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Title Author Date
Meyer's Helpless Monster Novikov, Dmitri Apr 10, 2005
Dear Alan Gishlick, Nick Matzke, and Wesley R. Elsberry:

Sir Fred Hoyle did not like Darwinism for the simple reason that it is a stupid misconception. See his "Mathematics of Evolution" He writes: "So it came about from 1860 onward that new believers became in a sense mentally ill, or, more precisely, either you became mentally ill or you quitted the subject of biology..." What the evolution theory proposes is natural selection on random variation resulting genetic change and thus new genes. The trivial simplicity of the following one gene model is the reason it penetrates minds starting from high school and does not go away easily. If A gene variety has a higher survival probability than variety a of the same gene, and no other variation exists, in a countable number of generations variety A will replace variety a. This is what most of population genetics is about. Where is the flaw? An organism does not have one gene only. And a gene is not just a few nucleotides long it is much longer. What if the individuals with the good gene A carry a bad gene b with the bad effect overweighing the good of A? What about the natural situation that the number of bad mutations significantly exceeds the number of good ones? The species dies very soon, life is impossible, or the theory must die. One may argue: natural selection can eliminate all bad ones, even when they are many, and keep the few good ones. Well, it cannot. You can either check the behavior of the function, or you can intuitively conclude the following. Suppose the genome size is 3 billion base pairs (close to ours), the non-neutral mutation rate is one per a hundred million base pairs, resulting 30 mutations per individual per generation. Most mutations are naturally neutral and do not affect survival. However, for those that are not neutral, we can hardly suggest a rate of more than 1:100 of good ones to bad ones (how many times do we have to drop a Swiss watch on a concrete floor for the watch to go a bit more accurately? and a bacterium is far more complex than the whole watch factory). For the selection to work to the advantage of the species there should be some individuals with at least 16 good to 14 bad mutations. The selection will not find this or better one. Even if it did, it would have to wipe the rest of the population in every generation. But it will not find it in a billion years anyway. Some biologists would argue: the mutation rate is lower; it is like one per the whole genome per generation. Well, what genetic change would you get with such a low rate? A new gene in a hundred of billions of years? Not even that soon. And natural selection would still have to kill 99 out of 100. Darwin did not know about genes. Muller found the contradiction and termed it genetic load. Neo-Darwinians hid it or try to ignore.

People should calculate before they say something, if they care of course.

Sincerely,

Dmitri

Related Articles: Meyer's Hopeless Monster

Title Author Date
Meyer's Helpless Monster Rossow, Amiel Apr 11, 2005
Since Mr. Novikov's letter is addressed to Gishlick, Matzke, and Elsberry, I guess these distinguished scientists may reply and address specific points in Novikov's assault upon evolutionary biology, if they can find time in
their busy schedules.
In the meantime I hope Talk Reason will allow me to preempt their possible reply and briefly relate to Novikov's poorly informed utterance. Novikov condescendingly suggests to biologists (who overwhelmingly support the allegedly 'stupid' evolution theory) to 'calculate' before offering hypotheses. I have news for Mr. Novikov: calculations he suggests have been performed a long time ago on a much more sophisticated level than his puerile arithmetic exercise. There is nothing new in Novikov's arguments all of which have been convincingly answered decades ago and rejected by mainstream science. It seems that Mr. Novikov, before embarking on a critique of established scientific concepts, needs to familiarize himself with biological literature beyond quotations from Hoyle (who was not a
biologist and whose pet theory in his own field -- that of a steady-state
universe -- was rejected by cosmologists and physicists as contrary to evidence). To start with, Mr. Novikov, who seems to have mastered English reasonably well, has available ample material (including many good articles
on Talk Reason as well as at www.talkorigins.org and www.pandasthumb.org ).
So far he seems to have gleaned his ideas only from pseudo-scientific opuses by creationists.

Amiel Rossow
Related Articles: Meyer's Hopeless Monster

Title Author Date
Meyer's Helpless Monster Elsberry, Wesley R. Apr 11, 2005
Math is a wonderful tool, but when one insists that reality must be a certain way because of the math, it doesn't help one's position if reality refuses to play along. It is reality that sets the score and math that has to sing to it or be considered off-key.

Nobody is "hiding" segregational load. The genetics text used in my college course a couple of decades back (Strickberger's "Genetics") has a quite forthright discussion of the problems of asserting selective maintenance of large numbers of polymorphisms via heterozygote advantage. It is, in fact, one of the issues that led to the development of the "neutral theory" by Kimura and Crow. Under the neutral theory, the rate of allelic substitution in a population is linked to the mutation rate. Because selection is not operating, neutral evolution proceeds at rates that, in summation, exceed what is possible via selection at many loci. And there is plenty of math to go with the neutral theory and its more recent derivative, the "nearly neutral" theory.

That said, when one looks at real world populations, one commonly finds that alleles are in linkage disequilibrium, which is indicative of the action of natural selection. No matter how much math is deployed, the facts on the ground indicate that natural selection does actually happen in biological populations.

What we are left with are two rock-bottom empirical phenomena that any mathematical model must account for: 1) Biological organisms typically have a lot of genetic variation, one measure of which is the level of protein polymorphism in a population, usually not less than 20 to 30 percent of proteins showing polymorphisms and 2) many populations show the presence of linkage disequilibrium indicating active selection for some trait or set of traits. We can be sure that math that tells us that this situation cannot exist has a flaw in the premises somewhere.

Together, these facts argue strongly that both neutral evolution and natural selection are operative in extant populations. The question is how much of evolutionary change does each account for.

A nice page answering antievolution arguments on "Haldane's dilemma" is at this page.
Related Articles: Meyer's Hopeless Monster