Mike Dunford: "Alleles That Survive, Survive" - Evolution News & Views

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Mike Dunford: "Alleles That Survive, Survive"

Recently I used the analogy of a genetic disease (spinal bifida) that kept afflicted men out of the army in WWI to point out the vacuousness of "evolutionary" explanations for disease. The "evolutionary adaptation" provided by the handicap may have led to a transient increased prevalence of men with spina bifida in England, but from the standpoint of medicine, the evolutionary vignette was of no tangible value. Medicine needs more than stories about differential survival, which is the only unique thing that evolutionary biology offers to medicine. The genuine accomplishments of medical science and practice, for which Darwinists persistently claim credit, such as the understanding of bacterial antibiotic resistance or heterozygote advantage in the protection from disease (such as the protection from malaria conferred on people with sickle cell trait), have come about because of superb work by medical scientists in molecular biology, microbiology, genetics, and epidemiology. They didn't place phone calls to their colleagues in evolutionary biology to do their work. Darwinian fairy tales, such as "X-Linked Color Blindness Evolved to Help Paleolithic Male Hunters See Camouflage," added nothing to the important research already going on in medicine.

Darwinists were not pleased with my observations, and Mike Dunford seems to have drawn the "respond to Egnor" short straw. He responded first with the requisite personal sneers:

We could also start things off by focusing on Egnor's characteristic lack of intellectual integrity...Declining to face reality in favor of tilting with your own personally invented reality may not necessarily be the mark of a psychiatric pathology, but it's definitely not the mark of intellectual honesty, either.

He rambles, quotes me several times, then, near the end of his post, gets down to business. He argues that my military history analogy indeed demonstrates the importance of evolutionary biology to the understanding of diseases like spina bifida:

...we ...need to know that spina bifida patients are typically unsuitable for military service, that there are hereditary factors involved in causing spina bifida in the first place, and that differential survival among individuals carrying an allele will affect the proportion of that allele in the next generation...the third is the central principle of evolutionary biology

So it looks like we can't really understand spina bifida without the "central principle of evolutionary biology." Alright then, let's take a look, claim by claim, at Mike's assertion that my example demonstrates the importance of evolutionary biology to the medical understanding of spina bifida.

First:

...we would need to know that spina bifida patients are typically unsuitable for military service...

No evolutionary biology here. Our knowledge of the suitability of people with spina bifida for military service is gained from two things:

1) our knowledge of the disabilities caused by spina bifida
2) our knowledge of the requirements for military service

Second:

...that there are hereditary factors involved in causing spina bifida in the first place...

No evolutionary biology here. Our knowledge of the heredity of spina bifida is provided by genetics and epidemiology, both of which are full scientific disciplines in their own right. Data from genetics and epidemiology are the prerequisite for evolutionary stories. Darwinian stories about the "evolutionary origin" of spina bifida depend on, but do not substantially contribute to, our knowledge of the hereditary factors involved in causing spinal bifida.

Third:

... differential survival among individuals carrying an allele will affect the proportion of that allele in the next generation...

This, asserts Mr. Dunford, is

...nothing more nor less than the central principle of evolutionary biology.

Lots of evolutionary biology here. This is the heart of the issue. Let's understand what Mr. Dunford said. The observation that the "... differential survival among individuals carrying an allele will affect the proportion of that allele in the next generation...[this] is the central principle of evolutionary biology." [emphasis mine]

A moment of clarity. Mr. Dunford finally gets to the heart of Darwinist science. The observation that differential survival among individuals carrying an allele will affect the proportion of that allele in the next generation is little more than a restatement of the definition of an allele. An allele is one particular gene, and differential survival of individuals carrying an allele will result in a differential transmission of that particular gene to the next generation.

In other words, alleles that survive, survive, and alleles that don't survive, don't survive.

!

This old Darwinian tautology is at the root of all Darwinian insights. It is indeed, as Mr. Dunford emphatically asserts, "...the central principle of evolutionary biology." Alleles that survive, survive.

Medicine needs anatomy, biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, population genetics, and epidemiology, among many other fields of science. Although stories in evolutionary biology draw heavily from several of these fields, none of these scientific fields depends in any tangible way on evolutionary stories. Evolutionary biology needs other fields of science. Other fields of science don't need evolutionary biology, because molecular biology, population genetics, and epidemiology don't depend on evolutionary fairy tales.

Medical science depends on data, testable hypotheses, and inferences that aren't tautologies.

This irrelevance of evolutionary stories to real scientific work was pointed out by biologist Adam S. Wilkins, editor of the journal BioEssays, in 2000:

...most [biologists] can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas...Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one.

So my thanks to Mr. Dunford for providing yet another permutation of the Darwinian tautology -- "... differential survival among individuals carrying an allele will affect the proportion of that allele in the next generation" (trans. "alleles that survive, survive").

Medicine depends on real science. Darwinism is mostly a collection of vacuous stories based on the tautological central principle of evolutionary biology -- "survivors survive" -- and it's worthless to medicine.

My gratitude to Mr. Dunford for making my point so clear.


Addendum: Mr. Dunford has pointed out an error in my reproduction of one of his quotes. I had used, without ellipsis, the word "this", instead of Mr. Dunford's original words "the third", in the following quote:

...we ...need to know that spina bifida patients are typically unsuitable for military service, that there are hereditary factors involved in causing spina bifida in the first place, and that differential survival among individuals carrying an allele will affect the proportion of that allele in the next generation...this is the central principle of evolutionary biology [emphasis added at this time to point out the error]

Mr. Dunford is concerned that my error might lead a reader to infer that Mr. Dunford believes that our knowledge of the suitability of people with spina bifida for military service and the fact that there are hereditary factors involved in causing spina bifida are central principles of evolutionary biology. I want to assure readers that Mr. Dunford does not believe that suitability of people with spina bifida for military service nor the hereditary factors involved in causing spina bifida are central principles of evolutionary biology.

I have corrected the error in the text, and I offer my apologies. I assure Mr. Dunford that my intention is, and has always been, to represent his arguments accurately.