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Open letter to science editors

 

KRONOS Vol IX, No. 1

Vox Populi

EVOLUTION, DARWINISM, POPPER, AND FORT - AGAIN

To the Editor of KRONOS:

KRONOS VII:4 contained a number of discussions of steady, or gradual versus catastrophic and implicitly instant evolution. While what was said, particularly about the researches of Nilsson, was of considerable interest, there are some matters that - on one or the other side of the debate or dispute - have been omitted. I shall try to cover these as briefly as seems reasonable.

In nature, there exists a phenomenon called mimicry. There are some remarkable and perfect examples of it in mimicry of species by others having no taxonomic relation of recent character. A famous example is of the African Swallowtail butterfly, Papilio dardanus. Only the females are mimetic. In each locality a different model is mimicked. The models are inedible butterflies of the families Danaidae and Acraeidae. There are incomplete mimics, also. In India, the females of the Nymphalid butterfly Hypolimnas bolina imperfectly mimic the Danaid Euploea core, and fly boldly in the open, as if protection were given thereby to some extent; whereas the H. bolina males, somewhat differently and more brightly and conspicuously marked, are very shy and far less often seen. In Australia, the H bolina females have small orange patches, as if in the process of evolving extensive orange markings whereby they would mimic the African and Asian equivalent of the Monarch butterfly, Danaus chrysippus.

In South America, the virtual networks of model and mimetic forms are extraordinary, and were studied in detail by the naturalists Bates and Muller. "Batesian" mimicry is of an inedible by an edible species, for protection against birds and similar predators. "Mullerian" mimicry consists of a shared pattern of taxonomically unrelated inedible species; for example, between Swallowtails inedible because their caterpillars feed on poisonous Aristolochia creepers, and Heliconids whose caterpillars somehow produce a poison from plants of the Passion Flower group.

If evolution at each geological, geomagnetic, and palaeozoological juncture is abrupt, whereby herds of figurative or metaphorical Okapis give birth to numbers in each case of Okapis, Zebras, and Giraffes - instantly generating in one season or brief succession of seasons an adequate reproductive population for each such instantly generated species - one would naturally wish to know how it could possibly be that this fresh and instant evolution is so precise and so neatly coordinated interspecifically that the types of virtually perfected mimicry could come about at all, functionally connecting one group of instantly evolved species with another and unrelated group. Gradual evolution, no matter what various formidable arguments are mounted against it, could with some degree of plausibility account for the relationships, while abrupt evolution as an hypothesis is severely strained.

In an honest review of all the facts that are relevant to the matter at hand, rather than a few that suit any given favorite idea, it is necessary to take into account also the extraordinary symbiotic relationships such as the cultivation of fungi by South American ants and by African termites. There are also complexes of insect predation misnamed as parasitism. There are examples in which a wasp lays eggs in the grubs of a wasp which lays eggs in the caterpillars of a butterfly or moth.

Sometimes the choice of victim is narrowly specific, and the cycle of each layer of predation is geared to that same climatic cycle which governs the primary victim or host. It appears to be prohibitively difficult for the hypothesis of instant or abrupt or catastrophic evolution to account for such a remarkably precise interlocking of parts and functions and climatic cycles, for - at each juncture of instant evolution the new groups of species which implicitly do not evolve during the ensuing stasis must have their own new pattern of interlocking functions and adjustments.

The major focus of argument over evolution concerns basically tautological conceptions. The tautology of natural selection is obvious, and so also with adaptation. George Gaylord Simpson's opportunism of evolution seems equally tautological. If evolution is opportunistic, developing species that use the evolutionary malleability of their physical construction in order to adapt to ecological situations and take advantage of ecological vacuums, one asks why the sea has been so extremely tardy in more than one evolutionary quarter.

Plant life in the sea is as primitive as it was in the Silurian, when plants first made their way onto land. The only intelligence that the sea has evolved is in the octopus. The whales came back from the land where they had evolved intelligence away from the sea. In this context, the perception of opportunism in evolution is wisdom after the event. Opportunism as a conception is also intrinsically tautological.

Proponents of gradual evolution seem to have been remarkably quiet about how the mammary gland evolved. At some time in the Permian or in the Triassic, the reptilian cloaca separated into the anal and urinary tract in which, in the male, the reproductive organ was constituted. A gradual evolution of this sort is plausible enough. There is apparently no readily conceivable manner in which there could gradually evolve the mammary gland, complete with teats and the infant's instinct to suck at them for nourishment. Even the most ingenious imagination cannot easily concoct how this astonishing development could ever have come about. It seems that, in this case, the only possible explanation is instant evolution, during one generation of which parents with neither milk glands nor teats gave birth to offspring of which the adult females had them, and in which all the infants had the instinct to use them for feeding.

To resolve the latter problem into gradual evolution calls for hypothesis piled upon hypothesis, which is not science. It appears then that the matter of the mammary glands is a factor in favor of the hypothesis of instant evolution.

Herein have been raised some positive and negative aspects of both cases. It seems that the only way of resolving the issue is for hitherto untried methods of induction of mutation in the laboratory to be attempted.

Roger Ashton Vancouver, B. C.


To the Editor of KRONOS:

A lot of hot air has been vented in recent months concerning the relationship of evolutionary theory to Karl Popper's ideas on falsifiability and the scientific nature of theories. It seems to me that much of the argument has been unnecessary and based upon misconception. Firstly, as David Stove put it (KRONOS VIII:2, p. 81), "Since when has Popper's word been law?" Secondly, the present position of Darwinism and "evolution" of any kind can be excellently argued without reliance on Popper's ideas, as shown by Macbeth and Ellenberger (KRONOS VII:4, pp. 1-7). Macbeth shows that the trouble lies in the Darwinists' claim to be "champions of . . . good science". To use Popper's theories to prove the Darwinists unscientific and topple them from their precarious throne is to use a double-edged sword. Any rival theory of evolution or creation can be shown to be equally "unscientific"; and, in any case, since when has science had a monopoly on truth?

Popper is not the philosopher of science to whom to harken. The present situation is, however, an excellent example of the progress of ideas as described by Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). Darwinism, or the Modern Synthesis of Evolution, having once achieved the

position of "current paradigm" in biology, its adherents are now digging in their heels - as any totalitarian system will - against a rising tide of revolution. As Macbeth writes (KRONOS VII:4, p. 4), "Established scientific theories sometimes die, but . . . many funerals must be celebrated before the old view is fully abandoned." Max Planck apparently put the case even more succinctly: "A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents . . ., but rather because its opponents eventually die . . ." The moral is plain; only time and mortality are on the side of proponents of "catastrophic evolution"; Popper certainly is not.

Jill Abery

Sittingbourne, Kent, ENGLAND


To the Editor of KRONOS:

I was pleased to see Fort's succinct epitome of orthodox evolutionary theory ("Darwinism: that survivors survive") quoted by Peter James in KRONOS VII:4, p. 27, even if he didn't hit it quite on the head. It is encouraging to see that the validity of Fort's analysis is finally coming to be generally acknowledged (see, for example, p. 62 of Natural History, 6/82). But the imbecility of those who pretend that "natural selection" (differential destruction) is a force capable of creating new life-forms is exceeded only by the idiocy of those who deduce, from the falsity of Darwin's creation myth, the truth of the creation myth of the ancient Hebrews - a spectacle that would make anyone despair of the human race, in the unlikely event he hadn't done so already!

Of course, Velikovsky's work doesn't help resolve this enormous, long-hushed-up scientific scandal - where it looks as though only some type of streng verboten supernatural intervention could account for the observed facts - but I certainly consider it a legitimate diversion for KRONOS to call attention to its existence. (No doubt others will write to scold you for wandering too far afield.)*

Alexander Mebane

Venice, FL

*Happily, no one did. - LMG


To the Editor of KRONOS:

In the article by Bennison Gray - "The Science of Evolution (Part I)" - published in KRONOS VIII:3 (p. 42), the authors refer to "dinosaurs that outgrew their environment". They may not have realized it, but this allusion sounds as though they might have meant the extinction of them all, which they did not mean to imply. Could they give me their example (or two) of the one(s) that did this outgrowing, and, also, explain how they reached that conclusion?

Did they forget, as most (if not all) biologists and paleontologists forget, that the "size series" of fossil "horses", put on display in 1905 in the American Museum of Natural History (N. Y.), is neither a "phylogeny" nor a "genealogical series": that "there is no 'descent' among them"? Just because it happens to be "impossible to get them out of the textbooks", is no reason to perpetuate that piece of mythology! (See Norman Macbeth, "Did Darwin Get it Wrong?", Nova, 1981 .)

There seem to be some other "gaps" in the information the Grays are using, and, because of this, some of their statements have a groping-for-solidity feel to them. Further research and reading will no doubt help them firm things up, but until then - and I know how difficult it can be - they should try not to offer theoretical frameworks with necessarily shaky underpinnings. I love reading their material (in KRONOS), but it breaks the flow when one's mind trips on some crevice in the material.

L. J. Fitzer

San Diego, CA

Editor's Note. It is our sad duty to report the recent death of the Drs. Gray. They left much valuable work and it is hoped that some of it may yet appear in the pages of KRONOS. In the meantime, Part II of "The Science of Evolution", which was published in KRONOS VIII:4, offers additional support for the Grays' thesis. LMG


To the Editor of KRONOS:

In Jeremy Rifkin's book, Algeny, he argues that the principles of Darwin's Theory of Evolution were abstracted from the Industrial Revolution and Darwin's own life, and applied to Nature and not the reverse as has been assumed. A similar case of hidden ethnocentricity may be found in George Talbott's "Pharaoh Seti the Great and His Foreign Connections - II" (KRONOS VIII :3). Not in Dr. Talbott's interpretation, but in the fact that previous Egyptologists interpreted the Pharaohs in terms of Western Royalty and its accompanying monarchy. One is tempted to ask what sort of view we would have of Ancient Egypt if our Egyptologists had been Oriental. *

[*Cf. R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Sacred Science: The King of Pharaonic Theocracy (trans. by A. & G. VandenBroek; N. Y., 1982).]

With regard to Bennison Gray's "The Science of Evolution (Part 1)", the evolution of horses is mentioned and that reminds me of something I read awhile back the fact that many paleontologists forget that horse fossils are displayed in order of increasing size, which may not be their evolutionary order. . . .

Gordon Serjak

North Miami, FL


To the Editor of KRONOS:

As a biologist who has read the Bennison Gray series in KRONOS with great interest I thought it best to call attention to a misconception found in Gray's last article (KRONOS VIII :4). The misconception in question is one frequently found in the biological literature; namely, that Lamarck's theory of evolution requires conscious activity on the part of the evolving organism. Those critical of Lamarck's theory have quite naturally seized upon this misconception to ridicule Lamarck and his work.

Thus Gray writes: "Lamarck's theory calls for the organism to consciously direct itself toward the attainment of some felt need" (p. 49). On the contrary, Lamarck emphasized the unconscious, mechanistic nature of organic functions and adaptive responses. Richard Burkhardt, who has written the definitive study of Lamarck and his ideas, makes this point quite clearly: "Lamarck did not attribute a significant role in the evolutionary process to consciously purposive responses by organisms to changing environmental circumstances. He himself would have been the first to assert that 'wishing' or 'willing' was of no consequence in all but the highest form of animal life and therefore could play no major role in the general process of organic change. . . . An animal responded to a felt need according to the mechanistic functioning of its sentiment interieur.''(1)

An example may help illustrate this point, which, although it may appear trivial at first sight, is actually of the utmost importance for evolutionary theory. Perhaps the classic example of Lamarckian evolution is the precise and localized development of calluses throughout the animal kingdom - for example, those along the sole of the human foot. The standard argument employed by those who regard these calluses as evidence for the inheritance of acquired characters as did Lamarck, Darwin, and Kamlllerer - is that the calluses develop in response to pressure on the sole. Few would argue here that the callus-response of the skin cells involves conscious processes, any more than the response of white blood cells to environmental agents need involve consciousness. Thus, classic Lamarckism does not necessarily involve conscious processes; neither does it preclude them.

Ev Cochrane

Ames, IA

REFERENCES

1. Richard Burkhardt, The Spirit of System: Lamarck and

Evolutionary Biology (London, 1977), p. 175.


METEORITES FROM THE MOON OR MARS

To the Editor of KRONOS:

In Antarctica's Allen Hills, meteorites litter the ground, exposed where glacial ice has evaporated. Ian Whillans of Ohio State University's Institute for Polar Studies and William A. Cassidy of the University of Pittsburgh have investigated the reasons for the abundance of meteorites. Their conclusions:

1 . The ages of the meteorites span the same interval as that of the ice.

2. The meteorites fell to Earth at the same time as the snow (become ice) exposed along a mountainside.

3. The ice and the meteorites are as old as 600,000 years.(l)

The proposed age for the ice has, however, "been challenged by Japanese scientists who suggest that the ice is far younger".(2)

According to Immanuel Velikovsky, in Worlds in Collision, the Earth's encounter with cometary Venus in the middle of the second millennium B.C. and the later encounters of Venus with the Moon and Mars produced meteorites which fell to Earth in great numbers.(3) At the same time, particularly in Earth's first encounter with Venus alone, sudden climatic changes occurred.(4)

If Whillans and Cassidy are correct that the age of the ice and the meteorites cover the same span of time, it would seem, then, that the meteorite fall was followed quickly by heavy snowfalls which converted to ice, suggesting a sudden climatic change. Of course, the proposed age of the ice (600,000 years) stands in the way of the Velikovskian hypothesis.

However, if the ice is far younger, as Japanese scientists have suggested and if Whillans and Cassidy are correct in asserting that ice and meteorites are the same age, the findings may well be one more piece of evidence for Velikovsky's thesis.

That Velikovsky's ideas concerning falls of meteorites from Venus, the Moon, and Mars are not fantasy but fact has recently been illustrated by the discovery of meteorites from Antarctica which are said to be of lunar or Martian origin.(5) A meteorite fragment known as ALHA 81005, found in January of 1982 in Antarctica's Allen Hills, and composed primarily of the mineral plagioclase feldspar in a brown, glassy matrix, has been determined to have come from the Moon.(6) Says Brian Mason, curator of the Smithsonian Institution's department of mineral sciences in Washington, D.C.: "The more I've looked at it, the more convinced I am. I think there's a very good chance it is lunar."(7)

Moreover, Donald D. Bogard and Laurence E. Nyquist of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston have suggested that certain rare meteorites may, in fact, be from Mars. They note that

1. The type of melting found on what are known as SNC meteorites (shergottites, nakhlites, and chassignites) may come from the heat-producing radionuclides in a planet-sized body.

2. Analysis of Martian surface material by the Viking landers have been reported as indicating a composition very similar to shergottites.

3. A shergottite from Antarctica's Elephant Moraine contains "trapped rare-gas isotopes whose abundances (an enrichment of xenon 129 and a high ratio of argon 40 to argon 36) are strikingly similar to those of the Martian atmosphere". (8)

A major problem, however, "is determining how pieces of Mars get to earth. . . . An erupting volcano would not be nearly strong enough, several researchers agree."(9) Jay Melosh of the University of Arizona and Ann Singer of the State University of New York at Stony Brook suggest that "a major impact by a comet nucleus might generate enough hot, compressed gas to kick free at least some small fragments''.(10)

J. Eberhart, in reporting the meteorite findings in Science News, remarks in a concluding sentence that "it would be easier to propel a rock to earth from the moon than from Mars, but confirmation that it is possible at all could be inspirational to scientists wondering if they may also have samples of the red planet''.(11)

Richard J. Jaarsma

Glen Rock, NJ

REFERENCES

1. Science News, Vol. 122 (July 31, 1982), p. 76.
2. Ibid
3. I. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision, "The Hail of Stones", "The Terrible Ones", "Samples from the Planets" (N.Y., 1950).
4. I. Velikovsky, Earth in Upheaval, "Klimasturz" (N.Y., 1955).
5. New York Times, 3/20/83, p. E9.
6. J. Eberhart, "A Meteorite Messenger from the Moon?", Science News, Vol. 122 (11/27/82),p. 341;New York Times, Ibid.; J. Eberhart, "Moonrock Yes, Marsrocks Maybe", Science News, Vol. 123 (3/26/83), p. 196.
7. Eberhart (1982), Ibid.
8. Ibid.; ScienceNews, Vol. 123 (4/2/83), p. 223 [EETA 790011
9. Eberhart (1982).
10. Ibid
11. Ibid; Richard A. Kerr, "A Lunar Meteorite and Maybe Some from Mars", Science, Vol.220 (4/15/83), pp. 288-289.


In KRONOS VIII:3, pp. 84-86, a letter from Dr. David Dunthorn was published. However, because of an intermediary exchange with Leroy Ellenberger (printed below) that letter - or at least the last part of it - should not have been published. KRONOS regrets the error and apologizes to Dr. Dunthorn for any misunderstanding or difficulty that may have resulted. - LMG

To C. Leroy Ellenberger:

First, I want to thank you for your letter (April 19). Let me apologize for my error in sign which appeared in the last paragraph of my letter to the KRONOS Forum. I added it at the last minute, remembering that I had once found the two phenomena to be of the same scale, and erring in the increase-decrease aspect. Of course it is incorrect as stated. Had our positions been reversed in this matter, however, rather than declaring, "your point is nullified'', I might have examined the concept long enough to find it interesting that the phenonena are of similar magnitude.

My intent in writing my earlier letter was to help clarify a muddy subject area and perhaps to aid you gentlemen in seeing your problem in a way that would contribute to your subsequent thought on the subject. Had I been successful in either objective, your response would have been of quite a different nature. I have an interest in the subject matter at hand, but as I indicated in a comment with my first letter, I do not care for the "games". Rather than revising my earlier letter, I respectfully request as I did in my earlier comment, that you ignore it and do not print it.

Although I find KRONOS quite interesting, as I did Pensee before it, I find it bewildering that you complain of Sagan-like tactics when applied to Velikovsky, yet emulate them in your own work. Perhaps it is because Velikovsky had such a forceful manner in similar dealings, but there is a difference. Velikovsky made sure he understood all aspects of the matter in question before he became forceful. Sagan did not even feel it important to have read, let alone understood, the opposing viewpoint. While a subject is still under study, force and authority are impediments to be avoided.

I am sorry that I must be so negative, but I do not see any real purpose in amplifying the comments of my earlier letter. Would they be read the second time?

David Dunthorn

Oak Ridge, TN

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