Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Proposed Dog Experiment

As a follow up to my last post on Richard Dawkins, Michael Behe and dog breeding, I propose an experiment to see what random mutation and natural selection can do. Let's take 1000 domesticated dogs of all different breeds and put them in an enclosed space (perhaps Richard Dawkins would volunteer his home and backyard?) and let them breed naturally for 20 years. My prediction: we would end up with a lot of very similar looking mutts. Natural selection would do away with all the remarkable variety that so delighted Dawkins.

Next experiment: same as above, but put them in an enclosed but natural environment and put in 1000 wolves with the 1000 domesticated dogs. My prediction? 1000 dead mutts. 1000 well fed wolves.

Well, perhaps I exagerate. For a while, you might also have some very shell-shocked Pekingese bitches giving birth to some very wolf looking pups.

Viva natural selection!

23 Comments:

At July 11, 2007 5:56 PM, Blogger Neil said...

Ha! Thanks for the laugh. I'm going to try to erase the Pekingese visual from my mind now . . .

 
At July 11, 2007 8:02 PM, Blogger Matteo said...

Also, why not put nothing but Chihuhuas together and see how long it takes to breed an Arctic wolf?

 
At July 13, 2007 2:42 PM, Blogger GK said...

Fine. Now take your post-experiment dog population after 20 years and split them in two groups. Put them far apart so they will not interbreed. Now, let their habitat vary, their food sources, natural predators and parasites, climate, etc. Wait 2,000,000 years. Now you probably will come up with something as different as arctic foxes and dingos, say.

Your example is such a strawman. It shows your poor understanding of natural selection.

 
At July 15, 2007 10:35 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

gk-

You may very well be right, or wrong. It would take 2 mil. years to know, right? But you miss my point. My point is simply to show what a bad argument Dawkins was making. He mistakes intentional selection for natural selection. There is no straw man. Your experiment is quite different from the argument Dawkins was making.

By the way, who or what is keeping the 2 groups apart- nature or human scientists? If the later, then it is not true natural selection, is it?

 
At July 16, 2007 3:44 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Oh I see, Lawrence. Those meddling Scientists are taken the "natural" out of "natural selection".

Okay, how about an earthquake that happens to split the group down the middle, leaving the now two groups seperated on islands.

Or the pack splits into two groups, one migrating south and the other north. One goes over a land-bridge which is then covered by rising sea levels (Global Warming and all) and that group is stuck on another continent.

There, natural enough for you?

On another point: Whether it is a human selecting traits, or environmental pressures selecting traits, they work in the same way...the point is that big ol' "s" word: selection.

 
At July 16, 2007 10:16 AM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean,

Welcome back. Thanks for fixing GK's hypothetical. I could have done the same.

You apparently miss my point as well. Both Dawkins and GK inject human control over the selection process, but they claim or suggest that the results are what natural selection can do all by itself.

I have found this kind of logical fallacy to be rampant in the analysis of evidence for macroevolutionary theory. In the case of Dawkins argument, the fallacy is so obvious as to be embarrassing. Another example of how some scientists are misleading the public as to the what the evidence really establishes.

GK and Sean, do you think Dawkins' arguments are valid? Or do you agree with me that he is confusing natural selection with intelligently controlled selection?

 
At July 16, 2007 11:55 AM, Blogger GK said...

Your point is that "Dawkins mistakes intentional selection for natural selection." No, there is no mistake. You miss his point. The intent is to show that enough mutation exists for _any_ kind of selection to work on, given time and selection pressure.

You ask what is keeping the groups apart in my example. I was thinking of an example from our own past, where the disappearance of a land bridge between continents would have been enough to separate the groups. But you can do the same thing artificially. It doesn't matter.

Intelligent selection can work vastly faster than natural, because it has a goal in mind, e.g. shorter, hairier, faster, etc. Natural selection has no goals. Selection pressures come and go. That's why it takes geological time scales for natural selection to have any effect.

In your proposed experiment of dog interbreeding over 20 years, there would no natural selection pressures, hence no particular reason why any variation in the gene pool would get preference.

 
At July 16, 2007 3:58 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

GK-

The intent is to show that enough mutation exists for _any_ kind of selection to work on, given time and selection pressure.

I understand that to be Dawkins point, and that is why in my first post I pointed out the limits in dog breeding- you only end up with dogs and more dogs.

Dawkins seems to think his dog example is enough to decisively refute and then ridicule Behe, and I think that is ridiculous.

Dog breeding shows variations in size, color, hair length within a species. Dog breeding does not show what random mutation and natural selection can do.

Your example sets up the right experiment, but we do not know the results.

Behe is looking at the data that we have, and drawing conclusions as to the limits of random mutation. If you are going to refute him, you have deal with the data he deals with, or something else that is persuasive. Comparing apples and oranges is not persuasive.

 
At July 16, 2007 4:05 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

GK and Sean-

Why do you think that no one has been able to breed from dogs a "non-dog"?

By the way, even if they did, this would not solve all of the big problems with macroevolutionary theory (such as the Cambrian Explosion ), but it is an interesting question.

 
At July 17, 2007 8:23 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Hi Lawry,

Yes, it's like a car accident I can't look away from.

Again, you're far too literal. Whether it's a person selecting traits, or environmental pressures selecting traits, the key word in "natural selection" is "selection". They both work the same way.

I know GK already said that, but sometimes these things are worth saying twice.

As for the non-dog: let's say we reconvene in 2 million years time. Your 20 dogs would have (back of the envelope calculation: say, age 4 years before sexual maturity, breeds only once, 6 in a litter) 20 times 6 to the power of 500,0000 current living descendants. Hope you have a lot of dog food. Or whatever it is a dog-descendant eats by then.

Actually, if dogs are immutable, why don't we see them in the Cambrian rock? There's some falsification for Darwinism for ya!

 
At July 17, 2007 4:22 PM, Blogger GK said...

>Why do you think that no one has >been able to breed from dogs >a "non-dog"?

Well, it took about 14,000 years to get dogs from wolf ancestors.

What's a "non-dog" to you (and I don't want to hear "squid")? Is a wolf a non-dog? Coyote? Jackal? Note that these can still interbreed, so be precise in your definition of non-dog (tantamount to defining species). It's a difficult task.

 
At July 17, 2007 4:55 PM, Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

The principal problem with Dawkins' dog-breeding stuff is that Behe is talking about the appearance of new, complex biochemical systems: dog breeds evidently don't differ in such systems, nor do dogs differ from wolves in that respect. Hence Dawkins isn't dealing with Behe's argument.

Of course, it's also incorrect to think that natural selection and artificial selection are the same process. Artificial selection can produce varieties that differ vastly in the superficial qualities that breeders select, without producing any deep structural changes.

 
At July 17, 2007 5:19 PM, Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

Let's recall that Behe has always believed that all species descended from common ancestry over billions of years, and that chance and natural selection played a role in the changes that brought about that descent.

So how does he differ from a Darwinist such as Dawkins? Only in holding that Darwinist chance and natural selection don't suffice, that some complex systems are the product of intelligent design. The design, incidentally, wouldn't have to cause the systems to appear suddenly: it could be some sort of gradual process. Thus Behe has always believed in a form of "evolution," but not in evolution by completely blind, unintelligent causes: such as in Darwinism.

 
At July 17, 2007 7:01 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean- I will meet you in 1.7 million years, but 2 million is too long to wait for that experiment. Please don't be late.

I never said that dogs are immutable and I think they are not. Regardless, why should all animals show up in the Cambrian rocks? (That bang was big enough already!)

GK- good question as to a non-dog. A cat would do. Or a sheep. What would be great is if you could take Lassie and breed me an animal with the head of a unicorn and the body of a bear. And can you add some brand new complex organs while your are at it? How bout an organ that digests barley and causes the animal to pee beer? That would be cool.

Bottom line, I don't think dog breeding proves much of anything for either side. Which brings me back to Dawkins' bad argument. As Jim notes, it does not address Behe's points.

 
At July 18, 2007 1:48 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Of course, it's also incorrect to think that natural selection and artificial selection are the same process.

(Points to previous section by Sean and GK).

Go back. Read it this time. Otherwise we'll just be running the merry-go-round again!

Oh, to hell with it. One more time from the top! 'Selection' is the important part of 'Natural Selection'. Whether it is the environment causing only animals with certain traits to breed, or someone deliberately causing only animals with certain traits to breed, they are both ultimately the same thing.

 
At July 18, 2007 6:27 AM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean-

You are kidding, right? You really think artificial selection and natural selection are exactly the same thing? You see no distinction?

And GK does not agree with you:

Intelligent selection can work vastly faster than natural, because it has a goal in mind, e.g. shorter, hairier, faster, etc. Natural selection has no goals. Selection pressures come and go. That's why it takes geological time scales for natural selection to have any effect.

You cannot just assert that "selection is the important part" and then conclude that they are the same thing. I am frankly dumbfounded.

This distinction is fundamental to the ID debate.

Artificial selection (eg dog breeding) involves intelligent planning and design. NS does not. Are you really saying that that distinction is not meaningful?

 
At July 18, 2007 1:24 PM, Blogger GK said...

>why should all animals show up in the Cambrian rocks?

All it would take is one animal to show up ("fossil rabbits in the Pre-Cambrian") that would blow the whole theory of evolution. We're still waiting. Further, every new fossil or fact we find further fits the theory of fills the gaps.

>And can you add some brand new complex organs

No sorry. NS does not do this either. More complexity comes from less complex beginnings. Comments like that one show me that you really don't understand what evolution claims!

>And GK does not agree with you

Sorry, Lawrence, I do agree with what Sean has posted.

>I am frankly dumbfounded

That's obvious.

>You really think artificial selection and natural selection are exactly the same thing? You see no distinction?

The _process_ is distinct. What I'm saying is that the _results_ are the same: descent with modification.

 
At July 18, 2007 2:56 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

GK-

All it would take is one animal to show up ("fossil rabbits in the Pre-Cambrian") that would blow the whole theory of evolution.

Ha. You can believe that if you want. The theory would just be "modified." Many known problems are just ignored now.

Sorry, Lawrence, I do agree with what Sean has posted.

Wha? Sean ridiculed Jim's distinction between AS and NS. Now you are confirming the same distinction as Jim, but saying you agree with Sean. Let us all know when you and Sean figure out what you are both saying.

Comments like that one show me that you really don't understand what evolution claims!

Baseless insult. Comments like that show me you really don't understand how to give the natural meaning to a comment. Read the following line in my comment and you will get a better understanding.

 
At July 19, 2007 2:43 PM, Blogger GK said...

GK>Comments like that one show me that you really don't understand what evolution claims!
lawrence>Baseless insult.

No, based on what you wrote:
"And can you add some brand new complex organs while your are at it? How bout an
organ that digests barley and causes the animal to pee beer? That would be cool."

You specifically ask me to breed something that selection cannot do with a dog as a beginning (and in a smirking tone). So you ask the impossible and triumphantly exclaim the artificial selection (and NS by extension) doesn't work.

This is because you don't understand evolution by natural selection. If you did, you would not suggest such a ridiculous experiment.

 
At July 19, 2007 6:19 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

GK-

I was answering your question as to what would make a "non-dog." It was clearly a partially joking response. I made absolutely no statement as to what NS can and cannot do. You misread my comment and jumped to a ridiculous conclusion, and claimed I don't understand something that was not the subject of my comment. Great work of bad faith "quote-mining."

Sean said,

As for the non-dog: let's say we reconvene in 2 million years time.

Does that mean he does not understand the life span of humans? I think he was being whimsical and was not commenting on the lifespan of humans. How bout you?

You said,

So you ask the impossible and triumphantly exclaim the artificial selection (and NS by extension) doesn't work.

I said nothing remotely like this. I actually suggested the opposite. And you need to work on your reading comprehension skills.

 
At July 19, 2007 7:53 PM, Blogger Theophrastus Bombastus said...

I read once that a knowledgeable breeder could, starting with six dogs of dissimilar breeds, in just ten generations reverse breed to an animal of base stock such as a wolf or coyote. I’ll have to try to find that citation again.

 
At July 21, 2007 1:27 PM, Blogger GK said...

GK>So you ask the impossible and triumphantly exclaim the artificial selection (and NS by extension) doesn't work.

Here are two quotes I mined in good faith:

lawrence>I said nothing remotely like this. I actually suggested the opposite... I made absolutely no statement as to what NS can and cannot do.

Yes you did. I was referring to your initial post, your 20-year dog experiment part 1. You made a very specific statement/prediction: "My prediction: we would end up with a lot of very similar looking mutts. Natural selection would do away with all the remarkable variety that so delighted Dawkins." This is your statement as to what NS can do.
(And, of course, I totally agree with your prediction).

In part 2 you further say, "Next experiment: same as above, but put them in an enclosed but natural environment and put in 1000 wolves with the 1000 domesticated dogs. My prediction? 1000 dead mutts. 1000 well fed wolves." Another statement as what NS can/cannot do. (And I agree again with your prediction). You quickly follow up with a mocking tone, "Viva natural selection!"

Sean and I both explained to you how to do a proper experiment, which none of us will live to see. But we don't need to do this because the grand NS experiment has already been running for a few billion years, and the evidence and results of it for it is undeniable to any rational person.

Now, Lawrence, what is the point of your experiment if not to demonstrate to us all that NS fails miserably?

 
At July 27, 2007 2:48 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

You and I were talking about what I said in my comment of July 17, 2007 7:01 PM. It is disingenuous to claim now that you were talking about what I said elsewhere (in order to defend your false assertion about what I said in that comment).

Besides, the purpose of the original experiment in my original post was to show (in one situation) what natural selection does on its own, without the aid of artificial selection. I was saying nothing about what natural selection can do over millions of years.

You continue to misread my comments.

Here is the full text of the comment we were discussing:

Sean- I will meet you in 1.7 million years, but 2 million is too long to wait for that experiment. Please don't be late.

I never said that dogs are immutable and I think they are not. Regardless, why should all animals show up in the Cambrian rocks? (That bang was big enough already!)

GK- good question as to a non-dog. A cat would do. Or a sheep. What would be great is if you could take Lassie and breed me an animal with the head of a unicorn and the body of a bear. And can you add some brand new complex organs while your are at it? How bout an organ that digests barley and causes the animal to pee beer? That would be cool.

Bottom line, I don't think dog breeding proves much of anything for either side. Which brings me back to Dawkins' bad argument. As Jim notes, it does not address Behe's points.

 

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