Evolution Means Change, Except When it Doesn’t

A new find on jellyfish reveals that evolution leads organisms to change and adapt, except when it doesn’t.  Yes, you heard that right.  Jellyfish, apparently, haven’t changed very much at all since the Cambrian explosion.  Apparently, this is due to evolution.  While other critters in the same environment are changing because the environment selects it, the jellyfish are surprisingly inert in terms of change over time…because the environment doesn’t select it.  IOW, evolution explains everything.  If something adapts and changes over time, it’s evolution.  If something else doesn’t change and adapt over time, it’s evolution.  If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?  I don’t know, but it must be evolution anyway.  Anything the purports to explain everything, explains nothing and is of no use to science.

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6 responses to “Evolution Means Change, Except When it Doesn’t

  1. Oleg Tchernyshyov

    The riddle you quoted is slightly longer: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Don’t you find that it describes your blog rather accurately?

    Just kidding, professorsmith. I heard the sound and came to help you get up. 🙂

    It seems to me that you did not read the SFG article very carefully. It does not say that “the jellyfish are surprisingly inert in terms of change over time…because the environment doesn’t select it.”

    Go to the second and third paragraph of the article and you’ll see that the stability of the jellyfish is tied to the lack of changes in the environment. That’s a bit more specific than you let on.

    When an organism adapts to a static environment, it eventually reaches a (local) maximum of its fitness. If the environment remains unchanged, incremental changes in the phenotype caused by random mutations no longer increase the fitness — because it has already reached a maximal fitness. That’s it, the species hit an evolutionary cul-de-sac. Unless the environment changes, mutations in genotype confer no additional advantage.

    When the environment does change, the fitness landscape becomes different and the organism finds itself on a slope, rather than at the top. In this new situation mutations can lead to improvements in fitness.

    There are numerous examples of static organisms quickly evolving in response to changes in environment. Remember the beaks of those finches changing during droughts? Drug-resistant bacteria? How about HIV developing a host of new features on the scale of a few decades since it jumped to humans?

    And while you’re at it, go read the original article in PloS One. You don’t need a subscription to get it. Here is the reference: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001121

  2. Thank you Oleg for the post. I enjoy getting educated, and your posts always make me think that maybe I should do more reading. Right now, I am thinking that you are making more sense than Professor Smith.

  3. professorsmith

    Mr. Tchernyshyov,
    Whether the environment changes or not, it is the “entity” that is doing the selecting, no? Therefore, jellyfish don’t change because the environment doesn’t select a change. That you want to hedge some argument off of semantics is not surprising, but it simply doesn’t make sense. The environment certainly allowed other similar organisms to continue to change, which in turn changed the environment. It is altogether too simplistic to simply say, “Well, jellies live in the sea, and the sea doesn’t change,” because “environment” refers to much more than sea or land. It is everything around the organism, including all those organisms that are evolving. No environment is static, so the authors are simply wrong on that score and you are hinging your argument on that.

  4. I liked the ad for kitchen counter fossils!

    BTW – This is toatally Off Topic Professor, but a couple of posters (borne and bornagain77) at Uncommon Descent, Dr. Dembski’s blog, were attacking me yesterday because I said I was a Theistic ID believer, and I guess that they don’t like Catholic’s. DaveScot finally put an end to their persecution, but I am rather stunned at their hatred. It hought ID had a Big Tent? Is ID only for Young Earth Believers now?

    Have you ever run into people that are anti-Papist, in this day and age, and if so, how do you deal with it?

  5. glarson, I was also looking at that thread. I, too am a Catholic, but I didn’t take any real issue with anything said over there. The original comment that lead to the brouhaha didn’t seem like its point was to be anti-Catholic, but merely to assert that the commenter couldn’t see how to reconcile faith in God with an unguided process. I thought that he referred to priests and popes merely to make this rhetorical point, not to denigrate Catholicism itself. I’ve seen snarky over-the-top anti-Catholicism before, and just didn’t detect it there. Just my two cents. Also, since the pertinent posts were deleted from the thread, I can’t really go back and double check my impression. But my initial impression is that you unnecessarily took great offense where none was offered. Anti-papists exist, but what of it? So do know-nothing followers of Dawkins. What can one do but shrug?

  6. professorsmith

    I have to confess that I haven’t had time to surf over to UD as of late. I had planned on getting over there today, but I haven’t been feeling well, so I don’t think I can comment on this issue.

    I can say that ID is not for YECers only. I’m a little hesitant to say that YECers are IDists at all, since ID comes directly from science instead of scripture. IIRC, there are quite a few YECers that attack ID because it is not born from scripture – which is ironic because the other side, the Darwinists, claim that it is nothing but an idea born from scripture.

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