An Information Test For Artificial vs. Natural Selection?

Natural selection could never produce the breeds of dogs that we observe. Natural selection could never produce the corn that we eat. And natural selection definitely could never produce eukaryotes.

Between natural and sexual selection the norm of a population is kept. Even genetic algorithms, which are alleged to mimic natural selection, use telic processes to solve the problems they were designed to solve.

Natural selection- The process by which in every generation individuals of lower fitness are removed from the population- Mayr "What Evolution Is"

The first step in selection, the production of genetic variation, is almost exclusively a chance phenomenon except that the nature of the changes at a given locus is strongly constrained. Chance also plays an important role even at the second step, the process of elimination of less fit individuals. Chance may be particularly important in the haphazard survival during periods of mass extinction. Ibid

I see that as a problem. How can we determine that all mutations/ genetic changes are chance events? If ID is right then there is at least some control over the genetic changes.

That assertion was not part of the original question. I’d appreciate keeping to the topic of the question I asked.

1 Like

That is always an enforceable request. Keep things on topic.

Interesting diversions will usually be split into a their own thread. It would be better, however, if a new thread was started from the outset.

There wasn’t any assertion

_ “If I gave you two organisms could you tell which one had traits or functions that were the product of natural evolution vs. one that had been through multiple rounds of human-managed selection ?”_

Well you first have to define what you mean by “natural evolution” and then you would have to demonstrate it has a mechanism capable of doing something of note. Something beyond keeping the norm and capable of producing organisms.

Yea, see the all wolves below:



1 Like

That was Argon’s question. I asked Argon to define the terms he/she is using.

That said, blind watchmaker evolution can’t even produce eukaryotes and it has to be given starting populations of prokaryotic-like organisms. If the pictures are of actual living organisms, given the fact that blind watchmaker evolution can’t produce eukaryotes, not one has traits or functions that were the product of blind watchmaker evolution.

Given two organisms, we can only list out their traits. That they arose by natural means is only an assumption. I could give you a Genetically modified plant or animal… and you would still tell me it arose by natural evolution unless proof to the contrary is provided.
There would be more than enough evidence of “common descent” :slight_smile:
Not being able to differentiate between purely natural processes vis a vis the intervention of an intelligence is a sword that cuts both ways…

As a non specialist, all I can say is that it should be important to be able to differentiate between natural processes vis a vis that involving agency/intelligence.


The problem with any breeding protocol is the almost inevitable requirement that the resulting population be reproductively compatible with the original/normal population.

The best example of rate of change… where the resultant forms are mutually incompatible is the marsupial diaspora in Australia.

Genetically quite related… but at least major phenotypes:

Marsupial vegetarian mole.
Marsupial carnivorous Tasmanian devil-like predators.
Marsupial omnivorous Coors.

These are your benchmark exemplars of change from one kind into 3 kinds!

Possible, but again not on topic to Eric’s claim.

I will mention that people have been successfully sued for planting seed with proprietary traits that had been introduced into the seeds’ forebearers by recombinant DNA technology. Those are pretty simple cases when one has a record of exactly what had been done previously (in this case, the sequence of the modified gene that was introduced, along with vector-specific flanking sequences). But again, this is probably distinct from Eric’s proposal.


Perhaps you should start a thread on this…
Do you know if the similarity in phenotype to regular mammals is just skin deep or is there similarity in genes… I read an interesting paper once on the saver tooth tiger version among marsupials being similar to true mammals in some aspects. I will try to dig out that paper.

I understand what you are getting at. I am just showing how it might be important to be able to distinguish between “natural processes” in evolution vis a vis where it has recieved help. I.e even if we can’t currently distinguish, a method is required. And if a method is impossible to develop, there is something too general about how we define “natural” processes. Improper and vague definitions are not good for any academic pursuit.
My comment was obviously not about Eric’s claim.

Hi Ashwin,

Regarding your suggestion:

“It might be possible to take human breeding experiments as the extreme limit of what can be achieved by natural selection on existing genetic variation in a species…
Could this be used as a control to define what natural selection can do even with guidance…”,

I would suggest that “human breeding experiments” cannot even come close to what is known to happen in the complete absence of humans. A long time ago (I can’t believe it’s been 15 years) in a galaxy far, far away I wrote an essay for another forum that discussed a most fascinating case study.

Like others in this discussion, I doubt that anyone can actually come up with an information test for artificial vs. natural selection. To the ID friendly participants here, I would further add that the expectation I think I am seeing (I may be wrong) that large changes imply intelligence is actually the opposite of what examples such as the Silversword Alliance show to be the case.

PS - this is my first post to this forum. I thank the organizers for allowing me to join. I found this place while looking for updates to other ID-related issues I have dabbled with over the years.


5 posts were split to a new topic: Getting to Know Arthur Hunt


The point of the case is less about any placental parallels beyond Australia… and more about 3 closely related “kinds” of Marsupials (measured by genotype, not phenotype). It is believed that conditions in Australia were optimum because there were no rival placental occupants in the niches the placental sub-grouos increasingly exploited!

I have posted this thread already. Just go to my profile and search my posts for: marsupial Australia mole.

Doesnt this pose a problem for the definition of “natural”. If we cant differentiate natural from artificial, then every claim of evolution by “natural processes” is an untested assumption.

Let me suggest a thought experiment. Suppose evolution received help in Designing life from an unknown intelligent agency. If we continue explaining every observation with respect to evolution using natural processes… Then wouldn’t these “natural processes” themselves take on the qualities of the agency that designed life? If the agency is creative and intelligent, then these natural processes would also be creative and intelligent…
Is it legitimate to impose creativity on nature? Yet we see this very same tendency in all scientific explanations of Evolution. Nature is intelligent, creative, capable of feats that human designers cannot even dream of… while remaining purposeless and unintelligent.

In a certain sense, descriptions of what natural selection can do sounds divine… Its a strange irony.

This gets to a key point. It is an unsubstantiated assumption to think that intelligence is going to be scientifically detectable in all cases. That might be true sometimes. However, this is an example of a case we just do not expect to detect anything. Note, however, @EricMH’s instincts here:

It seems there is usually not going to be a way to tell from looking at DNA alone.

This gets to the fundamental conflict many scientists are going to have with ID. The opposition is not against the belief that God created everything. Rather, it is opposition to the notion that they have somehow demonstrated this scientifically. That, it seems, is the crux of the disagreement. It has nothing to do with divine design per se, but with the ability of science to detect divine design.

We actually know how this approach arose. There were a lot of people who entered science who, from the get go, already believed that science could detect divine design. This was before they even knew much about science that they even formed this presumption. The dispute remains merely to be about the limits of science, and the quality of their arguments. There has never been a legitimate threat from science to the theological claim that God created us, and designed us through an evolutionary process.

I would state the conflict as to the limits of what “nature” can and cannot do. Its not about God.Its about the ability of “natural processes” (in this specific context with respect to speciation/diversity).
I believe this is an important distinction to be made and a question worth asking. Can this be question be accessed by the scientific method? Perhaps you are right in saying that it cannot be… However it is note worthy that science assumes an answer as much as ID folks seem to.

Hence in my view investigations such as Eric’s are a laudable attempt just as Theobalds test for UCA is important. Even a wrong test teaches us things.

1 Like


I have been saying this for TWO years!

We should NOT be held hostage by pro-Creationists who insist we agree with them on their opposing view … before they will discuss the Dual Creation Scenario(s)!

@Agauger, what do you think of Joshua’s quote?

1 Like

Darwin may have given us some insight into how to approach this topic.

“Natural selection will modify the structure of the young in relation to the parent, and of the parent in relation to the young. In social animals it will adapt the structure of each individual for the benefit of the community; if each in consequence profits by the selected change. What natural selection cannot do, is to modify the structure of one species, without giving it any advantage, for the good of another species; and though statements to this effect may be found in works of natural history, I cannot find one case which will bear investigation.”
Origin of Species

The one thing that artificial selection can do that natural selection can not do is produce changes in another species that benefit only humans.

But even then, this gets a bit hairy. Are populations that are under artificial selection benefiting from human protection? Cattle are the product of artificial selection, and their wild ancestors have gone extinct. So are the cattle benefiting from artificial selection? It could be argued that they are benefiting since they find themselves in green pastures protected from predators. Neutral evolution also poses a problem since some changes that evolve are neutral or even slightly deleterious. We need to be careful of applying pan-adaptionism where every change is assumed to be the product of positive selection.

There are also examples of artificial selection on the part of other species. For example, there are ant species that farm fungus in underground chambers, and this relationship between ants and fungal species has undoubtedly shaped the evolutionary history of both species. We can also ask if the division between artificial and natural is even a real one to begin with. What humans do is entirely natural in that we don’t violate a single natural law, so why separate what we do from what the rest of nature does? Is it really meaningful in the end?

1 Like