Darwin and Evolution Part 5

The rise of the living

Published in GralsWelt special issue 21/2008

Towards the end of the 20th century one could read that there were two (controversial) scientific theories that the 21st century would not see: Siegmund Freuds Psychoanalysis and Charles Darwins Evolution theory.

Like most prophecies, this forecast has not been fulfilled. Even in the 21st century, the theory of evolution is recognized by the great majority of natural scientists as fundamental; There are no serious alternatives in sight.

However, a number of changes and expansions have been necessary over the course of 150 years. Because after Darwin came new knowledge that changed and expanded the original picture of Darwin's theory of selection.

“Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection is convincing because it shows us a way in which simplicity could become complexity, how disordered atoms can group themselves into ever more complex structures until they finally evolved into humans. Darwin has so far provided the only feasible solution to the unfathomable problem of our existence. "
Richard Dawkins

“Neo-Darwinism regards nature as a mechanically evolving continuum to its Explanation of materiality, chance and lack of intelligence should be sufficient. "                                        Henning Kahle

Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)
Abbot Gregory studied the laws of inheritance in a monastery garden in Brno.

He had a lucky hand in choosing his test plants; for in the case of peas and beans the fundamental laws of heredity can be recognized with relatively simple means.

What prompted the abbot to conduct basic botanical research? Was he perhaps inspired by the Bible, which already contains references to genetics? (Cf. “Genetics in the Bible” in “Short, concise, curious” page 239).

A little pamphlet from 1866 in which he published the results of his experiments is ignored. Who would trust an abbot somewhere in the east, on the edge of the world, to discover botanical laws?

It was not until 1900 that the "Mendelian Laws" were rediscovered, which speak for the constancy of living beings. So they fit - how else could one expect from an abbot? - better to the biblical doctrine of creation than to Darwinism.

In the 20th century, Darwinists had no choice but to reluctantly incorporate Mendel's laws into neo-Darwinism. Since then it has been undisputed that inheritance processes contribute to evolution.

Inheritance of acquired traits?
With Mendel came two new directions in biological research: the laws of heredity were found, and dynamics found their way into biology, which until now had been a purely observational, descriptive science.

Now the importance of sexual reproduction was also recognized. This valuable "invention" of nature opens up additional development possibilities for higher plants and animals.

Bisexuality is apparently not absolutely necessary for reproduction. Primitive organisms such as bacteria cope well with reproduction through cell division. Lower groups of animals such as worms, crabs, and even some insects can reproduce with unfertilized eggs. In vertebrates, however, parthenogenesis (virgin generation) is a rare exception.

Towards the end of the 19th century it was recognized that living things consist of cells. Cell division was researched and the chromosomes in the cell nucleus were found to be the carriers of genetic information. Now it was also shown that inheritance is not always as simple as Mendel's laws dictate. It should also be remembered that hybrids are often sterile.

Then discovered in 1952 James Watson (born 1928) and Francis Crick (born 1916) the well-known double helix of the DNA (see box). This solved the big puzzle of how the hereditary properties are stored in the cell nucleus and how they are passed on during cell division.

The DNA, the genetic code, is the same in all known life forms. A fact that makes it likely that we all descend from common ancestors!

But nothing in biological research seemed to indicate the inheritance of acquired traits. How can selection work successfully if acquired, successful adaptations or learning steps cannot be inherited? Where do the variations that are indispensable for Darwin's theory of selection come from; namely those who do not represent a step backwards but an advantage?

“We now know that - contrary to Lamarck's assumptions - individually acquired traits are not directly passed on to offspring. Rather, it has long been known that changes in the genetic makeup can only be manifested through 'genetic instructions'. But how, that is the crucial question, does the information get into the genetic system? If new environmental conditions require an adaptation, a change in an organ or the diet or a species, then these requirements must, so to speak, become known to the genetic system. How this happens gives some evolutionary biologists a lot of headache. " (16, pp. 110/111).

The carriers of the genetic information, the genes, are not unchangeable "atoms of heredity". They can change, they can be "mutated", and they mutate: through errors in reproduction, through environmental influences such as chemicals, radiation, etc.
These spontaneous changes in the genome, the mutations, are in most cases not favorable for the living being and must be sorted out by the selection. Are the rare, cheap mutations enough for the ascent of life?

According to today's neo-Darwinian understanding, it is especially the interplay of mutation and selection that dominates the game of life. In the course of natural history, this interplay controlled the ascent from the simple to the complex, the development from a tiny primordial cell (the "eobiont") to countless, highly structured living beings.

According to neo-Darwinism, however, the mutations are random and therefore unpredictable. Everything could have turned out very differently if at some point one or more mutations had steered the further path of life in a different direction. Many - not just the strict believers - find it difficult to understand themselves as the result of innumerable random - and at the same time quite improbable - events.

Numerous studies have shown that mutations can occur and that selection can work. However, it is still being discussed whether these two ingeniously simple mechanisms are sufficient to explain the development of life.

The birch moth
“Perhaps the best-known example of the workings of variation and selection are the birch moths (or black moths) in Great Britain, which come in two forms: gray as biston betularia and in a dark form as biston carbonaria. The dark form is determined by a single dominant gene. A hundred and fifty years ago the carbonaria made up less than one percent of all birch moths in industrialized areas of Britain, as its dark silhouette made it easily visible to birds, while the gray variety fused with the underground, the lichen of the tree bark on which it sat. During the second half of the 19th century, as a result of the industrial revolution, the air contained more and more coal dust, which destroyed the lichens and blackened the tree trunks. Now the dark variety was camouflaged, while the lighter one stood out against the blackened background. Natural selection began to work in the industrial areas against the gray variety and in favor of the dark - with the result that today Biston carbonaria accounts for 99 percent of the population. The figures also show that it has 10 percent better chances of survival in polluted areas than the gray variety, but 17 percent worse in clean areas. " (1, p. 353).

Erratic developments?
Up until his death, Darwin was preoccupied with an unsolved problem: there were large gaps in the fossil record of the evolution of life.

According to evolutionary biologists, many transition forms that were sorely missed in Darwin's time have now been found - e. B. those between fish and amphibians, reptiles and birds, reptiles and mammals, pre-humans and humans.

However, these findings are inconclusive and are being questioned by anti-Darwinists who see the lack of links as a crucial weak point in evolutionary theory.

The appearance of many new species within a short period of time can only be explained as leaps in development (large mutations). A sudden evolution, however, does not fit well with the interplay of mutation and selection, which can only progress in tiny steps and, accordingly, only bring about minor changes.

Perhaps disasters helped accelerate evolution?
Allegedly every few million years the earth's magnetic field collapses and then builds up again. If the protective effect of this magnetic field is missing, the solar wind can fully hit the earth and trigger a flood of mutations. Is this how the mysterious large mutations come about?

The dinosaur is believed to have been wiped out by an impact. Without the demise of the dinosaurs, the mammals could hardly have developed into the dominant class. Other major catastrophes, such as the eruption of a large volcano or the explosion of a super nova in the Milky Way, may have radically changed the environmental conditions several times (at least temporarily) and forced new adjustments.

Digger wasps
Everyone has heard of the digger wasps, maybe even watched them doing their amazing work on a sunny summer day. About 5000 species of wasps of very different sizes belong to their family, the Stechimmen or Speghidae, whose way of life is similar in that the females paralyze insects or spiders with a sting and then enter them into prepared cavities as food for wasp larvae and close them with an egg occupy. The little insect carries out a chain of logical actions that have to fit together seamlessly in order to secure the offspring.
Can you imagine that by chance an insect came up with the idea of paralyzing a caterpillar with a targeted sting at the right point, but not killing it? The caterpillar has to stay fresh, otherwise it is useless for the hatching larvae. What prompts the wasp to act so “with foresight”?
Even in Darwin's day, the entomologist disagreed Jean Henri Fabre (1823-1915) based his observations on digger wasps on the evolutionary hypotheses.
There are specialists among the digger wasps whose behavior clearly shows that their evolution cannot be explained by Darwin's selection theory:
“The wasp Pepsis marginata only feeds its larvae with the tarantula Cyrtopholis portoricae. The female wasp lays only a few eggs, for each of which she has to procure a live but paralyzed tarantula. As soon as an egg is ready to be laid, the wasp goes on the hunt. She flies on a late summer afternoon, for example. B. Above the earth and keep an eye out for a spider that is already out to catch insects. The tarantula sees poorly and hears next to nothing. It must therefore rely on its extremely finely developed feeling when searching for prey. With a hungry tarantula, the slightest touch of one of the hairs of its body is enough for it to whirl around and knock its fangs into a cricket or a millipede that has come too close. But if the spider encounters a wasp, it does nothing. The wasp can even use its antennae to ensure that it has hit the right prey. The wasp also crawls under the spider, even runs over it without challenging any resistance. If the nuisance becomes too great or too persistent, the tarantula sometimes rises on its eight legs, as if it were standing on stilts; otherwise, her fate awaits her calmly.
Now the wasp leaves its prey to dig its grave a few centimeters away. To do this, she shovels vigorously with legs and mouthparts until a hole is created that is about 12 cm deep and a little wider than the spider. The wasp is constantly sticking its head out of the cavity to make sure that the tarantula is still in place. That is almost always the case. As soon as the grave is finished, the wasp turns back to the spider to complete the gruesome act of violence. First, the spider scans the antenna a second time, then the wasp even slips under the tarantula and uses its wings to position itself for a sting in the nerve center. The wasp can only penetrate the horn-like exoskeleton of the spider in the places where the legs are connected to the body with a soft joint membrane. Only when the sting penetrates with the precision of a surgeon in exactly the right place, at the right angle and depth, can the nerve center be hit and the spider is anesthetized without dying. And during all these maneuvers, which can take a few minutes, the tarantula makes no move to save itself.
Finally the wasp stabs and the spider tries desperately, but now in vain, to defend itself. The two of them roll over on the floor, but the end is always the same. The spider lies paralyzed on its back. The wasp dragged her down by one leg into the waiting grave. There the wasp packs its large, hairy food supply so masterfully that the prey would not be able to free itself even if it had a chance to recover. Each of the eight huge legs is literally tied to the ground. Then the wasp lays an egg, attaches it to the spider's abdomen with a sticky secretion, and seals the cavity.
But the extraordinary story does not end there. When the wasp larva hatches, it is much smaller than the helpless prey on which it is completely dependent. During long weeks of its development it cannot find any other food or water and therefore has to adhere to a cruel feeding program. The larva eats the tarantula piece by piece, keeping it alive and thus fresh by saving the vital organs until the very end. When the gargantial meal is over and the larva prepares to leave the grave, nothing is left of the tarantula but its inedible chitin skeleton. When the larva finally becomes the full-grown insect, it not only carries its own surgical instrument with it, but also the instructions that tell it how to behave towards another tarantula.
Changes in physique or behavior come, as Jacques Monod states, 'from the realm of pure chance'. But if that were the case, one would expect that the tarantula would still, unintentionally or accidentally, defend itself against the predator. We are dealing with a spider that is very well able to defend itself against a wasp and also to kill it. Instead, she lets the insect paralyze her without a fight. And the wasp has an uncanny knowledge of the exact location of the nerve center of its prey. A sting elsewhere would either have to kill the prey and render it unusable for use as a food supply, or remain ineffective and likely result in the wasp's death by the spider's retribution. In no case is this a field for natural selection; because in this process there are no major or minor successes, it is all or nothing. No insect can practice its dexterity in precisely stinging poison spiders that are twice as large as it is itself; the first attempt has to be right.
The theory of evolution demands that even spectacular adaptations can be traced back to myriads of mutations, the vast majority of which are detrimental to the organism. And natural selection is the sieve that holds back any beneficial mutation while further changes are tried. That means the Wasp wasn't always a perfect surgeon. But a surgeon cannot learn his trade by randomly trapping patients and manipulating them with a scalpel. The miracle of the evolution of the wasp could not have come about through the kind of slow selection, as we know it from fossil finds, which show the development of the ancestors of the horse up to its present larger and faster descendants. In the wasp, the final behavior pattern had to work immediately, or the species would have become extinct. And how could such a complex pattern of behavior develop at random, without actual use? Because before this pattern of behavior was complete in all details, it was useless.“(15, p. 121 f.).

Riddle of nature
The metamorphosis of insects is one of the natural phenomena that could hardly have come about through many small evolutionary steps. Darwin critic Eichelbeck says:

“How do butterflies come about? What causes a better worm to transform into a colorful flying object? From the 'Darwinian' point of view of the 'survival of the fittest', one could understand when a caterpillar becomes more and more voracious, when it makes more and more food plants available for itself, when it becomes more and more 'camouflaged', more and more poisonous and - after it has mated with an opposite-sex caterpillar - laying more and more eggs in order to spread as far as possible and displace as many other species as possible. But that didn't happen. Instead, the caterpillar pupates, retreats into itself, immobile and defenseless for a long period of time, dissolves its own body and creates a new one that is completely different. As if a car disappears in the garage for a few weeks and then reappears as an airplane. How does she do it - and above all, why? How could something like this have arisen from an accumulation of many small changes? A riddle - cannot be explained with the 'Darwinist' model of thought. " (5, p. 228 f.).

No less puzzling than the metamorphosis of insects, or leaps in physical development, are changes in behavior in which a series of actions must be precisely coordinated. Again, there is all or nothing, no chance for trial and error! Either the chain of behavior is completely correct, or there are no offspring (see boxes “Digger wasps” and “An evolutionist impossibility?”).

The miracle of beauty
The miracle of beauty is also inexplicable from an evolutionist point of view. In the course of the development of life, harmony and beauty have increasingly developed. Flowers, butterflies, fish, birds, mammals and many other forms of life, including even microorganisms, are not only well adapted - as the theory of evolution requires - but they are also beautiful! Practicality alone is not necessarily paired with harmony and beauty.

The cultural development
The importance of the "culture" of living beings, which should not be underestimated, is important: brood care begins with invertebrates (e.g. state-forming insects), and the transfer of experience to the offspring, e.g. In birds and mammals, is of great value for survival.

In the ascent of man, cultural development dominates. In addition to infant care, education, training and social behaviors are vital. The human genome has not changed significantly in the last 50 or even 100 thousand years. In contrast, cultural evolution, the actual human achievement, has accelerated exponentially.

The selfish gene
Developed the peak of reductionism Richard Dawkins with his hypothesis of the selfish gene. In the first chapter of his book, first published in English in 1976, the world-famous biologist explains:

“If someone told us that a man had lived a long and successful life in the Chicago gangster world, we should be entitled to wonder what kind of person he was. We can expect him to have qualities such as toughness, quick reactions, and the ability to gather loyal friends around him. While these would not be infallible, there are some things that can be said about a person's character if one knows something about the conditions under which they survived and asserted themselves successfully. The thesis of this book is that we and all other animals are machines created by genes. Like successful Chicago gangsters, our genes have survived a world of intense struggle for existence - in some cases, millions of years. On the basis of this, we can assume that they have certain properties. I would argue that a predominant trait that we must expect in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness. This egoism of the gene will usually produce selfish behavior in the individual. However, as we shall see, there are special circumstances in which a gene can best achieve its own selfish ends by promoting limited altruism at the individual level. The words 'special' and 'limited' in this sentence are important. As much as we would like to believe something else, universal love and the welfare of a species as a whole are terms that simply don't make sense in evolutionary terms. " (4, p. 36 f.). So from Dawkins' point of view, it's all about genes. The animate bodies would then be little more than disposable boxes that ensure the survival of the genes:
“We are survival machines. But the word 'we' doesn't just mean we humans. It includes all animals, plants, bacteria and viruses. " (4, p. 64).

Consistently thought through to the end, the genes want to spread as far as possible, maybe even beyond the earth into space ...

As a distinguished neo-Darwinist, it understands Dawkins cleverly tracing natural behaviors back to the selfish goals of genes. Even thirty years after it was first published, his book is still inspiring to read.

The thesis of the egoism of genes aroused the anger of some theologians. They see this as a far-fetched hypothesis intended to justify Dawkins' militant atheism.

The anti-religious writings and actions of the avowed atheist Dawkins (see. "Better to do away with religions?", under “History of religion”) provoked some violent counter-reactions. These started out particularly from fundamentalist Christians and contributed to the fact that the followers of an evangelical doctrine of creation united more closely and became more active.

The nucleotides are considered to be the “atoms of genetic information”. There are four nitrogenous bases called adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine. They form the basis of nucleic acids, the carriers of genetic information.

These nucleotides are lined up next to each other, comparable to a pearl chain with four different pearls, in an ever-changing order. These "pearls" have a unique feature in nature: two of them always fit together, complement each other, attract the right partner. This not only creates a string of pearls, but each nucleotide gets the right partner from the environment. Parallel to the first “string of pearls”, a second attached to it is formed so that the right partners face each other. Adenine is always divided into thymine and cytosine into guanine.

One can imagine a helically twisted zipper, in which, however, the individual prong shapes alternate, which only fit together with the appropriate partner. If this "zipper" is torn apart, each link of the separate individual strands looks for a suitable partner again, so that a double helix becomes two identical double spirals.

This is - in a very simplified representation - the ingenious "invention" that enables nucleic acids to duplicate themselves; in this way, the cells can pass on their life program stored in the nucleic acids during cell division or reproduction. The double "pearl chains" to which the nucleotides join together are called DNA (deoxiribonucleic acid) or RNS (ribonucleic acid) and they are the carriers of the genetic information. The arrangement of the four nucleotides along the chain is “nature's writing”. As far as we know today, three of them result in a "letter" or a code word for one of the twenty different amino acids that make up the protein molecules that are so important for life.

 The synthetic theory
The doctrine of evolution Darwins, for the Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) introduced the term "Darwinism", has itself been subject to an evolution over the past 150 years that is far from over. Evidence for their correctness could be gathered, but also substantial extensions were necessary. In particular, genetics had to be taken into account.

Darwin was an empiricist. He had observed exactly and interpreted honestly. But numerous biological facts and connections had to remain hidden from his keen eye. Many new things came to the biologists after him that he could not have foreseen: biochemistry, genetics, ecology, paleontology, population biology, statistics, systems theory, behavioral theory, cell research, etc. forced extensions and changes to the Darwinian approach.

This further developed evolutionary biology was already developed towards the end of the 19th century by George John Romanes (1823-1913) called "Neo-Darwinism", a term that is no longer in use. Today we speak of the "synthetic theory of evolution" in which the following evolution factors are included:
· Mutation (genetic change), which recently can also result from environmental influences.
· Recombination (new combination of genetic makeup).
· Selection (selection; different reproductive success of the individuals of a population due to different suitability).
· Genetic drift (random fluctuations in allele frequencies that are not based on selection). 
· Isolation or separation. Populations of the same species are separated (e.g. on islands) and then develop into new species (example: Darwin's finches).

There are also other approaches that are not shared by all biologists. So there are researchers like Richard Dawkins, who consciously refer to themselves as neo-Darwinists to stand out from the main stream.

For the great majority of biologists, the theory of evolution, which has been further developed into synthetic theory, is the only useful scientific possibility of interpreting the variety of phenomena in the living world. Despite all the gaps in the fossil finds, inexplicable natural wonders, or the mysteriously coordinated chains of animal behavior.

As in Darwin's day, evolutionists hope for further research that will sooner or later answer all open questions. However, there are also critical voices. (11).

Spoke in 1965 Konrad Lorenz a belief that is still shared today by the overwhelming majority of his peers:

"In the history of human progress in knowledge, the doctrine established by a single man under the crossfire of thousands of independent and diverse samples has never been proven so completely true as Darwin's doctrine of descent." (14, p. 15 f.).

An evolutionist impossibility?
The Darwin Critic Kevin Logan tells of a more than adventurous life story of a parasite that must cause sorrow to Darwinists:

“My favorite worm is really an amazing creature. Halipegus - that's the official name - has fascinated me for a good ten years now ...
His fascinating life story begins under the tongue of a common frog. At some point he goes to the ceiling of the oral cavity, where he stays for a while before he expels his already fertilized eggs (Halipegus is a hermaphrodite, a bisexual creature) into the oral cavity. They are digested by the frog and excreted into the water. This is where the microscopic babies hatch, equipped with a tiny beak that is strong enough to penetrate the shell of a fingernail-sized water snail.
After the tiny worm has penetrated the snail, it consumes its liver with relish. Finally he leaves his now deceased host again to look for his next meal. When our microscopic Rambo has landed at the bottom of the pond, it spreads tentacles from its tail to attract a water flea called Cyclops. Amazingly, Halipegus rolls its own tail around itself like a feather. Then he patiently waits for his victim to come over to take a bite. If a Cyclops flea is interested in the supposed prey and opens its mouth curiously, the worm catapults itself via the oral cavity into the esophagus and into the intestine, where it is finally surrounded by a protective body again. It shouldn't end in the stomach, of course, because our little Rambo is no longer immune to stomach acid. So he has to aim precisely and dose his jumping power correctly. There is no time to try things out. It must not repel itself too weakly or too strongly, otherwise the flea escapes in the end, and the worm has to start all over again, the longer it takes, the deeper it sinks into a glassy layer of dead microorganisms.
Inside his new cave, our little worm hardly has time to make himself at home. This in turn soon fell victim to a tree frog, and this is where our little Halipegus somehow feels at home for understandable reasons. All the more so now that he has put on his new diving suit, which protects him from the frog's gastric juices. Now all that remains for him is a strenuous ascent of Mount Everest until he ends up in the oral cavity again, where his life began. Four different lives in four different apartments - that is the life cycle that every Halipegus is programmed for. "
"The whole thing is so unbelievably improbable that it is simply unimaginable, something like this could just have come about by chance," says worm specialist Prof. Miriam Rothschild. "There has to be a creator somewhere who seems to have a lot of humor and who thought up all these things with a twinkle in his eye." (13, p. 121 f.) 

Continued Part 6.

(1) Clark Ronald W., Charles Darwin, Fischer, Frankfurt, 1984.
(2) Darwin Charles, The Descent of Humans, Kröner, Stuttgart, 1966.
(3) Darwin Charles, Origin of Species, Swiss Beard, Stuttgart, 1867.
(4) Dawkins Richard, The Selfish Gene, Spectrum, Heidelberg, 2007.
(5) Eichelbeck Reinhard, The Darwin Conspiracy, Riemann, Munich, 1999.
(6) Fabre Jean Henri, From the Wonderful World of Instincts, Westkulturverlag, Anton Hain, Meisenheim / Glahn, 1959.
(7) Gonik Larry / Wheelis Mark, Genetics in Cartoons, Parey, Berlin, 2001.
(8) Grün Johannes, The creation a divine plan, Verax, CH-7537 Münstair, 2000.
(9) Hagl Siegfried, The gap between science and truth, published by the Grail Message Foundation, Stuttgart, 1986.
(10) Hagl Siegfried, If it wasn't a miracle, publisher of the Grail Message Foundation, Stuttgart, 2000.
(11) Junker Reinhard / Scherer Siegfried, Evolution, Weyel, Gießen, 1998.
(12) Kahle Henning, Evolution - Irrweg moderne Naturwissenschaft, Bielefeld, 1984.
(13) Logan Kevin, Crash Course: Creation and Evolution, Brockhaus, Wuppertal, 2004.
(14) Schmitz Siegfried, Charles Darwin, Hermes Handlexikon, ECON, Düsseldorf, 1983.
(15) Waddington Ch., The Strategy of the Genes, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1957.
(16) Wuketits Franz M., Evolution, CH Beck, Munich, 2005.