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Michael Denton discovers non-adaptive evolution ... attributes it to gods

Readers of this blog will know that I'm a fan of Evolution by Accident. I don't think that the history of life can be explained in strict Darwinian terms (i.e. natural selection) and I think that modern evolutionary theory includes Neutral Theory and a major role for random genetic drift.

This is the view of many modern evolutionary biologists. Their work and views have been reported frequently on Sandwalk over the past ten years but you can find it in all the evolutionary biology textbooks. I'm just the messenger here. It's evolutionary biologists who have made the case for non-adaptive evolution beginning long before The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme.

The evidence for a pluralist view of life that's not tied to strict adaptation (natural selection) comes form many sources. We're familiar with the debate over junk DNA and the idea that most of our genome cannot be explained as the simple result of natural selection winnowing detrimental and useless features. We're familiar with Stephen Jay Gould's view of life as a series of historically contingent accidents [Replaying Life's Tape].

Over the years, we've discussed a number of specific cases that strongly suggest non-adaptive evolution. For example, the fact that the African rhinoceros has two horns while the Asian rhino has only one [Visible Mutations and Evolution by Natural Selection], or the stripes on different species of zebra [How did the zebra get its stripes? (again)].

One of my favorite examples has been the shape of leaves. Is the difference between a cluster of five needles (white pine) and two needles (red pine) an example of selection and adaption or an accident? What about the shape of maple leaves? There are 128 species of maple (Acer spp.) and most of them have distinctly different leaves that vary in shape, color, and size. It's rather silly, in this day and age, to attribute all of those differences to adaptation.

Trying to convince others of the truth of non-adaptive evolution has been a frustrating experience. It's been particularly frustrating when dealing with Intelligent Design Creationists who think that evolution by natural selection is the only game in town. They are the most adaptationist people on the planet even though they don't actually believe in the scientific version of evolution. We know, of course, that they have ulterior motives for focusing their attack on the strawman version of evolution that they call "Darwinism" ... I understand that. I understand why they stick to their myopic, old-fashioned, view of evolution in spite of all the evidence that it's incomplete and misleading. It's not just stupidity.

But now we have an entirely new phenomenon. Michael Denton recognizes how silly it is to attribute every feature to adaptation. This is, of course, a view that been around for a long time among evolutionary biologists and they have perfectly naturalistic, non-adaptive, explanations that have been published in thousands of scientific papers. Denton won't acknowledge that.

Most creationists won't even admit that there are features that don't appear to have been designed for functionality but here's Denton showing them that they've been wrong for decades. When I tried to do that I met with huge resistance because I was trying to show them that their view of evolution is wrong. Denton takes a different approach. He assures them that their extreme Darwinian view of evolution is correct and the presence of non-functional features—like the shape of a maple leaf—is something that "evolution" can't explain. Therefore, gods did it.

Watch the video. You really have to see it to believe it. You can't make this stuff up.

This post first appeared on Sandwalk, please read the originial post: here

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Michael Denton discovers non-adaptive evolution ... attributes it to gods


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