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“Preexisting Evolutionary Potential” now a Scientific Fact

A recent multidisciplinary study on the two-phase increase in the size of life has concluded that there must exist a “preexisting evolutionary potential” to explain the sudden increase in size and complexity which occurred twice in the history of life, both times following increases in atmospheric oxygen.

From the earliest bacteria to the largest organisms, there has been a 16 orders of magnitude increase in size. Far from the gradual progression over much time which one would expect from a Darwinian explanation, however, this increase was not incremental, but occurred in two very large steps, involving about a million times increase in size over very brief periods of time.

And things didn’t just get bigger, but much more complex as well:

Each size step required a major innovation in organismal complexity—first the eukaryotic cell and later eukaryotic multicellularity.

The investigators conclusion? There must have been a “preexisting evolutionary potential” to account for the rapid changes:

The size increases appear to have
occurred when ambient oxygen concentrations reached sufficient
concentrations for clades to realize preexisting evolutionary
potential
, highlighting the long-term dependence of
macroevolutionary pattern on both biological potential and
environmental opportunity.

They also coin the interesting phrase “latent evolutionary potential.”
From the abstract:

…latent evolutionary potential
was realized soon after environmental
limitations were removed.

These dramatic and rapid changes correspond to an increase in atmospheric oxygen. This increase appears to have unleashed an otherwise unspecified and undefined “evolutionary potential” in many different organisms.

What exactly this “evolutionary potential” was is not speculated upon. The presence of latent genetic programs is certainly the most obvious explanation. Darwinists of course are unable to offer this obvious possibility. They would then have to explain where those programs might have come from. They would then be branded ID Creationists and lose their jobs.

While the article does not directly address the implications for Darwinism of the existence of “latent” or “preexisting” evolutionary potential, the impossibility of fitting this concept into the standard neo-Darwinian paradigm is obvious. The standard explanation of life’s development, of course, requires incremental trial-and-error mutations, with nothing “preexistent” about them, selected gradually over generations to build up evolutionary change.

What these researchers have nicely documented in the fossil record, like so many other discoveries, flatly contradicts what would be expected in a Darwinian world. The findings fit quite nicely, however, with the concept of a preexistent design, with front-loaded genetic programs.

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57 Responses to “Preexisting Evolutionary Potential” now a Scientific Fact

  1. Stop PZ Myers from winning best science blog!

    Today is the last day for voting in the best science blog pole and PZ Myers has launched an angry campaign to win. He is currently in second place and gaining on the first place blog- “Watts Up With That”- which belongs to climate change skeptic Anthony Watts.

    Vote against PZ now! Vote for “Watts Up With That”!

    Here is the link:
    http://2008.weblogawards.org/p.....ence-blog/

    Sorry, that was off topic.

  2. In ID terms the “evolutionary potential” would be the design’s target zones.

  3. “They would then be branded ID Creationists and lose their jobs.”

    ….sorry, but I am still laughing.

  4. “evolutionary potential”

    LOL!!!! Shes goin’ down in flames capn’…tha whole dern theory…with an oxymoronic term! It’s random and incremental, yet it’s pre-determined and sudden at the same time. Amazing.

  5. This discovery dovetails very nicely with Mike Gene’s frontloading concept.

    I wonder how this will be dealt with. It would seem to be a deathknell for the idea of Darwinism, but it should be entertaining.

  6. Aren’t the two episodes just the appearance of eukayotes and the Cambrian Explosion? Or complex uni cellular life and multi cellular life.

  7. PZ lost to the climate change sketics. In case anybody is wondering.

  8. 9

    “Pre-existing evolutionary potential” flat out screams, “front-loading”!

    The exciting thing here is that ID researchers should be able to isolate 1) the genes that preserve front-loaded mechanisms when they’re not being used and 2) frontloaded genes that have yet to be expressed. This is truly an exciting direction in research, but don’t expect the evolutionists to pick up on it with any enthusiasm.

  9. The exciting thing here is that ID researchers should be able to isolate 1) the genes that preserve front-loaded mechanisms when they’re not being used and 2) frontloaded genes that have yet to be expressed.

    Old school.

    The new school has the front loading being the genetic algorithm embedded in/ on the DNA and other cellular components.

    Said algorithm in conjunction with available resources can create the genes required to make to necessary proteins and enzymes, as well as control the assembly of complex cellular machinery.

    The state-of-the-art open-source evolution simulation program, Stylus, may help us determine the extent front loading can go.

  10. 11

    The new school has the front loading being the genetic algorithm embedded in/ on the DNA and other cellular components.

    Hmmmm. How do irreducibly complex mechanisms get embedded here? In the Edge of Evolution, Behe proposes that most, if not all, protein-protein interactions are IC. It’s hard to fathom an algorithm that creates such ubiquitous complexity.

    In either case, these mechanisms and algorithms should be uncoverable, and I find that exciting.

  11. Vote for “Watts Up With That”!

    Before doing so you may search that blog for “intelligent design”, “Dembski” or “Behe”.

  12. Hey Doctor Cook! Long time no read.

    Front loading all the way down.

    Did you read Rob Sheldon’s paper on panspermia via comets? The guy’s a long time NASA physicist.

    Drop a comment under one of my articles so I can get your email address.

    And don’t be such a stranger!

  13. By the way, oxygen level triggering a major front loaded evolutionary step was something I predicted based on front loaded ID a few years ago. It’s in the archives here somewhere.

  14. Jerry in dry humor. Channeling Jimmy Stewart.

  15. Anybody have any comments on GilDodgen’s post at #6?

    I’m not sure what to think of it. It doesn’t explain how they almost created life either. I’m guessing they used intelligence, and most definitely not chance. :-P

  16. The new school has the front loading being the genetic algorithm embedded in/ on the DNA and other cellular components.

    Hmmmm. How do irreducibly complex mechanisms get embedded here?

    By design. Now we don’t know the EXCAT process but if we did then we wouldn’t need science.

    In the Edge of Evolution, Behe proposes that most, if not all, protein-protein interactions are IC. It’s hard to fathom an algorithm that creates such ubiquitous complexity.

    Behe is also one of those biologists who should be introduced to and experience computer science.

    Feb 2003 article in SciAm titled “Evolving Inventions” demonstrates that ubiquitous complexity can arise if designed to do so.

  17. 18

    DaveScot said:

    By the way, oxygen level triggering a major front loaded evolutionary step was something I predicted based on front loaded ID a few years ago. It’s in the archives here somewhere.

    Wouldn’t we expect (if Darwinian evolution were at work) that a significant change in the biosphere would “trigger” evolutionary changes? How can we distinguish frontloading from natural evolution? Another thing I don’t understand about the concept of frontloading is how future contingencies (the billions of possible combinations of stimuli that might occur) are predicted by the “frontloader.”

  18. The new school has the front loading being the genetic algorithm embedded in/ on the DNA and other cellular components.

    That’s why there’s all this talk of “active information” and “intelligent evolution”. Then there’s fractals and the fractogene concept. But personally I would think that a limited set of components would need to be explicitly predefined. Otherwise I would presume you’d run into the same problems of gradually traversing indirect pathways.

    Also, even if we presume that evolution via algorithms is not true we at least know that in modern creatures that complex morphological features are constructed algorithmically. Like plants and the repeating pattern of the leaves (the name for that escapes me at the moment). I’ve read that nerve and blood vessel growth in limbs is supposedly derived algorithmically. Darwinists will also cite the anterior and recurrent laryngeal nerves of the giraffe as an example of “poor design” since it loops ~15 feet around the neck and back from the brain to the larynx, presumably resulting in ~13 feet of “waste” (although I should note that there’s potentially other functional reasons for this design I’m not aware of). Well, sure, that does not seem to make sense if it’s body plan was statically defined like blueprints for a house. But it makes perfect sense if it’s partially defined algorithmically in order to compensate for variations in body shape.

    Speaking of “bad design = no design” arguments I happened to use a waterproof cell phone the other day. The problem was that the protective layer rendered the voices almost unintelligible.

  19. Response to #6
    Origin of Rabbits Discovered

    Scientists are tantalizingly close to discovering the secret to the origin of rabbits.
    Researchers in La Jolla released several rabbits into an enclosure, and within months discovered that the rabbits were replicating.
    “It’s not the same as observing the initial evolutionary origins of rabbits,” one researcher said, “but we’re knocking on that door.”

  20. Patrick,

    Besides the genome there has been talk of the mebranenome(sp?).

    That is the membranes of the cell and cellular components which have one also have to have the information required to rebuild themselves.

    As for the nerve issue, think timing. Nerve signals travel about 100mph.

    IOW perhaps if the nerve were shorter the signal would reach the target sooner which could possibly cause a malfunction.

    I once put platinum spark plugs in my Grand National because I figured they would allow it to run better. Wrong! The spark reached its destination too soon throwing off the timing!

    Once I started investigating nerves, because of wet electricty, I started to better understand the need for timing, which distance can help determine.

    For example if a signal leaves the brain and I it need to reach its destination in X amount of time, that would determine how far it would have to travel. I would then design the nerve accordingly.

  21. 22

    Jospeh said,

    Nerve signals travel about 100mph.

    The fastest impulses (in vertebrates with myelinated neurons)travel at about 100 meters/second, which equates to about 224 mph.

  22. “These dramatic and rapid changes correspond to an increase in atmospheric oxygen. This increase appears to have unleashed an otherwise unspecified and undefined “evolutionary potential” in many different organisms.”

    I may be wrong, but I think the authors of the paper said that ‘evolutionary potential’ meant the development of eukaryotic cells (which are much larger than prokaryotic cells) and the development of multicellular organisms.

    In their graph of the change of size of organisms vs time, they actually have these developments on the graph.

    Maybe God designed all life to be able to take advantage of changes in the environment by adapting to the new conditions?

  23. 24

    Patrick said:

    Speaking of “bad design = no design” arguments I happened to use a waterproof cell phone the other day. The problem was that the protective layer rendered the voices almost unintelligible.

    I hear The Voices through a radio.

  24. Hey Doctor Cook! Long time no read.

    Well, I’ve been quite busy…you know me…making the blind walk and the lame see…

    Did you read Rob Sheldon’s paper on panspermia via comets? The guy’s a long time NASA physicist.

    I haven’t seen it but I’ll look for it.

    Drop a comment under one of my articles so I can get your email address.

    OK.

    And don’t be such a stranger!

    OK. Though they may not come much stranger than me! But thanks. I have been kinda busy with other things lately, but I do drop in several times a week to see what’s going on.

  25. Thanks Earvin.

    So Patrick, depending on myelination and diameter of the axon, the designer would have to factor in the time required to get the impulse to the destination.

    Another factor would would temperature variance. The colder it gets the slower the impulse travels.

    You also would have to package this in a single cell. That cell, when given the go-ahead, has to develop into the metazoan it becomes. And I would bet that alone places design constraints in the form of routing.

    Also we have to remember that which we observing today is the result of random effects acting on the design over time.

  26. Fast and wild know what to explore.

    No, they don’t. That is why they are fast & wild.

    If they knew what to explore, although speed may be handy, being wild would be a detriment.

    However I get the feeling they are fast so that in their wildness they can “explore”, in some sense of the word, more.

  27. The faster the oxygen gets to the cells the faster and the wilder the cells grow.Once they start oxygenizing,new,fresh blood front loads stregthing natural wildness as pure pleasurable thank you for growth.Mighty prime.

  28. I think it’s time to bring Dave out of retirement.

  29. Is the gene of love natural or an alien? Isn`t that what one would call an intelligent design,an alien?Intelligence didn`t come from anything on Earth or wouldn`t the factor natural be all there was?
    Night.

  30. To further Gil’s comment #6:

    Self-Sustained Replication of an RNA Enzyme

    Abstract

    An RNA enzyme that catalyzes the RNA-templated joining of RNA was converted to a format whereby two enzymes catalyze each other’s synthesis from a total of four oligonucleotide substrates. These cross-replicating RNA enzymes undergo self-sustained exponential amplification in the absence of proteins or other biological materials. Amplification occurs with a doubling time of about one hour, and can be continued indefinitely. Populations of various cross-replicating enzymes were constructed and allowed to compete for a common pool of substrates, during which recombinant replicators arose and grew to dominate the population. These replicating RNA enzymes can serve as an experimental model of a genetic system. Many such model systems could be constructed, allowing different selective outcomes to be related to the underlying properties of the genetic system.

    I have not yet read the full article.

    Another popular article can be found here.

  31. And yet another article from the Scripps Institute:

    The Immortal Molecule

    This is good work because it shows what must take place just to get a replicating molecule. Note it is NOT a self-replicating molecule.

    The subunits in the enzymes the team constructed each contain many nucleotides, so they are relatively complex and not something that would have been found floating in the primordial ooze.

    So now they have to figure out if the original RNA catalysts can be made more simple AND what, if any, specifications must be required to have a RNA catalyst.

    With that we could try to figure some probabilities- for example even given a warm pond of nucleotides will RNA form and will that RNA have catalytic properties?

    Then they could see what interferes with the process- IOW add real-world elements.

  32. What exactly this “evolutionary potential” was is not speculated upon. The presence of latent genetic programs is certainly the most obvious explanation. Darwinists of course are unable to offer this obvious possibility. They would then have to explain where those programs might have come from. They would then be branded ID Creationists and lose their jobs.

    While the article does not directly address the implications for Darwinism of the existence of “latent” or “preexisting” evolutionary potential, the impossibility of fitting this concept into the standard neo-Darwinian paradigm is obvious. The standard explanation of life’s development, of course, requires incremental trial-and-error mutations, with nothing “preexistent” about them, selected gradually over generations to build up evolutionary change.

    I just read the full article (thank you for bringing it to the attention of a wider audience). While it has generated some good discussion, I don’t get the same impression of its support for ID theory as do some other participants here.

    As near as I can tell, drawing on my undergrad biology courses from back in the mists of time, the paper makes the point that average body size increased significantly at two points, both of which are when the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere increased. This seems logical — larger organisms need more oxygen; without that oxygen, organisms couldn’t grow larger.

    The term “latent evolutionary potential” doesn’t seem to be essential to the paper. The most generous reading I can give it is that the authors simply meant that more possible body plans are supported in an oxygen rich atmosphere, so evolutionary mechanisms have more possible results. The potential is of the mechanism, not of the genes (so the paper doesn’t support the concept of front loading).

    The terminology is sloppy, to be sure, but I think my interpretation is at least reasonable. Am I missing something?

    JJ

  33. But “evolutionary mechanisms” is also a vague term.

    Are these “evolutionary machanisms” directed or undirected?

    One of the points of the design inference is foresight.

    That is the ability to look beyond the present whereas nature selects now.

    So I would think that epigenetic factors would have been realized before the design was implemented. And most likely were counted on to fulfill pre-programmed targets.

  34. I am not an advocate of front loading but am willing listen to people’s thoughts on it. The two periods mentioned are the origin of eukaryotes which are correct me if I am wrong about 7-8 orders larger on average than prokaryotes and then the multi-cellular organisms of the Cambrian Explosion for another 8-9 fold increase in order of magnitude over the eukaryotes.

    What is missing from these two comparisons is the amount of code that is necessary to control each organism. This is not just like blowing up a balloon and or getting a fatter cell. It is a new organism with a suite of new systems that all must talk with each other and coordinate their functions. So all these new systems have to be accounted for, not just the size. Each of these systems will require code to control the smooth working of each within the new organisms. And it is this code that is the issue of interest. How did all this new coordination come about in such a short time and how did it produce all the disparity in the Cambrian without diversity. These will be the issues with the researchers and it will be interesting to see where they go with it. Especially since they must stay within the religion they have signed up for. I am sure it will be awhile.

  35. JayM #36:

    ..The terminology is sloppy, to be sure, but I think my interpretation is at least reasonable. Am I missing something?

    The main point, apparently.

    Under Darwinian theory, new complex genetic code such as must have been involved in the development of eukaryotic cells and multi-cellularity must be blindly discovered, incrementally, over many long years of trial and error. By definition there can be nothing “pre-existent” or “latent” about it. Read your Dawkins.

    But long trial and error was not necessary for these major changes to occur. There just wasn’t enough time for standard neo-Darwinian mechanisms to operate. These huge advances occured very rapidly.

    The authors of this article, which are quite likely all staunch Darwinists, at some level recognise this inconvenient fact. There must have been something else going on. Somehow life was primed to immediately jump forward in major advances once conditions permitted. This is not accounted for in standard Darwinism. It’s a surprise not predicted by the theory.

    The authors indirectly acknowledge this by postulating their “latent evolutionary potential.” This is a significant, though indirect and possibly even unconscious admission that something besides standard Darwinian mechanisms must have been involved.

  36. “The presence of latent genetic programs is certainly the most obvious explanation”
    “they would have to explain where these programs come from.”

    “Latent Genetic Programs” could just be a prior stage in evolution couldn’t it?
    Why would the explanation for these latent programs have to be ID?

  37. dacook #39

    [quote]
    Under Darwinian theory, new complex genetic code such as must have been involved in the development of eukaryotic cells and multi-cellularity must be blindly discovered, incrementally, over many long years of trial and error. By definition there can be nothing “pre-existent” or “latent” about it. Read your Dawkins.
    [/quote]

    If it’s Darwinian theory, shouldn’t that be “Read your Darwin”? Dawkins is using information far removed from Darwin. Darwin had no knowlege of gentic code. DNA’s purpose wasn’t clarified until 1928.

    To attribute all modern evolutionary biology to Darwin is to give Darwin too much credit. And none to the people who have come since and performed their own work.

    And while I’m seeing references to “short” time frames for these “explosions”, I don’t see how many millions of years is short.

  38. MJMD,

    The latest iteration of the modern evolutionary synthesis (MET) or whatever you want to call it is based primarily on Darwin’s ideas of natural selection acting over long periods of time. It is why many want to make all of this year special for Darwin. If he was passe then why the hubbub. His original ideas are the essence of whatever the theory is today. I do not think you will find many who will deny this that hold to the MET.

    Deep time is essential for Darwin’s ideas and no one has been able to show otherwise despite Gould and Eldredge’s ideas of punctuated equilibrium. Darwin was despondent when he learned that Lord Kelvin said the earth was only 300 million years old because he knew such a time period was too short for his ideas to play out. And with the establishment of the DNA basis of life and the basic information processing nature of the organism, the ability to incorporate substantial changes to a genome is quite long by even the most liberal estimates. And for the events in question, we are talking about incredible amounts of new code in a relatively short geological or biological time.

    And then you have the nature of Cambrian Explosion which is one of disparity and not diversity and you have a conundrum for the MET. It is not logic or empirical evidence that gets one to these changes but wishful thinking.

  39. Geologically speaking the Cambrian Explosion took place in two minutes if you transform the geological record into 24 hours. That’s fast! (This idea told by Jonathan Wells in The Case for the Creator DVD by Lee Strobel.)

  40. MJMD,

    DNA’s purpose wasn’t clarified until 1928.

    Or, would that be, “lack of purpose”, evolutionarily speaking? lol After all, it was all an accident. xD

  41. MJMD,

    And while I’m seeing references to “short” time frames for these “explosions”, I don’t see how many millions of years is short.

    With all the negative, or neutral mutations that occur in organisms they would need all the time they could have to evolve. However, I don’t think even time could save them. Mutations, despite what neo-Darwinists think, completely screw over their theory. It’s known as genetic entropy.

    An interesting look into genetic entropy is by John C. Sanford in his book Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome. I’ve heard he used a bit of an extreme view of how many mutations may actually occur (well, actually he just chose the higher suggested amount of mutations based on studies, so he didn’t pull them out of thin air or anything). But even if they don’t occur at such an extreme rate, mutations still cause problems for evolution.

  42. dacook @39:

    The terminology is sloppy, to be sure, but I think my interpretation is at least reasonable. Am I missing something?

    The main point, apparently.

    No need to be rude. We’re all on the same side here (more or less).

    Under Darwinian theory, new complex genetic code such as must have been involved in the development of eukaryotic cells and multi-cellularity must be blindly discovered, incrementally, over many long years of trial and error. By definition there can be nothing “pre-existent” or “latent” about it. Read your Dawkins.

    I’ve read Dawkins and I’ve also read Gould. The two steep slopes in the graph in the article look like the punctuated equilibria examples he gives.

    But long trial and error was not necessary for these major changes to occur. There just wasn’t enough time for standard neo-Darwinian mechanisms to operate. These huge advances occured very rapidly.

    That isn’t supported by the article. If you look at the time spanned by the two steep slope sections, the first covers around 680 million years and the second around 540 million years. That’s a lot of time.

    The authors of this article, which are quite likely all staunch Darwinists, at some level recognise this inconvenient fact. There must have been something else going on. Somehow life was primed to immediately jump forward in major advances once conditions permitted. This is not accounted for in standard Darwinism. It’s a surprise not predicted by the theory.

    The authors indirectly acknowledge this by postulating their “latent evolutionary potential.” This is a significant, though indirect and possibly even unconscious admission that something besides standard Darwinian mechanisms must have been involved.

    Again, my understanding is that “latent evolutionary potential” refers to the potential latent in the processes described by modern evolutionary theory, not to pre-existing but unexpressed parts of the genome.

    It is an interesting article and does point to some areas that may be fruitful for ID researchers, but it doesn’t provide support for ID theory.

    JJ

  43. “That isn’t supported by the article. If you look at the time spanned by the two steep slope sections, the first covers around 680 million years and the second around 540 million years. That’s a lot of time.”

    A steep slope does not mean that there was anything in between. I am not sure if there were life forms on the slopes or they are just connecting the dots. For the Cambrian which is the later period, there was little in between and what was found was mostly not connected with the later life forms. Poof, the larger organisms just appeared.

    Was/Is there anything in size between the prokaryote and the eukaryote?

  44. JayM #46
    Not trying to be rude, just answering the question.

    The two steep slopes in the graph in the article look like the punctuated equilibria examples

    Yes they do.
    Gould did recognize the problem for standard Darwinism of the lack of gradualism in the fossil record. But labeling it does not explain it. It’s still a big problem for standard Darwinian theory. Gould’s “explanation” of off-the-record changes which then show up suddenly is “evolution of the gaps,” to hijack a phrase. By definition you can’t see it. How are you ever going to test it? Even if the major changes did take place somewhere out of sight, as Gould postulated, there still wasn’t enough time for them to occur by random undirected mutation and selection.

    the first covers around 680 million years and the second around 540 million years. That’s a lot of time.

    It’s also relative time, in which what, exactly happened? It’s way too short for a Darwinian-style trial and error evolution from prokaryote to eukaryotes, or to multicellularity.

    …my understanding is that “latent evolutionary potential” refers to the potential latent in the processes described by modern evolutionary theory…

    Since the authors did not define their terms, we don’t know what their understanding is.
    But Dawkins has made very clear that Dariwnian evolution is not supposed to have anything latent, pre-existing, purposeful, or expectational about it. The authors terms “latent” and “preexisting” strongly imply that there was something preexistent in the life before the oxygen increases.

    It is an interesting article and does point to some areas that may be fruitful for ID researchers, but it doesn’t provide support for ID theory.

    I disagree. It looks a lot like life was somehow primed, ready to go, and took off as soon as conditions permitted.* Dariwinian mechanisms should have shown a much more gradual, continuous slope of complexity and size increase.

    *There are other possibilities besides genetic front-loading, btw, such as infusions of genetic material, or possibly even life-forms themselves, from space, as postulated by panspermia theories. I thought panspermia sounded crazy at first, too, until I started reading about it.

  45. MJMD #41:

    If it’s Darwinian theory, shouldn’t that be “Read your Darwin”? Dawkins is using information far removed from Darwin. Darwin had no knowlege of gentic code. DNA’s purpose wasn’t clarified until 1928.

    Dawkins is the one who has been militantly adamant that there is nothing pre-planned or forward-looking about evolution.

    To attribute all modern evolutionary biology to Darwin is to give Darwin too much credit. And none to the people who have come since and performed their own work.

    I’m pretty sure we all recognise that. “Darwinism” is short-hand for something like “the neo-Darwinian synthesis of DNA mutations and selection to account for the gradual step-wise development of life.” And yes I know it’s way more complicated than that but there’s no need to write a summary dissertation every time we want to refer to a concept/theory so why don’t we just recognize that most everyone involved in the debate is familiar with the basic idea and short-hand it as “Darwinism”? Saves time.

  46. dacook @48:

    Even if the major changes did take place somewhere out of sight, as Gould postulated, there still wasn’t enough time for them to occur by random undirected mutation and selection.

    the first covers around 680 million years and the second around 540 million years. That’s a lot of time.

    It’s also relative time, in which what, exactly happened? It’s way too short for a Darwinian-style trial and error evolution from prokaryote to eukaryotes, or to multicellularity.

    How do we know that “it’s way too short”? Playing devil’s advocate, I presume that evolutionary biologists would say “It happened, so there must be a natural explanation.” and then research further. Are there any published explanations that demonstrate that the time is too short?

    …my understanding is that “latent evolutionary potential” refers to the potential latent in the processes described by modern evolutionary theory…

    Since the authors did not define their terms, we don’t know what their understanding is.
    But Dawkins has made very clear that Dariwnian evolution is not supposed to have anything latent, pre-existing, purposeful, or expectational about it. The authors terms “latent” and “preexisting” strongly imply that there was something preexistent in the life before the oxygen increases.

    That’s exactly why I propose the reading of their words I do. Lest we be accused of quote mining, I’m inclined to give the authors of the paper the most generous benefit of the doubt possible, namely that “latent evolutionary potential” was an almost throwaway line referring to the ability of random mutation and natural selection to generate complexity.

    Whether or not it is sufficient in this case is a question for ID researchers.

    JJ

  47. Even if the major changes did take place somewhere out of sight, as Gould postulated, there still wasn’t enough time for them to occur by random undirected mutation and selection.

    I would say we don’t know that because A) we don’t know what caused the changes and B) we don’t even know if the changes postulated are achievable via genetic or epigenetic changes.

    If I were a Darwinist I would promote the badda-bing, badda boom mechanism:

    “Ya knows we have deese procarrots. Then badda-bing, badda-boom yous now got deese ucarrots. And then badda-bing, badda-boom, yous got deese tings in multi cells.”

    NEVER underestimate the power of “badda-bing, badda-boom”…

  48. JayM #48:

    How do we know that “it’s way too short”? Playing devil’s advocate, I presume that evolutionary biologists would say “It happened, so there must be a natural explanation.” and then research further. Are there any published explanations that demonstrate that the time is too short?

    Mathematicians have calculated the insufficiency of neo-Darwinian mechanisms to explain complex biologic developments in the time available at least since the 1960s. See Johnson’s “Darwin on Trial” pg38, interestingly, for an account of Ernst Mayr in 1967 responding almost exactly as you predict, in the face of the evidence. But in 40+ years of “research further”, they have not overcome the difficulties.
    You are correct that Darwinists continue to maintain faith that sometime in the future their beliefs will be validated. Quite touching, really.

    There are chapters in many books documenting the mathematical impossibility of DNA mutation as an explanation for observed biologic innovation, and whole books even. Two on my shelf are:
    Mathematics of Evolution by Fred Hoyle

    Also “Not By Chance” by Dr. Lee Spetner (for some reason the site won’t let me make a second link but you can find it on Amazon for $11.96)

  49. I would say we don’t know that because A) we don’t know what caused the changes

    True. But we can be pretty sure it wasn’t random DNA mutation. See above.

    and B) we don’t even know if the changs postulated are achievable via genetic or epigenetic changes.

    Well, something had to change. But it wasn’t by neo-Darwinian mechanisms.
    I’m personally partial to an explanation involving the importation of new programs, or even organisms. But I’m not going to insist on it to the exclusion of all other possibilities. I do maintain that neo-Darwinian random mutation is extremely unlikely as an explanation.

  50. Well, something had to change.

    Yes, but at what level and to what physiological and anatomical extent?

    Dr Spetner briefly discusses this at the end of his book- that is the number of original organisms and their types.

    That said I do agree that the only way universal common descent could occur is if it were designed to.

  51. dacook @50

    Mathematicians have calculated the insufficiency of neo-Darwinian mechanisms to explain complex biologic developments in the time available at least since the 1960s. See Johnson’s “Darwin on Trial” pg38, interestingly, for an account of Ernst Mayr in 1967 responding almost exactly as you predict, in the face of the evidence. But in 40+ years of “research further”, they have not overcome the difficulties.
    You are correct that Darwinists continue to maintain faith that sometime in the future their beliefs will be validated. Quite touching, really.

    There are chapters in many books documenting the mathematical impossibility of DNA mutation as an explanation for observed biologic innovation, and whole books even. Two on my shelf are:
    Mathematics of Evolution by Fred Hoyle

    Also “Not By Chance” by Dr. Lee Spetner (for some reason the site won’t let me make a second link but you can find it on Amazon for $11.96)

    Thanks for the references. I’ll check out the books the next time I’m in the library, but the reviews I’ve read on the web, both pro and con, don’t seem to suggest that either Spetner or Hoyle provided the level of proof necessary to support the claim that the time taken by the evolutionary events mentioned in the original article is “far too short” for evolutionary mechanisms. The most frequent issue I saw raised (other than the usual religion bashing) was that neither man had a particularly deep background in biology, so their calculations were based on insufficient understanding of biological mechanisms.

    Mathematical biology appears to be an active field. Can you reference any published papers or books by current practitioners that suggest that the 680 million years and 540 million years that we’re discussing are insufficient to achieve the observed changes?

    JJ

  52. JayM:
    It’s almost always the Biologists who don’t understand Math, not the Mathematicians who don’t understand Biology that’s the problem. Biologists are notoriously poor mathematicians.

    See Dembski, “Intelligent Design” A.7 “Applying the Math to Biology” pages 268-271 for an excellent précis of why these Biologist’s objections are not valid.

    No doubt you are familiar with Haldane’s Dilemma as a major problem for human evolution. The same principle can be applied to the Darwinian evolution of other organisms.

  53. dacook @54

    It’s almost always the Biologists who don’t understand Math, not the Mathematicians who don’t understand Biology that’s the problem. Biologists are notoriously poor mathematicians.

    That may be true as a generalization, but mathematical biology is a growing, active discipline. There are many people trained in both biology and mathematics and peer reviewed journals dedicated to it. Do you have any references from those researchers that would support that claim that 680 million years and 540 million years are insufficient for the observed changes?

    No doubt you are familiar with Haldane’s Dilemma as a major problem for human evolution. The same principle can be applied to the Darwinian evolution of other organisms.

    Haldane’s Dilemma was posed over 40 years ago and has since been, if not refuted, at least made very questionable by the identification of invalid simplifying assumptions. I was hoping to find more recent, and more rigorous, results.

    I debate this issue in other fora and come to Uncommon Descent to find ammunition in those battles. Ideally, I’d like new, cutting edge results that haven’t been tarnished by years of attacks, however undeserved, by ID opponents.

    JJ

  54. JayM;
    I doubt your opponents would deem any results that challenge Darwinism acceptable. Any results that challenge Darwinism are going to be immediately attacked and denigrated, as I’m sure you know. That doesn’t make them invalid. Some thoughts:

    I believe the mathematician’s positions from the Wistar Institute in 1967 are still valid, as are Hoyle’s and Spetner’s critiques.

    What is “cutting edge”?
    David Berlinski cites a 1989 text, “Mathematical Evolutionary Theory” as being “current” (page 300 of Uncommon Dissent); While I am no mathematician, I believe that Dr. Spetner, a physics PhD from MIT, is well aware of and applies the same mathematical principles as are in that text. The references in his book, published in 1997 (well after the “current” text), are plentiful and run the range from older to recent. I do not think he has been invalidated.

    Dr. Dembski cites several fairly recent articles in his “Applying the Math to Biology” appendix in “Intelligent Design” but I do not have the articles so can’t comment further on what they may say.

    David Berlinski cites mathematical biologist Motoo Kimura in “The Devil’s Delusion” (2008) who advanced what Berlinski called “a powerful argument against Darwin’s theory of natural selection” by showing “that the great majority of evolutionary changes at the molecular level, as revealed by comparative studies of protein and DNA sequences, are caused not by Darwinian selection but by random drift of selectively neutral or nearly neutral mutations.” If so, the great changes necessary in the two rapid advances under discussion could not have occured by Darwinian mechanisms.
    Berlinski obviously feels that these results of Kimura Sensei’s are still valid, even though Kimura published before either Hoyle or Spetner. I daresay David Berlinski is a better mathematician than anyone either of us is likely to encounter in an online debate. I accept his endorsement.

    A specific paper addressing your specific question may not exist. The paper documenting the two size increases was only published last month. And as Michael Behe notes in “Darwin’s Black Box (pg. 177): “…no studies asking detailed questions of molecular evolution are to be found.” His review of all papers published by the Journal of Molecular Evolution turned up exactly 0 studies on any proposed model of any complex biochemical system.

    I recall several years ago seeing an analysis of horse evolution and the minimum number of steps and how long it would take but I can’t recall who or where or find it now and I’ve spent all the time I care to looking.

    Perhaps your time in the debates could be more profitably spent establishing the validity of what we already have. Berlinski and others seem to thing it’s adequate for the purpose. And anything new will immediately join the category of “tarnished by attacks”.
    Perhaps we could suggest that someone with mathematical skills attached to the Discovery Institute spend a little time doing some calculations on this specific question. But I suspect their results would be criticized. In fact I’m sure of it. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be valid.

  55. dacook @56

    David Berlinski cites mathematical biologist Motoo Kimura in “The Devil’s Delusion” (2008) who advanced what Berlinski called “a powerful argument against Darwin’s theory of natural selection” by showing “that the great majority of evolutionary changes at the molecular level, as revealed by comparative studies of protein and DNA sequences, are caused not by Darwinian selection but by random drift of selectively neutral or nearly neutral mutations.” If so, the great changes necessary in the two rapid advances under discussion could not have occured by Darwinian mechanisms.

    Kimura is exactly the type of reference I was looking for. Unfortunately, your final sentence doesn’t follow from Kimura’s work. While Darwin didn’t know about genetics, so genetic drift couldn’t be part of his original theory, genetics was brought in as part of the modern synthesis (which isn’t quite so modern now). From an ID perspective, that means that Kimura’s work supports the idea that the mechanisms of modern evolutionary theory, which are a superset of those proposed by Darwin, are sufficient (or at least not clearly insufficient) to account for the observed changes in the observed periods of time.

    Perhaps we could suggest that someone with mathematical skills attached to the Discovery Institute spend a little time doing some calculations on this specific question. But I suspect their results would be criticized. In fact I’m sure of it. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be valid.

    That would, of course, be ideal. Obviously all scientific ideas get criticized. The problem I repeatedly encounter is that ID proponents have to be more careful than most not to overstate the case. That’s why I’ve been harping on your statement that there is not enough time for the observed changes to take place. If we can’t back up statements like that, rigorously, we’re immediately branded as religious nuts who don’t understand science.

    Some detailed research from the DI would be very helpful.

    JJ

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