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Author Topic:   Is there really such a thing as a beneficial mutation?
nwr
Member
Posts: 5972
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 208 of 223 (343594)
08-26-2006 1:08 PM
Reply to: Message 205 by Faith
08-26-2006 11:56 AM


Re: Regrouping
I have avoided posting in this thread till now. But I will give a contrary view, though it won't help your YEC position.

I think the term "beneficial mutation" is confusing, and should be avoided. Evolution can be explained without needing that term. I'll give some reasons for this.


  1. Most evolutionists are neo-Darwinists. The neo-Darwinian account claims to avoid intentions. Yet the term "beneficial" is an intentional term. It seems to me that a neo-Darwinian should avoid the term "beneficial", and simply say that some mutations survive better into the next generation than do others.

  2. Personally, I hold neo-Darwinism in some disdain. Perhaps that is partly because of the attempt of neo-Darwinism to deny intentionality. It is difficult to discuss biology without using intentional language. That's why we see biologists talking of "beneficial mutations". Dawkins' title "The Selfish Gene" uses intentional language. Biologists even coined the word "teleonomy" so as to allow the use of teleological language while denying teleology.

    However, even though I see the need for intentional language when discussing biology, I don't find the term "beneficial mutation" to be useful. That term suggests that there is an absolute benefit to a mutation. But in most cases, the benefit is relative. The mutation may offer benefits in a particular environmental niche, but be disadvantageous elsewhere. A mutation that gives bacteria resistance to penicillin is of benefit only in an environment where penicillin is in use, but it is deleterious elsewhere and selected against. The mutation that results in sickle cell is of benefit in a malaria ridden environment, but is deleterious elsewhere. Thus "beneficial mutation" is misleading, because it fails to mention the importance of relational aspects.

  3. The idea that evolution proceeds by accumulating beneficial mutations is just silly. The driving force of evolution is change, including environmental change. If the environment to which an organism is adapted should disappear, then either the organism must change to exploiting a slightly different environment or it will go extinct. Mutations are enablers. A mutation may confer on an organism, the potential of being able to exploit a slighly different environment. A gene pool accumulates mutations, providing variation. That accumulation allows the possibility of change. But it is when change becomes necessity (adapt or go extinct), that the organisms will begin to make important use of some of the enabling possibilities that they have accumulated from past mutations.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 205 by Faith, posted 08-26-2006 11:56 AM Faith has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 210 by Brad McFall, posted 08-26-2006 1:16 PM nwr has seen this message
 Message 212 by Faith, posted 08-26-2006 1:24 PM nwr has seen this message
 Message 214 by Wounded King, posted 08-27-2006 4:48 AM nwr has replied

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 5972
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 217 of 223 (343919)
08-27-2006 10:53 AM
Reply to: Message 214 by Wounded King
08-27-2006 4:48 AM


Re: Regrouping
WHat would you propose as an alternative term for a gene conferring an increase in reproductive success on its posessor, 'an enabling genetic change for environment X'?

You seem to be describing a Goldschmidt hopeful monster mutation. I have no problem calling that beneficial. But such cases are surely so rare as to not account for the evolution we see.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 214 by Wounded King, posted 08-27-2006 4:48 AM Wounded King has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 218 by Brad McFall, posted 08-27-2006 1:48 PM nwr has replied
 Message 221 by Wounded King, posted 08-28-2006 5:26 AM nwr has seen this message

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 5972
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 219 of 223 (344020)
08-27-2006 5:58 PM
Reply to: Message 218 by Brad McFall
08-27-2006 1:48 PM


Re: Reducing if not hierarchical
WK did not necessarily remove “mind” here.

That's not necessarily a problem. If you use intentional language in discussing biology, you could be relying on the mind of a creator. Or you could be allowing that the biological system has some kind of primitive mind. The first is a problem, in that there is no actual evidence to support it.

I don't see the problem in the second alternative, that the biology itself can produce something akin to a primitive mind. And that's roughly what WK's comment allows.

The text in your first image is concerned that intentional analysis will "admit an external agent into the worldview", but I don't see that as a consequence of what I called the second alternative.

We could say that the purpose of evolution is to produce humans. That's leads to classical teleological explanations, where we explain in terms of the "final purpose" - what is to be produced. That kind of intentional language is a problem for science, because science is about mechamisms rather than final purposes.

With the alternative use of intentional language, we can observe that biological systems appear to be in a struggle for survival. But that could be simply an observation about the internal mechanisms of biology. Since the struggle may be unsuccessful (the species could go extinct), there is no reliance on final purpose as part of an explanation. But that use of intentional language does allow us to think of evolution as a kind of trial-and-error learning system, where a species experiments with recombinant DNA in the effort to enhance its odds of survival.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 218 by Brad McFall, posted 08-27-2006 1:48 PM Brad McFall has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 220 by Brad McFall, posted 08-27-2006 6:32 PM nwr has seen this message

  
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