Evolutionist against gradualism?

Annotated […] excerpts :

We now know that Darwin’s ‘gradualist’ view of evolution, exclusively driven by natural selection, is no longer compatible with contemporary science.

Species do not emerge from an accumulation of random genetic changes. This has been confirmed by 21st-century genome sequencing, but the idea that natural selection inadequately explains evolutionary change goes back 151 years – to Darwin himself.

One of the most significant of these alternatives [to gradualism] is symbiogenesis, the idea that evolution can operate through symbiotic relationships rather than through gradual, successive changes. [but where is the evidence for “evolution” by symbiosis?]

An absence that’s perhaps even harder to explain is why the pioneering work of the cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock, one of the giants of 20th-century genetics, has not been accepted as posing a viable alternative to dominant theories of evolution. [the simple answer is that her plants did not “evolve” – maize remained maize]

Genome modifications by transposable elements may be the best-known examples of [not] evolutionary processes that have nothing to do with the gradual accumulation of random mutations.

The origins of life are still obscure, but we assume it only happened once because all living cells have DNA genomes and use them in similar ways [… This is awful logic – obviously a requirement to continued belief in “evolution” despite all evidence]

Genomic data showed that some DNA sequences that encode proteins important to an organism’s specific ecological adaptation did not evolve gradually through small changes to DNA sequences that had been present in the organism’s ancestors.

By turning evolutionary variation from random accidents to biological responses, 21st-century molecular genetics and genomics have revealed that living organisms possess tremendous potential for adaptive genome reconfiguration. [“evolution” does not follow from adaptation – why would it?] 

For some philosophers of science, 21st-century evolutionary biology will require rethinking all the purely mechanical physics-based assumptions they have held about life. [in other words, it was all pseudoscience. The logical conclusion being that the disproven “evolution” must be abandoned] 

Was it so hard? What’s next? Will he give up on “evolution” too? Or is that cushy job of his too much to give up? He is giving fodder to creationists as a commenter complained. Does that make him a traitor to the cause?

Here is the link

 

50 thoughts on “Evolutionist against gradualism?

  1. The good news is one can just ignore anything this guy posts. He’s incapable of having a rational conversation. Don’t waste your time. Do like I did long ago, put him on ignore.

  2. DNA_Jock: We covered Dr. Shapiro’s disingenuous take on Natural Genetic Engineering a while ago.

    Your links to nowhere in particular are legendary.

    However, this is not about Shapiro or “natural genetic engineering” whatever that is, but about “gradualism”. Care to explore that topic?

  3. Rumraket,

    The occasional brain-dead comment on tsz used to be expected. But brain-dead being just one of the two comments on any post is something new. Perhaps tsz is dying out.

  4. Kantian Naturalist: Oh yes, definitely.

    Well, it’s become quieter, certainly. I have to admit I’ve been paying much less attention recently. But though perhaps a tenth of the number of unique daily visitors at the peak look in now (according to the stats plugin), it’s not dead yet.

  5. Alan Fox: Well, it’s become quieter, certainly. I have to admit I’ve been paying much less attention recently. But though perhaps a tenth of the number of unique daily visitors at the peak look in now (according to the stats plugin), it’s not dead yet.

    Unique daily visitors is one thing, but how many of those people come back? And how many of them stick around long enough to register and contribute?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if unique visitors take a quick peak at TSZ, see the nonsense being posted by Nonlin and CharlieM, and don’t both coming back.

  6. Shooting at the messenger (if badly missing) might earn you a plastic badge at tsz but won’t solve your problems. Namely that “evolution” fails no matter how you slice and dice it.

    Censorship – sorry, a “higher bar” – as well as the cancel culture are the weapon of fools incapable of putting together a coherent argument. Either will be the final nail in the tsz coffin.

  7. Alan Fox: Well, it’s become quieter, certainly. I have to admit I’ve been paying much less attention recently. But though perhaps a tenth of the number of unique daily visitors at the peak look in now (according to the stats plugin), it’s not dead yet.

    Fads come and go, and promoting creationism in public schools was a fad promoted by a handful people, mostly of similar age. The arguments for young earth and creationism went nowhere, and the book writing proponents have gotten old. Perhaps more importantly, the political activists have evaporated.

    We have all new political fads, and in within 20 years they will die off.

  8. Alan Fox: Are you suggesting a higher bar for contributions?

    This presupposes that you have enough contributors where you can select from. You don’t have it.

    ID is dead, so anti-ID is dead too. A change in orientation might help. A change of format to an actual forum might help.

    Let’s put it this way: If you were to become a subreddit, what would its title be? If you are unsure, it’s best to pull the plug and end the misery.

  9. It does seem that “intelligent design” is an idea that came and went, because it never related to anything subject to test.

    But therein lies the problem: rejection of evolution (and the resulting inability to grasp the theory of evolution) rests on a religious foundation. Sites like this one tend to be populated by groups that talk past one another, one side presenting facts and research and regarding religious faith as irrelevant, and the other side asserting articles of religious faith and regarding evidence as irrelevant.

    So one side believes that claims lacking any explanatory power are useless, and the other side believes that if it doesn’t support the faith, it cannot be evidence. The battle is between those who feel the conclusion rests on the evidence, and those who feel that the conclusion determines what counts as evidence.

    This would be a silly dispute were it not for the religious convictions of those who determine the contents of our textbooks and educational materials. Where and when I went to high school, evolution was the last chapter in the biology text, and there seemed to be a tacit agreement that there simply wasn’t enough time in the school year to complete the text. Everyone understood that attempting to cover evolution would result in mobs of screaming parents making school administration miserable. To be avoided.

  10. Flint,

    It does seem that “intelligent design” is an idea that came and went, because it never related to anything subject to test.

    ID has just mostly exited internet debates so it is outside of your radar right now.

    If the theory of evolution or UCD had real empirical support for its grand claims ID in its current form would have never gotten off the ground, Michael Behe would just be a biochemistry professor and I would never have discovered TSZ.

  11. colewd:

    If the theory of evolution or UCD had real empirical support for its grand claims ID in its current form would have never gotten off the ground…

    Borrowing colewd’s logic:

    If the theory of a round earth had real empirical support for its grand claims, flat eartherism in its current form would have never gotten off the ground.

  12. keiths,

    If the theory of a round earth had real empirical support for its grand claims, flat eartherism in its current form would have never gotten off the ground.

    All you have is a fallacy of inconsistency? 🙂

  13. colewd:

    If the theory of evolution or UCD had real empirical support for its grand claims ID in its current form would have never gotten off the ground, Michael Behe would just be a biochemistry professor and I would never have discovered TSZ.

    The empirical support of evolution and UCD is of course both enormous and compelling, and indeed it was the evidence itself that gave birth to the theory to explain it. Which is now accepted pretty much universally except among those for whom it presents religious problems.

    Rather than simply repeat tired lies, why don’t you make the effort to explain the religious problems with evolution? Does it conflict with any religious set of beliefs other than young earth creationism? If not, why not. If so, what is the conflict. Try to present a thesis here, I think we’d all be interested.

  14. colewd:

    All you have is a fallacy of inconsistency? 🙂

    I’m pointing out the gaping hole in your reasoning. To suggest that ID gained popularity due to a lack of scientific evidence for evolution is as silly as suggesting that the resurgence of flat-eartherism is due to a lack of evidence for a round earth.

    ID is not motivated by the evidence. It’s religion, not science. Bill Dembski notoriously admitted as much when he wrote

    Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John‘s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.

    ID is religion, and you are a credulous believer.

  15. keiths,

    ID is not motivated by the evidence. It’s religion, not science. Bill Dembski notoriously admitted as much when he wrote

    There is religious motivation in the movement but why in the world would it be debated so rigorously for the last 10 years if it was not finding weakness in evolutionary theory?

    Are you claiming that evolutionary theory explains the diversity of life to a high scientific level of confidence?

  16. colewd: There is religious motivation in the movement but why in the world would it be debated so rigorously for the last 10 years if it was not finding weakness in evolutionary theory?

    It was contested vehemently for a long time due to religious convictions. That’s not the same thing as being debated “rigorously”.

    Are you claiming that evolutionary theory explains the diversity of life to a high scientific level of confidence?

    I don’t know what you think “a high scientific level of confidence” means.

    But I would certainly say that some version of evolutionary theory (though not the Modern Synthesis) is a better explanation for speciation and adaptation than any other explanation yet proposed.

  17. colewd:

    There is religious motivation in the movement but why in the world would it be debated so rigorously for the last 10 years if it was not finding weakness in evolutionary theory?

    As KN notes, “rigorously” is the wrong word. I would suggest “vigorously”.

    Flat-earthers have been vigorously challenging the round earth theory for far more than 10 years, but that doesn’t mean they have found weaknesses in it. It’s the same with IDers and evolutionary theory. There are lots of people in the world who vigorously promote bogus ideas and theories, including flat eartherism and intelligent design, for reasons other than weaknesses in the opposing views. Think about how riled up Trump supporters and QAnon folks get.

    Are you claiming that evolutionary theory explains the diversity of life to a high scientific level of confidence?

    My claim is that the evidence overwhelmingly supports evolutionary theory over intelligent design. And I do mean overwhelmingly.

  18. keiths,

    My claim is that the evidence overwhelmingly supports evolutionary theory over intelligent design. And I do mean overwhelmingly.

    For explaining what?

    How allele frequencies change in populations? How the eukaryotic cell is the product of less complex cells? For explaining the diversity of eye designs?

  19. colewd:
    keiths,

    For explaining what?

    How allele frequencies change in populations?How the eukaryotic cell is the product of less complex cells?For explaining the diversity of eye designs?

    Yes. All of these.

  20. Colewd:
    Rather than simply repeat tired lies, why don’t you make the effort to explain the religious problems with evolution? Does it conflict with any religious set of beliefs other than young earth creationism? If not, why not. If so, what is the conflict. Try to present a thesis here, I think we’d all be interested.

  21. colewd:

    For explaining what?

    A whole slew of things. But one of the most impressive to me is that it explains the extraordinary degree of congruence between trees based on molecular vs morphological data.

    I’m pretty sure you and I have discussed this before.

  22. keiths,

    A whole slew of things. But one of the most impressive to me is that it explains the extraordinary degree of congruence between trees based on molecular vs morphological data.

    I’m pretty sure you and I have discussed this before.

    How do you define “extraordinary degree of congruence” and how does evolution explain this?
    Flint,

    Rather than simply repeat tired lies, why don’t you make the effort to explain the religious problems with evolution?

    I do not see any religious problems. The problems are the evidence contradicting the theory.

    Keiths is still thinking a 20 year old paper is valid. Current morphological and molecular trees differ.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-022-03482-x#citeas

  23. colewd:

    Keiths is still thinking a 20 year old paper is valid. Current morphological and molecular trees differ.

    Of course they differ! They differed 20 years ago as well. That’s expected.

    What’s compelling is the extraordinary level of congruence between them. They don’t need to be identical in order to be highly congruent.

    Unguided evolution explains the congruence. ID does not.

  24. colewd:

    How do you define “extraordinary degree of congruence” and how does evolution explain this?

    We’ve been over that. Here’s part of a five-year-old comment I made to Sal Cordova. You were around for that discussion, so hopefully this will jog your memory:

    Don’t kid yourself, Sal. The elephant is still in the room. Would you care to explain to us why, out of the more than 10^38 possible trees for the taxa in Theobald’s Figure 1, we infer the same exact tree from the morphological and molecular data?

    Coincidence? The Designer just happens to be an anal-retentive evolution mimic? He hates the eggheads and wants to fool them into accepting common descent?

  25. keiths,

    Your statement to Sal is obviously false. The paper is also using a single gene. The advancement in sequencing technology has changed the game to take a much broader view of the data.

    The next issue is that gene data and chromosome data contradict the tree. If you were looking for all the data and not just the data that supports your position you would know this as it was introduced here by Sal.

  26. colewd:

    I do not see any religious problems.The problems are the evidence contradicting the theory.

    But perhaps you can suggest why those who have problems with contradictory evidence fall exclusively among a narrow group of Christian creationists, and that this problem is not seen by 99% of the world’s biologists (the final 1% being Christian creationists), not seen by those of other faiths, not seen by those in other cultures worldwide. And maybe you can explain why the most notable anti-evolutionists use religious positions in their rejection (Dembski was quoted above)? This can’t all be coincidence, can it?

    Look, we are not all idiots. We can plainly see the religious connection. The DI has made it both obvious and explicit. Why not be honest?

  27. Flint,

    But perhaps you can suggest why those who have problems with contradictory evidence fall exclusively among a narrow group of Christian creationists, and that this problem is not seen by 99% of the world’s biologists (the final 1% being Christian creationists), not seen by those of other faiths, not seen by those in other cultures worldwide.

    Hi Flint
    Much of the theory is being questioned right now if you are up to date on the latest conferences. There is consensus right now that the models are limited on what they explain the debate is how limited.

    As far as the religious issue goes I don’t think that debate has any legs one way or the other. The issue will be temporarily settled based on evidence and ID appears to be getting more recognition as an alternative hypothesis to the origin of new complex features.

  28. Alan Fox,

    I’d have thought you and Sal had enough on your plate at Peaceful Science, Bill.

    Hi Alan

    My post is wrapping up and Sal seems to be doing fine. So far no population genetic model proposed that can confirm the common ancestry of deer.

    Do you realize my op went 781 comments and 17 evolutionists participated? Gil finally joined about 600 comments in.

    On Sals latest post our elite biologists (Harshman, Felsenstein, Mercer and Hunt) generated 4 posts on my misspelling of the word Divine.

  29. colewd:

    On Sals latest post our elite biologists (Harshman, Felsenstein, Mercer and Hunt) generated 4 posts on my misspelling of the word Divine.

    Be careful, Bill. When you arrive at the pearly gates, the first thing St. Peter does is administer a theological spelling test.

  30. keiths to Sal Cordova, around five years ago:

    Don’t kid yourself, Sal. The elephant is still in the room. Would you care to explain to us why, out of the more than 10^38 possible trees for the taxa in Theobald’s Figure 1, we infer the same exact tree from the morphological and molecular data?

    Coincidence? The Designer just happens to be an anal-retentive evolution mimic? He hates the eggheads and wants to fool them into accepting common descent?

    colewd:

    Your statement to Sal is obviously false.

    Um, no.

    The paper is also using a single gene.

    Yes, the molecular portion of the data behind Theobald’s figure 1 is based on a single gene. I don’t remember which gene, and I can’t be arsed to look it up right now, but it was selected because trees based on it are less vulnerable to phylogenetic “noise” than those based on other potential choices.

    If you think that one gene isn’t enough, and that this somehow invalidates Theobald’s conclusion and rescues intelligent design, then you have completely misunderstood the situation. That single gene, on its own, is more than sufficient to wipe out ID’s claim to being a viable explanation of the data. ID is a non-starter.

    Some important points that most IDers tend to miss:

    1. The tree in Theobald’s figure 1 shows the relationship between the major taxa — that is, the taxa closest to the root of the tree, not the ones further out on the branches. That’s important because the taxa that are further out are more susceptible to phylogenetic noise. No one is shocked when, for instance, new evidence causes us to rearrange the tree by moving a particular species of leopard frog from one genus to another. That sort of thing is expected. But if we were to uncover evidence suggesting that redwood trees are more closely related to skunks than to sequoias, that would be earthshaking news. It ain’t gonna happen.

    2. Evolution does not predict that the trees inferred from various genes and morphological characteristics will be identical out to the tips of the branches. It would be a miracle if they were. We know there’s noise, so we expect differences. IDers and creationists (including you, evidently) get overly excited about differences, which are expected, when what really matters is the degree of congruence between and among the trees.

    3. The numbers are astronomical. You can construct some 10^38 possible trees out of the taxa in Theobald’s figure. A designer would in effect be able to mix and match from among all of those possible trees. Therefore, if ID is true, we have no reason to expect highly congruent trees, unless the Designer is deliberately choosing to make them congruent. If unguided evolution is true, however, then we do have reason to expect highly congruent trees.

    What does the evidence show? Highly congruent trees. What’s the degree of congruence? In Theobald’s figure 1, the trees are identical — perfectly congruent. The probability of getting identical trees by chance, when there are 10^38 possibilities, is vanishingly small. The probability of getting identical trees under the ID hypothesis, when there are 10^38 possibilities, is also vanishingly small (unless the Designer is deliberately mimicking unguided evolution, or is somehow constrained to do so).

    The trees are identical, and unguided evolution blows ID out of the water.

    4. Some IDers accept common descent, since the evidence for it is so overwhelming, but maintain that the Designer guided evolution, a hypothesis which they believe comports with the evidence. They are unaware that the evidence not only overwhelmingly supports common descent; it also overwhelmingly supports unguided evolution over guided evolution.

    One caveat: the degree of guidance matters. At one end of the spectrum a Designer might intervene massively, in which case we wouldn’t expect to infer highly congruent trees from different genes and different morphological characters. At the other end of the spectrum the Designer might only make tiny tweaks, once in a blue moon, in which case we would expect to infer highly congruent trees. The less guidance the Designer provides, the more compatible she is with the evidence we actually see.

    In the limit, the Designer might be completely hands-off, having gotten the universe started but otherwise allowing things to unfold on their own. That’s the deist view, and it’s just as compatible with the biological evidence as unguided evolution is. However, if two hypotheses fit the data equally well, but one is more complex than the other, we choose the simpler one, and that is unguided evolution.

  31. keiths,

    Yes, the molecular portion of the data behind Theobald’s figure 1 is based on a single gene. I don’t remember which gene, and I can’t be arsed to look it up right now, but it was selected because trees based on it are less vulnerable to phylogenetic “noise” than those based on other potential choices.

    Hi Keiths
    The gene is cytochrome c. This protein the gene codes for is part of the electron transport chain. It has also been verified to be important to the development of mice.

    I am not sure why you think the similarity of sequence and morphology excludes special creation at different times. You are also discounting the possibility of different sequences based on animal needs.

    The bigger issue is the gene and chromosome data that does not follow the tree unless you invoke gene gain and loss along with chromosome fission and fusion which generates a population genetics challenge given that mutations are most likely deleterious.

    The problem for science is all the thousands of papers that assume a single origin model without Divine intervention yet there is no population genetics model that supports that hypothesis.

  32. Flint: Look, we are not all idiots.

    Could be. Mankind knows better than a few badly educated Westerners.

    colewd: Much of the theory is being questioned right now if you are up to date on the latest conferences.

    This particular “evolutionary” biologist for instance agrees with me on “gradualism”.

    Flint: But perhaps you can suggest why those who have problems with contradictory evidence fall exclusively among a narrow group of Christian creationists, and that this problem is not seen by 99% of the world’s biologists (the final 1% being Christian creationists), not seen by those of other faiths, not seen by those in other cultures worldwide.

    Hmm. I figured this Shapiro guy as no Christian. Then there’s Gould and Eldredge whom I cited elsewhere… And others. Also, why would biologists matter? Biology is a soft in the head science. Who the heck hires biologists other than governmental parasites? And NGOs that are hand in hand with said parasites…

  33. Nonlin.org:
    Hmm. I figured this Shapiro guy as no Christian. Then there’s Gould and Eldredge whom I cited elsewhere…

    Gould and Eldridge rejected evolution? Seriously?

    And others.

    So you found one person who rejects evolutionary theory who MIGHT not be a creationist, and two who were world famous biologists and evolutionists. And there, you ran out of people who reject evolution for non-religious reasons, so you can only come up with “others”. This might suggest to you that rejection of evolution really IS a religions matter.

    Also, why would biologists matter? Biology is a soft in the head science. Who the heck hires biologists other than governmental parasites? And NGOs that are hand in hand with said parasites…

    Usually, people who devote their lives to specializing in one area, tend to be quite expert in that area. If you had legal trouble, would you go to a lawyer? Would that matter? After all, law is soft in the head too, right? In fact, all government employees are parasites, right?

    Fortunately, you are not an expert in anything at all, so this qualifies you to have correct opinions those who know better can’t hold. You are lucky.

  34. Flint: Gould and Eldridge rejected evolution? Seriously?

    Nonlin’s point is that Gould and Eldredge rejected gradualism. (More specifically, they rejected the assumption that the rate of evolutionary change is unvarying.)

    Regardless, Gould’s far more controversial idea, developed with Lewontin, was the rejection of the assumption that each identifiable trait must be adaptive.

    It is a bit amusing to see all these well-known objections to the modern synthesis trotted out over and over again as “see? these scientists reject evolution!”. Which is of course entirely false.

  35. Kantian Naturalist: Nonlin’s point is that Gould and Eldredge rejected gradualism. (More specifically, they rejected the assumption that the rate of evolutionary change is unvarying.)

    My reading is that Gould and Eldredge pointed out an aspect of the dynamics of evolution (that change tends to be both fairly rapid and fairly local) wasn’t entirely understood at first, and they were accused of criticizing the notion of “constant speedism” that nobody proposed. Eventually the picture of evolutionary development as consisting of individual branching events within portions of populations became the norm. Whether this violates “gradualism” depends on the chosen time frame of reference (at least today), but in Gould’s day if a given population showed no change between first and last appearance in the fossil record, this was regarded as “no evolution” despite multiple branches off that population over that time.

    Regardless, Gould’s far more controversial idea, developed with Lewontin, was the rejection of the assumption that each identifiable trait must be adaptive.

    I think this has also come to be generally accepted. Gould wrote at some length about spandrels, but I think mostly he was referring to what is now regarded as drift, which permits non-adaptive (both neutral and deleterious) mutations to achieve fixation just stochastically. Mutation is orthogonal to utility, so non-adaptive traits, especially if harmless, are as likely as not.

    It is a bit amusing to see all these well-known objections to the modern synthesis trotted out over and over again as “see? these scientists reject evolution!”.Which is of course entirely false.

    Of course, this viewpoint has been the subject of parody for a long time – that myths not subject to test are the rocks of ages, eternally reliable. Whereas learning is an ongoing process, rendering anything learned unreliable! The “weakness” of science is its ability to correct error, a weakness the likes of nonlin will never suffer from.

  36. colewd:

    The gene is cytochrome c. This protein the gene codes for is part of the electron transport chain.

    Thanks. Now I remember.

    I am not sure why you think the similarity of sequence and morphology excludes special creation at different times.

    Staggered special creation is compatible with the evidence, but only if the Designer is extremely eccentric and dead-set on trying to make it look as if common descent and unguided evolution are true. (Maybe he’s trying to hide so that people like you will stop pestering him with prayers. 🙂 )

    You are also discounting the possibility of different sequences based on animal needs.

    The fact that the cytochrome c sequence is so highly conserved across the eukaryotes is the reason that biologists like to use it for phylogenetic purposes. You can’t mess too much with it without killing the organism, which means that it can’t get too entangled with taxa-specific traits. After all, who doesn’t depend on the electron transport chain?

    In any case, it’s not like biologists are focusing on the cytochrome c data to the exclusion of everything else. Are you aware of any evidence that calls the tree in Theobald’s figure 1 into question? If so, what is it, specifically?

    The bigger issue is the gene and chromosome data that does not follow the tree unless you invoke gene gain and loss along with chromosome fission and fusion which generates a population genetics challenge given that mutations are most likely deleterious.

    Please tell me you aren’t still misinterpreting that Venn diagram of Sal’s from years ago. The one that had people and zebrafish on it.

  37. We now know that Darwin’s ‘gradualist’ view of evolution, exclusively driven by natural selection, is no longer compatible with contemporary science.

    Species do not emerge from an accumulation of random genetic changes.

    Right out of the gate OP begins with conflating gradualism with the mutational causes of population divergence and speciation.

    Gradualism concerns the magnitude of differences in the smooth transitions in morphology between ancestors and descendants. In gradualism the idea is the differences are very small and build up over many. Such as a species becoming incrementally larger by growing some tiny amount every X generations.

    Whether gradualism as envisioned by Darwin is strictly correct is not relevant to whether speciation happens by the accumulation of random genetic changes.

    Of course, since speciation requires that two populations become different from each other to the point where they are no longer interbreeding, something about the two populations would have to change. And since we know the basis of inheritance is DNA sequences, it would have to be changes in their genomes, aka mutations. So it would have to be an accumulation of mutations that would cause the populations to diverge (behaviorally, morphologically etc.) Hence it is just inescapable that it is the independent accumulation of mutations in separate populations that cause speciation. QED

    tldr: Everything in the OP is wrong. But it’s Nonlin, so who cares?

  38. Flint: Gould wrote at some length about spandrels, but I think mostly he was referring to what is now regarded as drift, which permits non-adaptive (both neutral and deleterious) mutations to achieve fixation just stochastically. Mutation is orthogonal to utility, so non-adaptive traits, especially if harmless, are as likely as not.

    I can see why someone who would think this, but I respectfully disagree.

    Gould and Lewontin were concerned with organism-level morphology and behavior, not with genetics. One of Gould’s main themes was to revive an appreciation of D’Arcy Thompson’s work on laws of form, such as allometry. And Lewontin, independently and with Lewins, was committed to theorizing organisms as subjects of evolution (not just objects of it), whereas genes could only be objects of evolutionary change. (This is the main theme of The Triple Helix.)

    While drift could explain spandrels — phenotypic traits that neither contribute to nor detract from fitness could be explained by non-deleterious mutations — even then, it couldn’t be anything like a strict correspondence, because there’s rarely a 1:1 mapping from nucleotide sequences to morphological characteristics.

    (Perhaps part of Nonlin’s problem is his erroneous assumption that the Modern Synthesis is invalidated if there is no such 1:1 mapping. But as you pointed out, that pales in comparison to his systemic imperviousness to correction.)

  39. Kantian Naturalist: I can see why someone who would think this, but I respectfully disagree.

    Gould and Lewontin were concerned with organism-level morphology and behavior, not with genetics.

    Well, except that organism-level morphology and behavior ultimately rest on a genetic foundation, and are “downstream ramifications” of genetics.

    What’s interesting to me is that simple observation of organisms makes clear the abundance of non-adaptive features – including features that never were adaptive. I would suspect (I’m not a biologist) that the development of one or more non-adaptive features within part of a population might drive a branching event, with one branch possessing that feature and not the other. Maybe a flock of birds could branch apart because of a preference for redder beaks or longer calls?

    I have enjoyed Gould’s comments about the speculative adaptive value of every single feature in any organism, among those who believe there’s no such thing as a feature that isn’t adaptive (or used to be adaptive). For many minor features, such speculation could be quite imaginative, even silly.

  40. Flint: I have enjoyed Gould’s comments about the speculative adaptive value of every single feature in any organism, among those who believe there’s no such thing as a feature that isn’t adaptive (or used to be adaptive). For many minor features, such speculation could be quite imaginative, even silly.

    Yes. I remember going to a Gould talk circa 1984, where he spent what seemed to me a lot of time walking the audience through the evolution of Nautilus, with a focus on chambers getting broader and deeper (I may have dozed off at some point), ending up with the idea of a ‘spandrel’. As we were leaving, I voiced my failure to understand to my (far better read) colleague “Nick, what was that all about? Surely people realize that mutations are pleiotropic?” Nick responded with a tone of resignation “In his field, it’s a controversial idea.”

  41. colewd:

    The bigger issue is the gene and chromosome data that does not follow the tree unless you invoke gene gain and loss along with chromosome fission and fusion which generates a population genetics challenge given that mutations are most likely deleterious.

    keiths:

    Please tell me you aren’t still misinterpreting that Venn diagram of Sal’s from years ago. The one that had people and zebrafish on it.

    Below is the diagram I was talking about. Sal and Bill thought (and maybe still think) that it refutes common descent, because they thought that if you map the information onto the nested hierarchy, it implies that genes were improbably lost and then regained in the same lineage. There is no such implication.

    They were, and perhaps still are, badly misinterpreting the data.

  42. Flint: So you found one person who rejects evolutionary theory who MIGHT not be a creationist, and two who were world famous biologists and evolutionists. And there, you ran out of people who reject evolution for non-religious reasons, so you can only come up with “others”.

    Those, and others, do not reject it (they should) but they see some flaws for which they come up with ridiculous fixes. You wouldn’t understand. For you it’s all perfect even though the failed theory keeps changing.

    Flint: If you had legal trouble, would you go to a lawyer? Would that matter? After all, law is soft in the head too, right? In fact, all government employees are parasites, right?

    You managed to find a more despicable profession. Good job.

    Flint: The “weakness” of science is its ability to correct error

    Known fact, “evolution” is not science. And “evolution” errors are swept under the rug while those bringing them up are marginalized. Show me a mainstream list of flaws in “evolution”. No? My point exactly.

  43. Rumraket: Hence it is just inescapable that it is the independent accumulation of mutations in separate populations that cause speciation.

    Only if there were such a thing as “speciation”. Which of course there isn’t.

    Kantian Naturalist: there’s rarely a 1:1 mapping from nucleotide sequences to morphological characteristics.

    (Perhaps part of Nonlin’s problem is his erroneous assumption that the Modern Synthesis is invalidated if there is no such 1:1 mapping.

    That would be the least of your problems. “modern synthesis” is invalidated by genetics being incompatible with “evolution” from day one.

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