Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Darwin: Fact and Fiction

Alice C. Linsley

“In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.” - Charles Darwin in a Letter to John Fordyce, 1879

Darwinian evolution hinges on 4 aspects: mutation, adaptation, common ancestry and natural selection. The first two are facts. The second two lack physical evidence. The unity of biological life can be explained by paradigms other than common ancestry. There is no physical evidence to support the view that apes and humans share a common ancestry. This in spite of 100 years of frantic searching for the fossil evidence. In fact, the evidence suggests that humans appeared suddenly and fully human on the surface of the Earth about 4 million years ago. These were fully human, though anatomically archaic, not modern. Modern human anatomy emerges after about 200,000 years ago.

Natural selection does seem to happen, but it cannot be taken as a law of biology since many creatures thrive who are not particularly well adapted to their environments. Even Richard Dawkins has reservations about humans and natural selection. He states, "As Darwin recognized, we humans are the first and only species able to escape the brutal force that created us, natural selection….We alone on earth have evolved to the point where we can…overthrow the tyranny of natural selection.”

He makes a case for altruism emerging from kinship and tribal reciprocity and attempts to explain how the "selfish gene" makes humans unique among the other living creatures. He believes we have a "lust to be nice." Using Dawkins' logic, we might argue that the survival of humans over these millions of years suggests that from the beginning we have been both self-defensive and altruistic. That suggests that natural selection has never been a big factor in human evolution.

Finally, natural selection cannot explain the origin of first life.

To those unfamiliar with the particular problems faced by scientists trying to explain the origin of life, it might not seem obvious why invoking natural selection does not help to explain the origin of the first life. After all, if natural selection and random mutations can generate new information in living organisms, why can it also not do so in a prebiotic environment? But the distinction between a biological and prebiotic context was crucially important to my argument. Natural selection assumes the existence of living organisms with a capacity to reproduce. Yet self-replication in all extant cells depends upon information-rich proteins and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), and the origin of such information-rich molecules is precisely what origin-of-life research needs to explain. That’s why Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the founders of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, can state flatly, ‘Pre-biological natural selection is a contradiction I terms.’–Stephen C. Meyer (Darwin’s Doubt, p. viii)


David Anderson said...

Newton couldn't explain where gravity came from. Should we doubt his laws because of that?

natural selection cannot explain the origin of first life.

Alice Linsley said...

Einstein couldn't explain the origin of gravity either, but his work radically shifted our understanding of how gravity works.

The origins question is the most difficult of all. Natural selection is evident in extant forms and in some fossils, but it cannot be used to explain the sudden appearance of complex Cambrian creatures (530 million years ago) and the sudden appearance of archaic humans (c. 4 million years ago). This is why some evolutionary biologists are openly calling for a new theory. The Altenberg 16, for example, doubt the creative power of random mutation and natural selection to generate life.