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All in All, Not a Great Day for neo-Darwinism

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The major finding in the Nature article to which Casey Luskin referred earlier — "widespread evidence of interspecific gene flow" among the Gal�pagos finches — is, if anything, evidence AGAINST neo-Darwinian evolution, not evidence for it (neo-Darwinian evolution being the idea that living things change over time and become different species because of changes in DNA sequences).

The study ("Evolution of Darwin’s finches and their beaks revealed by genome sequencing") also reported several examples in which a species on one island is genetically more similar to a different species on that island than it is to its own species on another island. And although the study reported a correlation between beak shapes and a particular DNA sequence (ALX1), it found NO correlation with a different DNA sequence (BMP4) that since 2004 has been advertised as a major factor controlling beak shape.

Oh, and all statements in the article about ancestral states (beak shapes, DNA sequences, etc.) are inferences based on applying neo-Darwinian assumptions to data drawn from living birds.

Instead of reinforcing the idea that Darwin’s finches are an exemplar of neo-Darwinian evolution, this article actually serves as an exemplar of how most papers on this and related subjects are now written — the standard template being:

  1. Assume that neo-Darwinian evolution is fact.

  2. Report in great detail and with abundant technical jargon some actual evidence, even though much of it is inconsistent with neo-Darwinism.

  3. Offer various speculations that might conceivably account for the inconsistencies.

  4. End with a conclusion that reaffirms the starting assumption.

  5. Slap a Defend the Dogma title on the article such as "Evolution of X is revealed by Y," then provide pro-evolution sound bites to waiting journalists.

All in all, not a great day for neo-Darwinism.

Image by Cayambe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.