Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Defectors from Darwin

1 comment:

  1. Jerry Coyne said:

    "Virtually all of the non-creationist opposition to the modern theory of evolution, and all of the minimal approbation of [Coyne's University of Chicago colleague James] Shapiro's views, come from molecular biologists. I'm not sure whether there's something about that discipline (the complexity of molecular mechanisms?) that makes people doubt the efficacy of natural selection, or whether it's simply that many molecular biologists don't get a good grounding in evolutionary biology."

    1. So someone doesn't subscribe to "the modern theory of evolution" because he doesn't have "a good grounding in evolutionary biology"? Isn't that a bit like saying someone doesn't subscribe to communism because he doesn't have a good grounding in Marxism or socialism or the like?

    Of course, it's entirely possible someone does have a good grounding in evolutionary biology but doesn't subscribe to it.

    Or it's entirely possible someone doesn't have a good grounding in evolutionary biology but subscribes to evolutionary biology.

    2. In the case of molecular biologists, many evolutionists routinely tell us that evolution occurs at the molecular and cellular level. Take viruses, for instance. (Although at least to my knowledge that's not actually debated by those who argue against evolution since viral evolution can be subsumed under microevolution.) Fundamentally speaking, what's a virus but genetic material (RNA, DNA) surrounded by a protein coat? At the risk of stating the obvious, genes and proteins operate at the molecular and cellular level.

    True, molecular biologists aren't necessarily microbiologists too. (As I'm sure Coyne is aware, molecular and cell biologists can work in fields as disparate as genetics and genomics, immunology, biochemistry, biophysics, neurobiology, etc.) Similarly not all physicists are necessarily, say, theoretical physicists. However a particle physicist's knowledge and work can inform other areas of physics.

    There's a lot of overlap in terms of knowledge about evolution between molecular biology and evolutionary biology though.

    I'd also argue molecular biologists are far closer to the fundamentals of life's inner and outer workings than evolutionary biologists like Coyne or Dawkins. In fact, the origins of life itself deal with life at the molecular level (e.g. RNA world).

    Granted this is speculation but, for example, I wouldn't be surprised if most molecular biologists have a more rigorous mathematical background than "top" evolutionary biologists like Coyne.

    Anyway, I sometimes wonder if it isn't possible modern evolutionary biology is so top heavy with theory that it has all but capsized its empirical roots, perhaps not unlike something like string theory.