Metaevolution, or, the evolution of evolution
August 25, 2016 § 50 Comments
Like all dynamic things which persist over long periods of time, evolution has had to adapt to survive.
Darwin: Very gradual change combined with natural selection sufficiently explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (Falsified by scientific evidence).
Neodarwinian synthesis: Random mutations in the genome combined with natural selection sufficiently explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (Falsified by scientific evidence).
Stanley Miller: Lightning strikes catalyzed the production of amino acids into ponds of primordial soup, which organized themselves into the first cells. (Cool story bro).
Haeckel: Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. (No it doesn’t).
John Scopes: Teaching kids evolution forms them into better and more critical thinkers. (This is far from clear).
Gould: Gradual changes plus selection cannot explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (True). Radical and fast changes – saltation – actually occurred and this occurrence is supported by the fossil record. (Probably true: see e.g. the Cambrian Explosion. However, what is descended from what in the fossil record is not established either by fossil or genetic methods).
Margulis: New cell organelles originate when one life form colonizes another. Example: mitochondria are the vestigial remains of ancient prokaryotes which colonized host cells. (Makes a nice story. Might even be true in some cases).
Dawkins: Material cause and effect alone explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (Statement of religious/metaphysical faith).
Behe: Mutation and selection are insufficient to explain the origins of irreducibly complex biological structures such as bacterial flagella and the blood cascade. (True). This leads us to conclude that these were the product of ‘design’ understood as something at least analogous to human beings designing artifacts. (Metaphysical/religious claim).
Kenneth R. Miller: Legitimate practice of science requires the adoption of methodological naturalism in order to demarcate scientific knowledge from other knowledge. (False). Methodological naturalism is not incompatible with belief in God. (Keep telling yourself that). Methodological naturalism is rationally coherent. (False). If we are critical of evolution we won’t get invited to cocktail parties with respectable people. (Probably true: ask Michael Behe).
Bioinformatics: Database driven statistical correlations in gene sequences strongly imply similar protein structures (could be), biological functions (also could be), and phylogeny (cool story bro).
Evolutionary psychology: The stories we tell about how certain human behaviors might have supported the successful reproduction of previous generations of human beings explain the psychology of human beings today. (Probably belongs in the literary class ‘historical fiction’).
My comment: One question is whether anything important about evolution has survived other than the label and its associated self-congratulatory attitude.