Re: Web Page Nonlinear dynamics
Fri, 21 Feb 1997 06:43:38 -0500 (EST)


In my original post to you I wrote, "Natural selection does not look ahead
to some distant goal or target (which in your program is a chosen geometric
form). Natural selection, a la Darwin, operates on the criterion of
immediate survivability, adaptation, and/or increased reproductive success.
If the phenotype has an edge over others in survivability, etc., it is
selected by the environment."

To which you responded: "My program does exactly that. It compares the form
of the screen "critter" with the geometric form chosen before hand. If the
phenotype of the "critter" is closer to the selected form than the
previously closest phenotype, then that genotype gets to reproduce. The old
one "dies". Survivability in thr computer is based upon closeness to the
geometric form. There is no Goal in the program. I can not predict what
phenotype a given 'genome' for my screen 'critters' will produce. Thus I can
not force a goal onto the program or onto the screen 'critters'. I randomly
mutate the genome and let the closeness of the match determine

Let me try again. You say, "There is no Goal in the program." Of course
there is. The Goal is the "the geometric form chosen before hand." You, as
the outside investigator, chose the goal, just as the pigeon breeder in
Darwin's book chose some "standard of perfection" which guided his selection
in each generation. This distant goal selects which mutations of the genome
will survive and be reproduced. That's artificial selection.

Natural selection differs basically from artifical selection. Survivability
in natural selection is based on improved adaptability to the *immediate
environment,* it does not compare the phenotype to the distant geometric form
chosen by an outside intelligence (you). The mutations and the immediate
environment do not look ahead to some pre-selected form or goal, as your
program does.

About the bacteria and penicillin. You wrote, "The random mutations in the
bacteria eventually gave rise to a resistant form. . . .[a] While selection
'look ahead' to that sequence of dna which conveys resistance, [b] the fact
that bacteria which were closer to that sequence had an increased ability to
survive forced the population in that direction." I marked the sentence [a]
and [b]. The clause [a] is correct; [b] is not. Why? Because you have
converted "that sequence" into a distant goal. Increased survivability comes
about only by immediate ability of bacteria to adapt to a local, hostile
penicillin environment, not by being closer to that sequence which
eventually builds up resistance to penicillin. Those bacteria that have a
slightly improved ability to survive, brought about by mutations, survive and
procreate, etc., until finally a population with complete resistance to
penicillin is brought about.

Next you ask, "Then would you say that antibiotic resistance is 'artificial
selection?'" (snip) "The ideal target we human 'bacteria breeders' have
chosen is a bacterium which can live on antibiotics." In effect that is
true, but not in intent. No one chose the distant goal of "a bacterium which
can live on antibiotics." But that is what happened. If the penicillin had
come about by some natural means, however, untouched by human hands, and had
attacked the bacteria--and then if a resistance strain had emerged, it would
be natural selection.

You wrote, "If plants learn to live in a hotter climate with more CO2 in the
air, is that artificial selection?" Plants have learned to live for millions
of years with climate changes that were not caused by human intervention.
That is natural selection. Call your example *unintended* artificial
selection, if you wish.

Then you wrote, "But, are the Beetles which carry the fungus which kills Elm
trees engaged in artificial selection? The ideal target the beetles are
choosing for Elm trees is a tree immune to Dutch elm disease. Why should
artificial selection be limited to humans?" Because humans *intend* to
produce some result. They choose the distant goal. It doesn't make sense to
say that "a tree immune to Dutch elm disease" is the ideal target that the
beetles are choosing. Beetles neither choose nor have intentions. I will
add to my definition of artificial selection, that it is based on the
*intention* as well *choice* of the external investigator.

In my original post I wrote, I am puzzled by your option of running a
program with no selection at all. I asked, "What has it to do with natural

You responded, "No selection merely lets the genome vary with no constraint.
What is so puzzling about that?" I am puzzled because I don't know why you
consider this natural selection. Again, back to Darwin, "Only those
variations which are in some way profitable will be preserved or naturally
selected" (p. 110 Everyman's Library edition). Your computer, without
constraints, obviously produces some interesting forms, but without selection
it is not Darwinian natural selection.

You continued, "It is instructive to know that the "genomes" which match the
shapes are very rare and are almost never seen without selection involved.
Just like antibiotic resistance was extremely rare in bacteria until
selection drove the genome toward that solution." Agreed.

Finally, I commented and asked, "To be sure, God created the nonlinear
systems, as you say, and all the other initial conditions and laws of the
universe. Don't deists believe the same? I think we need to go beyond
that. For instance, do you think God enters into the process of natural
selection and if so, where and how?"

You answered, "God entered the system prior to the creation of the nonlinear
system. That is what I tried to explain to you concerning the phase space of
a genome. God knows that my genome will produce me. He made the phase or
sequence space of DNA to be that way. He made the sequence of my cat's DNA
produce her. He knew this before the foundation of the world. Why is this a
view which excludes God's foreknowledge?"

I never said it excludes God's foreknowledge.

You concluded, "His control of the world was at the creation not as it is
occurring." This does not square with my reading of Scripture. As I read it,
God is interacting with his creation all the time. In my view, God's
intervention of the world is on a sliding scale. When it comes to the large
features of the cosmos, I join with you in seeing God's control of the world
being exercised at creation, not as it is occurring. The closer one comes to
life processes, however, and especially human life, and still more especially
the life of His covenant people and His Only Begotten Son, the more I see God
intervening as that life is occurring. As a starting point, I see God being
involved in all life processes, particularly in the beginning and the
conclusion of the life (the birth, hatching, and death) of all organisms,
again on a sliding scale culminating in the birth, life, death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As ever,