Re: virus: Dawkins is an idiot

David McFadzean (
Wed, 13 Nov 1996 00:58:15 -0700

David Leeper <> wrote:
> But exaptation has been found to exist, and have advantages
> over other types of evolution. [See "Artificial Life",
> Vol 2, No 2, "Preadaptaions in populations of Neural Networks"]

The question is not whether they exist, the question is whether
they are different than Darwin's adaptations. If so, how? If not,
then Dawkins is right.

> : Actually elitism does exist in nature. It is called cloning.
> : There even exists a species of fresh-water snail that uses
> : cloning in good times, and sexual reproduction in tough times.
> That's the exception that proves the rule David. And I doubt
> that it's an exception. Is it _impossible_ for a clone to have
> mutations from its original? If the answer is 'no' then it's
> possible for the clone to be less fit than the original. And
> since the clone must duplicate the original's DNA, it seems
> that mutation is possible.

No, if it is possible for the clone to be identical to the parent
(and in reality it often is), then elitism exists in nature.

> : The arrangement is non-optimal because the flounder starts
> : out like a regular fish with its eyes on either side of its
> : head. Over the course of its lifetime one eye gradually
> : moves over to the other side of the head and as it adopts
> : a horizontal posture. Other flat fish species like rays
> : are not similarly disadvantaged.
> Why is this a disadvantage? The Flounder seems to do just
> fine with eyes on the side of its head. Yes, it looks a
> little strange, but "Not looking strange to humans" is not
> a survival requirement.

"Doing just fine" does not mean optimal. It is at a disadvantage
because considerable resources are necessary to metamorph midway
through life, resources that could better be spent foraging and

> : Neo-Darwinism refers to the marriage of Darwin's theory
> : of natural selection with genetics. What makes you think
> : it has been discredited?
> It also implies the old "survival of the fittest" mentality.
> If you look at Dawkins description of evolution, you'll
> see that's exactly what he does. Less fit beasts are not
> allowed, even if they're 0.000001% less fit.

OK, I was wrong, but so were you.

George Romanes, Charles Darwin's disciple in animal
psychology, coined the term "Neo-Darwinism" in 1905
to describe the theory of natural selection without
a belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics
(Lamarckiansim). Romanes was convinced that Gregor
Mendel and August Weismann were correct about the
discontinuity of "germ plasm".

Unlike most scientists of the time, who saw the new
genetics as the death-knell of Darwinism, Romanes
expected the two theories to merge into an improved
understanding of evolution. Alfred Russel, for instance
fought Mendelism tooth and nail, believing it to be
utterly incompatible with the theory of natual
selection he had co-authored with Darwin.

Some writers (incorrectly) use Neo-Darwinism as a
more general term, to cover all of 20th-century
biology, including the combination with population
genetics in the 1930s that produced the Synthetic

(Neo-Darwinism, The Encyclopedia of Evolution)

Neo-Darwinism has not been discredited. Neither has
the Synthetic Theory. It is true that Gould, Eldredge
et al have criticized the Synthetic Theory, advancing
their own "punctuated equilibrium" theory an an alternative
model. However defenders of the Synthetic Theory (Dawkins
and Dennett among them) point out that ST always included
the idea that evolution can proceed at different rates.

If you think Dawkins said anything different, I think it
is more plausible you misunderstood him. But I haven't
read his latest book yet. Do you have quote (included
with enough context to discern Dawkins real intent)?

> Today we know that "Survival of the Fittest" is not how
> evolution works. General purpose solutions often are more
> useful than "perfect" specific-purpose solutions. Less-fit,
> less adapted beasts are allowed and often enhance the
> species chance of survival in the long run.

If general purpose solutions are more useful than "perfect"
specific-purpose solutions, guess which is more fit?

> Pure luck also
> plays a large role in the modern view of evolution.

Yes, it is called genetic drift.

> The fitness landscapes in Dawkins' book are two-dimentional.
> For example, the X-axis may be sight and the Y-axis a measure
> of fitness. Under such an arangement, each organism has many
> locations, one on each landscape.

You seem to be confusing the graphs in the book with the
concept of fitness landscape.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus