Re: [asa] A Message from the RTB Scholar Team (fwd)

From: Rich Blinne <rich.blinne@gmail.com>
Date: Sat Apr 19 2008 - 21:45:46 EDT

On Apr 19, 2008, at 4:26 PM, Gregory Arago wrote:

> A category statement is fine. But 'evolution' and 'biological
> evolution' are simply not the same thing! Continue to have the
> conversation about RTB and Hugh Ross on those terms, I will be no
> part of it. It is blindness not to involve 'other types' of
> evolution. They are so plainly in circulation, in many places
> dominantly and oppressively, which TE/EC's at ASA care to do or say
> nothing about. The 'just call it evolution' ruse is a method of
> convenient silencing.
>

Note: any time I use the term "evolution" by itself it means
biological evolutionary theory. Arggh.

Many times these "other" types of evolution do not have a clue what is
behind evolutionary theory. Let's take eugenics and so-called social
darwinism. Behind this is the fallacious concept that there is
progress. This is not accepted by evolutionary theorists. There is no
"pinnacle" or "higher forms". The concept of fitness is with respect
to a specific environment. Survival of the fittest may be survival of
the cleverest or most cooperative or luckiest (more on this later).
Let's take an example from cellular biology. What are the most "fit"
cells? Cancer cells. These cells turn off aptosis (cell suicide).
Being selfish for cells cause individual death and being selfish as an
individual may cause extinction. So the colloquial understanding of
fitness is completely wrong and the technical understanding often is
its complete opposite. Furthermore, contrary to the popular
misunderstanding natural selection -- particularly strong selection
practiced by social darwinism -- decreases rather than increases
complexity. You need weak or no selection in order to induce greater
copy number variation and thus greater complexity. So, in the end,
social darwinism has nothing to do with evolution.

What about eugenics? This is caused by another misunderstanding. Many
people seem to believe that the only mechanism for evolution is
natural selection but another major force is genetic drift. Which
force is dominant is related to the population size. For small
population sizes, genetic drift is dominant. When considering the
effects of evolution on humans it should be noted a number of
"bottlenecks" occurred in our population. This caused a number of
evolutionary theorists to argue that we evolved mostly by non-adaptive
rather than adaptive means. See http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/cc/article/kooninCC3-3.pdf

Some of the "old timers" may remember my discussion with Rich F.
concerning his contention that the Bible prescribed the isolation and
eugenic practices for the Jews. He noted that East European Jews had
higher IQs. I countered that given the small population sizes, founder
effects were more in line. This is backed up by the high prevalence of
genetic diseases such as Tay Sachs, a sure sign that the genetic drift
started to "fix" in the population. But what about the perception that
catastrophic events which appear to be the strong selection of a
eugenics kind cause greater evolution? Again you have to keep your eye
on the ball of population size. The process would go like this:

Environmental catastrophe --> Population Size Reduction --> Genomic
Entropy Increases --> Genomic Complexity Increases --> Organismal
Complexity Increases

In the end, the environmental catastrophe kicks up evolution not
through strong natural selection but greater genetic drift. More
recent studies have shown in fruit flies that heavy environmental
pressures increase the mutation rate because the "weak" female cannot
fix the DNA mutations found in the male sperm. Strong selection
counteracts this effect and removes the normally deleterious
mutations. When the environment changes radically, the normally weaker
offspring become more well suited because of more mutations to choose
from. When the environment is stable, the mutation rate drops through
the effects of natural selection. (This is an example of my statement
above concerning natural selection decreasing complexity.)

The bottom line of the discussion above is so-called strong selection
is NOT evolution. Coming from an engineering background, this is
obvious. So-called "greedy algorithms" have what is known as the local
minima problem. We only use them when we either don't have a good
alternative or because the "real" answer is simply too expensive.
Social darwinism and eugenics by modeling evolution as a greedy
algorithm simply doesn't work either pragmatically or even as an
accurate model of biological evolution. For others to label them as
Darwinism is to betray a similar misunderstanding of evolutionary
theory.

Back to Expelled. One of the effects of ID is to retard the teaching
of science in general and evolutionary theory in particular.
Understanding evolution properly is critical to opposing eugenics and
social darwinism. ID has spawned climate skepticism in the evangelical
community. I find it ironic when I try to convince my evangelical
brothers and sisters with respect to climate change, many of their
responses have the fingerprints of social darwinism. Having ID
proponents in the classroom makes this educational process more
difficult. Having ID proponents in the courtroom even more so. :-) It
is the supreme irony that ID proponents are a cause of the things that
they (rightly) detest so much.

Rich Blinne
Member ASA

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Received on Sat Apr 19 21:46:55 2008

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