Natural Selection Requires Intelligent Design or Barry White

April 19, 2008 at 2:15 am 4 comments

Scientists define “natural selection” specifically as “those mechanisms that contribute to the selection of individuals that reproduce.” That is, in most cases, individuals that have “heritable traits.” I suppose the idea is that if you have some “heritable traits” (i.e. reproductive organs, Barry White albums, cologne, etc…) you have more of a chance to get to the point where you reproduce more of, well, things like you. I get that. I’ve done that – well, not the Barry White part. Sure enough, me and my offspring are scientific proof of natural selection.

Now, it strikes me that natural selection, as a scientific theory, is an observed effect of certain physical laws proved by experimentation rather than a cause. As we observe natural selection in action – most notably how microorganisms mutate to the point where they can survive exposure to antibiotics – we see the natural selection laws are indeed at work. All good, it’s science.

But, what causes natural selection? Why does it work? That’s where things get tricky. Step aside Barry White.

Somehow this highly complex stuff called DNA came into existence that is at the core of every living creature. DNA carries these “heritable” and “non-heritable” traits that drive natural selection in very specific, non-random sequences – also known as genetic code. DNA has very specific behaviors like replication for cell division, and it is formed in the reproduction process. DNA is entirely non-random and full of purpose. And, while natural selection may at its core be driven by random selection, reproduction, which makes natural selection possible, is entirely a system which at its core begs the notion of design – and intelligence.

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Entry filed under: Science.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Adam Coster  |  April 19, 2008 at 2:33 am

    Great observation, that natural selection is actually a description of an effect, not a cause. However, you’re last statement that natural selection and reproduction are random is not true.

    Also, DNA doesn’t really have any behaviors. It is a giant molecule that has to be taken care of quite extensively by a huge suite of proteins. By itself, DNA does absolutely nothing but carry information. It is proteins that do all the work. So proteins are really the amazing, complex stuff.

    The answer to your question, what causes natural selection, is “death and reproduction.” Natural selection is nothing more than the description of what happens when some creatures leave more of their DNA in the population than others. The selection part has to do with the fact that certain traits tend to allow the creature bearing the traits to leave more offspring (it is “selected” for). Other traits tend to be selected against, meaning that they result in a reduced number of offspring carrying that trait.

    So there is nothing really magic, or interesting, behind natural selection. As you pointed out, it’s just an observation of what we all see happening all around us.

    Reply
  • 2. itneverends  |  April 19, 2008 at 2:46 am

    Hi Adam, great comments and thanks for the clarification regarding DNA and behaviors.

    I wasn’t suggesting reproduction was random, my point was that reproduction is not at all random and is the driving force that makes natural selection possible – along with death – great point there too.

    And, anything which isn’t random begs a design, so natural selection is a process that is made possible by an intelligent design.

    Reply
  • 3. Adam Coster  |  April 19, 2008 at 3:19 am

    Nothing is truly random. What biologists mean by random is that an outcome is unpredictable except statistically.

    Coin flips are random in the same way. You can never guess which side it will land on, but you can be confident that, if you flip the coin enough, you’ll end up having roughly as many heads as tails. However, if we knew enough of the details of the coin flip (starting trajectory, velocity, wind resistance, coin surface area, etc) and were sufficiently clever to write the equation incorporating all of these things, we actually could predict the outcome of the coin flip.

    So what is meant by calling mutation and genetic drift random is that we don’t have nearly enough information (or cleverness) to be able to predict where a mutation will occur and of what type it will be, nor whether or not a trait will be lost for seemingly random reasons.

    Basically, chance and randomness are really just products of things we don’t know. All things follow physical and chemical laws, and so should be predictable. They are just so complex that humans can’t do the predicting.

    Personally, I disagree that intelligence is necessary for creating these natural laws, but I admit that it is possible. We have no scientific idea why natural laws are what they are, or why universal constants are what they are. It could be an intelligent agent, or the result of some physical process. Either way you end up back at those “well, then who designed the designer?” or “then how do you explain that physical law?” sort of problems.

    So that was a lot of rambling, but what I really mean to convey is that, since nothing is random, then you are saying that everything is done by an intelligent design. And it seems to make sense that this design then must be equivalent to the physical laws of the universe.

    Reply
  • 4. itneverends  |  April 19, 2008 at 4:31 am

    I liked your ramblings about chance and randomness being events that are just too complex to predict and that really nothing is random. I agree. And, yes, I am saying that everything is done by an intelligent design and I would agree that the design is equivalent to the physical laws of the universe.

    I think the big question is who authored those physical laws? How did they come into existence?

    Take these computers we are using to have this conversation. They are constrained by the certain physical and logical laws authored and implemented by their creators. Nothing is random. Some errors or behaviors may seem random, but those are also just more complex events that have occurred within the bounds of the logical and physical laws that govern them.

    The machines have no knowledge of their creators, nor have they been designed to be self aware or to ask questions like “Where did I come from?” or “Who made me?” Nonetheless, they were created by some form of intelligence.

    I think the same is true for us and our universe. I think we were created by an intelligent designer, but what is different is that we were designed to wonder about where we came from and to seek to know our designer.

    Obviously, the answers to these questions at this time are issues of faith, but so was every other idea or theory that was assumed to be true before it was supported by scientific evidence and/or observation. Some were proved wrong “The earth is flat” and some were proved right “The speed of gravity matches the speed of light.” (Einstein).

    I think there is evidence all around us that points to an intelligent designer of our universe. And, i think this conversation is a shred of evidence of that in and of itself.

    Reply

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