"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution" is an article by Theodosius Dobzhansky published in The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 35, No. 3
It's worth reading to get context for the discussion. I found a pdf copy here.
Let's discuss the article and the extent to which quote "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution" is applicable today.
My view is that the title was hyperbolic; not to be taken literally. After all scientists were making sense of biology long before Darwin's theory of evolution appeared. Rather, in the article Dobzhansky covered a number of topics that he thought only made sense in the light of evolution. The article was written in 1973 and like anything that was written 40 years ago some specific examples might be out of date and I don't want to dwell overmuch on that aspect.
Darwin's "Origin of Species" was published in 1859. The term biology in its modern sense appears to have been introduced independently by Thomas Beddoes (in 1799), Karl Friedrich Burdach (in 1800), Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus (Biologie oder Philosophie der lebenden Natur, 1802) and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (Hydrogéologie, 1802). [wikipedia]
I think it was still considered a branch of Natural Science in Darwin's day.
However the study of biology goes back to Aristotle and Galen in ancient Greece, and probably goes much further back in less formal format. Observation and reasoning about the natural world goes back to the beginning of man.
Edited by CRR, : Publication date of "Origin" amended.
Please state your position. Are you trying to make the case that a) NOTHING in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. b) SOME things in biology only make sense in the light of evolution. c) for some things in biology evolution provides a plausible but not exclusive explanation. d) Everything in biology makes sense without invoking evolution.
As I have said before I think Dobzhansky was employing hyperbole in the title of his article, in which case I believe he was arguing for position b).
Several people have posted specific examples that they think only make sense in the light of evolution. These would support position b) but not a).
Does nothing in biology make sense except in the light of evolution?
What is revealing is that people actively promoting the importance of the theory of evolution admit that it is little used in day to day biology.
“most [biologists] can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas.” Witham, Larry A
“How is it, then, that so few newly minted PhDs in the biological sciences have taken any formal graduate school courses in evolution or biodiversity” Leonid Moroz
Simply put, much in biology makes sense without the light of evolution. Evolution, that is, in the sense of Darwin's theory of common descent from one or a few original forms of life; the great tree of life.
“Problem is, Dobzhansky was writing for an audience of science high school teachers, and his statement is patently wrong, as an even cursory examination of the history of biology makes clear. For instance, developmental biologists had done a lot of highly fruitful research throughout the 19th and 20th centuries even as they ignored Darwin. And molecular biologists made spectacular progress from the 1950s though the onset of the 21st century, again pretty much completing [sic] ignoring evolution. This is not to say that evolutionary theory doesn’t help in understanding developmental and molecular systems, but it is a stretch of the record to make claims such as those of Dobzhansky.” Massimo Pigliucci
One response is the try to expand the definition of evolution to include as much as possible so that almost any change, no matter how minor, can be included in its net. Everything from minor adaptations to genetics.
Variation, selection, and adaptation were all recognised long before Darwin. Articles on natural selection had already been published by Blyth and others before Charles Darwin published “Origin of Species”. Farmers had for millennia been selectively breeding plants and animals without any theory of evolution. Variation, selection, and adaptation are not evolution although they are prerequisites for evolution.
Taking the giraffe as one example there are many features that can be understood as functional adaptations without considering evolution.
the vertebrae in the neck have ball and socket joints for flexibility
the vertebrae over the shoulders have extensions to support the nuchal ligament to help support the head and neck
the jugular veins have check valves to control backflow of blood when the giraffe lowers its head
a network of blood vessels below the brain, the rete mirabile, relieves arterial pressure when it lowers its head
the skin on the legs is tough and has an inner fascia to prevent blood pooling
the blood vessels in the legs are deep and capillaries are very narrow to reduce bleeding
None of these require any evolutionary history to be understood. In any case the fossil evidence of transitional forms is so lacking that any evolutionary history becomes mere conjecture.
It is also true that there were some very wrong "creationist" ideas that Darwin did in fact deal with effectively. [One] was the immutability of species
In “Origin of Species” Darwin argued strongly against the fixity of species but that was already something of a straw man. Linnaeus for example originally believed in fixity of species but later in life rejected that hypothesis. It was already a dying concept in Charles Darwin's day.
But there are problems with the definition of “Species”. The “biological species concept” does not match the conventional Linnaean classification. We get, both in the wild and in captivity, examples of cross species hybrids and also cross genera hybrids. Hence we get the situation in the cat family where we can get a chain of hybrids linking tabby to tiger. So perhaps this is an example of a ring species where although there is a chain of hybrids the extreme ends, tabby and tiger, can not interbreed. This would mean that all the cats could be one species within one definition of species but divided into different genera and species using another definition.
So Darwin was probably correct regarding the origin of “species” within the kind but wrong about extending that to common ancestry from one or a few original ancestors.
I also reject mutation as contributing anything beneficial ...
I disagree with you there. Whether something is beneficial or not depends on the environment. Take human adult lactose tolerance as an example. All mammals normally produce lactase as infants so they can digest their mother's milk but this normally ceases after they are weaned. A mutation allows lactase production to continue into adulthood and where milk is available from cows or other sources for adults to consume this becomes beneficial. However it is still something broken within the original system rather than the production of new genetic information. Similar situations cover most (possibly all) examples of antibiotic resistance.
While the mutations can have a net benefit in some situations it usually has some detriment as well. Antibiotic resistant bacteria gradually lose resistance if the antibiotic is discontinued. An example is sickle cell trait. This is definitely detrimental but where malaria is prevalent can give a net beneficial result. Roughly, the benefit for the population is directly proportional to the frequency of the sickle cell allele but the detriment is proportional to the square of the frequency. At low frequencies the benefit outweighs the detriment but at higher frequencies the detriment outweighs the benefit, so even in areas with a very high incidence of malaria the frequency doesn't get above 20%.
Moroz? Yes he does disagree; as I noted in my post #53 when I said "What is revealing is that people actively promoting the importance of the theory of evolution admit that it is little used in day to day biology."
Dredge writes: "I wonder why Darwinists haven't cited the evolution of the car as a practical application of the theory of Common Descent yet." Yes they have. It's often referred to as Berra's blunder.
Another own goal, in a way, because Darwin's theory is certainly useful in engineering. Variation and selection has found optimum results for aeroplane bodies and antennae.
Another own goal. Douglas Axe discusses this "evolution" of antennas in Chapter 11 of "Undeniable"* where he says "As a finder of inventions, Darwin's evolutionary mechanism is a complete bust, but as we saw in chapter 7, it sometimes comes in handy as a fiddler. ... Fine tuning involves the adjustment of many small details, so trial and error is often the best way to do it."
In fact I'd say it is more a trial and error solution aided by the power of computers than it is an application of evolutionary theory.
*How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That life Is designed. Highly recommended.
It's obviously pedantically inaccurate to say that nothing in biology makes sense without evolution - it's obviously a deliberate exaggeration.
Yes, as I said at #5. Several other people agree but some don't.
It is very wrong-headed idea that a scientific concept needs to be practically useful to be correct. On the other hand sometimes an incorrect theory can be practically useful.
I have amended the last sentence of #53 for clarity: None of these require any evolutionary history to be understood. In any case the fossil evidence of transitional forms for the giraffe is so lacking that any evolutionary history becomes mere conjecture.
Recent research by GCF and partners has shown that there are four distinct species of giraffe in Africa. Two of these species have two and three subspecies respectively. All species and subspecies live in geographically distinct areas across Africa and while some of the species/subspecies have been reported to cross-bread in zoos, there is little to no evidence that this occurring in the wild.
I'd explain these the same way I'd explain horse/zebra/donkey. They are all descended from the kinds on Noah's Ark. The horse/zebra/donkey also prefer to breed with their own but can cross breed.
Percy: Does this mean that you believe there was one original giraffe kind on the ark, and that the four species we see today are descended from that one original kind? If so, doesn't this mean you're advocating some kind of accelerated evolution?
RAZD: In other words, they are members of a clade that descended from a common ancestor population,
Please see my reply at Message 724 in "The TRVE history of the Flood..."
Davidjay, we certainly do see mutations and adaptation, and I think there is sufficient evidence to accept speciation within the created kind.
Just the development of new breeds of dogs and cattle shows that adaptation can happen. The Belgian Blue cattle breed is one example where a mutation that would be harmful in the wild has been selected by breeders to increase beef production.
However what we don't see, or at least I don't know of an example, is mutations adding significant amounts of new genetic information. This includes Nylonase and Cit+ in Lenski's LTE experiment.
What we see is consistent with the Biblical YEC view. I suggest you read the article I linked. The mistake that Darwin and evolutionists make is to extrapolate what is observed way beyond the evidence to reach false conclusions.
The authors provide a method to measure functional sequence complexity and apply it to 35 protein families.
A mathematical measure of functional information, in units of Fits, of the functional sequence complexity observed in protein family biosequences has been designed and evaluated. This measure has been applied to diverse protein families to obtain estimates of their FSC. The Fit values we calculated ranged from 0, which describes no functional sequence complexity, to as high as 2,400 that described the transition to functional complexity. This method successfully distinguishes between FSC and OSC, RSC, thus, distinguishing between order, randomness, and biological function.
For the purposes of this thread it is not necessary to show that nothing in biology makes sense in the light of evolution. The question is if "nothing in biology makes sense EXCEPT in the light of evolution."
While there are some who take an extreme view one way or the other I think it has become clear during the discussion that quite a lot in biology makes sense without evolution. Dobzhansky was just using hyperbole for a catchy title for his article; and there's nothing wrong with that.
Do you like my message title? I admit it's not as good as Dobzhansky's.