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evolution-digest Friday, April 2 1999 Volume 01 : Number 1381


Date: Fri, 02 Apr 1999 00:11:41 -0500
From: Tim Ikeda <>
Subject: Re: Genes and Development Conference

Brian wrote to Kevin...
> But I don't think your answer is quite to the point I was
> trying to make. How could we predict ancestry ["how a new species
> would evolve from an old species"] from a theory which decouples
> form from ancestry?

Genetics, molbio, biochemistry... There is no reason to assume that
the decoupling will occur at all levels. And there are many good
reasons to think this is not the case.

Earlier Brian included exerpts from Webster and Goodwin:
"We suggest that what is required is the development of a specific
causal-explanatory theory of form, a theory of morphogenesis
in the most comprehensive sense, and that such a theory will
be as fundamental to biology, if not more so, at least as
the theory of evolution. We contest the current view that
such a theory is merely a supplement to the theory of
evolution and, consequently, that it should be couched in
terms of a 'genetic programme'. [...]"

This is where I think Goodwin et al are guilty of making a bit of a
strawman, re: evolution & genetic programs. Most biologists/biochemists
(& etc) have understood for years that simply knowing gene sequences or
"genetic programs" would only provide one part of the puzzle. One reason
why molecular biology has had so much airtime is that it has gotten _so
much easier_ to do. We simply focus on the problems that have accessible
solutions. Molbio also provided us with tools to crack problems that we
couldn't before. But through this whole process, most of us stayed grounded
in the understanding that having sequence data alone will not answer many
of the questions we're interested in. We knew that "pacman" models of
transcriptional activators only told a part of the story. We knew that
genomics is of limited use in studying things like the mechanics of
metabolism. So when people like Goodwin rail against the dogmas of gene-
centricity, I think that they should be submitting their comments to
"Duh!" the scientific journal of the bloody obvious (I've made similar
comments of Coyne's writings previously). Sure, it's an easy rhetorical device
to make a boogeyman of genetic programs, but that's not a dogma held by most
of the biochemists I've encountered.

These people (Goodwin et al.) make grandiose statements about where their
"new" paradigms will take them in answering the mysteries of life -- but
inevitably their concepts are absorbed and assimilated (or spit out) without
the predicted bloodbath of a violent revolution. Hardcore biochemists are
like the Borg, and as difficult to impress.

- - "Did you know that your old vacuum doesn't sweep up everything? There are
carpets that don't work according to models of simple Mendelian

- - "Well, 'Duh!' That's why we're picking up some things slowly, by hand. Have
you got anything that works better?"

- - "Err, no, not yet, but we're developing specs for a holistic megafield
It will be powered by a platonic generator so you'll never have to worry
tapping into messy historical contingencies ever again. It's vaporware at
moment but I promise we'll have an alpha version out real soon, anytime now.
But, I'm so sure that it will completely supplant anything else on the
market that I think you should get your order in, TODAY!... how many of these new babies should I put you down for?"

[a door] *Slam!*

Tim Ikeda (despam address before use)


Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1999 22:14:37 -0800
From: Pim van Meurs <>
Subject: RE: Where's the Evolution?

> Of course the best example of nature creating complexity is
> evolution itself.

CumminsL No, that's a bad example because you're not using an empirical
you're using your own interpretation of circumstantial evidence as an

Pim: Not at all, one can observe how evolutionary processes create
complexity. For instance the change from single cellular to multicellular

Ami: As sound as the theory of evolution is, isn't it still a theory?

The theory is, the fact isn't.

Ami: The ability of things to evolve naturally, step by step, from simple to
is a prediction of evolution.

I disagree, there is no prediction or necessity in evolution to increase

Ami: Therefore, to invoke the predictions of the theory itself to prove the
theory is a bit circular, isn't it?

Likely but that is not the case here.


Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1999 22:18:22 -0800
From: Pim van Meurs <>
Subject: RE: Evolution's Imperative

Kevin to Cummins: It's not hard to be ignorant of something that never =
happened; read the
scientific literature.

But that would require Cummins to actually read and understand that =
which he opposes. And not to mention all this literature is severely =



Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1999 22:21:05 -0800
From: Pim van Meurs <>
Subject: RE: Where's the Evolution?

Brian Harper: BTW, don't be too influenced by Cummins :). The "ability =
of things=20
to evolve naturally, step by step, from simple to complex" is not,
actually, a prediction of evolution. Believe it or not, it is
still a point of controversy as to whether evolution (the actual
process as opposed to a theory) results in a *general* trend
toward increasing complexity. Yes, of course, there are cases
where this has occurred. But it is not certain that this is a
generally anticipated outcome for all evolutionary change. Note
here that we are talking about the facts of the matter (what has
actually occurred?, does complexity always increase?, usually?).

Indeed, thanks for the link. Cummin's argument collapses in the lack of =
evidence supporting his assertion about indefinite increase =


Date: Fri, 02 Apr 1999 01:08:30 -0800
From: Cliff Lundberg <>
Subject: Re: Peppered Moths - in black and white

Kevin O'Brien wrote:

>It is not a matter of being wedded to anything; "microevolution" is
>legitimate evolution, as Darwin established and subsequent research has
>continuously demonstrated.

Does this temporary change in allele frequencies really satisfy your
wish to know how evolution occurred? Is it fair to call it an example of
how complex organisms evolved?

>True, but by restricting any discussion of evolution in general to
>"macroevolution" they hope to eliminate the clear evidence based on
>"microevolution" that evolution is a real phenomenon and instead force all
>debate into an arena where they think there is no evidence to support

There may be no direct evidence of macroevolution; but it's not logical to
dismiss it. Macroevolutionary theory is necessary to save evolutionary
theory; it's not a creationist plot.

Cliff Lundberg ~ San Francisco ~


End of evolution-digest V1 #1381