Darwinism Evolution

Lee Spetner on Darwin’s iconic finches

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Product Details Further to What’s happened since Icons of Evolution (2002)? Well, for one thing, Darwin’s textbook finches took a beating (no speciation)

From The Evolution Revolution by physicist Lee Spetner:

The proximate biochemical signal evoking the change in beak shape [of Galapagos finches] has been discovered to be a protein growth factor Bmp4. The more Bmp4 that is made, the broader and deeper is the bird’s beak. This protein acts as a signal to the development of the craniofacial bones which determines the beak’s shape. If my suggestion is correct that the hormones triggered by environmental inputs affect embryonic development, then those hormones induce these growth factors to form the finch beak….The built-in mechanism of the NREH [Non Random Evolutionary Hypothesis] enables the bird population to adapt to a new environment quickly and efficiently without having to call upon the slow and wasteful neo-Darwinian process of random mutation and natural selection. p. 76

Note from reader:

Spetner’s Non Random Evolutionary Hypothesis proposes that certain genetic traits lie dormant within the genomes of various living things until environmental cues turn them on and they appear in the next generation. In other words, living things are front loaded with a host of options which allow for rapid and specified adaptations for various enviroments. There is neither chance nor selection in this process. Moreover, it also accounts for the rapid return of smaller finch beaks when the drought ceases. It points towards exquisite design and accounts for the variability of Darwin’s finches without invoking the confusions of natural selection. If mutations are random, why is it that thicker, larger beaks appear reliably with every drought on the Galapagos Islands? Why don’t longer tail feathers or unusual colors appear? If natural selection works slowly and imperfectly, why are the changes in beak size so rapid? If the mutations are embedded in the genomes of the birds, why do they disappear so quickly when conditions change?

Here for more on Spetner’s The Evolution Revolution.

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27 Replies to “Lee Spetner on Darwin’s iconic finches

  1. 1
    Bob O'H says:

    That should be easy enough to test – if Lee Spetner can suggest what other birds would show the same response, and what the environmental cues would be, it could be done in the home (if you have a spare room for the birds, and if they’ll breed in flights and aviaries).

    BTW, when were Darwin’s finches ever seen as an icon of speciation?

  2. 2
    Andre says:

    Darwin’s finches as an icon of evolution…… All over the place really, why would you question it?

    http://evolution.about.com/od/.....inches.htm
    http://www.biology-online.org/.....ection.htm
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolut.....16_02.html
    http://people.rit.edu/rhrsbi/G.....Finch.html

    Harvard makes it clear what they represent….

    “Darwin’s finches are the emblems of evolution.”

    http://news.harvard.edu/gazett.....nches.html

    Darwin’s just so story exposed…..

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/info/10.1086/674899

    Icon = a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something

    Emblem = an object or its representation, symbolizing a quality, state, class of persons, etc.; symbol:

    Icon does not = emblem?

  3. 3
    Virgil Cain says:

    Bob O’H- are you doubting epigenetics?

  4. 4
    wd400 says:

    Seems like this hypothesis was disproved right at the start of the Grant’s work on these species. The beak traits are heritable within species and in inter-species crosses. So it’s not just some environmental effect, but something that is passed on. I guess you can add some epicycles to save something like this idea, but there is no reason do (and you end up only swapping epialleles in for DNA alleles which doesn’t make much difference).

    Your correspondents question about who frequently beak shape changes after droughts is answered by the fact those changes don’t have much to do with mutation — they are mainly very small changes culled from the standing diversity of the population.

  5. 5
    Virgil Cain says:

    Epigenetic effects are passed on, wd400.

  6. 6
    bFast says:

    Bob O’H, “That should be easy enough to test.” I propose a much more straightforward test. Lets find another tropical island that has periods of drought, one that has no finches on it. Lets put finches on it, and see how long it takes for them to develop fat beaks. When they develop fat beaks, lets test their DNA to see if anything meaningful changed.

    Simpler yet, lets put finches in a controlled environment, I don’t know, a large fenced off area in a desert where they are sure to get the necessary drought conditions. That way we aren’t introducing new species anywhere, and the greens won’t scream.

  7. 7
    wd400 says:

    Right Joe, but if we ignore the fact there is little evidence for trans-generational epigenetics in animals (where the germline-soma split makes many of these stories very implausible) and hold that there are stable epialleles being passed down where to we end up?

    Differential survival relative to hertiable variation? Don’t we already have a theory for that?

  8. 8
    Virgil Cain says:

    wd400:

    but if we ignore the fact there is little evidence for trans-generational epigenetics in animals

    “Evolution in Four Dimensions” doesn’t agree with that.

    Differential survival relative to hertiable variation?

    Differential survival relative to directed heritable variation. Which is different than- Differential survival relative to random/ happenstance heritable variation.

    Don’t we already have a theory for that?

    There isn’t a scientific theory of evolution. Just people saying one exists, which isn’t the same thing as one actually existing.

  9. 9
    wd400 says:

    Differential survival relative to directed heritable variation.

    Where the evidence of it’s directedness is that Spetner says so?

  10. 10
    Virgil Cain says:

    wd400:

    Where the evidence of it’s directedness is that Spetner says so?

    As opposed to evolutionary say-so that all genetic changes are happenstance? But I digress. We can model evolution that is being directed. That is exactly what genetic and evolutionary algorithms are- directed evolution. See also “Evolution: A View from the 21st Century” by James Shapiro. There seems to be a plethora of genetic changes controlled by the organism.

    But how can we model undirected processes?

  11. 11
    wd400 says:

    Are you seriously asking how to model random draws from probability distributions?

    For evidence of undirected genetic changes you can start and Luria and Delbrück and keep going.

  12. 12
    Virgil Cain says:

    wd400:

    Are you seriously asking how to model random draws from probability distributions?

    No, not even close. How can you model undirected processes producing IC, for example?

    For evidence of undirected genetic changes you can start and Luria and Delbrück and keep going.

    Read them. They didn’t show the mutations are happenstance. All they did was show the variation already existed when the anti-biotics were administered.

    Try again…

  13. 13
    wd400 says:

    Read them. They didn’t show the mutations are happenstance. All they did was show the variation already existed when the anti-biotics were administered.

    Bacteria the see the future…

  14. 14
    anthropic says:

    WD 13 “Bacteria then see the future…”

    Well, bacteria’s creator/programmer certainly did.

  15. 15
    Virgil Cain says:

    No need to see the future when bacteria have been exposed to mold and other natural anti-biotics for many generations. Via quorum sensing and other chemical signals they can coordinate the changes such that the variation spectrum is covered. They only need to guarantee the survival of one in order for the population to continue.

  16. 16
    Mapou says:

    They were designed from the start to adapt. No need for voodoo mutations, and not even natural selection in this case. Evolution is totally useless.

    Besides, the combinatorial explosion kills Darwinian evolution dead. It’s the simple math that always tells you when some charlatan with a chip on his shoulders is selling you a pile of crap.

  17. 17
    Seversky says:

    Spetner’s Non Random Evolutionary Hypothesis proposes that certain genetic traits lie dormant within the genomes of various living things until environmental cues turn them on and they appear in the next generation. In other words, living things are front loaded with a host of options which allow for rapid and specified adaptations for various enviroments.

    Has anyone considered the larger implications of this claim? Spetner is a creationist although whether of the Young Earth persuasion I’m not sure. If he accepts the current best estimate for the age of the Universe which puts it at 13.82 billion years then, leaving aside the question of who did it, we have to ask when did this front-loading occur?

    Was it at or just after the Big Bang, around 9 billion years before the star and the planet where the birds would eventually live even existed? Did this Intelligent Designer know which galaxy out of the billions which came to exist would be The One. Did he or she or it know which out of the billions of stars which would form that galaxy – but which didn’t exist at that time – would be The One that would eventually harbor life, including, eventually, one species of small bird that would need an extra “app” in its genome that would allow it to eat nuts when they were in season. And if it was “front-loaded” that early, where was it front-loaded to?

    Was it at the formation of our Solar System around 4.6 billion years ago? That would still be over four billion years before even the therapod dinosaur ancestors of modern birds existed. Again, if that’s the case, where was this front-loaded information stored?

    Was it stashed away in the genomes of the therapod dinosaurs themselves against the time when their distant descendants would need tough beaks?

    Finally, there is that fact that an Intelligent Designer with an accurate foreknowledge of the future poses the same threat to the possibility of free will as does an omniscient deity. If the future already exists and thus can be known then it will happen. Our will is irrelevant.

  18. 18
    Lee Spetner says:

    bFast, Bob O’H
    The experiment has already been done with finches. Here is a quote from my book The Evolution Revolution:
    “… in a controlled study, finches were introduced to an island that previously had no finches (Conant 1988, Pimm 1988). In 1967, about 100 identical finches were removed from a U.S. Government Bird Reservation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and were taken about 300 miles away to a group of four small atolls lying within less than ten miles of each other, which had no native finches. The birds were released onto one of these islands, and they soon spread to all of them. Seventeen years later, when the birds were first checked, they were found to have a variety of bill shapes and to be adapted — both by their behavior and by their bill shapes and associated muscles — to various niches. This was a speeded- up form of the conventional scenario of Galapagos finch evolution. In seventeen years, and possibly less, the finches had diversified into various niches.”
    For the effect of Bmp4 on other birds see
    Wu, P., T.-X. Jiang, S. Suksaweang, R. B. Widelitz and C.-M. Chuong (2004) Molecular Shaping of the Beak. Science 305(5689): 1465–1466.

  19. 19
    Mapou says:

    Seversky @17,

    Man, give us a break with that huge chip on your shoulder. This is debate about finches, their beaks and their innate ability to adapt, not your pet peeve against fundamentalist Christianity. Nobody cares.

  20. 20
    bFast says:

    Thanks for the response, Dr. Spetner. ‘Sure challenges the neo-Darwinian theory, doesn’t it. ‘Seems that finches are pre-adapted to Galapagos-like conditions.

  21. 21
    Mung says:

    wd400:

    Are you seriously asking how to model random draws from probability distributions?

    Isn’t that what’s required for genetic drift?

    The most fit may die, the least fit may live.

    The effects of random sampling.

  22. 22
    Zachriel says:

    Lee Spetner: Seventeen years later, when the birds were first checked, they were found to have a variety of bill shapes and to be adapted — both by their behavior and by their bill shapes and associated muscles — to various niches.

    Yes, heritable changes occur, resulting in adaptive changes to phenotype.

    Lee Spetner: For the effect of Bmp4 on other birds see Wu, P., T.-X. Jiang, S. Suksaweang, R. B. Widelitz and C.-M. Chuong (2004) Molecular Shaping of the Beak. Science 305(5689): 1465–1466.

    Yes, heritable changes occur, resulting in adaptive changes to phenotype. Didn’t Darwin have a term for this?

  23. 23
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    Yes, heritable changes occur, resulting in adaptive changes to phenotype.

    Yes, however the question is whether or not those changes are happenstance or directed, ie “built-in responses to environmental cues”, Spetner 1997. But then again you have always been fond of equivocating.

  24. 24
    Mapou says:

    Cain to Zachriel:

    But then again you have always been fond of equivocating.

    Zachriel is a master weaver of lies and deception, the resident snake oil salesman par excellence.

  25. 25
    ppolish says:

    “Yes, heritable changes occur, resulting in adaptive changes to phenotype. Didn’t Darwin have a term for this?”

    Well Zachriel, it sure isn’t “survival of the fittest”. Baby birds have different beaks than their parents – and in an eyeblink (17 years). Nature is obviously guided. Obviously.

    Natural Selection with every bird being selected. Everybirdy is s winner. Plethora of cool beaks in an eyeblink. Natural Guidance is awesome.

  26. 26
    Bob O'H says:

    Lee Spetner – Thanks for responding. However, that natural experiment doesn’t help a great deal. Conant showed that beak widths had changed, but not the reasons for it. With a founding population of about 100, there may well be enough standing variation for this adaptation to occur.

    This is why I was suggesting using caged experiments – they are much easier to control, so (for example) offspring from the same family can be placed in different conditions (and cross-fostering can also be done). There are enough bird species that can be bred in captivity that you should be able to find several that would work as good model systems.

    Your explanation for changes in beak size are to do with heredity and how it occurs, so that’s what one would have to concentrate on.

  27. 27
    Zachriel says:

    ppolish: Baby birds have different beaks than their parents

    Yes, they do. Natural variation is a rather important part of Darwin’s argument in Origin of Species.

    ppolish: – and in an eyeblink (17 years).

    Finches can reproduce several times a year, so that represents quite a few generations.

    ppolish: Natural Selection with every bird being selected.

    You mean to say they all were equally reproductively successful? That’s contrary to widespread evidence in biology.

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