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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Darwinism
Posted: May 10, 2020 at 5:48 am
As we live through the coronavirus lockdown, some surprisingly diverse sources fromThe New YorkertoTucker Carlson have begun referring their audiences to an alarming word: totalitarianism. In this context, journalist and activistMasha Gessen, writing inThe New Yorker, recommends the work of Hannah Arendt, for her complicated and precise descriptions of isolation, solitude, and loneliness. The reference is apt, and worth exploring, not least because of Arendts insights linking totalitarian ideology with Darwinism.
Hannah Arendt was the leading philosopher of totalitarianism in the 20th century. Her writing, especiallyThe Origins of Totalitarianism(1951), is always interesting and relevant, and her insights into totalitarianism are chillingly accurate. She explicitly links totalitarian ideology to Darwinism naming Darwin often as a cornerstone of modern totalitarianism. She distinguishes between different forms of government, as a function of the set of predicates by which a nation is governed. Some governments rule by deontological rules theocracies that use the Ten Commandments, etc. Some rule by positive law written laws established by legislation. Some rule by tyranny the arbitrary rule by the opinions of one or a few individuals. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages.
Totalitarianism is something radically different, even radically different from tyranny. Totalitarianism is rule by natural laws she means by laws of nature, not natural law in the scholastic sense. Nazism ruled by biological natural laws drawn from Darwin and his followers concepts of racial superiority, survival of the fittest, etc. Communists rule by natural laws of class, history, and economics the class struggle, struggle against capitalism, etc.Marxists draw parallels between these laws and those established by Darwin. As Darwin discovered the law of evolution in organic nature,said Friedrich Engels, Marx discovered the law of evolution in human history.
Its noteworthy that while we think of Hitler and Stalin as tyrants, Arendt would say that they werent really tyrants in the sense she means. Tyrants are arbitrary, and totalitarians arent. For example, Caligula (a classic tyrant) could make his horse a senator, just by whim. Hitler could not have made a Jew his minister of defense, and Stalin could not have made a capitalist his minister of the interior.
Tyrants are less dangerous because they are not wedded to unalterable ideology. In this sense, Augustus was a tyrant, too he had complete personal power but his rule was for the most part rational and humane. Totalitarians are much more dangerous than tyrants because they are absolutely committed to an ideology, and that ideology takes precedence over all other considerations over positive law, over moral law, over personal relationships. Germans were expected to turn in Jews to the Gestapo, even if the Jew was a friend. Soviet citizens were expected to turn in relatives who didnt buy into Communism to the Cheka, even close relatives such as parents.
Totalitarianism is uniquely dangerous because it is objectively driven and unchecked by any other considerations. It is very effective in the sense that it systematically destroys opposition in an organized way that tyrants, theocrats, etc. tend not to do.
Arendt noted that totalitarians work using terror. She defined terror as the completely arbitrary use of fear. Anyone could get a knock on the door at 3 a.m. from the Cheka, for any reason. Guilt in the sense of legal violation plays no role the accusation is the conviction, and there is no recourse to law or reason. The goal of terror is to utterly disorganize society and disorganize individual thought. You never can predict, you never can know what is coming next. This disorganization is essential because it leaves only the ruling ideology the natural law as a guiding principle. The struggle is theonlyorganizing principle, and that is the essence of the totalitarian system.Onlythe natural law only the struggle matters, and war is perpetual. Under totalitarianism, people are terrified and paralyzed Arendt often used the word paralyzed. People in a totalitarian state are like panicked livestock, to be bred, culled, slaughtered, and used to advance the ideology and win the perpetual struggle. Terror and paralysis are the cornerstones of public policy in totalitarian states.
The COVID-19 lockdown isnt fully totalitarian, of course.Dennis Prager notesthat while we are closer to a police state than ever in American history, a police state does not mean totalitarian state. America is not a totalitarian state; we still have many freedoms. But you can get a flavor. Proponents of radical lockdown instill fear (as you may be aware if you have followedevents in California). They are arbitrary (you can go to the liquor store but not to church, or in Michigan, you can buy vegetables butnot seeds for a garden). A noteworthy example of this arbitrariness is New York mayor Bill de Blasiosthreat to arrest Orthodox Jewswho attend funerals, whilehe issued no such threat to spectators who gathered in crowds to watch the Blue Angelsfly over a few days ago.
For Arendt, Darwin was at the root of modern totalitarianism, because he offered the most pervasive natural law natural selection. Logically, Darwin influenced both Nazi and Communist totalitarians. The highest qualities of human beings were, according to Darwin, the direct consequence of a struggle built into nature. Darwinism offers a scientific validation of totalitarian natural law, on which a totalitarians system could be built. For Arendt, Darwin was, in a way, the prophet of totalitarianism.
FromThe Origins of Totalitarianism:
Darwinism met with such overwhelming success [in totalitarian systems] because it provided, on the basis of inheritance, the ideological weapons for race and well as class rule
Materialism is an indispensable boost to Darwinian and totalitarian ideology. Thats whyDarwinist Jerry Coynes denial of free will is so dangerous it removes the idea of guilt or innocence, and makes us livestock to be managed and culled according to ideology. In Coynes world without free will, a man cannot coherently say But Im innocent! Without free will, there is no moral innocence or moral guilt. There is only matter in motion, to be controlled by the state for the states (ideological) purposes.
In this COVID crisis, we need to carefully consider the social and political implications of the measures our government takes to stem the pandemic. As Hannah Arendt so masterfully explained, a nation paralyzed by fear and locked down by government-by-edict has moved in a subtle but undeniable way toward totalitarian dynamics. Fear and involuntary quarantine carry more than just an economic price. Totalitarianism is no less deadly than a pandemic and is just as easy to misdiagnose in its early stages.
Photo: Hannah Arendt died in 1975 and was buried on the campus of Bard College, by Loslazos / CC BY-SA.
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Posted: April 9, 2020 at 6:56 pm
Next time you fail your math test, tell your teacher to give you an A. Why? Because you failed because of their opinion. While clearly a joke, this point questions what makes something right or wrong.
Right and wrong depend entirely on someones worldview. For example, nonreligious people do not believe in a supernatural world, while religious people believe in a higher power to explain things. These perspectives shape their life outlook giving the appearance of an immovable object meets an unstoppable force.
There will never be a right answer to these worldviews because only the person who holds them can change them. During a mental health workshop I took as a student athlete, I learned that the best way to foster change is through having people recognize the issue.
We can tell people the right course of action, but if they do not recognize it themselves, they will never change. Ever try debating a relative with an opposing political opinion? Did you convince them?
Look at who people think is the winner of a political debate. It will always be the candidate they will vote for anyways. Psychologists call this thinking error confirmation bias because people accept new information that supports their worldview and reject other information. This means that value judgements, such as right and wrong, are references to how we perceive outside events.
This is why there is still a debate about the existence of God. For two people may be exposed to the same event, yet will come to different interpretations of that event. The believer will apply their belief in God as a cause for the situation, while the nonbeliever will not.
Since humans have internal bias, then all human inventions will have a degree of it, including science. Yet, scientists argue that the scientific method prevents human bias from bleeding into science. I would ask these scientists how the scientific method allowed wonky ideas like Social Darwinism to take place.
During the late 19th century, many scientists used the teachings of Charles Darwin regarding human evolution to form a human hierarchy based on race, gender, intellectual abilities and wealth. These scientists followed the scientific method which led to the sterilization of 8,000 people in North Carolina alone. Interestingly enough, Charles Darwin hailed from a long line of fervent abolitionists, and many speculate his commitment to proving human evolution by chance was influenced by his hatred of slavery, Adrian Desmond and James Moore say. According to their biography, Darwin was outraged when he saw the suffering inflicted by slavery and was motivated to prove that all humans came from one common ancestor.
Yet, peoples personal opinions about human evolution impacted methods free of human bias. Despite horrible things being done in sciences name, it has made the world a better place. Why? Because good people found different interpretations of existing information. The world will be a better place when everyone comes together and shares similar opinions about the right course of action.
Dont believe me? You dont have to. After all, it is just my opinion.
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Posted: March 31, 2020 at 6:42 am
Social Darwinism is a complex and controversial topic, a package of ideologies supposedly inspired by biological evolutionism that is of interest to scholars of both the life and the social sciences. In principle it includes any political system inspired by the view that human nature and social activity are driven by our biological nature, especially as defined by the process of evolution. The complexity of the topic derives from the fact that the term social Darwinism has been applied to a number of different (and to some extent incompatible) ideologies. The key feature is supposed to be the influence of Charles Darwins theory of evolution by natural selection, in which the struggle for existence determines the survival of the fittest, thereby ensuring that the species adapts to new conditionsalthough it is widely assumed that the process also guarantees progress toward higher levels of complexity. The classic image is of the proponents of unrestrained free-enterprise capitalism justifying their policy by appealing to the survival of the fittest. But the term has also been applied to justifications of militarism and imperialism (national or racial struggle) and to the eugenics movements efforts to replace natural selection with a process of artificial selection by restricting the reproduction of the unfit. The term has also been applied to more or less any claim that human nature is fixed by hereditary factors, especially those linked to social class or race. The topic is contentious because social Darwinism is almost always used in a pejorative sensethe opponents of these ideologies use it to define positions they reject, and this becomes particularly sensitive when applied to areas such as Nazi racial policies and the Holocaust. Most forms of social Darwinism are associated with right-wing ideologies, despite the fact that scholars can point to many left-wing writers who were also inspired by Darwin. The problem of interpretation is compounded by the fact that historians of both the biological and the social sciences are involved, bringing very different interpretive frameworks to bear. Scholars interested in the social world tend to equate social Darwinism with any ideology based on the struggle for existence, whether or not there is evidence of inspiration from biological Darwinism. Historians of science may be well aware that the term refers to a much wider range of ideologies than those inspired directly by Darwin, but they do expect the analysis to respect the fact that other biological ideas and, indeed, other evolutionary mechanisms were involved.
There are few wide-ranging studies of social Darwinism, in part because so many different ideologies have been associated with the movement, but also because the national contexts in which these ideologies developed are very different. Disagreement exists even over the meaning of the term social Darwinism, often reflecting the varying backgrounds from which scholars approach the subject. Historians of the social sciences have tended to equate social Darwinism with more or less any ideology promoting the view that struggle and competition (at whatever level) are the motors of progress. Historians of the life sciences are generally more aware of the complexity of the biological debates, which provided the models on which the social policies were based and stress that the Darwinian theory of natural selection was by no means the only source of inspiration for ideologies of social progress based on the struggle for existence. Of the few general overviews available, Bowler 1993 provides the perspective from the life sciences, while Hawkins 1997 is written by a historian of the social sciences. Alexander and Numbers 2010 is a wide-ranging collection of essays on the relationship between biology and ideology, beginning in the pre-Darwinian period and continuing to recent debates. Tort 1992 also offers a wider perspective, but one generated from outside the English-speaking world.
Alexander, Denis R., and Ronald L. Numbers, eds. 2010. Biology and ideology from Descartes to Dawkins. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
A collection of essays that includes material on the origins of race science, Darwins social views, the idea of progress, eugenics, the role of Marxism, and 20th-century developments.
Bowler, Peter J. 1993. Biology and social thought, 18501914. Berkeley: Office for the History of Science and Technology, Univ. of California.
A survey of the early development of links between evolution and ideology noting the impact of both Darwinian and non-Darwinian evolutionary theories and showing how anthropologists and archaeologists developed a model of human progress independently of developments in evolutionary biology.
Hawkins, Mike. 1997. Social Darwinism in European and American thought, 18601945. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511558481E-mail Citation
The most comprehensive overview, based on a clear recognition of the problems generated by equating social Darwinism with capitalism. Written from the perspective of the social sciences, and thus tends to equate any ideology based on struggle with social Darwinism irrespective of the actual evolutionary models employed.
Tort, Patrick, ed. 1992. Darwinisme et socit: Colloque international, 46 juin 1991, Paris. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
Collects the papers delivered at an international conference. Particularly useful on social Darwinism beyond the English-speaking world.
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Posted: at 6:42 am
First Published: September 9, 2016 | Last Updated:September 9, 2016
When a BJP MP Tarun Vijay urged patriotic Indians to use the Bhuvan mapping software developed by ISRO rather than Google Maps; an article was published in financial express which said pleading patriotism would not work for Bhuvan in this era of Digital Darwinism. The concept of Digital Darwinism was given by Brian Solis. As per Solis, we all are witnessing Digital Darwinism an era when technology and society evolve faster than the ability to adapt or lead. In this era, the organizations must either adapt or die. Digital Darwinism favors those organizations that at least try to evolve to compete.
The above examples indicate that Digital Darwinism threatens most organizations in almost every industry. Because of this, businesses not only have to compete for today but also for the unforeseeable future.
Traditional Darwinism addresses biological evolution through natural selection and the ability to survive. Digital Darwinism exposes the risk for companies to be victims of the accelerating pace of digital adoption as their traditional business models fail to adapt to rapidly-changing customers needs.
Digital Darwinism also would imply digital transformation. It is the realignment of, or new investment in, technology, business models, and processes to drive new value for customers and employees to more effectively compete in an ever-changing digital economy. Change is the only thing which is constant and that holds important tagline for Digital Transformation.
Some of these technologies are as follows:
Bhuvan, developed in 2009, is a web-based GIS tool developed by ISRO. It allows users to explore 2D/3D maps, especially of India, over the web. While the software certainly entails benefits for the government such as mapping for disaster services, climate and environment, etc., the layman stands less to benefit from it. It lacks basic features like location-tracking and traffic updates which are most important for individuals today in this Digitised world. Bhuvan also is not handy when it comes to services like locating ATMs or sharing location over the internet. The only place where it trumps Google Maps is that it provides services in four Indian languages- English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu.
While the software is chiefly directed for government-use, to attract the lay user, it will have to do better than providing just location data and clearer images of rooftops, because in a free market, people will lean more towards a technology that offers a larger spectrum of uses and is widely-used already.
The best the government can do for Bhuvan is to keep adding features that excite general users and does not allow them to lean towards technologies like Google Maps.
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Posted: at 6:42 am
Jerry Bergman, Ph.D. 2005 by Creation Research Society. All rights reserved. Used by permission. This article first appeared in Vol. 42, No. 2 of the Creation Research Society Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Creation Research Society.
An evaluation of DNA/RNA mutations indicates that they cannot provide significant new levels of information. Instead, mutations will produce degradation of the information in the genome. This is the opposite of the predictions of the neoDarwinian origins model. Such genome degradation is counteracted by natural selection that helps maintain the status quo. Degradation results for many reasons, two of which are reviewed here. 1) there is a tendency for mutations to produce a highly disproportionate number of certain nucleotide bases such as thymine and 2) many mutations occur in only a relatively few places within the gene called hot spots, and rarely occur in others, known as cold spots. An intensive review of the literature fails to reveal a single clear example of a beneficial information-gaining mutation. Conversely, thousands of deleterious mutations exist, supporting the hypothesis that very few mutations are beneficial. These findings support the creation origins model.
he primary basis of macroevolution is presumably the occurrence of mutations, which are accidental changes in the DNA. This includes both DNA that codes for protein and that which has other roles in the cell. This changed DNA can result in an observable change in the phenotype (the physical appearance) of the organism. These mutations ultimately provide the differences that are selected for (or against) by natural selection (Mayr, 2001; Wise, 2002, p. 163). The critical importance of mutations in providing the raw material for evolution is widely acknowledged by Darwinists, and is almost universally mentioned in biology textbooks (Mayr, 2001). In the words of one of the founders of the modern neoDarwinian theory, and one of the most eminent evolutionists, Harvard professor Ernst Mayr: Ultimately, all variation is, of course, due to mutation (Mayr, 1967, p. 50). The primary architect of neoDarwinism was Theodosius Dobzhansky who wrote that the process of mutation is the only source of the raw materials of genetic variability, and hence of evolution (Dobzhansky, 1957, p. 385, emphasis mine). Dobzhansky concluded that evolution is possible only because heredity is counteracted by another process opposite in effectnamely, mutation (1951, p. 25, emphasis mine). The conclusion that mutations are the key to evolution is the basis of modern neoDarwinism (Mayr, 2001).
Other sources of variation, such as sexual reproduction, genetic crossing over, and transposition, primarily produce only rearrangements of existing information and do not create new genetic information. These other mechanisms of change yield phenotypic variations that will produce, at best, only a limited amount of microevolution. Therefore, the source of all genetic variety required for macroevolution ultimately is mutations.
One of the most commonly utilized illustrations to help understand the process macroevolution via mutations was developed by the leading evolutionary biologist and Oxford professor, Richard Dawkins (1986). His example requires random variations of all, or almost all, of the nucleotides for neoDarwinian evolution to occur. This paper examines whether or not this general requirement is fulfilled.
The Dawkins macroevolutionary model actually helps to show why mutations that are expressed virtually always result in loss of information or corruption of the gene. Most all expressed mutations yield proteins that have reduced function, such as illustrated by sickle cell anemia. Some mutations, like adrenoleukodystrophy, cause a complete loss of function (Lewis, 2003, p. 26). This result fits with Battens report that most mutations are harmful and
Three kinds of mutations can be distinguishedbeneficial, neutral, or deleterious (Mayr, 2001, p. 98). To be consistent, Mayrs terminology will be used in this paper, which argues that the long term result of mutations is the degradation, deterioration, or degeneration of the genome.
Dawkins (1986) developed a computer simulation program called the weasel analogy to illustrate how Darwinian evolution works. The term weasel analogy refers to a line in Hamlet, viz. METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL, which is the target sequence. Dawkins started with a set of English letters selected by random. His computer program then reproduced his starting string of letters to achieve a second generation, a third generation, etc. Each time that his computer ran the program, though, random changes were introduced (Dawkins, 1998). In each generation, the computer chose only those randomly changed letters that fit the target sequence. The letters that fit the goal letters are retained and not mutated again. This example was meant to simulate how natural selection might work to evolve a living organism, and the productive changes that can result from natural selection of simulated mutations (Spetner, 1997). The concept illustrates both the evolution of genes from preexisting genes and also from random sequences of DNA.
Dawkins example has been widely cited in the literature, and many evolutionists have asserted that his computer analogy provides clear support for Darwinism. Chet Raymo, for example, argued that such modeling is a valid method of demonstrating evolution, and that:
An evaluation of the literature and an analysis of the original data reveals many serious problems with Dawkins mutation/selection model. A major problem is the computer program contains human designed foresight that evolution does not possess. Intermediate word sets are chosen only because the program is designed to select for changes that match its predetermined goal. Many of Dawkins rules are unrealistic, such as only non-goal letters are subject to mutation in each generation in order to reach the goal. They would not be selected by a reader who did not know the goal of the program. Many problems also exist with the mutation/selection basis of macroevolution, three of which will be covered in detail here because they demonstrate a major problem of neoDarwinism in nature.
One major problem is that this model does not include lethal mutations. Every single product of the program can survive and reproduce until the goal is reached. As a result, there is no limit to the beneficial changes available for selection, and every single change to each goal letter increases fitness and is thus selected for the next generation (Spetner, 1997, pp. 163-170). This model is totally unrealistic because most expressed mutations are deleterious and, as a result, the favorable mutations almost always become swallowed in the flood of bad mutations (Hoyle, 1999, p. 20). Hence, only mutations of small effect are likely to be beneficial (Bell, 1997, p. 56).
The triplet genetic code design is resistant to mutational changes in the gene product because a third base mutation will often result in the same amino acid when translated. Thus no amino acid change will occur in the protein that is produced. In these cases, natural selection acting on the genome would not significantly affect the protein. Even these so-called neutral mutations, however, can affect the efficiency with which such proteins are manufactured.
In almost every organism studied so far, a distinct preference or bias exists for a particular codon for each amino acid. For example, among all the 6 different codon triplets that code for leucine in E. coli 49% are CTG, while in yeast 10% of leucines use this code compared to 44% in the fruit fly and 41% in humans (Eyre-Walker, 2002, p. 176). In E. coli, for lysine the AAA code is used 75% of the time and the AAG code is used only 25%. In contrast, Rhodobacter employs the opposite proportion: AAA is used 25% of the time for lysine and AAG 75%. This does not conform to neoDarwinian predictions. If the proportion were the same for all bacteria (which it is not), this could be seen as evidence for evolution. We do not see evidence of a neoDarwinian relationship in this patternorganisms that are judged closer by evolution criteria do not have a similar coding usage bias.
If a cell rarely uses a specific codon, it produces lower levels of the tRNA needed for that codon (Clark and Russell, 1999, p. 220). As a result, mutation from AAA to AAG will still produce lysine, but the tRNA needed for AAG will be in such short supply that protein synthesis will not proceed as rapidly as normal. NeoDarwinists argue that the code evolved first, and then the tRNA regulation level evolved later. But it could just as well be argued that tRNA regulation developed first, and this influenced the protein code selection so that more of certain tRNAs caused the code used by that tRNA to become more common. Nonetheless, no evidence exists that a change occurred either way in either the code frequency or in the tRNA regulation.
Another of the many objections to the mutation/selection theory (and the weasel analogy as well) is that it assumes all possible single-base pair substitution mutational changes of each base pair have an equal probability of occurring. It will be shown that this is not the casecertain changes are far more likely to occur than others. In addition, when random mutations take place, certain amino acids are also far more likely to be produced than others (Lewin, 1997).
If the GGT DNA codon mutates to TGT, the mRNA produced by the DNA template during transcription would be UGU instead of GGU and, as a result, cysteine would be incorporated into the resultant protein instead of glycine. The DNA coding strand or non-template strand mutations affect the germline, and the complement strand, also called the template strand, is used to produce the mRNA that is identical to the coding strand, except in mRNA where a uracil is used instead of a thymine. Given the average gene, and assuming that equal numbers of mutations occur at each base pair, the probabilities shown in Table I will be produced, demonstrating, as will be explained below, degeneration of genomic information.
As shown in Table I, almost 60% (59.7%) of the amino acids produced by a random selection three base pairs will consist of just eight amino acids (serine, arginine, leucine, threonine, alanine, glycine, valine, and proline). The twelve other amino acids will be produced only about 35% of the time. Two amino acids (gryptophane and thionine) are coded by only one m-RNA codon, 1.6% each. Serine and arginine can be produced by six different combinations of base pairs, whereas typtophan and methionine can be produced by only one codon. Because certain amino acids would be far more likely to result from mutations that cause a DNA base pair change, deterioration would result in the increasing dominance of certain amino acids and the increasing rarity of other amino acids. The result would be a loss of information. Random mutations will ultimately lead to a gradual increase of the eight amino acids and a decrease of the others, especially methionine and tryptophan. As mutations accumulate, the result will be an increasingly larger number of certain amino acids in the genome, especially in areas of the genome that are not subject to natural selection.
This does not happen in the natural world today, however, because natural selection functions as a conserving force to select out deleterious genetic changes. Likewise, changes that are beneficial will be selected for, but these helpful changes are close to nonexistent, indicating that the genome was optimal from the beginning. Natural selection operating on mutations may in some cases optimize survival if acting on an existing functional gene, but mutations cannot build-up the code in the first place.
A preliminary analysis of the DNA finds that the proportion of amino acids existing in genes, introns, and other DNA are not what would be expected by natural selection. When DNA that has no known function, (excluding DNA used for regulatory purposes, for centromeres, for telomeres, and for the production of RNA or tRNA) is examined, the patterns found are clearly in contrast to expected random mutational patterns shown in Table I. This shows that random changes have had only a small role in producing the genome, both in its protein coding and noncoding sections. Part of the reason is that mechanisms that function to resist change in the DNA genome exist. But these repair mechanisms would not have existed in primitive cells, which would mean that rapid genomic degeneration would have occurred before the repair system had evolved. These facts also argue against the conclusion of Ayala (1978) that the ultimate source of genome information of all life was mutations.
The likelihood of producing certain families of amino acids such as polar and non polar, must also be determined. This classification of randomly produced amino acids is important in protecting genome information because members of the same amino acid family have similar functions in producing the required protein conformation. Amino acids from one family can sometimes be interchanged and still produce a functional polypeptide or protein. The random production of amino acids based on frequencies of m-RNA codons would yield too few (only 18.8%) of the charged amino acids that are critical to produce the hydrophobic interaction required to maintain the correct conformational structure of proteins (Ritter, 1996, p. 69). Only 4.7% of the 64 randomly produced codons would lead to the sulfur-containing types of amino acids (methionine and cysteine) necessary for disulfide bonding in proteins. Random production of the codes for amino acids would also tend to produce a high percentages of nonpolar uncharged and polar uncharged amino acids (62.7%).
Some mutations would help to restore the structure but the trend would consistently be toward nonpolar uncharged and polar uncharged amino acids which would cause a deterioration of the genome. For every mutation that would help to restore the structure, more would occur that would move the genome toward the most likely amino acid type. The next research step is to determine how common each of these amino acids is in the proteins of various organisms. A preliminary review indicates there exists a great contrast between expectations due to random changes and what actually exists, assuming natural selection produced the genome.
Mutations can change one nucleotide base into another. The extant genetic research indicates that nucleotide conversion by such mutations is not random, but highly skewed. One of the most common conversions is of a cytosine into a uracil (Ridley, 2001, p. 91). This change can also be caused by nitrites that replace the amino group in cytosine with a hydroxyl group, converting cytosine into uracil that introduces an Adenine on the complementary strand of DNA (Pool, Penny, and Sjberg, 2001, p. 147; Clark and Russell, 1999, p. 163).
This mutation of C into U does not normally produce permanent changes in animals today because a specific, dedicated, repair enzyme system exists to monitor and repair this common incorrect conversion (Reader and Joyce, 2002, p. 843). As a result, C-to-U mutations are uncommon in organisms that have this repair system. The chemical instability of cytosine, which readily deaminates to uracil, is so great that origin-of-life theorists hypothesize that the early life forms must have used a different set of bases, such as diaminopurine instead of cytosine, in order to survive (Reader and Joyce, 2002). Aside from lack of evidence, this solution creates a whole new set of problems, not the least of which is the need to postulate that the code existing in all life today was in the past a different code because no life form currently uses diaminopurine or other bases.
Degeneration of the genome also occurs as a result of mutations occurs in living organism because certain bases are far more likely than others to result from mutations, such as the conversion from Guanine (G) to Thymine (T) that will eventually produce TTT (UUU in mRNA), the code for phenylalanine. As a result, when random bases are produced (assuming that all bases have an equal probability of being produced), serine, arginine, leucine, valine, proline, threonine, alanine, and glycine will, in time, come to dominate the genome. This disparity would have worked against producing the code by natural selection in the first place.
An example of this method of degradation is illustrated by the words amino acid which would be changed to amano acad, then to amaao aaad, and finally to aaaaa aaaa if the letter a dominated. Another mutation can change the a back to an m or another letter but, in this illustration, the overall trend would be to the letter a and would eventually stabilize largely at a set of a letters with a few converting back to other letters from time to time.
Before the repair system would have evolved, there would have been no way effectively and efficiently to counter this common type of degeneration. Damage degeneration would have been rapid and potentially lethal. This C-to-U change would likely have been a very common mutation type in the putative early stages of evolution, causing what we could call mutational meltdown.
Another problem is mutational rate differences in single stranded compared to and double stranded DNA. For example, cytosine is converted into uracil in single stranded DNA about 200 times more often than in double-stranded DNA. This would also have contributed to a mutational meltdown very early in evolution because pre-biotic evolution of simple to complex requires that the first RNA and DNA molecules would have consisted of simpler, single-stranded units.
Another problem with such theoretical single-stranded precursors of life, apart from deamination of cytosine, is that all DNA bases become detached from single-stranded DNA about four times more often than they do from double-stranded DNA (Ridley, 2001, p. 91). This would have inevitably lead to frequent backbone cleavages and the resultant breakdown of the nucleic acid strands.
Studies of bacterial mutations has found that a pervasive bias toward deletions rather than insertions exists (Andersson and Andersson, 1999; Gregory, 2004). Zhang and Gerstein found deletions were about three times more common than insertions (2003, p. 5338). Another study found a virtual absence of insertions and a remarkably high incidence of large deletions (Petrov and Hartl, 1997, p. 279). This deletional bias produces a strong tendency to lose base pairs, which results in a clear genome deterioration that must be selected against by natural selection and other mechanisms for a life form to survive. This, again, illustrates a conserving role for natural selection. The same bias favoring loss above insertion has been found true for other types of mutations, including point mutations, nonsense mutations, and other mutation types.
Some non-random mutational base changes are more likely to occur than others. Genetic recombination studies have found, for example, that heterozygous organisms produce an excess of one allele in their gametes resulting in biased gene conversion and resultant genome deteriation (Eyre-Walker, 2002, p. 177). Studies of bias revealed that nucleotide mutation tended to go one way more frequently than the other (Freeman and Herron, 2001). Eyre-Walker (2002, p. 178) found that there are many more GC > AT than AT > GC mutations, particularly in genes with high GC3 content. If this bias occurs even to a small extent, mutations would produce more and more thymines until eventually thymies would dominate the genome. Furthermore, entropy would increase more rapidly if the four DNA bases were used rather than Dawkins 26 letters. The reason is that far more changes are required to reach homogeneity with 26 letters than with four.
Studies of mutations have shown that mutations are much more common in some areas of the genome termed hot spots than in others known as cold spots (Jorde, et al., 1997; Stadler, 1942; Zhang, et al., 2004; Mira, et al., 2001). In these mutation studies, workers have found that a large percentage of known mutations occur in only a small number of possible loci. Freeman and Herron (2001) found that only two mutations accounted for 94.4% of the 319 mutations identified in one gene.
A worker in another study of mutations in a human germline of the tumor suppressor anti-oncogene gene p53 found that, of the approximately 400 codons whose mutations were mapped, only 35 mutations were at sites other than in four codons, numbered 175, 245, 248, and 243 (Vogelstein and Kinzler, 1998, p. 398). Similar observations have been made for other types of cancer genes and many non-cancer genes. Origin by natural selection cannot account for the existence of hot spots. These hot spot patterns are found in both germline (inherited) and somatic mutations (Vogelstein and Kinzler, 1998, p. 398).
One of the most common mutational hot spots is the CG dinucleotide, which is involved in mutations about 12 times more often than other dinucleotide sequences (Jorde, et al., 1997). Another hot spot cluster involves the ras gene/mutations which are at codons 12, 13, and 61 (Clark and Russell, 1999, p. 196). Bonaventure, et al. (1996, p. 148), found that more than 98% of all cases of achondroplasia are a result of mutations in the transmembrane receptor domain that often involves a missence substitution in the first tyrosine kinase domain of the receptor. Another example is that about 70 percent of all cystic fibrosis patients have the same defecta small deletion of 3 bases that code for phenylalaninewhich is another hot spot (Clark and Russell, 1999, p. 179).
Although some of these examples that appear to be mutational hot spots actually result from the fact that many mutations are inherited, most are true hot spots. Approximately one-third of all cystic fibrosis cases result from a novel mutation in one location on the gene, indicating that the area is a true hot spot, and is not the result of the parents carrying cystic fibrosis alleles. Evidently all genes contain hot spots, although new sequences and further study of individual variations may reveal some exceptions.
One major hot spot area occurs where DNA sequences contain repetitive or short, repeated, similar sequences. Small insertion mutations are relatively common events, often occurring due to slippage or stuttering of DNA polymerase enzymes during DNA replication. These cause various mutations such as triplet-repeat, expansion disorders. As is true when editors scan a manuscript, spelling errors in words with multiple letters such as addresses, or assesses, often are missed, and misspellings such as accessses or assessors are allowed to slip by (Lewis, 1997). Another possible cause for the increased incidence of repeat DNA sequence mutations is that symmetrical or inverted repeat sequences allow abnormal base pairing to occur within a strand when local DNA strands unwind to prepare for replication. This condition can interfere with both replication and repair enzyme functions, thereby increasing the likelihood of errors.
An example is the clotting factor IX gene, which, when damaged, causes the hemophilia B blood clotting disorder. Mutations in this gene occur up to 100 times more often at 11 specific sites within the gene that have relatively long CG dinucleotide repeats. Similarly, an inherited form of the bone-weakening condition, osteoporosis, is usually caused by an extra thymine that is inserted into a specific three base homopolymer of thymine in the normal gene (Lewis, 1997). The result is a tendency to produce nucleotide stuttering at this hot spot. In Dawkins example (1986), this would be illustrated by the degeneration of changing weasel into weasssel.
The mutational probability varies by as much as 50% from one gene to another gene. A study by Stadler found that in corn the number of mutations ranges from zero to 492 per million gametes, depending on the gene (Freeman and Herron, 2001).
Another factor that influences the frequency of gene mutations is the size of the gene. All other things being equal, the longer the gene, the greater the statistical expectation of a mutation. The genes in which mutations cause both cystic fibrosis and phenylketonuria are abnormally large. These two diseases are among the more common genetic defects found today (Clark and Russell, 1999, p. 176). Factors such as the specific location of the gene in the chromosome, its structure, and its proximity to histones likewise affect the frequency of mutations. These empirical findings are also of a major concern for medicine. They explains why over 1,085 diseases are caused by mutational errors (McKusick, 2002).
A clear trend exists for mutations to degrade the genome, resulting in a loss of information. This is because the strong tendency of mutations is to shift the genome content in the direction of less useful information (e.g., a higher proportion of pyrimidines, specifically thymine). This change creates a serious problem for the mutation/selection model, and helps to explain why the vast majority of mutations have a detrimental effect on the functionality of the final protein coded by the DNA.
These are a few of the many reasons why mutations tend to produce non-random patterns. Non-randomness results in deterioration of the genome because when a greater likelihood exists that certain combinations of nucleotides will be produced than others, certain base combinations become increasingly frequent. This process produces more and more nonfunctional proteins. These are all reasons why most of the expressed mutations are lethal or detrimental.
One reason why mutations are kept at bay is that the coding regions of the genome are repaired much more effectively than most noncoding regions, and several repair systems are active only on transcriptional genes (Freeman and Herron, 2001). Freeman and Herron (2001) write that the most transcriptionally active genes are repaired most effectively, and that the accuracy appears to be the greatest where mutations could be the most damaging (p. 85). It could be logically asserted that this accuracy is a tribute to design, not evolution. Many deleterious mutations are eliminated by natural selection and this too helps to protect the genome from deterioration.
Dawkins and others have argued that the tendency of the genome to degrade is not fatal to neoDarwinian theory. Their main defense is that selection pressure works against these strong deteriorative tendencies. NonDarwinists have long recognized this protection by natural selection, as summarized in Bergman, 2001. The tendency of the genome to degrade, however, militates against its ever producing a functional gene upon which selection could occur. A living organism that can survive in a specific environment must first exist for selection to occur. Dawkins mechanism cannot function until a living, functioning organism first is present. Even if DNA could somehow replicate outside of a living cell, it would rapidly degenerate for the reasons discussed above. DNA is a very unstable chemical molecule. Without complex systems to constantly repair and maintain the genome, it deteriorates readily by oxidation and other normal chemical processes.
It is also widely known that beneficial mutations are extremely rare. Some workers have estimated that far less than .01 percent of all expressed mutations are helpful to the organism. As Francisco Ayala (1978) noted mutation is the ultimate source of all genetic variation, but useful genetic variation is a relatively rare event.... (p.63). Dobzhansky (1957) likewise concluded that the mutants which arise are, with rare exceptions, deleterious to their carriers, at least in the environments which the species normally encounters (p. 385). The conclusion that very few beneficial mutations occur in nature is still held by many today. In Strickbergers words new mutations that have an immediate beneficial effect on the organism seem generally to be quite rare (2000, p. 227).
In order to locate all alleged examples of beneficial mutations, I carried out a computer search of the literature. My review covered all published scientific studies that dealt with beneficial mutations. The definition of beneficial mutation used was a mutation that was regarded as beneficial by the authors surveyed. Key words used in the computer search included synonyms of beneficial, such as favorable, helpful, usable, valuable, adaptive, good, advantageous, supportive, positive, etc. The search of two data bases totaling 18.8 million records found that, of all articles discussing mutations, only 0.04 percent, or 4 in 10,000 articles on mutations, were located that discussed beneficial or favorable mutations. Some overlap exists in the data bases searched, consequently the actual total number of records searched was less than 18.8 million. The overlap in the search was estimated by extrapolating from the records found. Assuming that the same level of overlap exists in the entire database, a total of approximately 16 million records was searched. These searches may have missed some relevant articles but are useful to indicate trends.
All of the 126 examples located were then reviewed, focusing on evidence for information-gaining beneficial mutations. It was found that none of them contained clear, empirically supported examples of information-gaining, beneficial mutations. Most examples of actual, beneficial mutations were loss mutations in which a gene was disabled or damaged, all of which were beneficial only in a limited situation.
A review of both textbooks and journal articles on evolution demonstrated that the most common examples of beneficial mutations were sickle cell anemia, bacterial resistance to antibiotics, Ancon short legged sheep, viral/bacterial immunity, and a putative beneficial mutation for lipid transport (Galton, et. al., 1996; Strickburger, 2000).
An example of a mutation that was beneficial in specific situations was damage to the Chemokine receptor 5, (CCR5), the principle co-receptor in T-cells that causes cells with CD4 receptors (primarily T-cells) to be unable to take the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) into the cell. As a result, a person with this mutation has an abnormally high immunity to HIV infection (Huang, 1996; Wilkinson, 1998).
Most of the literature covered the topic of beneficial mutations in general, and did not document specific mutations. The second largest category was literature dealing with loss mutations that were beneficial to humans only in certain situations. An example of such loss mutations, illustrating that many beneficial mutations were not beneficial for the animal, was a muscle mutation in the Belgian Blue breed of cattle. This is very valuable to beef farmers because it results in 20 to 30% more muscle than average. The meat is also very tender and lower in fat (Seitz, et al., 1999; McPherron, et al., 1997). A different mutation in the same gene is also responsible for the very muscular Piedmontese breed of cattle.
Muscle growth is regulated by a number of proteins, including myostatin. The Belgian Blue strain mutation deactivates the myostatin gene. Consequently, there is less regulation of the muscle growth, and the muscle bulk becomes abnormally large. Genetic engineers have bred muscular mice by using the same principle. Like seedless fruit and many similar mutations, this one is beneficial to humans only and not to the cattle. Among the mutations several negative side effects is a reduction of the animals fertility. Although this Belgian Blue mutation produces beneficial effects for farmers and consumers, it is the result of information lossas are mutations that produce seedless fruit. Therefore, it is the opposite of the production of new beneficial information that would be necessary to achieve macroevolutionary changes.
Another example of a so-called beneficial mutation that was discovered in 1889 in Atchison, Kansas, is a mutant hornless Hereford cow. Hornless cattle suffer fewer injuries in herds, and for this reason many cattleman had been surgically dehorning their herd. The new breed eliminated this requirement, and it soon became a common domesticated breed (Walker, 1915, p. 68). In the wild, though, the Hereford cow would be at a distinct disadvantage.
The most well known loss mutation was discovered in 1791 by Seth Wright, a Massachusetts farmer. He noted that a male lamb in his flock had short, bent legs resembling a dachshund (Walker, 1915, p. 68). He realized that a flock of bowlegged sheep could not jump high fences, which could save the sheepherder time and money because only short barriers would be needed to contain them. He carefully raised this sheep, and, as the trait was evidently caused by a dominant gene, he was able to produce a new sheep breed, which is now called Ancon sheep (Hickman, et al., 2001). It is now realized, however, that this so-called breed is actually a usually lethal deformity that causes achondroplasia, and this breed has rapidly gone extinct in spite of efforts to save it.
A total of 1.7 million species of animals have been identified from comparative studies of preserved specimens (Blackmore, 2002). Researchers estimate that somewhere between 3 million and 30 million species now exist. The most common estimate is around 13 million (Margulis and Schwartz, 1998, p. 3; Blackmore, 2002).
According to an Amersham bioscience report (2001, p. 1), it is estimated that there are thousands of different proteins used in the human body (see also Preteome AAAS Science Netlinks). Nuclear pore complexes alone comprise 50 to 100 different proteins (Allen, 2000, p. 1651). All of them are produced by the estimated 35 to 45 thousand human genes that, according to neoDarwinists, evolved from other, less-complex, and often shorter genes. Shermer (2002, p. 229) estimates that trillions of distinct modifications were required to evolve humans alone. Presumably, each modification would require many mutations.
A significant fraction of open reading frames has been judged not to match any another sequence in the database, indicating that a significant number of all proteins may be unique to each genus of animal (Bailey, 2001; Siew and Fischer, 2003, p. 7). Thus, as many as 200 million different proteins may exist. From 150,000 to 250,000 extinct animal species have also been identified and reported in the paleontological literature. NeoDarwinists estimate that as many as 99 percent of all species that have ever lived are extinct (Margulis and Sagan, 2002, p. 52; Raup, 1977, p. 50). Although some claim the number is far lower, assuming this estimate to be valid would put the number of species that have ever lived at over 200 trillion!
Given the estimate that roughly an average of 1,000 transitional forms are required to evolve a species (a number that is a rough estimate and is dependant on various assumptions)this would mean that 2x1017 transitional forms have existed. If 1,000 mutations are required for each transitional form, this would translate into 2x1020 beneficial mutations that are required. And not one clear beneficial mutation or transitional form has yet been convincingly demonstrated, although likely some do exist. The paucity of clearly helpful mutations must be considered in context with the estimate that 2x1020 mutations that are required to produce the natural living world existing today and the number of animals that are speculated to have once existed.
Given a low estimate of 1,000 steps required to evolve the average protein (if this were possible) over 2x1014 beneficial mutations would have been needed to evolve just the proteins that are estimated to exist today. So far only 60 species, including the nematode worm, humans, yeast, rice, mustard plant, and bacteria have had their DNA fully sequenced. As more life forms are sequenced, the above estimates may go either up or down. The same evolutionary problem exists in attempting to use mutations to explain the origin of the genes required to make fat, nucleic acid, carbohydrate families, and other compounds that are produced by living organisms and are necessary for life.
It is critically important to focus on questions involving molecular biology because this area is central to the whole question of neoDarwinisms validity. Although other mechanisms have been proposed to contribute to evolution, the production of new information by mutations is at its core. Therefore, the critical analysis of proposals by Dawkins and others is essential to determine the feasibility of macroevolution by means of mutations and natural selection. An examination of Dawkins weasel argument showed that it utterly failed to support the conclusion that mutations can produce significant, new, gene-coding information. Numerous reasons exist, aside from those discussed here, as to why Dawkins example is an excellent illustration of why mutations cannot function as the major, or even a minor means, of creating new genes and new species (Read, 1999; Truman, 1999). A study of hot spots and degradation of the genome by mutations shows that macroevolution by means of mutations is, at best, quite unlikely. Many complex mechanisms including natural selection work against degeneration. The fact that the more active the gene, the more accurate the repair process will be, also mitigates against NeoDarwinism.
All of the beneficial mutations located in my search of the literature involving almost 20 million references were loss mutations and mutations such as sickle cell anemia that have a beneficial effect only in very special circumstances. In most situations they have a decidedly negative effect on the organisms health. Not a single clear example of an information-gaining mutation was located. It was concluded that molecular biology research shows that information-gaining mutations have not yet been documented. While such negative findings do not in and of themselves prove creation, they support the conclusion that an Intelligent Designer formed the original genomes of each created kind.
I wish to thank Bert Thompson, Ph.D., Robert Kofahl, Ph.D. John Woodmorappe M.A., and Wayne Frair, Ph.D. for their valuable insight and feedback on earlier drafts of this paper. I also thank George Howe, Ph.D., for editorial assistance.
Jerry Bergman has seven degrees, includingin biology, psychology, and evaluation and research, from Wayne StateUniversity, in Detroit, Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and MedicalCollege of Ohio in Toledo. He has taught at Bowling Green State University,the University of Toledo, Medical College of Ohio and at other colleges anduniversities. He currently teaches biology, microbiology, biochemistry, andhuman anatomy at the college level and is a research associate involved inresearch in the area of cancer genetics. He has published widely in bothpopular and scientific journals. [RETURNTOTOP]
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Posted: March 5, 2020 at 6:06 pm
Charles Darwin is known as the "Father of Evolution" for being the first person to publish his theory not only describing that evolution was a change in species over time but also put together a mechanism for how it works (called natural selection). There is arguably no other evolutionary scholar as well known and revered as Darwin. In fact, the term "Darwinism" has come to be synonymous with the Theory of Evolution, but what really is meant when people say the word Darwinism? And more importantly, what does Darwinism NOT mean?
Darwinism, when it was first put into the lexicon by Thomas Huxley in 1860, was only meant to describe the belief that species change over time. In the most basic of terms, Darwinism became synonymous with Charles Darwin's explanation of evolution and, to an extent, his description of natural selection. These ideas, first published in his arguably most famous book On the Origin of Species, were direct and have stood the test of time. So, originally, Darwinism only included the fact that species change over time due to nature selecting the most favorable adaptations within the population. These individuals with better adaptations lived long enough to reproduce and pass those traits down to the next generation, ensuring the species' survival.
While many scholars insist this should be the extent of information that the word Darwinism should encompass, it has somewhat evolved itself over time as the Theory of Evolution itself also changed when more data and information became readily available. For instance, Darwin did not know anything about Genetics as it wasn't until after his death that Gregor Mendel did his work with his pea plants and published the data. Many other scientists proposed alternative mechanisms for evolution during a time which became known as neo-Darwinism. However, none of these mechanisms held up over time and Charles Darwin's original assertions were restored as the correct and leading Theory of Evolution. Now, the Modern Synthesis of the Evolutionary Theory is sometimes described using the term "Darwinism", but this is somewhat misleading since it includes not only Genetics but also other topics not explored by Darwin like microevolution via DNA mutations and other molecular biological tenets.
In the United States, Darwinism has taken on a different meaning to the general public. In fact, opponents to the Theory of Evolution have taken the term Darwinism and created a false definition of the word that brings up a negative connotation for many who hear it. The strict Creationists have taken the word hostage and created a new meaning which is often perpetuated by those in the media and others who do not truly understand the real meaning of the word. These anti-evolutionists have taken the word Darwinism to not only mean a change in species over time but have lumped in the origin of life along with it. Darwin did not assert any sort of hypothesis on how life on Earth began in any of his writings and only could describe what he had studied and had evidence to back up. Creationists and other anti-evolutionary parties either misunderstood the term Darwinism or purposefully hijacked it to make it more negative. The term has even been used to describe the origin of the universe by some extremists, which is way beyond the realm of anything Darwin would have made a conjecture on at any time in his life.
In other countries around the world, however, this false definition is not present. In fact, in the United Kingdom where Darwin did most of his work, it is a celebrated and understood term that is commonly used instead of the Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection. There is no ambiguity of the term there and it is used correctly by scientists, the media, and the general public every day.
Posted: December 7, 2019 at 7:44 pm
Some biologists might shudder at the thought of eliminating Darwinism from their scientific work. A Darwin-ectomy sounds more painful than a tonsillectomy or appendectomy. To hard-core evolutionists, it might sound like a cephalectomy (removal of the head)! If Darwinism is as essential to biology as Richard Dawkins or Jerry Coyne argues, then removing evolutionary words and concepts should make research incomprehensible.
If, on the other hand, Darwinism is more of a narrative gloss applied to the conclusions after the scientific work is done, as the late Philip Skell observed, then biology would survive the operation just fine. It might even be healthier, slimmed down after disposing of unnecessary philosophical baggage. Here are some recent scientific papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) to use as test cases.
In PNAS recently, Adam C. Soloff and Michael T. Lotze reviewed findings by Liu et al. about the immune system. Suffused within the narrative is plenty of Darwinspeak. Does it add anything of value?
Immunity evolved as an impossibly elegant, yet devastatingly destructive force to combat pathogens, environmental insults, and rogue malignant cellular agents arising from within. The immunologic arsenal developed in a veritable coevolutionary arms race with the worlds pathogens, culminating in lymphocytic weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, T cells and B cells endowed with antigen specificity, the capacity for clonal expansion, and most importantly, long-lived memory, represent the pinnacle of such evolution. Together with the innate immune response, the adaptive immune system holds the power to mediate sustained inflammatory responses with such voracity that tissues, organs, or the host itself may endure critical collateral damage. To preserve balance, adaptive immunity has developed under the guiding principle of primum non nocere, or first, to do no harm, limiting the aggression of the innate immune response (e.g., septic shock, penumbra of cerebrovascular and brain infarcts). Herein, redundant mechanisms to preclude aberrant deleterious immunity have evolved as the predominant state of being, establishing a significant molecular and cellular threshold to initiate and maintain inflammation. Often overlooked, following the excitement of the active immune response, are the critical means by which the host resolves the inflammatory process, restoring local and systemic balance. The findings by Liu et al. provide further description of molecular processes and cellular mediators of the resolution process, shedding light on mechanistic aspects of immune homeostasis. [Emphasis added.]
What, exactly, does the e-word evolved add to the understanding of the adaptive immune system? It adds fat, not meat. The essential parts of the explanation could be conveyed easily without Darwin. Basically,
Isnt that cleaner? The reader can breathe easier without the smoke of being told over and over that all these elegant mechanisms evolved.
Seven biologists looked for convergent evolution between two very different mammals whales and bats that use echolocation. Amir Marcovitz et al., in PNAS, relied on Darwinism for their research. Its right there in the title: A functional enrichment test for molecular convergent evolution finds a clear protein-coding signal in echolocating bats and whales. The researchers found not only phenotypic convergence, but convergence all the way down to protein molecules! Can the findings survive a Darwin-ectomy? Sounds like a tough operation.
Echolocation is a prime example of convergent evolution, the independent gain of similar features in species of different lineages. Is phenotypic convergence driven by underlying molecular convergence? If so, could molecular convergence include contributions from highly constrained, often-pleotropic, coding regions? We develop a generalizable test that offers a resounding yes to both extensively debated questions. Our test highlights molecular convergence in genes regulating the cochlear ganglion of echolocating bats and whales, the skin of aquatic mammals, and the lung of high-altitude mammals. Importantly, the approach correctly dismisses confounding convergence-like patterns, such as those from sequence decay of vision genes in blind subterranean species, and is readily applicable to the thousands of genomes sequenced across the tree of life.
Their work not only relies on Darwinism, but promises to help future research. How could anyone claim that Darwinism is useless to this paper? Actually, its quite easy. Its as easy as showing that any other kind of circular reasoning is useless in science. These seven biologists assumed evolution, and concluded evolution. The observations had nothing to do with it.
Some extreme examples can show the fallacy. Humans and turtles can hold their breath underwater. Is that convergent evolution? Turtles cant think, but humans can. Is that divergent evolution? If tricycles and race cars alike are found to contain both aluminum and iron, did they obtain those through blind, unguided processes? So it is with two very different mammals bats and whales that use sound for echolocation. Neither the similarities nor differences prove convergent evolution (or divergent evolution, for that matter), unless you start with that assumption. Its a non sequitur to conclude they evolved.
You can cherry-pick the evidence to support a previously assumed explanation. In this paper, against a backdrop of previous failures to find convergence at the molecular level, the team celebrates their discovery of gene enrichment for cochlear ganglion, lung, and skin but not for a multitude of other traits that should have converged, such as for pharynx, sound generation, and behavior. Even at that, their findings are statistical, not causal, and fail to include potential non-coding influences on the genes. If bats and dolphins were found to use completely different proteins for the cochlear ganglion, the authors would undoubtedly have explained that by evolution, too. No matter how similar or different the animals are in other respects, the conclusion is predetermined: they evolved the common trait, as well as the different traits. In this game, evolutionists cant lose.
Oh yes, this approach will surely help evolutionists with their future research. All they have to do is apply circular reasoning, too. Science marches on!
The paper could be completely revamped without references to evolution, and would be better for it. The researchers could have learned from the similarities and differences in bats and whales, studied the design principles for echolocation in air compared to echolocation in water, and applied the knowledge to human sonar or ultrasonic sensing. Without the evolutionary fat, the science would be useful and productive for human flourishing. Instead, the biologists wasted time on a myth that blind, unguided processes can take sound and build complex systems that can utilize it. Thats ridiculous. Anyone who has watched Illustras detailed animation of dolphin echolocation should realize that sound has no such creative power.
It would seem an impossible challenge to research Darwins finches without reference to Darwin or Darwinism. Yet in their latest paper in PNAS, Peter and Rosemary Grant, who have spent their careers studying these icons of evolution, once again show that science has no need for the Darwin hypothesis. In fact, they created more problems for Darwinism than support.
Adaptive radiations, comprising many species derived from one or a small number of ancestral species in a geologically short time, are prominent components of the worlds biodiversity. Introgressive hybridization of divergent species has been important in increasing variation, leading to new morphologies and even new species, but how that happens throughout evolutionary history is not known. A long-term field study of Darwins finches on Daphne Major island, Galpagos, shows that introgression enhances variation and increases the potential for future evolution. We use a dated phylogeny to infer that populations became more variable in morphological traits through time, consistent with this enhancement effect, and then declined in variation after reaching a maximum. Introgression may be especially important with future climate change.
It will take some radical surgery to remove the Darwinian concepts in the Grants paper, but will the science survive? Take a closer look at what they actually found. First of all, they admit that the effect of introgressive hybridization on adaptive radiation is not known. Ponder that for a moment. After 160 years, has Darwinism been so useless that it has not shed light on a process that should have been well known by now, particularly with these iconic birds? Even worse, though, is that introgression and hybridization involve shuffling existing genetic information. It has nothing to do with variation by random mutation being selected by a blind watchmaker, much less being able to build an irreducibly complex system. Search for selection in the paper and you find only faith, not evidence, that natural selection might work in tandem with introgressive hybridization to produce new species. The only examples of selection they offer involve microevolution, not innovation. For those, they do lateral passes to other Darwinists in the references.
Finally, the finches are still finches. In Darwin Devolves, Behe argues that all species of finches can vary up to the family level without supporting Darwinism. The variations observed by the Grants amount to dimes and pennies in hundred-thousand-dollar transactions, he quips. And did you notice the Grants admitting that the finches variability declined after reaching a maximum? How is that going to fit Darwinism, which requires unlimited variability and progress?
The research on these beautiful, well-designed birds could have been done by someone like Gregor Mendel, who found discrete shuffling of existing traits in peas instead of blending inheritance that Darwin expected. Students could learn about how the shuffling occurs, permitting the birds to survive in oscillating conditions. They could learn about how adaptation of complex systems to changing environments requires Foresight, as Marcos Eberlin has shown. The work of Peter and Rosemary Grant on Darwins finches has offered nothing of substance to support Darwins theory, despite the name. They have not shown that natural selection (even if assumed to have creative power) can surpass the family level and proceed upward to make human brains from bacteria. As confirmation of Darwinism, it has been a tragic waste of time. But all is not lost. Their work has been very helpful to design advocates, showing that, at best, Darwinism can add a millimeter to a bird beak here and there, until the drought ends.
So, here are three papers in Americas premier science journal that appear at first glance to need Darwinism, use Darwinism, support Darwinism, and thereby impart useful scientific knowledge. After subjecting them to Darwin-ectomies, though, the science not only survived, but proved healthier and more useful. Science will do better without the useless fat thinking that blind, unguided processes can account for bats, whales, and immune systems.
Photo: Dolphins of the Galpagos Islands, by Gregory Slobirdr Smith [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Posted: at 7:44 pm
Butterflies, those universally loved flying works of art, offer many reasons to celebrate design in nature.
Evolutionists know all these facts about butterflies, but some of them, searching for Darwins mechanism at work everywhere (even in challenging design cases like butterflies), focus on wing patterns. They try to tease out phylogenetic trees among closely related species, like the Heliconius butterflies of South America, hoping to find evidence for Darwins unguided mechanism of mutation and natural selection at work.
New findings cast doubt on those Darwinian assumptions, but before analyzing them in a post tomorrow, lets take a look at other new findings about butterflies that fit intelligent design better than neo-Darwinism.
Georgetown University researchers found evidence that adult butterflies can remember things they learned as caterpillars. Larvae of tobacco hornworm moths learned to avoid certain odors when exposed to electric shocks, Science Daily reports. 77 percent of the adults, after passing through metamorphosis, avoided those same odors. New Scientist quotes one of the researchers:
Practically everything about the two phases of the organism are so different morphology, diet, how they move, and what they sense, says Martha Weiss of Georgetown University in Washington, DC, in the US.
People always thought that during metamorphosis the caterpillar turns to soup and all the ingredients are rearranged into the butterfly or moth, says Weiss. That clearly isnt what happens. Parts of the brain are retained that allow memories to persist through this very dramatic transition. [Emphasis added.]
Its like having the computer of a car survive as it transitions to a helicopter, and still work for both vehicles. This would require foresight, so that the memory of the odor produces the same response inside another form of the animal containing very different parts.
The open-access paper by Douglas Blackiston, Elena Casey, and Martha Weiss is published in PLOS ONE, Retention of Memory through Metamorphosis: Can a Moth Remember What It Learned As a Caterpillar? The authors say the findings have ecological and evolutionary implications, but they only speculate about the latter. They think it could further lead to the formation of host races or even to eventual sympatric speciation, but do not elaborate. That kind of speciation would not innovate new organs or structures, anyway.
Another news item about Lepidopterans (moths and butterflies) should not be passed up, since it deals with one of the icons of evolution: peppered moths. Researchers at the University of Liverpool found the same genes for industrial melanism in three moth species. In fact, they point out, dark forms increased in over 100 other species of moths during the period of industrial pollution.
Rather than exemplify random mutation and natural selection, this kind of genetic convergence could rely on epigenetic mechanisms that adjust wing color to environmental conditions. The authors of the paper in the Royal Society Biology Letters (open access) reflect on the possibility that tuning of expression of the cortex gene, a genetic hotspot, produces the different forms rapidly, without requiring de novo mutations to be selected. In fact, one wouldnt want random mutations to tinker with this gene, due to possible negative pleiotropic effects downstream.
Compared to the genetics of melanism in Drosophila, where pigmentation differences within and between species have been traced to cis-regulators of a subset of pigment synthesis genes, the emerging pattern for cortex suggests greater developmental constraints in the Lepidoptera. This may relate to the greater complexity of the lepidopteran wing surface, in which the colour and structure of scales are intricately linked. As a high-level cell-cycle regulator, which appears to determine pattern boundaries rather than pigment per se, tinkering with cortex expression may avoid deleterious pleiotropic effects of mutations to melanin pathway genes downstream. A tendency for cortex mutations to produce dominant melanism, through a positive association with upregulation, would also be an advantage.
Intelligent foresight could explain how different moths show rapid adaptive responses to the same anthropogenic factor (i.e., industrial soot), simply by regulating the existing hotspot gene cortex. The paper concludes:
Intriguingly, variation within the same gene (cortex) controls melanism for crypsis in the peppered moth, Biston betularia, and mimic wing patterns in Heliconius butterflies. This genetic convergence suggests that cortex, and possibly the region surrounding it, is a genetic hotspot for lepidopteran wing pattern evolution.
And that sets us up nicely for a post tomorrow on non-Darwinian evolution in wing patterns.
Photo: Numata Longwing, a Heliconius butterfly, by Carleton University, via Wikimedia Commons.
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Posted: December 1, 2019 at 9:48 pm
An article in the digital magazine Aeon looks at the evolution of Neanderthals. Not their evolution in geologic time, but the evolution of how evolutionists and science popularizers depict them.
The article assumes modern evolutionary theory, so it comes with the usual raft of unsupported pro-evolution claims typical of mainstream science journalism. But it is refreshing for frankly spotlighting how the facts about Neanderthals have evolved over the years.
To see, click on the Aeon article and compare the recent depiction of a Neanderthal family at the top of the article to the Edwardian era newspaper depiction of a Neanderthal a few paragraphs down. In the recent depiction, from a museum exhibit, the Neanderthal family looks intelligent and civilized. A couple of them are even gazing off into the middle distance, as if working out something profound. In contrast, the stooped and uber-hairy Neanderthal in the newspaper clipping from a century ago looks like he could successfully blend in with a community of tolerant gorillas. In the clipping, the caption under this artists conception confidently states, An Accurate Reconstruction.
An accurate depiction of a Darwinist fantasy: yes. An accurate reconstruction of an actual Neanderthal: apparently not. And its not just that scientists and their hired artists made their best guess based on what they knew back then and simply got it wrong. As Aeon notes of scientists understanding of Neanderthals 110 years ago, even by that point it was no longer possible to argue that he and his kind were closer to nonhuman animals than to living people.
So why did they often depict them as ape-like? Darwinism desperately needs to fill in a yawning chasm in the fossil record between the ape-like and the human-like. At one point many hoped Neanderthals could serve as a crucial link in that lengthy stretch of missing chain between the fully ape-like and the fully human. Coached by the Darwinian paradigm, many assumed that Neanderthals did. But those uncooperative cave men refused to stoop, got the big head (average brain size slightly larger even than modern humans), and got caught red-handed in the fossil record behaving in various ways like intelligent humans.
Neanderthals even appear even to have had children with Homo sapiens, with something like one to three percent of their DNA remaining in most modern humans outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
If evolutionary theory is true, there were millions of intermediate hominids between our nearest fully ape-like ancestor and ourselves. That long chain is missing, a fact that has put enormous pressure on proponents of evolutionary theory to replace the missing chain with imaginative drawings, museum recreations, and verbal sleights-of-hand. To learn more about this, see Jonathan Wellss excellent Zombie Science: More Icons of Evolution, pp. 74ff.
Photo: An exhibit from the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, Germany, by Clemens Vasters, via Flickr (cropped).
Posted: November 17, 2019 at 2:19 pm
KOCHI: It was a rainy day at the guest house of North Eastern Hill University in Shillong. The professor who was sitting across the dining table from me was rubbing his fingers swiftly on the smartphone. Ranking of institutions based on National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) of the Ministry of Human Resources Development may soon determine the funding for higher educational institutes. he said out loud, eyes still glued to the cellphone.
The news reminded me of the Ache community in Paraguay, who lived a foraging life of ancient hunter-gatherers till the 1960s. Their customs mandated they abandon those found unfit to satisfy the expectations of their community.
NIRF can trace its origins back to the Ache genes of our educational policymakers. For them, competitiveness is the most important ability within an educational institution. Cooperation and mutual support through various extension activities of educational institutions are treated as means for ensuring competitiveness.
Looking from the social justice and equity perspective, those institutes which fall at the bottom of ranking hierarchy deserve to have more funding.
The basic purpose of all assessments is to identify the poor performer so that proper support can be extended to them. Unfortunately, the modern competitive society has toppled this very meaning of assessment and instead of supporting poor performance, it is on a mission to eliminate them.
It should be noted that in this race for ranking, public educational institutions take the hardest hits. If the ranking procedure is not intended to provide additional financial support to make the poor performer do better, it could prove disastrous to the countrys public education system that is already suffering from poor financial freedom and panoptic surveillance fear created by the governments audit procedure, financial crunch, and administrative delay.
Many private universities and colleges receive financial support from government and UGC for the various schemes. In most of the cases, public-funded institutions have to compete with private facilities to get a hold of these.
As private institutions can take swift decisions on administrative and financial matters, public institutions are forced to undergo many impediments due to the never-ending procedures. For example, if a central university wants to construct a building they have to begin with putting up the file, getting the approval of the building committee, the finance committee, and the executive council.
NIRF also applies the same scale for ranking institutions irrespective of geographical or economic differences. Indira Gandhi National tribal University (IGNTU) situated in Amarkantak is 6 hours from Raipur Airport.
If the bulb of an LCD projector is damaged, they have to travel up to Bilaspur which is nearly four away to get it changed. Applying the same scale for measuring such a university with one in Delhi or Mumbai is insensible and prosperous.
UGC has insisted to implement choice-based credit and semester system in all higher education institutions. Across all levels, grades are allotted to students instead of marks, hoping this would reduce tension and unhealthy competition among students. Question is, why is this not applicable in the case of educational institutions? Maybe it is time that NRIF considers the effectiveness of Educational Darwinism in this scenario.
(The writer is head of School of Education at Central University of Kerala, Kasargode. The views expressed are his own)
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