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05 May 2024
...it is now evident that genes play only a minor role in evolution. This is among five bullet-points introducing a review by Peter A. Corning (pictured), Director of the Institute for the Study of Complex Systems in Bellingham WA. The most polite reaction I can find is, "evident to whom?" To me, this and other recent articles suggest that the mainstream theory of evolution has lost its way completely. Peter A. Corning, Director of the Institute for the Study of Complex Systems

Actually, Corning combines hyperbole with an informative brief history of the Modern Synthesis to make the case for an "inclusive new synthesis." I propose a different kind of synthesis, one that attempts to characterize the evolutionary process and its key features - the HOW question. ...We need to know where living systems came from, how they got here, how they work, and perhaps where they are going. That sounds promising.

The new synthesis must not ignore a glaring lack: The ongoing evolutionary innovation that life on Earth exhibits has not been demonstrated in controlled experiments. Without proof, the assertion that life's programming (genetic, epigenetic, synergistic, etc.) can somehow invent itself remains an extraordinary claim. A theory in which life arrives, and the programming is acquired, deserves consideration. Otherwise, the new synthesis is not really "inclusive," and Corning's well-posed questions may remain unanswered.

"Cooperative genes in smart systems: Toward an inclusive new synthesis in evolution," by Peter A. Corning, doi:10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2024.04.001,
Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, Jul 2024.
"Do we need a new theory of evolution?" by Stephen Buranyi, The Guardian, 28 Jun 2022. We don't need no friggin' new synthesis. We didn't even really need the old synthesis — W. Ford Doolittle.
"Why we don't want another 'Synthesis'" by Arlin Stoltzfus, Biology Direct, 02 Oct 2017. The era of master theories based on ruling principles and grand schemes is long past.
In Real or Artificial Life, Is Evolutionary Progress in a Closed System Possible?, 1999.
Neo-Darwinism: The Current Paradigm has our early thoughts and updated links.

Bioenergetics of iron snow fueling life on Europa
26 Apr 2024
The iron snow model overcomes critical conceptual roadblocks to life in the oceans of Europa and other icy worlds. ...Thus, iron-reducing anaerobes could flourish in the broad pH conditions while low-productivity methanogens could occupy regions dominated by basic pHs and sulfate reducers in intermediate niches. This suggestion is throughly analysed by geochemists at USC in a report edited by Donald Canfield. It supports the belief that life is likely anywhere liquid water is available.

"Bioenergetics of iron snow fueling life on Europa," by Nita Sahai, Doug LaRowe and John M. Senko, doi:10.1073/pnas.2316452121,
PNAS, 15 Apr 2024.
Life on Europa, Other Moons, Other Planets?... has many links about Europa and other icy moons.

Dragonfly
20 Apr 2024
"NASA's Dragonfly Rotorcraft Mission to Saturn's Moon Titan Confirmed,"
NASA, 16 Apr 2024.,
Thanks Thanks, Rob Cooper.
Life on Europa, Other Moons, Other Planets?... has links about possible nearby life.

15 Apr 2024
The public acceptance of evolution remains a contentious issue in the United States. This is the opening sentence of a recent report following a longitudinal survey of about 5,000 students, born 1971-1974. They were asked for their opinions about evolution three times over three decades.

"Evolution" has conflicting meanings. As history, the geological record tells a reliable story. But as a mechanism behind major (macroevolutionary) advances, the current science is unclear, undemonstrated and unlikely. The surveyors are disappointed by the students' lack of acceptance, "since evolution is going to continue to be central to biological literacy and – scientific literacy – in the 21st century." Which definition do the surveyors have in mind? Recognizing the difference could begin to relieve the gridlock that continues to bind the subject in the 21st century.

"...the evolving attitudes of Gen X toward evolution,"
University of Michigan +PhysOrg, 12 Apr 2024; re:
"The acceptance of evolution: A developmental view of Generation X in the United States," doi:10.1177/09636625241234815, by Jon D. Miller et al., Public Understanding of Science, 19 Mar 2024.
...Darwin's theory of evolution has two parts. One is its familiar historical account of our phylogeny; the other is the theory of natural selection, which purports to characterise the mechanism ...of all evolutionary changes in the innate properties of organisms. Why Pigs Don't Have Wings by Jerry Fodor, London Review of Books, 18 Oct 2007.
Evolution vs Creationism discusses gridlock.

12 Apr 2024
The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery Octopuses are as amazing as any creature from science fiction. They can instantly change color and texture to match any environment, or shapeshift to pass through a tiny opening. Naturalist Sy Montgomery wanted to begin to know them better by meeting one at the Boston Aquarium. The Soul of an Octopus is her personal story of discovery, starting when Athena, a giant Pacific octopus, tastes her skin with her suckers, and then almost pulls her into the tank. We learn that octopuses are strong, curious, mischievous and moody. Although solitary in the wild, they can enjoy human attention and affection. Each of Montgomery's eventual octopus friends is unique, and she becomes certain that an octopus has a soul much like her own. I get it. Recommended.

When we wonder about life on other worlds, octopuses should come to mind. Most of the liquid water in the solar system is in ice-covered oceans, which sounds favorable for octopuses. A female can produce up to 100,000 eggs the size of rice grains. Protected in icy comets, these eggs would easily endure interplanetary transport. Colleague Ted Steele has reasons to think so.

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, by Sy Montgomery, Washington Square Press, ISBN13:
9781451697728, 05 Apr 2016.
"Cause of Cambrian Explosion - Terrestrial or Cosmic?" by Ted Steele et al. (see section 11), Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, [PDF | local pdf], 2018.
"Octopuses and squid are masters of RNA editing...," by Tina Hesman Saey, Science News, 19 May 2023. Just very interesting.

03 Apr 2024
03 Apr 2024: I suggest that science reporters aren't sufficiently skeptical. Stephen Burayi replies.
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