Population Genetics is “not even close” to explaining how Phenotypes Evolve

There’s a new book out by Michael Lynch which falls into the category of “Trying to Come Up With Some Plausible Naturalistic Theory of the Origin of Phenotypes Because We’ve Been Nyah-nyahing Creationists About Doing This for Years.” Massimo Pigliucci reviews the book in the Aug 31, 2007 issue of Science in an article entitled “Postgenomic Musings” and makes the following interesting statements [my comments are in brackets] …

Everyone in biology keeps predicting that the next few years will bring answers to some of the major open questions in evolutionary biology, but there seems to be disagreement on what, exactly, those questions are. [much less what the answers are]

[Explaining one of S.B. Carroll’s points in his Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom] Lynch’s comment that science isn’t about inspiration (I guess it truly must be about perspiration), however, misses Carroll’s point: what the modern synthesis has not given us is a theory of form, and applying population genetics to genomics–as valuable an exercise as that is in its own right–isn’t going to give us one either. As much as genes are fundamental to the evolutionary process, there is much more to biology than genes and their dynamics. The very fact that molecular biologists are now talking (albeit often naïvely) about higher-level “-omics,” all the way to phenomics, means that they appreciate that genomes are only a part of the story, arguably the simplest part to figure out.
Lynch claims that nonadaptive processes should be considered as null hypotheses, but this gives him the unfair advantage of shifting the burden of proof against selective scenarios. What justifies this move is not at all clear, because Lynch thinks of selection as only one of the four fundamental mechanisms of evolution: if it is one of four, why treat it as a special category? To see how easily the table can be turned, just consider Dennett’s diametrically opposite position that natural selection should be treated as the default explanation for complex phenotypes, unless one can show that it didn’t play a role (9). A truly fair and balanced approach is to simply treat any hypothesis as an equal contender in the set of plausible explanations, and see how it fares against its opponents without the advantage of playing on a home field. [unless, of course it’s an ID theory]

Ultimately, the main reason we need an expansion of the modern synthesis was pointed out by Popper several years ago: “[the Darwinian theory] is strictly a theory of genes, yet the phenomenon that has to be explained is that of the transmutation of form” (10). Lynch’s contribution in The Origins of Genome Architecture goes a long way toward completing our explanation of how genes (and genomes) change over time. Nonetheless, although indeed necessary, population genetics is not even close to sufficient for understanding how phenotypes evolve. There is much more to do, and a large undiscovered country lies out there. Let’s take a look.

Yes, lets. Darwinism has had 150 years to come up with something plausible. Move over Darwinism and let ID have a shot, eh? Or at least allow scientists with ID leanings to speak their minds freely without fear of tenure denial, harrassment, killings their programs, etc.

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