* Origin: toadnet (86:86/200.0)
Number: 404 (Read 0 times) Date: 17 Apr 94 19:57:00
From: James J. Lippard
Subject: Re: What is the point of all this?
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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> email@example.com
>>. . . (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
All the best
You may show this letter to anyone you want
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