no pre-Cambrian rabbits!

From: Cliff Lundberg (
Date: Tue Jan 11 2000 - 14:57:57 EST

  • Next message: Stephen E. Jones: "Re: Does science `cover-up'? The case of Walther Loeb (was Why did progress fail?, etc)"

    Stephen E. Jones wrote:

    >Darwinian "fittest" originally meant `differential survival' but when it was
    >found that it didn't always work, the Neo-Darwinists redefined it to mean
    >`differential reproduction':

    This implies that the original Darwinians didn't understand their own
    model, which is highly unlikely.

    >...Thus natural selection, for Darwin, was differential mortality. In the
    >course of time there has been a slow change in this view, so that now
    >it is customary to say that natural selection is differential reproduction.
    >This in turn may be equated with reproductive success, or leaving the
    >most offspring." (Macbeth N., "Darwin Retried", 1971, p40).

    There seems to be a shell game here between a "view" and what "is
    customary to say", that is, the expression of a view. Is there really any
    doubt about whether Darwin would have accepted the 'differential
    reproduction' language? Or whether he would have rejected it as a
    product of a "change in this view"? No. There was no change in view,
    only a refinement in language. Norman M. was pulling a courtroom trick.

    >But the price paid for saving the theory from falsification is a further
    >reduction in explanatory power, so nowadays Darwinian "survival of the
    >fittest" is little more than a tautology, as Koestler points out:
    >...the fittest are obviously those who survive longest.

    I for one have never encountered this definition of fitness. Straw man.

    >But when we talk about the evolution of species, the lifespan of individuals
    >irrelevant (it may be a day for some insects, a century for tortoises);

    That man was so straw Koestler has to immediately destroy it himself.

    >what matters is how many offspring they produce in their life-time

    On what basis does Koestler assert this, given that he believes there is
    nothing here but circular definition?

    >Thus natural
    >selection looks after the survival and reproduction of the fittest, and the
    >fittest are those which have the highest rate of reproduction - we are
    >caught in a circular argument which completely begs the question of what
    >makes evolution evolve."

    This sort of argument typically begins by dismissing 'fittest' as
    meaningless, and then blithely continues using 'fittest' at every
    opportunity, to generate confusion, the ally of those with no case.
    I think Stephen does no service to ID in dredging up this ancient
    word-play. Anyway, doesn't ID admit evolution of a sort, being
    mainly concerned with origins?

    Cliff Lundberg  ~  San Francisco  ~

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Jan 11 2000 - 16:21:15 EST