.) Hamlet got it right: "There are more things in heaven and earth...Than are dreamt of in your philosophy".
I'm not looking for evidence of their continued existence, I was correcting the parents incorrect claim that evolution would eliminate homosexuality.
> rather than a fairly obvious consequence of the fact that people of the same gender can get each other off and have feelings for each other.
The fact that we want to get each other off at all is driven by evolution, a species that doesn't have an urge to get each other off goes extinct pretty quickly.
> Honestly, we gays seem to have the worst luck in this respect. A couple hundred years ago people didn't think we fit into "God's plan". Now they agonize over how exactly to fit us into evolutionary theory.
Really, you think quest for knowledge is at all comparable to the 2000 years of active persecution?
This begs the question. Gay sexual desire is a counterexample to this claim.
> a species that doesn't have an urge to get each other off goes extinct pretty quickly.
Evolutionary considerations may set boundary conditions. It doesn't follow that the sexuality that humans in fact have has an evolutionary explanation.
There's a dilemma here. If you're going to paint a picture of evolution as a ruthlessly fitness-optimizing process, then you have to take gay sexual desire seriously as a counterexample.
If, on the other hand, you accept that evolutionary theory per se only rules out extreme possibilities (e.g., a completely asexual species that reproduces sexually), then you also have to accept that the specifics of human sexuality may not have any explanation in evolutionary terms.
>Really, you think quest for knowledge is at all comparable to the 2000 years of active persecution?
The persecution of gay people continues. Non-religious bigots will often justify it on alleged evolutionary grounds ("it's not natural"), just as religious bigots will often justify it in terms of Biblical proscriptions.
Pointing it out doesn't make you edgy, it just makes you a PITA. You're still on Step One while we are working on the implications of "suppose x:y:z", having ruled out "x:w" sometime back, and "x:y:v" more recently.
Could it be "a:b:c", instead? Maybe, but that would require a to overcome all the problems x satisfied, lo those many years ago, before we embarked on y and z.
Call back when z and all its other alternatives, and the other possibilities given x, have been ruled out. Unless of course you have good evidence calling x in question, that nonetheless accounts for its apparent successes.
Reflexive skepticism and gullibility are two sides of the same plug nickel.
The only alternative is the familiar, and very popular, self-deception; and its familiar companion, deception.
They even derisively call any religious explanation a “god of the gaps” argument.
Richard Feynman says scientists are responsible to avoid self deception. Being able to admit your just-so story is currently unfalsfiable and is actually more similar to a fifth grade writing assignment than to science, is part of that responsibility.
The difference between scientists and you is the difference between real work and hot air.
Go actually do something. Something hard, that takes real understanding, real work, and trial and error, failure and trying something else until you get somewhere no one has ever been. Something that involves more than talk.
I think idiots are not ignored enough in our current society.
Science is about what can be observed. Theories are only useful as long as they predict right results. Opionions are irrelevant.
OP said alternate theories where being suppressed but has yet to name one or provide any evidence of that they're being suppressed. That's why I and others strongly suspect they are a creationist sowing doubt and not interested in any legitimate debate. The playbook of a creationist or climate "skeptic" is to sow doubt and then claim their theory is just as good because "nobody really knows".
If they'd name what dissenting theory is being suppressed I'd give them a lot more benefit of the doubt.
I could say that it is New Kind of Science type explanations which defy simply analytic explanations the same way machine learning is not reducible to explanations involving simple syllogisms.
But let’s give you what you want, because I want to get to the heart of the issue. What if the competing theory was, in fact supernatural, some form of intelligent design or theistic evolution? Go ahead, make your point. Because I am interested in just how much an attitude of anti theism motivates otherwise rational people to refuse to admit that an unfalsifiable theory (like that ALL speciation proceeds by random mutation and natural selection, ie things we understand which we call natural) is falsifiable? And that a fancy sounding just-so story actually passes for science as long as it assumes the above is true?
You just prefer that currently understood processes are involved, instead of saying that it’s stuff beyond your comprehension.
I will directly ask: how is that more rational than theism?
I cannot comment on Lamarckian evolution.
My main problem of religious theories is that they are only the kind of just-so stories that you so despise. Evolution predicted in-between species and we found them in the fossil record; it predicted traits to be hereditary and later it was found how that worked with DNA, we found all animals share parts of their DNA with all other animals, et cetera. It's one of the strongest scientific theories there is in terms of how much it predicted that was later found to be true.
Some details we don't know exactly (because we can't repeat it, and have to look at ancient fossils even though the vast majority of life never left a fossil and the vast majority of the life that did is still in the earth). And even for those we have are somewhat plausible just-so stories. That aren't evidence, but at least it's a way of showing that the presence of e.g. gays is not incompatible with the theory.
Theist theories _started_ with a just-so story and then added more stories on top.
Lamarckism was never suppressed, mendelian genetics proved a better model as the primary driver of evolution. Are you claiming the Lamarckism is being actively suppressed? You're still dancing around the question.
> otherwise rational people to refuse to admit that an unfalsifiable theory (like that ALL speciation proceeds by random mutation and natural selection, ie things we understand which we call natural)
It is falsifiable, if we observed new species popping into existence then the theory would be on shaky grounds to say the least. Even if we could find species that didn't appear to have a common ancestor would be evidence against natural selection.
> I will directly ask: how is that more rational than theism?
It's more rational because it's simpler, it takes know testable laws and uses them to provide an explanation. Theism posits something much more complicated and completely unknown as the explanation where it's not necessary.
And while we're here lets be real, you aren't talking about theism in general but a specific form of mono-theism that you likely grew up with. After naturalism I would find pantheism to be much more rational, if one god can pop into existence then many can.
Surely not. We're also interested in how explanatory a theory is, and in whether or not we have strong grounds to think it true.
If what you were saying were correct, it would have been wrong to point out in 1860 that Newton's theory made incorrect predictions regarding the orbit of Mercury.
...and turn “evolution” into a religion in our quest to replace creationist accounts.
What ridiculous ad hominem.
I asked a genuine question that hasn't been answered and you inferred far more from it than there really was.
That's why I asked. I could well be wrong about that. But he hasn't answered.
When I mentioned the creationism, I mentioned it in the way foldr understood.
But listen: I meant exactly what I said and that should be enough. I don’t have to be a communist to point out failures of markets. A person who believes the invisible hand always knows best should defend their position with logic instead of counterattacking others with adhominems.
And that is actually a weaker example. I don’t have to even have a competing theory to point out that unfalsifiable theories abound in the area of evolution.
I already said to you the common descent theory has AMPLE evidence. From genetic evidence, geology, fossil record, radiometric dating and so on. So clearly I have give you a standard that leaves the other evolutionary theories in the dust. Just because they can all be lumped under the umbrella term “evolution” doesn’t mean they are all one, proven theory!!
Consider the multiverse theory. Is that falsifiable? Is it science?
My point is that no thise things are not actually science. They are simply a preference to claim every result we observe was brought about by processes we already understand. The word “science” is just attached to it because it gives it a nice halo effect.
Neither multiverse theories nor these theories are actually falsifiable in any practical way.
The goal of promoting these theories is actually to have a legitimate-sounding (on the surface) way avoid admitting there may be supernatural causes involving phenomena that we don’t understand and may never understand.
In quantum mechanics, fine tuning of constants, and many other areas, we have possibly reached a limit of what we can actually test or explain using classical reasoning. And we have begun to accept that maybe properly done science has limits.
Beyond this lies faith, of many sorts. Religious faith, or faith in the principle that there are no skyhooks or that everything is made up of stuff we more of less already understand.
You can say that makes me a creationist because once I say we don’t know HOW X CAME ABOUT there is no difference in explanations.
But that’s not true. You can rule out explanations by falsification! For example you can rule out most Greek myths, because they involve falsifiable elements that have been shown to be false (eg apollo with the sun in a chariot going across the sky, or mount olympus being home to zeus). Most religions make falsifiable claims, and that’s how we can actually disprove them. But to the extent a natural theory consistts of UNFALSIFIBLE claims, we have to be honest about them being unfalsifiable, even if the only alternative is a supernatural explanation.
On the one hand you demand pure scientific evidence for evolution to explain EVERYTHING, but on the other you say that the supernatural has been ignored, without giving any scientific evidence whatsoever to back it up.
I apologise for calling you a "creationist", as it seems you took that as a pejorative term.
It seems to me you're suggesting that there is some combination of evolution and the supernatural that can be a perfect model for explaining the world, but you're going to have to give some falsifiable theories on the supernatural for that.
Now you can just fill that gap with a multiverse theory and anthropic principle. You can make up stories all day long about how things could have happened with mere mutation and natural selection. But that's not scientific. All you're doing is doubling down on the idea that the only processes that we need to care about are like the things we've already discovered. Easily explainable, simple things. It's a preference for those kinds of things to fill in the explanatory gap. But either way, you have no good way to test your theories at the moment. You may have faith that ONE DAY these theories or some other natural theory will be proven. But that's not much different than a religious faith. Religious people prefer to believe that such complexity was not brought about by mere "chance" operation of the universe, but was planned. They prefer to see an uncaused, omniscient mind. You prefer to see simpler explanations. Dawkins admits it in his book.
If you want falsifiable theories with predictions, that involve the supernatural, read Lee Spetner's "Not By Chance", which I referenced above.
If you can show falsifiable theories of HOW macroevolution occurred, say the evolution of flight, make predictions, and do experiments than prove them, then by all means I will accept the conclusions. For example: allopatric speciation can explain various ring species which we can actually see today. But most speciation did not seem to follow any sort of physical barriers to restrict gene flow between interfertile populations. So to say wings simply evolved because (insert just-so-story here) is not going to do it for a rigorously scientifically minded person. That's the point. And that point is regardless of what the alternative theories say.
FALL SURVIVAL THEORY OF WING EVOLUTION
Any tree dwelling creature is at risk of falling and dying. Creatures that can better survive a fall (proto-wings, etc) have an improved chance of propagating this trait to off-spring. Furthermore, if they can better survive a fall they can risk higher climbs. The higher climbs make them better able to avoid predators and hunt prey further increasing selection pressure on fall survival and would dovetail nicely into gliding mutations. From there it is not a far jump to flying [pun intended].
No theory about the deep deep past can ever be certain. We weren't there to watch it happen.
What separates a mere theory from a scientifically validated theory is falsifiability and experiment:
Theories are a prerequisite to scientific experiment.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. - Richard Feynman
Which competing theory does evolution disprove?
I was just answering your question.
"I think the evolution of flight is one of the clearest examples that the standard theories of evolution purely by mutation and natural selection are still lacking explanatory power."
The standard response to this sort of doubt inevitably seems to involve a lot of huffing and foot stomping and irrelevant accusations of creationism, as it isn't currently possible to respond with an actually persuasive and non-speculative account of, say, the evolution of feathers via random mutation and natural selection.
FWIW, reading the other responses in this thread does not give me the impression that he's a creationist. If someone asks you why your view is more rational than theism, you should be able to respond to that question without shouting -- and the person asking won't necessarily be a theist. Unfortunately, as EGreg says, it's impossible to say anything at all critical of current evolutionary biology without someone screaming at you that you're a creationist and refusing to engage with any of your points.
Your comment over inflates my reaction.
Same as an ancap saying “he’s a statist, just accept it, because he says market failures exist”
It isn't necessarily that you are right or wrong, but your thoughts are interesting and well presented and yet they have managed to prick some intrinsically negative emotional response.
Human nature... sigh.
The intent is always the same, too: Not to evoke subtle insights, or to open up new vistas of thought; but to gather in the pigeons who crave really knowing, and fatten them up on deception.
Concealing subtext doesn't mean there's no subtext.
BS presented well is still BS.
There is far more to know than science has ever even looked at. Not because it's not interesting, useful, or earthshaking, but just because science is hard, and we've been at it for less than 1000 years.
There is plenty that science's best efforts had wrong and improved upon, and plenty that's still wrong. Not because we're blinkered and pigheaded (although everyone is) but because it takes time, and we don't each have much, while jokers like this, congratulating themselves on their cleverness despite never having had a single original idea, waste it.
Do I sound disgusted? Yes, I said I have seen this before.
Hey dudes! Guess why men fall asleep after an orgasm? It’s so the woman could get away, in the past! It must be true cause:
1) Evolution can only happen by random mutation and natural selection that increases fitness
2) I just need to describe a possible story about how the trait is an adaptation that gave some ability to survive better, sorta
3) And I win! Profit. The game has simple rules.
Dude that game is not science. Accept it.
Ad hominems won’t get you out of this embarassing situation of calling non-scientific stuff science.
And frankly I can day the same about multiverse theories, they are a copout. Anything, including fine tuning of any constants, is explainable by postulating an infinite number of possible universes.
To me this is just like another religion. You just want to claim it’s science. But it is NOT SCIENCE.
And your disgust is just an attempt to avoid logic and use feelings and bullying to make people agree with you. Same old story.
You accuse people of being creationists, as if that somehow makes your theory more valid. Well the shoe is on the other foot. What you have motivating you is that you are against theism. You’d rather believe any unfalsifiable theory as long as it doesn’t involve something Daniel Dennett calls a “skyhook”. Because psychologically you prefer simple things leading to more complex things. That matches your intuition.
Well, classical physics matches our intuition too but it can’t explain quantum phenomena. So we challenge our intuitions.
Multiverse theories and a bunch of just-so stories that beg the question are cute. But what’s not cute is the rabid religious fervor that makes you LIE and say they are just as scientific as the theory of common descent or special relativity. They are not. And your emotional tantrums and bullying are disgusting to others.
Pop socio-biology gets no attention from working biologists. Multiverses don't impress working physicists. Not because they're impossible, but because they're boring and sterile.
I haven't read Dennett. Not interesting.
My professional grad school educational background is mathematics. So I guess calling a spade a spade is easier for me in some cases. But I think that I have sufficiently pointed out and illustrated my position.
I mentioned multiverse theory to illustrate the same problem in another area.
Anybody is free to say "Let's suppose a, then what?" But nobody is obliged to pitch in. If you do the work and find a=>b=>c, other mathematicians might be impressed at its beauty, or be bored or disgusted and ignore it. So all of mathematics is made of stuff that mathematicians collectively thought was beautiful at the time.
Probably many explored negative or complex numbers, or group algebra, years or centuries before other mathematicians were ready for those.
So mathematics is naturally driven by what is fashionable. Science is supposed to be driven by evidence. But scientists are people first and scientists second, so fashion is strong in science too.
You can see it in particle physics, where a huge fraction of them are chasing string-theory rainbows that will never be tested against experimental data, and astronomy where everything they can see is plasma, but it officially mustn't be doing anything because plasma-dynamics maths are intractable. (That said, solar physicists are doing amazing work in it.)
There's plenty wrong in science, you have just completely missed what it is.
There is a legitimate question: what did they use feathers for, before they used them to fly with? Because nobody ever grew feathers just because they wanted to fly real bad. All kids try it. Doesn't work.
It turns out feathers are really, really useful for all kinds of things, if you look. So, "what else are feathers for?" doesn't narrow down much how it led to flying.
We know how squirrels, frogs, fish, even tree snakes get lots of reproductive fitness by catching air. Best bet is, it was something similar.
Nailing down the exact process will take a hell of a lot of fossils.
Then we can start on pterosaurs and bats which don't, you know, use feathers.
EDIT: Unless you were talking about comparing DNA from living species. The closest living relative to birds is crocodilians, but they're pretty distant from one another and might not be useful for the kind of analysis you suggested.
The wrong questions are easily answered but teach nothing, or are unanswerable.