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Several questions on evolution, and mutation (rate)

Radford Neal radford at cs.toronto.edu
Sat Aug 31 15:46:46 EST 1996

In article <dyanega-3108961517380001 at catalpa.inhs.uiuc.edu>,
Doug Yanega <dyanega at denr1.igis.uiuc.edu> wrote:

>AU contraire. It is the most appropriate definition, as it is the genetic
>level at which evolution operates; if a trait has no heritable component
>(i.e., genetic), it cannot be involved in evolution. Whether evolution
>occurs via natural selection, drift, mutation, or migration, the change is
>at the genetic level. 

You don't get it.  It is not possible to win a substantive argument by
jumping up and down and insisting that words must be defined the way
you want them to be defined.  As I recall, this question arose in a
discusson of whether or not evolution in fact occurs.  When people ask
this, they are asking whether the diversity of species seen in the
world arose by descent from a common ancestor, with the controlling
mechanism perhaps being natural selection.  They are not asking
whether the frequencies of alleles change with time.  If you want to
argue that changes in allele frequencies do occur, **and that they
explain the variation in the observed traits in organisms, and the
origin of different species**, then you have to actually argue this
substantive point.  No one will be convinced if you just redefine the
word "evolution" to mean what you want it to mean and declare victory.

    Radford Neal

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