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Candid admissions about a theory as well established as gravity

Wallace Arthur, head of the zoology department at the University of Ireland and evolutionary biology researcher, reviews in Nature (Vol 447|17 May 2007) the book From Embryology to Evo-Devo: A History of Developmental Evolution. There were some breaths of fresh air in the review [my emphasis]:

Third, and most important in my view, the origin of novelty is becoming one of the major themes of evo-devo. Attention is shifting from the retention of the old (as in recapitulation) to the creation of the new (be it an eye, a leg, a feather or even a whole body plan). Both the historical and the current importance of novelty emerge repeatedly in the book.

How do novelties arise? We can’t yet agree on a definition for them, let alone answer this fundamental question. But we can see the nature of the challenge ahead. Wagner points out that there is a growing connection between microevolutionary (intraspecific) evo-devo and quantitative genetics (where intraspecific variation is analysed in terms of quantitative trait loci). This connection is a positive thing, although it is perhaps limited in scope because it may not solve what many perceive as the raison d’être of evo-devo. As Wagner says: “One of the main sources of intellectual excitement in devo-evo (sic) is the prospect of understanding major evolutionary transformations.” Whether these end up being unique events or long-term accumulations of the mundane remains to be seen, but either answer will be exciting in its own way.

The first thing of note is a candid admission that there is no plausible explanation right now for the origin of novelty. Evo-devo hopes to shed light on the mystery of macroevolution. The second thing of note is that the term “microevolutionary” is used. We often hear from clerics in the Church of Saint Charles Darwin that real evolutionary scientists don’t use the terms microevolution and macroevolution. Ostensibly because they all have the strong belief that the two describe the same process and separating it into two regimes is something that only knuckle dragging creationists employ to obfuscate a theory that’s as well tested as gravity. So here we have a real evolutionary biologist using exactly the language ID proponents use and asking exactly the question we ask – “What is the origin of macroevolutionary novelty?” How refreshing.

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17 Responses to Candid admissions about a theory as well established as gravity

  1. Wow! I couldn’t belief my eyes when I read this review in Nature. Just wondering – Does he have tenure?

  2. Sorry, it should read “believe” instead of belief. English is not my mother tongue, folks!

  3. 3
    Vladimir Krondan

    “One of the main sources of intellectual excitement in devo-evo (sic) is the prospect of understanding major evolutionary transformations.”

    One wonders then, just what Darwin thought he was doing when writing Origin of Species. But this is altogether reminiscent of George Romanes. In 1886 the Times wrote of him: “Mr. George Romanes appears to be the biological investigator on whom the mantle of Mr. Darwin has most conspicuously descended”, and continued, “The position which Mr. Romanes takes up is the result of his perception shared by many evolutionists, that the theory of natural selection is not really a theory of the origin of species…”. So Romanes’s contributions were to be what Origin lacked, that is, an explanation for “major evolutionary transformations”. That was back in the 1880s and the same story repeats itself today, which shows that “progress” in Darwinism involves running around a kind of historical squirrel-cage.

  4. This shtick about “no true scientist talks about macro/micro” is just ludicrous.

    The late Stephen Jay Gould and Ernst Mayr might be considered true scientists among evolutionists, don’t you think?

    Gould’s books Structure of Evolutionary Theory and Hen’s Teeth and Horses Toes, and Mayr’s What is Evolution? all refer to these terms. Two of these books use the term “macroevolution” in chapter titles.

    In Mayr’s glossary he defines macroevolution as Evolution above the species level; the evolution of higher taxa and the production of evolutionary novelties, such as new structures.

    At any rate, consider the difference between macro- and microevolution. One involves the introduction of major new structures and functions, the other doesn’t. One has never been observed, the other has. The one that is said to explain all the huge diversity of life remains an extrapolation of theory rather than an observed phenomenon.

    Suppose it were true that no scientist talked about this distinction between macro and micro. Why wouldn’t they want to? Doesn’t it seem just a tad bit interesting and important?

  5. The whole key point is where did the information come from? That is the crucial weak point to the evolutionists theory that IDers need to exploit. There is a level of entropy with information that is different and separate from the established(closed system) entropy of non-living matter. A nuanced examination and definition of information and the underlying math should solidly establish this fact and overturn the patchwork fourth law of thermodynamics that naturalist added in their need to combat the implications of the second law. This math should be complimentary in its nature to Dr. Dembski’s specified complexity since it would actually define what information actually is to a mathematical basis and clearly separate it from its current entanglement with the non-living material realm.

  6. TomG

    Good thing Gould and Mayr were already tenured when they wrote about micro/macro evolution, huh? Real scientists don’t use the term “Darwinism” either. Gould and Mayr both did. I guess they weren’t real scientists. On the other hand, maybe it’s just that the choir boys in the Church of St. Charles do more talking than they do reading.

  7. bornagain77: there are no implications of the second law of thermodynamics on evolutionary theory. Neither Earth nor living creatures are isolated systems, hence it is entirely possible, even likely for entropy to decrease. The existence of a God is far more contradictory to the second law.

  8. “The existence of a God is far more contradictory to the second law. ”

    That is like saying the existence of a king is contradictory to a law of government. In order to get laws in the first place you have to have a king (or some other form of government) which is not bound by the laws he creates.

  9. Phevans,

    there are no implications of the second law of thermodynamics on evolutionary theory

    You must really want to believe that. In which case, next time you go to fill up you car, I invite you to pour the petrol all over it and light a match. See how far it will go.

  10. The existence of a God is far more contradictory to the second law.

    And how about the first law?

    This is the problem with materialists. They can’t imagine a realm in which the laws don’t apply despite the necessity of such a realm. Matter/energy can’t be created but it sure got here somehow.

  11. Two things,

    Stanley Jaki has made the statement that Darwin’s ideas of neo Darwinism has explained “zero” instances of the origin of new species. Notice that nothing in this review which contradicts Jaki’s statement and that these theoretical minor achievement by gradualism held by biologists have empirical support. There is just the assumption that minor species differences happened by small gradualistic changes but there is no empirical evidence supporting it.

    Second, Arthur said that there is no evidence for how novelty could have happened and implied some major rearrangement of the genome might be the answer,

    “Whether these end up being unique events or long-term accumulations of the mundane remains to be seen”

    In the recent discussion of common descent, great_ape said essentially the same thing. There is no evidence for the mechanism of any species change in the DNA data. In the past it was pointed out that there is none other than one’s imagination and the only evidence are scienntit’s hypothesis. In other words both micro evolution and macro evolution are wanting as far as empirical data.

    No other science is organized by hypothesis only. Jaki said Darwin’s ideas are accepted because it unifies biological findings and not because it has empirical backing. Thus, without Darwin’s ideas biology would be a mess in terms of explaining change. Darwin’s ideas is like plate tectonics is to geology except we have observational data for plate tectonics.

  12. Phevans on 05/18/2007, 3:17 am wrote:

    there are no implications of the second law of thermodynamics on evolutionary theory. Neither Earth nor living creatures are isolated systems, hence it is entirely possible, even likely for entropy to decrease. The existence of a God is far more contradictory to the second law.

    First off, nobody said anything about God before you mentioned it. Let’s keep theology out of this if we can.

    Now, let’s go to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the insistence of Darwinists to claim that it doesn’t apply to Neo-Darwinian Evolution because the Earth is not a “closed/isolated system”.

    If this is so, what completely nonbiological phenomena can we observe that confirms this supposition?

    I don’t think there are any, are there?

    All observable events that “defy” the Second Law are initiated by a biological entity.

    All completely nonbiological events that supposedly skirt the Second Law are unobserved and are at best hypothetical.

  13. Regarding Phevans comments “bornagain77: there are no implications of the second law of thermodynamics on evolutionary theory. Neither Earth nor living creatures are isolated systems, hence it is entirely possible, even likely for entropy to decrease. The existence of a God is far more contradictory to the second law.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong bornagain (ba), but I think ba’s original comments refer to information entropy and not “material entropy”, as ba points out. In addition, I think material entropy has little to say about whether or not life can evolve. The 2nd law always applies, regarless of whether a system is closed or open. However, if the system is open, one then has to account for all the energy/matter inputs. Entropy can decrease in an open system.

  14. “. . . there are no implications of the second law of thermodynamics on evolutionary theory. Neither Earth nor living creatures are isolated systems, hence it is entirely possible, even likely for entropy to decrease . . .”

    Here we go again — the old “open” system refrain. The idea that the second law doesn’t apply to a so-called “open” system is simply false.

    Further, the second law most certainly does apply to living systems, as does the first law, the laws of chemistry, etc. The only place living systems or evolutionary theory are happily exempted from these laws (i.e., from reality) is in the minds of certain individuals.

  15. 15
    Vladimir Krondan

    jerry wrote,

    There is no evidence for the mechanism of any species change in the DNA data.

    The “speciation” problem was solved by the Modern Synthesis in this manner: species don’t exist. That is why the Modern Synthesis insists on defining evolution as “change in allele frequencies”. If a critic of Darwinism inquires about species, he will be asked to define what he means by “species”, and the usual run-around about ‘when is a variation not a species’ begins. Long before any hard science about DNA, this problem was known: see above, the post about George Romanes. Biological science has progressed immensely in the last 140 years, but Darwinians are still stuck on trying to explain what was supposedly explained in 1859 by Darwin, and no amount of new science has helped them. Due to heavy theological commitments, they could not drop Darwinism, so they dropped species instead.

  16. Due to heavy theological commitments, they could not drop Darwinism, so they dropped species instead.

    Fortunately, species are not fragile.

  17. DrDan – if ba was talking about information entropy, then the second law doesn’t apply – using the same word for two different concepts (which admittedly have some tertiary links) can lead to confusion!

    Angryoldfatman: crystals are the classic example. Highly “specified” (to use ID terminology) and not initiated by any biological process.

    Others: if we’re going to treat the world as an open system, then there’s no real issue. There’s plenty of energy exchange going on, more than enough to account for a million times the order we see around us. If you disagree, I’m curious as to exactly where in random mutations plus natural selection you feel the SLD is being violated.

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