Wednesday, 30 March 2016

”Smart Evolution” Learns, New Scientist Claims

New Scientist attempts to see the feather as a product of smart evolution.

Joel Kontinen

New Scientist introduces an article on smart evolution with words that remind us of design:

A FEATHER isn’t just pretty: it’s pretty useful. Strong, light and flexible, with tiny barbs to zip each filament to its neighbours, it is fantastically designed for flight. The mammalian eye, too, is a marvel of complex design, with its pupil to regulate the amount of light that enters, a lens to focus it onto the retina, and rods and cones for low light and colour vision – all linked to the brain through the optic nerve.

Pro-evolution publications don’t have any love for the words 'design' or 'designer'. If anyone doubted this, the recent episode featuring the use of Creator and design in a PLOS ONE article might have prompted a rethink.

Way back in 2011 the journal BioEssays instructed would-be authors to avoid using terms that might suggest that a biological trait is designed.

Now, however, New Scientist wants to hijack the word and use it for solely Darwinian purposes. Relying on the views of computer scientist Richard Watson, an associate professor at the University of Southampton, UK, it introduces an unorthodox view of evolution.

This approach allows the magazine to use expressions like “fantastically designed for flight”, without attracting the ire of the Darwinian thought police.

It manages to do this by giving all the credit to evolution. The solution is to use phrases like “evolution’s incredible prowess as a designer”.

In what it calls a radical new view of evolution, evolution remembers past solutions and is clever enough to use them in the future.

" 'If past selection has shaped the building blocks well, it can make solving new problems look easy,’ says Watson. Instead of merely making limbs longer or shorter, for example, evolution can change whether forelimbs and hindlimbs evolve independently or together. A single mutation that changes connections in the network can lengthen all four legs of a giraffe, or allow a bat to increase its wingspan without getting too leggy. And a feather or an eye needn't be generated from scratch, but can evolve by mixing and matching building blocks that have served well in the past.

Evolutionists might believe that mutations are marvellous mistakes but they have usually overestimated their power, and the new view repeats the same old mistakes in a slightly different way.

The article discloses the real reason for this new approach (apart from the self-evident truth that Neo-Darwinian orthodoxy isn’t working) is to explain nature without God.

This ability to learn needs no supernatural intervention -- it is an inevitable product of random variation and selection acting on gene networks.”

This approach has merely changed the unit of selection: gene becomes gene networks, and everyone can pretend that the watchmaker isn’t blind at all. Poor Dawkins.

What the article misses is that creation is not a god-of-the-gaps approach (and neither is intelligent design), but in the Genesis based model, God makes everything good in the beginning, without the need for improvement, and even programmes the ability for variation – within kinds, that is.

Creation is a far more plausible model than any new view of old evolution.


Nature’s brain: A radical new view of evolution. New Scientist 3066 (22 March, 2016).