Re: Adaptation: 1. tautological?, 2. irreducibly complex?

From: Stephen E. Jones (
Date: Sat Jan 01 2000 - 19:46:55 EST

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    I came across this little gem in Livingstone's "Darwin's Forgotten

    "Darwin made it a point never to designate the structure of organs as
    "higher" or "lower." In light of this, it is perhaps unfortunate that in later
    life he was persuaded to adopt Spencer's dictum, for it left his theory open
    to the charge of tautology-that is, that the survival of the fittest amounts to
    no more than the survival of whatever survives. Such an argument, of
    course, entirely ignores the fundamental point of Darwinism that forms
    better adapted to their ecological niches leave more offspring than
    competitors." (Livingstone D.N., "Darwin's Forgotten Defenders", 1987,

    There is only one problem. How do Darwinists know which "forms" *are*
    "better adapted to their ecological niches..."?

    If *anywhere* in their answer Darwinists define "better adapted" by
    reference to leaving more offspring, then their argument has become
    tautological again.

    That Darwinists might find it impossible avoid reference to leaving more
    offspring seems likely in view of the following dictionary definitions of

    "adaptation, genetic, n. any characteristic that improves the chances of an
    organism transmitting genes to the next generation (i.e. producing
    offspring)...." (Hale W.G., & Margham J.P., "Collins Reference Dictionary
    of Biology", 1988, p11).

    "Adaptation. (1) Evolutionary. Any characteristic of living organisms
    which, in the environment they inhabit, improves their chances of survival
    and ultimately of leaving descendants..." (Abercrombie M., Hickman C.J.,
    & Johnson M.L., "The Penguin Dictionary of Biology", 1985, p27).

    "adaptation in biology, any change in the structure or function of an
    organism that allows it to survive and reproduce more effectively in its
    environment." (Lafferty P., & Rowe J., eds., "The Hutchinson Dictionary
    of Science", 1996, p7)

    Maybe this is something of what Colin Patterson had in mind when he
    asked: "evolution...has the function of knowledge but does it convey any?",
    and then answered his own question "...evolution does not convey any
    knowledge or if so, I haven't yet heard of it." (Patterson C., "Evolutionism
    and Creationism," Transcript of Address at the American Museum of
    Natural History, New York, November 5, 1981, p2

    BTW, while researching this, I found the following at Encyclopaedia
    Britannica's website:

    "To be useful, adaptations must often occur simultaneously in a number of
    different parts of the body. A change from a more carnivorous to a more
    vegetarian diet necessitates alterations not only of the teeth, digestive
    juices, and length of the digestive tract but also in habit and defense
    mechanisms." ("adaptation", Encyclopaedia Britannica,,
    Saturday, Jan. 1 2000.,5716,3730+1,00.html)

    This sounds like a version of Irreducible Complexity! Any one of the above
    adaptations towards vegetarianism alone would be useless or even harmful
    and therefore, if natural selection had anything like the power that
    Darwinists must attribute to it to craft they eye, etc, would be eliminated.
    Only a far-sighted Intelligent Designer could ensure that non-adaptive
    characteristics would appear and be preserved for their future benefit. A
    `blind watchmaker' by definition could not do that:

    "Natural selection cannot plan ahead; it acts without foresight, taking no
    thought for the morrow. Not only does it do just what is needed and no
    more, but sometimes it does it in what seems like a slapdash and
    shortsighted way. It is, to use Richard Dawkins' memorable phrase, a blind
    watchmaker, achieving a remarkable end through a simple and inefficient
    means." (Jones S., "The Language of the Genes", 1994, p196)

    Happy New Year!


    "Another thing I must point out is that you cannot prove a vague theory
    wrong. If the guess that you make is poorly expressed and rather vague,
    and the method that you use for figuring out the consequences is a little
    vague - you are not sure, and you say, 'I think everything's right because it's
    all due to so and so, and such and such do this and that more or less, and I
    can sort of explain how this works...', then you see that this theory is good,
    because it cannot be proved wrong! Also if the process of computing the
    consequences is indefinite, then with a little skill any experimental results
    can be made to look like the expected consequences." (Feynman R.P., "The
    Character of Physical Law", [1965], Penguin: London, 1992, reprint,
    Stephen E. Jones | |

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