Home » Biology, Intelligent Design » Modern Biology vs. Historic Biology

Modern Biology vs. Historic Biology

In a private listserv the question was recently asked by one of the participants:

Just out of curiousity, what would we consider to be the fundamentals of biology? Obviously, you can do biology without trying to shove everything into Darwinian just-so stories.

Professor Dembski thought my answer worth repeating on Uncommon Descent so here it is:

The salient question is what CAN’T you do in practical biology without resort to mechanistic theories of prehistoric evolution. The answer appears to be there is nothing you can’t do. Modern biology is the study of living tissue not imprints in rocks or theoretical ancient ancestors. Knowledge of The Edge of Evolution is critical in some areas. One needs to know, for instance, the mutational means that pathogenic microorganisms employ to thwart therapeutic drugs just as one needs to know they don’t have to worry about those same microorganisms mutating into substantially new phenotypes. One has no need at all to subscribe to any theory that supposes the same organisms had substantially different ancestors millions of years ago. There is no practical application for the theory that chance and necessity turned mud to man over billions of years. Whether true or not the supposed RM+NS mechanism over deep time works too slowly to have any practical consequence measured over the course of hundreds of years except at the fringes where one or several random nucleotide changes effect medically important consequences without otherwise notable phenotype change.

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13 Responses to Modern Biology vs. Historic Biology

  1. One needs to know, for instance, the mutational means that pathogenic microorganisms employ to thwart therapeutic drugs just as one needs to know they don’t have to worry about those same microorganisms mutating into substantially new phenotypes.

    Yes!!! Which feeds into what I’ve been saying… Let’s cure cancer. Let’s use our superior understanding of biology and cure some diseases. The materialists will have a hard time disagreeing with us after we have the only treatments that will cure cancer.

  2. Great answer, Dave!

  3. I think to do certain work in biochemistry you have to “resort to mechanistic theories of prehistoric evolution.”

  4. Corey writes: “I think to do certain work in biochemistry you have to ‘resort to mechanistic theories of prehistoric evolution.’”

    OK. An assertion is not an argument. Please tell us which work requires resort to mechanistic theories of prehistoric evolution and why.

  5. Fair enough Barry, I was in a hurry.
    And still am, so:
    Bioinformatics
    Molecular biology
    Phylogenetics

    You can figure out why these fields require use or understanding of evolutionary theory, or ask somebody else.

  6. Corey, I disagree. Neither Bioinformatics nor Molecular biology must resort to prehistoric evolution at all, much less theories about the mechanisms of prehistoric evolution.

    Phylogenetics is the study of evolutionary relatedness, and by definition resorts to mechanistic theories of prehistoric evolution. But it is not “practical biology” to which DaveScott was referring.

  7. BarryA – how can gene ontogeny work, for instance, without understanding how genes and their domains evolve? If we want to know if two genes share the same function, we have to know what makes them the same, but also what makes them differ.

    One thing that is often done in molecular biology is to ask what a gene does, or what a sequence is involved in. The first step is to BLAST it. This means searching for sequence similarities. Interpreting these results means understanding how they might have changed – i.e. how they evolved. For example, third codon positions tend to evolve faster. Then you can start asking about conserved motifs, which might be conserved due to selection. Again, one has to understand how sequences evolve to be different, or to be the same.

    On phylogenetics not being “practical biology”, I suggest you look up DNA barcoding, which uses phylogenetics to classify species. Not practical biology? Well, only if you don’t consider conservation biology to be practical. If one wants to preserve biodiversity, then one has to measure it first, and one way that is done is simply as the number of species. Methods like DNA barcoding can help a lot in this.

    Bob

  8. Bob

    The methods you mention are empirical in nature. You are studying what is (i.e. living tissue) not what was (i.e. imprints in rocks). The differences or similarities you discover by these empirical methods are the same no matter how they hypothetically came to exist.

  9. Bob, you can sequence genomes and understand gene function without knowing a thing about their past and from whence they developed. Evolutionary relationships are inderred from the molecular configuration of DNA. It’s an add on.

  10. Yes, Dave, the differences are the same, i.e. the observed sequences are the same. But we use evolutionary theory to understand the differences – to work out what are the important differences, for example. It’s essential to the way we interpret the data.

    Bob

  11. BTW, Bob O’H thanks for coming to my defense (kinda) over at antievolution. I thought about posting a reply but decided it would be a waste of time and effort.

  12. BarryA – I think it would be good if you did. You won’t convince the regulars, but it would be worthwhile to have your explanation there too.

    Will no one think of the lurkers? :-)

    Bob

  13. Hey Bob,

    Could you check my last comments on the “Why Mathematicians…” post and clarify for me when you get a chance?

    Thanks,
    Atom

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