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What is the alternative?

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  • Charles Palm
    James A Shapiro: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-a-shapiro/evolution-debate_b_1425133.html What Is the Best Way to Deal With Supernaturalists in Science
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2012
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      James A Shapiro:
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-a-shapiro/evolution-debate_b_1425133.html
      What Is the Best Way to Deal With Supernaturalists in Science and
      Evolution? The conventional approach has been to circle the wagons around
      mid-19th and mid-20th century ideas (Darwinism and neo-Darwinism). This
      approach has not been successful. One reason Darwinism has failed to
      convince skeptics may be that it ignores over 60 years of molecular
      science. What is the alternative? Let me suggest that we can take a more
      modern, more realistic and more truly scientific approach. It contains the
      following elements.

      1. We need to emphasize that science operates strictly within the natural
      world and treats all theories as subject to criticism, revision and
      (ultimately) replacement. Think of Newtonian ideas of space, time and
      gravity as compared to Einsteinian general relativity. There is no reason
      to believe that evolution science is in any way special in this regard.

      2. As we apply new technologies, such as genome sequencing, our confidence
      becomes stronger in the relatedness of all existing life forms, including
      human beings. In particular, our insights into the details of these
      relationships become ever more explicit. We can point to numerous specific
      features of primate genomes that are difficult to understand except as
      resulting from common ancestry between humans, apes, chimpanzees and other
      primates.

      3. Among the recent discoveries of genome sequencing are several new
      features of the evolutionary process. Proteins evolved through
      combinatorial natural genetic engineering events. Cells from different
      species fused to create a third novel species (symbiogenesis). Unrelated
      organisms exchanged large chunks of DNA (horizontal DNA transfer). Entire
      genomes have doubled at critical junctures in evolution. When reigning
      evolutionary theories were formulated in the 19th and 20th Centuries,
      non-Mendelian events like these that simultaneously affect multiple traits
      were unknown or ignored.

      4. Experimental research has discovered numerous cell-mediated processes of
      genome restructuring in all realms of life. These cellular natural genetic
      engineering capabilities replace accidental events as the real sources of
      heritable genome change. Since natural genetic engineering is subject to
      cell regulatory circuits and can be targeted within the genome, random
      copying errors can no longer be considered a basic feature of evolutionary
      change.

      5. The newly discovered processes of genome change do indeed have the
      potential to generate "irreducibly complex" new functions. Such complex
      evolutionary inventions are at the center of the Intelligent Design
      critique of neo-Darwinian explanations, which are based exclusively on
      random genetic accidents and natural selection. Doubling the whole genome,
      distributing copies of mobile elements to different sites, and
      incorporating similar domains in different proteins provide the necessary
      raw materials for generating complex interactive networks in cells. A
      future task for experimental evolution science is to find out how this
      happens in real time.

      6. In order to be truthful, we must acknowledge that certain questions,
      like the origins of the first living cells, currently have no credible
      scientific answer. However, given the historical record of science and
      technology in achieving the "impossible" (e.g., space flight,
      telecommunications, electronic computation and robotics), there is no
      reason to believe that unsolved problems will remain without naturalistic
      explanations indefinitely.

      James A Shapiro: In summary, pro-evolution debaters will enjoy far more
      success by active engagement with evolution doubters. We need to
      demonstrate that evolution science is alive and well, as well as show how
      it is making remarkable progress through the application of molecular
      technologies -- even though it does not have all the answers.

      James A Shapiro: To the thoughtful scientist whose job is to uncover
      natural processes, this is surely a better way of advocating the scientific
      method than dogmatically asserting that we found all the scientific
      principles we need in centuries past.


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