Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Edge of Evolution

In his recent essay, Darwinians Can't Have It Both Ways, Lawrence Auster laments the intellectual dishonesty of those who propagate the creed of evolution.

On one hand, supporters of Darwinism, or evolution, or evolutionary science, or evolutionary psychology, or sociobiology, or HBD, or whatever they may call their belief system, insist that the concept of the "survival of the fittest" on which evolution is based contains absolutely no notion of "better"--that "fitness" means nothing but greater reproduction, without any reference to improvement, advance, progress. On the other hand, Darwinian writers constantly speak of Darwinian evolution as though it virtually automatically leads to improved, more complex, more capable, more intelligent organisms and species. Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution Is True has numerous passages in which he speaks of evolution in such terms. Just put a species in the right circumstances, says Coyne, and, boom, it will evolve into something different and more advanced. While Coyne would doubtless reject my bald characterization of his statements, the assertion that natural selection, a.k.a. survival of the fittest, is operating continuously to produce new and improved species is the central idea of Coyne's book and of the entire Darwinian orthodoxy.

Lawrence is correct in criticizing the Darwinists when they ignore the implications of their own theory (evolutionary change is - by definition - random, NOT progressive).

But it's worse than that.

According to Dr. Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University, research into molecular life shows that evolutionary change is almost always regressive (making the organisms less "fit" to survive). Thus - in Behe's words - science has reached "the edge of evolution."

Denyse O'Leary reviewed Dr. Behe's book by the same name.

In The Edge of Evolution , [Behe] seeks to draw up "reasonable, general guidelines" to determine where the edge of evolution is, "to decide with some precision beyond what point Darwinian explanations are unlikely to be adequate, not just for some particular structures but for general features of life."

Darwinian evolution must be evaluated at the molecular level because that is the level at which the exact causes of a given change can be known. Recent technological advances have given us the tools to do that.

He studies in detail a number of cases where Darwinian evolution is known to have occurred. That is, the exact mechanisms of the changes that took place in the malaria parasite, E. coli, and HIV have been identified, and the change appears to have been caused by natural selection acting on random mutations. The vast numbers and the swiftness with which these microorganisms reproduce enable a rate of evolution that is equivalent to millions of years of evolutionary time for larger organisms. Thus, an estimate of the limits of Darwinian change is possible.

Characterizing the available evidence, Behe's metaphor for the relationship between the human immune system and the malaria parasite is destructive trench warfare, rather than the productive arms race beloved of Darwinist writers.

For example, random mutations like sickle hemoglobin that confer protection from malaria always come at a cost: "Some are worse than others, but all are diminishments; none are constructive. Like sickle hemoglobin, they are all acts of desperation to stave off an invader." For that matter, the intestinal parasite E. coli, subject of the most extensive laboratory evolution study ever, evolved over thirty thousand generations mainly by devolving - throwing away sophisticated machinery, not by building it.

Meanwhile, the malaria parasite, which can develop resistance to laboratory drugs within weeks, has not evolved resistance to the human sickle cell trait in thousands of years. That, Behe suggests, may point us to the limits of evolution by random mutation. (Natural selection can be activated only when a mutation has occurred.)

O'Leary's full review can be found here.


Chuck said...


you and Auster don't know what you're talking about.

"On the other hand, Darwinian writers constantly speak of Darwinian evolution as though it virtually automatically leads to improved, more complex, more capable, more intelligent organisms and species."

Species "advance" through mutation. Mutation can be "good" or "bad" with regards to how it is implemented by a given species. If mutation is truly random, it would make sense that most mutations lead to regression rather than advancement. If mutation were always "good", that would be sign of some outside source.

Auster, as usual, has it wrong by saying that natural selection is operating for some end. It's not. It's "operating" along the principles of survival of the fittest. Those that survive survived because their mutations allowed it. Auster falls into the problem of not giving species enough time. Coyne is right - if species are put into the right circumstances, they will evolve *given enough time*.

So, you guys are trying to distort the words of Darwinists. You're trying to make them say something they aren't. They are not saying that all mutation is "positive". They say nothing of the sort. In fact, the fact that Behe finds that species' evolution is almost always regressive would indicate the absence of some "guiding force". A zig-zagging, experimental type of evolution would indicate randomness, not design.

Todd White said...


You wrote - quite confidently - that "species 'advance' through mutation?"

Did you know - and this is actually quite important - that we have never observed the creation of new species - whether via mutation or any other mechanism?

Think about the implications of that: Arguably the most important facet of Darwinism has never been scientifically demonstrated!

That's why Behe's work is so important.

Behe is saying, "OK, Darwinists let's test your theories, shall we?" Let's use bacteria because they're simple biologically and they reproduce at an astronomical rate. What happens?

1) No new species develop (as I said above)

2) Mutations are rare

3) Mutations - when they occur - are more likely to harm (not help) the organism's fitness.

You say, "Coyne is right - if species are put into the right circumstances, they will evolve *given enough time*."

But here's the problem - first, you don't have as much time as you think (but that's a subject for another time). What's relevant for today is that the mechanism (Darwinism) is flawed to begin with. A trillion years in a trillion universes would still never get you from stardust to the human mind.

For more, see...