The Mathematical Challenge to Evolution

Really enjoyed the following discussion on the mathematical challenge to evolution. Found David Gelernter’s perspective interesting since I am in computer science. If anyone happens to know of any recent claims in the scientific literature of genetic mutations that fundamentally alter an animal’s physiological makeup without killing it or severely disabling it, would be interested in a citation.

There is a general principle here, similar to the earlier principle that the number of useless polypeptides crushes the number of useful ones. The Georgia Tech geneticist John F. McDonald calls this one a “great Darwinian paradox.” Meyer explains: “genes that are obviously variable within natural populations seem to affect only minor aspects of form and function—while those genes that govern major changes, the very stuff of macroevolution, apparently do not vary or vary only to the detriment of the organism.” The philosopher of biology Paul Nelson summarizes the body-plan problem:

Research on animal development and macroevolution over the last thirty years—research done from within the neo-Darwinian framework—has shown that the neo-Darwinian explanation for the origin of new body plans is overwhelmingly likely to be false—and for reasons that Darwin himself would have understood.

Darwin would easily have understood that minor mutations are common but can’t create significant evolutionary change; major mutations are rare and fatal.