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Evolution in free-fall

Does Lynn Margulis’s endosymbiosis story resolve evolution’s deep problems? Apparently its resolution of the prokaryote-eukaryote transition is far from secure. The paper below notes that with advances in research “the evolutionary gap between prokaryotes and eukaryotes is now deeper.”

Eukaryotic evolution, changes and challenges
T. Martin Embley and William Martin
Nature 440, 623-630 (30 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04546

Abstract: The idea that some eukaryotes primitively lacked mitochondria and were true
intermediates in the prokaryote-to-eukaryote transition was an exciting prospect. It
spawned major advances in understanding anaerobic and parasitic eukaryotes and those with
previously overlooked mitochondria. But the evolutionary gap between prokaryotes and
eukaryotes is now deeper, and the nature of the host that acquired the mitochondrion more
obscure, than ever before.

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22 Responses to Evolution in free-fall

  1. Question: Is there a term for a situation where new research doesn’t bring clarity, but instead puts understanding farther from the reach of plausible knowledge?

  2. “It spawned major advances in understanding anaerobic and parasitic eukaryotes and those with previously overlooked mitochondria.”

    Help me out here. How can a now apparently false theory advance understanding of anything?

  3. BarryA -
    I think this is a great question that more people should be asking; it brings up some good distinctions. It seems to me that critics of evolution, ID and non-ID, do not put a “false label” on everything related to evolution. Instead, certain parts are seen as faulty, especially particular initial presumptions about the facts and conclusions from the facts. Anyone else have input on BarryA’s question?

  4. BarryA insightfully asked, “How can a now apparently false theory advance understanding of anything?”

    What we should do then in such cases is when we quote such things, we shoud use the work “sic” to indicate the author’s mistake:

    It spawned major [sic] advances in understanding anaerobic and parasitic eukaryotes and those with previously overlooked mitochondria.

  5. Barry:

    An idea can inspire resaerch to prove or disprove the idea. Even if the initial idea is proven false the subsequent research may well prove enlightening in unintended ways.

  6. Scordova:

    There is not nearly eneogh information on the topic presented for us to judge the auhtor whether or not the author erred.

  7. oops… scratch the first “the author”

  8. oops… scratch the first “the author”

    Does he not bleed?

  9. 9
    GlennJ - Houston

    JosephCCampana wrote:
    “Question: Is there a term for a situation where new research doesn’t bring clarity, but instead puts understanding farther from the reach of plausible knowledge?”

    I hereby coin a new term for the situation you describe: epicyclism.

    “Epicyclism” is the process whereby needless complications to an explanation are advanced in order to shield a belief system from actual evidence.

    “Epicyclistic research” is research that inadvertently tends to uncover inconvenient facts which disconfirm preconceived notions.

    The root of “epicyclism” comes from the word “epicycle” which was a complicated algorythem employed by Claudius Ptolemaeus in the 2nd Century AD to explain the odd movements of planets and stars that were believed to rotate around the earth.

    The more we have learned about the inner workings of cells and living systems, the more epicyclistic Darwinian explanations have become.

    (By the commentor formerly known as Red Reader)

  10. “Is there a term for a situation where new research doesn’t bring clarity, but instead puts understanding farther from the reach of plausible knowledge?”

    Yeah. It’s the same term that refers to the stuff that comes out of the south end of a north facing male bovine.

  11. charlie

    Not scratch, prick.

  12. “Is there a term for a situation where new research doesn’t bring clarity, but instead puts understanding farther from the reach of plausible knowledge?”

    “Yeah. It’s the same term that refers to the stuff that comes out of the south end of a north facing male bovine.”

    Actually, it sounds more like intellectual honesty to me.

  13. “Abstract: The idea that some eukaryotes primitively lacked mitochondria and were true intermediates … was an exciting prospect … It spawned major advances in understanding … But the evolutionary gap … is now deeper…”

    This is the kind of rhetoric and logic that made the hair on Phillip Johnson’s bald head stand on end when he started reading the neo-Darwinian literature. Here, presented as “science,” is speculation heaped upon speculation. When evidence catches up with previous speculation, neo-speculation takes its place.

    This is not science. It is not even pseudoscience, and it’s being funded with our tax dollars.

  14. and it’s being funded with our tax dollars.

    Making an assumption here that this is an American hosted website with a predominantly American audience.

    Martin Embley is at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the United Kingdom.

    William Martin is at the University of Düsseldorf in Germany.

    My American tax dollars have survived this paper.

    I think he was referring to Margulis’ work as American funded, not Embley’s. Margulis is American but I still don’t think she received any public funding. -ds

  15. Lol
    If not scratch, then what?
    And why the insults?

  16. Another case history of a tenaciously-fought-for theory (for philosophical reasons: the usual suspects) is briefly reviewed here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steady_state_theory

    This quote from ’72 is especially telling:

    “The steady-state model is so attractive that many of its adherents still retain hope that the evidence against it will disappear as observations improve.”

    No such ruck, I suppose?

    Its interesting that the point is made that the SST was both so TESTABLE and so apparently wrong that it is “a credit to the model” that it is now dead out of fashion.

    I am not qualified to make the point that “evidence” for descent with mods through NS never seems to have gotten past the point of What Eugenie Scott affirms is simply an “inference.” An inference based on the fact that different animals have populated the planet over its history, and that many of them have similar skeletal features.

    However I am wondering what sort of predictions ID theory may make in the future that could be confirmed evidentially.

    Am I wrong in assuming ID may, eventually, be set directly against DM/NS in the same sense of the Steady-State/Big-Bang research?

  17. I wasn’t calling you a prick. The line from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice you alluded to, Shylock, the Jewish userer, didn’t say “If you scratch us, do we not bleed?”. It’s “If you prick us, do we not bleed?”.

    I will concede I said it in a way that would be misconstrued as name calling for anyone that didn’t figure it out.

    Sorry. Couldn’t resist. :-)

  18. The tough thing about trying to run with a gag on comment boards is you never know if anyone will ‘get it’.
    You just hope the “LOL” does the trick.
    Don’t worry, I figured it out just fine.
    I’m sure you said it exactly the way you wanted to, and I thought it was an excellent quip. :)

    Mibad. Point to you. -ds :oops:

  19. If one admits design as a possibility then it makes far more sense that eukaryotes came first and devolved into bacteria. Devolution is a lot easier and faster than evolution. RM+NS requires that life on earth progressed from simple to complex. ID requires no such restriction. In fact panspermia, which can be compatible with RM+NS elsewhere in the universe, can accomodate the first life on earth being more complex than bacteria. So really, this simple to complex dogma is driven only by the unsupported presumption that abiogenesis happened on the earth.

  20. Has anyone read the whole paper or just the abstract? I haven’t seen the paper yet, but I see nothing in the abstract that calls Eukaryotic evolution or the Endosybiotic Hyspothesis into question.
    But the evolutionary gap between prokaryotes and
    eukaryotes is now deeper, and the nature of the host that acquired the mitochondrion more
    obscure, than ever before.
    This on the surface simply suggests that the details aren’t quite what scientists thought, not that the entire premise is incorrect. But, like I said, I haven’t read the article. Anyone?

  21. Gil: “…and it’s being funded with our tax dollars.”

    Twist: “Martin Embley is at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the United Kingdom. William Martin is at the University of Düsseldorf in Germany.”

    DaveScot: “I think he was referring to Margulis’ work as American funded, not Embley’s. Margulis is American but I still don’t think she received any public funding.”

    Actually, I was not referring to any of these individuals. I was referring to the fact that public funding is being used for Darwinian evolutionary “research” in general (and not just in biology, but in psychology, sociology, and anthropology), and that this “research” often produces nothing more than ever-changing and frequently debunked speculation as its product, not hard science.

  22. Epicyclism, I like it GlennJ. Now that you have coined it, I have christened it with an entry into the ResearchID.org glossary. Great work!

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