Natures wonders: blind walking cavefish (Introduction)

by dhw, Wednesday, March 30, 2016, 12:38 (1346 days ago) @ David Turell

David's comment: One might consider the point that in the evolution of fish a tendency to develop walking is built in. Pre-planning?
dhw: Alternatively, one might consider the point that in evolution organisms work out their own methods to survive and/or improve […]
DAVID: … we have discussed this over and over. For organisms to do their own inventing they have to have a mechanism for it. So the issue still is, were they given such a mechanism or did they invent their own? You are on one side of this and I'm on the other. No resolution possible.

A slight confusion of issues here. We differ over how evolution works: whether the organisms do their own inventing (my autonomous inventive mechanism) or God did the inventing for them (your divine pre-programming or direct creation of all innovations and wonders). If they did their own inventing, then I am open as to whether there is a God who designed the autonomous mechanism or not.

DAVID: This is where Denton's structuralism comes in: his approach (agnostic) is that there are basic patterns established 'by the laws of nature' upon which everything else is based and then modified by epigenetic adaptations, at which point natural selection takes a look. Thus Darwin's functionalism first approach is really a secondary mechanism to the original patterns of structuralism, a theory which is actually a form of my approach (recalled previously) for God to set original patterns. Denton finds patterns all over the place, especially in embryology. I won't list all of his patterns but they are everywhere science looks at life.

Epigenetic adaptations will not explain evolution. Only innovations can result in new species (broad sense). I don't understand why you (and Denton?) believe your basic patterns are somehow a departure from Darwin. He devotes a whole chapter to them, called MUTUAL AFFINITIES OF ORGANIC BEINGS: MORPHOLOGY: EMBRYOLOGY: RUDIMENTARY ORGANS, and he even uses the term “patterns”, e.g.: “On this same view of descent with modification, all the great facts in Morphology become intelligible - whether we look to the same pattern displayed in the homologous organs, to whatever purpose applied, of the different species of a class; or to the homologous parts constructed on the same pattern in each individual animal and plant.” It is these basic patterns that led him to his theory of common descent!

The hard question is how NEW patterns (i.e. innovations) come into being. This is where we agree that Darwin got it wrong, but both your hypotheses and mine also depend on functionalism: neither your God nor my inventive mechanism would have changed the existing structure without a purpose. (Natural selection would still have been in operation, though to different degrees.) Anyway, as I see it, if Denton does not offer an explanation for innovations, we are not going to gain any new insights, are we? However, I can only respond to what you tell me about his book, so perhaps this response is unfair.

I can't comment on the polymers that assemble into nanotubes, but since Denton is an agnostic, I doubt if he will endorse your own comment: “It is as if God set up the organic chemistry of life to work by automatic emergence.”


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