Why was natural selection considered revolutionary?

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It's a truism that those that are better at surviving/adapting will be better at surviving. How is that in any way enlightening or new? Is there a deeper, more complex aspect to this theory that somehow escaped me? Were there people before this theory believing that those that are worse at adapting/surviving are more likely to survive?

I can understand how linking us to other animals was a more daring proposition, but natural selection is really not.
 
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  • #2
stevendaryl
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It's a truism that those that are better at surviving/adapting will be better at surviving. How is that in any way enlightening or new? Is there a deeper, more complex aspect to this theory that somehow escaped me? Were there people before this theory believing that those that are worse at adapting/surviving are more likely to survive?

I can understand how linking us to other animals was a more daring proposition, but natural selection is really not.
Well, to make it work, you need to assume that there are such things as random mutations that affect an individual's chances of survival/reproduction, and that those mutations are hereditable, and that occasionally, the mutations are beneficial.

It's actually hard to demonstrate that this is true. By far, most random mutations are either neutral (no noticeable change in the individual at all) or harmful.

Then the second claim that Darwin made (and this is also hard to demonstrate) is that different species can be connected by a sequence of small genetic changes such that every step along the way is viable. If you wanted to turn (say) a fish into a monkey by modifying genes one at a time, then you run the risk that an intermediate genome might not be viable.
 
  • #3
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Not he first (and sure not the last) time when a seemingly trivial thought (which is usually lingering around for some time already) is considered revolutionary as part of a complex theory.
 
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  • #4
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Well, to make it work, you need to assume that there are such things as random mutations that affect an individual's chances of survival/reproduction, and that those mutations are hereditable, and that occasionally, the mutations are beneficial.
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I don't see how you need to assume any of that. All you need to assume to account for the life around us is that best ones at surviving are going to survive, which is a truism and not even an assumption.
 
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Not he first (and sure not the last) time when a seemingly trivial thought (which is usually lingering around for some time already) is considered revolutionary as part of a complex theory.
This has to take the price, though. Natural selection is a completely self evident theory for any rational enquirer, and not even in need of a label.
 
  • #6
stevendaryl
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I don't see how you need to assume any of that. All you need to assume to account for the life around us is that best ones at surviving are going to survive, which is a truism and not even an assumption.
If the variations are not hereditable, then it's not going to lead to a change in the species.
 
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If the variations are not hereditable, then it's not going to lead to a change in the species.
This is again a truism. If something is not passed on, it's not going to be in effect.
 
  • #8
stevendaryl
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This is again a truism. If something is not passed on, it's not going to be in effect.
I guess I don't understand what point you are making. Yes, if we make certain assumptions (about there being mutations, about some of the mutations being beneficial, about them being hereditable, etc.) then evolution is a "truism", in the sense that it will almost certainly happen, given enough time. Those assumptions aren't themselves truisms, though. It's not a truism that that is the explanation for the lifeforms we see.
 
  • #9
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I guess I don't understand what point you are making. Yes, if we make certain assumptions (about there being mutations, about some of the mutations being beneficial, about them being hereditable, etc.) then evolution is a "truism", in the sense that it will almost certainly happen, given enough time. Those assumptions aren't themselves truisms, though. It's not a truism that that is the explanation for the lifeforms we see.
Could you please postulate a plausible, alternative model? A theory of life that could in principle have been the explanation, but just so happens wasn't. Should be easy if natural selection isn't a truism.
 
  • #10
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A theory of life that could in principle have been the explanation, but just so happens wasn't.
Horsehair to worms, piles of old rags to mice, ... ?
 
  • #11
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Horsehair to worms, piles of old rags to mice, ... ?
Natural selection has nothing to do with the origin of life. Natural selection is an attempt to explain the actual life around us.
 
  • #12
jim mcnamara
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This is a good question, but much more in the philosophy of science. If you define revolutionary as contrary to what a large number of researchers have written previously and what the common belief is currently, then Natural Selection as first clearly defined by Darwin fills the bill. As a historical note. Not a 21st Century observation.

At the time of Darwin, (1840's and 1850's), Creationism as written in the Bible (Genesis) and the Torah (Bresheit) was the dominant scientific explanation. In fact that older explanation is still very extant in countries like the US. There has been a long and tiresome "debate" since then. This is your historical answer, from your question's point of view, since you are acting as a 21st Century observer. Context is everything.

Before you tell me this wrong consider the title of Darwin's book. If you want to argue look for the correct title. Hint: it has to do with how new species come to be

I am moving this thread to General Discussion. If new posts delve into Religion the thread will be locked.
 
  • #13
stevendaryl
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Could you please postulate a plausible, alternative model? A theory of life that could in principle have been the explanation, but just so happens wasn't. Should be easy if natural selection isn't a truism.
Lamarkian evolution, intelligent design, Aristotelian teleology, aliens.
 
  • #14
stevendaryl
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Lamarkian evolution, intelligent design, Aristotelian teleology, aliens.
If you mean alternatives that are considered scientifically viable today, then I really don't think there are any. Darwinism (or tweaks of it) is the only game in town. But it's only in hindsight that it seems obviously true.
 
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Aristotle was the authority on Biology for millennia. I don't know enough about what was going on in the 19th century, but since the concept of natural selection differed from Aristotle's conception of species it could be considered 'revolutionary' for that reason.
 
  • #16
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If you mean alternatives that are considered scientifically viable today, then I really don't think there are any. Darwinism (or tweaks of it) is the only game in town. But it's only in hindsight that it seems obviously true.
You are equating evolution with natural selection, which is a mistake. Evolution is an explanation for the development of different organisms. Natural selection is an explanation for their continued existence. Two different things. I asked of you to postulate an alternative theory for organisms continued existence, based in science.
 
  • #17
stevendaryl
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You are equating evolution with natural selection, which is a mistake. Evolution is an explanation for the development of different organisms. Natural selection is an explanation for their continued existence. Two different things. I asked of you to postulate an alternative theory for organisms continued existence, based in science.
I have completely lost interest in this discussion. Do you have a point to make? If so, I can't see one. Darwin didn't propose two different theories: The theory of natural selection, and later a theory of evolution. He proposed natural selection as a mechanism for evolution. Natural selection is pretty uninteresting except as a mechanism for evolution.
 
  • #18
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I have completely lost interest in this discussion. Do you have a point to make? If so, I can't see one.
You seem unable to differentiate evolution from natural selection. They are intertwined but still separate.
 
  • #19
stevendaryl
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You seem unable to differentiate evolution from natural selection. They are intertwined but still separate.
It's not that I am unable. I just don't see any point in it. I don't see anything interesting about separating them.

It seems that you are taking Darwin's theory, and taking one component of it, natural selection, and examining in isolation. Then you're declaring: This part is trivial--a truism--obvious. Okay, so then why talk about it in isolation? Why launch a thread about it?
 
  • #20
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It's not that I am unable. I just don't see any point in it.
Fair enough. I suppose you can propose alternative theories based in fatalism, but my point is that if we stick to science, I really don't see an alternative, as opposed to most theories put forward.
 
  • #21
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Okay, so then why talk about it in isolation? Why launch a thread about it?
Because natural selection has been equally praised, even in scientific circles, and it rubs me the wrong way concidering how it is a truism in the context of science. It has to be a true account of the world unless there is magic going on. If no other theory is even possible in theory (confined to science) why praise it?
 
  • #22
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Could you please postulate a plausible, alternative model? A theory of life that could in principle have been the explanation, but just so happens wasn't. Should be easy if natural selection isn't a truism.
You are confusing your own arguments here, which is a rhetorical method, but not a scientific one.

The statement is: Under some (plausible and provable) assumptions, evolution is their implication.

Now you ask for some obscure assumptions, which will imply an alternative model. In other words, you changed the direction of conclusion deliberately. This is no serious way of argumentation. Different assumptions will of course lead to different conclusions.
You are equating evolution with natural selection, which is a mistake.
No. You are, as I've revealed. So again, what is your point? Your logic doesn't make sense as you switch back and forth.

If your only intention is an argumentation against evolution, this thread will soon be closed.
 
  • #23
Laroxe
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I'm a bit puzzled by this thread, it presented the idea that those who are better at surviving will be better at surviving and the poster asked if there was some more complex theory and were they missing something. Well yes there is, its called natural selection and the "truism" about survival simply doesn't describe natural selection, in fact survival isn't the point, everything dies.
It was revolutionary because people couldn't believe that something as complex as themselves could have resulted from a series of random events and lots of luck, there was no awareness of the mechanisms that could even make such a thing possible, then as now people thought complex biological structures had to be designed. There are in fact lots of examples of successful adaptations that impair survival. I suspect that the belief that we are at the mercy of the fates was pretty close to the mark.
 
  • #24
Drakkith
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It's a truism that those that are better at surviving/adapting will be better at surviving. How is that in any way enlightening or new? Is there a deeper, more complex aspect to this theory that somehow escaped me? Were there people before this theory believing that those that are worse at adapting/surviving are more likely to survive?
No, they didn't think about 'adaption' at all. There was no such thing in the context of organisms and their environment. This is like asking how did people think gravity acted prior to the adoption of Newton's Theory of Universal Gravitation. They didn't think about gravity at all. It didn't even exist in their minds. They just knew that 'objects fall down' and the stars and the planets moved across the sky.
 
  • #25
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You are confusing your own arguments here, which is a rhetorical method, but not a scientific one.

The statement is: Under some (plausible and provable) assumptions, evolution is their implication.
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I am not confusing my arguments at all. Explain the life around us without supposing that those that survive are more apt at surviving long enough to pass on their genes, than those that arent. You don't even need evolution to be true for that to be self evident.
 

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