The issue is that most people understand common descent entirely from a Darwinian perspective. That is, they assume that the notion of natural selection and gradualism follow along closely to the notion of common descent. However, there is nothing that logically ties these together, especially if you allow for design.
In Darwinism, each feature is a selected accident. Therefore, Darwinian phylogenetic trees often use parsimony as a guide, meaning that it tries to construct a tree so that complex features don’t have to evolve more than once.
The ID version of common descent, however, doesn’t have to play by these rules.
Okay, but first: The immense significance of genome mapping to discussions of common descent is not appreciated as yet by the educated public. That is partly because it was an unlooked-for change. Everyone thought that genome mapping would confirm and strengthen textbook Darwinism.
The fact that genome mapping did the opposite is not easy to process. And it is certainly not welcome to tenured Darwin mediocrities and union-driven schoolteachers (never mind the Pants in Knot Street Theatre or Bimbette from Airhead TV).
As I noted elsewhere re common descent (common ancestry):
But now, since genome mapping became routine, the unthinkable has happened: Actual genomes do not demonstrate the Tree of Life in the neat and orderly way that underlies Darwinian accounts of evolution. They could hardly be expected to do so, given the creativity many life forms exhibit with their own genes via natural genetic engineering, horizontal gene transfer, epigenetics, and a crowd of other mechanisms. The Tree of Life has become a bush or a circle of life. More.
Darwinian evolution of life forms which are assumed to be derived from a single common ancestor billions of year ago can no longer be assumed to be a correct account of how a given life form comes to have the genes it does. In the face of a variety of possible mechanisms, natural selection acting on random mutation must just take a number and wait for its turn to come up by way of explanation.
Expect much more Darwinblather still, especially from pop science mags—maybe even more frantic Darwinblather and more menacing cant about their “anti-science” foes. But, no matter how many careers they wreck, it is all basically over for that stuff anyway.
It also seems to me that incorporating design into a science explanation requires harmonizing information with matter and energy. How is information instantiated, for a start? One can no longer just interpose Darwinblather, like it was ether or phlogiston or something.
As G. C. Williams put it,
Evolutionary biologists have failed to realize that they work with two more or less incommensurable domains: that of information and that of matter. I address this problem in my 1992 book, Natural Selection: Domains, Levels, and Challenges. These two domains will never be brought together in any kind of the sense usually implied by the term “reductionism.” You can speak of galaxies and particles of dust in the same terms, because they both have mass and charge and length and width. You can’t do that with information and matter. Information doesn’t have mass or charge or length in millimeters. Likewise, matter doesn’t have bytes. You can’t measure so much gold in so many bytes. It doesn’t have redundancy, or fidelity, or any of the other descriptors we apply to information. This dearth of shared descriptors makes matter and information two separate domains of existence, which have to be discussed separately, in their own terms.
That is why the upcoming What is information? conference should be of interest to all here.
See also: What IS information, when so many sciences disagree?
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