Some Thoughts on the Replacement of ‘Divine Intervention’ in Irreversible Biological Change


Jack Maze

Department of Botany

University of British Columbia

Vancouver, B. C. V6T 1Z4



Cyril V. Finnegan

Dean Emeritus

Faculty of Science

University of British Columbia

Vancouver, B. C. V6T 1Z4


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There are few statements made with greater assurance than that evolution has occurred. Regardless, anti-evolution beliefs persist in spite of arguments to the contrary and their methodological inconsistency. One reason for this persistence may be the absence of a theory that makes evolution inevitable. The inadequacy of natural selection to account for evolutionary origins or life itself, is well known, an inadequacy that has been misconstrued as evidence that evolution has not occurred. Recent attempts to invoke the second law of thermodynamics as a cause of evolution through relating evolutionary change to entropic increase suffer from the contentious opinions about what entropy represents and the unavailability of understanding of how it would workto many biologists. Taborsky (1999) has offered a possible cause of evolution through linking energy flow, which follows from the second law of thermodynamics, and matter transformation; energy flows only through agency of the transformation of matter. This idea has been tested using ontogeny as a model for phylogeny. In a comparison of plants that process more, as opposed to less, energy, it was predicted that a feature of development and evolution, emergence, should show greater expression in the former than in the latter. A preliminary test verifies this prediction arguing for further experimentation. These debates focusing on evolution are another example of the conflict between old and new science, a debate that entered biologywith Lamarck’s rejection of the 18th Century view of the living world as static.

An unflinching determination to take the whole evidence into account is the only method of preservation against the fluctuationing extremes of fashionable opinion (A. N. Whitehead)

In all this, however, the rhetoric of conviction was far ahead of the sober appraisal of the evidence at hand. (S. Jaki, The Relevance of Physics)

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