February 11, 2016 | David F. Coppedge

Misuse of Term 'Natural Selection' Continues

If humans guide a process, that is not natural selection. Darwin’s idea had nothing to do with intention or morality.

Is it the reporters or the scientists at the University of Colorado who don’t get Darwin? A press release titled “‘‘Natural selection’ could lead to amazing new materials” gets evolutionary theory all wrong.

The researchers propose a setup that uses a well-known ion-conducting material, silver iodide, as a test case to prove their principle. And what better way than to take cues from nature? They’re calling their method “natural selection” for materials. Instead of starting with a known compound and trying to optimize its properties, they will use fundamental physical properties required for a specific application to guide and select for the synthetic conditions, and the resulting materials. That way, only those materials that behave in the desired way will form.

Natural selection knows nothing about methods, optimization, or guidance. In essence, the researchers rigged the process. It doesn’t matter if there is some randomness thrown in; if the team guided and selected the outcome in any way, it is not “natural selection,” but rather artificial selection – a synonym for intelligent design. The misuse of the term has the effect of giving Darwinism credit for something it didn’t do.

A less obvious misuse of “natural selection” can be found in this article at the BBC News, “Are humans driving evolution in animals?” The only way to make sense of the hypothesis that humans are “driving” evolution in keeping with Darwin’s hypothesis is to treat humans like unguided, mindless products of evolution themselves. If said humans are exercising their minds and making choices, natural selection has nothing to do with it. It becomes a matter of morality or poor stewardship of nature.

Are humans inadvertently driving evolution in other species? Mounting evidence suggests activities such as commercial fishing, angling and hunting, along with the use of pesticides and antibiotics, are leading to dramatic evolutionary changes.

Even if there are unintended consequences to human actions, this is still not ‘natural’ selection in the Darwinian sense. Otherwise, nobody could complain about what humans are doing. Yet the article is worried about human activity. This article also flagrantly confuses natural and artificial selection:

The intentional selection of the qualities we like (such as flavour and size) in domesticated livestock and cultivated crops has led to descendent animals and plants that differ genetically from their ancestors. This change in gene frequency is evolution, and in this case has come about by a process called artificial selection.

Natural selection is basically the same process. The difference is that instead of humans selecting individuals to breed, natural selection pressures such as predation, or the reluctance of females to mate with lower quality males, cause some individuals in a population to prosper and produce offspring while others fare poorly, leaving fewer offspring.

But artificial selection is the polar opposite of natural selection. Artificial selection involves choice, goals, and intelligent design. Natural selection is not “basically the same process.” Nor is there any “logic” to natural selection:

BM-DarwinBaloney-smNot all human selection pressures are as intentional as those imposed by plant and animal breeders. Recent research is revealing that many of our activities exert significant unintentional selection on organisms. Such “unnatural selection”, as it has been termed, is causing evolution in those populations as the inevitable logic of Darwinian selection kicks in.

Ascribing logic to Darwinian selection is like calling “stuff happens” a scientific explanation, because a “change in gene frequency” is simply that. It could be a change up or down or sideways. Stuff happens. Nor is natural selection a “pressure.” It’s a mindless nub in a pinball game that cares nothing about what happens, nor can it make anything happen. (See 10/03/15 about the vacuous nature of ‘natural selection’ as a scientific explanation.)

You can’t pay a debt to Darwin if he never gave you something:

It seems that virtually everything we do can have an accidental evolutionary consequence and scientists are already devising evolutionarily sustainable management plans for harvested resources.

This is just as well, because if we aren’t prudent in managing our unnatural selection pressures we will be paying a “Darwinian debt” for generations to come.

“Evolutionarily sustainable managment plan” is symptomatic of acute sophoxymoronia. Clearly the authors of this piece are worried about human choices, and think we need to “manage” and “plan” our activities to prevent “imprudent” consequences. Consistent Darwinian thinking would call all of that worry nonsense. Evolution is what evolution does. Whether things end up living or dying, that’s the way of evolution. No amount of Darwinese can change that.

There can only be progress in the creation-evolution debate if there is clarity on the meanings of terms. When the advocates of evolution don’t even understand their own theory, valuable time is wasted getting the semantics right before anyone can have a rational discussion about the merits of the case. It’s like trying to have an argument with Lewis Carroll about the jabberwock. To what is the speaker referring? Evolutionists sneak in intelligent design and morality terms where they don’t belong. Their equivocation confuses the debate, throwing fogma into the arena and letting them get away with sleight of mind in the Darwin theater.

We call this trick jargonwocky. Our demonstration from 1/26/10 bears repeating:

In the land of Jargonwocky, a scientist named Niwrad came up with a theory of everything he called Galumph. With frabjous joy, he investigated all the creatures of the borogoves with his apprentice, Ecallaw. He found that the Jubjub birds had round eyes and the mome raths, though similar, have square eyes. That’s because of Galumph, he explained. The Bandersnatch and Jabberwock, though looking very different, both have round eyes. “Galumph triumphs again!” Niwrad chortled. “But how can that be?” burbled Ecallaw with uffish look. “They are so very different in other respects.” “Callooh! Callay!” exclaimed Niwrad frumiously. “’Tis only to demonstrate the power of Galumph. The former is a case of Parallel Galumph. This one, a case of Convergent Galumph. Do you see? Galumph explains all. We must away and tell Yelxuh, our mimsy publicist, to announce our scientific triumph to the townspeople! We have slain the mystery of Jabberwock with Galumph. Galumph has wiped the brillig from our slithy toves, and given us Enlightenment!”

If you are thoroughly confused by that paragraph, you got the point.


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