Researching Creation

June 26, 2008

Biological Change / Evolutionary Theories


Many people are not aware of the many approaches to evolutionary theory taken today.  So I thought I'd summarize several of them, and then comment on their use within Creation biology.  Note that these are not necessarily mutually exclusive, though people tend to focus on the one they think is the most dominant and descriptive of life on earth.

Darwinism / Evolution by natural selection - this is the idea that evolution proceeds (1) by material means only (no planning ahead, no intelligence either in nature or outside of it, except as describable by physical laws), and (2) by historical contingency - the universe doesn't favor certain possibilties, instead life is almost entirely built out of historical accidents - both the production of a feature through mutation and the mutation's relevancy within an environment are both essentially accidental.  Traits are propogated by keeping the animal from dying better than other traits.

Platonic Evolution / Structuralism - this is the idea that the laws of nature force biology into certain predefined patterns.  While there is some amount of contingency involved in the production of an organism's features, the end-products of evolution are based more on physics than on contingency.  A good description of this is in the title of Michael Denton's book: Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe.

Evolution by Symbiogenesis - this is the idea that evolutionary novelty is primarily the result of symbiotic relationships between organisms.  Lynn Margulis's book, Symbiotic Planet, is a great description of this view of the world.  So, as organisms establish new symbioses, they change their form and functioning within the biosphere.

Front-Loaded Evolution - this is the idea that organisms were created with an initial toolkit, which has elements which can be deployed as needed to survive in new environments.  Different views of this vary as to how fully-formed the toolkit is - i.e. does it have the entire set of information to make a whole structure, or just enough components and pieces that it can arrange them quickly into something workable.  I believe Michael Behe endorses this view.  The website Telic Thoughts is the primary source of advocacy for this opinion. The person pseudonymously known as MikeGene is the primary public mover for this view, and he has a book out called The Design Matrix.

Somatic Selection - This one is not very popular at all, but I'm including it simply because I find the idea fascinating and think it has more merit than it is given credit for.  This is the idea that evolution actually occurs in body cells first, and then successful combinations found in the body cells get transferred via reverse transcription to reproductive cells.  The primary work espousing this view is Lamarck's Signature.

The interesting thing is that, as theories of evolution, none of these is explicitly against Creationism.  Biblically, the mechanism of diversification from the original kinds is not specified, and therefore, any of them are compatible biblicallly.  Scientifically, I don't think Darwinism makes much sense, but, as a view of biological change, is not strictly anti-biblical.

Now, where most evolutionary theories do go against Biblical Creation is in:

  • Being tied to old-earth assumptions
  • Being tied to the assumptions of universal or near-universal common ancestry
  • Being used as an explanation for the origins of life 

Anyway, the point of all this is as follows:

  • Evolution is not a monolithic entity.  A lot of people view the debate is about "creation" verses "evolution", as if they were necessarily distinct in all facets, and as if they were discreet entities.  Evolution is not a single thing, and, at least as the mechanism of diversification goes, neither is Creation.
  • When someone says "evolution is proven" it would help if it was specified which evolution was proven and for what parameters :)
  • While the evolutionary biological literature should not be taken as gospel, there is no reason to discount many of the mechanisms out-of-hand even if we disagree with how they may be applied.

June 05, 2008

Biological Change / Another Interesting Perspective on Podarcis sicula


Physorg pointed out another interesting perspective on the new organ within the lizards:

"Cecal valve evolution probably went hand-in-hand with a novel association between the lizards on Pod Mrcaru and microorganisms called nematodes that break down cellulose, which were found in their hindguts"

We have talked about symbiosis as a cause of biological diversity and speciation before.  Here, it could be that a symbiosis actually induced a "new" (to the population) organ to develop.

Very interesting! 

In the first of the above two links, Joe Francis talks about the immune system potentially being a part of detecting and picking up symbiotic partners.  It would be interesting to know if that is how the symbiotic association began, and if that is also what facilitated the growing of the cecal valve. 

June 05, 2008

Biological Change / Rapid Adaptation in Podarcis sicula


I have been planning on writing on this very exciting paper, but Jean Lightner beat me to it :)

In 36 years, a group of lizards which were separated onto a different island from the rest of their species had:

  • Changed their head size
  • Changed their diet to be much more plant-heavy
  • Developed a new (not present in the parent population) organ - the cecal valve - to help digest the more plant-heavy diet
  • Developed new symbiotic relationships
  • Changed their behavior

In case you didn't notice the bolding, it was the development of the new organ that I found most interesting.  Now, when I say "new", that just means new to them.  The cecal valve is present in a number of species.  However, it was not present in the population which the island was seeded with. 

This gives a lot of creedence to the front-loaded "toolbox" concept of Intelligent Design.  That is, species have an available set of rapidly-deployable changes which can be induced as needed.  Many parts of this toolbox are shared by many related and non-related organisms.

The fact that in only 36 years all of these changes happened indicate that it was part of a built-in process.