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(Reformed) New Scientist 12: Evolution favors some outcomes, not others

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Readers may recall that New Scientist published an article some days ago on 13 ways we need to “rethink the theory of nature.”

Their Number 12 rethink is … evolution favours certain outcomes

Most of the article is paywalled but here’s the gist of #12:

If certain characteristics can develop more easily than others, than we should expect to see recurring patterns in nature. Developmental bias could be behind a fascinating quirk of evolution called parallel radiation: the phenomenon in which a species in one location diversifies into several distinct forms and, independently, the same diversification occurs in a different location. A famous example is cichlid fishes living in Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika in Africa. Each lake contains many different species that show striking similarities in the variety of body shapes to species in the other lake, despite being more closely related to those living in their own lake. These body shapes adapt species to particular niches or diets, so must have evolved by natural selection. But the forms the fish take arenʼt necessarily the only possible adaptive solutions. This suggests there are features of cichlid development that make some body types more likely to arise. – Carrie Arnold

Michael Le Page , Colin Barras , Richard Webb , Kate Douglas and Carrie Arnold, “Evolution is evolving: 13 ways we must rethink the theory of nature” at New Scientist (September 23. 2020)

So “Each lake contains many different species that show striking similarities in the variety of body shapes to species in the other lake, despite being more closely related to those living in their own lake” but “These body shapes adapt species to particular niches or diets, so must have evolved by natural selection.” But wait! The traditional argument for natural selection acting on random mutations (Darwinism) was that the species would be similar to more closely related species. If they’re not, … Well, we learn, “But the forms the fish take arenʼt necessarily the only possible adaptive solutions. This suggests there are features of cichlid development that make some body types more likely to arise.”

In other words, there is a world out there and it isn’t Darwin’s.

See also:

(Reformed) New Scientist 11: On life forms evolving without changing genes. This just in: The Selfish Gene has left the building in tears. They shouldn’t even have been discussing this.

(Reformed) New Scientist 10: They take horizontal gene transfer seriously now. At New Scientist: “‘Yeast and bacteria have fundamentally different ways of turning DNA into protein, and this seemed like a really, really strange phenomenon,’ he says.” They ain’t seen nothing yet. If you subtract the “random mutation” from “natural selection,” what’s left of Darwinism? By the time the Raging Woke hammer down Darwin’s statue, chances are the New Scientist crowd will have forgotten who the old Brit toff even was. Shrug.

(Reformed) New Scientist 9: Survival of the Luckiest At New Scientist: “But evolution can also occur through a non-adaptive process called genetic drift, whereby a gene may become dominant in a population purely by chance… ‘Genetic drift can definitely be a significant driver of evolution,’ says Miles.”

(Reformed) New Scientist 8: Evolution can happen very quickly. Does anyone remember Darwin’s claim: “It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, wherever and whenever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life.” Yes, that “daily, hourly” thing seems quaint to us too. It probably even seems quaint over at New Scientist, given the stuff they’re saying now.

(Reformed) New Scientist 7: Niche construction can shape evolution. To say that “Traditionally, biologists thought of niche construction purely as a consequence of natural selection. However, that argument doesnʼt always work” is to say that neoDarwinism is not THE theory of evolution. Just in: Richard Dawkins has left the building. And New Scientist has become a more interesting publication.

(Reformed) New Scientist 6: Lamarck is out of the doghouse! At New Scientist: “Today, there is evidence of Lamarckian evolution – of a sort… ‘It reorients how we think about the adaptive process,’ he says.”

(Reformed) New Scientist 5: Species don’t really EXIST? Then what was On the Origin of Species about? Never mind.

(Reformed) New Scientist 4: There is more to inheritance than just genes. At New Scientist: “Subsequent studies in plants and animals suggest that epigenetic inheritance is more common than anyone had expected. Whatʼs more, compared with genetic inheritance, it has some big advantages. Environments can change rapidly and dramatically, but genetic mutations are random, so often require generations to take hold.” Just think, within a few years, genetics might start to make some sense. You’ve got to hand it to the New Scientist gang; when they rethink, they really do.

(Reformed) New Scientist 3: The selfish gene is no longer cool. At New Scientist: “Some researchers think the solution lies in an idea called cultural group selection. Forget shared genes, they argue: selection can favour cooperative groups if the people within them share enough culture. ” Darwin has left the building and returned to his estate.

(Reformed) New Scientist 2: Evolution shows intelligence. At New Scientist: “‘Maybe, evolution is less about out competing others and more to do with co-creating knowledge,’ says Watson.” That really is a radical idea. Radical yes, but it really is a good idea. We find it hard to improve on. The only thing we can think of is, keep the “intelligent” part in your description of nature and add “design.”

(Reformed) New Scientist 1 on the genome: Not destiny. Sure but then what about the famous twin studies that were supposed to prove so much about human nature? No? Then it’s probably best for the New Scientists to just get out of the “gene for that” hell while they can.

and

At New Scientist: We must rethink the (Darwinian) theory of nature. If by “our greatest theory of nature,” the writers mean textbook Darwinism, well the new concepts they list are destroying it. What becomes of “natural selection acting on random mutation” if a variety of means of evolution are “natural,” mutations are not necessarily random, genes aren’t selfish and don’t come only from parents, and the fittest don’t necessarily survive? Just for a start…

2 Replies to “(Reformed) New Scientist 12: Evolution favors some outcomes, not others

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    I bumped into a rare thoughtful question on Quora.com, which is mainly the usual partisan crap:

    “How is it possible that there are so many medicinal and generally helpful plants for humans and animals to use? Why are there so many?”

    This seems like a good springboard for evolution vs design, without an immediately obvious answer. Some animals, like pandas, require exactly one food. Others, like humans, can use and benefit from many sources, including some that are more medicinal than nutritional.

    Intuitively it seems to me that evolution should favor the more adaptable, and design would tend to create “just right” food sources for each animal. I’m not happy with this impression, and it’s probably wrong.

  2. 2
    doubter says:

    I wonder if the final number 13 in this series of “radical rethinkings” of Darwinism will finally really have something. So far there has been nothing that would answer the primary failures of Darwinism, in particular in explaining the actual origin of innovative and ingenious new biological designs in very short (as evolution goes) periods of time. The Cambrian Explosion is the primary example of this.

    The closest so far are pretty weak and don’t really answer the basic problem:

    # 2 Evolution has some sort of intelligence (a general and ambiguous remark at least in the synopsis – it would need to be creative and analytical intelligence, and there apparently is no explication of how this could be manifested by life)
    # 6 There is genuine Lamarkian inheritance (of a sort) – doesn’t explain complex intricate irreducibly complex biological systems
    # 10 Horizontal Gene Transfer – this just transfers part of the origin problem to other organisms, plus doesn’t solve the problem that subsystems developed by other organisms are unlikely to be compatible

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