Evolving Thoughts

A new study into the transfer of genetic material laterally, or across taxonomic divisions, has shown that evolution does not proceed as Darwin thought, and that in fact the present theory of evolution is entirely false. Instead, it transpires that lateral genetic transfer makes new species much more like Empedocles‘ “random monster” theory over 2000 years ago had predicted.

Publishing in the Journal of Evolutionary Diversions, the major journal in the field, Professor Augustus P. Rillful and his colleagues of the paragenetics laboratory at the University of Münchhausen in Germany have shown experimentally that the ability of DNA to cross species boundaries at any distance makes the origin of species a solved problem, only it is solved in a way that Darwin never envisaged. This new theory, called Empedoclean Evolution, explains why novel traits can be found in many different taxonomic groups independently. Instead of being “discovered” by natural selection and then passed on to descendants, a solution can be “found” entirely by chance and shared throughout the living world, even between single celled organisms and plants or animals.

i-bb7fdd744052cbdc61f2784fa29fe033-rillful.jpg Prof. Augustus P. Rillful

Empedocles, who was mocked by Aristotle for his theory of “man-faced oxen”, held that organic parts randomly assorted to form random monsters until a viable form was found, after which it remained more or less constant. While his mechanism was crude and unrealistic (organs floating about separate from their organisms), the basic idea is now seen to be solid, with DNA packets replacing of organs. A similar view appears to have been held by the famous French naturalist Georges Cuvier, who knew that there were successive faunas, but rejected evolution (in the transformation of species sense) as an explanation. New faunas, according to Prof. Rillful and his team, occur when genes for new traits appear by accident, and cause a knock-on effect throughout the ensemble of species as viruses and bacterial transfer of genes spreads them throughout all the major species. Consequently, any gene that happens to code for a trait to deal with these novelties also gets widely spread, until an entirely new set of organisms now exist, as a new fauna.

Rapid faunal succession, as Rillful has called it, is “like punctuated equilibrium on steroids”; instead of single species remaining stable after they appear, entire faunas do. The role of natural selection is almost entirely eliminated in favour of the spread of chance useful variations. The Empedoclean theory also removes the need for sexual selection as an explanation of such traits as the peacock’s tail – these are unwanted side-effects of genes hopping across the boundaries of species, and even phyla or kingdoms, in which rather than being nonviable as most chance combinations are, some combinations can form species with a burden of less-than-optimal traits.

In the paper, Rillful says “Darwin’s theory of evolution as a purposive process, in which chance is balanced by the pseudodesign of natural selection, is no longer a necessary hypothesis to explain all of life. And the intelligent design argument is entirely shown to be false. Darwin was wrong, and so was Paley. The consensus is moving even further away from the Design hypothesis than even the modern Darwinians expected. Adaptation is an accident.”

Rillful says that humans appear to be the first organisms to develop intelligence, quite by accident, and that he expects other species will start to become intelligent over the next few thousand years, as the gene for this is spread by infection to other species.

A summary of this work will soon be found in the cover story of the April 1 issue of New Scientist. It looks to revolutionise modern biology in ways that can only be imagined.

Reference

Rillful, A. P., Metonym, P., Hebe, P., Samsa, G., et al., 2009. “A new theory of evolution based upon the ubiquity of lateral genetic transfer”. J. Evol. Div. 23 (2):69-136.

Comments

  1. #1 Dan
    April 1, 2009

    Hehehe…
    Facinating.

  2. #2 Thony C.
    April 1, 2009

    Ich glaube dass du dieses einen tag zu frĂĽh gepostet hast ;)

  3. #3 John S. Wilkins
    April 1, 2009

    Nein, in Australie, es war richtig.

  4. #4 Guy
    April 1, 2009

    I starting reading this because lateral transfer is a real issue in some bacterial taxa — and then I became, shall we say, suspicious … the Journal of Evolutionary Diversions … the University of MĂĽnchhausen … But isn’t it a bit of a cheat to post on March 31 instead of April 1?

    Great fun. But I’ll admit to being stumped as to the first author.

  5. #5 Guy
    April 1, 2009

    My bad — silly International Date Line ;-)

  6. #6 John S. Wilkins
    April 1, 2009

    Indeed…

  7. #7 Ben Breuer
    April 1, 2009

    Heh. Universität MĂĽnchhausen? Must check whether they have a Music department–job security for me!

    “Punctuated equilibrium on steroids”? Ew. Well, that would preclude competition.

  8. #8 Blake Stacey
    April 1, 2009

    “G. Samsa” was a particularly nice touch.

  9. #9 Danny
    April 1, 2009

    Is it that time of the year again?

  10. #10 becca
    April 1, 2009

    Actually, there probably is a “Darwinian threshold” before which lateral gene transfer significantly outweighed vertical inheritance. If you’re interested in the Origin of the Microbial species, at least.

  11. #11 Stitch
    April 1, 2009

    I spent a good bit of time trying to figure out how the heck lateral gene transfer was going on in the higher taxa before I scrolled down to the comments. Color me gullible and in the wrong time zone!

  12. #12 bradford daly
    April 1, 2009

    very amusing.

  13. #13 TE
    April 1, 2009

    Sshhhhhhhhh!

    Maybe UD will jump on this!

  14. #14 Erin
    April 1, 2009

    lolololololol

  15. #15 John Farrell
    April 1, 2009

    F%$^in’ April Fool’s Day.

    You had my jaw on the floor for about 5 seconds….

  16. #16 James Chastek
    April 1, 2009

    Awesome. Next year, do Epicurus’s atomic swerve.

  17. #17 Steve
    April 1, 2009

    Prof. A.P. Rillful

    Very nice.

  18. #18 G
    April 1, 2009

    I have been myself contaminated by a bacteria that had the infamous Peacock Tail gene.

    Hello ladies!

  19. #19 jdhuey
    April 1, 2009

    Despite the publish date, I’m sure some creationist will quote mine the article. Especially, the ‘…evolution is entirely false’ part.

  20. #20 Owlmirror
    April 1, 2009

    Doctor G. Samsa is a well-known, if somewhat odd-looking, worker in the field of entomological morphology.

    Just don’t ask him about his apple and asparagus allergies.

  21. #21 J. D.
    April 1, 2009

    Prof. Augustus P. Rillful looks an awful lot like Peter GrĂĽnberg, co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Physics.

  22. #22 Vic
    April 1, 2009

    I did raise an eyebrow for the fist few sentences …

  23. #23 Siamang
    April 1, 2009

    I assume the transfer of these genes is done by viruses. It would help if you would explain this better.

    For example, how does this explain how a banana is curved inward, toward the mouth?

    Gotcha, you filthy materialist!

    ps, how does it explain Pygmies + Dwarfs?

    pps…. you owe me a camera.

  24. #24 foolfodder
    April 1, 2009

    Dammit, you so got me.

  25. #25 Eyeoffaith
    April 1, 2009

    Thankyou for what will probably be the only truely entertaining thing I will come acros today. :)

  26. #26 Ron Hager
    April 1, 2009

    How long do you think it will take before some IDiot will reference this as proof that Darwin was wrong?

  27. #27 Cath the Canberra Cook
    April 1, 2009

    LOL, well done – I especially like G. Samsa! But I don’t understand “P. Hebe”, can someone explain? All the other names are clever, so I guess this one has a joke too.

  28. #28 Drekab
    April 1, 2009

    I reread this a few times trying to figure out why you were taking it seriously and not making fun of it, of course the comments set me straight. April 1st got me again.

  29. #29 nothing's sacred
    April 1, 2009

    why you were taking it seriously and not making fun of it

    It’s tagged with “Fiction” and “Humor” categories.

    But I don’t understand “P. Hebe”, can someone explain? All the other names are clever, so I guess this one has a joke too.

    Hebe is the Greek goddess of youth and appears in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but perhaps there’s more to it.

  30. #30 Cath the Canberra Cook
    April 1, 2009

    I thought the Ovid reference was too generic, since Hebe doesn’t undergo any metamorphosis herself. Maybe it’s a Phebe story, but Phoebe/Phebe doesn’t have a metamorphosis story either. I could possibly have been over-analysing this :)

  31. #31 Norman Doering
    April 1, 2009

    Sounds like Symbiogenesis, that theory Dr. Lynn Margulis came up with.

  32. #32 notherfella
    April 1, 2009

    Had to do some furious googling to work out AP Rillful’s name. Damn. I feel dumb. It’s going to be a long 01/04.

  33. #33 Breakfast
    April 1, 2009

    (Get rid of those ‘fiction’ and ‘humor’ tags!)

    (…And all these comments, I guess.)

  34. #34 Pierce R. Butler
    April 1, 2009

    A.P. Rillful?

    Too generic.

    To be specific, looks more like Silverback Gorillfule from here…

  35. #35 Keanus
    April 1, 2009

    JDHuey is right. This will be quote mined. Anyone want to set up a lottery for how many days before the first quote mine appears?

  36. #36 Matt M
    April 1, 2009

    The verity of this article seems highly dubious, but let’s consider just this last statement:

    Rillful says that humans appear to be the first organisms to develop intelligence, quite by accident, and that he expects other species will start to become intelligent over the next few thousand years, as the gene for this is spread by infection to other species.

    Ouch… is Rillful oblivious to the fact that intelligence is the most studied example of a multifactorial genetic trait? There is not one single gene that encodes for smarts. Some recent research has shown that about 100 genes so far have been identified that are linked with intelligence… and this, the researchers hypothesize, only accounts for about 1% of the variation seen among the population.

  37. #37 GaryB
    April 1, 2009

    Looks like you’ve been pharyngulated.

    This post, or at least the more interesting parts should show up on UD any time now. 5…4…3…2…

  38. #38 Chris Tan
    April 1, 2009

    Dear John

    Why can’t you titled the blog as “A new/better theory of evolution” and so on, just like the title of the article you described. I do not think any reasonable scientific-minded person think that Darwin’s theory of evolution is complete nor think it is the whole truth. The new theory, called Empedoclean Evolution, will probably be “wrong” years later as we know more. Science is not the business of proving who is wrong but finding the truth.

    Sincerely

    Chris

  39. #39 Cedric Katesby
    April 1, 2009

    Cute. Took me a while to catch on. :)

    P.S.
    Gordon Mullings

  40. #40 Chris Tan
    April 1, 2009

    Hi John

    I guess is already 1st of April over in Australia. I just do not like this joke but will be fun to see how it will be propagated by the ID community.

    Chris

  41. #41 PZ Myers
    April 1, 2009

    Seeing that UD now has a post up citing Cracked magazine damning an evolutionist (Richard Owen??!?) for plagiarism, there is nothing anyone can do that will sucker them deeper into looking more foolish than what they usually do.

  42. #42 arensb
    April 1, 2009

    notherfella:

    Had to do some furious googling to work out AP Rillful’s name. Damn. I feel dumb.

    Join the club. I spent far too much time at the Anagram Server, wondering whether Wilkins was most likely to use use “lupus”, “fistula”, or “flatus” in a joke.

  43. #43 John S. Wilkins
    April 1, 2009

    Has nobody wondered if P Hebe is related to to P Behe?

  44. #44 Polly Semy
    April 1, 2009

    I am also related to one of the authors.

  45. #45 Don E
    April 1, 2009

    I think it’s very appropriate that the Aussies beat us to April fools day jokes. Well done!

  46. #46 Russell Blackford
    April 1, 2009

    John: I’m afraid I have a few, um, concerns about this:

    http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/2009/04/wilkins-supports-anti-darwinian-theory.html

  47. #47 Brian Rock
    April 1, 2009

    Will this be quote-mined by some moronic IDiot? One can only hope…

  48. #48 Fedor
    April 1, 2009

    Ah…. ‘MĂĽnchhausen’ I was almost starting to believe it was real!!! Damn, I have almost been fooled the 1st of April!

  49. #49 bassmanpete
    April 1, 2009

    I don’t get the G. Samsa reference. Can someone help me out please?

    Much prefer transferring my genes horizontally :)

  50. #51 Nan McIntyre
    April 1, 2009

    It looks to revolutionise modern biology in ways that can only be imagined.

    Snigger

  51. #52 John S. Wilkins
    April 1, 2009

    I’m very pleased to see that the article has been taken up in discussion by a theology site.

  52. #53 fvngvs
    April 1, 2009

    This also explains why so many mutations are beneficial. It turns out that mutations are visible (if darkly) from parallel worlds. All any organism has to do then, is to scan the most probable parallel world-lines to discover the most useful variant.

  53. #54 DiscoveredJoys
    April 1, 2009

    AH! At last I can see how a small ark of a handful of creatures could speciate rapidly enough to refill a drowned earth. Presumably the empedoclean evolution continued while the creatures spread to the farthest parts of the world (Australia), which explains why the creatures that arrived there were mostly of the marsupial kind.

    Brings an entirely new meaning to the phrase ‘f**k me sideways’.

  54. #55 bassmanpete
    April 1, 2009

    Thank you Trold. I thought I was going to be embarrassed because it was obvious and I hadn’t seen it; now I’m embarrassed because I hadn’t heard of the character before.

  55. #56 Laurie
    April 1, 2009

    I knew you were wandering over to the dark side, Wilkins!

    (Bloody brilliant, BTW.)

  56. #57 MissPrism
    April 1, 2009

    Haha! Good work – you had me going there.

  57. #58 Louis
    April 1, 2009

    I’m wondering if the department at the University of MĂĽnchhausen, from where this highly informative study was published, is one of the two proxy departments of the School of Biological Sciences there…

    Louis

  58. #59 slang
    April 1, 2009

    Exquisite! Thanks. What’s the evolutionary penalty for a knock-on effect? Lateral transfer scrum?

  59. #60 uoflcard
    April 1, 2009

    Sshhhhhhhhh!

    Maybe UD will jump on this!

    Actually I did get the link to this from UD. And it was quite amusing! Thanks John Wilkins for the laugh

  60. #61 Cath the Canberra Cook
    April 2, 2009

    So John, who is P. Behe? I’m aware of an M. Behe… A relative, perhaps?

  61. #62 John S. Wilkins
    April 2, 2009

    Oh, yes, my mistake. He’s the bastard lovechild of P Johnson and M Behe…

  62. #63 Svlad Cjelli
    April 2, 2009

    ” starting reading this because lateral transfer is a real issue in some bacterial taxa — and then I became, shall we say, suspicious … the Journal of Evolutionary Diversions … the University of MĂĽnchhausen … But isn’t it a bit of a cheat to post on March 31 instead of April 1?

    Great fun. But I’ll admit to being stumped as to the first author.

    Posted by: Guy | April 1, 2009 12:54 AM”

    I, too, thought that this would be about bacteria.

  63. #64 Thony C.
    April 2, 2009

    Great fun. But I’ll admit to being stumped as to the first author.

    When I first read the Aussie Anthropoid’s little piece of whimsy yesterday morning I thought that the professor’s name must be one of Wilkins’ bad jokes but no matter how hard I stared at it I just didn’t get it, so I gave up.

    Returning this morning and rereading the piece and the comments I realised that I had been right with my assumption but I still didn’t get. OK, so I’m just too fucking stupid to understand the humour of a gorilla, so what do I care? Having turned off the computer I left the flat to go out with the dog, muttering the name of the professor complete with initials when it hit me between the eyes like a cruise missile going down one of those Iraqi bunkers.

    Try it yourself, speak the name with initials out loud, but don’t do it standing in front of the window, as you will probably take a bite out of the windowsill at your own stupidity when you do get it.

  64. #65 PZ Myers
    April 2, 2009

    The mark of a truly good April Fool’s piece is when someone takes it seriously. Good work trolling that theology site.

  65. #66 Moses
    April 2, 2009

    Good one!

  66. #67 ID
    April 2, 2009

    Excuse me, but…

    I don’t find the point…I think it’s a perfect possibility…

  67. #68 John S. Wilkins
    April 7, 2009

    We got one! About halfway down the comments…

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