In the Light of Evolution I: Adaptation and Complex Design

In the Light of Evolution I: Adaptation and Complex Design PNAS May 15, 2007; 104 (Suppl. 1)

With many contributions about information, complexity and evolutionary theory from some of the world foremost experts.

Introduction John C. Avise and Francisco J. Ayala From the Academy: Colloquium Perspective: In the light of evolution I: Adaptation and complex design

Darwin’s elucidation of natural selection as a creative evolutionary force was one of the monumental intellectual achievements in the history of science, not only revolutionizing thought across the biological sciences but also fundamentally impacting much discourse in the social sciences, philosophy, and religion. No longer were explanations for the origin and marvelous adaptations of organisms necessarily to be sought solely in the context of supernatural causation. Instead, biological outcomes could now be interpreted within the critical scientific framework of natural processes governed by natural processes and laws.

and the concluding remarks

Overall, the collection of ideas and data in this Colloquium is highly eclectic but nonetheless broadly illustrative of modern scientific attempts to understand the evolution of complex adaptations. These scientific endeavors are coming at a time of resurgent societal interest in supernatural explanations for biological complexity. Especially in the United States, proponents of intelligent design (ID)—the latest reincarnation of religious creationism—argue that biotic complexity can only be the product of a supreme intelligence (i.e., God). In the closing article of this Colloquium, Eugenie Scott and Nicholas Matzke (23) examine the history of the ID movement, and they conclude that although without scientific merit, the crusade itself is of consequence to broader society because it represents a serious assault on the integrity of science education.

Perhaps there is a middle ground for scientific and theological interpretations of complex biological design. In his 1973 commentary titled “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” (24), Theodosius Dobzhansky famously proclaimed “I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God’s, or Nature’s method of creation.” Regardless of what our personal philosophical persuasion may be, let us rejoice in biotic complexity and in the scientific efforts to understand its geneses.

  • Francisco J. Ayala Colloquium Papers: Darwin’s greatest discovery: Design without designer
  • Robert M. Hazen, Patrick L. Griffin, James M. Carothers, and Jack W. Szostak Colloquium Papers: Functional information and the emergence of biocomplexity
  • John Gerhart and Marc Kirschner Colloquium Papers: The theory of facilitated variation
  • Adam S. Wilkins Colloquium Papers: Between “design” and “bricolage”: Genetic networks, levels of selection, and adaptive evolution
  • Michael Lynch Colloquium Papers: The frailty of adaptive hypotheses for the origins of organismal complexity
  • Benjamin Prud’homme, Nicolas Gompel, and Sean B. Carroll Colloquium Papers: Emerging principles of regulatory evolution
  • Richard E. Michod Colloquium Papers: Evolution of individuality during the transition from unicellular to multicellular life
  • Joan E. Strassmann and David C. Queller Colloquium Papers: Insect societies as divided organisms: The complexities of purpose and cross-purpose
  • Nancy A. Moran Colloquium Papers: Symbiosis as an adaptive process and source of phenotypic complexity
  • Francesca D. Frentiu, Gary D. Bernard, Cristina I. Cuevas, Marilou P. Sison-Mangus, Kathleen L. Prudic, and Adriana D. Briscoe Colloquium Papers: Adaptive evolution of color vision as seen through the eyes of butterflies
  • Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra, Peter L. Morrell, and Brandon S. Gaut Colloquium Papers: Plant domestication, a unique opportunity to identify the genetic basis of adaptation
  • Albert F. Bennett and Richard E. Lenski Colloquium Papers: An experimental test of evolutionary trade-offs during temperature adaptation
  • Cynthia M. Beall Colloquium Papers: Two routes to functional adaptation: Tibetan and Andean high-altitude natives
  • Douglas J. Emlen, Laura Corley Lavine, and Ben Ewen-Campen Colloquium Papers: On the origin and evolutionary diversification of beetle horns
  • Eugenie C. Scott and Nicholas J. Matzke Colloquium Papers: Biological design in science classrooms