Evolution


The Best Schools interviewed leading Intelligent Design theorist, Bill Dembski.  At one point he was asked, “You have stated that ‘design theorists oppose Darwinian theory on strictly scientific grounds.’ But then why is the ID movement so heavily populated with religious believers? Could we not expect more of the scientific community to support ID if your statement were true? Why do the majority of the world’s leading scientific bodies oppose ID and claim that it does not qualify as science?”

This is a valid question, and I’m sure it is on the minds of many people who are interested in the debate.  I like Dembski’s answer:

As for why religious believers tend to be associated with design, I could turn the question around. If Darwinian evolution is strictly scientific, then why is that field so heavily populated with atheists? In one survey of around 150 prominent evolutionary biologists, only two were religious believers (as I recall, Will Provine was behind this survey). I see a scientific core to both intelligent design and Darwinian evolution. And I see no merit in questioning their scientific status by the company they keep. The character of the proposals that both approaches make is what really ought to count.

 

HT: Uncommon Descent

For many famous historical figures, a distinction often needs to be made between the man and the myth that surrounds him.  This is no less true for Charles Darwin.  While the mythical features of a man are often later creations by others, in the case of Darwin, he created some of his own myths through his autobiography.  In his book The Darwin Myth: The Life and Lies of Charles Darwin, Benjamin Wiker takes a critical look at the historical Darwin: the man, the myth, and his contribution to evolutionary theory.

Wiker documents several myths have arisen regarding Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution:

  1. That Darwin thought up the theory of evolution.  The notion that animals in the present evolved from earlier forms was not a novel idea.  The idea can be traced back to the ancient Greek philosopher Lucretius in the 1st century BC, and it was particularly in vogue among the intelligentsia in Darwin’s day.  In fact, his very famous grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, wrote a widely acclaimed book titled Zoonomia (1794) in which he laid out his own theory of evolution more than 60 years before Charles wrote On the Origin of Species.  In medical school, Darwin studied under a radical evolutionist by the name of Robert Grant.  He also read the works of other evolutionists.  Darwin did not come up with evolution.  He merely popularized the theory by providing a plausible, naturalistic mechanism by which it might work, backed up by some empirical observations.

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Mobile DNA has published an article by Georgia Tech Professor of Biology John McDonald, who led a team investigating why chimps and humans are so different seeing that our genes are nearly identical.  What they discovered is that the regions adjacent to the genes often differ greatly in their DNA sequences (retrotransposons).  Previously retrotransposons have been considered leftover junk from the evolutionary process, but now it is believed that such regions serve as regulators of gene expression, and it is differences in gene expression that determines the differences between chimps and humans.

This is just one more finding in a long list of findings that show supposed junk DNA (which makes up 98% of our genome) actually has a biological function.  This is something Intelligent Design theory predicted, but is quite surprising from a Darwinian evolutionary point of view.

Whale evolution is supposed to be one of the best documented cases of gradualism in the fossil record.  No doubt, when you stack the fossils up next to each other, you can see what appears to be a morphological transition from a terrestrial mammal to an aquatic whale (see the graphic below).   (more…)

Recently an article appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences[1] which concluded that observed changes in biological populations are usually short-lived, and typically fail to spread through the entire species.  According to lead author and zoologist Josef Uyeda (Oregon State University), “Rapid evolution is clearly a reality over fairly short time periods, sometimes just a few generations. But those rapid changes do not always persist and may be confined to small populations. For reasons that are not completely clear, the data show the long-term dynamics of evolution to be quite slow.”  He and his team concluded that it takes approximately one million years for a biological change to take root in a population.

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Just up at the Institute for Biblical Studies: “The (In)adequacy of Darwinian Evolution.”

Back in March I blogged about new research which called into question whether life has existed on this planet for 3.5 billion years.  A fossil believed to be a bacteria is now thought to be a hermatite (a mineral), making the oldest life form 2 billion years old.  Now a 3.4 billion year old extremophile fossil has been discovered inAustralia.  The organism is thought to have been sulfur-based rather than oxygen-based.

Such is the nature of science.  Life gets a 1.5 billion year age reduction in a single day, and then a few months later, it ages quickly to just 100 million years short of its original mark.

HT: Uncommon Descent

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