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Scientific American: Studying how organisms evolve elaborate structures without Darwinian selection

Here:

But recently some scientists and philosophers have suggested that complexity can arise through other routes. Some argue that life has a built-in tendency to become more complex over time. Others maintain that as random mutations arise, complexity emerges as a side effect, even without natural selection to help it along. Complexity, they say, is not purely the result of millions of years of fine-tuning through natural selection—the process that Richard Dawkins famously dubbed “the blind watchmaker.” To some extent, it just happens.

Biologists and philosophers have pondered the evolution of complexity for decades, but according to Daniel W. McShea, a paleobiologist at Duke University, they have been hobbled by vague definitions. “It’s not just that they don’t know how to put a number on it. They don’t know what they mean by the word,” McShea says.

They are, perhaps, starting to poke and prod at the facts, instead of just defending the Word of the Beard. More later.

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7 Responses to Scientific American: Studying how organisms evolve elaborate structures without Darwinian selection

  1. they have been hobbled by vague definitions. “It’s not just that they don’t know how to put a number on it. They don’t know what they mean by the word,”

    I am not sure at the moment just what is vague. Maybe it is evolution, maybe it is complexity, maybe it is everything.

    Padian’s article from yesterday is well worth the read as another sense of just what they know and are trying to cover up. He admits there is no scientific definition of evolution that makes sense in terms of science.

    We can say it is starting to unravel and have some schadenfreude but it is probably best to follow along their tortuous paths of reasoning to better understand the new genre of anti-ID attacks once Darwin is rightfully buried in ignominy as a false prophet.

    The best line so far

    To some extent, it just happens.

    Now I wonder what could have caused that.

  2. Just as a bit of irony. The title of the Scientific American article is

    The Surprising Origins of Evolutionary Complexity

  3. ‘…. fine-tuning through natural selection.’

    That’s got to be the funniest oxymoron I’ve ever heard!

  4. It sounds like a twisted version of a twenties toff’s detective yarn, e.g. a Agatha Christie’s or Dorothy Sayers’ book title:

    The Blueprint of Artless, Random Provenance…!

  5. Jerry and all, “It just happens” is a classic in NOT science.

  6. There is actually one interesting example about protein building in the story which could become a poster child for the neutral theory of evolution. There is an example where a manufactured protein was designed to replaces real proteins in a yeast cell. The designed protein was thought to be the precursor of both current proteins. The implication is that the current proteins evolved by neutral evolution from something similar to the manufactured protein after a duplication process.

    The concept they are having a hard time defining is that for complexity. What does it mean for something to be biologically complex? Not just a whole organism but parts of an organism or cell.

    An interesting but a very limited article.

  7. What’s remarkable is that they are actually prepared to let Zimmer discuss the problem, without just rushing in with a pseudo-solution: O ye of little faith, thou hast insufficiently worshipped the Beard!”

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