It is often said that while there are many controversies within evolution as to the specifics of how evolution works, there is no controversy about the fact of evolution. Often times, when ID’ers talk about problems with evolutionary theory, they are accused of misrepresentation — that certainly there are controversies about aspects of evolution, but not controversies about the fact of evolution itself. Thus, any amount of doubt that might be brought on by these criticisms are washed away by the fact that these are mere quibbles over details.
However, the truth is that many of these controversies are pointing somewhere, though sometimes connecting the dots explicitly is sometimes difficult to do. However, recently Paul Nelson wrote an wonderful post about just one controversy which could shake evolution’s foundation to its core — the micro/macro debate. On one side are those who are population geneticists, who say that you can’t have giant sweeping mutations that make huge jumps all-at-once — that all evolution must follow standard population genetics. On the other side are the developmental biologists, who point out that the integrated nature of the developmental circuitry governing body plans mean that evolution _must_ occur in big jumps all-at-once. Now, both of these sides fully believe in evolution. So let’s see what Paul has to say about this:
Suppose that, for his part, Coyne is right that viable macromutations don’t happen, and that the rules of population genetics must be obeyed in any evolutionary scenario.
But suppose that, for their part, Erwin and Davidson are right about the signal of the fossil record (rapid discontinuity) and the nature of body plan specification (novel architectures can’t be built incrementally, because that’s not how they work developmentally).
What happens to the theory of the common descent of the animals? — a theory, by the way, that all parties to this dust-up hold as a given.
That’s the body prone on the barroom floor. Unconscious, and bleeding all over the place.
Now, the interesting thing is that while I am with Nelson and disagree with common descent myself, the only legitimate way to save common descent is with ID. Holistically designed parts is the only way through this. There may have been a common descent that occurred, but it certainly didn’t occur without massive frontloading or the continuous intervention of a designer. The holistic nature of many biological structures points to a designed origin. These structures may have developed from previous types, but they did not evolve along non-telic lines.
And this is why, in a larger context, controversies within evolution do in fact often point towards a controversy about evolution itself. The bibliographies of biology papers expressing problems with evolution are valid even when their authors themselves don’t think that their results cast doubt on evolution itself. When you start adding up the problems within evolutionary theory, because of cases like this that it quickly becomes apparent that there is a larger problem not being discussed that isn’t within evolutionary theory, it is about evolutionary theory.
But that’s the unconscious and bleeding body on the floor that noone wants to speak of.