The primrose path

by Neil Rickert

Wikipedia, in its definition of “primrose path” says:

Not to be confused with “led up the ‘garden path'”, which is an idiom suggesting that one is being deceived or led astray.

Strictly speaking, I am making that confusion.  For this is about a blog post by Cornelius Hunter, where he unwittingly shows that he has led himself up the garden path.  His blog post is, in part, about primroses and that is the basis for the title that I chose.

Dr. Hunter’s post is:

Hunter’s post has also been reblogged at Uncommon Descent.

Hunter’s blog is dedicated to the view that evolution is a religion, so this post is one of his many attempts to expose that religion.

Hunter ends his post with “Should we laugh or cry?”  Well I, for one am laughing.  I am laughing about Hunter’s confusion.

Let’s look at Hunter’s example of directed adaptation:

If you remove the caterpillars from an evening primrose population, the plants will adjust, and adjust fast. Within even a few generations intelligent changes arise reflecting the absence of the predator. For instance, in plots protected from insects, the flowering time and defensive chemicals against the insects adjust. The plant’s resistance to insects is reduced, which makes sense since the insects are no longer attacking the plant. And in exchange, the plant’s competitive ability is improved. In other words, remove a threat that the plant had to defend against, and the plant population immediately and intelligently exploits the opportunity. It is yet another fascinating example of biology’s many built-in adaptation capabilities.

I am not a biologist, so I am not an expert on primroses.  I shall take Dr Hunter’s word on this being something that happens.

The great puzzle, is why does Dr. Hunter call this “directed adaptation?”  To me, it looks like a classical example of natural selection.  The environment has been altered by removing the predators, so natural selection (or differential survival) results in a change in the gene distribution throughout the population.  If Dr. Hunter and other ID proponents were not so quick to dismiss natural selection, they might actually see that it accounts for those changes in the primrose population.

After describing what happens to primroses, Hunter complains:

Yet evolutionists claim it demonstrates evolution occurring in “real time.”

Well, of course it is evolution (or the natural selection component of evolution) occurring in real time.  This should be obvious to any biologists, other than perhaps a biologist who works at a creationist Bible institute.

Hunter follows with his explanation of why evolutionists have this wrong.  It is a somewhat long explanation, presumably because it has to avoid the obvious conclusion that the evolutionists actually have it right.  After about two paragraphs of explanation, Hunter gets to this:

The point is that because evolution is based on random chance, it would require a very long time to construct biology’s many wonders.

So there’s that old “random chance” myth.  Perhaps Hunter is thinking of a tornado in Fred Hoyle’s junkyard.

I expect that it has often been explained to Hunter.  Evolution depends on the existence of variation and on natural selection.  There is random change involved in generating the variation.  But the natural selection is not random, but instead favors fitness.  In Hunter’s primrose example, it is unlikely that random mutation played much of a role.

So now go read Dr. Hunter’s post, and have a good laugh at it yourself.

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