2009: The modern (neo-Darwinian) synthesis is – safely – admitted to be fading
|September 1, 2011||Posted by News under Darwinism, Intelligent Design, News, Science|
Intelligent Input Required for Life. In a significant peer-reviewed article in the September 2009 journal IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics authors William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II use computer simulations and information theory to challenge the ability of Darwinian processes to create new functional genetic information. This paper is in many ways a validation of Dembski’s core ideas in his 2001 book, No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence, which argued that some intelligent input is required to produce novel complex and specified information.
The Collectivist Revolution in Biology. An essay by Mark Buchanan in the August issue of Nature Physics announced the breaking with “many of the presuppositions of traditional evolutionary thinking.” He highlighted its message with these words: “A coming revolution may go so far as to unseat Darwinian evolution as the key explanatory process in biology.” The essay is a contribution to crossdisciplinary thinking starting with an awareness of collective phenomena in modern physics. Thinking has moved away from reductionism and is adopting a holistic interactionism. Buchanan sees a parallel between physics and biology. The tools of physics and engineering are already being used to
understand interacting networks within biological systems. Why does this take us beyond Darwinism? It is because the mechanisms of Darwinian evolution are inherently reductionistic, with individual life forms struggling for survival in competition with other individuals. Within Darwinian theory the environment acts as a filter, allowing the fit to live on. The emerging understanding of biological functions, such as horizontal gene transfer (HGT), moves away from individuals and towards breeding populations, and the environment becomes a driver of genetic change rather than a passive filter. The tree of life now looks like an unstructured bush. Darwinism is inherently reductionistic, and it can devise ways of framing HGT to fit into its own mental models. But what it cannot easily do is adopt the holistic perspectives that are emerging everywhere. This is why an increasing number of scientists find a framework of design to be compelling. Design provides a coherent context for systems biology, for biomimetics, and for many other contemporary areas of research.
The Modern Synthesis is Gone. In February of this year Eugene Koonin published a masterly analysis of the impact of genomics on evolutionary thinking (“Darwinian evolution in the light of genomics”, Nucleic Acids Research, 2009, 37(4), 1011-1034). Koonin notes that the 1959 Origins centennial was “marked by the consolidation of the modern synthesis” but subsequent years have witnessed great changes which have undermined its credibility. The modern synthesis was formulated in the 1930’s and 1940’s to draw together seemingly conflicting evidence from natural selection, population genetics, cytology, systematics, botany, morphology, ecology and paleontology into one modern theory of neo-Darwinian evolution. Three distinct revolutions have occurred over the past halfcentury to bring down the modern synthesis theory: the molecular, the microbiological and the genomic revolutions. Koonin tentatively identifies two candidates to fill the vacuum left by the discarded modern synthesis. The first appears to emphasize the role of chance; the second appears to emphasize the role of law. While many in the scientific community will continue to cling to the modern synthesis for years to come, it is significant that articles are now appearing in the peer-reviewed scientific literature declaring the theory needs to be abandoned because it no longer fits the molecular, microbiological and genomic data.
The Edge of Evolution Confirmed. Nature published an interesting paper in the September 24, 2009 issue that discusses severe limits on Darwinian evolution. The manuscript, from the laboratory of Joseph Thornton at the University of Oregon, is titled “An epistatic ratchet constrains the direction of glucocorticoid receptor evolution.” Although the work is interpreted by its authors within a standard Darwinian framework, it also confirms the primary thesis of Michael Behe’s recent book, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, demonstrating the looming brick wall which confronts unguided evolution in at least one system. It points strongly to the conclusion that such walls are common throughout all of biology. In a series of blog exchanges Behe successfully defends his position against Thornton.
Darwinists commonly react to these developments by announcing that “Most of those people don’t agree with ID” – apparently unable to comprehend that that’s a much bigger problem for them than for the ID theorist.
Meanwhile, both “Ida” and “Ardi” – “missing link” and “central character” in human evolution respectively, collapse into embarrassing insignificance despite massive Darwin hype.
Next: 2010: Layer on layer of intricacy outstrips Darwinian just-so stories
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