Posts Tagged ‘Modern Synthesis’

Evolution of Genes

In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin developed his revolutionary theory of “slight, successive” evolutionary changes. During the mid-nineteenth century, however, knowledge about genes and genetics was speculative at best, no less the evolution of genes.

In fact, Darwin abandoned the scientific method and declared that his theory of evolution was based on speculation –

 

I am quite conscious that my speculations run quite beyond the bounds of true science.

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DNA Fails to Resolve Fossil Record Gaps

In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin agonized over the gaps in the fossil record. “Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps,” Darwin pined, “is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against my theory.”

To address and justify the “serious objection,” Darwin reasoned that “only a small portion of the surface of the Earth has been geologically explored.” However, in the wake of 150 years of unprecedented paleontological research since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859, the gaps are even more glaring. Continue Reading

The Linaria Story

 

Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), founded the scheme of naming and classifying plants and animals with a genus and species name. This is known as binomial nomenclature. Linnaeus is known as the father of modern taxonomy. Linnaeus is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology.

Linnaeus ranked as a legend even with his contemporaries. Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau sent him the message: “Tell him I know no greater man on earth.” The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote: “With the exception of Shakespeare and Spinoza, I know no one among the no longer living who has influenced me more strongly.” Swedish author August Strindberg wrote: “Linnaeus was in reality a poet who happened to become a naturalist”. Continue Reading

Devolution of Evolution

Leonid Moroz, professor of neuroscience, chemistry, and biology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in a recent article published in The Scientist entitled “The Devolution of Evolution,” comments on Theodosius Dobzhansky assertion nearly 40 years ago that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

If Dobzhansky’s assertion is true, “How is it, then”, Moroz asks, “that so few newly minted PhDs in the biological sciences have taken any formal graduate school courses in evolution or biodiversity?” Continue Reading

Exploring Self-Organization Limits

Charles Darwin envisioned evolution proceeding by an accumulation of changes, “I do believe that natural selection will generally act very slowly, only over long periods of time…. natural selection acts slowly by accumulating slight, successive, favorable variations.”

Over the past 150 years since the publication of The Origin of Species, the focus of research has centered on discovering the origin of the variation. Darwin clearly acknowledged ignorance on this subject, our “ignorance of the laws of variation is profound. Not in one case out of a hundred can we pretend to assign any reason why this or that part has varied.”

Neo-Darwinism, otherwise known as the Modern Synthesis proposed that mutations originated the variations required for natural selection to act.

Now in the aftermath of the gene-centric Modern Synthesis meltdown, evolutionary scientists have been forced to explore new avenues beyond mutations to account for the origin of new and novel variations. At the top of the evolution industry list of potential candidates are self-organizational theories. Continue Reading

Information

 

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

Battle of the Architects

 

The essence of Charles Darwin’s theory, natural selection, is reflected in the title of his book—The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Natural selection, Darwin argued, is the architect of evolution, “As square stone, or bricks, or timber, are the indispensable materials for a building, and influence its character, so is variability not only indispensible but influential. Yet in the same manner as the architect is all important person in a building, so is [natural] selection with organic bodies.”

Charles Lyell and Asa Gray, Darwin’s closest confidants, solidly disagreed. Lyell argued that natural selection can only preserve or eliminate; natural selection cannot create: “The destroy[ing] force is selection, the sustaining [force] preserves things … but in order that life shd. Exist where there was none before… this is not [natural] selection, but creation.”

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