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The Theory of Natural Selection is a tautology.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake.

Our modern society is in love with Darwin. Our ideas about nature, evolution, society and ourselves have been shaped by this man. It seems like every reasonable person in the world agrees that Darwin’s theory is correct and useful. Darwin’s theory aims at explaining how species evolve and become new species through the means of what he called “Natural Selection”, which was defined by him as follows: “This preservation of favourable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called Natural Selection”. In other words, traits that benefit the individual tend to be preserved over time, while injurious traits tend to disappear. Traits that are not beneficial or detrimental are not affected by Natural Selection.

The accusation that this definition is tautological is nothing new and is well known, but it is generally ignored. A tautology is a statement that is true in every possible case. For instance, a statement like “The car is red because it’s not green” can’t be false because everything that is red is, by definition, not green. This statement is true but it’s useless as an explanation because it doesn’t give any information other than what is implied by its terms. Darwin’s critics accuse him of crafting a tautological statement because in his definition “favourable” or “beneficial” traits are defined as those that are preserved, and traits that are preserved are of course those that are favourable or beneficial. In other words, what Darwin says is that traits that are preserved are preserved. For instance: A Darwinist would say that human thumbs exist because they provide an advantage for the survivability of the species, so humans with thumbs have always been more successful at being alive and passing on their genes than human species without them. But if humans had no thumbs we could make the exact same argument, mutatis mutandis. Because of course what already exists has a higher chance of continuing to exist than things that no longer exist or that have never existed. Another example: Individuals who are born with healthy reproductive organs are more likely to pass on their genes than individuals who are born infertile. In both cases we can see “natural selection” in action. Both “explanations” are obviously true, but they are tautological, they don’t add any new information.

So the theory of Natural Selection explains nothing, and while scientists and biologists may admire Darwin and “believe” in Natural Selection, especially in opposition to creationist explanations, the truth is that Darwin’s book On The Origin of Species is an artifact of the past and university curriculums hardly devote any time to it. If people were to suddenly forget all about Darwin our understanding of evolution would remain roughly the same - although we would lose his contributions in other fields. Nowadays people seem to think that “evolution” and “natural selection” are synonyms but that’s not true at all. Evolution wasn’t a new concept to educated people back in the XIXth century, and everyone grasped the concept of heritability. So why was it so important, or why was it considered important, and why did it cause such a revolution in our understanding of nature? The answer is: Because of the concept of struggle for existence. People have always known that animals and humans change throughout the generations, but Darwin’s theory asserted that everything in nature, both animal and human, is determined by a struggle for scarce resources, that is, by an economic problem. Again, this is something that everyone who has felt hunger or desire to reproduce has understood to some degree, but before Darwin nature was much more than simply being alive and reproducing yourself. It was a divine creation, it had meaning, it had truth, it spoke in a rich language understandable to humans. Darwin’s theory made this language unintelligible, because it showed that an economic mindset was enough to understand nature for the purpose of fulfilling our needs. If a car is red, we don’t need to know the owner’s preferences or the manufacturer’s motivations in order to know that it is not green, and this knowledge is enough to use it. The fact that humankind descends from apes was polemic only because it showed that humans and apes have the same needs and aspirations, even if they had different evolutionary strategies to acquire them. But this is the conscious part, the part that everyone acknowledges. There’s also an unconscious consequence of the theory of natural selection: That nothing exists outside the struggle for existence.

This last idea is what makes Darwin’s theory so apt for the modern world. Science can overcome Darwin, modern society seemingly cannot. And even though biologists don’t pay much attention to him, Darwin is still quite popular in politics, philosophy, and social sciences. Because if there’s something at which modern society is particularly good, it’s at providing the means for existence and reproduction. So a theory of nature that asserts that this is all there is to it it’s bound to be popular, because it justifies the current state of affairs and exalts it as the best possible outcome of a long evolution towards an efficient society. All other possible alternatives are overcomed, and any possible development can only follow its example. Politically, liberals love it because it justifies and naturalizes their belief in the free market, and marxists love it because it promises future and exciting developments when men conquer the course of the evolution of their species with their own hands. Philosophically it solves the problem of how living creatures were created out of lifeless things, and it solves it in such a way that is comprehensible for human cognition. But the most peculiar development comes from the social sciences. First, came the social Darwinists who tried to apply the principle of survival of the fittest quite literally, but after WWII this became impossible for political reasons. We now have evolutionary psychology, a field that instead of trying to control human behavior creates a mythology around it, providing panglossian theories for human behavior that explain nothing and are therefore impossible to prove or disprove, but that provide a common ground between the general public and solicitors, drivelers, quacks, pickup artists - in a world, charlatans of all kinds. Everybody wants the secret to “hack” human behavior. There’s a particular internet subculture of men who are frustrated with modern society and with the changes in gender roles, and who look in evolutionary psychology for mating strategies to end their loneliness, believing that the atavistic caves where man supposedly learned to be man are like the rooms in which they spend most of their lives, without realizing that it is the selfishness of modern society that created this idea of the primitive caveman and that erodes human connections by reducing them to a mere survival strategy.

But it is clear that man became man not by surviving or by conquering the means to preserve and reproduce himself, but by the conquest of the unnecessary. As Gaston Bachelard(1) puts it: “Man is a creation of desire, not a creation of necessity”. Furthermore, there’s no evidence for the existence of a “survival instinct” anywhere in nature. We believe ourselves to be smarter than animals because they risk their lives in pointless endeavors, they are mostly unable to plan ahead and to cooperate for their survival as we do. But who said they needed to? If everything life needed is to survive, then asexual organisms would be the pinnacle of evolution, everything that has come after it is useless and inferior by this standard. While it is true that a struggle is necessary to exist, if existence were its only goal, if one could not risk even existence itself in exchange of something else, this struggle would be meaningless. Sexual reproduction is an example of a struggle where individual existence is put into question, because it bridges the gap between two individuals and creates something new. It is luxurious and exuberant, as life itself. This is something that has always been quite clear for humans since the dawn of time, but that seems incomprehensible now. Biology can progress through Darwinism but only by obscuring the mystery of life, turning it into something miserable and petty, like human economy. This progress is nothing but a change of perspective, focusing one thing and ignoring another. But as all perspectives are, in principle, equally valid, it’s only desire what moves us towards something else and something better than our trivial everyday existence and its meaningless struggles. Is it not, as Georges Bataille puts it, the tiger’s fruitlessness what makes it the king of the jungle? By predating on other animals, that eat other animals, that eat plants, and so on, the tiger splurges a huge amount of the jungle’s resources. Some would say that it serves the purpose of maintaining the balance of the ecosystem, but couldn’t this balance be imposed by the tiger itself? Its existence would then be more than a struggle for existence, it would be a struggle to impose its own norm, its own will, its right to splurge. This struggle would be unintelligible without the base of mere existence, because individual existence imposes a period of activity and silence, a discrete grammar for the tiger’s individuality to express itself, but the meaning of the tiger’s behavior can only be confused with its grammar by a fool. The tiger itself is but an echo of something infinite.

(1)Gaston Bachelard, The Psychoanalysis of Fire.

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Have you read Mark Fisher's - "Capitalist Realism, Is There no Alternative"?

I think the general gist, that the average person is obsessed with some sort of realist inevitability- is poignant. But I think it's a mistake to put your full focus on Darwin here. There are other ways in which this structure of belief expresses itself, such as those elucidated in Mark's book.

I also think focusing on Darwin was strategically dubious, though I absolutely agree- this same sort of depressive realist belief permeates people's subconscious in the context of genetics as it does in the context of economics. Further, this community in particular, falls into this trap more than others.

The correct response to genetic realism, should always be to find new ways to grant our ideals control over our genetics, not to submit to a sense of depressive inevitability.

I'm aware of Mark Fisher's work, and I am aware that Darwin wasn't the one responsible for what you call "realist inevitability". I'll admit I have a personal bias against Darwinism, so I'll confess I don't really have a long-term strategy here. I just smelt blood and attacked the perceived weakness. The fact that Darwinists make all sorts of bold claims about nature and human behavior makes them more atractive targets.

The correct response to genetic realism, should always be to find new ways to grant our ideals control over our genetics.

I don't know about that but I do know what Gómez Dávila says: "With pessimism and a sense of humor, it's impossible to be wrong or bored."

Nowadays people seem to think that “evolution” and “natural selection” are synonyms but that’s not true at all. Evolution wasn’t a new concept to educated people back in the XIXth century, and everyone grasped the concept of heritability. So why was it so important, or why was it considered important, and why did it cause such a revolution in our understanding of nature? The answer is: Because of the concept of struggle for existence.

Disagree. The struggle is a natural consequence of exponential grows in subexponential resources. Malthus predates Darwin by more than a generation. People probably had noticed that there are more tadpoles than frogs since the dawn of civilization.

I think that the humiliation to mankind's pride from Darwin was from two sources, firstly, by stating that humans themselves had evolved from animals, and secondly, by identifying random mutations plus natural selection as the driving force behind evolution, revealing God to be Azatoth the idiot. (Lamarkism is less offensive because there are agents which intent the change in it.)

Natural selection can seem like a vacuous truth, like claiming "God's favorite will win the duel". However, with a bit of domain knowledge, it can lead us to make falsifiable predictions. Suppose an animal living in a biome with sunlight loses its eyes due to a mutation, lowering it's energy upkeep by 1%. Do we expect that this mutation will spread? No, because our domain knowledge of animals tells us that eyes are generally very useful things. By contrast, in a lightless environment, eyes are just baggage, so in such an environment such a mutation would be beneficial.

The predictions argument has already been addresed multiple times elsewhere, so I won't respond to it. But c'mon, "our domain knowledge of animals tells us that eyes are generally very useful things"?? Really? You don't say.

You say that mankind was humilliated by Darwin but I would claim the opposite is true. Before Darwin humans had a secondary place in the universe, they were created by something bigger and more powerful. After Darwin humankind has no rivals, and they supposedly hold the secret to explain all possible life in the universe. If anything, humans are more proudful and entitled now that ever before.

And you are wrong about the idea of exponential grows in subexponential resources being known before. Before Malthus people lacked the mathematical models necessary to understand the behavior of populations. One thing is making an empiric observation and another is describing a common pattern in all populations. There's also the idea, quite characteristic of the modern age, that mathematics alone explains the growth of populations. This led to some strange conclusions, like that war is good because it quells an overgrowth population. Once more, Darwin's work just expanded upon this idea.

Terminology: Natural Selection is an emergent effect, like traffic patterns or centrifugal force. It is the name we give to an orderly effect which seems directed, though we can find no such concrete thing in the system from which it emerges.

The survival instinct is, similarly, borne of a system which contains both the drive to escape pain and the desire to feel pleasure/esteem/accomplishment. Lack of fulfillment of the latter leads to misery; of the former, suicide. Where both can be fulfilled, thriving happens.

It may be an emergent effect but it is a tautologic. Like, every red car being red could also be understood as an "emergent effect", but why would you?

To make explicit the mechanism.

It’s like saying “every red car absorbs most wavelengths of light, but reflects light wavelengths around 620 to 750 nm. When the reflected waves hit our retinas, exciting the red-absorbing cones and transmitting a sensation into our brains we identify as vision of a red thing.”

This explication of a system furnishes us with utility: if a given person cannot differentiate a red thing from a black thing (as a colorblind friend once told me), we can now troubleshoot and find which piece of the mechanism is faulty and the devise a way to adjust it.

Yes of course, if you turn my initial tautological statement into something completely different that's no longer tautological then yes, it's not a tautology anymore, but it's also not my initial statement.

I agree with the first half of your post mostly. For quite some time I've taken to saying "Law of Natural Selection" and "Theory of Evolution." You correctly explain that Natural Selection is tautological. But then you go on to use the phrase "Theory of Natural Selection" and criticize its consequences and adherents. Should I read this as "Law of Natural Selection" or "Theory of Evolution?"

It's true that as a tautology, Natural Selection is completely separate from evidence. Similarly, Peano Arithmetic (the mathematically smug way to say counting numbers) is a tautology, completely separate from evidence. It is only an empirical observation that apples and rocks and such obey the laws of arithmetic. That 2 applies placed next to 2 apples makes 4 apples. We could find out tomorrow that apples and rocks don't follow counting rules, but that should not shake our faith in counting rules: it just means reality works differently than intuition suggests. This is what happened when we discovered the cosmic speed limit and found that velocities do not combine using addition as we thought! Likewise, whether or not life on Earth was shaped by Natural Selection is simply an empirical matter, albeit not reproducible because we're talking about the past, so it's just guesswork.

As for what Natural Selection as a tautology explains, this gets into what I think the value of Darwin is. The second half of your post is completely incomprehensible to me - right about when you start to talk about "divine creation." Now i am not familiar with what people thought in 1800. I learned in school that Origin of Species was some kind of groundbreaking thing, and you seem to imply that when you say society worships Darwin. So, I am kind of guessing at the value of Natural Selection.

The value of Natural Selection is exactly that it is a tautology, that it so obviously dissolves the mystery of how you can bootstrap so much complexity in an organism without an intelligent designer. Without understanding Natural Selection, someone who knows the complexity of biology could quite reasonably hypothesize a kind of intelligent creator. If we tell him, "No that's silly, there's no God, it's simply tautological that complex creatures come from nothing" he would laugh at us! Imagine these exchanges:

"Why do the fundamental constants seem so fine-tuned?"
"Well, it's tautological of course."

"Why is entropy always increasing with the arrow of time?" "Well, it's tautological of course."

They are silly! If evidence is how you show your work in empirical matters, then tautologies (math theorems) are how you show your work in logical matters. We can immediately see how obvious Natural Selection is, but it's not immediately obvious to me that we should say there is an intelligent designer, or why the fundamental constants are the way they are.

I do believe there's a confusion there because most people on this thread mix up Natural Selection and evolution as if they were the same thing. I'm aware that the term "Theory of Evolution" is used to speak about the current state of research on evolution, which is heavily influenced by Darwinism and neo-Darwinism, but I believe that there's really no "theory of evolution", just like there's no "theory of everything", there are different fields of scientific research that try to piece together evolution, but no true "theory of evolution" to speak of. Unless I'm wrong, but in any case I'm not opposed to the use of the term, I just find it confusing because it mixes several fields of knowledge and even contradicting theories of evolution. So when I speak about the Theory of Natural selection I mean just that, Darwin's theory of evolution, which is certainly the most popular but not the only one, and to me at least, not the best.

For me it's quite hard to see the value in a tautological explanation. I understand that the grounds for any human knowledge is a tautology such as A=A. But this is suffered as an arbitrary imposition by the constraints of human language, not taken literally as the "law" of anything. So to me it's quite strange seeing people defend a tautology as if it had any real value. I think you have to try really hard to find real value in a tautology, so I must, at least, salute the effort.

Now, everything is a tautology is you try hard enough as well, but there's no point to it. I'm not saying we should destroy all of human knowledge because of its tautological foundations. It's possible to start from a tautology and reach a non-tautological explanation, even if we must be aware that this explanation is only temporary because it can only be expressed in terms defined tautologically. For instance: A=A and B=B therefore A=/=B. On the other hand, Natural Selection cannot reach anything beyond what its tautological definition states.

You're right that there's no single "Theory of Evolution" - rather there is a "Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection" and also "Theory of Evolution by ..." and also... I call "Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection" just "Theory of Evolution" because I rarely hear anyone talk about the other theories.

And again, I'm afraid I don't understand the second half of your post about tautologies. How can you start from (only) a tautology and reach a non-tautological explanation? Your example with the math notation confused me too. Did you mean to give an example of an unsound implication? It seems to me that you're writing a lot of sentences, but I don't see any main idea in your post.

I feel like you didn't address my point about apples and velocity. Take a math equation that describes motion: speed = distance / time Isn't that tautological? Take the following claim: If I put 1 apple on a table and my friend puts 1 apple on the table, now there are 2 apples on the table because 1 + 1 = 2. Is there no value to these?

How can you start from (only) a tautology and reach a non-tautological explanation?

Don't ask me but that's how it works. A=A is the root of all logic, so is all of logic a tautology? Maybe, from a certain point of view. All human knowledge is basically translating obvious statements into a systematic set of relations that allows us to communicate more precisely and build upon the observations of others. Math is the best example here, it basically explains nothing, but allows us to understand the world. Darwin's tautology on the other hand doesn't say anything beyond itself. The fact that all living beings survive should not be the explanation to evolution, but the starting point of any biological science.

I always find it funny that in the soft(er) sciences, the "hardest" theories are reliably the most hated. The average psychology enthusiast will gladly cite papers with vague definitions and findings on discrimination, priming, growth mindset and so on, but they'll suddenly be very skeptical for clearly defined and well-quantifiable traits such as IQ, reaction time and so on. Almost any complaint that is thrown at the latter group applies moreso to the former.

In biology, the hardest and most hated theory is, of course, evolution. Pure biologist will try to avoid it if possible because applying it involves too much math, and almost all ideologies hate some part of its implications. On its most basic level, its also rather trivial (though not tautological); In laymans terms, it goes something like:

Axiom 1. There exist things that can replicate themselves

Axiom 2. Different things have different proficiency at replicating themselves, which is called their fitness f

==>

Conclusion: Things with higher fitness will outscale things with lower fitness, irrespective of their original prevalence

You'll notice that while it's easy, you still need to prove the intermediate here, and in the past this was absolutely called into question. There's a lot of theoretically possible growth functions - linear, logarithmic, root, and so on - that would make it mostly implausible for an originally small group to outscale a large group in any feasible amount of time. As we know now, the correct growth function is exponential, which has this explosive property of jumping orders of magnitude quickly. Even better, the exponential has a rather rigid shape, which you'll come to recognize time and time again when you're actually working with biological data, as I do.

This is, as said, the most basic version. It gets even better! We can actually set up different systems of replication, add mutation generation and how these mutations affect individuals, and the theory of evolution will give us different predictions of the exact shape of the course of the population over time and the distribution of mutations we should expect. And we can prove these in simulations! For one of my favorite examples of this rather theoretical portion of biology, see Gunnarson et al https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0040580921000666. The short version is that we can distinguish between a population that has recently grown fast and one that has been mostly stagnant entirely based on its current distribution of mutations, no time-based data needed. But we need evolutionary principles to explain this. Or for a much older examples, look at the differences between a Moran Process and a Wright-Fisher Process; Both are plausible, albeit very simplified, population models, and they lead to different predictions, which can be quantified and measured. Of course in the lab, as others have pointed out, we can further watch this process in action. Macro-evolution is then simply the only plausible extension of these finding without invoking some magical "essence" of beings that is not stored biologically and thus never changes.

So you're plain wrong that it leads to no new conclusions; In fact we haven't even come close to finding out all the implications. Tbh, you're argument is on the level of arguing against the entirety of modern particle physics by saying: "well, of course there has to be something that is the smallest, which is even the literal meaning of the word atom. Greek philosophist already thought the same!" while ignoring that a) it actually was controversial in the past - yes for almost any basic concept you can find a greek philosopher who argued in favor of it, just as you can find one who argued against it - and b) that particle physics, just as evolution, is well-quantifiable and can be shown to work the same on multiple levels - analytical mathematical proofs, numerical differential equation simulation, stochastic/Monte-Carlo style simulations, and finally in the lab itself. Your distinction between "Evolution" and "Natural Selection", which doesn't really exist in evolutionary theory, doesn't add much conceptual depth imo, either.

The fact that in practice there's no difference between "evolution" and "natural selection" is proof of the extent to which biologists are prejudiced in favour of Darwin, even though most biologists I've known haven't even read his book. But the distinction does exist, and I bring it up because people keep saying that I'm denying evolution by saying that Natural Selection is a tautology. I care not how much conceptual depth you find in it.

Now, my argument is nothing of the sort, I think you read a comment I made to another person on this thread and got stuck with it, because the accusation you make has nothing to do with my original post and is aimed at said comment, which was justified in the context of that specific conversation. If you wanted to reply to that, then you should have replied there.

You'd agree that what Democritus called "atoms" has nothing to do with what physics nowadays call so, other than the name and the fact that they were both supposedly undivisable, but we now know that this last thing is not true. This is exactly what happens with what you say. Your definition of fitness is not Darwin's, because Darwin didn't define fitness as an individuals "proficiency at replicating itself". So Darwin is Democritus and you are John Dalton. But Darwin's fitness and your fitness share nothing but the name. Your definition is not tautological, Darwin's is. You'd say of course! Biology has progressed since Darwin's time, and we now have information that Darwin lacked. That's fair, but just as Democritus is not the father of modern physics, Darwin can only be the putative father of modern "evolutionary theory". Think about it this way: What do we need Darwin for? In a universe where people knew nothing of Natural Selection, but we still had genetics, mathematics, paleontology and evolutionism, would we be unable to predict the SFS of tumors? You'd say: But Darwin did exist in this universe, and there's evidence that he was right. Well of course, as Darwin's statement was tautological, literally everything is evidence for it. Every green and red car is evidence that red is not green. The polemic part of Darwin's theory, and I'm sick of repeating it, is that it was based on economics. The polemic part of Darwin was Malthus, who was actually the one who discovered the aptly named Malthusian growth model.

You say that psychology enthusiasts will gladly cite papers with vague definitions and findings. Well, they love the theory of Natural Selection, so what conclusion should we extract from that? The people talking about Darwin nowadays are not mathematical biologists, they are people like Jordan Peterson.

Addendum: IQ may be clearly defined and well-quantifiable but intelligence isn't.

I want to engage, but I think doing so would be largely pointless given that the conversation seems to be entirely about semantics and a misunderstanding of terminology.

I got about four sentences in before I realized that you're taking a remarkably reductive view of things and then basing whatever argument you have on that reductive view.

Modern society is only "in love with Darwin" to the extent that people believe they are going to outcompete the ones that will be eliminated by evolution. If you've read the last couple of weekly Culture War threads, an actually interesting topic has come up in the pile of black tar that's the HBD debate; the popularity of rejecting the conclusions of HBD because it posits you can't improve your life beyond what your genetics have preordained for you.

Evolution doesn't care who (or what) it kills. It just kills, and those left behind get to go on. What would you do, if someone told you that you've been naturally selected out of the gene pool and you're doomed to no bitches?

We in many cases actively fuck with evolution because the implications (and actions taken on behalf of those implications) are frequently obscene. Our modern society protects the weak, the infirm, the elderly, and even with the massive advantages enjoyed by intelligent individuals who can leverage their intelligence in first world societies, the first world is essentially reproducing below replacement.

The future belongs to those who show up. All else is word games, dross, arguments, bullshit. To make it worse, we have no idea what might be evolutionarily advantageous and everyone who thinks they do is probably lying to you, subject to recency bias against timescales completely irrelevant to evolution, or self-selecting themselves not to die. If tomorrow some cosmic entity beyond our comprehension snaps its fingers and kills every person who was not born blind, the blind will inherit the earth, who gives a shit what the people with 20/20 vision managed to do.

Firstly, I don't believe I've misunderstood Darwin's terminology, since Darwin's definition is quite clear and I quoted it literally on my original post, if I remember correctly. If you believe I'm misunderstanding anything please do point it out.

However, I would turn the accusation on you. Evolution and Natural Selection are not the same. Evolution is the fact that animals change during time. Natural Selection is the mechanism that supposedly explains it. I'm not saying anything against evolution, I'm saying that Natural Selection is a tautology. You don't seem to understand that we can't "fuck with evolution". It's literally impossible. Because humans are part of nature, and everything they do is, supposedly, bound by the contrains of Natural Selection. So even if we went extint, that wouldn't be contrary to the principle. In fact, there's nothing contrary to Natural Selection, which is why it is a tautology.

Now, these stories about obscene implications and the collapse of the first world are all very charming, but if you are part of the bunch who are in love with Darwin then think of it this way: If everything fails then cool, Natural Selection triumphed and you won't be around to mess with other species' happiness. But it you as an individual succeed, then cool, Natural Selection has triumphed and you have something to show for it. It is not our task to stop society from "fucking with evolution", and it is better to take care of your own garden

I am puzzled that you believe natural selection is an all-encompassing concept that includes human efforts at selective breeding. It is not a prescriptive term. Humans are not predisposed to select favorable traits from flora and fauna: in fact, it is a social technology that arose from cultural, not biological origins. Insomuch as the word 'natural' is used, it is to distinguish from human and non-human effect on selection pressure. If you object to the anthropocentric viewpoint that puts humanity above nature as a privileged observer, then say so. But that doesn't make natural selection any less valid. It is not a just so explanation that you may have encountered in the softer social sciences, like evo psych. It is also backed by voluminous research and math and hundreds of thousands of papers (literally, the entire field of modern biology.)

If you believe that natural selection is tautological because it is obvious, then you work against history. It was not obvious to the ancients (although parts of it were certainly guessed independently from agricultural folkways) and even in modern times it was denied for ideological reasons (creationism, lysenkoism.) No one is in love with Darwin, as you claim. Of all the theories on the diversity and variety of biological life, it has proved to be the most useful and applicable to science and industry.

The voluminous research and math and the "it was not obvious" claims I have countered elsewhere so you can read other comments on this thread, but it is true that there's a distinction between human and natural selection, and I'm aware of that. However, if we look at the issue with some detachment and with a metaphysical inclination, isn't human behavior also a part of nature? So it doesn't really matter if people are not predisposed to select favourable traits, because nature is.

The fact that people find Darwin's theory useful and applicable can only mean that they are in love with Darwin, because only love could blind them so.

Hopefully this doesn't garner a centure, but...This is just stupid. Sorry you spent so much time on it; but it is just rambling nonsense.

If you want to disagree with someone, you need to elaborate, not just say "This is stupid."

Yes, I should have tried. But as you can see from the rest of this thread my approach was appropriate. The OP isn't even really sure what he is trying to say and at the same time he is using the wrong definitions of concepts. There is no way to even have a discussion, he is proven wrong over and over again by people with a lot more technical knowledge and patience than I have, and he just keeps right on typing.

What exactly do you disagree with?

¡Oh! Pues si no me entienden no es maravilla que mis sentencias sean tenidas por disparates.

当局者迷,旁观者清.

Spanish doesn't help your point

¿Dónde está la biblioteca?

The theory of evolution as the origin of life predicts that the number of differing random substitutions in DNA between two species is proportional to the length of time between now and their most recent common ancestor, as predicted by fossils or just inferring phylogeny from morphology. Or, in simpler words, if all species evolved from a common ancestor, and DNA mutates with time, species that split apart more recently will have fewer random DNA mutation differences than species that split apart farther in the past. This prediction was made and confirmed.

So it's not a tautology! It made a prediction and the prediction was correct.

Every theorem of mathematics is in some sense a ""tautology"" relative to the axioms, but they're still true and important. It's also not a mathematical tautology to claim that evolution caused the existence of all life on Earth, because your tautology-evolution could still be true with a creator, yet 'the theory of evolution' contains the first. Also, the theory of evolution is incredibly practically useful in biology and medicine.

I'm not saying evolution is a tautology, I'm saying the theory of Natural Selection is. People think that the theory of Natural Selection = The theory of evolution, but they are two different things. In fact, there's no "theory of evolution". What you say is true but it says nothing about the subject at hand, the theory of Natural Selection.

I won't get into the mathematics argument because I've already addresed it in other comments.

What Darwin's natural selection added was a description of how new species could develop through gradual, generational change and provide some good empirical examples where that was the obvious best explanation.

Yes, people know that long haired cats produce long haired kittens. Yes, it is obvious that long haired cats will survive in colder climates. What was not obvious was that, given enough time, two populations of cats would branch into distinct forms when geographically isolated, and that this would occur because the least fit would die out and the traits that made them unfit would die with them, while the most fit would survive to pass on those traits they posessed that were suitable for the local environment.

Yes, that was not obvious but that wasn't Darwin's discovery either. There were plenty of people who studied natural history and arrived to that conclusion, and there were plenty of explanations for it as well, Lamarckism being perhaps the most notorious. Darwin was indeed very good at natural history and provided very thorough evidence for evolution. But this has nothing to do with Natural Selection. The theory of Natural Selection tries to explain evolution by stating that the least fit will die and the fittest will thrive. But what does fitness mean if not the ability to thrive, the lack of which causes death? And is it not obvious that those who thrive are more likely to pass on their genes than those who die? Species change, of that there is no doubt. But are we really supposed to be content by saying that those species who survive are alive and reproduce, while those that went extinct don't reproduce anymore?

Right, Darwin did not invent thenidea of evolution. He supplied an explanation that is intuitively obvious, even tautological, in retrospect.

Bringing up the example of Lamarck is helpful. He proposed speciation through the inheritance of acquired traits. Why would he ever propose such a ridiculous idea when speciation by natural selection is so obvious?

Well, the "even tautological" part kills it, but people insist that meaningless tautologies are important, and there's no changing that.

Why would Lamarck propose that? Because it actually explains something, even if we don't have prove of said explanation. Do acknowledge the fact that modern biologists do not think Lamarck was at all ridiculous.

Inheritance of acquired traits is not a major driver of evolution. To the extent that environmental conditions are tranferable through epigenetics, the effects donnot persist through enough generations to result in speciation.

But the fact that Lamarck came up with inheritance of acquired traits as an explanation for evolution shows that natural selection never occurred to him, despite the fact that it is 'tautological'. Lamarck would not need a new theory to explain how species evolved if he knew of one that was already true.

This shows that despite being 'tautological' it was not a trivial realization.

But are we really supposed to be content by saying that those species who survive are alive and reproduce, while those that went extinct don't reproduce anymore?

Yes? When reality is so simple, just accept it. Why do you desire theoretical complexity when it’s unnecessary?

It's not simple, it's tautological. Of course I accept tautologies as true, I cannot not accept them.

It’s not a tautology when viewed from a human scale perspective of time. It is hard for humans to imagine when wondering why organisms look the way they do all the potential descendants of the organisms that didn’t survive.

From gods eye perspective, I agree, it is obvious that natural selection happens. There is no logical alternative, you cannot not accept it.

Darwin didn't make this distinction between different time perspectives, but even then Darwin's explanation would be: They didn't survive because they don't exist anymore. It doesn't matter what time perspective you use, this holds true in every possible scenario.

He didn’t need to, anyway you didn’t address the thrust of my comment

You made two claims:

It’s not a tautology when viewed from a human scale perspective of time.

I rebutted this.

it is obvious that natural selection happens. There is no logical alternative, you cannot not accept it.

This is literally what I said, you are siding with me here. This is the definition of tautology, a claim that is true in every possible interpretation. Unless you meant to say that the only logical thing to do is accept Darwin's theory, on which case I'd say that's not the case at all. Even no explanation at all is better than a tautological explanation.

So which one is the "thrust" of your comment?

Yes but it doesn’t make it a tautology. A corollary isn’t any less true because it trivially follows from something else, and yet given the truth value of what the corollary follows, you also have “no choice but to accept it”.

For example, just because you explain survivor bias and how the jets that actually return are the ones that survive, you don’t actually take an issue with the “tautological nature”. The explanation is pointing at a gap in your understanding of logical consequences, which aren’t by any means a tautology. The same thing is happening here, natural selection must occur given certain conditions, and Darwin’s gift is forcing you to see the logical necessity.

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Would you mind identifying examples of scientific theories which aren't tautologies? And explaining how they are not?

Sure. Genetics are not tautologic. Recessive genes are defined as a section of genetic information with a low probability of being expressed in the individual. In this case we are defining recessive genes in a non-tautological way, because we are explaining its relation to the probability of a expressed phenotype. As recessive genes and the expressed phenotype are different entities, it is not tautological. This theory could also be false if recessive genes did not relate to the probability of a phenotype being expressed, because this relation is not implied at all by the definition of these terms.

Unless I’m misreading you, you are assuming that evolutionary theory has no predictive value. But doesn’t it? We can predict that in certain environments, certain adaptions occur. If we take breed of dog with heavy fur and migrate them southward over time, they will eventually no longer have heavy fur. These adaptions occur because they promote the reproduction of the organism. Where does a tautology appear?

Well, they may evolve heavy fur or they may go extinct, we can't predict that. Otherwise it would be lamarckism, not darwinism. Unless we could control the environment's conditions, on which case it wouldn't be natural selection but human selection. The tautology is that if dogs survive is because they had traits that allowed him to survive, and if they didn't survive then they didn't have them. So basically no matter the circumstances, Natural Selection is true because it does not explain anything.

Except what is interesting is that some part of that original breed will die and other parts will likely survive but with a smaller coat. That is, within the original population there were probably dogs with thicker coats and thinner coats. As their environment changes, the advantage to have thinner coats leads to those dogs reproducing more leading to shorter and shorter coats.

You claim “natural selection … does not explain anything.” Yet if a particular range suddenly gets warmer for a long enough time we could predict the change in coat length based on the theory of natural selection. It explains why Population A (long haired dogs) changed to Population B (short hair or medium hair dogs). Seems like that “explains” something.

We could also predict the change in coat lenght without the theory of natural selection...

Explain

Before Darwin people made all sorts of predictions about population growth and the proliferation of benetial traits. They learned, for instance, that after a flood certain species of plants were more plentiful. They then copied this process to create agriculture, etc.

If your argument is “natural selection but not yet systemized” then it seems like a really weak argument.

My argument is that Natural Selection is tautological, so it does not add any new knowledge. It doesn't matter if it's "systemized" or not.

Yes and I’m explaining why your idea is flawed. I just explained a process that Darwin explained how A became B.

You said “well without Darwin people could have made the same prediction.” Yes of course. Darwin didn’t make anything; he explained a natural phenomena. That doesn’t mean the explanation is useless. It is valuable explanation that can make predictions (you agree it can make predictions) but for some reason seem stuck in your initial argument.

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This is amazing to watch. Were you Sisyphus in your past life?

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This post reminds me that fish probably don’t know they live in water.

Most people think X happens because Y intentionally caused it. That is, life is the result of either god’s design or man’s design.

The theory of natural selection (more broadly) is that X happened because of Y and Z and A and B, and so on. That is, there need not be a central decision making for order to emerge out of what seems like chaos.

That is a pretty radical viewpoint if one believes for example that everything happens because something causes it (god, government, etc). That is, natural selection is the theory that explains order can emerge out of actions even if there is no design.

That's nothing new, Heraclitus already claimed that order can emerge out of chaos, and Thomas Aquinas solved the problem for Christianity. This is not Darwin's contribution. As I said, what he contributed was the idea that nature is bound by economic laws, which confirms the prejudices of our times. And he did so by proposing a tautologic explanation that explains nothing at all.

Disclaimer: I am not a creationist.

I've had my doubts about evolution as it is presented for a while now. It seems to me that natural selection has become a semantic stop sign.

Reading the comments it seems you are receiving quite a lot of push back. It seems the main point of contention is the word "tautological". If you really care about spreading your ideas I suggest you taboo the word tautological and try again.

Really think over your ideas and try to distil your thinking into an undeniable argument.

I really don't care about spreading my ideas, I wouldn't be in some obscure internet forum if that were the case. I just want to know what other people think, and most struggle to grap the concept of tautology and how it applies to natural selection. I don't see why I'd stop using the term since it is exactly what I mean and there's no better term to express what that. The fact that most people struggle with this goes to show how and why Darwin is so popular in spite of being tautologic, and that's not a fault in my argument. Unless I'm wrong, on which case I'd like to be corrected but that can only happen if I use the correct words to express exactly what I think.

I don't care to come up with an undeniable argument, because people will believe what they want regardless. Look at Richard Dawkins for instance. He stated that even if he saw Jesus Christ descending from a cloud and speaking directly to him, he'd still be an atheist and he would think that there's probably something wrong with his own sanity. There's no such thing as an undeniable argument, and whoever is not convinced by simple evidence won't be conviced at all, no matter how sophisticated the evidence is. I think we can only aspire to invite people to see what we have to say, and those who want to listen will listen and those who don't, won't. We can only convince other people to believe things they already believed in the first place, or things that are vulgar and commonplace.

Creationists don’t deny the existence of evolution. I don’t know if you know this or not, but it’s worth repeating in any evolution skeptical thread.

Instead creationists create a micro/macro distinction, which is kind of arbitrary but preserves natural selection, and argue that macroevolution can’t happen because deep time isn’t real and deleterious mutations would accrue too quickly to allow large changes.

The actual mathematical definition of a tautology is a logical statement which is always true. As opposed to a conditional statement which has some free variables and might be true or false depending on the inputs of those variables. It need not be "obviously" or "trivially" true: any mathematical theorem, if packaged together with its axioms and assumptions, is technically a tautology because it's always true.

In the context of science then, a tautology is a theory which is always true, not requiring conditional variables from the real world. Natural selection of some sort is true in every conceivable universe or system with reproducing and mutating life-forms. I think this makes it more profound as a theory, rather than less.

I mean, yes, but I can't share your conclusion. There's no depth to a tautology. In every conceivable universe everything that has 2 legs doesn't have 3 legs. Do you consider this deep? It is no explanation at all. Truths that are universally true are usually just truisms.

The word you're looking for is "trivial", as opposed to "tautology", which although slightly correlated, are quite distinct. I can just as easily cherry pick an uninteresting non-tautology like "this cat is black", which is just as undeep as your example tautology.

In my opinion, the interestingness of natural selection is not merely the tautology "things which are more likely to exist are more likely to exist", but the implication: "things which are more likely to exist are more likely to exist, therefore all of biology".

The fact that such a trivial-seeming tautology emergently leads to the huge diversity of life is highly nontrivial and interesting and profound.

No, I meant to say tautological. Most tautologies are trivial, and I believe this one is, but we are not discussing whether it's trivial or not, we are discussing whether it's tautological or not. The diversity of life is not explained at all by Natural Selection, because it only tells us that diversity exists because it exists. A nothingburger. What you'd like to study in order to understand nature's diversity is paleontology (to which Darwin made several contributions) and genetics, none of which need the theory of Natural Selection.

Did you forget my first comment that you responded to? Virtually all of mathematics is technically tautological. Any valid logical argument or proof is tautological. I suppose it depends on how you define "most", but if we weight by how often people use them, then most tautologies are not at all trivial, you just don't notice that the non-trivial ones are in fact tautologies.

You are correct, there are many tautologies that are not trivial. But Darwin's is, regardless of how many people use them, because they only use them as a historic relic (biologists) or to create nonsensical theories (evolutionary psychologists). All human knowledge is ultimately tautologic but it still beats no knowledge at all. Natural Selection is tautologic and it does not beat no explanation at all.

If the world has, up to the discovery of natural selection, determined that two-legged animals are three-legged, then the discovery that three-legged animals are two-legged is a revolutionary act. You're no Elijah of a new transvaluation; you're just succumbing to the Once Original, Now Old trope and beating a dead horse.

The world did not, in fact, believed that at all. We didn't wait for Darwin to understand that living creatures have the means to preserve their own lifes.

Is all of mathematics shallow and trivial?

No. See my other comment about 2+2=4.

The initial objection feels a little like saying '2+2=4 is tautological because our mathematical system defines it to be so, therefore it's a meaningless statement of no value.'

Sure, the model defines numbers and operations such that 2+2=4 is tautological within the model.

The interesting theory is that this model accurately describes some aspect of reality. Which everyone before Darwin would not have expected his model to do.

That's generally true of hypothesizing models to describe reality. It's not a knock on a model that it is internally consistent and complete.

You are right, if we look hard enough we can find a tautology at the root of all human knowledge, but they are generally useful to study a share of reality. 2+2=4 may mean the same as 4=4, but by changing the terms you are providing new information: That this operation may be written differently. Pragmatically we can use this to explain many things. But when Darwin says that traits that favor the preservation of the species are preserved, no new information is gained. It describes an aspect of reality, but in terms that don't imply anything beyond themselves. Saying that everything that is red is not green accurately describes reality as well, but pragmatically fails at explaining anything.

If I introduce a species to a different environment than the one in which it evolved, what framework should I use to predict the sorts of changes most likely to occur across generations?

I could consider the traits of that species in light of how pleasing to god I think they are. Maybe slap together some hokey system of analysis based on Biblical zoological references and spend a couple decades losing arguments about it on the internet.

Or I could examine the selection pressures likely to be present in the new environment and make my predictions on the basis of natural selection. Which of these do you think is most likely to generate correct results?

Natural Selection is no basis to make such predictions, because it can only predict that what already exists will likely continue to exist, unless it doesn't exist anymore on which case it will cease to exist. Of course, if you take a shark out of the water it will die, we can predict that 100%. But do we need Darwin for that? And you know what, even if the shark didn't die, that would still "prove" natural selection...

What predictions we can make don't need Natural Selection, and those we can't make aren't explained by Natural Selection either.

So if we take a bunch of bacteria and keep exposing them to antibiotics on a consistent basis, there's no reason to worry that we might be creating resistant bacteria?

What if a species of critter that naturally occurs in two different colors gets loose in an environment full of predators that can only distinguish one of those colors well? You can't think of any way to predict what things are going to look like down the line? None at all, it's all just random to you?

Nonsense. Not only is natural selection a theory capable of generating predictions and thus not tautological, you haven't given us a reason to care if it is. Like that guy trying to tell us that the scientific method "rests on faith" last week, informing me that obviously true and useful things don't meet your arbitrary philosophical standards just tells me your philosophical standards shouldn't be terribly important to me.

You know, when people started using antibiotics they didn't really predict that bacteria would become resistant to it. And they had Darwin's theory by that time. But now that resistant bacteria exists, you tell me that's proof of Natural Selection? You see how it works? No matter what example you give me, Natural Selection will always be the correct explanation, because it is no explanation at all. If bacteria hadn't become resistant then you would tell me that it lacked the traits for its survival, and so on. That's not a prediction, that's hindsight.

As I've said, there are things that are random (as far as we know) in nature and things that aren't. Natural Selection explains all, which means it explains nothing because it cannot meaningfuly distinguish randon and non random events. Right now you would predict that if a human being ingests arsenic they would die, but what if this human had a benefitial trait that made him inmune to arsenic? Natural Selection cannot discriminate what outcome is more likely, you'd have to look at genetics and physiology, none of which have any need for the theory of Natural Selection.

Alexander Fleming (the guy who discovered the first antibiotic and got the Nobel Prize for it) talked about bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics already in 1945 in his Nobel Prize lecture. It seems he had done it in his lab, and presumably because he knew about Darwin he had a really clear idea about the mechanism behind it.

What comes to natural selection, the idea of selection was old at the time of Darwin. You select the trees that produce the sweetest fruit or the animals that have the most desirable features, and then you breed them to get new trees and animals that have more of what you like. The new idea was that nature, that is the environment around the organisms, could perform the selection, hence natural selection. You can put a bunch of cats on an island with a freezing climate and expect that the short haired ones will die off and the long haired ones will flourish and multiply, or alternatively you can expect that God's providence will allow all of them to prosper equally. Which one do you think will turn out?

Fleming mentioned that AFTER bacteria started becoming resistant to antibiotics, which had already happened by 1945. Not to the scale it happens now, but enough to be observed. Again, not a prediction.

Before Darwin people thought God was nature, and they belived He perfomed his own "selection" of living beings. How does this differ from Darwin's explanation? You'd say that God is an intelligent subject and nature isn't, but in any case God's intelligence is unintelligible to humans, so in practical terms is the same. People didn't think everything propsers equally.

Again, not a prediction.

Yes, and...? It seems that it was never a great mystery what mechanism leads to bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics, because scientists understood Darwinian natural selection. They knew how resistance happened, and with that knowledge they knew how to make it happen or how to prevent it from happening. If they had believed that God is making the bacteria resistant to antibiotics, or God is making the antibiotic less effective, they could have maybe tried praying, and then give up when it didn't work. It's like Richard Dawkins said: "It works, bitches!"

You seem to be saying that when all evidence in the universe confirms a theory, that makes it a tautology, but that actually just makes it true and correct. It's like you would go through every household item and drop it, and complain that you can't find a single example where the item doesn't fall down, so therefore Newton's theory of gravity is a tautology. You could try reversing antibiotic resistance by praying to God. If you succeeded then you would have disproved natural selection. If you don't succeed it just means that prayer doesn't work, but Darwinian natural selection does. It could be psychologically uncomfortable for you, but that's just reality, what can you do?

Before Darwin people thought God was nature, and they belived He perfomed his own "selection" of living beings.

Do you have a source for this? I thought God made living beings on the sixth day and concluded that they were good and needed no further tweaking.

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It starts out with God (or the gods) as the exogenous factor. Then Darwin replaces the exogenous factor with nature. Then the red queen hypothesis leads to the conclusion there is no exogenous factor; it is all endogenous. But it is all a tautology with nothing interesting to say.

No matter what example you give me, Natural Selection will always be the correct explanation, because it is no explanation at all.

Listen, this shit you're doing right here isn't going to cut it. You picked the example where you could prevaricate about what a bunch of scientists in the twenties did or didn't predict, and conveniently cut out the other example which elucidates my point in a way that leaves no room to dissemble.

I'll make it really direct this time so that there's no room for misunderstanding: What you're trying to tell me is that there's no way to predict how likely a living thing is to survive based on its traits and the environment it occupies. That it's a total mystery.

You've painted yourself into a ridiculous corner where you have to pretend you don't know whether brown rats are more likely to survive than grey rats on an island where the snakes can't see brown. Because if you do know, then you can predict that the grey gene is eventually going away, natural selection gains predictive power, and this whole silly facade collapses.

Also I still don't know why I should care if true things are tautologies.

Lol, you were the one bringing up examples that actually undermined your point, don't blame me for it. Secondly, I haven't gotten myself into any corners. I did respond to your other example, I literally said that there are things we can predict (remember the shark example?) - just that we don't need to read Darwin to predict them. But that doesn't change the fact that there are things that we can't predict. Would the brown rats still be as likely to survive in one thousand years? How about in one million years? Of course, you can predict that a predator will affect the population of a species, but there are things we cannot predict in nature, that's how it works. If you could control all the variables of the evolution of a species then it wouldn't be natural selection would it? On the other hand Natural Selection does not gain any predictive power from stating the obvious, that individuals who get devoured won't pass on their genes. The facade would be believing that anything is explained by this circular argument.

I guess that if you are satisfied by such truisms then there's nothing for you to worry about, besides being a bore.

I did respond to your other example, I literally said that there are things we can predict (remember the shark example?) - just that we don't need to read Darwin to predict them.

Utterly and completely irrelevant. We don't need to read Newton to know that things fall down when dropped, either. Which principles of a theory were commonly known before that theory was codified is totally meaningless. What a bizarre criteria to try to impose.

But that doesn't change the fact that there are things that we can't predict. Would the brown rats still be as likely to survive in one thousand years? How about in one million years?

So what, things are tautological or otherwise invalid if they don't offer infinite predictive power over arbitrary timescales? Or do you have some kind of threshold of validity? What is it, and how did you arrive at it? Where are you getting this stuff?

On the other hand Natural Selection does not gain any predictive power from stating the obvious, that individuals who get devoured won't pass on their genes.

So now theories are invalid if you think they're too obvious? Okay well, you'll just have to deal with the fact that your claim to being the King of Science is likely to go unrecognized.

Seriously, these are not good arguments. These are all complete asspulls with no actual principle behind them.

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But when Darwin says that traits that favor the preservation of the species are preserved, no new information is gained.

To someone who thinks that traits are not passed down, it is. Someone might think that the distribution of traits in cats today are the exact same as the distribution of traits in cats 5000 years ago.

Also, there are interactions between traits. Say someone has a mutation that removes their thumbs, but has another mutation that makes them a super genius. Are they more or less likely to pass down their traits than an average person with no unusual mutations? Understanding Darwin's theory is the first step to understanding the exceptions, to understanding why detrimental traits are passed down sometimes.

5000 years ago people knew that short haired cats had short haired offspring. Entire empires and civilizations were created out of the concept of inheritance. What people lacked was the theory of genes, but Darwin lacked that as well. Darwin does not explain at all why detrimental traits are passed down, if we were to prove then Darwin's theory would be false. But we cannot prove that things that don't exist are preserved. If something exists then it is 1. Benefitial, 2. Bening, or 3. Extinted/In process of disappearing.

5000 years ago people knew that short haired cats had short haired offspring.

Yet no one put together the theory of natural selection. People also knew objects fell when you dropped them, but it took millennia for people to really start formalizing it.

If something exists then it is 1. Benefitial, 2. Bening, or 3. Extinted/In process of disappearing

Or 4., linked to another trait that is beneficial, such that the two traits are passed down together.

Darwin's theory let him make predictions about nature. Before him, people weren't making predictions about nature, about how different environments would lead to different traits being more prevalent.

No one had put together the theory of natural selection before because we had to wait for Malthus to publish his Essay On The Principle Of Population. We also had to wait for industrialization and secularism to come up with the idea that nature is bound by economic principles. As I said, Natural Selection explains nothing, the concept of Struggle for Existence is what made Darwin popular and different from other biologists.

Regarding your other statement, 4. would just be 1. with extra steps. And yes, people did make predictions about nature, they did it all the time. In fact, agriculture is based on the observation that certain conditions produced changes in the species that were benefitial for humans. You'd be surprised how "modern" some ancient thinkers were.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternatives_to_Darwinian_evolution

Other thinkers had some good ideas, but they didn't come up with Darwin's.

Other thinkers had some good ideas, Darwin did as well but this is not one of them.

Natural selection as an application of economics to scientific history is actually a fascinating frame. It explains lysenkoism, for example; Marxism as a denial of economics makes denial of natural selection a necessity for a doctrinaire and consistent marxist. It's also telling that YEC's mostly don't deny natural selection, they deny deep time; most accept economics.

I think, more controversially, it seems to explain why HBD seems to be a libertarian-coded belief. Libertarians understand economics well enough.

Darwin was influenced pretty heavily by economic thought and emergent order. So that isn’t surprising.

I don't see why Marxism would be a denial of economics, Marx was a legit economist who made some valid points with the resources he had at the time. I would be against believing that Marxism is "the science of revolution", as Marx himself seemed to believe, and I would certainly not base my society on a book by some XIXth century economist. Furthermore, Marx himself was a fervent Darwinist, he thought that Darwin's theory proved his own, and he even sent his book on The Capital to Darwin to try to convince him so - apparently Darwin didn't even read it, but I digress. There's nothing about Marxism that would make it incompatible with the theory of Natural Selection, and the fact that the Soviets rejected Darwin's theory on nationalistic grounds proves nothing, specially when Marx himself is evidence of the contrary.

I don't think Libertarians understand economics nearly well enough, in fact nobody does, and this has lead to a series of unfortunate events that we call our current situation. Bare in mind that nazis, who were socialists, were ardent defenders of HBD. Hell, even Stalin himself wasn't opposed to the idea, and the Soviets tried to look for the differences between the bourgeois and the working class in genetics. Stalin even tried to enhance the human genes by mixing them with apes' (you don't want to know how), in order to create a new species of super-soldiers!

and the Soviets tried to look for the differences between the bourgeois and the working class in genetics

sorry, what? Stalin threw many geneticists to jail.

Stalin even tried to enhance the human genes by mixing them with apes' (you don't want to know how),

that happened was before Stalin consolidated power, and Stalin certainly did not try that, eventually the biologist pushing that idea was sentenced to 5 years in exile

My mistake, you are right. The Soviets didn't look for the differences between the bourgeois and the working class in the genes, but they did had a notion of HBD and strived to create a New Soviet Man through a sort of eugenics.

The ape-man scandal was indeed before Stalin consolidated power.

Between that and his ban on sociocybernetics, I have half a mind half a mind to write a goofy historical-fiction comedy about Stalin being one of the good ones, but everything he was trying to do ending up all twisted. Maybe he found a monkey's paw, or something.

Feels like this theory of yours says too much. Like anything with a self filter is supposedly a tautology.

At most you have just managed to convince me that tautologies are fine.

What do you mean by self filter? I believe I've only claimed that Darwin's theory is a tautology. For the rest, depends on what you mean by "fine". Should we burn Darwin's books? I guess not. Should we continue believing that the theory of Natural Selection has any explanatory value? Definitely not.

How would you alternatively define evolution and natural selection so that it has explanatory value?

I am perhaps confused on how it's a tautology in the first place.

The traits that species have they will tend to have because those traits are beneficial to their survival and reproduction. That is because survival and reproduction are filters on the possible types of living things that can exist. That seems to have explanatory value. Especially in comparison to the alternative explanation which was "God did it".

I don't need any alternative definition of evolution because Natural Selection is not a definition of evolution. Natural Selection is, supposedly, the mechanism that explains evolution. So evolution is just that, there's nothing tautological about its definition. I don't see any way of defining Natural Selection that would make it non-tautological, and thus this post. I don't offer any alternative explanation for evolution either.

Survival and reproduction are filters but have no explanatory value because every living creature survives and reproduces itself, or dies. That's the definition of being alive: Surviving and reproducing. So when we say that a living creature has a trait that's benefitial for its survival and reproduction, what we are really saying is that a living creature is alive because it has the means to be alive. There are filters that are not tautological. For instance, recessive genes are so called because they have a lower probability of passing a specific phenotype from the parents to the offspring. This allows us to understand why some traits are expressed and other aren't by acquiring new information: Genetics.

That kind of feels like saying Newton's discovery of gravity was useless because we already knew things fell to Earth.

You seem to vary between saying Natural selection is a useless thing to know, and blindingly obvious and thus says nothing.

I'd say its blindingly obvious NOW. But Darwin was answering a real question that people had in his time:

Why are there different species everywhere? Why isn't it just the same kind copied and pasted everywhere? That is why the book was called On The Origin of Species.

The idea of a branching tree of life was new. The idea that simple selection pressures for survival in the environment could eventually lead one species to become two was new. The idea that we might all be descended from one shared species was new.


And natural selection is the base answer to "why" of all species traits. If you've ever had a pedantic young kid repeatedly asking "why" then you know what I mean by a base answer.

Why do fish have fins?

So they can swim better.

Why do fish need to swim better?

So they can catch prey, or escape from predators.

Why do they want to escape from predators?

Because they want to live and not be eaten.

Why?

Because if they didn't want to live and be eaten they would have succumbed and they wouldn't be around.


I alluded to it earlier, but the previous "base" answer for all such questions was "god did it". And in other branches of science people chase those "theory of everything" type answers. Physics does not currently have such an answer. You can keep asking "why" in physics and eventually you wind up with "thats just how it is" which is the equivalent of "god did it".

I think you are confusing the "base" answer with a tautology.


I also disagree with some of the other posters and yourself in here that say Natural Selection is something that life would always have. You just aren't thinking outside the box enough. There is a literary genre called LITRPG where main characters are often sucked into video game universes. In those places life often doesnt follow natural selection. It is instead the whims of the gods or the system administrators that determine what creatures exist, and what traits those creatures have. The bible has a specific story (Noah's Ark) that suggests that all the creatures on Earth were picked by God/Noah and that is the only reason they are still around. That isn't natural selection, its god selection. And that is what many people believed.

It's funny because nowhere in the book does Darwin explain what a species is or how is it originated, but more to the point, Carl Linnaeus would like an amicable word with you, because you seem to ignore the fact that a century before Darwin people were already talking about "A branching Tree of Life". Hell, even Aristotle understood the concept and studied the "Tree of life" of the isle of Lesbos. I won't bother to prove that the rest wasn't new either. What was new, and I'm getting tired of repeating it, is the idea that nature was bound by XIXth century England's economic principles. Why are different species everywhere? I actually don't know, but I do know that Natural Selection explains nothing, because it only says that diverse species exist and copy-pasted species don't. But in fact both exist, and that also proves Natural Selection right. This is both obvious and useless, because it provides no new knowledge. The fact that you ignore history doesn't mean that what's obvious now wasn't obvious before. England's XIXth century ideas weren't obvious, and England's navy, without which Darwin wouldn't have been able to gather evidence from all around the world, was not useless either.

For the rest, when other people and I say that Natural Selection is an inherent trait of life, we mean to say that it is so only in possible universes. This is of course an arbitrary limitation because we don't actually know for sure what's ultimately possible and impossible, but such arbitrary limits are necessary to have any sort of meaningful conversation, since I can make up an universe where up means down and down means soup and nothing makes sense and you would understand nothing of what I'm saying. So of course you can make up an universe in your mind where Darwinism isn't tautological, but that doesn't prove anything.

And you know, you could take any biology book and change "Natural Selection" by "God" and nothing would change, the meaning of the text would remain the same. The difference being that Natural Selection is a tautology, while God is simply unknowable. Both explain nothing but one is more clever than the other.

Popularizing / synthesizing was an important part of intellectual work back in the day. Just because other scholars knew about it, or had even written works on it doesn't mean it was widely accepted. I think if I remember correctly Darwin published earlier than he planned because he thought someone else would beat him to the punch. Carl Linnaeus' wikipedia mostly says he did taxidermy, I don't see anything about natural selection or evolution. The wikipedia on Aristotle says he believed in Teleology as an explanation for why there were different species. Its not clear to me that the greeks even knew of the problem, because they didn't have the aristocratic nerds out there collecting beetles, fossils, and weird taxidermied animals.

What was new, and I'm getting tired of repeating it, is the idea that nature was bound by XIXth century England's economic principles. Why are different species everywhere? I actually don't know, but I do know that Natural Selection explains nothing, because it only says that diverse species exist and copy-pasted species don't. But in fact both exist, and that also proves Natural Selection right. This is both obvious and useless, because it provides no new knowledge. The fact that you ignore history doesn't mean that what's obvious now wasn't obvious before. England's XIXth century ideas weren't obvious, and England's navy, without which Darwin wouldn't have been able to gather evidence from all around the world, was not useless either.

I mean I guess if you just want to focus on chapter 4 of his book, and ignore the other 13 chapters, then yeah its a shit theory at explaining how new species come about. But he wrote a book to explain the process of speciation, and Natural Selection is only part of that book.

The book barely contains any economics. Its mostly a dry description of a bunch of animals, interspersed with what is now middle school biology. Darwin was among (and was himself) nerdy beetle collectors and taxidermy enthusiasts. Not economists with an agenda. If they had wanted to do economics, they could have just done that instead. There were plenty of contemporaries debating economics at the time.


For the rest, when other people and I say that Natural Selection is an inherent trait of life, we mean to say that it is so only in possible universes. This is of course an arbitrary limitation because we don't actually know for sure what's ultimately possible and impossible, but such arbitrary limits are necessary to have any sort of meaningful conversation, since I can make up an universe where up means down and down means soup and nothing makes sense and you would understand nothing of what I'm saying. So of course you can make up an universe in your mind where Darwinism isn't tautological, but that doesn't prove anything.

You say that, but I don't think you realize how whacky some of the ideas people had about our planet were. Aristotle that you mentioned earlier was responding to a contemporary of his when he talked about different species. His contemporary thought animals just randomly formed out of fire and air, and the ones with good bodies just survived. While all the weird "monsters" died out.

Step 1 was figuring out if we were in the whacky god-controlled universe, or in a physics and rule based universe. And that was a live debate at the time that Darwin was writing his stuff. You are basically just writing off the whole importance of that debate at the time and giving the win to Darwin. And then you assign all the arguing in the actual debate to just being a proxy debate about something else. Its like a weird conspiracy theory mixed with alternate history.

And you know, you could take any biology book and change "Natural Selection" by "God" and nothing would change, the meaning of the text would remain the same. The difference being that Natural Selection is a tautology, while God is simply unknowable. Both explain nothing but one is more clever than the other.

You can't though. Quite a bit about the biology textbook changes. Creatures survive because god says so is significantly different than "creatures survive because they can reproduce and survive in the environments where they live". And the idea that creatures survive because god creates a specific role/niche for them to survive and coordinates the whole ecosystem like a great puppetmaker or watchmaker was specifically the idea that Darwin was arguing against. Others in the thread have pointed out multiple predictions made by "natural selection". I'm not gonna bother, Darwin won the debate over 150 years ago as far as I'm concerned. He and his cabbal of nerdy beetle collectors and dead animal stuffers.

Lol, that's cute. You meant to say TAXONOMY not taxidermy. Of course neither Linnaeus nor Aristotle spoke about evolution or natural selection, I never said they did. I said they knew about the branching tree of life, because that's what taxonomy is. But don't worry, there are also a bunch of people who spoke about the evolution of species before Darwin. Would you like me to list them? And just so you know, Aristotle was a huge nerd and spent his free time studying and collecting mussels in the Mediterranean.

And yes, I'm only criticizing Darwin for his theory of Natural Selection.

You know, there's really no proof that we don't live in the whacky god-controlled universe, so the discussion is not over. I'm noy saying Darwin had an economic agenda, but the implications of his theory are economic. That's why I said that there were conscious and unconscious consequences for Darwin's theory.

You say:

Creatures survive because they can reproduce and survive in the environments where they live.

And why is that? Well, because of Natural Selection of course! Now change Natural Selection for "God", and how does that change anything? If this is a popularity contest then yes, Darwin is winning by a landslide. But Darwin wasn't arguing against the idea of a watchmaker God, that was Dorkins. Darwin was agnostic, and never meant to refute the idea of God. I honestly don't care about winning any debates here, who cares if I'm right and some XIXth century fella was wrong.

Lol, that's cute.

Don't do this. Its a very annoying thing to do in a conversation.

You meant to say TAXONOMY not taxidermy.

Pretty sure I meant meant taxidermy. But the difference is trivial. They were a bunch of weird nerds that shared around stuffed animals. The taxidermy is what allowed Taxonomy to advance at the time. Its a lot easier to do taxonomy if you can look at a bunch of taxidermied specimens right next to each other. So the guy that advanced taxonomy did it via taxidermy. Seems accurate to say he did either thing.

And just so you know, Aristotle was a huge nerd and spent his free time studying and collecting mussels in the Mediterranean.

Imagine how much more he might have learned if he was surrounded by a leisure class aristocracy interested in "natural studies". Alas, not our timeline.


And yes, I'm only criticizing Darwin for his theory of Natural Selection.

I'll reiterate that I think this is strange because its one part of a larger text he wrote on the Origin of Species.

Creatures survive because they can reproduce and survive in the environments where they live.

And why is that? Well, because of Natural Selection of course! Now change Natural Selection for "God", and how does that change anything?

There is a difference in saying "because of [symbol without a defined meaning]" and saying "because of [symbol with concrete definition]". I think you are kind of equivocating between the two.

Sort of like the difference between a cop answering why they pulled someone over with "because they were driving 15mph over the speed limit" and "because they looked suspicious".

Natural selection adds more evidence to the "god didn't do it" pile.


Pretty sure this has gone in circles. I'll read any response you post to this specific comment, but I think I'm done with the conversation and won't respond here anymore.

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You can literally watch natural selection in action in thousands of studies...many done in real time in a lab. I have nothing further to add.

Of course, you can also see that the car is red with thousands of studies, and in real time...

To torture this terrible metaphor even further. It is actually like watching the car being painted red, so you know exactly how it became red.

It is not a metaphor, it's an analogy. And you don't get the point. Of course we can see "natural selection in action", because it is true. The problem is that it cannot be false, so literally everything is proof that natural selection is true. Therefore it explains nothing and no new knowledge is won by this. Watching the car being painted red may be a good enough explanation, but watching the genes of the benefitial traits pass from one generation to the other doesn't change that Darwin's definition of benefitial traits is tautological.

I think you are looking at it the wrong way. Natural selection is the answer to the question of why we see creatures with fins and gills and legs and lungs and compound eyes and sonar. If it is true and explains what we see and is descriptive of the world as it works, then it is useful whether or not it is tautological. In fact if it is tautological that is very useful information, because we too try and breed new types of creature and knowing a potential natural strategy can allow us to iterate upon it.

If you know miniature shetland ponies die out in the wild because their size is non-beneficial then you know if you want to keep a population then you have to keep their environment controlled. If you know nature works a certain way, you can learn things from it even if that knowledge is merely describing a logical tautology. You know that you need to replace natural selection effects with your own (allowing only the smallest ponies to mate for example)

If we know that nature selects for beneficial traits then when we find say large numbers of people with sickle cell traits it can help us find out why that trait was selected for.

In car format, if most cars in a racing car world are red because red cars go faster, but you find a place with a population of blue cars, then that in and of itself tells you to take a close look at those blue cars because it is likely something is happening there. In a world you didn't know about car natural selection, you would not know why that was odd.

A description of the world may be very simplistic and tautological but that doesn't mean it isn't useful.

I think you still fail to understand what a tautology is. Natural Selection does not explain the why of anything. Why do we see creatures with fins? Because they have survived. In other words, we see them because they are alive. What does this explain? You are exactly at the same point where you started. A tautology is, by definition, not an useful explanation. We didn't need to wait for Darwin to know that we can preserve and multiply creatures with desirable characteristics by keeping them alive and making them breed. The "why" of this is explained by genetics, not by Darwin's theory.

Now, how can we know that Natural Selection "selects" something? Because it exists. In your example, all this tells us is that people with sickle cells are not dead. Again, Natural Selection doesn't help us at all, we need genetics to understand why and how that happens. It's not true that we need Darwin's theory to notice atypical populations, this is just basic reasoning, and we certainly didn't wait for Darwin to start using it. Compare this to Lamarck's theory. His theory is not correct, ot least hasn't been proven, but it is not tautological because it explains how species acquire new traits, by a mechanism he called "inheritance of acquired traits", meaning that benefitial traits acquired by the parents are inherited by the offspring. So we could say, for instance, that if a car is blue it is because it somehow changed its DNA to be blue when it realized it would be faster, and then genetically passed on this knowledge. All that Darwin could say here is that where there are blue cars red cars did not survive.

Technically, evolution by natural selection, in its most abstracted form, is something like a metaphysical research programme. It is not a tautology; it can be false. However, it cannot be tested empirically. It is not falsifiable. It also doesn't itself explain very much at all. But that's kind of missing the point, because what it does is provide a framework for generating theories that can be tested. A lot of details, facts, history needs to be plugged into the framework for it to generate testable explanatory hypotheses, but those resulting falsifiable hypotheses have proven very interesting, predictive, and they now form the backbone of our understanding of the life sciences. Usually, when we talk about the theory of evolution, we mean to include all kinds of other general background facts about the universe and how life functions in it. We are rarely, if ever, just talking about the pure logic of evolution as it might apply to any logically possible universe, but yes that highly abstract version of evolution by natural selection is unfalsifiable metaphysics, but also highly fruitful, fecund, and insightful metaphysics.

And what theory requires Natural Selection to be tested? Natural Selection only provides a language that biologists like to use (adaptation, benefitial traits, evolutionary pressures, etc) but nothing new, we had those concepts before Darwin. What it does provide is a framework for the naturalization economic prejudices. You say that we rarely talk about the pure logic of evolution. Doesn't this make this "logic" irrelevant?

But you didn't explain why Natural Selection can be false. Please elaborate on that.

There are logically possible universes where natural selection is false. At minimum, it posits some kind of continuity of structures, time and place, inheritance of traits, and so forth. Another way of putting it is that evolution by natural selection is not an inherent part of all possible simulations. If Lamarck was correct, then Darwin is wrong.

It's not just a language, because it purports to describe a thing that is actually, or has, happened. It purports to explain the seen by the unseen, which is fundamentally what all truth-seeking explanatory hypotheses purport to do. There are certain core metaphysical assumptions, such as there is with all scientific investigation, or investigation of any kind.

We had many Darwinian concepts before Darwin, but Darwin synthesized them into a more powerful framework, theorized about the mechanism of inheritance, and began exploring the logical consequences of that theoretical system. His insight about evolution by natural selection gave him the tools needed to bring together previously disparate phenomena into a unifying scheme. Evolution by natural selection, when applied to the world we live in with its particular physical laws, allows us to reverse engineer nature, and to read history from its present. This framework has produced many testable hypotheses that have proven amazingly successful.

I think you fundamentally don't understand this subject or what you're even trying to do here.

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That doesn't make any sense to me. I apologize for engaging. Good luck and God speed.