Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Evolve, Evolving, Evolved, Evolution, Evolutionary

The word Evolution is too elastic and its use in different ways is causing serious confusion.

The word evolution can be used to describe a range of phenomena ranging from

(a) An exclusively materialistic account of the whole subject of biology including the origin of the first “organism” and the human race.


(b) Small changes in a population of a particular gene (e.g. Industrial melanism, and bacterial antibiotic resistance)

All the creationists and pro-ID people that I have come across distinguish between the evolution that we know occurs and is real from the evolution that is more speculative and is poorly understood. A pair of terms: micro-evolution and macro-evolution has been proposed to allow this confusion to be overcome.

Interestingly anti-ID people reject the distinction between macro and micro evolution and insist that only the word evolution be used. This means that in popular level coverage pro-ID people and creationists especially of the YEC variety can be presented as those who deny obvious facts of reality. If you are pro-ID you reject evolution and therefore you reject obvious scientific facts.

It is the interesting area of macro-evolution that ID is concerned with. How we explain the origin of complex circuits with control elements as integral, motors, integrated transport systems, integrated building programs etc.

Is the proposal to seek to clarify the terminology of the debate reasonable?

Macro-evolution – Origin of Life, Origin of significantly different body plans, origin of integrated body systems – Essentially multi-protein systems and structures requiring integrated, concerted action.

Micro-evolution- Gene frequency changes, protein homology studies, gene duplication and mutation.

I am convinced that clarity in terms of what the word means is essential if any meaningful debate is to be had and especially so that a wrong impression is not created which can inflame the situation needlessly.

So my question is … why are people who are convinced that macro-evolution is an exclusively materialistic process against clarification of the terminology. I reckon it is a useful distinction even if materialistic macro-evolution turns out to be true.

P.S. I remember a paper being mentioned that dealt with this area as suggestions for biology teachers...if anyone has a reference to this paper I would be most grateful.


Blogger Jorgon Gorgon said...

I am certain that the only distinction is quantitative: macroevolution is the sama as microevolution, only more so...

A useless and misleading distinction, in any case.

6:24 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

It may be a useless distinction for those who are totally convinced (like yourself) that all genetic material and genetic diversity is produced by the same processes which occur in microevolution...but for those of us who are unconvinced it allows more meaningful dialogue.

In what sense for example is evolution a "fact" certainly I would agree that microevolution is factual. But I am less impressed with the evidence for macroevolution. If it is impossible to easily distinguish the two then how can I express my meaning clearly?

It is a distinction that seems to be used by at least some scientists in the relevant fields.

7:11 am  

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