Example of a tautological proposition

The geological record features episodes of high dying, during which extinction-prone groups are more likely to disappear, leaving extinction-resistant groups as life's legacy. S.J. Gould & N. Eldredge, "Punctuated equilibrium comes of age", Nature (1993) 366:223-7, p. 225.
  • How was this "extinction-proneness" measured, except by noting that the groups disappeared?
  • How was their disapearability measured except by noting that they were "extinction-prone"?

Gould formulated the proposition so that it cannot be disputed: "..certain groups were extinction prone because they disappeared.." But the real reason for their extinction needs be derived independently elsewhere. Nothing is explained by stating that because they were extinction prone they died, their death implies that they were extinction prone. Extinction and disappear or death are a synonymous play with words that alludes to the same fact but masquerades as an explanation. It is derived from Aristotle and EpiCurus philosophy: The good (robot,gene rabbit etc) lived while the bad one died or in other words: What happens happens.

Talk origins: According to the Talk.Origins Archive, sharks haven't changed because they "are excellently adapted to their particular niche in their environment."

Does anyone know how this "excellent adaptation" was measured (apart from observing that sharks haven't changed, that is)?

Irish Elk:

Mayr, trying to explain why things like the giant antlers of the "Irish Elk" and the canines of saber-toothed tigers aren't problematic for Darwinism: quote: "All these features would seem, at first sight, to be highly deleterious, and it was claimed that natural selection could not possibly have favored or even tolerated their evolution. However, the studies of Rensch, Simpson, Gould, and various other paleontologists have demonstrated that the species that had these "excessive" characters always flourished for considerable periods of time when these characters clearly were of selective advantage and that their ultimate extinction coincided with a climatic or broad faunal change which simultaneously led to the extinction of nummerous other species without such `excessive' characters." E. Mayr, Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist , (Harvard University Press, 1988), p. 250.

Ques:These species "flourished", so their structures must have been favored after all?


Furthermore, much of Lyell's uniformitarianism, specifically his ideas on identity of ancient and modern causes, gradualism, and constancy of rate, has been explicitly refuted by the definitive modern sources as well as by an overwhelming preponderance of evidence that, as substantive theories, his ideas on these matters were simply wrong.

"Twelve fallacies of Uniformitarianism" , Geology (sept.1982): Dr. Shea is the editor of the Journal of Geological Education. notes from p. 28 'The long war against God' by Henry Morris.

systematic zoology

"The real problem with Darwin's selection theory, however, is that it can explain everything and therefore, nothing, By logical necessity what survives (or what produces more offspring) is more fit than what doesn't. What is more, it is therefore better adapted, and what is better adapted is therefore `selected for' (or in other words, survives). Of course selection is successful in explaining nature, since the characteristic of tautologies is that they explain everything. And, of course, that is the true measure of selection's appeal." "D. Rosen, "Darwin's Demon," in Systematic Zoology 27 (1978), p. 371"

"At key points, Darwin's theory boiled down to empty tautologies and unproven assumptions."— T. Rosazak, Unfinished Animal (1975), p. 101.


"Pattern and Process in Paleobiology: The Role of Cladistic Analysis in Systematic Paleontology"....Quotes Cracraft 1981 paper:

The following excerpt makes a good focal point: "The conclusion that evolution by natural selection produced hypsodont teeth, or that change in tooth structure through time is consistent with population genetics, is axiomatic (Cracraft 1981). Explanations of this kind, which are common in the paleontological literature, are structured so that they can account for any observation. As such they have limited scientific value, for how are we to say we are wrong in any specific instance?" [pp. 466-467]

Field Museum of Natural history

"So natural selection as a process is okay. We are also pretty sure that it goes on in nature, although good examples are surprisingly rare. The best evidence comes from the many cases where it can be shown that biological structures have been optimized—that is, structures that represent optimal engineering solutions to the problems that an animal has of feeding or escaping predators or generally functioning in its environment . . The presence of these optimal structures does not, of course, prove that they developed through natural selection, but does provide strong circumstantial argument." ..... "The best clincher is extinction. For every species now in existence, roughly ninety-nine have become extinct. The question of why they have become extinct is of enormous importance to evolutionists. It has been studied by many men, but a convincing answer has not been found. It remains unclear why any given species has disappeared."

"If there were no imperfections, there would be no evidence to favor evolution by natural selection over creation."

  • Jeremy Cherfas, "The Difficulties of Darwinism," New Scientist, Vol. 102 (May 17, 1984), p. 29. [*Cherfas was reporting on special lectures by *S.J. Gould at Cambridge University; notice what the expert said: "Apart from imperfections, there is no evidence."]

"The proof of evolution lies in imperfection."—*Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda's Thumb (1980).

Journal links

"...The phrase, `survival of the fittest,' is something of a tautology . . There is no harm in stating the same truth in two different ways."—*J.B.S. Haldane, "Darwinism Under Revision," in Rationalist Annual (1935), p. 24....." .

  • Popper's falsifiability and Darwin's Natural Selection - K.K. Lee
  • american naturalist* in the late 1970s. For instance:
  • Peters (1976). Tautology in evolution and ecology, *AN*, 110, 1-12
  • Caplan (1977). Tautology, circularity, and biological theory, AN*, 111, 390-395.
  • Stebbins (1977). In defense of evolution: Tautology or theory? *AN*, 111, 386-390
  • Popper's falsifiability and darwin's natural selection
  • Brady, Ronald H. 1979. Natural Selection and the Criteria by which a Theory is Judged. Systematic Zoology 28 (4):600-621.
  • Predictable Problems with Tautology in Evolution and Ecology

These issues are also covered in Sober's (1984) book, *The nature of selection: Evolutionary theory in philosophical focus.

  • barker, a.d - philosophy oct 69 an approach to the theory of natural selection
  • ruse, michael confirmation and falsification of theories of evolution scientia vol.104 69
  • young,robert darwin's metaphor: does nature select Monist july 1971
  • williams, mary B. falsifiable predictions in evolutionary theory philosophy of science vol.40 73;jsessionid=5D5577E48E8D5A1FF5F13FE6AA68404C.f02t04 "... I argue that theoretical biology (concerned with unobservables, such as fitness and natural selection) is not scientific because it lacks universal laws and predictive theory. In order to make this argument, I review the differences between verificationism and falsificationism, induction and deduction, and descriptive and explanatory laws. I show how these differ with a specific example of a successful and still useful (even if now superseded as explanatory) deductive theory, Newton's Theory of Motion. I also review some of the philosophical views expressed on these topics because philosophers seem to be even more divided than biologists, which is not at all helpful. ...."

Alfred Wallace

".... Mr. Darwin has laid himself open to much misconception, and has given to his opponents a powerful weapon by his continual use of metaphor in describing the wonderful coadaptations of organic beings....." P. 473. Quarterly Journal of Science, Oct. 1867. - k Creation by Law -

Walter J. Bock

Walter J. Bock (Dept. of Biological sciences, Columbia University) "Evolution by Orderly Law". Science, Vol .164 9 May 1969, pp. 684-685

".... Moreover, the biogenetic law has become so deeply rooted in biological thought that it cannot be weeded out in spite of its having been demonstrated to be wrong by numerous subsequent sholars......"

Keith Stewart

Keith Stewart Thomson, "Ontogeny and Phylogeny recapitulated" American scientist, vol. 76 . May-June 1988, p.273

"..... Surely the biogenetic law is as dead as a doornail......."

J.E. O'Rourke

J.E O'Rourke American Journal of science 1976 276:51 rocks /fossil Get full quote about how the fossils date the rocks and rocks fossils

J.E. O'Rourke American Journal of science 1976 "Pragmatism versus materialism in stratigraphy" Jan 1976 p.54 vol 276

Ager, Derek V.

Ager, Derek V. "Fossil frustrations" New Scientist , vol 100 Nov.10 1983 p.425 fossilized hands


Haeckel University of Jenna trial 1875 1:06 Dr. Edward Blick, Blick Engineering

".... A set of 19th century drawings that still appear in reference books ..... are badly misdrawn, says an embryologist in Britain. Although Haeckel confessed to drawing from memory and was convicted of fraud at the University of Jena, the drawings persist. 'That's the real mystery,' says Richardson.(of St. George's Hospital Medical School in London)

New Scientist Sept. 6, 1997 p.23

time: 1:06

Haeckel University of Jenna trial 1875 1:06 Dr. Edward Blick, Blick Engineering

".... A set of 19th century drawings that still appear in reference books ..... are badly misdrawn, says an embryologist in Britain. Although Haeckel confessed to drawing from memory and was convicted of fraud at the University of Jena, the drawings persist. 'That's the real mystery,' says Richardson. (of St. George's Hospital Medical School in London) New Scientist Sept. 6, 1997 p.23 Kent Hovind 35min

  • Creation Magazine 1996 March-May
  • Actual photos of embrios 1998 Creation Ex Nihilo magazine March-May

Nature 1967

Charles Birch and Paul Ehrlich in 'Nature' in 1967, in which these two supporters of the Darwin theory said: ’Our theory of evolution has become, as [Karl] Popper described, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus outside of empirical science but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems, have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training. The cure seems to us not to be a discarding of the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory, but more scepticism about many of its tenets.’

Modern synthesis not defined

"There is no canonical definition of neo-Darwinism, and surprisingly few writers on the subject seem to consider it necessary to spell out precisely what it is that they are discussing. This is especially curious in view of the controversy which dogs the theory, for one might have thought that a first step towards resolving the dispute over its status would be to decide upon a generally acceptable definition over it. ... Of course, the lack of firm definition does, as we shall see, make the theory much easier to defend." P.T. Saunders & M.W. Ho,

"Is Neo-Darwinism Falsifiable? - And Does It Matter?", Nature and System (1982) 4:179-196, p. 179. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:21, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

"I have always been slightly suspicious of the theory of evolution because of it's ability to account for any property of living beings (the long neck of the giraffe, for example). I have therefore tried tried to see whether biological discovereries over the last thirty years or so fit in with Darwin's theory. I do not think they do. To my mind, the theory does not stand up at all."

  • H. Lipson, "A Physicist Looks of Evolution, "Physics Bulletin 31 (1980), p. 138

Meaning of selection Despite the pervading importance of selection in science and life, there has been no abstraction and generalization from genetical selection to obtain a general selection theory and general selection mathematics . . . Thus one might say that “selection theory” is a theory waiting to be born—much as communication theory was 50 years ago. Probably the main lack that has been holding back any development of a general selection theory is lack of a clear concept of the general nature or meaning of “selection”. . . Probably the single most important prerequisite for Shannon’s famous 1948 paper on “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” was the definition of “information” given by Hartley in 1928, for it was impossible to have a successful mathematical theory of communication without having a clear concept of the commodity “information” that a communication system deals with. (Price, 1995) In defense of developing this work, one can reasonably say that natural selection is among the most profound processes in the natural world, and any further insight that can potentially be obtained about natural selection is certainly worth the effort.

NOTES: When I scramble marbles in a bag and make a 'selection at random' or 'random selection' it is clear from the context that a decision was made and even though the sentence contains the word 'random'; the meaning from the sentence was volition. In the same way it is impossible to assign an actual meaning to a single terms such as 'selection'. The terms must be used in full sentences. The cause for what Fodor calls '150 years of wasted ink' was the inability view 'natural selection' as the metaphor for Matthew's natural means of competitive selection between races and animals etc. As an explanation though for why say the cowboys dominated the battle and not the Indians , it is devoid of explanatory power because if the Indians dominated over the cowboys we would be told the exact same thing. See threads Automated selection and Is natural selection non-random

Fitness free

Klaus Henle (1991). Some Reflections on Evolutionary Theories, with a Classification of Fitness. Acta Biotheoretica 39 (2). Using a classical life history model (the Smith & Fretwell model of the evolution of offspring size), it is demonstrated that even in the presence of overwhelming empirical support, the testability of predictions derived from evolutionary models can give no guarantee that the underlying fitness concept is sound. Non-awareness of this problem may cause considerable justified but avoidable criticism. To help understanding the variable use of fitness in evolutionary models and recognizing potentially problematic areas which need careful consideration, a hierarchical classification of definitions of fitness used in evolutionary models is presented. As a conclusion, it is advocated to use the term fitness more conscientiously than currently often practised and to think more about ways to develop fitness-free evolutionary theories compatible with Darwin's ideas.


Mohan Matthen & André Ariew (2002). Two Ways of Thinking About Fitness and Natural Selection. Journal of Philosophy 99 (2):55-83. How do fitness and natural selection relate to other evolutionary factors like architectural constraint, mode of reproduction, and drift? In one way of thinking, drawn from Newtonian dynamics, fitness is one force driving evolutionary change and added to other factors. In another, drawn from statistical thermodynamics, it is a statistical trend that manifests itself in natural selection histories. It is argued that the first model is incoherent, the second appropriate; a hierarchical realization model is proposed as a basis for a statistical treatment. It emerges that natural selection does not cause evolution; it just is evolution. The theory incorporates relations of statistical correlation, but not the kind of causation found in fundamental physical processes. Causation in Biology in Philosophy of Biology Evolutionary Biology in Philosophy of Biology Population Genetics in Philosophy of Biology


Pending, merge later

(full of grammar mistakes, will fix later, copied from scratchpad notes)

Study of Evolution - More of a Game Than a Science'

s.l. washburn Abstracts, 71st annual meeting Washingtong, D.C.: American Anthroplogical association, 1972

"The epistemological status of natural selection," Laval Theologique et Philosophique, vol.38 (february 1982), pp. 61 - 74


arthur Koestler, Janus: A suming up ( New York: Vintage books, 1978) , 354 pp

Douglas futujama: ".....claim that ns is a tautology is made in journals itself. ...."

Peters r.h.:

".... the theory of evolution does not make predictions.... these 'theories' are actually tautologies and , as such, cannot make empirically testable predictions. they are not scientific theories at all.... "


book our faith in the idea of evolution depends on our reluctance to accept the antagonistic doctrine of special creation dr. louis trenchard More, The dogma of Evolution, 1925

journal d.m.s ., watson, "Adaptation," Nature, 124:231-234, 1929. (Professor, University College, Londone..... write quote down after half of page from extonchurch pdf

c.mann below hafl...down The fact that the theory of natural selection is difficult to test has led some people, anti-Darwinists and even some great Darwinists, to claim that it is a tautology. A tautology like "All tables are tables" is not, of course, testable; nor has it any explanatory power. It is therefore most surprising to hear that some of the greatest contemporary Darwinists themselves formulate the theory in such a way that it amounts to the tautology that those organisms that leave most offspring leave most offspring. And C. H. Waddington even says somewhere (and he defends this view in other places) that "Natural selection . . . turns out . . . to be a tautology".6 However, he attributes at the same place to the theory an "enormous power . . . of explanation". Since the explanatory power of a tautology is obviously zero, something must be wrong here.

6. C. H. Waddington, "Evolutionary Adaptation", in S. Tax, ed., Evolution After Darwin: volume I — The Evolution of Life (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1960) pp. 381-402; see p. 385.


Journal university of Windsor

open access journal

Infinite regress issue by Claude Gratton University of Nevada

Moore on tautology

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