The Early Days of a Better Nation

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why Evolution is True

I've recently read Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True, and it's as good as everyone is saying. One point the book hammers home is that evolutionary theory makes predictions, and that these predictions are regularly and reliably borne out. A particularly elegant example is the discovery of marsupial fossils in Antarctica. Marsupial fossils, in rocks of a particular age, were predicted, searched for, and found in the right place. Coyne's account of this is interwoven with the tale of another triumph, of geology (plate tectonics and continental drift) in making sense of the distribution of not only fossils but also the scrapes left by ancient glaciers in the southern continents. In South Africa, the marks on the rocks seem to show that glaciers once flowed uphill and inland, from the sea. Once the past positions of Africa, Antarctica, and Australia are worked out, all these marks fall into place as downhill, seaward, and outward from the South Pole.

You can read more about this book, and about evolution, at Jerry Coyne's blog.

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I look forward to picking this up at the library. The regular, reliable nature of the predictions is pretty much a nail in the coffin, but Intelligent Design will refuse to die sadly.

The ability of human beings, singular or en mass, to convince themselves of things which are patently untrue is amazing.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Presumably the above post was removed by artificial selection?

Yup. Around here, we call it weeding. (Actually, the post was spam.)

so, any truth to a rumor that natural selection did some recombinant thing with self-organization? And what is emerging according to the prediction of evolution?

glen, I have no idea what your first question means. As for what's emerging - well, we can predict (in both senses) new flu strains, new forms of pesticide resistance, etc, but that's largely because of short generation times. What the world would look like after another million years of natural selection (assuming no catastrophes, genetic engineering, etc) is anyone's guess.

I don't suppose Darwin actually predicted the particulars of DNA but it has certainly bourne out the relationships between us & monkeys that Darwin predicted. So either evolution is correct or Yahuwahu not only faked the fossils to fool us but also faked the DNA to fool Victorians who couldn't detect it. If so it seems churlish not to go along with his joke.

Self-organization was a pitch made in
At Home in the Universe, by Stuart Kauffman, I guess basically it proposes inevitability in a context that evolution is a matter of natural selection and something else, namely according to Kauffman self-organization, perhaps the idea is that the most organized might have some advantages over the most disorganized and the least organized.
I thought evolution might want to predict ways to achieve survival, along the lines of better immunity and possibly transforming threats into allies to achieve improved chances of thriving and staying alive. As in the early days of a better nation.
Here's a review:

Glen - got you. Coyne says nothing about that.

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