Re: [asa] (fruit flies???) A Message from the RTB Scholar Team

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Tue Apr 22 2008 - 19:32:12 EDT

Some additional issues:

Funding for research on evolution isn't all that great. Except in the
case of developing new things for agriculture, there's not all that
much that's been done in terms of trying to generate new species,
though there's a fair amount of work that's been done on examples more
or less in the wild (often with a component of human impact as well).
It's also debatable as to just what one would want in a new species of
fruit fly-you cetainly don't want to create an agricultural pest, for
example. There are studies on bacteria and viruses, which have very
fast mutation rates, but defining a species is a problem. In terms of
genetic variation, a "species" of bacterium is probably at least
equivalent to a family of eukaryotes, if not a higher unit. Different
types of bacteria (growth style, etc.) do emerge from such studies.
There have also been a number of projects to genetically redesign
bacteria or other organisms to do useful jobs, but these generally do
not focus on speciation.

Defining a species is quite problematic and contentious-I'm revising a
paper to resubmit, and a major reason why it didn't go over well with
reviewers in the first round was the misperception (due to poor
writing on my part) that we were using a particular definition of
species. However, in most cases we've got a pretty good idea.
Exceptions: Some groups of organisms are hard to sort out for various
reasons (such as lack of easily measured features or high
variabillity); some organisms are weird in some way (e.g., delineating
species in asexually reproducing forms is a problem); and because
evolution is a continual process, some organisms are part way through
the process of speciating, making it difficult to decide whether they
are there yet or not. Then there are the people who think anything
remotely similar is all one species and the people who think that
every specimen is a different species.

In reality, this situation poses more of a problem for folks like RTB,
Wells, and some young-earthers who try to claim that species cannot
transform into other species without miraculous assistance than to
people who agree that species are mutable.

Macroevolution versus microevolution: In biology, macroevolution is
used either to refer to evolutionary events at the species level and
above or to such events that involve different mechanisms from the
ordinary population-level factors. In the context of antievolutionary
claims, "macroevolution" is really "evolution I don't believe" and
"microevolution" is "evolution I accept (maybe grudgingly)". Thus,
any documented transition can be dismissed as microevolution if
denying it doesn't seem to work. Likewise, ID can claim to accept
microevolution while rejecting macroevolution even though individuals
differ widely on what falls under "evolution I accept". Behe and
Wells do not believe the same thing about evolution.

Many species seem to have diverged over as much as a few million
years, so even speeding things up a lot might not give you results in
the lab soon enough to get a good rate of publication.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Tue Apr 22 19:33:26 2008

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