Re: Especially for Bertvan

Susan Brassfield (
Tue, 5 Oct 1999 16:33:47 -0600

>Bertvan [to Cliff Lundberg]:

> I think the fossil
>record indicates macro didn't happen gradually.

Gould and Eldridge would be gratified to hear you say this.

>In my opinion the mechanisms
>of macro evolution are completely unknown.

unless "things were different back then" or the mechanism changes when we
are not looking, I think that natural selection seems to account for it

>In the absence of plausible mechanisms of macro evolution, all explanations
>can be considered at this point, including:

>Design. It seems arrogant for any scientist to state he knows life is not
>the result of any design.

Design is a religous question because of that pesky problem with the
designer. When we start talking designer we start talking leprachauns
again. Evolutionary biologists have no way to detect design in such a way
that it stands out from naturalism and therefore do not address it. That's
a job for creationists and "design theorists."

> Special creation. Unless you believe in gradualism, the creation of
>radically different organisms can certainly be viewed as special.
>Senapathy's belief that the pattern for the mature organism was contained in
>the original DNA, while eminently naturalistic, could be viewed as "special

The special creationsts won't back any naturalistic explanation at all, as
far as I recall. They want creation ex nihilo exactly as it is described in
the Bible. Anything else--including what you have suggested here--is

>Forms of Lamarckism, such as mutations influenced by "use" (Spetner). ("Use"
>can be directed to some degree by "will", something science will probably
>remain unable to measure.)

Without knowledge of genes or DNA Cuvier refuted Lamarkism. Cuvier died in
1832. I've never bothered to check what arguments he used because it's been
a dead issue for nearly 200 years. The problem with "will" directing
evolution would lie in the genes, I think. How would the willed changes
pass from one generation to another, other than by genes? How would the
correct genes be altered by an act of will? (and can I watch?)

>Symbiosis--which could also include an element of "will". (Margulis doesn't
>speak kindly of Neo Darwinism, and I suspect most militant neo Darwinists
>remain hostile to holism and the Gaia concept.)

You are going to have to go into a bit more depth on this one. I can
imagine how lichens got together "accidentally" but I can't imagine them
doing it by the use of willpower.

>DNA which is alive and creative (unexplainable by science, and not definable
>by mathematics at this point). Who could state with certainty that creative
>DNA could not be the result of a design? ( Kauffman, of "intricate order",
>also does not speak kindly of neo Darwinism.)

science doesn't speak to design, it's a religious issue. However, DNA is
sort of alive and sort of creative, so you'd need to explain a bit more on
this one, also.

>Panspermia. Lots of interesting ideas here, and the panspermia people are
>outspoken in their criticism of Neo Darwinism.

one wonders how the "panspermians" got there. Did *they* evolve? or did
someone "panspermia" *them*? And if so, did *those* organisms evolve? or
did someone pan sperm them? Is it panspermia all the way down to the bottom?

> I see no reason to try to "outlaw" consideration of any combination of these
>and other possibilities, as the defenders of Neo Darwinism seem eager to do.

working scientists ignore them because they don't fit with any of the
observed data, are unprovable speculations. Defenders of neodarwinism (like
myself) only play around with them because people like you toss them out
for consideration. If you toss something out for consideration, it's going
to be considered. If it has weaknesses the weakness will be pointed out.
That's how these discussion e-mail lists work. We discuss stuff. We bring
logic and data to (hopefully) support our assertions.

>Hopefully, most of the combative "defenders of neo Darwinism" aren't real
>scientists. Many of the best scientists must surely be busy searching for
>alternatives to gradualism.

Gould and Eldridge published their research on puncutated equilibria (the
idea that evolution isn't always gradual) in the late 70s. So real
scientists probably aren't spending a lot of time on finding alternatives
to gradualism which have already been found.



"Life itself is the proper binge."
--Julia Child