Re: virus: Dawkins is an idiot

David McFadzean (
Wed, 20 Nov 1996 18:24:51 -0700

At 10:53 PM 27/08/70 +0000, David Leeper wrote:

>> Point #1: "The only way to explain evolution is by slow,
>> gradual evolution."
>> Discredited: mis-quote
>You have a weak criteria for finding something discredited. I admited
>that I mis-typed the quote. Why are you pretending you don't know that?
>The correctly-typed quote is still wrong.

OK. Is it possible that when Dawkins says "slow, gradual",
he means changes happen over thousands or millions of years?

>I can still use a typewriter, but I think they qualify as obsolete.
>The concepts used in the "Blind Watchmaker" are a decade behind the
>current state-of-the-art. Why are you pretending you don't know
>this David? If you honestly don't know this, buy an introductory
>book on genetic algorithms.

Current state of the art for genetic algorithms or genetic art?
The blindwatchmaker is genetic art. I know the theory behind
genetic algorithms quite well (

>> Point #3: "going downhill is not allowed"
>Dawkins does not use the word "statistical" or anything like
>it. He says it's "forbidden" and "not allowed".

What do you suppose he meant by this?...:

"Perhaps after the dinosaurs became extinct, the remaining
mammals had such a field day of opportunity that some of their lineages
'relaxed their guard', went temporarily downhill, and thereby found higher
peaks of Mount Improbable from which they would normally have been

>Are we going back to eyes again? Evolution has no need to fix
>the human eye. Brains make up for any of its short comings. If

Evolution has no "need" for anything whatsoever.

>evolution had a need to "fix" the eye, it would have. How?
>Redundancy is one solution. Rewire the eye the "right" way
>while retaining the old "wrong" wiring. Once the "right" wiring

Well that is one way to do it. But in the environment when
our ancestors developed the eye it would (probably) have made them
less fit which explains why our retinas our still backwards.

>As for explaining why the flounder is sub-optimal, I don't
>think you have. You premise that evolution can't make a flounder
>flat like a skate when it can turn fins to legs, legs to fins, create
>wingless beings that can fly at twice the speed of sound and ponder
>quantum mechanics simply holds no weight. When I suggested we find
>an online reference on flounder so we can carefully examine the issues,
>you quickly changed the subject to peacock tails.

I didn't change the subject, peacock tails is on the same subject.
I'm too lazy to type it in again so you will have to refer to my
earlier post in the archives.

Am I correct in assuming you still think the flounder is optimal?

>> Point #5: about the whale
>> Granted. I don't know why Dawkins fails to notice that the
>> whale's limbs have gone back to fins.
>Perhaps because this example laughs in the face of his "can't go
>back" theory.

I'll wait for your answer to Richard on this point.

>> Point #6: neo-Darwinism
>> Discredited. Neo-Darwinism (natural selection + population
>> genetics) is in fact not discredited.
>Neo-Darwinism has many connotations, not just (natural selection
>+ population genetics). For example, the fascists used it to
>justify their actions in the fourties, as did Americain busimen
>who had strikers shoot in the early part of this century. Neo-

This is only relevant if you are using one of these connotations.
Are you?

>Darwinism also implies survival of the fittest in many peoples
>minds, which is not how evolution works.

That is Darwinism. We were talking about neo-Darwinism.

>Even your own post said it is incorrect to apply the term neo-
>darwinism to theories originating in the 30's, which is what
>Dawkins does.

True. But the encyclopedia wasn't written by a deity. Maybe
Dawkins is more correct. (How does one decide?)

>> Point #7: elitism
>> Discredited: elitism does occur in nature (cloning)
>Elitism does not occur in a strict enough sense to match Dawkins'
>description of evolution. See my original posting.

Here is your exact quote (taken from your latest posting):

>Techniques which do not occur in nature, such as Elitism,
>must be used.

Cloning fits this example. The slim possibility of a mutation
during the cloning is irrelevant because most clones (the vast
majority) are identical to their parent.

>> Point #8: fitness landscapes
>> Discredited: organisms are in fact at a single point in
>> in the overall fitness landscape (by definition) and the
>> fact that it takes many 2-D graphs to represent that doesn't
>> change that fact.
>If you want to have a single location for an organism on a fitness
>landscape, then you need to take all factors effecting that fitness
>rating into account.


> Dawkins does not do this. Instead he examines
>only one phenotype. He then uses this to support his argument that
>evolution can't do any better with that phenotype. This analysis
>is often invalid, because evolution will find ways to make up for
>short-comings of one phenotype by using a different phenotype. I've
>stated this clearly all along David, why are you pretending you don't
>know this?

I wish you would stop asking why I'm pretending I don't know this.
You must see how insulting that is. Are you trying to pick a fight?
If so, you can pick a fight with someone else.

Back to your point: If Dawkins focuses on a single factor for illustrative
purposes, it is only for illustrative purposes. I have yet to see an
analysis of fitness anywhere that took into account the millions of
actual factors. Have you?

>> Point #9: crossover (added later)
>> Discredited. Crossover isn't all important. Mutation is
>> more important for speciation. (e.g. no matter how often
>> little rodents have sex, they won't change into chimps
>> without mutations).
>I never said crossover was all important. Why are you pretending
>you don't know this? I said crossover is now considered more
>important than mutation. I refer you to De Jong's experiments

More important for what? I'm claiming that it depends on what
you are interested in. If Dawkins doesn't mention crossover
it is probably because he is trying to reach a wider audience.

>which show evolution seems most effective with a crossover rate
>of 0.6 and a mutation rate of 0.001. Dawkins' emphasis on mutation
>and scant attention to crossover draws an inacurate picture of how
>evolution works.

I've read a lot of De Jong's work, and those particular GA factors
(empirically found, BTW) are irrelevant to a general book on evolution.

Even if you were right on every point and you now know more than
Dawkins does about evolution, I'm still unclear on why that makes
him an idiot. Is everyone less knowledgeable than you an idiot?

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus