Goldenfeld and Woese, paradigm-busting even more (with added goodies for ID front-loaders)
|November 19, 2010||Posted by Paul Nelson under Intelligent Design|
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):
IS EVOLUTION RANDOM?
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.