Monday, June 15, 2009

No Tree of life?

In an earlier blog entry I talked about the hypocrisy of the Discovery Institute. The video I referenced included some comments from Casey Luskin of the DI about the Tree of Life.

I did some more investigation and it turns out that the idea of an evolutionary tree of life may not be the most accurate way of looking at evolution in its earliest stages.

Scientists are becoming more convinced that thevery first life forms (prokaryotes) engaged in a significant number of lateral gene transfers. In other words, genes are transferred from one organismto another without actual reproduction taking place.

But it creates a complication. If organism A transfers genes to organism B which transfers genes to organism C which, in turn, then transfers genes back to organism A, which of them is the ancestor?

Pictorally, the "tree of life", at its base, looksmore like a spider web than it does a tree.

ID advocates claim that this idea puts "commondescent" in doubt. It does no such thing.

"Common descent" is not synonymous with the "tree of life". It seems a necessary certainty that there was only one first living thing. We are all descended from that first living thing even if the early stages of descent are not "mom and dad" events.

ID advocates also say that these new hypotheses overthow "Darwinism". That's nonsense. It's been known for a long time that Darwin was wrong about many of the details of evolution. That's hardly surprising since he had no way of knowing about things like DNA. To say that these new discoveries undermine Darwinism is a simple anachronism.

One final comment is worth making.

One commentator says this:

"This...provides a striking refutation of the notion that evolutionary biologists are a bunch of hidebound dogmatists who refuse to consideranything that contradicts their ideology. Instead we see an initally radical idea - a network of life instead of a tree - gaining acceptance as the evidence for it mounts. The lesson for ID supprters is clear; if you want ID to become part of the mainstream of acience, then make a genuine scientific case for it. Scientists will listen if the evidence is there and the arguments are valid."

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