Methinks it is sort-of like two weasels

@Joe_Felsenstein picks up the conversation with @roy and @EricMH at Pandas Thumb.

Holloway’s article claims to show that by using not one, but two target phrases, it can be seen that natural selection is in most cases ineffective. A commenter, “Roy”, at Josh Swamidass’s Peaceful Science forum took issue here with Holloway. Roy’s argument there is fairly convincing, but there is more to be said.

The result has been that many creationists are obsessed with showing that Dawkins’s argument does not work. By contrast, evolutionary biologists are only mildly interested, as they have had many empirical and theoretical examples of natural selection working to achieve adaptations. Theoretical population genetics dates back over 120 years, and the mathematics of natural selection solidified 100 years ago: they have not been waiting to hear from Richard Dawkins. For a discussion of how a Weasel simulation can be made to use the standard Wright-Fisher model of theoretical population genetics, see a post by me at The Skeptical Zone in 2016. But that carries us away from the present issues.

Roy is correct, as far as Roy’s argument goes. I want to discuss the matter a little more generally.

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Just to clarify that my post at Panda’s Thumb does not end there. That is the end of first part of the post and I go on after that. Thanks to Josh for calling attention to that PT thread.


Well done, @Roy :slight_smile:


:blush: thanx


Of course. Just quoting some choice bits.

Of note, Gunter has responded: Silverswords Fail the Species Pair Challenge | Evolution News

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And also of note, I’m mixing topics. Gunter’s response has nothing to do with these weasels, methink.

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And Gunter Bechly’s response has little to do with me, despite my name leading his list of vitriolic people. I’m honored (though I just noticed that the order is actually alphabetic rather than honorific).


I know very little about Bechly, but @swamidass says he is a nice man. Therefore I’m a bit surprised at his direct attacks on you and others here. I suspect that Bechly’s original response could have been “spiffed-up” by another writer (Klinghoffer?) to make it more antagonizing.

Also off-topic, but I am considering a side-topic.

Mods, please may I change my name here to Aaaardvark…

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We don’t want to go where the subject of my research lies …

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I wish to apologize for claiming that I was being given more recognition than Zygmund Zzyzzle.


I think that’s a distinct possibility, but I will make an observation that bears upon another possibility. When I was still practicing law, one of the most socially-pleasant clients I ever had was a police officer. Great guy, friendly, enjoyable to be around. Nobody could dislike this man.

Why was I representing him? He’d tried to throw an unconscious, handcuffed man down a full flight of stairs, and had been prevented from doing so by a fellow officer, who was the principal witness against him.

Doing mountebankery well requires both that one be good at the deception itself, AND be good at seeming like a person who does so only out of innocent motives. I am never surprised when con men seem friendly.


I would tend to agree with this. “Nice” and “honest” are not the same thing, and to some extent are in inherent conflict with each other.

Overly honest people would tend towards a bluntness that can be abrasive.

A tendency to want everybody to like you can lead to being parsimonious with the truth to avoid unpleasantness, ‘little white lies’ snowballing as you try to be all things to all people. The pathological extreme might be the fictional Magnus Pym, the title character of John le Carré’s A Perfect Spy.

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But no ID person thinks evolution probably cannot climb a hill where every step is selectable. A problem arises when several non-selectable steps present themselves, before fitness improves, then evolution bogs down, then the path becomes exponentially less probable, with the number of non-selectable steps.

Welcome to Peaceful Science.


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This is one of the reasons why ID people (a very strange label) avoid acknowledging both existing variation (the only thing Darwin knew about) and neutral evolution. They pretend that populations are genetically homogeneous and are “waiting” for new mutations to occur.


Usually, the people who talk about this problem fall victim to the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.

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Hello @Lee, and welcome! :slight_smile:

The difficulty with “non-selectable steps” is that, as a hypothesis supporting design, it can never be falsified. The usual claim is that non-selectable steps can be falsified by demonstrating a selectable pathway. The difficulty is that a designer could also select this pathway, and so design is not falsified.

Falsification requires a prediction of what the supporting data should be, and a way (lack of supporting evidence or contradictory data) to falsify the hypothesis.
Ewert (2016) gave a Dependence Graph hypothesis that design should lead to (IIRC) phylogenetic data fitting a Depency Graph pattern, rather than the nested hierarchy of Common Descent predicted by evolution. This should be falsifiable at least in theory, but there are practical difficulties which I won’t recap here.

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Don’t thank me yet. You may regret it later…