Genetics and Genesis
Let us close the week's blogging with a brief consideration of this amusing take on Science magazine's decision to spotlight progress in evolutionary biology as their scientific breakthrough of the year. It was written by Regis Nicoll and posted at Breakoint's website.
Actually, it was really only the closing paragraphs that caught my eye:
To the contrary, one could lift the basis for Mendel’s laws right off the opening chapter of Genesis, where flora and fauna are created “according to their kinds” and are bid to “be fruitful and multiply.” There we find the source of life’s origin, variety and fecundity. God creates life and endows it with the ability to adapt and proliferate in a decaying world.
But the Genesis account also informs us of an inherent limit to that adaptability. While the avian gene pool can produce everything from the Galapagos finch to the Andean condor, it will produce nothing other than a bird, “according to its kind.” And since the beginning, no evidence, fossil or otherwise, has demonstrated the contrary—“Breakthrough of the Year” notwithstanding.
If the basis for Mendel's laws is there right in the opening chapter of Genesis, one wonders why it took so long for people to formulate those laws.
Of course, the real bases for Mendel's laws are the ideas of particulate inheritance and the basic principles of probability theory. I'm afraid I must have overlooked the part of Genesis that discusses these ideas.
And I love Mr. Nicoll's take on what constitutes evidence.
A vague reference in Genesis to creatures being created according to their kind is taken as evidence for basic principles of genetics. Nicoll sees here an important statement about how on the one hand God equipped animals with the ability to adapt to their surroundings (thereby anticipating principles of microevolution that scientists would not establish for several centuries), while on the other hand He described a clear limitation on that ability. Not too shabby for half a Bible verse.
But confront him with the entirety of the fossil record, the anatomical homologies throughout the animal kingdom, the molecular and genetical similarities, the embryological evidence for common descent, the evidence from biogeography, the clear evolutionary orgins of numerous complex systems, various strategically placed retroviral scars, the entirety of mathematical population genetics and the numerous field studies of natural selection, the successful game-theoretical models of ethologists, the countless successful predictions made by biologists taking evolution as their starting point; in short, the mountains of data that pour in on a daily basis from every branch of the life sciences, and all Nicoll sees is a lot of groundless speculation and empty theorizing.
Where can I get a pair of glasses like that?