Is Charles Darwin wrong about the tree of life and coral reef formation?
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, researchers of coral reef formation find Charles Darwin wrong overall but his 19th century hypothesis was actually fairly close.
Coral reef used to be thought to be a thin veneer, but Charles Darwin hypothesized that coral reefs might be thousands of feet deep. Charles Darwin was right in this regard, but new research finds Charles Darwin wrong when it comes to how the coral reefs grow. Charles Darwin thought coral reef on sinking islands grew as they stretched toward the slowly dimming sunlight.
Taylor Perron, the study’s co-author and a geologist at MIT, explains how Charles Darwin got it wrong, if only a little:
“Darwin actually got it mostly right, which is pretty amazing. He didn’t know about these glacially induced sea-level cycles. You can explain a lot of the variety you see just by combining these various processes — the sinking of islands, the growth of reefs, and the last few million years of sea level going up and down rather dramatically.”
Charles Darwin was also wrong in many other ways. Charles Darwin did not even know about genetic information, and now we know DNA storage can hold all the information in the all computers in the world in one cell. Darwin thought even single celled organisms were simple, which explains his failed pangenesis theory which hypothesized that huge changes sprang out at random from cells.
The tree of life is finding Charles Darwin wrong about a more important matter integral to modern evolutionary theory. The tree of life intends to demonstrate how species are interlinked by evolutionary processes from a single common ancestor.
Dr Eric Bapteste, an evolutionary biologist at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, explains why Charles Darwin is wrong: “For a long time the holy grail was to build a tree of life. We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality.”
Charles Darwin was also wrong about how information in the form of DNA was passed on, so Darwin envisioned a simple tree of life. In the past several years scientists have been finding the tree of life resembles an extremely complex thicket, not a tree with easy to follow branches.
The Human Genome Project was only just completed about 10 years ago, so many of these ideas are relatively new. What Charles Darwin did not know about was horizontal gene transfer (HGT), or lateral gene transfer, gene duplication, recombination, gene loss or gene transfers from multiple sources. HGT was originally thought to be only primarily relevant to “lower” species like bacteria, which swap genetic information back and forth. This is how anti-bacterial resistance comes about, with pre-existing genetic information being recombined to find a target via selective pressure.
Some scientists hypothesize that HGT may play a role in higher creatures, perhaps even humans. Charles Darwin is wrong at the very least about the tree, er, bush of life since it’s getting very complicated. Kevin Peterson came up with a method that uses short molecules called microRNAs to work out evolutionary branchings.
After realizing that humans share more genetic information with elephants than mice, Peterson said, “I’ve looked at thousands of microRNA genes, and I can’t find a single example that would support the traditional tree. [The technique] just changes everything about our understanding of mammal evolution.”
Some scientists are even more critical in discussing how Charles Darwin’s tree of life is wrong. Douglas Axe says these old ideas are encumbering the progress of science:
“It’s amazing how thinking on evolution has shifted since I started following the subject in the 1980s. Today’s biologists clearly have realized that evolutionary theory must be revised to avoid conflict with genomic data, and yet they are very reluctant to say that the problems forcing the change are deep problems. … Although the belief that all species are related was then as sacrosanct as it is now, there was at least a general recognition then that trees are only as believable as the evidence supporting them. … Indeed, it becomes so easy to construct utterly fictitious evolutionary histories when we drop the expectation of consistency that such a move ought to be viewed as undermining the whole exercise of phylogenetic reconstruction. Whisky, kerosene and milk have no common pedigree, but that wouldn’t stop us from concocting one if we were to lower the standard in that way. The only prospect of elevating tree-building to something more than a game, then, is that it might uncover a strikingly consistent pattern of relationship between species. And the sobering truth is—it doesn’t.”
What do you think about these scientists claiming Charles Darwin is wrong?