One of the things that creationists and their pseudo-scientific vanguard the Intelligent Designers never seem to be able to get their head around is that unlike their static Biblical world view the scientific approach is characterised by constant testing and challenge. They see this as weakness and think that describing the Modern Synthesis, Neo-Darwnism as "ONLY a theory" is somehow a slur. Scientists however see this as it's strength - it is subject to testing and challenge and the more it survives and is able to adapt to challenges the more confidence in the theory grows.
Darwinian Natural selection as the primary explanation for evolution has proved to be a remarkably robust theory. It has seen shifts of emphasis and adjustments in the light of research findings but the essentials of the theory have remained. Indeed with the discovery of the genetic basis of inheritance the theory became the bedrock of modern biological science.
While biologists generally do not doubt the role of natural selection as the primary driver of evolution there continues to be debate about whether other mechanisms may be at play which supplement and add to this process. There has also been speculation about whether Darwninian natural selection may have some as yet undiscovered connection to more fundamental physical processes and laws; that it may in some sense be built into the mechanics of the Universe.
One such connection has intrigued me for a long time and that is the connection between selection, evolution and the fundamental issues of entropy and information. I claim no great expertise in these matters but it has always struck me that the connection between life processes and entropy and information state changes is fundamental to ever truly understanding life as a physical process.
Two recent posts related to this issue caught my eye recently. there may be better posts on these issues - these were just two that I came across.
The first Evolving Evolution highlights the issue of complexity theory and notes that there may be times when increasing complexity leads to sudden emergent properties that were not previously present in a system. In the light of findings in Chaos theory I find this intriguing because it is clear that even in seemingly simple equations one may suddenly come across unexpected complexity and emergent properties.
The post suggests that complexity and emergent properties may help to explain apparent "saltations" ( As I understand it there is however still debate about whether saltations are real or simply due to fossil record gaps).
The author of this post seems as yet unconvinced by attempts to link complexity and the second Law of Thermodynamics/Entropy - not it seems because he refutes the possibility but mainly because it is at this time too speculative.
On the subject of the evolution of complexity and speculation about processes which may run parallel to and enhance natural selection, I came across a second post which examines Bees as Superorganisms and the possible role of "pre-adaptation" as a process which may contribute to evolution.
Neither of these threads of thought raise issues which fundamentally challenge Darwinian fundamentals as both Authors acknowledge. They do however raise interesting issues about other mechanisms that may be at play in producing evolution. And I stick to my suspicion that behind both Darwinian natural selection and processes rooted in complexity lies some as yet unexplained connection to the second Law, entropy and information. If I were a gambling man I would bet that this is where we should look for a really fundamental and non-religious explanation of life.
Oh and by the by ... One of the planks of Michael Behe's arguments against Darwinism and for "Intelligent Design" has been the impossibility of any functional useage for a pre-flagellum. In other words an argument that the development of the flagellum through evolution is impossible because any pre-flagellum would be non-functional/ useless etc etc. This is Behe's "Irreducible Complexity" argument ( or more correctly his fallacy). for the latest actual scientific evidence demolishing Behe's "irredicible complexity" argument as it concerns the Flagellum see this post at the Panda's Thumb ( contains a re-print of a New Scientist article - note they may eventually take the re-print down as it has been posted by someone with a subscription)
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