Stephen E. Jones

Projects: "Problems of Evolution" (Outline): 2. Philosophy (4)): Logical problems of evolution

[Home] [Site map] [Updates] [Projects] [Contents; 1. Introduction; 2. Philosophy (1), (2), (3), (5) & (6); 3. Religion (1) & (2); 4. History (1), (2) & (4); 5. Science; 6. Environment (1), (2) & (3); 7. Origin of life (1), (2) & (3); 8. Cell & Molecular (1), (2) & (3); 9. Mechanisms (1), (2) & (3); 10. Fossil Record; 11. `Fact' of Evolution; 12. Plants; 13. Animals; 14. Man (1) & (2); 15. Social; 16. Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography A-C, D-F, G-I, J-M, N-S, T-Z]

1.	Evolution and philosophy
2.	Materialism
3.	Naturalism
4.	Uniformitarianism
5.	Reductionism
6.	Scientism
7.	Logical problems of evolution
	1.	Contradiction
		1.	Natural selection
	2.	Tautology
	3.	Truism
8.	Fallacies used to support evolution
9.	Falsehoods used to support evolution


7.	Logical problems of evolution
	1.	Contradiction
		1.	Natural selection
Evolutionists contradict themselves in claiming that natural selection is both "chance" and the "antithesis of 
chance." For example, leading evolutionary biologist Douglas Futuyma, when trying to show that a "designer" 
is not necessary, claims that "natural selection ... is the antithesis of chance" (Futuyma, 1982, p.115). 
Similarly Dawkins, when defending Darwinism from the charge that it is "tantamount to chance," asserts 
that natural selection is "the antithesis of chance" (Dawkins, 1986, pp.xv,316-318), and "Chance is a minor 
ingredient in the Darwinian recipe ... the most important ingredient is cumulative selection which is 
quintessentially nonrandom." (Dawkins, 1986, p.49). Yet Mayr, when he wants to rule out natural selection as 
being just another mechanism that a Designer could employ, calls it "a capricious process" (Mayr, 1983, p.36)! 

"Because of the importance of variation, natural selection should be considered a two-step process: the production of abundant variation is followed by the elimination of inferior individuals. This latter step is directional. By adopting natural selection, Darwin settled the several-thousand-year-old argument among philosophers over chance or necessity. Change on the earth is the result of both, the first step being dominated by randomness, the second by necessity." (Mayr E.W., "Darwin's Influence on Modern Thought," Scientific American, Vol. 283, No. 1, pp.67-71, July 2000, p.68)
"DR. MAYR: I don't know who should answer that but I agree there, too. Somebody quoted Darwin yesterday and, as with the Bible, you can quote him for one thing or another. In one place he said that it completely horrified him to think of the eye and how to explain it; and at another place he said once you assume that any kind of protein has the ability to react to light, once you admit that, then it is no problem whatsoever to construct an eye." (Mayr E.W., "Summary Discussion," in Moorhead P.S. & Kaplan M.M., ed., "Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution: A Symposium Held at the Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology, April 25 and 26, 1966," The Wistar Institute Symposium Monograph Number 5, The Wistar Institute Press: Philadelphia PA, 1967, p.97) [top]
2. Tautology

See also True by definition below and "Natural selection ... `Survival of fittest' ... Tautology (circular reasoning)."

A tautology is a statement that is "true by definition, true by the meanings of words, true by the use of syntactical elements" but "give no information about the world" (Fearnside & Holther, 1959, p.137). "It is this lack of material content that is referred to when it is said that such truth is tautological or trivial." (Fearnside & Holther, 1959, p.137). "A tautology is a contentless statement; something true by definition and uninformative of the real world. `All bachelors are unmarried men' is a tautology ... Tautologies are usually contrasted with empirical statements that have content: `The tree outside my window is an oak.' `The car in my yard is black.' While empirical statements have content, they are not logically necessary. That is, they may be false. Tautologies, on the other hand, are logically necessary, since they are true by definition. They do not say a thing, but they are necessarily true." (Geisler, 1999, p.714). "A tautology is a phrase-like `my father is a man' - containing no information in the predicate ('a man') not inherent in the subject ('my father'). Tautologies are fine as definitions, but not as testable scientific statements-there can be nothing to test in a statement true by definition.)" (Gould, 1978, p.40) Evolutionists often employ tautologies in their arguments in support of evolution. For example, leading evolutionist philosopher Helena Cronin wrote: "Natural selection is simply about genes replicating themselves down the generations. Genes that build bodies that do what's needed-seeing, running, digesting, mating-get replicated; and those that don't, don't" (Cronin. 1997, p.80). Similarly, another leading evolutionist philosopher, Michael Ruse, wrote: "Putting the matter bluntly, those of our possible ancestors who had the sorts of features that have been passed down to us-bipedalism, large brains, manual dexterity, sociality, and so forth-tended to survive and reproduce. And those of our possible ancestors who did not have these sorts of features did not" (Ruse, 1988, p.131). Both statements are true by definition, and therefore empirically vacuous. What is needed is evidence that is independent of their mere survival, that is, about "what's needed" and "the sorts of features" that caused their survival. Otherwise such `explanations' reduce down to a vacuous statement of the order of: `those that survived, survived.' Interestingly, both these examples are tautologies in support of natural selection (see further under Natural selection: Tautology). Johnson cites how leading evolutionary geneticist C.H. Waddington stated "in a paper presented at the great convocation at the University of Chicago in 1959 celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species," that "Natural selection, which was at first considered as though it were a hypothesis that was in need of experimental or observational confirmation, turns out on closer inspection to be a tautology, a statement of an inevitable but previously unrecognized relation. ... that the fittest individuals in a population (defined as those which leave most offspring) will leave most offspring" and "only after it was clearly formulated, could biologists realize the enormous power of the principle as a weapon of explanation" (Waddington, 1960, p.385). Johnson perceptively observes, "It is not difficult to understand how leading Darwinists were led to formulate natural selection as a tautology. The contemporary neo-Darwinian synthesis grew out of population genetics, a field anchored in mathematics and concerned with demonstrating how rapidly very small mutational advantages could spread in a population. The advantages in question were assumptions in a theorem, not qualities observed in nature, and the mathematicians naturally tended to think of them as `whatever it was that caused the organism and its descendants to produce more offspring than other members of the species.' This way of thinking spread to the zoologists and paleontologists, who found it convenient to assume that their guiding theory was simply true by definition." (Johnson, 1993b, pp.21-22).
"tautology, n. (from Greek tautos the same, logos that which is said) a repetition of, or saying the same as, something already said. In propositional LOGIC (concerned with the connections between PROPOSITIONS), a tautology is any formula that comes out true for any distribution of truth-values for its constituents. Thus 'p or not-p' is a tautology, since it is true whether p be true or false. " (Vesey G. & Foulkes P., "Collins Dictionary of Philosophy," HarperCollins: Glasgow UK, 1990, p.281)
"tautology ... (Gr. to auto legein to say the same) n. 1 (in grammar) a pleonasm, redundancy of expression, needless repetition, as in `to descend down', `people's democracy', `binary dichotomization'. 2 (in logic) a formula which takes the value true for all assignments of truth-values to its atomic expressions. A simple example is the tautological formula (p v ~ p). Also, a statement in ordinary language which exemplifies a tautological formula can be called a tautology. Thus, `It is raining or it is not raining' is said to be a tautology, since it exemplifies (p v ~ p). All tautologies are necessary truths, but the view that all necessary truths are tautologies is open to serious doubt. 3 The theorems of propositional logic (p & p) = p and (p v p) = p are sometimes called laws of tautology." (Mautner T., "The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy," [1996], Penguin: London, Revised, 2000, pp.556-557. Emphasis original)
"tautology Technically, a formula of the propositional calculus that is true whatever the truth-value assigned to its constituent propositional variables. (A tautology is thus valid, or true in all interpretations.) In more informal contexts a tautology is often thought of as a proposition that `says nothing', or merely repeats a definition." (Blackburn S., "The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy," [1994], Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1996, p.373)
"tautology, a proposition whose negation is inconsistent, or (self-) contradictory, e.g. 'Socrates is Socrates', 'Every human is either male or non-male' ... Tautologies are logically necessary ... Epistemically, every proposition tn be known to be true by purely logical reasoning is a tautology ... a tautology is said to be true in virtue of form ... Since tautologies do not exclude any logical possibilities they are sometimes said to be `empty' or `uninformative'; and there is a tendency even to deny that they are genuine propositions and that knowledge of them is genuine knowledge. ... Tautologies ... are sometimes said to be `useless,' ... " (Corcoran J., "tautology," in Audi R., ed., "The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy," [1995], Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 1996, reprint, pp.788-789. Emphasis original)
"Classical Darwinian theory, in the view of many logicians, faces an even more severe problem: Its central hypothesis that the `fittest' species survive is ungroundable, and therefore `unscientific,' by virtue of tautology. (The summarization of Darwinian theory as `survival of the fittest' was Herbert Spencer's, but Darwin acknowledged the accuracy of this view and preferred it to his own, `natural selection.') The problem with Darwinian theory, according to these logicians, is the fact that `fittest' is defined in terms of survival. If dachshunds survive and dinosaurs don't, then dachshunds are declared to have been fit; if dinosaurs survive and dachshunds don't, then dinosaurs are declared to have been fit. The same problem obtains within species that does between species: those dachshunds, donkeys, and doves that survived-and passed on their genes-are claimed to have done so because they were "fit," while those dachshunds, donkeys, and doves that did not failed because they were not "fit." This logical criticism does grant as "scientific"-though of course incorrectsuch hypotheses as "survival of the biggest" or smallest or greenest. These claims are clearly falsifiable; the fact that we can say that they are incorrect demonstrates this. The central problem with "survival of the fittest" is that its tautological nature precludes in principle its being tested. Similarly, when applied to specific species, such claims are clearly not only testable, but often correct. But such claims are not theories of evolutionary survival in general (as is Darwin's); they are theories that explain in terms of a specified, nontautological property why one or another specified species survived and another did not (or why some members of a specified species survived and other members of that species did not). In other words, no one questions the logical validity of a theory that dachshunds survived because they had specified property A, donkeys because they had specified property B, etc. (The same can be said for a theory that those dachshunds that possessed and passed on the gene for property A survived, while those that did not, did not.) Many attempts to rebut the logical criticism we discuss mistakenly invoke such theories of the survival of a specific species. Such rebuttals prove that which need not be proved; no one ever claimed that there is any logical problem with theories of the survival of specific species (or members of a specific species). Such theories are unobjectionable as long as the property seen as being responsible for survival is defined independently of survival. However, such theories do not validate Darwin because Darwin attempts to specify a property that claims to explain survival of species in general. Since no independent property is associated with species survival in general, so the criticism goes, Darwin had to select a "property" that was no more than a word for "those who survive." This charge is not repelled by substituting "most adaptable" or "best designed," etc., for "fittest," because these too are determined by survival. (That is, how do we determine that a species, or members of a species, is "most adaptable" or "best designed"? By the fact that it survived.) As the reader might guess, the argument over the scientific validity of Darwinian theory has gotten increasingly convoluted over the past century. Suffice it to say here that biologists have tended to argue that it is groundable and scientifically valid, while logicians have tended argue that it is not scientifically meaningful as the umbrella theory it is usually accepted as being. (However, even these logicians acknowledge its value as an ordering model directing the biologist to examine the requirements of survival of specific species.) Contemporary geneticists tend to agree that there was a problem when the issue concerned macroscopic properties, but argue that there are testable genetic hypotheses that describe species in general. Some contemporary logicians accept this as stated. Others accept it but see such hypotheses as a far cry from anything that could be called "Darwinian." Still others argue that close analysis of the genetic "property" alleged to explain the survival of species in general still exposes tautology. ... The key questions determining whether the Darwinian claim meets the logical requirements of science are: (1) Is the claim one attempting to explain the survival of species in general (or members of a species in general); if the claim is attempting merely to address a given species (and if the requirement of (2) is met), then there is clearly no logical problem; and (2) Is the property specified defined nontautologically (i.e., independently of "survival'); the evidence that this requirement is met is the ability of the claim to provide a way, at least in principle, in which it can be shown to be incorrect if it is incorrect? (If it can not, then it is tautological and scientifically unacceptable; in science, if you can't lose, you can't win.)" (Goldberg S., "When Wish Replaces Thought: Why So Much of What You Believe Is False," Prometheus Books: New York NY, 1992, pp.156-157. Emphasis original)
"Professor J. C. Fentress of the University of Rochester observed that one species of vole (a mouse-like rodent) `froze' when it observed a moving object overhead, while another species ran for cover. The species that froze in its tracks lived in the woodland, while the species which ran for cover lived in the open field. Professor Fentress told his colleagues about his observation, but he purposely reversed the facts, telling them that the woodland species ran for cover and that the meadow voles froze in their tracks. The other zoologists were able to give very elaborate and satisfactory explanations why the woodland species ran and the meadow species froze, based upon conventional ideas of evolutionary theory." (Davidheiser B., "Evolution and the Christian Faith," Presbyterian & Reformed: Nutley NJ, 1969, p.194)
"Briefly, Darwinian evolution is concerned with the changes in form and function that arise over succeeding generations in populations of organisms. The crux of the theory is that these changes occur because, whatever is behind them, they ensure that individuals who possess the attributes tend to survive and reproduce successfully. Those that do not, tend to leave fewer surviving offspring or none at all. ... Life's progress entails a great deal more than battling for sustenance, the vulgar meaning put on `survival of the fittest'. Nor is fitness a sort of muscularity of the playing field cum cunning of the biological `market place'. Quite simply, an individual is fit with its environment if it survives long enough to produce offspring, if its progeny are similarly fit, and on and on, as the environment perpetually changes. ... All in all, fitness is expressed in how many fertile offspring are produced (the individual's fecundity) and how likely those offspring are to survive (their viability)." (Drury S.A., "Stepping Stones: The Making of Our Home World," Oxford University Press: New York NY, 1999, p.69. My emphasis) [top]
3. Truism
"Indeed, natural selection theory can be presented in the form of a deductive argument, for example: 1. All organisms must reproduce; 2. All organisms exhibit hereditary variations; 3. Hereditary variations differ in their effect on reproduction; 4. Therefore variations with favourable effects on reproduction will succeed, those with unfavourable effects will fail, and organisms will change. In this sense, natural selection is not a scientific theory, but a truism, something that is proven to be true, like one of Euclid's theorems: If statements 1-3 are true, so is statement 4. This argument shows that natural selection must occur, but it does not say that natural selection is the only cause of evolution, and when natural selection is generalized as the explanation of all evolutionary change, or of every feature of every organism, it becomes so all-embracing that it is in much the same class as Freudian psychology and astrology." (Patterson C., "Evolution," British Museum of Natural History: London, 1978, p.147)
"As they constructed their evolutionary tree, the researchers found that parasitic behavior emerged three different times in three different lineages. All three sometimes lay their eggs in someone else's nest. But why? The answer, it turns out, can be found in the numbers. Parasitic cuckoos lay at least some of their eggs in other birds nests because they get more babies that way, Payne says. "Darwin said that 150 years ago, and we found out that he was right," ... Apparently, the parasitic cuckoo knows that if you let someone else raise some of your kids, you can devote more energy and resources to laying more eggs and producing a lot more cuckoos than if you do it all yourself. ... " ("Cuckoos May Be Dim, But They Are Strategic: Small- Brained Bird Is Clever Enough to Let Others Raise Its Young," ABCNews, April 20, 2005) [This is a good example of a Darwinian truism: "Parasitic cuckoos lay at least some of their eggs in other birds nests because they get more babies that way, Payne says. "Darwin said that 150 years ago, and we found out that he was right". But no doubt non-parasitic cuckoos (and other birds) do not "lay at least some of their eggs in other birds nests because they get more babies that way"!]
"Returning to the platypus, the sting in the tale is actually in the hind claws of the male platypus. True venomous stings, with hypodermic injection, are found in various invertebrate phyla, and in fish and reptiles among vertebrates - but never in birds or mammals other than the platypus (unless you count the toxic saliva of solenodons and some shrews that makes their bites slightly venomous). Among mammals, the male platypus is in a class of its own, and it may be in a class of its own among venomous animals too. The fact that the sting is found only in males suggests, rather surprisingly, that it is aimed not at predators (as in bees) nor at prey (as in snakes) but at rivals. It is not dangerous but is extremely painful, and is unresponsive to morphine. It looks as though platypus venom works directly on pain receptors themselves. If scientists could understand how this is done, there is a hope that it might give a clue to how to resist the pain caused by cancer. This tale began by chiding those zoologists who call the platypus `primitive' as though that were any kind of explanation for the way it is. At best it is a description. Primitive means `resembling the ancestor' and there are many respects in which this is a fair description of a platypus. The bill and the sting are interesting exceptions. But the more important moral of the tale is that even an animal that is genuinely primitive in all respects is primitive for a reason. The ancestral characteristics are good for its way of life, so there is no reason to change. As Professor Arthur Cain of Liverpool University liked to say, an animal is the way it is because it needs to be." (Dawkins R., "The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution," Houghton Mifflin Co: Boston MA, 2004, p.242) [top]

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Created: 3 November, 2003. Updated: 4 April, 2006.