Thursday, September 10, 2015

Discovery Institute upset that Darwin didn't have a Crystal Ball

I came across this phrase on a recent pot at the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and View "Life Continues to Ignore What Evolution Experts Say" and it made me do a little thinking.  I have previously said that the DI seems to live in a time bubble ("Sorry Darwin, it isn't your Evolution anymore? Are you kidding?") and have tried to narrow any arguments about evolution to about 1861 when Darwin originally published.  This article is a prime example.  Look at the author's continual use of the phrases 'Darwinian' and 'Non-Darwinian'.  Since she is speaking of parts of Evolution that also weren't covered by Stephen Jay Gould, why isn't she calling is 'Non-Gouldian Biology'? 

Since 1861 there have been many changes to the Theory of Evolution (TOE).  Often I've tried to remind people that the TOE isn't a single theory, but a large collection of theories, including (but not limited to) Natural Selection, Mutation, Gene Drift, Punctuated Equilibrium . . ..  Each theory brings clarity to the whole.  Biology includes the TOE, of which part is Natural Selection.

At no time do real scientists equate all of biology to just what Darwin contributed, not even any 'lay hearers' (see the quote below) who stayed awake in Jr High Biology class.  So Denyse builds a straw-man about contemporary biological knowledge and then seeks to demolish it.  In no way does that diminishes Darwin's contributions, but it shows that DI arguments always seemed to be aimed at Darwin, regardless of whether or not the critique is applicable.  Here is an example:

"One motif recurs: Darwinian evolution -- which most lay hearers assume to be "evolution" period -- assumes that evolution is vertical: Organisms take their form from genes inherited with slight modifications from their ancestors through their parents. And these slight changes add up gradually over time to immense and profound changes.
Non-Darwinian biology studies mechanisms for evolution that don't really work that way, including horizontal gene transfer and epigenetic change."
So, Denyse is complaining that in 1861 Darwin didn't foresee horizontal gene transfer or epigenetic change.  Does Denyse, in her apparently finite wisdom, remark that genetics started small with a paper that came out 4 years after Darwin published?  Did she completely ignore that the work of Gregor Mendel had been set aside and not re-discovered until the early 20th century?  I'm a little surprised that she isn't also complaining that Darwin didn't know the structure of DNA (1953).  Instead she picks on gene transfer (1968) and epigenetics (1942).  (Note: both gene transfer and epigenetics are older than that, but those years relate to the work Denyse is talking about and the impact on modern biology) See what I mean?  Biology has changed greatly in the last century and a half, but the DI is still whining about Darwin, what Darwin did, and especially what Darwin didn't know.  I guess she expects Darwin to have had a crystal ball?  She, and her bosses, can't seem to join the rest of us in the 21st century without finding some way to take a dig at Darwin.  Childish, isn't it?

In the real world, no one studies 'Darwinian' Biology, or 'Darwinian' Evolution, it's Biology and Evolution.  They keep making this artificial distinction just so they can take cheap shots.  Darwin's work is a part of the whole, an important part to be sure, not one that should be trivialized like this.  What I find funny is that who is doing all this work on gene transfer and epigenetics?  Those fellows at the DI?  No, it's real scientists doing actual science, not armchair Creationists who keep trying to market that they aren't Creationists!  All the DI can do is try and put an anti-science spin on everything they touch.

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