Neo-Darwinism on the ropes

There have been a number of scientific discoveries that challenge the thesis of Neo-Darwinism.1 And many people that I have talked to about Neo-Darwinism are not aware of these significant obstacles to the theory. These problems are not of the sort that can just be dismissed due to theoretical objections like, say, the objection of circularity in a theory. Here is an example of what is meant by a problem of circularity:

Darwin suggested that one of the evidences for common descent was homology—or various characteristics of creatures being homologous (Homology here just means similarity). But then if one defines homology as common descent, you can no longer use it as evidence for common descent.
How do we know that feature B descended from feature A? Because B is homologous to A. How do we know that B is homologous to A? Because B descended from A.

This is not something you want to do in your scientific theory. And yes, this type of circularity is a problem, but the issues being presented in this article are not of that sort.

The significant issues facing Neo-Darwinism are evidentiary in nature; namely, there is empirical evidence indicating the theory is not sufficient to account for what is being observed in science. And in fact, there are a number of very prominent biologists who are rejecting Neo-Darwinism because of these evidences. Here are just a few of them:

James Shapiro – Dept. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology; Univ. of Chicago
Dennis Noble – Dept. of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics; Univ. of Oxford
Eugene Koonin – Evolutionary Genomics Research Group; NCBI

You can read more about them at this website: www.thethirdwayofevolution.com. These gentlemen (and many others on that website) have openly rejected Neo-Darwinism. It needs to be made clear that they do not endorse creationism or intelligent design due to philosophical objections. But they specifically do reject Neo-Darwinism.

So what are their evidentiary objections? They are at least four in number:

Symbiogenesis: which “refers to the origin of new tissues, organs, organisms—even species—by establishment of longterm or permanent symbiosis.”2

Horizontal DNA transfer: “non-genealogical transmission of genetic material from one organism to another”3

Action of mobile DNA: “DNA sequences that have the ability to change their position within a genome.”4 This is also known as transposable elements.

Epigenetic modifications: “stable, often heritable, changes that influence gene expression that are not mediated by DNA sequence … these epigenetic features can be modified, or erased in response to developmental cues or external and environmental stimuli.”5

The reasoning for these items as problems for Neo-Darwinism is, as they say on the third-way website, because “Neo-Darwinism ignores (these) important rapid evolutionary processes” and that “… some Neo-Darwinists have elevated Natural Selection into a unique creative force that solves all the difficult evolutionary problems without a real empirical basis.” Remember that Neo-Darwinism (and Darwinism) is based on gradualism: a slow, continuous change. These four biological features overturn this major tenet.

These issues for Neo-Darwinism are of no small matter. They need to be recognized and understood. And I know of very few people that are even aware of these discoveries, let alone the reasons why they are a challenge to Neo-Darwinism.

But now you know.
 

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Published 2/4/19

A Universal Code?

Richard Dawkins, probably the most well-known biologist in the world, said in his book The Greatest Show on Earth that “…the genetic code is universal, all but identical across animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, archaea and viruses.”1 (screenshot).  This echoes his earlier thoughts from his book The Blind Watchmaker where he says that “The genetic code is universal,” and that he regards this “as near-conclusive proof that all organisms are descended from a single common ancestor”2 (screenshot).

We can plausibly summarize his statements as follows:

1. If there is a universal code, then there is a single common ancestor.

On February 12th, 2011 The Science Network hosted a panel discussion entitled The Great Debate – What is Life? (link) The guests of the panel were Richard Dawkins, J. Craig Venter, Nobel laureates Sidney Altman and Leland Hartwell, Chris McKay, Paul Davies, and Lawrence Krauss.

In one of the exchanges (here) between Davies and Venter, Venter (who specializes in genetic sequencing) states that there is more than one genetic code. And that the particular code he was referring to (mycoplasmas) would not work in the human body. He went on to say to Davies that “there is not a tree of life.” And he called the tree of life an “artifact of early scientific studies that aren’t really holding up.”

Dawkins responded to Venter shortly after the exchange with this comment and question, “I’m now intrigued by Craig saying … that the tree of life is a fiction. The DNA code of all creatures that have ever been looked at is all BUT identical. Surely that means that they are all related. Doesn’t it?” Venter just chuckles, and the audience laughs.

So, just how many genetic codes are there? When I first stumbled across this information on 1/18/16 there were 18 codes. As of 5/16/18 there are 24 codes. These codes are listed on The National Center for Biotechnology Information website here.

Perhaps we can continue with the logic that these discoveries suggest.

2. There is not a universal code.

Then it would follow that, therefore,

3. There is not a single common ancestor.

This conclusion would pose a significant problem for Dawkins’ earlier suggestions as well as for the idea of LUCA (last universal common ancestor). Now of course this is provisional. Maybe some other type of evidence will come up showing that there is a single common ancestor. But as it stands right now, that hypothesis doesn’t seem to be holding up to the latest discoveries from genetic sequencing.

There’s a lot more than can be said about this topic, but I think we’ll leave it at this for now.

H/T
Jay Wile’s blog (link) is where I first discovered this information.
Evolution News (link).
 

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Published 5/17/18