Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dodos

From the referenced site. Commentary follows.

http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg19025542.100&feedId=life_rss20

'New Scientist'

'Article Preview
Review: Flock of Dodos: The evolution-intelligent design circus
03 June 2006
Amanda Gefter
Magazine issue 2554'

"At last, a documentary that gives us the chance to chuckle at the controversy that has been consuming biology teaching in the US, says Amanda Gefter AT FIRST glance, the so-called debate between evolutionary scientists and supporters of intelligent design is not very funny. But after endless discussions in the media about pseudoscientific concepts such as the "irreducible complexity" of structures like the flagella of bacteria, we could all use a good laugh. So we should thank evolutionary ecologist and film-maker Randy Olson for his documentary Flock of Dodos, which premiered last month at New York's Tribeca Film Festival.

Olson travelled around the US talking to people on both sides of the argument. What he discovered is that the debate is not about facts, it is about people. As you would expect from someone who studied at Harvard under Stephen Jay Gould, Olson treats the theory of evolution as it ought to be treated: as a long-standing explanatory framework supported by an immense amount of hard evidence. The crucial question, then, is why do so many ..."

[Bradford]: The article continues and is accesible to subscribers. In this brief snippet though the author put forth familiar criticisms indicating that she, like many others, either does not understand the term irreducible complexity or does not appreciate the inability of the theory of evolution to explain how basic and universal biological systems, fitting the definition of irreducible complexity, evolved. Why limit our focus to the bacterial flagellum? Why not take a look at a universal irreducibly complex system that enables the synthesis of the proteins found in all systems and all organisms. The pseudoscientific reference indicates that accounting for its evolution should be a piece of cake particularly given the author's claims about the "long-standing explanatory framework supported by an immense amount of hard evidence" that is said to describe evolution. The protein synthesis function can be broken down into an analysis of transcription and translation sub-functions. Among the biochemical components is a complex of proteins essential to protein synthesis and a variety of RNA and of course the transcribed DNA. The multiple interacting parts to this functional system fits the term irreducibly complex which is nothing more than a descriptive phrase. Whether an evolutionary path to a particular irreducibly complex biological system is supported by evidence is a separate issue. Are there any non-pseudoscientific pathways to the protein synthesis function? Given the bombast and arrogance that typically characterizes Darwinian approaches to Behe's irreducible complexity, one would expect ready answers to questions as to how basic cellular functions and biochemical pathways evolved. Did the protein synthesis function evolve gradually through incremental steps; each one providing the next link in the chain? Is that an apt analogous device?

Precursor systems were a catch phrase used to answer the question of how the bacterial flagellum evolved. What were the precursors to amino acyl tRNA synthetases? There must have been some right? What were they and what is the evidence supporting the answer?

I do not know Amanda Gefter and will make no comment about her but in general I wonder how well many writers understand basic biochemical and cellular biology concepts. Do many appreciate the specificity between protein binding sites and their ligands? If they do what selective process do they cite for the evolution of RNA polymerases and amino acyl tRNA synthetases? What was the sequential evolution of the protein and nucleic acid components of the protein synthesis function? Most of all I would like to know what supporting evidence assures them that any process- evolutionary or not- was devoid of an intelligent causal component? Running to the Randy Olsons of the world for reassurance is a poor substitute for scientific evidence.

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