Home » Intelligent Design » The Production of Variations – a Case Study in Spiders

The Production of Variations – a Case Study in Spiders

Last week I posted about issues with the production of variation that Darwinists often overlook. So then, the question becomes, what is the mechanism for variation production? In a recent book, called Eight-Legged Marvels: Beauty and Design in the World of Spiders, Chad Arment invites us to examine that very question. In the introduction, Arment says:

…spiders are a choice introduction to biology as we explore diversity in form, function, and behavior within the natural world … [people with varying outlooks] see the same colors, patterns, structures, and behaviors in spiders, yet often interpret these details differently…

And so, Arment asks us to consider the possible causes for the generation of variation:

Dr. Francisco Ayala asserts that design in living organisms is simply the result of natural selection creating and preserving novel genetic adaptations out of chance variations. Some critics suggest this is out-of-order — that design precedes selection…There are also arguments that an undirected evolutionary process has limited capabilities for creating novel genetic adaptations, and that biological systems showing irreducible or specified complexity evidence actual, rather than apparent design. [emphasis mine]

The book gives many wonderful details and beautiful pictures of spiders (my whole family has loved the book – the kids love the pictures, and my wife and I enjoy reading the details about all the many variations of spiders). It also gives a great case study in the variations seen in nature. If the variations are not produced through chance, then what, exactly, is doing the producing? Does God create each one individually? Are there mechanisms within the genome which produce these variabilities? If so, what triggers them? Could the variabilities be encoded outside the genome? Perhaps based on interactions with symbionts? If so, which holds the information for them – the symbiont or the host? Perhaps variations are based on an uber-being from which others devolved?

When you progress beyond simply “chance + selection did it” you find that there are a variety of wonderful questions to explore, and secrets of nature to uncover.

So, I’m interested in your thoughts – when you look at the vast variability in Spiders, what causes their variations? To begin with, I’ll give you a list of things which, based on my reading of the book, seem to be variable within spiders:

  • Shape/proportion
  • Color (including the ability to change color spontaneously
  • Respiratory anatomy
  • Spinnerette anatomy
  • Eye anatomy
  • Venom
  • Exterior (skin/hair)

So by what means do you think these variations are produced?

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9 Responses to The Production of Variations – a Case Study in Spiders

  1. You can look on living things as some kind of software with kernel soft which binds different config files togeather and interpretates them. But each organism has different set of different config files where each element of organism has one or even more config files. You can tamper with different stuff in config files, some stuff is constants, some stuff are changanble, some stuff is dependent on other config file stuff, some may be is exterior things which change according to weather or week day!

    At the end you get complex system celluaar automaton math into living things. ID does not excludes them in general, only we have to find it’s place overall life cycle of the organism. Behe prooved himself that there is even some place for random mutations and natural selection to produce SOME stuff. But I like to look onto organism as big big software with built in 3D printer with bunch of config files, for legs, ears, eyes, CPU etc. :)

  2. 2

    “Does God create each one individually? Are there mechanisms within the genome which produce these variabilities? If so, what triggers them? Could the variabilities be encoded outside the genome? Perhaps based on interactions with symbionts? Perhaps variations are based on an uber-being (the baramin?) from which others devolved?”

    Hi JohhnyB, thank you for writing this article. The questions contained within it are worth discussing here at Uncommon Descent. Let us hope it does not get derailed by enemies of Intelligent Design.

  3. 3

    Anyway, johnny b, my personal feeling is that species are variations that developed out of an original kind or uber-being. The original created kind and it’s offshoots.

    Whether the plans for the offshoots were loaded into the geonome or the Creator put the information for development in directly I don’t know. Essentially the creation of the basic kinds through special creation and speciation through directed processes.

  4. Personally, I tend toward the idea of the uber-being; at least with chordates. Cattle are a good example as most species, both domestic and wild, can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.

    Hybridisation could lend to this. There was an experiment in January this year where 2 populations of blind cave fish were hybridised resulting in sight regained 2-3 generations later (http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....120911.htm). This to me points to an uber-fish with greater ability and vision lost due to birth defects common to inbreds.

    Can giant pandas regain an ability to tolerate a varied diet if hybridised with a relative? Maybe started by artificial insemination with racoons which certainly have a varied diet? It may result in sterile offspring but I think it’s worth a try as it could gain international attention and possibly save giant pandas from extinction. It would point to over-specialisation as a result of devolution caused by isolation and inbreeding or some other factor yet to be discovered.

  5. johhnyb:

    very good questions. Variations in the context of a general plan are really a stimulating challenge, once we decide to abandon, at least in part, the usual paradigm of random mutation.

    I say at least in part, because that’s exactly the field where many IDists would be ready to accept some role for microevolution. I will not necessarily deny that, although I feel that, if that role exists, it has to be proved in some more realistic way.

    But I am sure that most of that kind of “horizontal” variation has to be explained in different ways. In general, I tend to think that most of it is really designed. Obviously, it’s a kind of design which seems to be less substantial than, let’s say, the choice of the general body plan, or of other basic patterns at higher taxonomic levels. It makes me think more of those software programs which can be personalized (something like the various “skins”). The main purpose of that kind of design seems to be to ensure variety, often even aestethic variety. Does that surprise us? Isn’t that exactly what we observe in human design? The same car with different colors, or with personalized accessories, or different cars which exploit in different ways a similar idea, and so on. If we get rid of the old idea that the only purpose of biological information is to ensure better survival and fitness (a perspective which I really find incomprehensible, given that the best adapted living beings are still bacteria and archea), then other goals of design can be considered: variety, creativity, and above all the expression of different ideas, and of different faculties, and of different experiences.

    But there is another aspect which is probably important, and that is adaptation. In the general revival of Lamarck even in the darwinist field, we IDists could well consider the possibility that our well designed living being have been endowed by the designer with “development programs”, targeted at adaptation to various stimuli. Intelligence can certainly do that. The information could be already present in the species, both at the genome level and at other levels, but it could develop in different ways according to the various stimuli coming from the external (or even from the internal)world.

    But, in the end, I really feel that love for variety, for form and for creativity remains the main motivation of variation at a specific level of complexity, while the need to express new functions is probably the main motivation for the big increases in complexity which we can observe at higher taxonomic levels.

  6. 6

    “Anyway, johnny b, my personal feeling is that species are variations that developed out of an original kind or uber-being. The original created kind and it’s offshoots.”

    So in reality there is devolution from a higher form to a less perfect form.

    This means also that humans originated from an uber-being. (Adam & Eve before the fall?)

    If true, it makes far more sense than human evolution of the Darwinist type, given human history and our current condition. The more perfect human in my view is the one who can live without the gadgets and infrastructure of our modern times. And as the scriptures tell us, for longer periods of time.

    So in reality, if ID is correct, prehistoric humans had greater intellects, fewer diseases, more creative abilities, fewer aggressive tendencies, etc.. But that’s just my view.

  7. 7

    No Yankee. You do not get what I’m saying. Perhaps the original kinds were created by direct action by the Creator. These original kinds were either programmed to develop. Or the designer directly formed new species from the original species by altering the DNA.

    This has nothing to do with a fall. We need to start looking for alternatives to universal common ancestry.

  8. johnnyb,

    Your post on Parameterized Evolution got picked up by someone at ASA.

    http://www.calvin.edu/archive/asa/200808/0261.html

    Some of the predictable ID bashers belittled it but a few took it seriously and discussed it and its implications. Follow the thread. There are about 16 posts.

  9. gpuccio:

    But there is another aspect which is probably important, and that is adaptation. In the general revival of Lamarck even in the darwinist field, we IDists could well consider the possibility that our well designed living being have been endowed by the designer with “development programs”, targeted at adaptation to various stimuli. Intelligence can certainly do that. The information could be already present in the species, both at the genome level and at other levels, but it could develop in different ways according to the various stimuli coming from the external (or even from the internal)world. [emphasis added]

    Are you aware of the study on DNA that was released last summer? Its results were published in the U.K. journal Nature and the U.S. journal Genome Research. Your thoughts are completely in-line with what they found about “junk” DNA….

    From COSMOS Magazine (14 June 2007):

    Warehouse of genes

    But the ENCODE consortium were surprised to find that the genome appears to be stuffed with functional elements that offer no identifiable benefits in terms of survival or reproduction.

    The researchers speculate that there is a point behind this survival of the evolutionary cull. Humans could share with other animals a large pool of functional elements – a “warehouse” stuffed with a variety of tools on which each species can draw, enabling it to adapt according to its environmental niche. [emphasis added]

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