Hi all,

As you probably know, I am not a scientist, but I try very hard to understand current science. I also do not like religion as a way to answers.

We have strong evidence regarding convergence, HGT, epigenetics, and endosymbiosis, that life evolves in a complex manner. None of these are, strictly speaking, Darwinian. But none of them (with the enigma of convergence left out) are non-Darwinian. Darwin may very well have re-conceptualized his tree as a network, if he'd had today's knowledge in front of him.

As a non-scientist, I'd like to know, please, if biological science is trying to rectify all of these things in the same way that, say, quantum physicists are trying to rectify the micro-universe with the macro-universe?

I don't find it a stretch to say that physical and chemical order (as we see daily by way of math) are all that different from say, limitations of biology based on chemistry and physics.

I guess my question is, how are working scientists trying to find math which says, for example, a bat wing and bird wing and pterosaur wing all have numbers attached to them, based on ecology, physics and chemistry?

How long do you think it will be before we can offer a scientifc theory which maps out convergence, at least to a basic extent? Convergence is clearly true, so what is the science saying?


hi Shawn,
The theme of your question is really interesting, but the detail of what you are asking is little unclear to me. Other's may hone in my precisely on what you are after but I will offer some general thoughts:

1) Darwinism is not really a term most biologists use - or at least not evolutionary biologists. Darwin's great insight was really in recognising the mechanism of natural selection and how this leads to modification with descent. Since he knew nothing of genetics (let alone genetics) it would be fair to say evolutionary biology hasn't really been "Darwinian" for a long time.

2) Your comments re convergence are perhaps conflating two phenomena - one being convergent evolution of traits or structures that show similarity in form or function without a common evolutionary origin. So classic examples of these would be wings of bats vs birds (note in fact that forlimb skeletal structures are "homologous" while the way in which the wing is supported are not). This is not the same thing as "reticulate evolution" in which previous divergent lineages partially merge (e.g. through hybridisation between species) which has led to sugegstions that netwworks rather than trees might best describe relationships among taxa.

3) I agree that the possibilities for the biological realm are underpinned by chemistry and physics, but am less clear on what you mean by "attaching numbers" to things. Although biology is often perceived as being less mathematical than chemistry and physics, this is not entirely true. Biology is a much broader discipline than these other sciences (at least I would argue so) and in some fields - ecology and evolutionary biology in particular - maths is just as fundamental to our work as it is to physics. So in general terms  - yes - we attach a lot of numbers, and we use a lot of theoretical models (which are described using the albebraic language of maths).