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Reply #41: Yeah, I was cranky too. Just got done mixing and pouring a ton of concrete, tired... [View All]

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arendt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-14-08 07:58 AM
Response to Reply #39
41. Yeah, I was cranky too. Just got done mixing and pouring a ton of concrete, tired...
Edited on Mon Jul-14-08 07:59 AM by arendt
I was reading your post as defending the 1920s version of Darwinism as complete. I felt trapped between two extreme stances. Your current post gives me a clearer idea of where you are at. I'm writing this between breakfast and leaving for work; so I must be brief.

Yes, I agree that you can talk about the mechanism of evolution by selection without invoking QM. I'm glad you appreciate that new discoveries (HGT, RNAi, histone code, etc.) disclose mechanisms far beyond what the 1920s folks had to work with.

The heart of the discussion here is the sensationalism with which this A16 conference has been presented. Science has always been full of prima donnas; and the press has always gone for personality over substance when trying to convey the complexities of science to a less educated public. That said, I do not expect to find this kind of sensationalism in Science Magazine, the lead publication of the AAAS. It is irresponsible to put such a burden on this tiny conference. It could sink a nascent new synthesis, the same way that the Rolling Stone reporter who said "I have seen the future of rock and roll, and his name is Bruce Springsteen" almost sank "the Boss's" career.

Yes, I am sick of New Age shlock pretending to be science. Its like UFOlogy - pointing to the unexplained stuff at the edge and saying that therefore the whole corpus is bunk. Bottom line, the Modern Synthesis has been useful; and it is long overdue for an upgrade. This can and will happen. When it does, it will be a paradigm shift. Meanwhile, we need both sides of this debate. Let me quote from Richard Dawkins' response to Susan Mazur on A16, posted on The Scoop website:

Richard Dawkins:I gather that it's an attack on the gene-centered view of evolution and a substitution of the theory of form.

The theory of form I presume dates back to D'Arcy Thompson , who was a distinguished Scottish zoologist who wrote a book called On Growth and Form and who purported to be anti-Darwinian. In fact, he never really talked about the real problems that Darwinism solves, which is the problem of adaptation.

Now D'Arcy Thompson and other people who stress the word form emphasize the laws of physics. Physical principles alone as on their own adequate to explain the form of organisms. So for example, D'Arcy Thompson would look at the way a rubber tube would get reshaped when crushed and he would find analogies to that in living organisms.

I see a lot of value in that kind of approach. It is something we can't as biologists afford to neglect. However, it absolutely neglects the question where does the illusion of design come from? Where do animals and plants get this powerful impression that they have been brilliantly designed for a purpose? Where does that come from?

That does not come from the laws of physics on their own. That cannot come from anything that has so far been suggested by anybody other than natural selection. So I don't see any conflict at all between the theory of natural selection -- the gene-centered theory of natural selection, I should say -- and the theory of form. We need both. We need both. And it is disingenuous to present the one as antagonistic to the other.


Got to run. Maybe more later.

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