Friday, January 27, 2006

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?

9 Comments:

At 8:49 PM, Blogger RPM said...

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.”

If there is an avian genepool (and "bird" is a kind), then eutherian mammals are a kind, or, at least, primates, rodents, artiodactyls, etc. are all kinds (hooray, they admit that all primates, including apes, which includes humans, share a common ancestor).

Recent fossil evidence suggests that the crocodilian kind can take a from resembling a raptor, which shows how maleable a kind can be.

Never mind my rant on kinds.

 
At 9:52 PM, Anonymous Charlie B said...

"But Darwinian evolution requires geological time periods"

What's a geological time period? A few thousand years for all the variety in domestic animals to appear? A few hundred years? Or merely tens of years like Tragopogon sp. or nylonase bacteria...

Gould, convinced that selection and variation were insufficient to account for life’s complexity, offered the twist of “punctuated equilibrium,”

Straight lie. Selection and variation are sufficient, and Gould was convinced of that. He just wasn't convinced that evolution proceeded at the same pace everywhere...

For nearly one hundred fifty years the fossil record has stubbornly refused to affirm gradualism, leaving evolutionists with nothing more than dogma...

Oh dear. Better send more straw to the mannequin factory...

I'll let others carry on, there are plenty of these to go round.

Nicholl appears to be just another voice of "the controversy" misrepresenting or misunderstanding science for their political ends.

 
At 8:18 AM, Anonymous Barrios said...

...the endless dispute between evolution and creationism.

Biblical Creationism is a distortion of stories that are too old for any modern person to make proper sense of. and the field of Evolutionary Biology discovers evolutionary principles operating everywhere except within itself: "we are not 'Darwinists' / ours is not an -ism / unlike Marx and Freud, our tale is true." ironically, of the three post-Christian ideologies, Evolution is probably the most characteristically Victorian, running as it does on the myth of progress and providing convenient shelter for Eugenics Enthusiasts with their schemes of "race betterment."

...but let there be no mistake: we support the idea of Science as dispassionate inquiry. unfortunately, in a misguided bid to fill the gap left by religious systems of belief, Science assumed something of religion's fetish aspect by the dawning of the 20th century (as keenly observed by Joseph Conrad in The Secret Agent).

 
At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Kevin from NYC said...

"running as it does on the myth of progress and providing convenient shelter for Eugenics Enthusiasts with their schemes of "race betterment."

WHAT?

people who understand evolution decry the notion of "progress". While life has increased in complexity as single celled went to multi-celled and invertabrates went to vertabrates, evolution does not always move from simple to complex (sightless fishes) and just because one animal is alive now it does not mean that it is "better" than one that is extinct.

Man needs about another 150 million years to stick around as long as the dinosaurs.

 
At 10:21 AM, Blogger bmk md said...

barrios said: ... Science assumed something of religion's fetish aspect by the dawning of the 20th century...

IF ever there was a pot calling a kettle black.

Fundamentalists clothed as scientist-looking modern men struggle so much because this is a faith vs. reason conflict.

But to try to turn the tables and call biologists/evolutionists the ones who only have faith and fundamentalists have the reason...Have you no sham? Have you no conscience? Were's the morality in all this double talk?

This is the stuff you want our children to "learn" in school?

Watch out world. Here comes the Chinese and Indian scientists who studied real science.

 
At 4:07 PM, Blogger radar said...

Below the babble, the idea that kinds only produce kinds remains true. There is no evidence that a bird has evolved from a reptile or anything like that at all. The Postulation of Evolution is full of conjecture and yet no one sees it now because it takes too long to happen and no one sees it in the fossil record because it happens too quickly. Or that is my real language take on punctuated equilibrium and similar ideas.

 
At 5:11 PM, Blogger Michael "Sotek" Ralston said...

Except, Radar, it is seen in the fossil record.

 
At 6:26 PM, Blogger AJ said...

Clearly the ID folks don't care what amount of evidence is presented for the support of evolution.

Maybe we need a different strategy.

Key to the all of their arguments is the concept of intelligence. If you can figure out a way to undermine the very concept of intelligence, the way they use it, it will break down their whole theoretical framework, evidence or no evidence.

Read More

I would love to hear what you guys think.

 
At 3:18 PM, Blogger Ginger Yellow said...

"But to try to turn the tables and call biologists/evolutionists the ones who only have faith and fundamentalists have the reason...Have you no sham?"

They do have a sham. It's called ID.

 

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