Adaptation to the environment--does it make any sense? PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 22 May 2012 19:25

Darwin made adaptation to the environment the key property of evolved living creatures. That's all natural selection can do. But suppose the key property of living creatures is how independent of their environment they are. This is number 1 in a series of articles casting doubt on the Modern Synthesis.

Darwin made "adaptation to the environment" the key concept in his theory of natural selection. He had to; all natural selection can do is identify which members of a species are better adapted to their surroundings, and make sure only they survive. Since only the better adapted members survive, that species will eventually evolve into another species even better adapted to that environment.

What does it mean to say something's “adapted” to its environment? Take a pebble, on a pebble beach. Won’t that pebble be better “adapted” to that beach than any living creature could be? That pebble will shatter into smaller fragments like all the other pebbles, eventually becoming sand as they do. At all times it remains precisely adapted to its environment. Yet most living creatures on that beach won't have adapted to become anything like a pebble. They'll be very different. What's most distinctive about those living creatures isn’t how much like a pebble they are, it's how they’re different.

Take a cat for example. It's lying on the pebbles because they've been baking in the sun. But if it gets hungry it gets up, looks around, and heads off to forage. Perhaps it heads down towards the sea to see if any fish have become trapped in shallow ponds. Or it might head up to where it can hunt mice in the undergrowth. Agreed, it probably won't take to the sea and swim. But apart from that, which environment is the cat not adapted to? It can survive in almost all of them. It's not "adapted" to any one environment, it's actually become, to a surprising extent, independent of them.

If what's most important about living creatures evolving isn't them becoming adapted to their environment but them becoming increasingly independent of any one environment, then evolution is probably driven by some other mechanism, we're entitled to harbor doubts about natural selection.

Perhaps, to judge evolutionary theories, a better test would be to ask how living creatures become so independent of their environments, so un-“pebble”–like. What gives them capabilities so unlike those of non-living matter? What's a good example? How about us being conscious and having free will? Darwinism can't account for that at all. If it acknowledged that living creatures can be conscious and have free will it would have to include those along with natural selection in what drove evolution. And if you have consciousness and free will, who needs natural selection as well?

Like most terms associated with natural selection, the point of stressing the role of "adaptation" in evolution is to distract us from the theory's weaknesses. But  it's a tautology. Living creatures must be adapted to some extent else they’d be dead.

It's hard to argue against a tautology. Of any feature of living creatures evolutionists respond, "it's an adaptation," even if they can't explain how. For them, it is, because it must be!  If it's not adaptive for the creature in question it's adaptive for some other creature--the peacock's tail is adaptive for the peahen. How about this, though: line drawing. There aren't a significant number of line drawings in nature, so how did we evolve to make sense of them?

What's obvious is, living creatures are much more than merely being adapted. Once we realize that, we can start appreciating them for how much more than being merely “adapted” to their environments they are.

That living creatures end up being adapted to the environment is the least you can ask of a mechanism of evolution. As long as that's all you lead people to expect, that's all they'll learn to see. Now, should you really teach that in the school science classroom?

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steve shope comments:
Are you serious?
I certainly hope this is a poor joke, but I think you are serious.

(1) An adaptation in biology is a trait with a current functional role in the life history of an organism. Since a pebble does not have a life history it isn't adapted to anything.

(2) By environment evolutionary theory means the niche the organism occupies. Thus, a cat is poorly adapted to occupy the same niche as a human. That is why you don't see many cats as CEO's of their own companies. On the other hand humans are poorly adapted to niche occupied by cats. That is why you don't see many humans sniffing around the floor to track mice.

(3) Nothing is "independent" of its environment. Adaptations can be effective in several different locales so it is not surprising that so many organisms aren't limited to the square foot of land they presently occupy.

(4) If being conscious and having "free will" (whatever that actually is) were to grant humans a better chance to reproduce, then there is no reason to think that evolutinary theory cannot account for it.

(5) Nobody "needs" natural selection. You get it anyway. You are either going to produce below the average number of offspring (in which case your genome is selected against); an average number of offspring (in which case you will be selectively neutral); or you will produce a larger than average number of offspring (in which your genome will be selected for). There is no way to avoid it. By the way, I have chosen to have a single offspring so my genome is selected against. I don't see that as a bad thing.

(6) Adaptation is NOT a tautology. It is not a tautology to say that a bat's wing is better adapted to flight while a dolphin's pectoral fin is better adapted to swimming. The interesting thing is that the bones in a bat's wing are the same as the bones in dolphin's pectoral fin.

Sorry, I don't have time to correct any more of your misunderstandings. However, if you seriously want to understand evolutionary theory you need to read something by real biologists.

I would suggest Douglas Futyma's textbook EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY. If it is too advanced then try Ernst Mayr's WHAT EVOLUTION IS first then go back to Futyma.

IF on the other hand you are only interested in spouting nonsense in the hopes of convincing someone else that evolution is a theory in crisis, then I suggest you spend a long hard time at the mirror examining your motives.

Good Luck,

Steve
steve shope , June 01, 2012
shaun comments:
Response to Steve
"(1) An adaptation in biology is a trait . . ."

Either, in talking about evolution, “adaptation” is used in a non-technical sense, as when we speak of an “adapter,” or it is used in a technical sense, in which case it can mean anything you like. If the latter, as you prefer, then when evolutionist point out how well-adapted living creatures are they are uttering a tautology: living creatures are adapted as only living creatures can be. My agreement with you is then assured. I’ve never read any evolutionist of repute using the word “adapt” in the limited sense you claim, though.

"(2) By environment, evolutionary theory means the niche . . ."

I think “niche” and “environment” are not identical. A creature can participate in more than one niche within its environment. How “specialized” a species is said to be refers to how restricted is its access to various niches within its environment. Both cats and humans are fairly non-specialized, right? If you agree so far, now read your point number 2. It is such an irrelevant straw man l can see it only as meant to add bulk to your attack, not point.

"(3) Nothing is "independent" of its environment..."

“Independent” is like “specialized.” Both are relative terms. Supposing I meant independent in an absolute sense is another straw man.

"(4) If being conscious and having "free will"..."

You’ve right, but not by mutation-and-selection. With consciousness and free will creatures in a line of inheritance can create and choose to inherit habits which, by the Baldwin Effect, eventually assume genetic form. This is a legitimate way acquired characteristics can be inherited. Agree to that, and we’ve no need of natural selection.

"(5) Nobody "needs" natural selection..."

Inevitably, less fit creatures will be less likely to pass on their genes. That says nothing about how creatures evolve. It could be a negligible factor. Inevitably, your car is buffeted unequally on front and back by molecular collisions but that isn’t what drives it. Just so, the contribution to evolution of natural selection could be negligible.

"(6) Adaptation is NOT a tautology..."

Adaptation is a tautology. Bats having wings precludes them having arms like ours. That can as easily be said to be an adaptation as not. Without some accommodation to its niche a creature can’t exist. To say of those that exist that they’re “adapted” while those that don’t exist (became extinct or were born defective) is to utter a tautology. Whatever the mechanism of evolution, those creatures that do exist will display adaptations.

"Sorry, I don't have time to correct any more of your misunderstandings. However, if you seriously want to understand evolutionary theory you need to read something by real biologists. I would suggest Douglas Futyma's textbook EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY. If it is too advanced then try Ernst Mayr's WHAT EVOLUTION IS first then go back to Futyma."

Actually, read through my responses and you’ll perhaps conclude you are the one who could benefit more from some reading.. Try the Himmelfarb item, first in the "Critiques of Darwin" section of this site.

It’s a common ploy for Darwinist believers to loftily declare that believers automatically know more than their critics. I never let pass an opportunity to point out how presumptuous that is.

"IF on the other hand you are only interested in spouting nonsense in the hopes of convincing someone else that evolution is a theory in crisis, then I suggest you spend a long hard time at the mirror examining your motives."

I appreciate a contribution to the “Bulldog sightings” section of the forum of this site, where I collect examples of personal abuse from Darwinist believers.

I am actually very appreciative of your posting, the first I've received in over a year. I've been challenging in response as a matter of principle. I hope I haven't deterred you, or anyone else, from contributing.
shaun , June 02, 2012
Forests comments:
eh
what evidence does steve have that a pebble does not have life?!
Forests , June 02, 2012
Heresiarch comments:
Adaptautology
to quote from the Fodor book, "to say that phenotypes are adapted to their environment is just to say that there are such phenotypes."

Adaptation and fitness are non sequitors. All we observe are differing amounts of reproductive success among creatures and the corresponding gene distributions in subsequent generations. The theory of natural selection pretends to provide a cause for this effect. But NS theory can never separate the cause from the effect. It is a tautology.
Heresiarch , June 03, 2012
IntelligentAnimation comments:
Of Pebbles and Cats
Only a materialist would look at a pebble and a cat and conclude they are the same, or that any perceived difference is an "illusion" but fail to provide any reasoning as to how that could be. This guy Steve takes the dodging approcah of not knowing what free will is, or consciouness. You don't need to explain what you cant see with your head in the sand.

Darwinists attempt to distract from the failures of materialism by using tautological terms such as adaptation and selection, which provide us with nothing that actually causes anything.

As long as the Darwinist admits that they have absolutely no idea how evolution happens, then the words selection or adaptation are not used tautologically.

However (as they so often do until pinned into a corner)say evolution is "by" selection, they are reversing cause and effect, or intertwining them as one to avoid providing a cause. When asked how living things got the ability to adapt, I usually get "They adapted it." which is comically circular illogic.

Darwinism is a farce and the worst disgrace in the history of science.
IntelligentAnimation , June 25, 2012

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