April 27, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

Instinct: ‘Somehow’ Is Not an Evolutionary Explanation

Why does America’s most prestigious scientific journal put up with a story like, ‘somehow it evolved in an ancestor’?

The word ‘somehow’ appears twice in this summary on Phys.org of a Perspective piece in Science about the evolution of instincts:

A pair of biology professors, one with the University of Illinois, the other with Macquarie University in Australia has proposed in a Perspective piece in the journal Science that the traits we see as instinctual in animals were likely learned by ancestors. In their paper, Gene Robinson and Andrew Barron suggest that those behaviors learned by ancestors wound up in their DNA somehow, making them instinctual behaviors in later generations….

But where did these innate abilities come from? That is the question posed by Robinson and Barron—they suggest many, if not all innate abilities arise due to an ancestor learning how to do something and then somehow passing that information along in their DNA.

To fill in the details of the ‘somehow’ so that it rises above the Stuff Happens Law, the evolutionists wave the word ‘epigenetics’ around. Their use of the word, however, is devoid of empirical evidence, rendering it equivalent to the ‘somehow’ hypothesis. Note the rise in the perhapsimaybecouldness index:

The pair suggest such a form of natural selection could lead to behaviors being adopted at increasingly early stages, until they appear as if hard-wired into the brain, which suggests they might display it even before a given stimuli had been encountered. They readily acknowledge that no such mechanism has been found for converting epigenetic changes into DNA changes, but note that epigenetics is still a young science and that such a mechanism could yet be found.

Does the statement in Science improve on this vacuous episode of imaginary hand-waving? It’s only one paragraph long.

An animal mind is not born as an empty canvas: Bottlenose dolphins know how to swim and honey bees know how to dance without ever having learned these skills. Little is known about how animals acquire the instincts that enable such innate behavior. Instincts are widely held to be ancestral to learned behavior. Some have been elegantly analyzed at the cellular and molecular levels, but general principles do not exist. Based on recent research, we argue instead that instincts evolve from learning and are therefore served by the same general principles that explain learning.

From this kind of explanation, we learn several things:

  1. We know what we can observe.
  2. Evolutionists ‘know little’ how animals ‘acquired’ instincts.
  3. Evolutionists ‘hold’ that instincts are ancestral.
  4. There are no general principles for the evolution of instincts.
  5. Explanations for learning and instincts evolve by convergent evolution.
  6. You can get away with empty speculation in Science Magazine, as long as you are an evolutionist.

Their explanation suggests a conundrum: did the ancestor learn by instinct? That conundrum has a corollary: do evolutionists learn by instinct to devise evolutionary explanations?

This is a good time to review the Three Steps to an Evolutionary Explanation: (1) Worship Darwin with all your heart, soul, strength and mind; (2) Observe a fact; (3) Confabulate a mythoid that says the fact evolved somehow, and offer it in worship to Darwin.

 

 

 

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