The Biological Version of the Darwinian Algorithm is not Circular

In my previous post (Ref. 1), I noted that John Lennox concurs with Richard Dawkins that replacing a single cycle of Darwinian evolution with a series of sub-cycles ‘drastically increases the probabilities’ (Ref. 2).

However, Lennox is not in full agreement with Dawkins’ view. Lennox’ primary criticism of Dawkins’ interpretation of the biological version of Darwinian evolution is that it is a circular argument, “And strangest of all, the very information that the mechanisms are supposed to produce is apparently already contained somewhere within the organism, whose genesis he claims to be simulating by the process.” Lennox misinterpretation of Dawkins’ view is ‘within the organism’ (Ref. 3). For Dawkins and Darwin, natural selection is essentially inanimate and external to the evolving organism. It is natural selection which defines the target.

Dawkins has identified the generation of biological forms (at whatever level, such as that of the genome or the morphology of a bird’s wing) as random, while natural selection is non-random, thereby rendering, in Dawkins’ judgment, evolution overall as ‘quintessentially non-random’ (Ref. 4). Thus, consistently with the algorithm of Darwinian evolution, it is random mutation, which is ‘a blind, mindless, unguided process’, not natural selection, as Lennox alleges (Ref. 3).

Natural selection is entirely external to the organism and essentially physical, not biological. Natural selection may be described as biologically blind, mindless and unguided, while being physically sighted, intelligent and guided. Natural selection is an ecological niche, defined in purely inanimate, physical and chemical terms.

In the biological simulation of the Darwinian algorithm, life is plastic by means of random mutation. This plasticity is allowed survivable, discrete expressions only within the molds of environmental constraints. These biological expressions appear to us as biological norms when in fact they are environmental norms.

Typically we think in terms of biological norms, such as mice, amoebae, algae and tulips. According to Darwinian evolution and natural selection in particular, these are not biological norms. What is biological is simply potency working through random generation (mutation). What appears to us to be biological norms are really environmental, i.e. physical, norms, evidenced in biological terms. We are aware of the existence of the inanimate environmental niches by the existence of the biological forms, once randomly generated, which now fill them. The environmental norms are physically defined and physically formed. They are merely filled with living matter, which coincidentally expresses a biological form compatible with the determining environment.

In the biological simulation of the Darwinian algorithm, natural selection is completely external to the organism and may indeed be viewed as an existent target, where the culling of ‘failed’ mutations is one aspect of the overall physical processes of natural selection. The Darwinian algorithm, in itself and as presented by Dawkins, is not circular because the target is not within the organism as alleged by Lennox (Ref. 3).

It should be noted that Dawkins is in error in claiming that the overall algorithm of Darwinian evolution is ‘quintessentially non-random’ simply because the last part of the algorithm, namely natural selection is non-random. Though natural selection is non-random in itself, the probability of success of natural selection depends upon the probability of the presence of the survivable mutant in the pool of mutants randomly generated. Thus, the end result of the Darwinian algorithm is random. Darwinian evolution is quintessentially random. Darwinian random mutation is the generation of random numbers as Dawkins has illustrated in his excellent metaphor of the combination lock (Ref. 5).

References:

1. https://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/smearing-out-the-luck/
2. “God’s Undertaker”, page 165
3. “God’s Undertaker”, page 167
4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD1QHO_AVZA Minute 39:10
5. “The God Delusion”, page 122

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