Posts Tagged ‘central dogma’
In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin uses the term information seven times. In all seven uses, information is only used in the context of gaining knowledge, “I have also reason to suspect, from information given me by Mr. W. W. Edwards, that with the English race horse the spinal stripe is much commoner in the foal than in the full-grown animal.”
Information is never used in the context of genetics. In fact, information is only used in the context of exchanging information between colleagues.
“And it would appear from information given me by Mr. Watson, Dr. Asa Gray, and Mr. Wollaston… ”
“… as I have learnt from information and specimens sent to me by Mr. Salvin… ”
“Mr. Agassiz, to whose great kindness I am indebted for much information on the subject… ”
“This species is found in the southern parts of England, and its habits have been attended to by Mr. F. Smith, of the British Museum, to whom I am much indebted for information on this and other subjects.”
“Accordingly I wrote to Professor Miller of Cambridge, and this geometer has kindly read over the following statement, drawn up from his information.”
“… without any information in regard to their geological position, no one would have suspected that they had co-existed with sea-shells all still living.”
Little did Darwin know that even before the publication of the fourth edition of The Origin of Species in 1866, Gregor Mendel had presented the now-famous paper entitled “Experiments on Plant Hybridization,” laying the foundations of modern genetics. Continue reading
Even Darwin knew that the arguments in The Origin of Species would not stand the test of time. Critical of his own work, in a letter to H. Falconer in October 1862, Darwin wrote,
I look at it as absolutely certain that very much in the Origin will be proved to be rubbish; but I expect and hope that the framework will stand.
By the end of the nineteenth century following the failure of the HMS Challenger mission to discover the theoretical “innumerable” missing links and evidence in The Origin of Species was acknowledged as fraudulent, Darwin’s theory was emerging as scrap yard re-cycling material.
“Things did not look any better for the Darwinian view of evolution at the onset of the twentieth century, when the re-discovery of Gregor Mendel’s work and the beginnings of genetics appeared to deal a blow the theory,” writes Massimo Pigliucci in his new book entitled Evolution-The Extended Synthesis published by MIT Press.
Not only was the fossil record not cooperating, Mendel’s work patently contradicted Darwin’s central premise of inheritance through “gemmules”, “blending”, and Lamarckism. Mendel demonstrated that inheritance occurs through discrete units; evidence that excludes Darwin’s “slight, successive” changes. The evidence signaled the end of the First Wave of evolutionary thought. Continue reading
Jerry A. Coyne, one of the leading evolutionists at the University of Chicago, in his new book entitled Why Evolution is True (2009) writes “much confusion and misunderstanding surrounds evolution” even though “the modern theory is easy to grasp.” The question is how can a theory be “easy to grasp” and still be surrounded by “much confusion”?
But what could the confusion be over? Here are some examples. Charles Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species – “There is no logical impossibility in the acquirement of any conceivable degree of perfection through natural selection”. Coyne contradicts Darwin by stating – “natural selection does not yield perfection”. Over a trivial issue, confusion reigns over whether natural selection can or cannot produce perfection in nature.
Presumably, to show how easy the theory of evolution is to understand, Coyne features what he calls the six basics of evolution: “evolution, gradualism, speciation, common ancestry, natural selection, and nonselective mechanisms”. For Coyne, natural selection is not the exclusive driving force of evolution.
Niles Eldredge, evolutionary biologist and curator of the American Museum of Natural History, disagrees. Niles Eldredge, architect and designer of the museum’s currently touring Darwin exhibit in the companion book Darwin, Discovering the Tree of Life (2005), credits Darwin with discovering the actions of natural selection—the essence of evolution: “When [Darwin] formulated the principle of natural selection, he had discovered the central process of evolution.”
Unlike Coyne, Eldredge envisions evolution acting exclusively through the process of natural selection: “A century and a half ago, Charles Darwin offered the world a single, simple scientific explanation for the diversity of life on Earth: evolution by natural selection.” Unlike Coynes six basics of evolution, Eldredge uses a VISTA acronym for natural selection that stands for Variation, Inheritance, Selection, Time, and Adaptation.
Differences in approach even between Coyne and Eldredge, exemplify why evolution theory continues to be confusing—even on the basics. The teaching of evolution is in chaos. Coyne pines “most of my university students who supposedly learned evolution in high school, come to my courses know almost nothing about this central organizing theory of biology.” Could it be because a unified theory of evolution simply does not exist?
Even university science major graduates seem to be no better. T. Ryan Gregory and Cameron A. J. Ellis, in their paper entitled “Conceptions of Evolution Among Science Graduate Students” published in BioScience 59(9):792-799 (2009), surprizingly found that less than 30% of students pursuing advanced science degrees could correctly identify even the basic principles of evolution.
The reason is—a comprehensive theory of evolution simply does not exist. Even with the convening of the most respected evolutionary scientists at the Altenberg Summit in 2008, no consensus was reached on a comprehensive theory of evolution.
Given the flood of available evidence, in the wake of Crick’s Central Dogma collapse, evolution is a theory that remains in chaos—now more than ever.