Critiques of Darwinism
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Our experience of successive scientific discoveries first appearing counterintuitive then proving true has prepared us to take darwinism’s counterintuitiveness as an indication of its truth, when in fact it should warn us darwinism is false. I show why below.
The more implausible the better?
Darwinism shocked the bourgeoisie. Then so did quantum theory. And the Big Bang. And black holes. And string theory. All at first seemed shockingly counter-intuitive, obvious fallacious. But time and again we were forced to yield, in time coming to savor the violation of our assumptions, until we began to yearn for each new raping of our credulity by this stern logic: the more implausible, the more likely to be true.
By this standard, multiple implausibilities in the theory that genetic mutation and natural selection together drive evolution (“darwinism”) can make it seem plausible overall. But sometimes such logic could lead us astray. Each additional implausibility should make a theory less plausible, rather than more.
I’ll take the claims supporting darwinism, one by one, and lay out the fallacies I see behind them. Together they add up to darwinism being one big fallacy.
Claims behind darwinism
- The variation natural selection acts on to drive evolution originates in random damage to genes.
- Random damage to genes could make creatures specified by these genes better adapted to their environment, hence more likely to survive, which will increase the incidence of those genes in the gene pool.
- Evolution is driven by the increase in the gene pool of beneficial genes.
- The accumulation in the gene pool of the greater number of harmful genes resulting from genes being damaged at random can be ignored.
- Over a long enough time, the increase of beneficial genes in the gene pool will amount to macro-evolutionary benefits such as elephants growing trunks and humans becoming able to speak.
Below, the fallacies I see invalidating these claims, taking the claims one by one.
The variation natural selection acts on to drive evolution originates in random damage to genes.
Fallacy 1. Natural selection acts on random damage to genes.
Not necessarily. Damage to genes is repaired by extremely efficient repair mechanisms in the nucleus of the cell before characteristics coded for by those genes are exposed to the action of natural selection. Changes to genes that get exposed to natural selection originate in either small subsets of damage not fixable by that mechanism or other non-random origins.
Fallacy 2. Natural selection acting on mutations results in the genetic changes associated with evolution, that drive evolution.
Not necessarily. Just because mutation and selection cause changes to the gene pool, and we associate evolution with changes to the gene pool, doesn’t mean one is the cause of the other. The changes associated with evolution could originate through some entirely different mechanism. Evolution may even not be driven by genetic changes, they could be a mere byproduct of whatever does drive it.
Imagine a world in which evolution is not driven by mutation and selection; those physical processes are still bound to occur even though they're no longer the driver. Their mere existence doesn’t prove that the changes they make to the gene pool are those associated with evolution.
This fallacy resembles the post hoc proctor hoc fallacy: because such and such happened first (selection) and something else happened afterwards (evolution), then selection must have “caused” evolution. No, no connection between them has been established.
Random damage to genes could make creatures specified by these genes better adapted to their environment, hence more likely to survive, which will increase the incidence of those genes in the gene pool.
Not necessarily. First, damage is much more likely to make genes harmful, making members of a species less adapted overall and leading to its extinction, beneficial genes, gene pool and all.
Second, because most genes will be harmful, beneficial genes must occur alone; additional mutated genes are likely to be harmful and result in no net adaptive benefit being presented to natural selection. But if beneficial genes must be presented to natural selection without any accompanying harmful gene, they will be very rare, maybe less than one per generation if the number of harmful genes is vastly greater. The impact of so few beneficial genes may be so small as to be unmeasurable.
Evolution is driven by the increase in the gene pool of beneficial genes
That random damage to genes can result in them being beneficial is postulated by darwinists but can’t be more than a hypothesis. Only millions of years later when you can tell evolution’s taken place could you tell if a gene has been beneficial, at which time it is impossible to know if what made the gene beneficial originally was random damage. The argument is circular: mutation/selection leads to certain genes (“beneficial”) accumulating in the gene pool; evolution is found to be associated with genetic change; therefore evolution is due to these “beneficial” genes. Faulty logic.
The accumulation in the gene pool of the greater number of harmful genes resulting from genes being damaged at random can be ignored.
This is flagrantly illogical. Obviously, unless natural selection is close to 100% efficient in favoring beneficial over harmful genes, the contributions of the much more numerous harmful genes will predominate and lead to rapid extinction.
Over a long enough time, the increase of beneficial genes in the gene pool will amount to macro-evolutionary benefits such as elephants growing trunks and humans becoming able to speak.
The first fallacy here is ignoring that selection is for individual genes providing some small benefit today, instead supposing it can select today for the genes that in a remote future will be needed to support some entirely new major benefit, such as growing a trunk or adopting a marine lifestyle, involving thousands of genes all working in concert. This would be like Aristotle supposing final causes drive material causes, or Plato supposing the forms—“cat,” “dog”-- actually drive the evolution of species of cats and dogs.
Another fallacy is supposing all the changes needed for the evolution of something like the elephant’s trunk can be selected for through the selection of mutated genes one at a time in the order they’re needed within mere tens of millions of years. Even that may not be long enough. Some possibilities, such as a chimp typing the works of Shakespeare, may take longer than we’ve time available. Elephants in each lifetime generate only around three times as many individuals as needed to replace themselves, that is they expose to natural selection only two individuals for culling for each survivor in each 50-year lifetime. In such a species, could all the genes needed to grow a trunk and spread it throughout a species appear through mutation and selection of particular genes in the right order in mere tens of millions of years? Assuming it’s possible is a fallacy.
Some changes that are conceivable may not even be possible. There’s no way a hurricane in a motorbike junk heap could generate a spaceship because the junkyard won’t contain the necessary fuel. Similarly, it just may not be possible for mutation/selection in microbes to generate elephants, no matter how long you allow them to operate. Assuming it’s possible at all is another fallacy.
Telling against Darwinism are all the disproofs above, stripping plausibility from each and every claim made for it. But supporting darwinism is yet another widespread fallacy: darwinism must be true because living creatures do evolve. To see that as a fallacy you have to be ready to. But until you do, none of the others are persuasive. I know that.