Ariew and Lewontin, "Fitness Confusions"

That seems obviously untrue. Dawkins weasel is a toy program that isn’t designed to simulate natural selection. And even then it is obvious that intermittent selection for a trait would slow the process.

That’s a non-sequitur. That evolution does not have foresight is a pretty basic fact. You could just have said so and you’d easily find agreement,

There is no such trend. Perhaps you should familiarise yourself with the basics instead of reeling off strawman after strawman?


In the honorable tradition of arguing from truncated paper titles only I submit the following statement:
Darwin was right

What is different from Sal’s previous attempts at this style of argument is that mine isn’t misrepresenting the paper.

Of the many studies that have contributed direct insight into the mechanisms of evolution [2••, 3, 4] there is none that exceeds the simplicity, elegance and endurance of Richard Lenski’s long-term selection experiment with Escherichia coli. The experiment, begun almost thirty years ago with a single genetic clone that founded 12 replicate populations [5], has involved growth and daily transfer of 1% of stationary phase bacteria to fresh medium. At the time of writing, the experiment has involved more than 10 000 transfers, with the bacteria experiencing some 70 000 generations of evolution in a single glucose limited broth medium. The experiment continues to provide understanding of the moment-by-moment workings of evolution but its greatest achievement is the unequivocal demonstration that Darwin was right [6•]. Variation, which arises solely by mutation and whose effects are heritable, provides material for natural selection. Natural selection eliminates deleterious mutations, but also causes the periodic sweep of mutations that improve competitive ability relative to co-occurring types. The outcome of the process is, as Darwin foresaw, adaptation: adaptation by natural selection [7].

Of course not! Where did that silly straw man come from?

It seems we have a new, repeatedly-spammed, utterly vacuous, Bill Cole Talking Point™ to use in our games of Cole Talking Point Bingo. :smiley:

And if the genotype that has higher expected differential reproduction is a genotype that is favored because it is missing a gene then that is an example of so-called “selection” destroying complexity, what they call in the literature euphemistically “loss of versatility”.

And that was Lenski’s experiment, gaining function and improving reproduction via promoter capture and gene amplification, but losing genes and destroying prior regulatory functions to boot. It’s not something to crow about.

The fundamental problem is that the evolution of complexity, such as the evolution of major gene/protein families, is not what “natural selection” evolves, in fact in many cases, quite the opposite. For example we have genotypes that have missing and damaged genes have higher differentially expected (and actual) reproduction.

This is brutally obvious now in light of experimental evidence, and should have been obvious from theory decades ago, and Dawkin’s Blindwatchmaker was actually blind to those facts – refer to his “haemaglobin number” silliness. Therefore Dawkins got it wrong, and experiments have refuted his viewpoint over and over again .

Ariew and Lewontin’s add even more fuel to the fire by writing papers about “fitness confusions”.

The problem is yet-to-exist complexity is not correlated with immediate reproduction, contrary to what Dawkins and Darwin postulated. Dawkins Weasel correlates yet-to-exist complexity with immediate reproductive efficiency, which has been shown experimentally to be fantasy, not reality.

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You should read this:

Define “information”? Creationist aren’t even willing to define it - Peaceful Science

Where “they [in the literature]” is understood to mean creationist authors—who initially predicted (based on having basically halluscinated it after misreading Kimura) a distribution of fitness effects of new mutations observationally inconsistent with reality—that had to re-invent their concept of fitness to mean something nebulous and unquantifiable that can’t be meaningfully measured or tested.

But since evolution isn’t, and never was a theory that said increased complexity comes with increased fitness, the LTEE doesn’t actually contradict Darwinian evolution, nor even Darwinian explanations for increased complexity, since selection can favor complexification in some situations, but that was never meant to imply it always will. Darwin wrote at length on atavisms and organisms of reduced form and function. Loss of flight in birds is an often discussed example.

Dawkins was wrong to invoke natural selection as the only evolutionary explanation for increased complexity, he was not wrong to invoke it as one among several possible explanations for increased complexity. We now know there can be neutral, ratchet-like mechanisms that can push up complexity without this requiring or coming with increases in fitness.

Neither man has postulated such a correlation.

ROFL. No it doesn’t.


In which electronic circuits accessible over the internet know more about evolution, and Dawkins and Darwins writings, than professional apologists:



This forkin software understands books it hasn’t even read better than Sal Cordova.


Does Richard Dawkins weasel program imply cumulative selection can be responsible to new biological features.


Richard Dawkins’ “weasel program” is a computer simulation he introduced in his book “The Blind Watchmaker” to illustrate the concept of cumulative selection and how it can lead to the generation of complex biological features. The program is a simple demonstration of how small, incremental changes in a string of characters can eventually lead to the formation of a specific target phrase.

In the weasel program, a random sequence of letters is generated, and then a process of cumulative selection is applied. In each generation, random changes are introduced in the sequence, and the sequences that are closer to the target phrase are selected to “reproduce” and pass on their traits to the next generation. Over time, with the repeated application of this process, the sequence gradually evolves to match the target phrase.

The weasel program is not meant to be a precise analogy for biological evolution, but rather a conceptual tool to help people understand the principle of cumulative selection. It illustrates how non-random, selective processes can lead to the gradual improvement of a trait over generations.

In the context of biology, Dawkins uses this concept to argue that natural selection, acting on random genetic variations, can lead to the gradual development of complex biological features over long periods of time. While the weasel program is a highly simplified model and does not capture all the nuances of biological evolution, it serves as a useful explanatory tool for understanding the basic principles of cumulative selection.

Depends on how you ask the question Rum…

Yes of course. If you replace “can be” with “necessarily correlates with”, the AI will correctly answer the question you ask that matches the way you ask it.

You are not asking the same question I am. Both answers are correct and do not contradict each other, because the question being asked is a different one.

These two questions and their answers do not contradict each other.
Is Bill Cole necessarily wrong? No.
Can Bill cole be wrong? Yes.

Do you see the difference?


Btw, your question is incoherent and not the same as the one initially posed by Sal, and I asked of ChatGPT.

Cumulative selection isn’t “responsible to”, though it can be responsible for, the evolution of “new biological features”.

Further, increased complexity is not necessarily the same as “new biological features”. Notice how it appears that the AI isn’t sure what you’re asking, and nowhere in it’s answer does the phrase “new biological features” figure (it says neither yes or no). So all it responds with to you, is a description of what the WEASEL program does and what it is is intended to show. It actually doesn’t even answer what I suspect you wanted an answer to.

Just another piece of evidence that your writings are incoherent. In contrast, it answers my questions directly with “no, …” using the very same terms and phrases I use in my questions.

Try this out as a simpler question without the to replacing for error.

What is Richard Dawkins trying to show with the weasel program.


Richard Dawkins used the “weasel program” as an analogy to illustrate the concept of cumulative selection and to argue against the idea that complex biological structures, like the ones found in living organisms, could arise purely by chance. The program is not a biological simulation but rather a simple computer simulation.

Here’s how the weasel program works and what Dawkins was trying to show with it:

  1. Random Generation: The program starts with a random string of characters, which serves as the initial “population.”
  2. Selection: The program then evaluates how closely this random string matches a target phrase, which in Dawkins’ original example was “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL.”
  3. Reproduction: The program selects the string that most closely resembles the target phrase and makes copies of it. These copies serve as the next generation.
  4. Mutation: In the new generation, each character has a small chance of being replaced by a different character. This simulates genetic variation or random changes in the population.
  5. Iteration: The process of selection, reproduction, and mutation is repeated for multiple generations until the population converges to the target phrase.

Dawkins used the weasel program to demonstrate the power of cumulative selection, showing that when selection is guided by a specific goal (in this case, matching the target phrase), even a completely random process can lead to rapid convergence towards the goal. This was meant to counter the argument made by some critics of evolution that complex biological structures couldn’t arise through purely random processes and that they required a guiding intelligence.

In essence, Dawkins was using the weasel program as a simplified model to help people understand how the process of natural selection, acting over long periods of time with small, incremental changes, could lead to the development of complex biological adaptations without the need for a guiding intelligence or designer. It was a way to illustrate the power of non-random selection in the context of evolution.

Could =/= always will.

Bill Cole could be wrong.
Bill Cole always will be wrong.

I hope you see the difference.

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Not a substantive difference in this case. He is claiming the mechanism can work base on the Weasel model. Could is a “weasel” word here :slight_smile:


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The Weasel program was intended to do one thing, and one thing only: To illustrate the degree to which cumulative selection will decrease the waiting time for random mutations to reach a given outcome compared to simply randomly scrambling mutations and selecting only the final outcome. At this it succeeded. It was never intended to be a standalone argument for evolution as a whole.

Creationists have been lying about it ever since.


What an outrageously stupid comment.

The difference between could and always will is colossal and fundamental in any context, because the former implies merely a potential above zero (that could, could still be a very low percentage of the time), while the latter outright means nothing less than 100% of the time.

Nope. The Weasel is intended to illustrate nothing more than the massive time difference between wholesale random guessing and cumulative selection on incremental stochastic change. No case for the evolution of anything is actually based on the Weasel program.

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False. It’s an analogy, Bill. An explanatory device. Analogies are not arguments, despite what your allegedly straight-shootin’ heroes claim.


I agree it is intentionally vague due to the use of the weasel word “could”.