Thursday, March 02, 2006

Overthrowing Darwin's Number Two Theory

This is interesting, a team of researchers are using John Nash's Game theory to explain the mating behavior of species. If they are right, then it means Darwin was wrong, which will make some scientists upset.

I wonder what my friend Kamran from the University of Chicago has to say about this.


Kamran said...

Even if these researchers have a better sexual selection model than Darwin, that does not mean that "Darwin was wrong" in a meaningful sense. This research does not overthrow evolution, and I do not think these scientists claim that it does. Darwin had a number of theories that explained how evolution worked. His primary one is "Natural Selection," but even he admits that this is only one of many mechanisms. Another one was his theory on "Sexual Selection," which is the theory in question. These researchers are not stating that sexual selection doesn't happen, but merely that it doesn't happen in the way that Darwin thought. Even in this limited criticism, the fact that Darwin got sexual selection wrong is not a new fact. For example, his theory claimed that in animal groups where men compete against one another, for example with rams, the male who wins the most fights gets the most mates. But it turns out that it is the male who abstains from the fights that gain the most mates; they survive longer, and are using their time to mac on the ladies rather than bursting open their skulls.

In addition to this, I would also agree with Jeffry Coyne, another one from University of Chicago. This was included in the article:

"She is wrong," he wrote. "[Darwin's] theory is powerful and largely correct. Yes, there are nuances of behavior that require special explanation, or that we don't yet understand. But nobody, least of all Darwin, ever claimed that evolutionary biology is characterized by ironclad laws. Our field is not physics. Nevertheless, some generalizations, such as the pervasive competition of males for females, can be powerful and useful."

Kamran said...

I would also then add, that whatever these researchers discover, they will not be dealing with Natural Selection, which is still held to be the primary means of descent with modification.

Michael said...

One thing I like about this:

It's based on science. I can get into any assault on Darwin and his theories if they are rooted in science.

Yes, this one is on something other than his evolution theory, but it's done properly. Evidence is observed, collected, and a theory is based off of it. NOT a theory is come up with, and all evidence that supports it is used, and all evidence that doesn't is ignored.

Jose said...

I should have worded the post better.
I don't think they mean to debunk the theory of natural selection which is what evolution is based on. Rather, they just want to say that their theory makes more sense than the one Darwin proposed.
Which in turn, will piss off a lot of die hard evolutionists, and I want to know why, they are supposed to be scientists, not darwinists.

Kamran said...

First, I fail to see what Michael's point is at all.

Second, for Jose, I fail to see how this will upset Darwinists.

Third, I think its wrong to say that the theory of evolution was "based on" natural selection. The theory of evolution was around long before Charles Darwin. Charles Darwin's revolutionary move was to introduce a feasible mechanism for evolution to work, and supporting that theory with tremendous amounts of confirmation. The sexual selection theory was barely given lip service in the Origin of Species, but it was dealt with more thoroughly in the Descent of Man.

Fourth, it may be the case that Michael was implying that Darwin's theory uses only confirmation, in which case it is not proper to call the theory science. But his theory fills the criteria of a scientific theory on many fronts; he shows it to be an adequate explanation for the way things work, a true cause (meaning that natural selection is not only a sufficient explanation but a real one), and it is falsifiable.

Michael said...

Kamran - My point is based on the media and many destroying scientific integrity by pushing alternate theories against evolution that aren't based off of scientific research (Intelligent Design), where a theory is come up with (a greater power created everything, its too complex, we'll never understand it, and this proves it.)

Jose said...

I see what you mean Kamran,

I have stepped out of the limits of my knowledge on this subject, but I think that when it comes to questions like "How did we get here?" It is good to keep an open mind. I feel like there are people in the scientific community that blindly defend Darwin without giving other theories a fair share. I am all for challenging pre-conceived notions, if they are scientifically sound.
I do not support the I.D. movement because it is pseudo-science at best, hypocrasy at the worst. Yet, somehow I think that Science has no way of being certain about our origin.

I guess my point is that I am all for searching for new answers to old questions, that way there may be a breakthrough and we can find out more about our human race.

My thing is, evolution is still a theory right? It is not quite proven yet.

Jose said...

Think no more!
The Church of the Flying Spagetti Monster may have all the answers to our questions...

Kamran said...

It is a theory, it will never be proved, and that is quite enough. To be a "theory" in science is not just a proposed answer or explanation; it must fit a rigorous set of criteria. Relativity is for the most part true, and it is a theory; Quantum theory, theory of gravity, Newton's theories of motion, our ideas on how to build bridges and keep planes in the air are all "theories" and can not in a strict sense be proven. That does not mean they are not facts.

Jose said...

There are theories that become Theorems or Laws when you can test and experiment.

The Laws that Engineers abide by when designing a Bridge, for example, are based on the Laws of Physics that you can test, and bank on.

Other Theories are not so easy to prove. Because you cannot test them.