Let's study ID: a way to study adaptation times (Introduction)

by dhw, Monday, January 03, 2022, 12:18 (18 days ago) @ David Turell

Adaptation times

QUOTES: Many complex features of living organisms appear abruptly in the fossil record, where it seems that multiple coordinated changes were necessary before any advantageous functional trait arose. The mathematical model developed in this paper is aptly suited to understanding how long it would take for such a trait to arise.

"As I noted, this paper is methodological, meaning it’s only developing a mathematical model and not yet applying it to real world biological systems. One hopes in the future the team will apply their model to real biological systems. We will then see what the implications are for the viability of standard evolutionary mechanisms to account for the origin of such traits."

DAVID: So the gaps are not just the Cambrian as noted in biohistory. As the paper shows multiple coordinated mutations are required for such gaps. Sudden appearance of a new body part is difficult to explain by chance events.

I agree. The heading here is misleading, though, because it’s clear that the authors are concerned with innovations rather than adaptations (though sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between the two – as in our legs-to-flippers saga). I have absolutely no idea how mathematicians can possibly calculate how long it would take for these innovations to come about, since nobody knows HOW they do so. People have tried to calculate how long random mutations would require, but an all-powerful God could produce changes overnight if he wanted to, and we have absolutely no way of knowing how long it would take autonomously intelligent cells. (As an aside: It occurs to me that climate change might prove eventually to be the next major influence on speciation, though I suspect it will result in mass extinction and certain existing species becoming hugely successful rather than innovating.)

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