Reporters show remarkably little discernment about the limitations of natural selection, but scientists don’t rebuke them.
Evolution has become the catch-all explanation for everything in the world. This can be illustrated by the ever-flowing articles coming out of the news media about the evolution of, to borrow a youth expression, “whatever.” No rigorous detail characteristic of other sciences is required to credit evolution with “whatever”. Here are a few recent examples.
Salt of the Mars: The smiling face of astrobiologist Mark Schneegurt opens an article on PhysOrg about his theory that life arises in Epsom Salt. While “Searching salt for answers about life on Earth, Mars,” he performed his divination with salt crystals, mumbling, “Our work has relevance to the origins of life on Earth, since life may have arisen from a briny tidal pool.” Then again, it may not have.
Great great .… granddaddy cell: Darwin’s sketch of a “tree of life” accompanies an article on Live Science tempting to reveal the “Ancestor of all life.” As usual, it’s only a suggestion: “A newly drawn-up evolutionary tree suggests a group of bacteria may be the last common ancestor for all life on Earth.” Inherent in these bacteria were phenomenal powers, indeed: the seeds of Olympic athletes and designers of Mars rovers. The gene bank being messy, researchers divined the path of evolution through it by examining some ribosomal proteins. “Structurally aligning the proteins allowed the researchers to pick out subtle differences that indicate which organisms belong on different branches of the evolutionary tree, they explained in a statement.”
Magic crystal: A headline on PhysOrg sounds like the discovery of a magic wand: “Evolutionary molecule identified by researchers.” This wonder molecule allowed cells to differentiate and become specialists. The professor, like a wizard, was on hand to reveal the deep dark secrets: “These findings are also remarkable because cyclic-di-GMP was previously only found in bacteria, where it causes bacteria to lose motility and transform into large sticky colonies, known as biofilms. The fact that an organism like Dictyostelium, which is very far removed from bacteria, uses the same mechanism is very interesting and suggests that the processes which cause cell differentiation in eukaryotes, like ourselves, may have very deep evolutionary origins.”…
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