How Evolution Works!

I have begun to expand my reading on the subjects of evolution and design and to re-read the classic arguments, and philosophical positions developed for the two worldviews; that is evolution and God as creative forces.  To my collection I have added the book Evolution from Molecules to Men [1983] edited by D.D. Bendall of Darwin College, Cambridge.  It is a compilation of the thoughts of some of evolution’s most zealous advocates.  So once again I search for the proofs so foundational to any science let alone a belief system in Darwinism that  has so far shown itself to be recalcitrant to scientific inquiry to skeptics like me.

Electric eel can generate over 600 volts.

Within the first 20 pages of the Prologue, I find myself disappointed but not surprised.  I can see no one is going to answer the question let alone present science to support Chuck’s hypothesis (Chuck refers to Mr. Darwin since he and I have spent so much time with his theory… I don’t think he would mind).  Andrew Huxley, the grandson of the famous Thomas Huxley who became one of Darwin’s chief advocates for evolution, wrote the prologue for the book and he introduces the fundamentals of his beliefs.  While he meddles with the incredible ability of natural law to select for traits and greatly relies on Mendelian genetics to do so he realizes that critics will not permit the “fixity” of available genes to be the primary source for the variation required to jump-start evolution and keep the engine running. He makes note of mutation of DNA sequences as a small contributor to the modern neo-Darwinian theory.  However he points out the critical need of creative resources found in many molecules already coded for in the genome, pointing out that these offer a more robust pool of evolutionary parts to pull from in driving change.

He states that it is a clear fallacy of the critics of evolution to assume that each complex system found in organic beings had at its start a collection of individual changes to nucleotides in DNA to form complex organs like the eye or ear.  Rather than stoop, I suppose, to allow design arguments such as Fred Hoyle and Francis Crick and others have, he explains how complexity can emerge from pre-existing complexity making really complex things more palatable to conceive of (believe in).  This he believes boosts evolution’s credibility.  Huxley suggests, what has become a popular shortcut, that chunks of genes from all over the genome duplicate, recombine, mutate and somehow gain the advanced algorithms to turn things on and off to create novel genes with novel functions.  The idea was proposed that this mechanism was possible as there seem to be so many copies of non functional genes in the genome; duplications of other genes but lacking the control elements. Also, many genes share similar coding sequences that call for portions of proteins to be created to perform similar tasks such as bind calcium but make the particular protein that binds the calcium perform very different tasks.  There are some 600 proteins in the human body that are able to bind calcium.  Some proteins are involved in respiration, others in transducting signals across membranes and others activate proteins to bind to DNA to turn other genes on or off.   If these chunks of proteins originated from the some ancestral gene sequence, evolution is enabled to create diversity without single point mutations which Huxley obviously does not believe helps the evolutionary process much.

In another instance, Huxley mentions that Mr. Darwin thought it difficult to show how evolution of electric organs in fishes, whether used to kill prey or sense food, had occurred.  He said that it was “… impossible to conceive by what steps these wondrous organs have been produced… In Gymnotus [the electric eel] and the torpedo [the electric ray] they no doubt serve as powerful means of defense and perhaps for securing prey; yet in the ray, an analogous organ in the tail, even when greatly irritated, manifests, as lately observed by Matteucci, but little electricity…” p11.  In Andrew Huxleys’s prologue he explains what Darwin could not.  For regardless of the final result of the evolution of the electric organ in fish, all of these electric organs shared the cellular structure of the neuromast.  And once a sensory neuron like this is available, all kinds of conceivable evolutionary adaptations are possible.

Here is his explanation for how electric organs developed by evolutionary means.

  1. Electric fields were in the water due to living creatures or the magnetic field of the Earth and caused small variations in the continuous discharge of sensory nerve fibers from the neuromast cells.  Therefore natural selection was able to develop electric sense organs by increasing the sensitivity of some of these receptors to those electric fields.
  2. These more sensitive electroreceptors were activated by electric potentials from the fish’s own muscles:  natural selection was able to develop some of the muscle into a weak electric organ with an active detector function.
  3. When the weak electric organ gave discharges strong enough that they activated nerve fibers in prey animals making their movements so uncoordinated that natural selection was able to increase the capacity of the organ to the point of discharging a voltage that could incapacitate any prey and allow the new species to gobble up its prey or flee its enemy and survive because it was more fit.

You see how evolution works?  It is really so simple.  Just follow this recipe without question and you will answer every unknown thing in the Universe.  Oh I feel so much more confident in science now.  Who needs God?  Wow what a brilliant man Chuck was and then with Andrew Huxley building on the science of evolution to show the details of how it all works  well, I am just speechless.

University god: the FSM

Interestingly, we learn just as much about evolution if we substitute the word natural selection for the primitive university based god, the flying spaghetti monster.  Let’s see how it works as a powerful explanation for evolution.

  1.  1.  Electric fields were in the water due to living creatures or the magnetic field of the Earth and caused small variations in the continuous discharge of sensory nerve fibers from the neuromast cells.  Therefore flying spaghetti monster was able to develop electric sense organs by increasing the sensitivity of some of these receptors to those electric fields.
  2. 2.  Then, these more sensitive electroreceptors were activated by the electric potentials from the fish’s own muscles: now flying spaghetti monster was able to develop some of the muscle into a weak electric organ with an active detector function.
  3. 3.  When the weak electric organ gave discharges strong enough that they activated nerve fibers in prey animals that made their movements so uncoordinated that flying spaghetti monster was now able to increase the capacity of the organ to the point of discharging a voltage that could incapacitate any prey and allow the new species to gobble up its prey or flee its enemy and survive because it was more fit.

Andrew Huxley uses this same recipe for explaining how the hemoglobin molecule found in the membranes of red blood cells came from myoglobin in the muscles cells and cytochrome from the respiratory chain of cells.  Toss portions of these two genes together, add a few mutations, embed it in a cell lacking a nucleus that is produced in the bone marrow having the other needed properties of the red blood cell, and over time we have… well the red blood cell carrying oxygen on a complex molecule which had its molecular ancestor from two other genes plus so many mutations (and time).  It is able to carry oxygen from the lungs, drop it off at the tissues of the heart, brain and body and recalculate for 120 days before being recycled in the liver, spleen and bone marrow to make new cells with fresh hemoglobin.

Heme group in the hemoglobin molecule

Heme group in the hemoglobin molecule

Andrew dabbles a bit with the origin of life fully convinced that a self-replicating molecule would be sufficient to be called living so long as it could arise by some freakish molecular collision.  From there to cellular life is just time.   Consciousness is another of his interests.  Whether we build cars, read books, fly to the moon, or choose fish for dinner may all be a product of a collection of brain cells not free will.  We may be organic automatons or maybe we are free willed beings.  He cannot say and he does not care one-way or the other.  One thing he knows for sure, creationists are not scientific.

I hope you will note as I have, nothing the Huxley adds to Darwin is science.  It is story telling and not proving any facts about life. Is this what science is?  Isn’t this kind of science fun or is it just frightening; much like witchcraft?

 

Dan

 

 

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