Logic in Biology?

INTRODUCTION

This post will be the most controversial to date, and it will be the one most categorically misunderstood. In order to preempt any meaningless or senseless expressions of intellectual credulity, and thus any arguments that are unwarranted and irrelevant, I shall offer a few statements about my position on a number of necessary logical principles that are so often tangential to the actual discussion. We will leave these items here:

  1. My criticism of Darwin’s Mechanism of evolution is logically distinct from evolution as a property of living systems.
  2. Rejection of Darwinian Theory does not logically necessitate taking up a creationist or intelligent design theory. It just may well as be that this is the way things are, unexplainable, although it is leading.
  3. Those who fail to understand 1 and 2, please leave your comments aside, you have nothing to say, and thus, we have nothing to talk about.

LAW OF LIFE

Sir Karl Popper, eminent philosopher of science of the previous century remarked, dryly “There exists no law of evolution, only the historical fact that plants and animals change, or more precisely, that they have changed.” [Popper. Proceedings, 1963, p.340] This appears to be, at first, trivial; any number of evolutionary biologist would agree. In fact this quote has been utilized as a defense of evolutionary theory as a scientific theory par excellence. However, this magisterial statement reveals the inherent inborn, genetic, and enigmatic division of an empirical assessment of things and a theory that explicates that assessment. Evolution is a fact, undoubtedly; what makes this so is what is at issue rather than any “look” and “hey, don’t you see?” propositions. The various organisms constituting the fossil record, their lives laid bare, are silent on necessary, efficient, or sufficient causes of their once labored existence. Random mutation and natural selection is the mechanism by which this whole scene plays. Random variation acts, and must act, as the initial existent organism with novel property x in order for function y, natural selection, to allow an organism with novel property x to continue to exist. Allowed, continue to exist? These are not terms that are to be found in any other scientific theories explanatory lexicon. But these are the words of evolutionary biology, phenomenological to the core, and without any explanatory weight. A fact without a law remains a fact, just so, but a theory without a law remains a “metaphysical research project” as Popper opined quite correctly and succinctly.

GUPPIES

In the college level biology textbook, unenthusiastically entitled Biology (Cambell, Reece, et. al. 8th edition), the chapter devoted to evidence of evolution is of course littered with the same, and apparently never changing axiom of morphological similarities in mammals thus descent with modification, it is repeated in profligate style, each new version having the distinct feel that it is actually new evidence — the embryological evidence shown to be fraudulent, has vanished. With the diminishing amount of evidence for selective power becoming apparent, textbook authors have been forced to dust off the archives of cutting edge research on guppy coloration in environmentally different ponds. This research was done as late as 1980 by a one Dr. Endler, and is thus “cutting edge, and original.”

Having been exposed by many a critic as a flawed, if not an intentionally manipulated, case of “evidence” for the power of natural selection, the color pattern argument of various moths in industrial England as selecting for darker moths due to darker trees, has been abandoned to be replaced by these infernal guppies and their various colorations. In their desire to avoid the mishap of the moth fiasco, evolutionary biologist and the texts they write have been much more careful in presenting the argument. But in their prudent presentation of the evidence, they have unwittingly exposed the gaping flaw not in the particular experiment, but in the theory itself.

SO WHAT OF THESE GUPPIES?

Dr. Endler conceived of an experiment with guppies that is believed to show the power of natural selection to select for, and thus show, the creative properties of the phenomenon. He noticed that male guppies which were living in a pond that was also inhabited by a species of Cichlid that preyed on them, showed a certain drab appearance and diminished coloration, yet they still maintained some coloration, due to the observation that females are more likely to mate with the most colorful male guppy — biology having now been reduced to one of those horrid modern spectacles in which the man with the red sports car gets the blonde. He developed a hypothesis that if he took 200 guppies and placed them in a pond that was absent the Cichlid, but in which the Killfish was present, a species less predatory on guppies, that the killfish pond would “produce” more colorful guppies. Simple enough. Let’s make sure we got what’s going on:

  1. Guppies in cichlid pond are less colorful.
  2. If taken out of cichlid pond and placed in less predatory environment, killfish pond, guppies may become more colorful.

So what happened? Well, within 22 generation, a relatively short period of time, the guppies became more colorful, as was expected. The quantitative elements are not essential but we will assay them anyway. The average area of coloration on the male guppies increased from 5mm^2 in the cichlid pond, to 10mm^2 in the killfish pond, and the number of colored spots increased from 8 to 10 respectively. The success of this experiment was marked with invigorating ambiguity by the textbook authors:

Endler Concluded that the change in predator resulted in different variations (brighter color patterns) being favored in the transplanted population. Over a relatively short period of time an observable evolutionary change occurred in this population.

Endler concluded, and thus it is so. But is Endler justified in concluding that coloration was selected for in the killifish pond, or rather was it just less inhibited. We have not a single analytical tool for deciding either. But look! Here is a reformulation of the experiment with an assumption that is either unstated or unnoticed by evolutionary biologists:

  1. Guppies in cichlid pond are less colorful.
  2. The guppies in the cichlid pond are less colorful due to predatory pressure.
  3. Less colorful guppies are selected for in the cichlid pond.
  4. In the absence of predatory pressure the guppies will be more colorful, as guppies usually are colorful.

Natural selection as a force has a tendency to be conveyed as a positive and creative force, that the guppies in the killfish pond are more colorful is because natural selection created them thus, that the guppies in the cichlid pond are less colorful is that natural selection has created them thus. But what stops the analysis there? If we run the experiment in reverse, placing the colorful guppies back in the cichlid pond, the guppies lose their coloration. So did selection create, or inhibit? The fact is that selective pressure is always negative. That is, in this case it is the height of fallacy to declare that because of the absence of selective pressure, variation x was created. It is more cogent to declare that natural selection is not creative but inhibitive. Absent any environmental pressure guppies are colorful; with environmental pressure guppies lose their color. The only thing to be gleaned from this whole experiment is that natural selection is merely genetically deleterious. Expanding this idea from coloration within a species to creating a new species is as unwarranted as to suggest that the archangel Gabriel preferred colored guppies. Cutting edge indeed.

RANDOM MUTATION

If Darwinian Theory is to be knighted with any explanatory power, then it must be creative rather than reductive, or inhibitive. Random mutation is where the creative force shines through and then dims to an incoherent ashen mess. As the theory goes, a gene that expresses a phenotype has to exist prior to any selective pressure on that phenotype, thus the reason why evolution only takes hold once a living thing exists, it makes no statement on how that thing exists, but they are certain it’s random without any reason to believe so. Revisiting the guppies above we come to an impasse: if the guppies coloration was a result of random mutation and then selected for, the selection apparatus, in this case being an organism, the cichlid, is also a result of random mutation and selected for. We are now in possession of an infinite regress, or a trivial tautology, take your pick. A theory with two random variables and no constants is not a theory at all, and has nothing to say beyond the phenomenological.

REVISITING POPPER

After being castigated, thoroughly, by the champions of Darwin for stating that the theory is “almost tautological” Popper himself, a logician by training, was forced to recant:

“The theory of natural selection may be so formulated that it is far from tautological. In this case it is not only testable, but it turns out to be not strictly universally true. There seem to be exceptions, as with so many biological theories; and considering the random character of the variations on which natural selection operates, the occurrence of exceptions is not surprising.”

The recantation that followed was a recantation only in the sense that those who desired a recantation could believe it was so, and those who know better know it was merely a recantation of the tautological nature of Darwinian Theory and not an affirmation of its scientific viability. It was a piece of immense ecumenical charity, pillared on conciliatory statements yet convicted in clarity that if biological things are to be explained words like “intention,” “design” and “downward causation” from a higher structure acting causally on its lower substructures, are necessary, an idea which Plato would not be unfamiliar with. (Who said Idealism was dead?)

19th CENTURY MYSTERY FAITH                 

Marxism is dead, Freudianism supplanted, hopefully, and Darwinism is still kicking. Of the three great faiths of secular philosophy only Darwinism maintains its universal appeal amongst biologists. Nothing in biology, they say, makes sense without the luminance of Darwin. This may be so. It is so. But is it so because Darwinism explains something or is it so that without Darwin evolutionary biology would be extinct by logical selection. Cynical perhaps, but I believe this explains the continuity and adaptation of Darwinian thought to any circumstance more than any substantive truth drawn from its premises.

The fossil record is a great mystery to Darwinian Theory, organisms emerge without any antecedents and leave the stage with no descendants. We have in our possession those arrows that accommodate the faithful, pointing from one discrete biological structure to another, as if the thing actually occurred in that manner. But as Mathematician David Berlinski has inquired “where did you find those arrows?” The squirming that this question induces is enough to make one question the intellectual honesty of those who parrot Darwin around as a patron saint. I am assured that by the presentation of questions like Berlinski’s, the edifice of Darwinian Theory will soon fall.  Then where will be?

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