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  Topic: The Evo/Devo End Run Around neo-Darwinism, Science or IDC symantic games.< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Mike PSS

Posts: 428
Joined: Sep. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 22 2007,11:22   

Between Cornelius Hunter and AFDave there seems to be a new tactic that appeared that I, personnally, haven't seen over the past year.  Using some of the writings of Evo/Devo to counter neo-Darwinism.  I'm no evolutionary biologist but there is something in this latest screed that just doesn't smell right.

We know of Cornelius Hunter's assertions with Thylacine/Wolves.  The whole argument is about body plans and similarity and a lot of the counter points made have mentioned genetics as the measurements of choice when doing this comparison.  (thread link)

Now, at, AFDave posted this response to OA ((link) where he presents a chapter from an Evo/Devo book.
Chapter 1: Origination of the Organismal Form: The forgotton cause in evolutionary theory.
Read the chapter, but real quick the outline of the authors argument is thus...  
The modern version of this tenet holds that the continued modification and inheritance of a basic genetic tool kit for the regulation of developmental processes, directed by mechanisms acting at the population level, has generated the panoply of organismal body plans encountered in nature.

These developments have edged the field farther and farther away from the second initial theme: the origin of organismal form and structure. The question of why and how certain forms appear in organismal evolution addresses not what is being maintained (and quantitatively varied) but rather what is being generated in a qualitative sense.

It is the aim of the present volume to elaborate on this distinction between the origination (innovation) and the diversification (variation) of form by focusing on the plurality of causal factors responsible for the former, relatively neglected aspect, the origination of organismal form. Failure to incorporate this aspect represents one of the major gaps in the canonical theory of evolution, it being quite distinct from the topics with which population genetics or developmental genetics is primarily concerned.

On the surface this seems to be a comprehensive study of what Dr. Hunter has described (in his simpleton fashion) since they also use this "genetics versus morphology" type of assertion.

The authors try to come up with a "new synthesis" around their ideas...  
Elements of a Postgenomic Synthesis
If, as we suggest, the failure of the current theory of evolution to deal with the problem of origination is the major obstacle to a scientific understanding of organismal form, it is incumbent on us to provide at least a sketch of an alternative view.

In the framework we propose, epigenetic processes—first, the physics of condensed, excitable media represented by primitive cell aggregates and, later, the conditional responses of tissues to each other and to external forces—replace gene sequence variation and gene expression as the primary causal agents in morphological origination. These determinants and their outcomes are considered to have set out the original, morphological templates during the evolution of bodies and organs, and to have remained, to varying extents, effective causal factors in the development of all modern, multicellular organisms (Newman and Müller, 2000).

The view described here emphasizes the distinction between the mechanisms underlying origination and those underlying variation in morphological evolution and hence the necessity to account for that distinction in evolutionary theory. It clearly suggests that the relationship between genotype and phenotype in the earliest metazoans was different from that in their modern counterparts and that the present relationship between genes and form is a derived condition, a product of evolution rather than its precondition.

Although not all contributors to this volume would accept the most radical implications of this view, which challenges major tenets of neo-Darwinism, including its incrementalism, uniformitarianism, and genocentricity, all were invited to participate in this project because their work explicitly influenced the development of the ideas behind it. Readers will evaluate each chapter on its own terms; we hope they will also recognize a coherence that transcends the disciplinary boundaries of the contributors.

What started my alarm bells ringing is the bolded portion.  These weasel words are used elsewhere by other less knowledgable people (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).  Why would this statement appear in an apparent Evo/Devo book?

The first author, Gerd B. Muller, is a PhD in Austria.  Click on the publications to get to the book reference above.  (overview here)

The second author, Stuart A. Newman, has a long history of publishing with Mr. Muller(historical documents).  Dr. Newman also is highly regarded in his field.
(NY Times article with some bio information)

Is Evo/Devo going to be the saviour of the creationist crowd?
Do these authors have ulterior motives that decide their use of language in the book?
Is the constant use of symantics by the likes of AFDave and others confusing the real conclusions laid out by the Evo/Devo researchers?
Will Mary and Douglas break up their stormy relationship and let Jackie reveal to Douglas that he's the father of their love child?

Inquiring minds want to know.


Posts: 42
Joined: June 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 22 2007,13:02   

Reading the chapter it looks like fairly standard punctuated equilibirium-style critique of gene-centered gradualists who overuse reduction to genetics as the answer to everything evolution. It reminds me of pieces by Stanley or Gould where they claim the modern synthesis (what I interpret these authors mean by neo-Darwinism) emphasizes continuity of evolutionary rates (phyletic gradualism as Stanley uses it in his textbook frmo 1979) and reduction to the genetic level as I've seen Gould discuss.

I think it's a rather strawman characterization of the new synthesis and especially of population biologists understanding of events like speciation but I don't think it's anti-evolution just like Gould's disagreement with the new synthesis isn't anti-evolution, it's more of a difference in emphasis which may or may not be important.

I also think the choice of the word "neo-Darwinism" is pretty terrible and will offer plenty of opportunity for quote-mining and confusion for ID/creationists who haven't read up on debates within evolutionary theory.

Chris Hyland

Posts: 705
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 22 2007,13:45   

What started my alarm bells ringing is the bolded portion.  These weasel words are used elsewhere by other less knowledgable people (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).  Why would this statement appear in an apparent Evo/Devo book?
So their ideas sound a lot more groundbreaking to nonscientists than they actually are. Come to think of it this is what the large majority of creationist quotemines are actually based on.

That new synthesis just sounds like a cross between epigenetic inheritance and developmental plasticity. I love it when creationists bring up mechanisms that increase the scope and power of evolution as if its a disproof somehow.

Mike PSS

Posts: 428
Joined: Sep. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 22 2007,14:19   

After a couple re-reads I don't see the book as anti-evolutionary at all but the language still sticks out that these two are "overthrowing the present genetocentric nature of neo-Darwinists".  I just haven't seen this much chest pounding in too many scientific articles and books written for a scientific audience.  It's like their fighting some past Evo/Devo schism.

However, the language usage of the authors is certainly opening up the quote-mine opportunities.  The mechanism proposed seems to be some type of environmental, physical effect (defined in the book I'm sure) but I don't see this proposed mechanism as a "paradigm shift in the thinking of all living beings".

I say "Arse!" to their use of confuse-o-talk to make their points.

Occam's Aftershave

Posts: 5286
Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 22 2007,16:01   

The March/April 2007 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (just arrived today, not on-line yet) has a nice article by Massimo Pigliucci entitled "Is There Such A Thing as Macroevolution?"  Now before AFDave creams his jeans, I'll point out that the title merely refers to the scientific debate over where to draw the line between micro-e and macro-e.  There is also coverage about the arguments between the modern synthesis geneticists and the evo-devo crowd over the role each played in the development of new body plans and new features.  He points out that this debate, like all scientific debates, is misrepresented by the Cretos as "well, science can't agree, so we should teach Creationism/ID too".  That's exactly what Dum-Dum Dave is doing with the Origination of the Organismal Form chapter.  He did a Google search for "evolution structure controversy", then blindly C&Ped completely irrelevant passages from the article without bothering to understand or possibly even read it.

NO ONE in the scientific community doubts that large scale evolutionary form changes actually happened, or that they happened due solely to naturalistic means.  NO ONE doubts that standard genetics as described by the new synthesis still play a major role in these evolutionary changes  The debate is over the role of other possible mechanisms (plasticity, epigenetic inheritance) that *may* have influenced the production of original body plans.  


"CO2 can't re-emit any trapped heat unless all the molecules point the right way"
"All the evidence supports Creation baraminology"
"If it required a mind, planning and design, it isn't materialistic."
"Jews and Christians are Muslims."

- Joke "Sharon" Gallien, world's dumbest YEC.

  4 replies since Feb. 22 2007,11:22 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  


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