Saturday, February 13, 2016

Video: Biology of the Baroque: Nonadaptive order cannot be explained by Darwinism.

"Biology of the Baroque" is a documentary that explores the amazing patterns, order, and beauty in biology that go beyond what can be explained by Darwinian evolution. It features geneticist Michael Denton and is inspired by Denton's new book Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (2016).


Human language is so complex and nuanced that it has become impossible to simulate perfectly in even the most advanced intelligent machines as any simple conversation with Siri will show. Human language is varied and textured, adapted to both concrete and abstract conversation across every people group and culture. What makes human language so intriguing is not just a great variety of different languages but their underling similarities. Despite superficial differences, human languages share deep structural similarities. This is why an Australian aborigine can learn German despite the many differences between German and the languages of the Australian Aborigines. The fact that humans, no matter what part of the world they're from, share both language and equivalent higher intellectual faculties means that these abilities must have arisen in the earliest human ancestor and that poses a problem. The capability to compose a symphony understand advanced mathematics or discuss abstract ideas would not have been of any survival value for early man. His needs were shelter and food. The idea primitive man needed our current linguistic or other higher intellectual abilities to survive is untenable. Nevertheless early man must have had this capability because it was passed down to every human in every part of the world. Even today things like art literature or music are understood to be valuable not for survival or reproduction but for their own sake. Such capacities reach far beyond the algorithm of natural selection. They're excessive, superfluous, even a gift. Their very existence is completely incomprehensible if humans are solely the result of Darwinian forces. The case that human language developed step by step through natural selection is further weakened by the fact that no single language gene has ever been discovered. That is the needed complexities seem to have arisen spontaneously in a self organizing emergent fashion.

An interesting example in the video is the mammalian red blood cell. In mammals the red blood cells eject their nuclei when they differentiate from the parent cell type. It is hard to understand how this could evolve because it requires a complicated cellular process and there is no way to explain how a process so complex could evolve gradually because there would be no selective advantage until all the parts of the system existed. In addition, birds keep the nuclei in their red blood cells and birds are much more efficient at using oxygen than mammals, so it is hard to understand why the ejection of nuclei would ever evolve by natural selection.

The video concludes (17:30):

Narrator: Nonadaptive and beyond adaptive order poses an existential challenge to Darwinism because it means there are huge parts of the history of life that not only can't be explained by Darwinian evolution but they are completely outside the domain of natural selection. Natural selection only selects for adaptation. If non adaptive order exists, Darwinism cannot be the whole story of life. If nature is an artist, not just an engineer, Darwinism is in a dire position.

Denton: For a designer, lots of patterns might exist in nature which have, as it were, are deeply adaptive but not adaptive in a specific organism. On the other hand a designer might decide he likes this pattern. He likes the pattern of a maple leaf. Or it's beautiful or its symmetrical or something like this. In other words, on a design hypothesis, you don't need to show that all the order of biology in the world is specifically adaptive in a specific organism.

Narrator: Intelligent design leaves room for nature's peculiarities and novelties because it acknowledges there are some things that are not irreducible to mere adaptation and survival. There are other forces at work in nature besides that of natural selection and death.

Denton: If you imagine that there's a designer behind the world, the designer would be free to choose whichever patterns he wants. But I think non adaptive order poses a far less of a challenge to intelligent design theory than it does to Darwinism. 'Cause Darwinism necessitates that all the order of nature is adaptive or once was adaptive. But if you can't show that, Darwinism can't be shown to be the engine of evolution.

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