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 Thoughts on Evolution


'A whale's flipper does not do the same job as a bat's wing,
so if these structures had been uniquely engineered,
we would expect that their basic designs would be very different.'

(Campbell, Biology)

Man creates. So how can we truly understand the mechanism of evolution? Why do we consider an experiment on the self-directed evolution of RNA enzymes as proof of natural selection, even though the conditions, including those for the selection process, have been designed by a scientist?

The theory of evolution is a unifying framework in biology. It has a complicated history, however, not because it is controversial among scientists, but because it provides a naturalistic explanation of why we are here, even who we are, humans, that is. The theory of evolution invokes an entirely natural rather than a supernatural mechanism - natural selection - to explain the origin of species.

Much is being written about chance and necessity, the pre-biotic origin of life, nature as a designer, or the value of biodiversity for the present and future survival of mankind, which is different from the survival of life as such. There is nothing in the theory of evolution that would indicate which combination of species is best suited for human survival. Since we do rather well today, the thinking is that preserving the status quo is indeed necessary and that species loss threatens the current ecological 'balance'. This thinking is understandable, since we can 'see' what we can loose, yet we are unable to see evolutionary innovation that may well create a new status quo equally suitable to human existence.

Evolution is not about ...

... the survival of the fittest ... yes, that is you social darwinists (= Spencerism).

... directed evolution, aka artificial selection ... yes, that is you synthetic biologists.

... intelligent design ... yes, that is you creationists.

... balance and equilibrium ... yes, that is you conservation biologists.

Evolution works because ...

... it produces change through trial and error.

... natural selection, genetic drift and gene flow alter allele frequencies.

... sexual selection generates genetic variation.

... horizontal gene transfer creates rapid genetic variations even across species

And keep in mind ...

... natural selection cannot fashion perfect organisms, because natural selection acts only on existing variations, is limited by historical constraints, requires compromises (no selfish genes), and intersects with chance and the environment.

Celebrating Charles Darwin | Principles of Biology
Why Intelligent Design (a.k.a. Creationism) is not a Science
Whose Afraid of Invasive Species? | Better life by design?

 Copyright © 2000-2012 Lukas K. Buehler