Monday, 12 August 2013
How to Invent an Incredible Evolution Story: Start with E. coli and Speculate on the Emergence of Feathers
Darwinian storytelling is often incredibly inventive. A recent letter in Nature speculated on the emergence of traits for which there was little or no use at the time they were (supposedly) invented by blind Darwinian processes:
“Some evolutionary innovations may originate non-adaptively as exaptations, or pre-adaptations, which are by-products of other adaptive traits. Examples include feathers, which originated before they were used in flight, and lens crystallins, which are light-refracting proteins that originated as enzymes.”(internal references excluded)
The science part of this letter had to do with the metabolism of E. coli. The researches examined how the bacterium could use alternate sources of carbon. In doing so, they used intelligent design to alter E. coli’s source of food.
It is a huge leap from E. coli to the emergence of flight feathers. The use of fancy words, such as exaptations, cannot explain the origin of traits that require new genetic information.
Information always requires intelligence – something that the blind Darwinian watchmaker does not have.
Barve, Aditya and Andreas Wagner. 2013. A latent capacity for evolutionary innovation through exaptation in metabolic systems Nature 500, 203–206 (8 August).