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Biological Fine Tuning?

It seems that every day there some new news item from science detailing how scientists in search of an optimal solution to their problem at hand, end up finding their solution in biological nature. This latest from PhysOrg.com shows how, in the nano-world, engineering solutions abound. Is it a marvel of natural selection?

Here you’ll find one instance of what I think, taken together, poses a challenge to Darwinian orthodoxy that it can’t meet.

Here’s what I mean. In the face of “highly-conserved DNA” that is non-coding, evolutionary biologists have been seemingly forced to abandon the Modern Synthesis and its reliance on small genetic mutations and such in bringing about novel life forms. Instead, they now rely on “evo-devo”, which, to my knowledge (cf. Kirschner and Gerhart’s “The Plausibility of Life”) relies on the presence of so-called Hox genes. As the latest article points out, however, this optimization of a ‘gluing’ compound occurs in bone. Therefore positing that there are Hox genes–present already from an ancestral past–that determine, within the overall development of biological form, the location and properties of “bone”, this would therefore imply that “nature” had stumbled upon this “optimized” solution very early on. But this then means that NS had very little time to discover an “optimal” solution. This now gets us back to the Cambrian Explosion, which, even according to Darwin himself, is completely opposed to the biological gradualism he proposed. Hox genes are a way of getting around the problems of the Cambrian Explosion, but they do so only by positing a sort of “tool box” for biology, yet, it cannot explain the origin of the “tools” in the “tool box”. ‘Bone’ is one such “tool”. If evolutionary biologists are left with only RM+NS to explain the origin of the “tools”, and there are countless numbers of “tools” needed–since everything at the nano-level ooks optimized–what are the odds that RM+NS could produce these tools? As I say, I don’t think Darwinism can rise to the challenge that our growing knowledge of biology presents with each passing day.

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7 Responses to Biological Fine Tuning?

  1. From the article:
    “They point out that one type of material—“ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene chains”—is so long that the weak interactions between the chains themselves provide enough adhesion for the structure, and no added glue is needed at all.
    …The challenge will be to simulate these reformable bonds in man-made adhesives.”

    I implanted a piece of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene into a patient just this morning, as part of her artificial knee. Very useful stuff.

  2. I believe that what is supposed to have happened according to evo-devo is that at some time prior to the Cambrian Explosion, all these tools evolved. Since the same genes are present in both vertebrates and arthropods, Sean Carroll hypothesized that there existed a common ancestor to all the phyla prior to the Explosion that contained all the tools.

    Now we are in a relatively short time span evolution wise for all these things to have evolved gradually and it is especially convenient for the materialists since these all purpose critters never left any traces they have to deal with that could dispute their just so stories.

    Also Carroll doesn’t emphasize the tools such as the Hox genes etc. as much as the switches (software) behind the tools that determines how the proteins are laid out during gestation and further development after that. Though the tool themselves are a big part of his book.

    Carroll claims that this all proves Darwinian evolution but he provides no evidence other than his assertions. As best I see it he describes how a designer could use common materials to design different creatures. He is describing a biological erector or lego set.

    Now given this about what evo-devo says, I am not sure how the glue and bone example is tied in unless the same genes are present in the abalone, spider silk and bones which would point to origin prior to the Cambrian explosion.

    Funny aside on my copy of the web page of the glue article the google ads are about investing in bonds from economic markets because the word bonds is in the article. Shows how well some of the google ads are targeted..

  3. PaV,

    I think biological fine tuning is also present in features that are beneficial and even genetically conserved yet do not reach the status of providing a selective benefit. Take for example the mouse genome where highly conserved genes were deleted and no difference in the mouse was detected, only very minor levels in a protein expression was altered and it seemed to make no difference to the health of the mouse. The Darwinian argument is that such features are “vestigal.” I find the Darwninian argument to be transparently weak and I believe biological fine tuning that cannot be explained by selective pressure is what we are observing.

  4. [...] From UD re: Nature’s frugal glues provide insight for optimized adhesives. …the face of “highly-conserved DNA” that is non-coding, evolutionary biologists have been seemingly forced to abandon the Modern Synthesis and its reliance on small genetic mutations and such in bringing about novel life forms. Instead, they now rely on “evo-devo”, which, to my knowledge (cf. Kirschner and Gerhart’s “The Plausibility of Life”) relies on the presence of so-called Hox genes [...]

  5. Perhaps I am being a heretic for pointing out the obvious, but it would seem that Hox genes and “evo-devo” are very strong evidence for the front loading hypothesis at this point.

    Not that that will matter to the fundies over at PT.

  6. Jerry, “Sean Carroll hypothesized that there existed a common ancestor to all the phyla prior to the Explosion that contained all the tools.”

    Now, how do you spell front-loading? Where the heck did natural selection develop such foresight — or was all this foresight just good luck?

  7. Jerry:

    “Now given this about what evo-devo says, I am not sure how the glue and bone example is tied in unless the same genes are present in the abalone, spider silk and bones which would point to origin prior to the Cambrian explosion.”

    Yes, the suggestion is there that this capability, “tool”, came about earlier on, and hence giving RM+NS less time to work. But the added point is that this sort of ‘discovery’ seems to be happening everyday. The upshot is that RM+NS has to produce more, in less time–or else “evo-devo” has nothing to work with.

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