Evolution’s Dominating Metaphor Finally Obsolete?

When we were taught about evolution during our early school years, we all came to learn about Darwin’s tree of life. But in recent year especially this one and last year, there has been a challenge to do away with the metaphor because the details of life which is vastly complex doesn’t match with it.

In the Journal of Biology which has open access rather than a required fee to view, stated the following…

  • “The tree of life is, probably, the single dominating metaphor that permeates the discourse of evolutionary biology, from the famous single illustration in Darwin’s On the Origin of Species to 21st-century textbooks…the original tree of life concept is obsolete: it would not even be a ‘tree of one percent’.

Wow, Darwin’s tree according to observations would be impossible for even one percent of a tree. What happened here? Why is the so-called tree of life so way off? Apparently, horizontal gene transfer has scrambled the genes in prokaryotes so there is no trace of common ancestry! This means there is no empirical evidence for Darwin’s tree of life.

The paper suggested an objective scientist would have consider another alternative, biology’s big bang where prokaryotes arose explosively. Now the paper also goes into detail about how the metaphor might be salvaged…

  • “The message from this analysis is twofold.  On the one hand, we detected high levels of inconsistency among the trees comprising the forest of life, most probably due to extensive HGT, a conclusion that is supported by more direct observations of numerous probable transfers of genes between archaea and bacteria.”
  • “On the other hand, we detected a distinct signal of a consensus topology that was particularly strong in the NUTs.  Although the NUTs showed a substantial amount of apparent HGT, the transfer events seemed to be distributed randomly and did not obscure the vertical signal. ”
  • “Moreover, the topology of the NUTs was quite similar to those of numerous other trees in the forest, so although the NUTs certainly cannot represent the forest completely, this set of largely consistent, nearly universal trees is a reasonable candidate for representing a central trend.”
  • “However, the opposite side of the coin is that the consistency between the trees in the forest is high at shallow depths of the trees and abruptly drops, almost down to the level of random trees, at greater phylogenetic depths that correspond to the radiation of archaeal and bacterial phyla.”
  • “This observation casts doubt on the existence of a central trend in the forest of life and suggests the possibility that the early phases of evolution might have been non-tree-like (a Biological Big Bang).  To address this problem directly, we simulated evolution under the CC model and under the BBB model, and found that the CC scenario better approximates the observed dependence between tree inconsistency and phylogenetic depth.”
  • “Thus, a consistent phylogenetic signal seems to be discernible throughout the evolution of archaea and bacteria but, under the CC model, the prospect of unequivocally resolving the relationships between the major archaeal and bacterial clades is bleak.”

This is when the evidence points to creationism, while struggling mightily trying to fit in a naturalistic setting. In creationism we of course believe God created the animals from the very beginning at a fast pace. “The explosion” in which scientists in the secular world are finding more of in nature is an indicator of this concept such as the prokaryotes just bursting onto the scene..

Evolution cannot account for the sudden appearance of prokaryotes and bacteria, with all their molecular machines, systems, networks, genetic codes and specified complexity. We want data, not a story! A biological big bang? Face it, it’s over, obsolete, you have beat this metaphor over and over again, it’s not savable. But there is one thing which we are happy about, the research points to creationism more than ever before.


5 thoughts on “Evolution’s Dominating Metaphor Finally Obsolete?

  1. Michael, you need to reread Marshall McLuhan: “The map is not the territory.”

    In science, the metaphor is not the theory. In classical mecahinics, light was conceptualized as a wave. Then it was seen as a particle. Does the light cease to exist because the metaphor is not accurate? Does evolution cease to be true because i can’t be represented by a tree? Does God cease to exist when we find out he doesn’t actually look like the painting on the Sistine Ceiling? Get real.

    The metaphor is not the territory.

  2. The metaphor (never said it was a theory) is useless, if it’s not the territory than why does it remains in textbooks and continues to be researched?

  3. Michael, why is the metaphor “useless”? Like all metaphors, it doesn’t explain everything. Like all metaphors,NBo one expects any metaphor to be 100% accurate: Once again, the map is not the territory.

    Metaphors are not researched. Evolution is researched. Metaphors are handy gadgets for ordering facts in one’s mind. To the extent they aren’t useful, they are discarded, in whole or in part. To the extent they remain useful, they are retained.

    The tree remains in textbooks because, even though it has some flaws, it is still the best overall mental picture of evolution (see above). The flaws can be noted without dumping the whole metaphor.

    Example: Einstein holds that the proper metaphor for gravitation is a “curvature'” of space-time. The Newtonian metaphor of gravitational “force” is no longer accurate. Yet it continues to be taught in schools. And it continues to be used for calculating satellite trajectories. If you’ve ever tried to solve Einstein’s field equations, you’ll understand why. (See, e.g., the large-format, 1300-page “Gravitation,” by Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler. Warning: you’ll need more than one advanced tensor-calculus course.)

    If you are relying on the tree metaphor as evidence for or against evolution, let me prove to you that Stevie Wonder is God. Ahem. God is love. Love is blind. Stevie Wonder is blind. Ergo, Stevie Wonder is God. QED

  4. Michael: “[I]f it’s not the territory than why does it remains in textbooks and continues to be researched?

    I should have read your short comment more close. I think you have no idea what McLuhan meant by his famous quotation.

    Briefly, he meant that a symbol of something merely represents it for certain purposes. Therefore, we must never treat the symbol and the thing symbolized as being the same.

  5. “We want data, not a story!”

    Well, go for it ! Collect some !

    “But there is one thing which we are happy about, the research points to creationism more than ever before.”

    Eh, no. Not at all, actually. Did someone tell you this already ?

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