Thursday, December 06, 2007
Now Lose This: A Verified ID Prediction Inferred from 'The Edge of Evolution'
According to an article in The Times ('Dandfruff is leftovers from meal on your head', Tuesday November 6th, 2007) the cause of dandruff is 'a yeast-like fungus, Malassezia globosa, which lives on the scalp in millions and feeds on the oily products of the sebaceous glands. For the first time, scientists have decoded the complete DNA of the fungus... The fungus is one of the simplest yet sequenced, with only [!] 4,285 genes... Analaysis of the genome also suggests something about the origin of the fungus. Its closest relation genetically is a yeast fungus, so it looks as if there was a shift, millions of years ago, from plants to the scalps of human beings... the fungus has adapted to its environment by...' Well, lets break off there briefly, for an intermission about Michael Behe's book The Edge of Evolution, which I recently read, in which Behe points out, among other things, that it is much easier for an organism to adapt to evolutionary pressures by breaking an existing component than it is for it to evolve a brand new component. Behe studies bacterial, viral and immune system responses because such cases provide us with the best available evidence of evolution in huge population sizes under immense evolutionary pressure, and he infers that the processes of evolution whilst undoubtedly capable of doing some things is really rather limited in what it can acomplish - a conclusion that must go 'double' as it were for organisms with smaller population sizes etc. Hence Behe seeks an empirically grounded definition for the 'Edge' between what evolution can do and what it can't do. Anyway, for-armed with Behe's evidence let's interject a quick hypothesis for testing concerning the evolution of our dandruff-causing yeast-like fungus. If we had to lay a bet, would we bet that it adapted to its environment by A) evolving a new system or B) breaking/losing an existing system? Of course, we'd lay a bet on 'B'. Note that this prediction, which follows from Behe's ID inspired search for The Edge of Evolution could be either falsified or verified by empirical observation. If it is falsified, that wouldn't, of course, be a decisive or 'crucial' test of the theory, since the prediction is one couched in terms of probability. However, repeated falsification would mount up evidence against Behe's theory. On the other hand, verification would not prove Behe's theory either; but, again, repeated verification would mount up evidence for his theory. If our prediction is verified, then, this is simply another piece of evidence to add to the evidence Behe reviews in his book in support of his argument. So how does that Times article continue? 'the fungus has adapted to its environment by losing the ability to make its own fatty acids. Instead, it survives by feeding off the fats secreted on the scalp by the sebacious glands.' (my italics) Another verified prediction from those ID folk.