jeudi, décembre 28, 2006

Can You Be a Theist and Believe In Evolution?

Can You Be a Theist and Believe In Evolution?:

"John Wilkins wonders about this in God, evolution and variation. I think it all boils down to purpose. Science doesn't reveal purpose but most religions demand it. (We're talking about interventionist Gods here.) Real evolution incorporates a large degree of accident and randomness and that's just not consistent with a God who has a plan. (Yes, I'm aware of the confused rationalizations of some theistic evolutionists.)"

This is from Larry Moran's blog, one of my favorites: Sandwalk. And this is one of the points of view I disagree mostly with fellows darwinists. Randomness is quite consistent with a god "who has a plan". At least there is evidence that Randomness and accidents and the so are quite consistent with humans "who have a plan" and want to achieve a results. And this is a case not rare for molecular biologists.

Now I'll have to explain. Imitating evolution in vitro is one of the most funny things I ever made in a lab. Random Mutation and Artificial Selection instead of RM+Natural Selection. I haven't a personal application/results to presnt here as much demonstrative as my chouchou, so I'll talk rather about DNA shuffling and the GFP -> EGFP construct.

DNA shuffling is a powerful technique when you don't have enough data to design a genetic manipulation to achieve a particular result, composed of a [predetermined] genotype leading to a particular phenotype. Not always easy to build the experiment.

First thing first, one need to [almost ;-)] precisely determine what the expecting result(s) is and a way to isolate it from a population. For EGFP the case was easy enough to be used as proof of concept: a DNA sequence, descendant of GFP, encoding for a protein with:

  • better expression pattern in human cells, and/or
  • higher quantum yield, and/or
  • different excitation wavelength.

Building the Artificial Selection strategy was easy enough: express a DNA collection in human cells, illuminate with the desired wavelength, select the brighter cells using a cell sorter. A common cell sorter is the most complex part of the experiment's setting.

To apply this strategy one needs to have a population of DNA sequences to sort, indirectly, on the basis of the phenotype they procure. At this point DNA shuffling provides the answer. Starting with the parental GFP encoding DNA, introduce random mutations, cut the resulting molecules into short ones and allow PCR to recombine them. Purify (or not) the right length fragments, insert them into an eucaryotic expression vector, use the ligation product to transform the adequate cell line and let expression occur. Sort them; you may find the sequence(s) with the desired characteristics. You should find it if it is possible and your initial DNA population is large enough to covert probabilities.

Let's see what we have here: a quite intelligent designer mimicking evolution in vitro [random mutation and recombination] and applying selection for a particular set of characteristics. Someone "who has a plan" and build the conditions where "accidents and randomness" will bring the desired result. And it works. Nicely.

This one is an easy one, amongst an overwhelming pile of evidences, that should re-conciliate any theist around with Darwin: purpose, randomness and result. If a molecular biologist can do it, any god you can imagine could do the same.

Real evolution incorporates a large degree of accident and randomness and that's just not consistent with a God who has a plan.
I think real evolution incorporates a large degree of accident and randomness quite consistent with any god who has a plan, and some knowledge of molecular biology. I'm not an atheist because gods couldn't play with DNA shuffling but because there is no evidence that such gods exist.
If theists are willing to believe the hypothesis of a god (or a set of them), let them do so and teach them that their beliefs aren't inconsistent with "evolution on the basis of RM+NS". So they hopefully stop interfere with evodevo and accept the mainstream theory of evolution without the feeling that they betray their god(s).

Even Intelligent Design proponents should stop talking about Design and start spending effort to improve Darwin's theory :-)
Dembski, O'Leary, do you copy me?


The same rationale can be used to discuss the transition from an abiotic state to the current biosphere on the basis of random events, or even from an a-universe state to the post-Bing Bang situation. Deities do have the right to use randomness and accidents (and the so) to achieve their goals, as any other entity. Now, proving that any deity exists is another problem, and it's not one for biologists but for theologists.

4 commentaires:

Zachriel a dit…

Larry Moran is not a darwinist. The term "darwinism" has a number of meanings depending on context. The Theory of Evolution has advanced considerably since the time of Darwin, and modern usage is that "darwinism" refers to the primacy of natural selection to explain evolutionary history. Perhaps Larry's vantage as a biochemist colors his views somewhat, but he sees neutral theory (as do many other scientists) as essential to any complete Theory of Evolution.

Larry Moran: Why I'm Not a Darwinist

Oldcola a dit…

I do know that Moran isn't a darwinist, so I used darwinist for a shortcut. Not the place to discuss what is behind this term.
The guys and girls on the other side use it to refer to atheists and O'Leary turns any argument against atheism to "something to do" with Darwin.
Let's not lo(o)se focus, this is about "Randomness used to achieve a Purpose".

And maybe why theists, deists and IDers should accept randomness as a main factor in evolution.

Larry Moran a dit…

We have a specific term for a God that creates the universe then lets it do its thing. People who believe it that kind of God are called deists.

The theist God has a plan and a purpose. In most cases, the plan is to produce sentient beings who will come to know and worship the supernatural being. This is not consistent with what we know about evolution. There's no evidence for such a plan.

That's why the complete acceptance of the scientific version of evolution conflicts with most religions. It's why religious scientists invented a different form of evolution called Theistic Evoluton.

Oldcola a dit…

I do understand the distinction between deist and theist.
What I'm arguing here is that a theist's god may decide to use randomness to achieve his goals. And using randomness may be his plan.
And that's why there is no need for any "theistic evolution" brand, common evolution should be enough; even for creationists :-)