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Friday, August 27, 2010

Darwin in Dispute: Evolution Might Not be Fittest Explanation

  Charles Darwin
The phrase “survival of the fittest” has been engrained in the psyche of the modern era since biologist Charles Darwin presented it as a critical driver behind the concept of evolution in his book On the Origin of Species in 1859.

Darwin’s idea was that the vast diversity of life descended from a single common ancestor because of two factors:
  1. Random mutations in the DNA code (blueprint of life) over time;
  2. The passing along of only the most “helpful” mutations to future offspring as determined by the environment – also called natural selection.
These two factors contributed to the basis for “survival of the fittest,” which simply means that the best gene pool has an advantage when competing for scarce resources whether that’s food, shelter, a reproductive mate or any other life need.

Interestingly, new research out of the University of Bristol in the UK suggests that competition was NOT a key factor in evolution as reported by BBC News online [click the link below for the full story].

Basically, the new study found that a more likely driver of changes in species was the availability of “livable space” and a favorable habitat, rather than competition.

This issue interests me because the more I learn about genetics and life sciences, the less I trust the macro-evolutionary idea that life spontaneously assembled itself in a primordial soup.

As background, I work for a biotech company that spends millions of dollars each year, using the latest technology engaging some of the most intelligent scientists on the planet to develop individual proteins to positively affect diseases.

Trust me when I tell you that it takes a lot of resources, time, Intelligence, Design and intention to develop a single protein that is helpful against a given disease – there is nothing random about the process.

This latest debate out of the UK raised in the aforementioned BBC story, adds to my pile of questions to which NO biochemist, biologist or scientist has provided adequate answers when I’ve had the opportunity to ask. The toughest of those questions are as follows:
  • All life requires DNA to dictate the construction of proteins, which are necessary for every life function – how did the DNA “instruction manual for life” come to be? 
  • How did the non-organic (nonliving) chemicals that purportedly existed at the dawn of time transform into sustainable, organic (living) cells?
  • Our bodies are extremely complex, with interdependent systems that rely on each other to function. How could each of those systems evolve independently yet flawlessly function collaboratively?
This last point came into focus for me while working at an eye company, Bausch & Lomb, for four years. Believe it or not, the eye has 2,000 different parts and the salty tear film on the surface of the eye has 20 distinct layers.

I offer those eye-opening factoids to demonstrate that the eye is one of the most breathtakingly precise and complex structures known to humanity. But without the completely independent optic nerve to transmit images OR the brain to interpret those images – the eye is little more than a firm orbital jelly sack.

The point being that small-scale, micro-evolutionary changes, mutations and adaptations occur – I don’t dispute that. However, it’s a supremely improbable stretch that those “effects” were the combined “cause” of the universe and life as we know it.

Ultimately, I’m not sure that the grand theory of macro-evolution is the “fittest” explanation for life. Or perhaps I’m simply not “Intelligent” enough to “Design” or IDentify an alternate IDea for our existence.

Oh well, I'm open to suggestions?

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