Saturday, October 01, 2016

Extending evolutionary theory? - Paul Brakefield

I will be attending the Royal Society Meeting on New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives. I'll post each of the abstracts and ask for your help in deciding what question to pose to the speakers. Here's the abstract for Paul Brakefield's talk on Does the way in which development works bias the paths taken by evolution?

Developmental bias was defined in a seminal review some thirty years ago that resulted from an early ‘meeting of minds’ of developmental and evolutionary biologists driven by John Maynard Smith and Lewis Wolpert. Although there has been dramatic progress since then in revealing in exquisite detail how morphologies develop, there are few well-worked case studies of potential developmental bias, as well as little understanding of how important the process has been in shaping the evolution of animal form. Therefore, it is timely to think about what is needed to facilitate the analysis of the extent to which patterns of evolutionary diversification are biased by how development works, and indeed whether it is useful to distinguish this process from that of genetic channeling.
Here are two possible questions for Paul Brakefield ...
Stephen Jay Gould published Ontology and Phylogeny in 1977. He wrote extensively about developmental constraints until his death in 2002. Richard Dawkins also wrote about developmental constraints, most notably in his discussion of whether pigs could fly in The Blind Watchmaker. How do your views differ from those that have been around for decades and why do you think it requires a modification of evolutionary theory today?


In The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, Gould wrote 270 pages on developmental constraints emphasizing their POSITIVE role in evolution as opposed to just their negative effects on limiting natural selection. He said,
The concept of constraint must include theoretically legitimate and factually important positive meanings—i.e., constraints as directing causes of particular evolutionary changes—rather than only the negative connotations of structural limitations that prevent natural selection from crafting an alteration that would otherwise be favored and achieved.
How do your views differ from what Gould wrote about so extensively in 2001?


  1. Larry,

    Every theory without evidence sooner or later is exposed and dies. This is not the first time within the last 150 years of nonsense that Darwinian theory of evolution is exposed and could be dying. Noble and a bunch of "nobles" are trying to save it by implementing into it the science that exposed it in the first place. We have seen this before. They think that by doing it, they will save the world of science that manipulated people for so many years. They hope to continue this nonsense as long as someone stops it. But who could stop it? Who has the power to say: "No more nonsense"!

    My only hope is that Designer is running out of patience and will step in. If I were the designer, this would be the perfect time to do it with the internet and news spreading through out the world within seconds.
    What gives me confidence it that ALL dictatorial systems eventually have eventually failed. The dictatorship of evolutionists has to end one day. I'm hoping it is sooner rather than later...

  2. Larry

    the meeting will be a EXCELLENT oportunity for you to show that the elaboration of intelligent design hypotheses and predictions to elucidate if intelligence was a driving force to create life, and biodiversity, is perfectly scientific. It has as much right and it should be dedicated as much efforts and time to develop these theories and test them, exactly same as naturalistic ones, since design is logically a absolutely possible mechanism, beside natural, non guided mechanisms.

    You have shown great courage to stand up in contrast of the big majority of your colleagues, that think no other mechanisms beside natural ones should be permitted to be mentioned, hypothesized and formulated in scientific mainstream literature.

    Time is come to make a distinction between methodological naturalism, which has its reason to be, when elucidating how something works ( operational science ) , but it should not be applied to sciences of origins, or historical sciences, which deal with entirely different questions, namely : How did things originate in the first place. This question has 3 possible answers : chance ( non-guided natural ) mechanisms, design, and physical necessity. Scientists should be able and have the permition to test all 3 possibilities, disconsidering personal preferences and philosophic backgrounds of the respective scientists. Prejudice and bias should have as little as possible place in science.

    You even mentioned that the supernatural should be scrutinized by science. I have yet to see how you think that should be done....

    So: What about you stand up with Paul Nelson, which said would also participate at the meeting, and provide or propose a REAL REVOLUTION in scientific thinking to your colleagues ? Should the time not be over, where everybody outcries, when a scientific paper has following title:

    Proof of God in the Palm of Your Hand! ??!!

    I know i know. Its just my wishes i express, which are unrealistic... but, anyway.... do miracles not happen sometime ? LOL.

  3. I doubt Brakefield would suggest that evolutionary theory needs and overhaul. And I doubt Brakefield's views would really differ with the Gould quote either. However, the difference between Brakefield and Gould is that Gould just wrote about stuff, whereas Brakefield actually tries to test hypotheses in a lab. He's more of an experiementalist, whereas Gould is a smart raconteur. Brakefield and his then-post doc Anthony Frankino published a superb paper in Science in 2005 on if and how natural selection can break developmental constraints using butterflies as a model system.

    1. Gould was a working scientist. He published many papers on his work in the field and in paleontology labs. Punctuated equilibria, for example, was based on actual research results.

      Do you know why Bakerfield is speaking at a conference that advertises changing evolutionary theory if he doesn't advocate such change? Is his role to simply add more experimental evidence to support ideas that have been around for decades?

    2. Why do Futuyma and Lande speak?

      Brakefield provided highly interesting experimental evidence on phenotypic plasticity and constraint. I would doubt him to have any sort of ideological agenda. He's just the British top scientist available.

    3. I'm aware of Gould's career. Apart from his shell work, I would guess that he wouldn't have necessarily considered himself to be a laboratory scientist. He didn't collect any of the data that punc-eq was based on. They were Eldredge's (and it was really Eldredge's idea in the first place based on his 1971 paper).

      Lots of invitees on that list are puzzling to me. It seems they are there for balance, or ...who knows why? But I don't see Laland, Futuyma, Lande, Brakefield, ever publishing stuff calling for a wholesale change of evolutionary theory.

    4. I stand corrected. Just re-looked at the Eldredge/Gould 72 paper and one of the two datasets was Gould's. My apologies.

  4. If I correctly understand. this is about boundaries in what anatomy, or anything in bodies, can do.
    This is important to this YEC because evolutionists will say marsupials look like other creatures, but unrelated, from cionvergence acting within boundaries.
    Yet what are these boundaries? They could only be basic things?
    Flight only has so many options for creatures. thats why they wing it,or jump or glide or use vortices etc.
    There is only so much that can be worked with.

  5. Brakefield is an evolutionary biologist without cranky ideas. He has done valuable experimental work on Bicyclus development and evolution, using several experimental approaches. He might well be the best scientist of the lot.

    1. I second that. I know Paul Brakefield from his time in Leiden, and he is a very skilled evolutionary biologist with a keen interest in phenotypic plasticity and evo-devo.