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Neo-Darwinism is inadequate for modern medicine?

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That seems to be the message of a recent paper in Science:

Abstract Molecular biology and evolutionary biology have been separate disciplines and scientific cultures: The former is mechanistic and focused on molecules; the latter is theoretical and focused on populations. However, these domains are beginning to converge in laboratories addressing molecular mechanisms that explain how evolutionary processes work, and bring these processes to bear on medical problems such as cancer and infectious disease. Each discipline can be viewed as a missing link in the other’s description of biology, and in medicine.

This part, of course, is paywalled (but also quoted here) :

Traditional evolutionary biology began in the 1930s with the “modern synthesis,” which fused Darwin’s theses on phenotypic variation and selection with Mendel’s concepts of genetic inheritance to explain the source of biological diversity. This synthesis predated knowledge that genes were made of DNA and of the structure of DNA and how it replicates. Thus, molecular mechanisms could not be integrated into concepts about how phenotypic variation is generated. Instead, assumptions had to be made about the origins of the variation that drives evolution. Among the cornerstone assumptions were that mutations are the sole drivers of evolution; mutations occur randomly, constantly, and gradually; and the transmission of genetic information is vertical from parent to offspring, rather than horizontal (infectious) between individuals and species (as is now apparent throughout the tree of life). But discoveries of molecular mechanisms are modifying these assumptions. …

In short, going to court and censoring profs isn’t going to do the needed work.

Also quoted here by writer Philip Ball, who notes,

This is all no great surprise. Why on earth should we expect that a theory drawn up 80 or so years ago will remain inviolable today? As I am sure Darwin expected, evolution is complex and doesn’t have a single operative principle, although obviously natural selection is a big part of it. (I need to be careful what I say here – one ticking off I got was from a biologist who was unhappy that I had over-stressed natural selection at the molecular level, which I freely confess was a slight failure of nerve – I have found that saying such things can induce apoplexy in folks who see the shadows of creationism everywhere.) My complaint is why this seemingly obvious truth gets so little airplay in popular accounts of genetics and evolution. I’m still puzzled by that.

Ball apparently doesn’t realize that Darwinism is the creation story of new atheism, and must therefore be held inviolate.

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7 Replies to “Neo-Darwinism is inadequate for modern medicine?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to this question:

    Neo-Darwinism is inadequate for modern medicine?

    Yes it is inadequate for modern medicine!

    “Certainly, my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution. Nor did Alexander Fleming’s discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin. I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin’s theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No.,,, In the peer-reviewed literature, the word “evolution” often occurs as a sort of coda to academic papers in experimental biology. Is the term integral or superfluous to the substance of these papers? To find out, I substituted for “evolution” some other word – “Buddhism,” “Aztec cosmology,” or even “creationism.” I found that the substitution never touched the paper’s core. This did not surprise me. From my conversations with leading researchers it had became clear that modern experimental biology gains its strength from the availability of new instruments and methodologies, not from an immersion in historical biology.”
    Philip S. Skell – (the late) Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Podcasts and Article of Dr. Skell

    Evolution (Not) Crucial in Antibiotics Breakthrough: How Science is Actually Done – Cornelius Hunter – Sept. 2012

    “In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, and physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.”
    Marc Kirschner, Boston Globe, Oct. 23, 2005

    “While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky’s dictum that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas. Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superflous one.”
    A.S. Wilkins, editor of the journal BioEssays, Introduction to “Evolutionary Processes” – (2000).

    In fact Darwinism has nothing to do with medical diagnostics:

    Darwinian Medicine and Proximate and Evolutionary Explanations – Michael Egnor – neurosurgeon – June 2011

    Moreover, to the extent that Darwinian thinking has influenced medical diagnostics it has led to much medical malpractice in the past:

    Evolution’s “vestigial organ” argument debunked
    Excerpt: “The appendix, like the once ‘vestigial’ tonsils and adenoids, is a lymphoid organ (part of the body’s immune system) which makes antibodies against infections in the digestive system. Believing it to be a useless evolutionary ‘left over,’ many surgeons once removed even the healthy appendix whenever they were in the abdominal cavity. Today, removal of a healthy appendix under most circumstances would be considered medical malpractice” (David Menton, Ph.D., “The Human Tail, and Other Tales of Evolution,” St. Louis MetroVoice , January 1994, Vol. 4, No. 1).
    “Doctors once thought tonsils were simply useless evolutionary leftovers and took them out thinking that it could do no harm. Today there is considerable evidence that there are more troubles in the upper respiratory tract after tonsil removal than before, and doctors generally agree that simple enlargement of tonsils is hardly an indication for surgery” (J.D. Ratcliff, Your Body and How it Works, 1975, p. 137).
    The tailbone, properly known as the coccyx, is another supposed example of a vestigial structure that has been found to have a valuable function—especially regarding the ability to sit comfortably. Many people who have had this bone removed have great difficulty sitting.

    And to the extent that Darwinian reasoning has influenced the development of effective medicines for humans it has also sent such research down a blind alley and billions of dollars down the drain:

    What scientific idea is ready for retirement? – Mouse Models
    Excerpt: A recent scientific paper showed that all 150 drugs tested at the cost of billions of dollars in human trials of sepsis failed because the drugs had been developed using mice. Unfortunately, what looks like sepsis in mice turned out to be very different than what sepsis is in humans. Coverage of this study by Gina Kolata in the New York Times incited a heated response from within the biomedical research community.
    AZRA RAZA – Professor of medicine and director of the MDS Centre, Columbia University, New York

    Animal Testing Is Bad Science: Point/Counterpoint
    Excerpt: The only reason people are under the misconception that animal experiments help humans is because the media, experimenters, universities and lobbying groups exaggerate the potential of animal experiments to lead to new cures and the role they have played in past medical advances.,,,
    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has noted that 92 percent of all drugs that are shown to be safe and effective in animal tests fail in human trials because they don’t work or are dangerous.,,,
    Physiological reactions to drugs vary enormously from species to species. Penicillin kills guinea pigs but is inactive in rabbits; aspirin kills cats and causes birth defects in rats, mice, guinea pigs, dogs, and monkeys; and morphine, a depressant in humans, stimulates goats, cats, and horses.

    The reason why such testing for new medicines has such a high failure rate is because, completely contrary to evolutionary reasoning, the physiology of how networks of genes react to a particular medicine in each species is unique to each species. And thus the reaction of any particular species to a particular medicine cannot be predicted with any confidence from testing one species and expecting the same results to apply to humans. For instance, the Bacteria Essential for Immune Function is found to be ‘species specific’:

    Our Microbes, Ourselves: Billions of Bacteria Within, Essential for Immune Function, Are Ours Alone – ScienceDaily (June 21, 2012)
    Excerpt: Chung repeated the experiment, only this time populating a third group of mice with microbes common to rats. This new group showed the same immune system deficiency as the humanized mice. “I was very surprised to see that,” Chung said. “Naturally, I would have expected more of a half-way response.”

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    To drive this ‘uniqueness of each species’ point home, contrary to Haeckel’s Bogus Embryo Drawings which most of us learned in grade school,,,

    Haeckel’s Bogus Embryo Drawings – January 2011 – video

    ,,, embryonic development is now found to be unique for each species:

    The mouse is not enough – February 2011
    Excerpt: Richard Behringer, who studies mammalian embryogenesis at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas said, “There is no ‘correct’ system. Each species is unique and uses its own tailored mechanisms to achieve development. By only studying one species (eg, the mouse), naive scientists believe that it represents all mammals.”

    This uniqueness in embryonic development includes unique Chimp and Human development:

    Evolution by Splicing – Comparing gene transcripts from different species reveals surprising splicing diversity. – Ruth Williams – December 20, 2012
    Excerpt: On the other hand, the papers show that most alternative splicing events differ widely between even closely related species. “The alternative splicing patterns are very different even between humans and chimpanzees,” said Blencowe.,,,

    Gene Regulation Differences Between Humans, Chimpanzees Very Complex – Oct. 17, 2013
    Excerpt: Although humans and chimpanzees share,, similar genomes (70% per Tomkins), previous studies have shown that the species evolved major differences in mRNA expression levels.,,,

    Also of note, disrupting developmental gene regulatory networks (dGRNs) is always ‘catastrophically bad’:

    A Listener’s Guide to the Meyer-Marshall Debate: Focus on the Origin of Information Question -Casey Luskin – December 4, 2013
    Excerpt: “There is always an observable consequence if a dGRN (developmental gene regulatory network) subcircuit is interrupted. Since these consequences are always catastrophically bad, flexibility is minimal, and since the subcircuits are all interconnected, the whole network partakes of the quality that there is only one way for things to work. And indeed the embryos of each species develop in only one way.” –
    Eric Davidson

    Darwin or Design? – Paul Nelson at Saddleback Church – Nov. 2012 – ontogenetic depth (excellent update) – video
    Text from one of the Saddleback slides:
    1. Animal body plans are built in each generation by a stepwise process, from the fertilized egg to the many cells of the adult. The earliest stages in this process determine what follows.
    2. Thus, to change — that is, to evolve — any body plan, mutations expressed early in development must occur, be viable, and be stably transmitted to offspring.
    3. But such early-acting mutations of global effect are those least likely to be tolerated by the embryo.
    Losses of structures are the only exception to this otherwise universal generalization about animal development and evolution. Many species will tolerate phenotypic losses if their local (environmental) circumstances are favorable. Hence island or cave fauna often lose (for instance) wings or eyes.

    As a sidenote to this, it should be noted that embryonic development has yet to be modeled successfully in any satisfactory detail. i.e. there are still huge gaps in our knowledge as to where all the information is stored and how it is all coordinated during development:

    A Piece from the Developmental Symphony – February 2012
    Excerpt: Embryonic development is an astounding process that seems to happen “automatically.”,,, The timing of each step is too precise and the complexity is too intricate to assume that these processes are the mere accumulation by happenstance of changes to regulatory genes. Each gene plays its role at a certain time, and like a symphony, each is activated and silenced in turn such that the final result is a grand performance of orchestrated effort that could only have occurred through design.

    Shoot, we have scant hope of ever truly understanding a fully operational organism in any detail, much less any hope of piecing together the ‘miracle’ of embryonic development in any detail:

    “Complexity Brake” Defies Evolution – August 2012
    Excerpt: “This is bad news. Consider a neuronal synapse — the presynaptic terminal has an estimated 1000 distinct proteins. Fully analyzing their possible interactions would take about 2000 years. Or consider the task of fully characterizing the visual cortex of the mouse — about 2 million neurons. Under the extreme assumption that the neurons in these systems can all interact with each other, analyzing the various combinations will take about 10 million years…, even though it is assumed that the underlying technology speeds up by an order of magnitude each year.”,,,
    Even with shortcuts like averaging, “any possible technological advance is overwhelmed by the relentless growth of interactions among all components of the system,” Koch said. “It is not feasible to understand,, organisms by exhaustively cataloging all interactions in a comprehensive, bottom-up manner.” He described the concept of the Complexity Brake:,,,

    Verse and Music:

    Jeremiah 1:5
    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;,,,

    Mandisa – Esther – Born For This – music video

  3. 3
    awstar says:

    Question: Is Neo-Darwinism inadequate for modern medicine?

    Neo-Darwinism: breakage (random mutations) and death (natural selection) are good.

    modern medicine: This body isn’t working the way it’s designed to work. How do we fix it.

    What could possibly be inadequate about evolutionary biology?

  4. 4
    Joe says:

    awstar- Yes neo-darwinian evolution is the reason for modern medicine!

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Casey Luskin weighs in:

    Science Review Article: “Nothing in Evolution Makes Sense Except in the Light of Biology” – Casey Luskin – March 12, 2014
    Excerpt: One of those now-overturned assumptions, which underlies virtually all of modern population genetics, “molecular clock” studies, as well as the highly criticized methods often used to infer natural selection in genes, is that mutations are random and occur at a constant, gradual rate:,,,
    “Mutations are also nonrandom in genomic space — for example, forming hot spots at DNA double-strand breaks, as demonstrated in bacteria and suggested by local clusters of mutations in cancer genomes.”,,,
    Their conclusion, however, is telling:
    “The evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky famously noted that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” but perhaps, too, “nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of biology.””,,,
    ,,, In fact, it seems that a lot of evolutionary claims no longer makes sense in the light of biology.

  6. 6
    Dionisio says:

    Don’t we have clear examples of the beneficial effects neo-Darwinism has had on medical progress?
    Wasn’t the generally accepted assumption that most of the DNA was junk what kept many researchers from looking into that area for quite some time, thus allegedly causing substantial delays in the discovery of newer treatments for many diseases? Ideas have consequences.

  7. 7
    Paul Giem says:

    This claim has never made much sense to me. On either Part I or Part II of National Boards, I do not remember any questions that depended on megaevolutionary theory for their answer (BTW, IANMTU. See See Simpson, G. G. 1944. Tempo and mode in evolution. Columbia Univ. Press, New York). And I do remember most of the questions. I got 3 1/4 standard deviations above the mean on Part I (the basic science part) and 2.6 standard deviations above the mean on Part II, so it wasn’t just that I was too dumb to recognize the megaevolutionary angle to the questions.

    The tests may be different today, but I am told by people who take the test that there still aren’t a significant number of questions about megaevolution on the Boards. Maybe the examiners are falling down on their jobs 😉 .

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