I suspect that almost every week there’s at least one article published somewhere that undermines Darwinian theory.
Now using the term, ‘Darwinian theory’, might ruffle some people’s feathers. Yet, without Darwinian theory, neo-Darwinism makes no sense; it lacks any intellectual foundation. And, so, here we are inching towards the 200th anniversary of Origin of Species and 21st-Century evolutionary biologists remain saddled with 19th-Century thinking.
With that said, this “week’s” article comes from Phys.Org and it offers a newer understanding of rice domestication. We find out that the results of an international collaboration “suggest that the emergence of cultivated rice from wild rice plants is the result of three gene mutations that make the seeds (i.e. the grains of rice) fall from the plant less easily.” They tell us that they believe “the domestication of wild rice began when our ancestors discovered and started to cultivate rice plants that do not drop their seeds easily, paving the way for stable rice production.”
Now why should this be a problem for “Darwinian theory”? Because Darwin’s firm belief is that “natural selection” is much more powerful than even artificial, or human, selection. He says: “But Natural Selection, as we shall hereafter see, is a power incessantly ready for action, and is immeasurably superior to man’s feeble efforts, as the works of Nature are to those of Art.”
So, the power of “natural selection” is a power always ready to act and one that is “immeasurably superior to man’s feeble efforts.” Yet, the researchers found that “each of the three mutations individually have little effect but when all three mutations are present the panicles of the rice plant retain more of their seeds- resulting in a greater crop yield.” It took humans, then, to “force” nature to go in a direction it desired. And when humans got involved, all three mutations could come together all at once.
In the, “Significance” portion of their abstract, the researchers speak of the ‘significance’ of their work: “We demonstrate that closed panicle formation controlled by SPR3 both increases yield and facilitates recruitment of sh4 and qSH3, which synergistically augment yield, leading to a stepwise model for rice domestication.”
Aren’t we told by evolutionary biologists that Mt. Improbable is climbed in a “step-wise” fashion. Well, here is a stepwise opportunity that natural selection didn’t take. It can be argued, rightly, that it is NOT in the best interest of the wild rice to stick to the plant and not fall down into the earth below where they might find a place to reproduce. However, it seems that a simple THREE-STEP progression is one that nature is unable to make. (Again, it can be argued that if such an occurrence takes place, then the wild type seed will have the advantage and so drive the domesticated type to extinction. Yet one would think that somewhere in the world this would have happened and that those studying nature would have run across them.) The scientists tell us this:
“Non-seed-shattering behavior” caused by sh4 and qSH3 mutations and “closed panicles” caused by the SPR3 mutation are completely unrelated characteristics, however the incidental collaboration between these characteristics is considered to be what enabled rice to become a crop.
They then add this parable from the 16th century Japanese warlord Mori Motonari:
“Motonari gave each of his three sons an arrow and they were able to break the individual arrows easily. However, a bundle of three arrows is stronger and by showing his sons that three arrows together could not be broken, he explained that the three of them should work together govern the land. In rice cultivars, three mutations that have little effect on their own incidentally work together—an important stepping stone towards the success of rice as a crop.”
Applied here, the parable tells us that “natural selection” can’t “find” domesticated rice–the force against it is like the three arrows: too strong for NS to break through. But humans, on the other hand, had very little difficulty in bringing about this change. So, if NS is really a power “immeasurably superior to man’s feeble efforts,” then why can artificial selection bring about what NS has not brought about in nature?
The dachshund and the Great Dane were not brought about by “Nature”. Has any fossils been recovered corresponding to these forms? Yet man has brought them about. Why does this 19th century way of thinking hold any influence in our 21st century world? Is it the intransigence of science?