Sunday, April 24, 2005

odd bedfellows...ID and evo-devo

As I wrote here, ID proponents, aka stupid creationists, continue to cite people who work in evo-devo to show how much trouble evolutionary biology is really in. Paul 'god (or aliens?) did it' Nelson writes a bit about it over at He cites Arthur Wallace, a prominent evo-devo proponent who wrote:

“How can a theory of evolution that purports to explain how creatures with trillions of cells arose from unicellular beginnings lost in the mists of pre-Cambrian time be taken seriously if all it tells us is that differential rates of destruction can alter the genetic composition of populations? How are the new variants that natural selection spreads through populations created in the first place? Although the phrase ‘creation science’ carries disreputable connotations because of its frequent use by some religious fundamentalists, we truly need some ‘creation science’ (in the other sense of that phrase) as a major component of evolutionary theory.”

Then Nelson writes that by reading Wallace's new book:

"'ll learn a lot of biology, and a lot about what evolutionary theory needs -- and has yet -- to explain."

Ok. Yes. Clearly there are a lot of things that modern evolutionary theory has not, in practice, explained. From this one can not infer the following:

(1) Evolutionary biology cannot IN PRINCIPLE explain these things and (2) we must resort to a designer to explain them

Of course one of the biggest developments in biology (no pun intended) in the last couple of decades is in evo-devo, as it has come to be called. The push to include developmental considerations into evolutionary theory. Now I don't know much about evo-devo, but I know that no serious evo-devo proponent thinks that we can infer design from complex traits.

They certainly don't feel the need to invoke a designer.

They value the naturalism of science and have good reason to believe that IN PRINCIPLE we can explain all biological phenomena (except maybe the origin of life??) without recourse to a conscious designer.

I myself think that the origin of life itself can as well be explained without recourse to a conscious designer. The origin of the universe (if there was one)? I don't know enough physics to say. But I imagine it's a lot sketchier than even the origin of life. There are actually some pretty well worked out models of the origin of life that do not involve conscious designers.

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