Massimo Pigliucci goes on the offensive when he writes: "I have little patience for the pretense of a "fair and balanced view," when we all know that balance comes out of discussions and disagreements among peers, not from the point of view of a single individual". In this case, the individual is Michael Lynch, author of The Origins of Genome Architecture and Pigliucci is reviewing the book as one of his peers.
Lynch represents an 'evolved modern synthesis' position. He accepts that the modern synthesis needed developing: "One of the central theses of the book is that natural selection is not necessarily the central evolutionary mechanism, as quite a bit of the details of genomic structures and evolution can be accounted for by invoking the neutral mechanisms of mutation, recombination, and drift." With this framework, the explanatory tools are to hand and the remaining task is to use them to systematise the genetic information that we are able to gather. "Lynch's thesis [. . .] is that the theoretical apparatus of evolutionary theory is complete and that people should stop whining about missing pieces and the need for a new synthesis: just study your population genetics and everything will be all right."
Pigliucci presents this as a "rather uninspiring theme". Furthermore, "what the modern synthesis has not given us is a theory of form, and applying population genetics to genomics - as valuable an exercise as that is in its own right - isn't going to give us one either. As much as genes are fundamental to the evolutionary process, there is much more to biology than genes and their dynamics." This is interesting territory to explore, as readers of Why is a Fly not a Horse? will agree.
The review closes with this paragraph: "Ultimately, the main reason we need an expansion of the modern synthesis was pointed out by Popper several years ago: "[the Darwinian theory] is strictly a theory of genes, yet the phenomenon that has to be explained is that of the transmutation of form". Lynch's contribution in The Origins of Genome Architecture goes a long way toward completing our explanation of how genes (and genomes) change over time. Nonetheless, although indeed necessary, population genetics is not even close to sufficient for understanding how phenotypes evolve. There is much more to do, and a large undiscovered country lies out there. Let's take a look." This is the kind of emphasis that ID scientists welcome!
Science 317, 31 August 2007, 1172-1173. DOI: 10.1126/science.1146047
The Origins of Genome Architecture, by Michael Lynch
Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA, 2007. 510 pp. ISBN 9780878934843.
Everyone in biology keeps predicting that the next few years will bring answers to some of the major open questions in evolutionary biology, but there seems to be disagreement on what, exactly, those questions are. Enthusiasts of the various "-omics" (genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, and even phenomics) believe, as Michael Lynch puts it in the final chapter of The Origins of Genome Architecture, that "we can be confident of two things: the basic theoretical machinery for understanding the evolutionary process is well established, and we will soon be effectively unlimited by the availability of information at the DNA level." [snip]
scordova, Michael Lynch: Darwinism is a caricature of evolutionary biology
Uncommon Descent, 1 September 2007
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