Circular Logic & Natural Selection

Long-time blog follower “Old Git Tom” poked the beast with this comment:illogical_daniel_lobo

“It is preposterous to call Darwin’s Natural Selection (NS) theory of bio-evolution ‘successful’. It remains a failed hypothesis.

It was never even a valid scientific one. It is a tautology; it it is self-reinforcing, circular.

The NS merry-go-round goes this way:

1. Fitness determines survival.

2. Survival is proved by all the organisms that exist, or ever did.

3. Therefore, existence proves fitness, & all life-forms prove natural selection’s correctness.

This kind of circular proposition is as unshakably true (and unscientific) as the statement, “I am my mother’s son”.

As such, it is not scientific, since it’s unfalsifiable under ANY experimental test.”

Tom is not disputing the adaptive process evolution itself. Nor is he disputing the activity of Natural Selection. There’s always a few winners and many losers.

What he is saying is that “Evolution Through Natural Selection” is a non-explanation of how evolution actually produces winners.

Saying “Mammals evolved by natural selection” is like saying “The Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl by winning the playoffs.”

That might be a perfectly satisfactory answer to a person who has no interest whatsoever in the minutiae of football games… but no true football enthusiast would be content with it.

11 Responses

  1. Made it to the first point. Almost a first! Fitness does not determine survival. Fitness is a differential measure of the ability to successfully produce offspring.

    Unless you have changed the meaning to ‘longevity’. Then you aren’t talking about evolution but something you’ve make up or have mistaken for evolution.

    Glad I could clear that up!

    • Paul Maust says:

      Your response is less than “clear” Dennis. Certainly fitness does imply reproductive success rate which can lead to longevity as compared to another genotype. And it all depends on how well suited it is for the environment that it finds itself in. But does it explain evolution or how life evolved in the first place?

      • Fitness doesn’t imply reproductive success. Fitness is reproductive success. If you are going to use the words evolutionists use you should use them in the same way and with the same meanings.

  2. Cao Mengde says:

    Also you are mistaking evolution with the origin of life itself. Evolution shows how life changed not how it started.

    • Mark says:

      Cao, there is no mention of abiogenesis in the article. Then entire article is about the circular reasoning within the proposed mechanisms. Namely, natural selection.

  3. Andrew Krause says:

    I don’t really follow any of this argument. Probably I’m not keen enough to pick up on the subtle nuances here.

    Nevertheless, evolution is significantly more complex than this person’s comment appears to take it. Nor is it a complete, unified theory (albeit it is one of the closest things to a universal principle we have in biology). Is it useful from a scientific perspective, and in particular, can we delve into it and LEARN something? Absolutely! Here’s a sample of a recent paper I read, albeit it is on the slightly theoretical side for most biologists. This is simply one of thousands of such scientific endeavours that have benefited from some aspect of studying evolution-there are numerous others. I don’t really agree with the football comparison-Evolution is far more mechanistic and fundamental than simply quoting a result, and it can provide a particular lens with which to view biological results in terms of mechanistic or theoretical explanation.

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1208.3160.pdf

  4. Samer Ibrahim says:

    Natural selection works on exisiting species, and some of them cease to exist or fail to evolve. Existence is not proof of anything, natural selection is the process that affects the existence of the species over time. Fitness is measured by the degree of change that occurs in an existing species.

  5. Harry Macdonald says:

    Interesting. Most objections to NS are on the basis that it is false and here is one that says it is unfalsifiable! I think the non Darwinians need to make up their minds.
    Actually it is perfectly falsifiable. Just show me 2 dogs mating and producing a cat and you will have proved the whole thing false. Please don’t confuse unfalsifiable with never been proved false!

  6. Old Git Tom says:

    Thanks for comments; in the circular NS hypothesis, fitness indeed yields survival, which yields existence. Talk of differential reproduction rates is irrelevant, since reproduction is a base necessity of most animal existence. Living things that cease to mate, cease to exist – so, just another turn on the Darwinian whirligig.
    Put another way, sexual reproduction is not the prize in any competition, since it is also a levelling entry requirement (every contestant is jangling with Olympic gold medals!).
    Tautologies such as Darwin’s are insidious. They are 100% logically sound, true, & unfalsifiable; BUT utterly empty of significance.

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