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Reply #18: PZ Myers beef is the way very powerful and useful theory [View All]

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FarrenH Donating Member (485 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-12-08 05:44 PM
Response to Reply #15
18. PZ Myers beef is the way very powerful and useful theory
Edited on Sat Jul-12-08 05:58 PM by FarrenH
is mixed up with this kind of stuff

In his new book, Reinventing the Sacred, legendary complexity pioneer Stuart Kauffman continues to challenge the view of most biologists that natural selection is the only source of order. However, Kauffman is more charitable than hundreds of other evolutionary scientists (non-Creationists) who contend that natural selection is politics, not science, and that we are in a quagmire because of staggering commerical investment in a Darwinian industry built on an inadequate theory.

True to his research roots in self-organization, Kauffman says life is not based on the replication of DNA and RNA. He also questions whether biology can be reduced to physics, writing that lovers walking along the Seine are not just particles in motion.

He thinks the biosphere constructs itself using sunlight and free energy and that the universe is "ceaselessly creative." And because the future is not really predictable, Kauffman (writing from the Canadian Rockies) recommends we all calm down, remix science with the ancient Greek model of "the good life, well lived," and treat ALL in our global culture as sacred. ...

... that basically has zero currency in mainstream biology, along with the other signposts that the modern synthesis is "severely" deficient and - Oh My God this is asinine - basically only owes its popularity among academic because of commercial interests. That is just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Now it seems Kaufman is a fellow at the Santa Fe institute with a lot of genuine cred in complexity theory, so I assume he's trying to say something significantly more sophisticated than "selection is a poor explanation". I suspect its more along the lines of "this is the top down view to selection's bottom-up view" - the universe is a kind of iterative fractal, growing more complex by acting on itself. But while this kind of stuff is interesting in the realm of philosophy, it certainly doesn't have the contemporary explanatory and predictive power that conventional ideas about selection do.

What grates especially though, is that the ideas of Kaufman and others are cited in a manner that gives the appearance of a major crisis in evolutionary biology, when in fact there simply is not.

Myers is annoyed, as I think most people interested in the subject would be, because it distorts the public's perception of science by giving them the impression that weak, untested and/or purely speculative ideas have the same value in science as coherent and useful ideas for which there is an enormous amount of evidence. Its like someone throwing tachyon drives from Star Trek into a discussion about internal combustion engines and pretending that the Theory of Cars is in crisis because of our insights into hypothetical tachyon drives. Lewontin is clearly perplexed by the journalist carrying on in this fashion in his interview.

Its not that there isn't some interesting material in the e-book. Its the fact that it is composited and presented in a misleading manner. This is bad science reporting.
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