Progress on empirical facts, whether from molecular biology or fossils have blurred the picture of evolution quite considerably. Jonathan P. Wilson (Caltech) in Science reviews the book, which shows precisely that point.
- However, the molecular phylogenetics revolution, new fossil discoveries, and reinterpretations of existing material have catapulted our understanding of plant evolution ahead, leaving behind hypotheses and interpretations that were as good as fact a mere ten years ago.
- Any book that includes two major thematic axes—increasing evolutionary diversity and complexity on one hand, and time on the other—faces a formidable organizational challenge.
- Many environmental events simultaneously affect disparate taxonomic groups, whereas evolutionary innovations may lead to within-group specializations that deserve to be discussed separately.
- Simply treating events stratigraphically risks giving short shrift to evolutionary trends…
- However, a temporal framework makes it easier to portray the effects of large changes in climate and patterns of major adaptive radiations, such as the explosive diversifications of polypodiaceous ferns in tandem with angiosperm trees during the Late Cretaceous and Early Paleogene.
- They give orphaned organ taxa (particularly foliage and seeds) individual chapters, in which they note tentative or speculative associations with other fossil groups.
- Furthermore, the demise of the anthophyte hypothesis (which linked angiosperms to the living seed plants Gnetum, Ephedra, and Welwitschia) has left a vacuum that could be crippling to a book focused on the evolution of plants.
- Their new edition has caught up with recent discoveries and the progress of thoughts about plant evolution. It points the way toward the most promising avenues for future research.
Not surprising, this speculation about how plants evolved has been basically swept away by new discoveries and the answers are believed to be somewhere in the future. One would think history could repeat itself and the answers to questions will be pushed further into the future. This in turn gives hope that their theory will actually mean something as far as trying to explain evolution with empirical data.
Plant evolution assumes miracles no question about it. It also redefines the meaning of facts. Wilson spoke of new discoveries that were “leaving behind hypotheses and interpretations that were as good as fact a mere ten years ago.” Just when you think facts are facts which never change but not in the hypothesis of evolution. Treating facts as speculation is redefining the meaning.
Think about this, ten years ago these same scientists were telling the public “we know now” and then claiming this knowledge is advancing with these new answers only to find new discoveries falsified those things. Is plant evolution really making any progress? After reading the book review, nothing was presented, only a promise that answers will come in the future. This embarrassing falsification was turned into a vindication by Wilson:
“By opening the door to a diversity of ideas, the authors turned what could have been a gaping void into an agenda for many a lab meeting or conference session.” A wise man once said, evolution fills one hole only to have five more holes open as a result, the cycle is endless.