Uncertainty Principle

This article is getting a lot of links.

Major transitions in biological evolution show the same pattern of sudden emergence of diverse forms at a new level of complexity. The relationships between major groups within an emergent new class of biological entities are hard to decipher and do not seem to fit the tree pattern that, following Darwin’s original proposal, remains the dominant description of biological evolution. The cases in point include the origin of complex RNA molecules and protein folds; major groups of viruses; archaea and bacteria, and the principal lineages within each of these prokaryotic domains; eukaryotic supergroups; and animal phyla. In each of these pivotal nexuses in life’s history, the principal “types” seem to appear rapidly and fully equipped with the signature features of the respective new level of biological organization. No intermediate “grades” or intermediate forms between different types are detectable. Usually, this pattern is attributed to cladogenesis compressed in time, combined with the inevitable erosion of the phylogenetic signal.

In plain English, biologists are, seemingly suddenly, expressing some doubts about Darwin. What I’ve placed in bold typeface undercuts a lot of the last 100 years of the science.

Now, there’s always been some notice of deviations from strict adherence to “survival of the fittest” – no, not the deviations of biologists, but the deviations found in nature. The idea of punctuated equilibrium has been around for decades. But this goes beyond that. In its rush to digitize and quantize everything in nature, it seems that science has discovered that Darwinism cannot survive the process. It requires a smooth continuum of changes accumulating over time, and nature isn’t providing that.

All of a sudden, biologists are… uncertain.

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