Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Joseph A. Kuhn, MD. Part 2.

I am fraking “Dissecting Darwinism” by Joseph A. Kuhn, MD, published in Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings (BUMC Proceedings).


Kuhn makes various errors of fact and logic throughout his introductory pages. Mostly the result of sloppy thinking, and ignorance. For example, Kuhn said that ‘neo-Darwinism’ “reflected knowledge of reproduction and recombination, leading to potentially greater shifts in species.” What it reflected was a rejection of Lamarckian ideas of heritable acquired characteristics. Kuhn wrote that the “modern synthesis” was “proposed in 1950 to incorporate the knowledge of genetics, systematics, paleontology, and other fields.” Actually, the modern synthesis was proposed mathematically in the 1930s to merge genetic and evolutionary theory. Prior to this, genetics was promoted by antievolutionists as an alternative explanation to the diversity of species. The modern synthesis is built on the realization that the unit of evolution is an inter-reproductive population, taxonomically equivalent with “subspecies.” The term itself was introduced in a 1942 book by Julian Huxley titled, “Evolution: The Modern Synthesis.” (I have highlighted below the earlier papers by the most influential contributors). Major contributors were; R.A. Fisher, The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection (1930), J.B.S. Haldane; ten papers between 1924 and 1934 collectively known as “A Mathematical Theory of Natural and Artificial Selection,” see also, “Possible Worlds and Other Essays” (1928), Wright, Sewall (1932). "The roles of mutation, inbreeding, crossbreeding and selection in evolution" Proc. 6th Int. Cong. Genet 1: 356–366.

Reading these authorities, and other contemporaries, one learns that the field of paleontology is nearly ignored by evolutionary theorists at the time. The resulting revolution in systematics, or taxonomy really waited until the 1970s. This brings up Kuhn’s next error (at least big enough to irritate me). He wrote, “These mutations can occur gradually or rapidly via a term called saltation or punctuated evolution (sic).”

What is first irritating is that ‘terms’ don’t cause mutations. Second, there is nothing outside the fevered minds of creationists called “punctuated evolution.” The idea of ‘punctuated equilibria’ was introduced very dramatically by "Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism" (1972) pp 82-115 in "Models in paleobiology", edited by Schopf, TJM Freeman, Cooper & Co, San Francisco. Steve Gould, and Dick Lewontin in their 1979 paper, “The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossion paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme.” (Proc R Soc Lond B 205 (1161): 581–598) extended the idea to argue that their punctuated equilibria idea could accommodate apparently non-adaptive mutation. Then “saltation” is not at all related to “punctuated” anything, it is derived from the Latin for “leap” is the notion of single-step speciation. This actually is known to happen, particularly common in speciation by plant hybrids. For example, de Vries (1905) found an unusual variant among his plants. O. lamarckiana has a chromosome number of 2N = 14. The variant had a chromosome number of 2N = 28. He found that he was unable to breed this variant with O. lamarckiana. He named this new species O. gigas. (I have dozens of other examples of observed emergence of new species on this link).

I am tired, and the weather sux. So there is sadly much more time to spend tomorrow on “Joseph A. Kuhn, MD. Part 3.”

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