Darwinian Metaphysics

2018 Dec 11

Darwinian evolution is based on several metaphysical assumptions. (Note: I am talking about evolutionary species origins through universal common ancestry.) There is no evolutionary science without these assumptions, so the basis of Darwinian evolution is metaphysics. These include:

  1. Truth exists and is knowable
  2. Truth can be inferred from evidence, artifacts or experiments
  3. Materialistic explanations are the only valid truth explanations for the physical world
  4. We, as products of Darwinian processes, are competent to detect and to know truth
  5. Materialistic mechanisms are sufficient to explain the origins of existing biological systems
  6. Darwinian mechanisms are capable of producing optimized biological features and/or systems
  7. Darwinian mechanisms have the creative power to invent new biological systems

The first four are purely metaphysical. Science cannot speak to these assertions, and yet Darwinian biology absolutely depends on these philosophical assumptions.

If truth does not exist (#1), then all scientific ideas (including biological origins) are merely personal opinion and simply meaningless. Even if truth exists, it might be that we could not come to it (#2: truth can be inferred); in that case valid science would not be doable. However, Darwinian biological explanations do claim to know truth about biological origins, so they certainly affirm these two metaphysical assumptions. note

I personally credit that the first two assumptions are correct; the other ones not so much.

Darwinian proponents also actively exclude non-materialistic explanations for the origins of biological systems even though some non-materialistic origin explanations do exist. Their claim is that since non-materialistic explanations can't be validated experimentally, they cannot be valid. This statement of assumption #3 (materialistic only valid), however, is self-refuting because materialistic knowledge is based on the pre-acceptance that at least certain non-material assumptions are truth. The statement cannot be proved materialistically, therefore by its own standards it is invalid.

The general Darwinian assertion is that the correct and truthful explanation for all observable life is through random mutation and natural selection, and this process selected for survivability. However, any beings that have been continuously optimized to survive obviously had not evolved to find correct answers. (#4: competent to know truth) They would only know what would increase their survival, which might only randomly intersect with truth.

We know that individuals in our world learn different truths for survival when they are in different contexts. Often these truths are not general truths for all contexts, and if a lie will help you survive, then you learn the lie. So if the Darwinian origins explanation is actually true, it would NOT have made us into detectors of truth, and we would have no basis to believe we held truth in any of our sciences, Darwinism particularly included. This also then is a self-refuting position.

The fifth (#5: materialism is sufficient) in principle could be provable by science. However, since Darwinian origins is a forensic science, even if this assertion could be proven true experimentally for some new biologies, this would not be a proof that it was the only possible explanation for the historical biologies. There is no scientific way to be certain that evolution is the explanation for life from the past.

In practice, Darwinian promoters and their explanations strongly assert methodological naturalism (in general because that is the only method aligned with experimental science, in particular because of strident opposition to any special creation). And yet in practice, various evidence casts extreme doubt on the sufficiency of this materialism for the biological world (see problems in: origin of life, transitional forms, specified information in the cell, the Cambrian explosion, and etc). Materialistic mechanisms can certainly explain parts of the origins sequence. However, unless materialism is sufficient to explain the whole sequence, then Darwinian evolution is unviable as promoted.

The next two assumptions (#6: can optimize systems & #7: has creative power) are assertions about Darwinian origins of living things around us.

Assertion #6 ironically used to be ridiculed in evolutionary thinking. It was predicted that our random evolutionary origins left us with a vast mess of “junk DNA”. In contrast, the ENCODE project note has shown critical purposeful use for the majority of these (derided) non-encoding gene sections. So in spite of previous thinking, biological systems have been found to be exceptionally optimized. Amazingly for instance, the human eye is so highly optimized that it is capable of detecting single photons. As further evidence, engineers are constantly reverse-engineering the biological world to improve their own designs.

In one breath then, evolutionary theorists would talk about ages of randomized crud in us, but then in the next breath talk confusingly about ages of evolutionary refinement. They had predicted messy baggage, but increasingly found optimized systems. The occasional optimization can be accommodated in evolution; optimization everywhere cannot. This is because random processes only rarely will encounter optimal results and they are incapable to consistently produce them (local minima problems, etc). This is trouble for Darwinian processes.

We are unable to re-run the experiment of life on earth that has brought us to this point because history cannot be re-run as an experiment. However, we might develop support for the theory of these assumptions (#6 & #7) by experimental means, by running adaptation experiments over many generations of a species. There are labs that are doing exactly this with E. Coli (Lenski: 65,000 generations) & fruit flies (Mori: 1500 generations). note However, the experimental results are contra-indicating these assumptions (#6 & #7). It is true that the results of these labs don’t guarantee that other labs running similar experimental studies would have identical dismal findings. However, their results are consistent with the observations from many similar experiments which have shown that:

  • There are no newly invented biological systems through reproduction
  • Biological forms are optimized toward stasis of form
  • Adaptations are often made by pre-existing sub-systems whose purpose is to promote adaptations
  • Biological systems are degraded through mutations faster than new capabilities are gained
  • Specific improved functions are overwhelmingly obtained through damage to general systems

Most of these observations cast significant doubt on assertion #7 (has creative power) and the last ones cast doubt on assertion #6 (can optimize systems).

65,000 generations of E. Coli is significant. Humans that many generations ago were not even considered evolutionarily modern humans, not the same species. And yet these E.Coli are still species E. Coli. They have become optimized for growing in the test environment, but nothing genuinely new was observed in them over an evolutionarily significant time scale (- no new inventions). note

One E. Coli strain developed a new ability to effectively grow on citrate. This came from a change in control of an existing metabolic pathway, so this still was not an invented new feature. And note that additional work by some other researchers indicates that this change was reproducible due to a biological sub-system that promotes adaptation (that enables it to “sample mutations”). So it could be legitimately argued that this change did not even come from a Darwinian mechanism.

The second observation (- stasis of form) is particularly true in embryonic development. Modifications in particular to embryonic gene regulatory networks are not tolerated and are invariably lethal. This cannot support Darwinian species development because new species body plans have to be set up at the embryo.

The third observation (- sub-systems promoting adaptation) is not predicted on the evolutionary view. A sub-system that accelerates response to future adaptive needs would be culled out because it gives no immediate fitness advantage. Such a system would never be produced because Darwinian processes are never predictive of the future or adaptive to the future. At best, a neutral mutation which just might have a future benefit could be tolerated and so retained. However, a system which actively accelerates adaptive response to the environment is non-Darwinian because it is non-random.

The fourth observation (- degrading is faster) is the opposite of what is required in Darwinian evolution for any practical success. In fact the logical conclusion from this observation is that all species should shortly fail into extinction without any influence from other extinction forces (such as environment catastrophes). How then can they have already survived millions of years or have been produced by Darwinian improvement processes?

The last observation (- gain through damage) is about improvement in one function at the expense of other functions. The organism loses general adaptability and usefulness (that is, general fitness) to increase some other function. This is like throwing cargo overboard to help survive a sinking ship. The famous sickle cell trait anti-malarial adaptation is an example of this damage (and it makes 1/4 of the population sickly). These results are an anti-explanation for Darwinian species development.

All the listed assumptions are metaphysical. The first four of them cannot be validated by science; they are purely of an abstract realm. Darwinian evolution depends on them, and unfortunately #3 & #4 are self-refuting. It is possible the last three assumptions could be confirmed by evidence, but instead it seems that the evidence is against them. Without material validation, they remain then simply as unfounded belief systems in evolutionary thought.

Darwinian evolution then completely depends on assumptions in metaphysics. But since there are serious problems with many of these metaphysics the very basis of Darwinian evolution is rotten.

2018-12-11 updated 2021-01-24   © 2021 Larry Grove