The dispute, ‘Intelligent Design’ vs. Neo-Darwinism, is philosophical, namely whether the origin of biological forms is rational or random. The ‘ID’ side proceeds from the philosophical conclusion of biological design to the existence of a designer, namely God. However, each side wishes to have its argument viewed as scientific. One approach by the ID proponents is to take for granted that Neo-Darwinism is scientific, but then to demonstrate that it is inconsistent with certain empirical observations and thereby scientifically false.
In this approach (see minute 30:30), it is noted that Darwinian evolution cannot proceed by leaps and bounds, but must proceed gradually by stages, thereby generating all of the intermediate forms between the two drastically different biological forms represented at the beginning and the end of a leap. The ID argument is that there are some biological organs such as the ‘motor assembly’ of the bacterial flagellum, which by the Darwinian process, could only evolve by a leap. It would have to be in a leap because only the full assembly has any functional survivability. If by stages, the sequence of stages would terminate in the first stage due to natural selection. Since Darwinian evolution can only proceed by the gradualism of stages, the theory fails in such instances and therefore as a general explanation.
Dawkins states that the improbability of a leap is solved by the gradualism of sub-stages (The God Delusion, p 121). Further, he claims that evolution would be impossible to deny, if the intermediate forms that were generated by the gradualism of evolution had not become extinct.
Dawkins replies to the ID objection by characterizing it as only appearing to be too big a leap or too big a gap in the graduated sequence of biological forms in light of the present state of human knowledge (The God Delusion, p 125). It is not an objection to Darwinian evolution, but a lament over a gap in current scientific knowledge.
Both Sides Are Wrong
The fact is that both sides are wrong in their agreement in identifying the role stages play in Darwinian evolution. The role of stages is indeed one of gradualism. However, this gradualism does not generate all of the intermediate biological forms defined by a leap of evolution from a simple form to a more complex form. Rather, replacing an evolutionary leap with the gradualism of stages drastically decreases the intermediates, which are liable to be randomly generated in a single leap.
In other words, the role of gradualism of stages is one of efficiency in random mutation. Sub-staging eliminates the possibility of generating most of the intermediate forms defined by a one-stage leap of Darwinian evolution.
Dawkins Sets Things Right
Dawkins used an example of 3 mutation sites of 6 mutations each to illustrate the efficiency of sub-stages, where efficiency is achieved by eliminating the possibility of the generation of most of the intermediate evolutionary forms (see minute 4:25). The excellence of his illustration of increased mutational efficiency is not vitiated by the fact that Dawkins mistakenly thought he was illustrating an increase in the probability of evolutionary success due to natural selection. The net probability of success is unaffected by the introduction of sub-stages.
Dawkins’ illustration of mutational efficiency defines a set of 216 different graded mutations, i.e. 6 x 6 x 6 = 216. These mutations are the two end points and 214 intermediates. Let the 216 mutations of the graded spectrum be designated 000 to 555. Each digit position represents a mutation site, while 0 through 5 are each site’s six ordered mutations. In the following elaboration, single quote marks are used to highlight which of the three mutation sites is affected. If you look carefully at minute 5:15, you will notice that the YouTube video by mistake has seven mutations per site, i.e. 000 to 666 for a total of 7 x 7 x 7 = 343, but that is nitpicking. Also, the graduated spectrum begins with 062 and ends with 651, which introduces an unnecessary arithmetic complication.
For the sake of comparison, each base-pair site of a genome identifies four mutations, so that four base-pair mutation sites define 256 mutations, i.e. 4 x 4 x 4 x 4.
In a single stage of Darwinian evolution, all 216 different mutations of Dawkins’ illustration are liable to be generated randomly. Gradualism is achieved by replacing the single overall stage with a series of three sub-stages. Each of the three sub-stages in the series subjects only one site out of the three to random mutation and natural selection, independently of the other two sites. This entails only 6 different mutations per sub-stage. In the first sub-stage, the 6 mutations are between 00’0′ and 00’5′ inclusive. The 6 mutations of the second sub-stage are between 0’0’5 and 0’5’5 inclusive. The 6 mutations of the third sub-stage are between ‘0’55 and ‘5’55 inclusive.
There are 6 possible different mutations, which are liable to generation per sub-stage. However, in the second sub-stage, the mutation labelled 0’0’5, is a duplicate of 00’5’ of the first sub-stage. In the third sub-stage, mutation ‘0’55 is a duplicate of 0’5’5 of the second sub-stage. That yields only 16 different mutations in total, which are liable to random generation, not 18.
In a single overall stage there are no missing links or missing gaps in the spectrum of 216 mutations. All 216 are liable to generation by random mutation. These are 000 to 555.
In the first sub-stage of the illustration, all 6 graded mutations are liable to be randomly generated, i.e. 00’0′ to 00’5’. In the second sub-stage, the 6 mutations liable to be randomly generated are separated by gaps in the graded spectrum. The gaps are of 5 mutations each. The 6 mutations which can be generated in the second sub-stage are 0’0’5, 0’1’5, 0’2’5, 0’3’5, 0’4’5 and 0’5’5. The first gap comprises the 5 mutations between 0’0’5 and 0’1’5. These are 010, 011, 012, 013 and 014. There are 5 gaps of 5 mutations each, for a total of 25 mutations of the overall spectrum which cannot be generated in the second sub-stage due to the gradualism of sub-stages.
In the third sub-stage of the illustration, the 6 mutations which are liable to be randomly generated are ‘0’55, ‘1’55, ‘2’55, ‘3’55, ‘4’55 and ‘5’55. Between each of these mutations there is a gap of 35 graded mutations which cannot be generated due to the gradualism of sub-stages. For the first gap, which is between ‘0’55 and ‘1’55, the 35 are 100 to 154, inclusive. The total of different graded mutations, which cannot be generated in the third sub-stage, is 35 x 5 = 175.
The totals of different mutations for each of the three sub-stages are: Sub-stage one: 6 mutations possibly generated, 0 mutations in non-generated gaps; Sub-stage two: 5 mutations possibly generated, 25 mutations in non-generated gaps; Sub-stage three: 5 mutations possibly generated, 175 mutations in non-generated gaps. Totals for the series of three sub-stages: 16 mutations possibly generated, 200 mutations in non-generated gaps.
The Base Ten
We are familiar with counting using the ten mutations, 0 to 9, in contrast to using just six mutations, 0 to 5. For the sake of familiarity, consider 3 mutation sites of 10 mutations each, thereby defining 000 to 999. That is a total of 1000 different mutations liable to random mutation in a single Darwinian stage. Replacing this with three sub-stages of 10 mutations each, renders 10 + 9 + 9 = 28 different mutations liable to random generation. The second sub-stage has 9 gaps of 9 mutations each, e.g. there are 9 between 0’2’9 and 0’3’9, which cannot be randomly generated. The third sub-stage has 9 gaps of 99 mutations each, e.g. there are 99 between ‘5’99 and ‘6’99.
The total number of intermediates, which cannot be randomly generated due to the mutational efficiency of the gradualism of Darwinian sub-stages, is (9 x 9) + (9 x 99) = 972. Totals for the series of three sub-stages: 28 mutations possibly generated, 972 mutations in non-generated gaps.
Both its proponents and its critics assume that a key characteristic of Darwinian evolution is the generation of a complete spectrum of graded mutations. This shared view assumes that the generation of all mutations in this spectrum is facilitated by the gradualism of a series of sub-stages of random mutation and natural selection. This is false.
The Darwinian algorithm of random mutation and natural selection, applied in series, ensures that most of the mutations, defined by the overall graded spectrum, cannot be generated. The role of sub-staging in Darwinian evolution is to increase the efficiency of mutation via the non-generation of most of the mutations defined by the overall graded spectrum. This results in huge gaps in the spectrum of mutations actually generated.
Richard Dawkins cannot be sufficiently lauded for demonstrating this, even though he believes the opposite, namely that due to the gradualism of sub-stages, Darwinian evolution generates a gap-free spectrum of evolutionary forms approaching continuity. By the same token, the ID argument is not a valid criticism of the Darwinian algorithm. This yields the moral: false arguments, offered in support of the truth, should be avoided.