Sunday, January 20, 2008

Evolution is not random

We all know that a lot of people misunderstand the concept of evolution, and believes it to be random ("pure chance"), but this is not what the theory states at all.

Now, a new international study shows that the theory is right, and evolution is not random.

Via ScienceDaily:
New Findings Confirm Darwin's Theory: Evolution Not Random

According to Darwin’s theory of evolution, individuals in a species pass successful traits onto their offspring through a process called “deterministic inheritance.” Over multiple generations, advantageous developmental trends – such as the lengthening of the giraffe’s neck – occur.

An opposing theory says evolution takes place through randomly inherited and not necessarily advantageous changes. Using the giraffe example, there would not be a common neck-lengthening trend; some would develop long necks, while others would develop short ones.

Now, the findings of an international team of biologists demonstrate that evolution is not a random process, but rather occurs through the natural selection of successful traits. The collaborative study by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Israel, the U.S, France and Germany is published in the November 2007 issue of Current Biology (vol. 17, pp. 1925-1937).

To settle the question about whether evolution is deterministic or random, the researchers used various tools – including DNA strand analysis and electronic microscopy – to study female sexual organ development in 51 species of nematode, a type of worm commonly used to better understand evolutionary processes.

The findings showed similar development in the species, which falsifies the idea that the development is random.

The Current Biology article about the study, can be found here:
Trends, Stasis, and Drift in the Evolution of Nematode Vulva Development. It's quite technical, and much of it went over my head. Still, it's worth taking a look at.

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