Home » Intelligent Design » Goldenfeld and Woese, paradigm-busting even more (with added goodies for ID front-loaders)

Goldenfeld and Woese, paradigm-busting even more (with added goodies for ID front-loaders)

Carl Woese

Some scientists grow more conservative with age; others, more radical. Carl Woese (age 82) represents a vivid example of the latter group. His latest paper, “Life is physics: evolution as a collective phenomenon far from equilibrium,” co-authored with fellow U of Illinois scientist and frequent collaborator Nigel Goldenfeld, includes more heterodox ideas per page than just about anything I’ve read recently. (The paper is forthcoming in the Annual Reviews series.)

For instance (p. 12):


We would be remiss in ending this article if we did not briefly mention the fascinating question: is evolution random? More precisely, does variation precede but not cause adaptation—the central tenet of the modern synthesis—or do environmental changes alter the stochastic nature of the evolutionary process? Any indication that organisms can chose which mutations arise after an environmental stress has been applied would be anathema to the central tenet of the modern synthesis, and would require a re-evaluation of how evolution is widely understood.

And no Woese paper would be complete without blunt expressions of dissatisfaction with textbook evolutionary theory (p. 6):

Not only is the Modern Synthesis afflicted by strong interactions, but its very foundation is questionable. The evident tautology embodied by “survival of the fittest” serves to highlight the backwards-looking character of the fitness landscape: not only is it unmeasurable a priori, but it carries with it no means of expressing the growth of open-ended complexity and the generation of genetic novelty. Thus, the Modern Synthesis is, at best, a partial representation of population genetics, but this on its own is a limited subset of the evolutionary process itself, and arguably the least interesting one.

Spank that naughty textbook.

Advocates of a front-loading interpretation of ID will find much to like in this paper. I’m not a front-loader, but I love to read their ideas, because they jar me out of my ruts and force me to think.

Painful to be jarred, but it’s always good to be bounced out of one’s ruts.

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8 Responses to Goldenfeld and Woese, paradigm-busting even more (with added goodies for ID front-loaders)


    Kind of reminds me of Dr Spetner’s “Not By Chance” from 1997. I guess it takes a while for others to catch on.

  2. a language-culture was developed to explain away the
    conceptual difficulties using guesswork solutions such as
    “natural selection”.

    Goldenfeld and Woese

    Natural selection isn’t a scinetific theory, it is a guesswork solution.

  3. That is one scary-looking dude!

  4. Wow! That was a real “read” to say the least. This from the Conclusion give a taste: “Instead of filling a gap by guesswork, genuine science
    prefers to put up with it; and this, not so much
    from conscientious scruples about telling lies, as from
    the consideration that, however irksome the gap may
    be, its obliteration by a fake removes the urge to seek
    after a tenable answer.”—E. Schr¨odinger, Nature and
    the Greeks, pp7-8.[202]
    Today, with the “urge” removed, the development
    of sophisticated technology has allowed biology to take
    refuge in single-molecule biophysics, genomics and molecular
    biology. But the stultifying language-culture still
    remains. This sanctuary is an illusionary respite: the
    core problems of biology remain irksome to some, and
    are inextricably interwoven with evolution. Indeed, the
    very existence of biological phenomena is an expression
    of physical laws that represent a new asymptotic realm
    in nonequilibrium statistical physics. Ulam famously
    quipped[203] “Ask not what physics can do for biology;
    ask what biology can do for physics.” Our answer is clear.

    I’ve got to forward this paper to a friend of mine with a phd in chemistry.

  5. without havng read the articles (im on a smart phone), i suspect that Woese does not mean what you would like him to. I would think, rather, that Woese’s thoughts are in line with those of for example michael lynch (“origins of genome architecture”, which by the way is a good book).

  6. Woese might think this IDist is an idiot, but this IDist has always thought Woese was a genius.

  7. OT: Philip Yancey, a favorite author I’ve read, is on Unbelievable this week:


  8. Read the article again and carefully. First they destroy the Modern Synthesis. Then attempt to offer an alternative. I readily admit that it is beyond me to judge their theories. I would think, however, that this article would get much more press!

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