Evolution Issue of the Month 5: Challenge--Find the Error in the Modern Synthesis

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Living creatures are defined by a set of blueprints--genes--configured precisely enough to specify how a living creature grows from a single egg cell into an adult. At least tens of thousands of those genes are required to specify how a living creature such as an elephant sustains, grows and reproduces itself. You are challenged to detect an error in how this is accounted for by the Modern Synthesis.

"Save our Selves..." cover

"Save Our Selves from Science Gone Wrong" by Shaun Johnston

The Modern Synthesis is not merely flawed, it is a fairy story along the lines of Jack and the Beanstalk.

According to the Modern Synthesis, the evolution of a complex organ such as an elephant’s trunk arises through a series of logical steps. In this month's Evolution Issue, published at his website, http://www.takeondarwin.com, Shaun Johnston asks, could there be an error hidden in these steps?

In his article Johnston runs through the steps. "How about Step 3? Occasionally, just by the laws of chance, an instance of decay will actually be beneficial and available to processes of evolution. And step 4: Genes are selected for independently one by one, so natural selection can eliminate all those that are harmful while retaining all those that are beneficial. The result in each generation will be a net benefit."

As he relates them, Steps 5-7 are: As a result of each beneficial gene being selected for in every generation over many thousands of years, it will spread to become the dominant allele; once enough of these genes have accumulated they can be further selected to code for a new feature such as an elephant’s trunk; all these genes get selected together for the benefit this major new feature brings.

Part of his own answer to the challenge is: "Somehow, hundreds of genes have to come to collaborate to not only fashion a trunk in the adult but direct every stage of its development in the embryo. If so, there must be in the cell sufficient engineering talent for all those beneficial mutations to be retooled so they no longer code for the benefits for which they were originally selected but now work together to code for the development of a trunk. If that much engineering talent is available, why does the cell need to wait for all the genes to be damaged, at random? If they have to be damaged first why can’t it 'damage' them itself, all at once, so work on making a trunk can begin immediately?"

As a Darwin impersonator Johnston gives free performances to student groups in the NYC-area and the mid Hudson Valley of his one-hour play "A Dialogue Between Charles Darwin and Galileo on What it Means that We're Evolved." He publishes the series "Evolution Issue of the Month" to highlight weaknesses in current evolutionary theory; until those weaknesses are acknowledged, he says, there can be no progress made towards a theory better able to account for our own nature. The rest of his answer to the challenge he's issued in Evolution Issue of the Month 5, together with all seven steps, can be found on his website http://www.takeondarwin.com. Johnston 's print and online publications are described at http://www.evolvedself.com.

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