November 3, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

Inefficiency Made You Complex

Remember the old Darwinian story?  Slight variations that prove beneficial are naturally selected when they help an organism adapt to its environment.  Wrong.  According to Ariel Fernandez of Rice University, we humans are complex because natural selection is inefficient.  He said, “the origins of some key aspects of the evolution of complexity may have their origins in completely nonadaptive processes.”  His tale is told by Science Daily.
    According to Fernandez, bacteria are better at natural selection than humans are.  Humans and other complex animals tend to accumulate “paralogs” or partially-functional copies of genes.  Some paralogs actually decrease fitness.  Some, whether beneficial or not, accumulate like employees that can’t be fired.  He used an analogy of two delivery drivers that start out being redundant, but eventually specialize on certain parts of town.  “Eventually, even if times become tough, you cannot lay off either of them because they each became so specialized that your company needs them both.”
    Humans need many specialized organs and proteins to function, he admitted – and even more specialized parts to regulate them all.  How did all this integrated complexity arise?  The article did not mention genetic information, function or innovation once.  Somehow the genetic information must arise from duplicate genes that act as a jack-of-all-trades but are not removed by selection; this can only occur if selection is inefficient, he thinks.  “This is frequently a point of contention between proponents of evolution and intelligent design,” the article said.
    What does all this have to do with Darwinism?  “This supports the case for evolution because it shows that you can drive complexity with random mutations in duplicate genes,” Fernandez said.  “But this also implies that random drift must prevail over Darwinian selection.  In other words, if Darwinian selection were ruthlessly efficient in humans – as it is in bacteria and unicellular eukaryotes – then our level of complexity would not be possible.”

Fernandez confuses complexity and coordination.  A random pile of Scrabble letters is complex but it doesn’t spell anything.  He had nothing to say about how genes and proteins can develop into a complex being that can compose a symphony in his head or do a triple-twisting dive off a 10 meter platform.
    It gets so tiring to watch the waffle iron.  First natural selection is the answer to everything; next thing you know, it is inefficient.  One moment adaptation is the goal of all evolutionary processes; next moment evolution happens by non-adaptive processes.  Never do they get to the key question of where genetic information comes from.  Can’t I just finish my waffle? says Fernandez.  No; not till you pass the fitness test.

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