Some of you might recall an article in Nature Physics published a few weeks ago [Collectivist Revolution in Evolution]. In that article, Mark Buchanan, a physicist, mentioned that biologists were questioning the tree of life.
Buchanan gets so many things wrong I hardly knew where to begin. So, when I blogged about it I just mentioned one thing [Lateral Gene Transfer and the Return of Lamarckian Evolution]. I concluded with ...
This kind of hyperbole is not helpful. Shame on Nature Physics for publishing it.As expected, the creationists—intelligent and otherwise—were delighted with this latest challenge to evolution. I doesn't matter to them whether a physicist knows what he's talking about.
One of the "otherwises" is named Denyse O'Leary. She's happy to promote the idea that evolution1 is being challenged. It's a special thrill for her to discover that biology is being questioned in a physics journal [The overthrow of Darwinism - in real life, forget the pop science media].
Denyse doesn't do any of the intellectual heavy lifting (surprise!). Instead she links to another Intelligent Design Creationist named David Tylor. Tylor is also mesmerized by the Nature Physics article. He blogged about it at: The collectivist challenge to Darwinism.
Here's part of what he said ...
Talk of unseating Darwinian evolution has not gone down well with some. Larry Moran quotes some of Buchanan's visionary words and declares: "This kind of hyperbole is not helpful. Shame on Nature Physics for publishing it." However, we could do with more substance in arguments against this essay. Darwinism is inherently reductionistic and it can devise ways of framing HGT to fit into its own mental models. But what it cannot easily do is adopt the holistic perspectives that are emerging everywhere. This is why some of us find a framework of design to be compelling. Design provides a coherent context for systems biology, for biomimetics, and for many other contemporary areas of research. Furthermore, although our understanding of HGT is imperfect and in its infancy, design thinking provides a warrant for inferring the origin of genes capable of being transferred, and for understanding the roles played by HGT in populations.Where to begin?
Horizontal gene transfer (HGT, also known as Lateral Gene Transfer) has been studied for six decades. We have an excellent understanding of the mechanisms; namely, transformation, transduction, conjugation, fusion, and endosymbiosis. There's nothing new there.
"Darwinism" and "Darwinian evolution" are products of the nineteenth century. The only people who are stuck in that century are the creationists. Modern evolutionary biologists have been at the forefront of "holistic" approaches since the recognition that populations evolve, not individuals. For most biologists, this happened in the 1940s. To put this into perspective, that's at least sixty years ago, or 1% of the entire history of Earth!
I'm actually quite happy to promote the "unseating [of] Darwinian evolution" as anyone who reads Sandwalk will attest. David Taylor and Denyse O'Leary are completely incapable of recognizing that legitimate challenges to the old-fashioned way of thinking about evolution are now part of mainstream biology. In fairness, what can we expect from people who think that a 2500 year old book written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek still contains relevant information about science?
"Design" fails to provide a coherent context for anything. I've yet to see anyone explain how and when God intervened to create modern life.
Finally, in case David Tylor is actually interested in learning about the science he criticizes, here's a list of recent postings on the topic. I'd be happy to debate him whenever he feels ready. I'd be happy to do it on The ID Update: News and Commentary Updates for the ID Community but that blog doesn't allow comments. Isn't that strange?
1. The Tree of Life
2. Perspectives on the Tree of Life: Ford Doolittle
3. Perspectives on the Tree of Life: Day One
4. Perspectives on the Tree of Life: Day Two
5. Perspectrives of the Tree of Life: Day Three
6. On the Origins of Eukaryotes
1. She calls it "Darwinism," just like all the other IDiots.