A new study (Hughes 2011) in the Nature Publishing Group journal Heredity proposes a new non-Darwinian mechanism for the origin of adaptive phenotypes. Its author, Austin L. Hughes of the University of South Carolina, pioneered statistical methods for detecting positive selection at the molecular level with geneticist Masatoshi Nei (Hughes & Nei 1988). He later had the hubris in 2007 to question the majority of inferences to positive selection based on those methods (Hughes 2007). Now he’s proposing a mechanism for adaptive evolution that renders Darwin unnecessary.
If positive selection may be thought of as the promulgator of novelties, purifying selection is the damage control. The latter is an easy affair; selection has only to “nip in the bud” any mutations that render an organism disadvantaged. However, only the former is Darwinian, and it is much more ambitious; positive selection may only act effectively on a mutation that increases the fitness of an organism’s phenotype so as to overwhelm random noise.
– P.J. Levi , No Positive Selection, No Darwin: A New Non-Darwinian Mechanism for the Origin of Adaptive Phenotypes, Evolution News & Views, November 14, 2011.
Note to bench scientists: There is still time to back out of reading this and forget you ever heard it. Your career tending Darwin’s idol is at stake. You were born for that, right?
Maybe the thing needs new dresses or something. Not that we care. We just think that a scientist should be looking to the evidence, not the Word from the Beard. Sorry.
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