Friday, March 10, 2006


The "The International Flat Earth Society" and an Internal Evolutionary Mechanism

Part of a prominent disclaimer on a TalkOrigins page entitled Documenting the Existence of "The International Flat Earth Society" states:

Please do not send us feedback to tell us that the Earth is a sphere; we are already aware of this fact.
If I don't stop chuckling everytime I look at it I'll never get anything done! So, eyes further down the page and back to business:

The natural reality of the earth revolving around the sun was obviously entirely unaffected by any earlier belief in the geocentric theory, or indeed, even that the world was flat.

Similarly, because I believe there is a strong possibility an internal evolutionary mechanism may exist, I tend to look for any cultural trend indicating increased receptivity to such a proposal.

During the earlier period when I had time to spend on evolutionary interests, for example, I used to keep an eye out for anyone whose writing style appeared to reflect a particular type of perception, or whose areas of research might produce "unexpected results" consistent with the proposed mechanism's 'mode of operation'.

One such individual was Massimo Pigliucci and today I came across an article by Dr. Richard von Sternberg (a research associate of the Smithsonian Institute) containing:
From the genome sequencing projects and studies of how genes operate to the discovery of new fossils, evolutionary biology is in a state of transition. Examples are simply too numerous to cover adequately. But here are a few.

You have leaders in the field like W. Ford Doolittle presenting evidence that there is no "Tree of Life" but, instead, a complex web of gene sharing. Likewise, Carl Woese, one of the fathers of molecular phylogenetics, thinks the data support multiple, independent origins of organisms - that the notion of a Universal Common Ancestor is erroneous. Then again, evolutionary developmental biologists like Stuart Newman have performed experiments that suggest that animal body plans originated before genomes to "encode" them. I know it sounds radical, but he and other leaders in the field of "evo-devo" think that genes support development, but they don't provide the blueprint. Embryos self-organize, and genes provide the building materials. Finally, even the specter of Lamarck has reappeared. Lamarck's idea was, of course, that acquired traits can be passed on to offspring. None other than "Darwin Day" organizer Massimo Pigliucci is giving second thought to Lamarckism - after all, he notes, Darwin was a Lamarckian! [My emphasis]
Very intriguing - it may be worth an hour or two over the weekend to try and find out why Sternberg thinks Pigliucci "is giving second thought to Lamarckism".

John Latter

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