* Origin: toadnet (86:86/200.0) Number: 404 (Read 0 times) Date: 17 Apr 94 19:57:00 To:

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

--- * Origin: toadnet (86:86/200.0) Number: 404 (Read 0 times) Date: 17 Apr 94 19:57:00 From: James J. Lippard To: All Subject: Re: What is the point of all this? From: lippard@skyblu.ccit.arizona.edu (James J. Lippard) Date: 17 Apr 94 19:57:00 GMT In article , sschaff@roc.SLAC.Stanford.EDU (Stephen F. Schaffner) writes... >In article <0097D0C0.9FBEF820@vms.csd.mu.edu> 5ng1bockj@vms.csd.mu.edu writes: >>. . . (look at Michael Denton, who is not a creationist but has some good >>critisims of evolution). . . . > >I've seen statements like this several times before. Does anyone know >what Denton actually *does* believe? He certainly comes across sounding >like a creationist, albeit of the old earth variety. Letter dated October 1, 1991, from Michael Denton to Jim Lippard: [...] Regarding my current views. I am myself still very sceptical about the Darwinian claim that all the adaptive complexity of biological nature has come as a result of the process of 'cummulative selection' (Dawkins phrase) ie by the gradual accumulation of small random mutations each of which _fortuitously_ confered some tiny selective advantage to the orgaism in which it occurred. Although sceptical re: this claim I concede that it is a possible explanation for adaptive evolution. None the less I would insist that it has certainly not been proved nor can I see at present, given the fantastic, practically unfathomable complexity of living things how one could conceivably go about proving such a notion. This is not the place for a lengthy defence of my own particular views however I would like to mention one area not touched on in EVOLUTION, that of mutation, where I think it is possible that future developments might present a challenge to Darwinism. The phenomenon of mutation is still largely mysterious. We still have little clear idea how it is controlled (there is a lot of evidence that it is controlled) nor what proportion of all mutations are genuinely random mutations 'errors in the replicative system' (some clearly are the result of such errors but are they all?) altogether we know far too little about the process to assess what might be the contribution of genuinely random mutations to evolutionary change. The recent flurry of excitement and controversy re: Cairns' and Hall's apparent demonstration of directed evolution in bacteria (I don't accept that this has actually been shown) does illustrate how little is known about the process of mutation even in bacteria let alone higher organisms and just how insecure is the Darwinian claim that _random mutation_ is the "source of all innovation in the biosphere" to quote Monod. As I see it the current evidence re the mutational input is compatible with a variety of alternative evolutionary mechanisms Lamarkian, Darwinian, directed theistic and even models based on chemical determinism etc. The apparently constant rate of molecular evolution might well turn out to be the result of as yet undefined factors which control the mutational input in some way and even possibly direct it towards particular ends. I hope this satisfies you re my present position. I am sure that the cause of evolution will turn out to be perfectly natural even though as yet we have no satisfactory naturalistic explanation. However I am inclined to the view that when the natural expanations are elucidated they will represent deeply embedded laws or tendancies in the nature of things which will largely restrict life forms to designs similar to those actually manifest on earth or in other words that life's design is not contingent as Gould clams but directed in large measure by physics in the most general sense of the term. These are deep waters which would require a book to develop. This is enough for now. [...] All the best Mike Denton [handwritten:] You may show this letter to anyone you want Mike This makes it pretty clear that Denton isn't a creationist. Jim Lippard Lippard@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU Dept. of Philosophy Lippard@ARIZVMS.BITNET University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 85721


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank