Re: virus: Dawkins is an idiot

David McFadzean (
Wed, 13 Nov 1996 19:33:55 -0700

At 02:59 AM 28/08/70 +0000, David Leeper wrote:

>: 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.
>They are different in that they require no mutations. An existing
>genotype or phenotype is used for a new purpose. It is only after
>this occurs that adaptations begin to occur.

Adaptations don't require mutations. I'm sure everyone has heard
of the example of those moths in England. Before the industrial
revolution they were mostly white with a few black ones in the
population. After the industrial revolution, when coal soot coated
the trees, the black ones were able to escape the notice of
predatory birds more often then their newly unfit white cousins.
The moths adapted to the new environment without any mutations.

>Not in the context used by Dawkins. _Nothing_ goes back down
>the hill.

You lost me. How does an evolutionary elitist strategy imply
something is going down the hill?

>And non-optimal does not mean it's peaked, as Dawkins claims. I
>think your "disadvantage" statement is a subjective opinion. Are
>moose at a disadvantage because of their large antlers? The question
>is, does the beast get at least as much resources out of what it
>"spends". In the case of the Flounder I would answer "Yes". The

I don't think I'm being subjective. One of the great puzzles of
evolution was why do peacocks grow those enormous tails? It takes
a lot of energy to grow the tails and they are at a disadvantage
when it comes to escaping predators. It is not a subjective opinion.
(The answer, BTW, is sexual selection. An adjunct to natural
selection, but certainly not non-Darwinian.)

>I'm not sure how you're using the word "evolution" here. For
>a given gene, mutations occur at a statistically constant rate.
>For phenotypes, there is no statistically constant rate. This
>situation is called punctuated equilibrium. Here's a graph of
>it in action (as always, fixed-width font is best):
>M| !
>U| ! $
>T| !
>A| !
>T| ! $
>I| !
>O| ! $
> +-----------------------------------------------------------
> 0 T I M E N
>! = Cumultive mutation of some gene, X
>$ = Cumultive mutation of some phenotype, Y, which provides
> higher fitness.
>Any ! without a corresponding change in phenotype is an example of
>non-darwinian evolution.
>Each $ that is part of a process of non-darwinian evolution is an
>of punctuated equilibrium.

Unfortunately for your argument, there is nothing in Darwinian
theory that says that mutations occur at regular intervals or
that mutations necessarily cause phenotypic changes.

>Perhaps you'd be kind enough to explain "Synthetic Theory" to me.

natural selection + population genetics

>: You seem to be confusing the graphs in the book with the
>: concept of fitness landscape.
>That's what they are. Dawkin's says it's natural selection that
>moves the beast up the landscape. Sound's like fitness to me.

No, the graphs are 2-dimensional representations of fitness
landscapes. The fact that the graph represents a single attribute
such as speed is a limitation of paper books, not fitness landscapes
(which are n-dimensional).

>He goes on to say that beasts cannot go down the hill. This is
>wrong. Offspring are not required to be more fit than their parents.
>If a less-fit offspring is fit enough to reproduce, that's good

Yes, if Dawkins says that he is wrong. It is strange that he has
already forgotten about so-called 'outlaw genes' which lower
inclusive fitness. He mentioned them extensively in "The Extended

>David, you're a smart guy. I ask that you read the book and subject
>it to the same level of skeptisism that you (rightly) apply to this
>thread. As you read it, keep this in your mind:
>1] The book is self-contradictory.
>2] The book is out of step with modern evolutionary thought.
>3] Dawkins no longer does research. He's now on the book-tour, and
> dinner-party circut.
>4] The book is wrong in many of its descriptions of the processes of
> Evolution.
>5] The short-comings of Dawkins' "Blind Watchman" program resurface
> as shortcomings of Dawkin's description of Evolution.

OK, I'll give it an unbiased reading while keeping those points
in mind :)

>BTW, did Dawkins originate the "meme" concept?

No, but he named it.

Interestingly Darwin himself understood memetics. His friend and colleague
T.H.Huxley suggested "survival of the fittest" in place of Darwin's
"natural selection". Darwin said they should throw both of them
out to the public and the best encapsulation of the idea would survive
(or words to the effect).

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus