My verdict: An embarrassing climb-down for Professor Moran
Reading Professor Moran’s post, I was struck by its muted tone. Moran believes that “some evolution at the morphological level can be attributed to … random genetic drift,” including “neutral morphological changes and a small percentage of detrimental morphological changes.” He admits that “Neutral Theory and random genetic drift … are not very good at explaining most adaptations,” adding that “the vast majority of complex structures seem to be adaptations of one sort of another.” He then tentatively proposes that “there are many ‘functions’ and ‘behaviors’ that are neutral,” but concedes that “it’s difficult to rule out any adaptive component.” He finally acknowledges that “natural selection plays an important role in the origin of most complex structures and novel adaptive morphological features,” but goes on to suggest that “there are likely to [be] many ‘novel morphological features’ that are non-adaptive.” However, since Professor Moran has already conceded that “the vast majority of complex structures seem to be adaptations of one sort of another,” it is difficult to know what to make of his last suggestion.
How about this: There is no neutral theory of evolution, but there are evolutionary biologists who wish there were. And as soon as they reveal the fact that they might be considering escape plans, thy have to backtrack. It’s okay, This is what retirements are for.
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