Imagine! Serious discussions. And none of that “we’re the voice of Science!” bilge.
Richard Buggs on the non-Darwinian way genes behave:
A SERIES OF PAPERS from Peter Holland’s lab at the University of Oxford and the lab of his former postdoc Jordi Paps at the University of Bristol investigate patterns of gene presence and absence in plants and animals. These patterns are described in terms of gene gains and losses within a bifurcating phylogeny whose topology is derived from other sources. The authors make the assumption that each gene can be gained only once, but can be lost multiple times.
The four studies find that organisms with different morphologies possess different sets of genes. Given that genes provide much of the information encoding the morphology of living organisms, this finding may not seem a surprise. That novel genes do not accumulate with Darwinian gradualism in the phylogeny is perhaps more surprising. The authors describe bursts of innovation: upon the origin of placental mammals, 357 novel genes; upon the origin of the metazoan, 1,189 novel genes; upon the origin of the land plants, 1,167 novel genes; and upon the origin of the flowering plants, 2,525 novel genes.
Equally surprising is evidence that the patterns of presence and absence of many genes in these studies do not form a nested hierarchy congruent with the accepted phylogeny…
Excerpt: All four studies under review found massive gene losses for phylogenetic nodes at the base of the major groups of living organisms. This suggests that major evolutionary transitions do not occur solely by means of tinkering with existing genes. Instead, it seems that vast numbers of existing genes are jettisoned and replaced by entirely different ones. Such processes would represent a radical overhaul in the genetic composition of organisms. How this might be accomplished is another mystery.Richard Buggs, “The Origin of Novel Genes” at Inference Review
James Shapiro (the self-organization theorist), reviewing Henry Heng’s Genome Chaos
Genome Chaos is a book of no small ambition. Based on his experience in cancer cytogenetics, Henry Heng invites readers to rethink the role of the genome in determining the hereditary properties of cells and organisms. He distinguishes between gene-centric and genome-based views of heredity and argues that the physical organization of the genome incorporates a higher systems level of information beyond its genes or coding sequences. For Heng, genes are rather like a parts list capable of encoding proteins and RNAs that can be assembled and used in many different ways to produce cells and organisms with quite distinct properties. In making his argument, Heng challenges a number of notions about the genotype–phenotype relationship.James Shapiro, “From Genes to Genomes” at Inference Review
Lawrence Krauss, trashing fine-tuning of the universe:
We are either alone in the universe, or we are not. If we are, then we have essentially won a cosmic lottery. Of the billions of planets in our galaxy, and the billions of galaxies in the universe, a series of conditions arose allowing roughly four billion years of quiescent evolution, interrupted by periodic catastrophes—like the meteor that sixty five million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs—that altered the course of evolution but did not exterminate life. If we find we are alone in the universe, or at least find no evidence for life anywhere else, does this suggest that the universe was created for us? It would seem an awful waste of space. To design a whole universe requiring over 100 billion galaxies, each containing 100 billion stars lasting over 13 billion years, just to allow the evolution of one species on one planet less than a million years ago seems like a remarkably inefficient design.
An intelligent designer could have done better, would have done better, and should have done better. Similar biological arguments apply to the poor design of humans.Larry Krauss, “Cosmology Without Design” at Inference Review
Hey, it’s all free too. Read, think, and make up your own mind while you still can.
Added and in combox at 10 below:
Some of us were glad to see that Krauss was given a chance to say his piece at Inference Review because recently, after getting Canceled himself, he has started to speak out against Cancel Culture. See “Larry Krauss returns as a free speech champion.“
No, he’s no hero. But whatever the justice of accusations against him (to the best of our knowledge they do not involve convictions for criminal activity):
So where are we? If Krauss is the ass many take him for, it won’t be hard to bring him down by honorable methods in a fair fight. If not, his personal issues are not a defeater of sound arguments he might make.
To think otherwise is to give up on the intellectual life. And many have. Many, many university claques today keep several civil rights groups for academics busy around the clock.
See also: Seem to recall that an aggrieved author tried to Cancel Inference Review at Undark and got nowhere. Not then anyhow.
Hat tip: Philip Cunningham