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Posted on March 11 at 12:46 p.m.
Seems to me that your are confused about the nature of definitions. Statements like "Natural selection = differential reproduction" define the terms. Yes, they're tautologies. So is the statement "red is a form of light with wavelength 400–484 THz." The measurement is concrete enough, by why is red 400-484 THz, not 400-500? Well, because 484 to 500 are orange and orange isn't red. Why not? And so forth. Circular, you might say, or even content free, but that wouldn't be saying anything useful. Definitions are tautologies that teach us about words and ideas so we can use them well.
The idea of natural selection, defined, helps a person ask questions that help us understand the world around us. It explains the standard by which to measure the success or failure of genes and organisms. It helps us frame questions about why animals and plants, etc., are the way they are. Those questions, and their answers, involve very non-tautological matters of color, size, bone lengths or strengths, hairiness, and the million other traits of organisms, and how those variations help or hinder the organisms, in terms of their survival and reproduction, and the reproduction of their close relatives.
True, natural selection isn't the only process by which organisms change -- the diverse processes we lump together as "genetic drift" can produce effects we humans can consider wonderfully creative. Nonetheless, the effectiveness of the process we define as natural selection is wonderful. We have no need to look around for vague forces for complexity inherent in all matter.
By the way, as a botanist, I find the idea that evolution leads inexorably to increases in perception . . . laughable.
On On Natural Selection and the Universal Eros