January 17, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Simple Darwinian Theories Have to Be Abandoned

Mutate one gene and a cascade of changes can result.  This effect is called pleiotropy (see 10/01/2003 entry).  According to an article by Stephen Strauss reporting for the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail, “The emerging richness of pleiotropy means that any simple Darwinian notion of what is going on during natural selection has to be abandoned.”
    Unless Darwinians can show that the positive changes outnumber the negative effects, pleiotropy seems to spell difficulty, if not doom, for neo-Darwinian theory, which relies on beneficial mutations.  But if beneficial mutations are rare to begin with, how can evolutionary theory face the new problem of pleiotropy?  “The simplest answer,” Strauss writes, “is that nearly 150 years after Darwin first explained the theory of evolution, the richness of multiple effects from the same gene is such that existence itself seems problematic” (emphasis added in all quotes).
    Strauss gives examples of a few more nuanced proposals for salvaging Darwinian evolution: “Faced with what amounts to a growing daily confusion of genetic effects, biologists are proposing new and more highly refined theories of evolution.”  Some biologists hope that some mutations have only minor effects.  Others are looking for examples of single mutations that might have a cascade of good effects.  He ends on a hopeful note: “With modern genetics increasing the supply of data about the multiple functions of genes, evolutionary biologists are increasingly confident that they are going to be able to do what Darwin promised but couldn’t quite delivery [sic] — truly explain the origin of species.”

So Charlie couldn’t deliver, and now, 150 years later, we are stuck with teaching his mythoid as fact without being able to subject it to critical analysis (see 01/13/2005 entry).
    The problems with evolutionary theory are mounting.  Now that neo-Darwinism has been falsified (see 11/29/2004 entry), and so many thousands of beneficial mutations would be required to evolve a human brain (see 12/30/2004) that human evolution is falsified, what mechanism is left?  Judge Cooper said it was OK to criticize evolution as to its mechanism, but like a car without an engine, a theory without a mechanism is not a theory at all.  Would this kind of logic work in commerce and relationships?

  • I’ve invented a new form of shipping heavy freight.  Now I just need to invent a mechanism to convert power into motion.
  • The check is in the mail.  Now we just need a mail system.
  • I conceived of a perpetual motion machine, but haven’t figured out a way to overcome the second law of thermodynamics.
  • Watch me swim up this waterfall, as soon as I learn how to swim.
  • The Nigerian government will give you $10 million dollars; we just need you to send in $10,000 now.
  • I’ll buy you dinner, but I have no money.
  • I love you; just give me everything you have until I find out how to express my love.

Why don’t we all tell Charlie, Mr. slick used car salesman, that we’re wise to his tricks.  Let’s tell him to stop giving us the runaround, and come back when he has his magic mechanism that can deliver the goods: bald eagles from slime.  Meanwhile, what say we walk over and kick the tires on that Model ID over there.

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