Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Darwin Bicentary Part 8: Evolutionary Non-Linearity

Two postings have appeared on Sandwalk that I need to keep tabs on (here and here)

The first post is a summary of the “Modern Synthesis” of evolutionary theory; in particular it deals with the mechanism of evolution. It actually highlights a nomenclature problem I have touched on before: people conflate evolution and the mechanisms of evolution. There is wide agreement, even between the academic establishment and many ID theorists, that considerable morphological change has taken place over geologic time; evolution in the "morphological change" sense is considered a “fact” in as much as a consensus has been reached between very disparate parties. The real problems start with the mechanisms of evolution.

The second post concerns Stephen Jay Gould’s “Challenge to the Modern Synthesis”, and follows on nicely from Gould’s quote in my last post. I’ll make one comment here. Gould’s notion of Punctuated Equilibrium, which presumably at least describes the evidence of the fossil record, has, I conjecture, something to do with non-linearity. Biological structures are cybernetic configurations, as are societies, and cybernetic configurations have a tendency to generate non-linearities. We see apparent cybernetic “jumps” in human culture (e.g. Cro-Magnon man and the human revolution, the agricultural revolution, the invention of writing and large cities, the industrial revolution, the computer revolution etc). It would be interesting to see if we could get a handle of Gould’s idea by probing for power-law effects. This is a speculation of mine that I need to look into.

Finally here we have a post on Uncommon Descent by Young Earth Creationist Paul Nelson, which includes a quote hinting at the difficulties that the tree of life concept is getting into. But that’s typical; as I have said before, contributors to UD know with certainty what hasn’t happened but they have no consensus on what did happen.

STOP PRESS 19/2/2009

Here is an ID ode to the Cambrian explosion. This posting on Uncommon Descent follows Paul Nelson’s post on the Tree of Life. I wonder what Paul, as a YEC, would think of the line “Five & fifty million years ago, a faunal troupe did truly show”? Explosions are nonlinear processes, and if the time scale is slowed down sufficiently, look “gradualist”. It is interesting to read the comments section of the ode where somebody quotes a passage from a Wiki article which suggests that a closer look at the fossil record “dampens the bang of the explosion”. However, in reply to this someone accuses Wiki of bias and says “…quoting Darwinpedia here, on any ID/Darwinism related issue won’t get you very far.” The only solution I see to this impasse is to actually follow the “paper trail” myself; Where am I going to get the time to do that? Moreover it’s just one of many ID/Darwinism related issues. The trail here disappears into a thicket of obscuration and accusation.

Coming soon... Is ID science?

No comments: