Expectations vs. No Expectations

From here:

The genes that make a fruit fly’s eyes red also produce red wing patterns in the Heliconius butterfly found in South and Central America, finds a new study by a UC Irvine entomologist….”We found that evolution is achieved primarily through recycling old genes into new functions, as opposed to evolving entirely new genes from scratch,” Reed said.

Yes indeed, evolution is achieved primarily through recycling old genes into new functions, as opposed to evolving entirely new genes from scratch. That’s one reason front-loading is plausible. How so?

Well, imagine if the opposite state of affairs held. Imagine that Reed’s research added to other research, allowing him to say, “We found that evolution is achieved primarily through evolving entirely new genes from scratch, as opposed to recycling old genes into new functions.” In that case, the implausibility of front-loading would be enhanced since it would mean evolution was not significantly indebted to the originally designed state in the deep past.

In striking contrast, the non-teleological perspective is much more plastic such that it easily accommodates both possibilities.  If evolution was achieved primarily through recycling old genes into new functions or by evolving entirely new genes from scratch, both findings would be said to support the non-teleological perspective. We know this to be the case because, if we consider the history of evolutionary biology, both possibilities have already been comfortably incorporated into the non-teleological mindset.  As Sean Carroll (author of Endless Forms Most Beautiful) said:

So what this means is in some ways, some sense, evolution is a simpler process than we first thought. When you think about all of the diversity of forms out there, we first believed this would involve all sorts of novel creations, starting from scratch, again and again and again. We now understand that, no, that evolution works with packets of information and uses them in a new and different ways, and new and different combinations, without necessarily having to invent anything fundamentally new, but new combinations.

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5 responses to “Expectations vs. No Expectations

  1. “We now understand that, no, that evolution works with packets of information and uses them in a new and different ways, and new and different combinations, without necessarily having to invent anything fundamentally new, but new combinations.”

    I can hear the standard ID reply of, “Great. But some things had to be “fundamentally new” at one point. Where did that come from?”

    Either way, here’s a suggestion for a post name sometime: “The Unfalsifiable Duck”

  2. “We found that evolution is achieved primarily through recycling old genes into new functions”

    Is it truly a new function or is it an old function with a new purpose?

  3. I think you’re giving a hint, which is that if a designer front-loaded evolution just right, then it could be just a short Darwinian walk from one functional system to another. And perhaps that’s true. And finding out that different systems use the very same proteins supports that. I think Behe would insist that we need to know more than that before we know how short a walk it is, and how Darwinian it is. And I pretty agree with him.

    You’ve sold me on front-loading. But I suspect more than ever that additional design is requored. Unless symbiogenesis proves true.

  4. “…pretty much agree….”

    And I owe my new-found confidence in IC to Kathryn.

  5. Hopefully I’ll be explaining why at TT soon.

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