Friday, December 23, 2016

Now we're talking about evolution. Not a great move, frankly, blog popularity-wise.

Yeah, writing about evolution in a blog is a great way to 1) attract trolls and 2) flamings and 3) fire- and brimstoning.

Because if you don't write exactly and precisely what everyone wants to read, then they'll come after you with frontal lobotomies and exorcisms and excommunications and really bad language. And they'll say you're stupid. All of them will say that.

Like, it's either TOTALLY RIGHT or it's TOTALLY WRONG.

There are no other options.

So just for fun, let's agree with the article we talked about last time from NewScientist magazine that evolution is in deep need of a fixin'. It has a problem. An issue. It needs to talk to someone about it.

The problem (spoiler alert!) is


Let's just also say that there's evidence for evolutionary change to be found. Lots. Tons.

But let's also say that the assumption that random mutation is 1) the only thing making it happen and is 2) truly random, is 3) just an assumption that we've made up all the way along the way.

It was not Darwin's assumption. He came up with Natural Selection, but not Random Mutation. They didn't have genes then (everybody wore khakis)(sorry, bad joke). Genes were later. Mutation was later. Randomness was later.

Random mutation and natural selection are the way that neo-Darwinian evolution is thought to have always worked. Genetic mutation is random. Natural selection is not.

And OH. BTW. Remember how the thinkers got rid of God (and free will) by using an infinite universe? Which turned out not to be true?

Randomness in Evolution is how the thinkers get rid of God all over again.

That is, if everything is random and nothing happens on purpose and evolution is not heading anywhere ever, especially not towards humans, then

Religion is just wrong to think that man is special. Because humankind, just like everything else, is just a big biological accident.

So. If Randomness is wrong (or mostly or partly or sometimes or frequently wrong), then humans may not be an accident and evolution was indeed heading somewhere and humans may be the where. Maybe. Along with free will. Maybe. And God might exist and might have structured the evolutionary imperatives as, well, imperatives.

You might go back and read the previous post again. So that you'll know where we're going.

Here's a hint: We now know that things other than genes are transmitted from parents to offspring...

That means that something other than random mutation and natural selection is going on.

That, frankly, is earth-shattering news.

Here's another bit: As well as being able to respond in specific ways to particular conditions, organisms seem to have evolved the ability to respond flexibly to whatever conditions they experience...

This allows systems such as the immune system, nervous system

and behavioural systems (through learning) to adjust to meet whatever environment the individual faces.

And finally: ... developmental bias directs evolution ...

So here's what it's saying.

It's saying that rather than, or maybe in addition to random mutation, organisms change deliberately and intentionally to things going on around them.


So evolutionary change is not always, and maybe never is or was random.

It may be sometimes, maybe most times, maybe all times intentional and organized. Specific. As though the organisms responded with deliberate intelligence to figure out what was going on and what they should do about it so that they don't die.

For the religious among the readers, let me tell what this is not. It is not intelligent design. It is not all-at-once miraculous creation. If there is anything intelligent design-y or miraculous-y about it, it is that organisms seem to have an innate, unexpected, surprising, and on the face of it miraculous ability to look around, see what's going on, and do something creative and amazing and generally entirely unexpected and unpredictable to fix it.

For the irreligious, areligious, atheist agnostic skeptical Newtonian readers out there, it is not random and it is not completely or maybe even mostly genetic. It is that via epigenetics, developmental bias, symbiotics, and/or spontaneous emergent self-organization, organisms seem to have an innate, unexpected, surprising, and on the face of it miraculous ability to look around, see what's going on, and do something creative and amazing and generally entirely unexpected and unpredictable to fix it.

It seems positively 1) neo-Larmarckian and 2) heretical.

Lamarck was the guy who suggested that organisms did this kind of thing.

All the trolls of his time made fun of him. Then he died. Not because of 
everybody making fun of him, but still, he's not around to get to say "I told you so." Bummer.

Because Lamarck is kinda back.

Evidence would be good.

Here's some, from :

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) was an early evolutionist who proposed that life forms could acquire information from their environment and pass it on in their genes. He was dismissed, when not ridiculed, by Darwinists for many decades (though not, as it happens, by Darwin). But the basic thrust of his idea has recently resurfaced in epigenetics.

Epigenetics is the study of the systems and processes by which
Turns out, he wasn't completely wrong at all.
genes' expression can be altered, not randomly as in Darwinism, but by specific, predictable, repeatable, and researchable events -- and then inherited in the altered state.

Here's another: 
Science Magazine called Michael Skinner "the epigenetics heretic" for maintaining that chemicals can cause changes in gene expression in mice that persist across generations. Notice who ... had the biggest knee-jerk reaction of all:

Michael Skinner is gleefully listing the disciplines that he's ruffled with his contention that, without altering the sequence of DNA, certain chemicals can cause harmful health effects that pass down generations. Toxicologists are so outraged that they have tried to block his funding, he says. Geneticists resist having their decades-old understanding of inheritance overturned. Then there are the evolutionary biologists, who have "the biggest knee-jerk reaction of all."

Skepticism is to be expected, Skinner acknowledges: "This is probably going to be the biggest paradigm shift in science in recent history," he declares. (Emphasis added.)

And that's just epigenetics. Wait till we get to Complexity Theory.

And finally, from MIT. MIT. The real MIT. The IT that's in M. 

The effects of an animal’s environment during adolescence can be passed down to future offspring, according to two new studies. If applicable to humans, the research, done on rodents, suggests that the impact of both childhood education and early abuse could span generations. The findings provide support for a 200-year-old theory of evolution that has been largely dismissed: Lamarckian evolution, which states that acquired characteristics can be passed on to offspring.

If you're religious, you need to keep reading. If you're not, you need to keep reading.

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