Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mechanisms and Engines

Yesterday, I received a gift that keeps on giving. I was searching for a list of "evolutionary mechanisms" that I recalled seeing some time ago on Dr. Allen MacNeil's blog, and I have finally hit paydirt (much thanks to Dr. MacNeil at TT and Patrick at UD). These mechanisms are described by Dr. MacNeil as "real sources of variation".

Note: Dr. MacNeil makes it clear that these mechanisms are NOT a comprehensive list. IOW, there could be more out there; they are just undiscovered currently.

Now I can focus on these mechanisms and ask "What can they do and what can't they do?" (IOW, what are the properties and limitations of these mechanisms).

But the gift-giving (or receiving in my case) did not end there. In the linked post, Dr. MacNeil alludes to an earlier article, What Is The "Engine" of Evolution? and in Patrick's comment, he suggested that the "engine of variation" is the next front of debate. This "engine" description intrigues me as an engineer because I view an engine as multiple mechanisms functioning together to produce a separate and larger function that each mechanism could not accomplish on its own. So much to learn, so little time.

Given this and the upcoming Altenberg 16 summit, it appears to me that there is a growing trend among evolutionary biologists to distance themselves from the "Classic Darwinian" view where natural selection is king. As an "observer from the sidelines", these are interesting and intriguing developments.

It's no wonder Richard Dawkins is concentrating his efforts on "evangelising" atheism rather than promoting the "creative power of natural selection" (because if he did, Dawkins would be an endangered/soon-to-be extinct species) ;)

Note: I am adding the link to Dr. MacNeil's blog to my Recommended Sites as I believe it is a good source of information from the "other side".

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