Evolution through natural selection is a very satisfying explanation
The normal explanation is that genetic variation resulting from mutations means that some skin forms small webs between arm and side, and this slight difference allows a squirrel to jump a little further, leading to increased access to food and increased ability to evade some predators.
This is one of the kinds of explanations that evolutionists make about how complex features could have formed, that is the most unsatisfying to me.
Evolution through natural selection is a wonderful thing, which when given proper thought provides very elegant and satisfying explanations. We are looking for explanations here aren't we?
Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker writes:
Many animals leap from bough to bough, and sometimes fall to the ground. ...There must be some height, call it h, such that an animal would just break its neck if it fell from that height. In this critical zone, any improvement in the body surface's ability to catch the air and break the fall, however slight that improvement, can make the difference between life and death. Natural selection will then favour slight, prototype wingflaps. When these small wingflaps become the norm, the critical height h will become slightly greater. Now a slight further increase in the wingflaps will make the difference between life and death. And so on, until we have proper wings. There are animals alive today that beautifully illustrate every stage in the continuum.
The animals that preceded this mutation apparently were finding food just fine, so were they really that handicapped compared to this new mutant?
By what assumption do you say they were apparently finding food just fine. Their very existence is not sufficient evidence of this. And what about the falling from height example discussed above? That's got nothing to do with food.
The mutation would have had to have been exactly symmetrical on this mutants body to be of any use at all.
I disagree. But regardless, symmetry is a basic element of embryology. Mutations with morphological results tend to manifest themselves with bilaterally (or radial) symmetry. I think you are forgetting entirely about embryology, which is crucial to understanding.
How much further could a squirrel with a little flap of skin jump compared to one with none, a few inches?
See above. Even a small fraction of an inch could make enough of a difference for natural selection to then play a role.
Were there other mutations also going on within the population that were giving other individuals advantages, that the one with the flap of skin didn't have? Or did every other individual stop gaining any beneficial mutations during this time that helped them in another way? In other words, that one mutant individual had one kind of benefit, but perhaps others had bigger stomachs, or bigger jaws, or any of thousands of other advantages that this guy didn't have. Or are we to believe all of these other mutations and selections are happening consecutively but not concurrently?
There are always "arms races" going on between competing species, whereby the evolutionary advantages gained by one are offset by the evolutionary advantages of another. The changes happen in unison and are driven by each other. Sometimes things work out as a more symbiotic relationship. Flowers have had a lot to do with the evolution of insects, but it could just as fairly be said that insects have had a lot to do with the evolution of flowers.
I think you are trying to ask about the possibility that in one generation you might have a number of different phenotypical mutations that all arise at the same time. If it is even conceivable that this could happen, some mutatations would be selected for and flourish. Others would be selected against and vanish. There would be no point at which all other possible mutations are "on hold" while one develops.
This zero point mutant (the original) gives birth to a second with a similar mutation. Once again, this small advantage is trumping all other advantages within the population, even though there could be some things this mutant has that are not good at all, like the wrong color fur?
Nobody ever said that the small advantage would trump all other advantages within the population. In most populations they would be competing against other species, not themselves. The small advantage wouldn't necessarily trump all possible adversaries' advantages, but it would be enough to lay the groundwork for natural selection to favour those bestowed with that advantage.
If it had the "wrong" colour fur and was eaten by a predator (who might have missed it had it had had the "right" colour fur) then that zero point mutation doesn't get carried forward. Oops, sorry, kthxbai. When viewed against the vast backdrop of geological time, this possibility does not somehow rule out beneficial mutations taking hold. Besides, what exists now is not representative of the best possible results of evolution. It is just one of the many possible permutations. It could very well be that the unfortunate loss of a zero-point mutation has somehow denied us some further benefit.
How many generations do you want to continue down the line of this squirrels ancestry before the next mutation that improves upon this one occurs? Ten generations, 20, 100? How long before this next one pops up which does exactly what the previous one did, only better? Not a flap of skin elsewhere, or one that makes the skin mutate smaller again, or what have you, but one that once again directly benefits this previous one?
Pass. I don't know the specific answer to this, but hope that another member will address it. All I can say is I'm not sure why you're concerned that a subsequent mutation directly benefits the previous one. Mutations that survive will invariably be beneficial to the groundwork laid by the previous ones, lest they wouldn't have survived.
Could the descendant of this squirrel get a different mutation, like say better camouflage which could help it to survive, but not for the reason of jumping better, but because it hid better? Now are we selecting for both at the same time, or for one or the other, or does he get a slight advantage this generation for his camouflage, and the next generation for better jaws, and the next generation, for better hearing, etc,etc..
Natural selection works on everything in concert. The complex interactions of these simultaneous and sometimes opposed selection factors is vividly demonstrated in sexual selection, where mutations that would have been selected against for valid reasons relating to survivability instead thrive and flourish for no reason other than their "attractiveness" to the opposite sex (it's usually the females who do the selecting).
While we are sifting through these generations upon generations of selecting, are the needs for survival staying constant? Is one generation struggling for more food, while another generation is struggling to hide from predators, while another is struggling for water, while during another generation the food source has changed from being in the trees to being on the ground?
Nope. Again this is all happening at the same time. I mean honestly, would you really think that just because a mutation arose that helped in terms of hiding from predators, suddenly everything else going on in the creatures ecosystem is put on hold?
Did the guy who got the first beneficial mutation (beneficial mutations don't happen very often right, much less often then detrimental ones, correct?) also happen to be born with a parasite in his intestine which caused him to die before he could reproduce?
See above. If so, adios mutation (in that instance anyway).
If the first zero mutant of such good fortune didn't happen to get picked off by the eagle, but his son did, we are right back to the same problem again right?
This is probably a good argument for why many creatures give birth to litters: Redundancy in case one gets "carried off by an eagle".
Can we list ANY examples of beneficial mutations that we have observed in nature as a starting point, that has the potential to give one individual a bio mechanical advantage which could lead to the creation of a new trait? ONE? Ever?
As mentioned above, the evolution of prototype wings can be observed in many creatures. Using frogs as an example, you have frogs with no sort of prototype wings and no leg flaps or anything. You've then got various species that demonstrate the intermediate stages all the way up to Wallace's Flying Frogs (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus).
Now I honestly believe I could go on and on with the logical difficulties your theory faces,
Yes I believe you could, but your points are neither "logical" nor "difficulties".
but the problem is that your side wants to brush EVERYONE of these difficulties aside, and claim it is the ID's or creationists who are living in a faiy land void of empirical evidence.
Please provide us with specific examples of what "difficulties" you think we are sweeping aside? The points mentioned above have relatively simple explanations and do not present the theory of evolution with any real difficulties.
You will say to the ID side, well how do you account for this, and for that, and so on...and yet you can't account for any of these issues, let alone all of them. But you STILL claim to have science on your side.
Again as I said in another thread, science is a work in progress. Just because scientists can't account for everything with exacting precision does not mean there is not a naturalistic explanation waiting to be found, one that will piggyback nicely onto what we've already learned.
Supernatural/religious/pseudoscience "answers" generate more questions than answers, in an infinitely regressing series of "turtles all the way down".
Thank you for bringing the gene pool into it, an important point.
I'm still trying to "get my head around" some of the deeper elements of the theory of evolution, but I can't help but feel that there is a core element that BD is missing, which is that individuals don't evolve - populations do.
Explanations are being pursued - if they point to ID, great, but they don't
There is no valid theory that depends on the failure of another theory for validation -- NOT ONE.
And thanks for the link about the "wedge strategy". All the more reason to be wary of ID.
Despite the disagreements we may have on some topics, I always find your posts useful, relevant and content rich.
As to the topic: Is ID properly pursued?
My problem with this is that "pursuing ID" is like coming to a conclusion (things were designed by some intelligent agent) without evidence first, and then looking for evidence that might support that conclusion. Now that may not always be a bad strategy, but when the evidence doesn't point to the idea you started with, you need to be prepared to rethink that idea.
In the case of ID, I have not yet heard of any research that even in the slightest way points to an intelligent agent having designed things. As we have seen many times before in many threads, "irreducible complexity" is hogwash. Meanwhile there is a theory that provides for slow gradual change (ToE) which can explain the things that creationists call "intelligently designed".
My position is that there is an opportunity to take this concept away from the charlatans and open it up to proper pursuit of the question of design -- with a skeptical but open mind, discarding religious preconceptions in the process, and focusing on what science can determine, and what science cannot determine.
If only more deists/theists took such a reasonable approach and used words like "skeptical but open mind" and "discarding religious preconceptions". My only qualm with this relates to my comment above, in that in order to have a "proper pursuit of the question of design", you have to first accept that things were designed, lest there is nothing to pursue. So in a way, this is still holding onto a preconceived notion (a creator).
I think we should pursue the evidence and let it take us where it may. On first glance many things may appear designed, but we have learned that a remarkable appearance of design can come about in things that were nonetheless a result of naturalistic processes which did not rely on the direction of an intelligent agent.
So to answer the question posed in the original post - "Is ID being properly pursued?" - I would say that the possibilty of intelligent design is being pursued every day in every bit of work that biologists do, whether they realise it or not: In other words, they are looking for evidence that will provide explanations of how things came to be the way they are - and they are finding evidence of naturalistic origins and a complete lack of evidence of any divine intervention.
Edited by Briterican, : Changed "non-atheists" to "deists/theists".
Re: Explanations are being pursued - if they point to ID, great, but they don't
Hi Briterican, sorry to take so long, but the chemo sessions wear me out.
Sorry to hear that, and I wish you the best.
One of my other threads may put some balance on this aspect: if we assume a designer then what can we deduce from the designs - see Silly Design Institute: Let's discuss BOTH sides of the Design Controversy...
I've seen this thread in bits and pieces. Perhaps it's time for me to review the entire thing.
This is where I think philosophy takes over from science, because answers for why things occur are not able to be answered by science, and this leaves us with logic and reason, perhaps with the differences in personal opinions to spice the discussions up.
I like the way you've phrased this statement. I would add that because philosophy brings with it logic and reason, it is better equipped to pick up where science leaves off than is religion.