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December 29, 2005

The Panda’s Thumb.

Nice to see the Panda’s thumb and Stephen Jay Gould mentioned again. It really does boggle my mind that the Creationists and ID proponents don’t get the message. One slight concern:

In The Panda's Thumb, a book of essays, Gould explained that the so-called thumb that allows the panda to strip the leaves off bamboo is really part of the wrist (the sesamoid bone) and evolved for this use because the panda lacks an opposable digit.

Obviously a failing memory on my part as I thought it was the radial ursoid (the connection being with bears or ursus) but that’s a minor point. More important is "evolved for this use". Err, no. Things evolve and are then put to certain uses but the entire point is that the appearance of the characteristics is not driven by their use. Whether they survive and pass to latter generations is driven by whether those changes are indeed useful, but that’s a rather different point.

Still, and yes, I’m aware that Gould was considered a little extreme in some of his assertions (perhaps a litte too much emphasis on the punctuated or catastrophic part of evolution and his views on the Burgess Shales) but as I remember it this is indeed the core of his argument in the book and one well worth remembering:

He noted that "odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution - paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process. . . follows perforce."

December 29, 2005 in Science | Permalink

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Comments

As Pterry once said, the existence of a badly-designed watch implies a blind watchmaker. An intelligent designer wouldn't load the human body with appendices, wisdom teeth and other useless cruft.

Posted by: xj | Dec 29, 2005 10:43:07 AM

"odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution - paths that a sensible God would never tread"

I suppose. Then again, a perusal of religious texts rather convinces me that "odd arrangements and funny solutions" are precisely the sorts of paths that God is supposed to tread all the time, so it hardly seems to me that you'll convince so many people that way.

I do wonder whether the statement implies a belief that examples of convergent evolution are more evidence for evolution than examples of divergent evolution are, since starting with something similar and then changing it is "obviously" what an intelligent designer would do?

Posted by: John Thacker | Dec 29, 2005 8:41:24 PM