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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution

Author(s): Theodosius Dobzhansky


Source: The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Mar., 1973), pp. 125-129
Published by: National Association of Biology Teachers
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4444260
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Nothing in Biology M a k e s S e ns e
E x c e p t in the L ight of E volution
THE ODOS IUS DOBZHANS KY
As RE CE NTL Y AS 1966, s he ik Abd e l Aziz bin Ba z
a s k e d the k ing of S a udi Ara bia to s up p re s s a he re s y
tha t wa s s p re a ding in his la nd. Wrote the s he ik :
"The Holy Kora n, the Prop he t's te a c hings , the ma -
jority of Is la mic s c ie ntis ts , a nd the a c tua l f a c ts a ll
p rove tha t the s un is running in its orbit ... a nd tha t
the e a rth is f ix e d a nd s ta ble , s p re a d out by God f or
his ma nk ind. ... Anyone who p rof e s s e d othe rwis e
would utte r a c ha rge of f a ls e hood towa rd God, the
Kora n, a nd the Prop he t."
The good s he ik e vide ntly holds the Cop e rnic a n
the ory to be a "me re the ory," not a "f a c t." In this
he is te c hnic a lly c orre c t. A the ory c a n be ve rif ie d by
a ma s s of f a c ts , but it be c ome s a p rove n the ory, not
a f a c t. The s he ik wa s p e rha p s una wa re tha t the
S p a c e Age ha d be gun be f ore he a s k e d the k ing to
s up p re s s the Cop e rnic a n he re s y. The s p he ric ity of
the e a rth ha d be e n s e e n by a s trona uts , a nd e ve n by
ma ny e a rth-bound p e op le on the ir te le vis ion s c re e ns .
Pe rha p s the s he ik c ould re tort tha t thos e who ve n-
ture be yond the c onf ine s of God's e a rth s uf f e r ha l-
luc ina tions , a nd tha t the e a rth is re a lly f la t.
Pa rts of the Cop e rnic a n world mode l, s uc h a s the
c onte ntion tha t the e a rth rota te s a round the s un,
a nd not vic e ve rs a , ha ve not be e n ve rif ie d by dire c t
obs e rva tions e ve n to the e x te nt the s p he ric ity of the
e a rth ha s be e n. Ye t s c ie ntis ts a c c e p t the mode l a s a n
a c c ura te re p re s e nta tion of re a lity. Why? Be c a us e it
ma k e s s e ns e of a multitude of f a c ts whic h a re othe r-
wis e me a ningle s s or e x tra va ga nt. To nons p e c ia lis ts
mos t of the s e f a c ts a re unf a milia r. Why the n do we
a c c e p t the "me re the ory" tha t the e a rth is a s p he re
re volving a round a s p he ric a l s un? Are we s imp ly
s ubmitting to a uthority? Not quite : we k now tha t
thos e who took time to s tudy the e vide nc e f ound it
c onvinc ing.
The good s he ik is p roba bly ignora nt of the e vi-
de nc e . E ve n more lik e ly, he is s o hop e le s s ly bia s e d
tha t no a mount of e vide nc e would imp re s s him. Any-
wa y, it would be s he e r wa s te of time to a tte mp t to
c onvinc e him. The Kora n a nd the Bible do not c on-
tra dic t Cop e rnic us , nor doe s Cop e rnic us c ontra dic t
the m. It is ludic rous to mis ta k e the Bible a nd the
Kora n f or p rime rs of na tura l s c ie nc e . The y tre a t of
ma tte rs e ve n more imp orta nt: the me a ning of ma n
a nd his re la tions to God. The y a re writte n in p oe tic
s ymbols tha t we re unde rs ta nda ble to p e op le of the
a ge whe n the y we re writte n, a s we ll a s to p e op le s of
a ll othe r a ge s . The k ing of Ara bia did not c omp ly
with the s he ik 's de ma nd. He k ne w tha t s ome p e op le
f e a r e nlighte nme nt, be c a us e e nlighte nme nt thre a te ns
the ir ve s te d inte re s ts . E duc a tion is not to be us e d to
p romote obs c ura ntis m.
The e a rth is not the ge ome tric c e nte r of the uni-
ve rs e , a lthough it ma y be its s p iritua l c e nte r. It is
a me re s p e c k of dus t in c os mic s p a c e s . Contra ry to
Bis hop Us s he r's c a lc ula tions , the world did not a p -
p e a r in a p p rox ima te ly its p re s e nt s ta te in 4004 B.C.
The e s tima te s of the a ge of the unive rs e give n by
mode rn c os mologis ts a re s till only rough a p p rox i-
ma tions , whic h a re re vis e d (us ua lly up wa rd) a s
the me thods of e s tima tion a re re f ine d. S ome c os mol-
ogis ts ta k e the unive rs e to be a bout 10 billion ye a rs
old; othe rs s up p os e tha t it ma y ha ve e x is te d, a nd
will c ontinue to e x is t, e te rna lly. The origin of lif e on
e a rth is da te d te nta tive ly be twe e n 3 a nd 5 billion
ye a rs a go; ma nlik e be ings a p p e a re d re la tive ly quite
re c e ntly, be twe e n 2 a nd 4 million ye a rs a go. The
e s tima te s of the a ge of the e a rth, of the dura tion of
the ge ologic a nd p a le ontologic e ra s , a nd of the a ntiq-
uity of ma n's a nc e s tors a re now ba s e d ma inly on
ra diome tric e vide nc e -the p rop ortions of is otop e s of
c e rta in c he mic a l e le me nts in roc k s s uita ble f or s uc h
s tudie s .
125
One of the world's le a ding ge ne tic is ts , The o-
dos ius Dobzha ns k y is p rof e s s or e me ritus ,
Roc k e f e lle r Unive rs ity, a nd a djunc t p rof e s -
s or of ge ne tic s , Unive rs ity of Ca lif ornia ,
Da vis 95616. Born in Rus s ia , in 1900, he is a
gra dua te of the Unive rs ity of Kie v a nd
ta ught (with J. Philip c he nk o) a t the Uni-
ve rs ity of L e ningra d be f ore c oming to the
U.S ., in 1927; the re a f te r he ta ught a t Colum-
bia Unive rs ity a nd the Ca lif ornia Ins titute of Te c hnology be -
f ore joining the Roc k e f e lle r f a c ulty, in 1962. He ha s be e n
p re s ide nt of the Ge ne tic s S oc ie ty of Ame ric a , the Ame ric a n
S oc ie ty of Na tura lis ts , the S oc ie ty f or the S tudy of E volution,
the Ame ric a n S oc ie ty of Zoologis ts , a nd the Ame ric a n Te il-
ha rd de Cha rdin As s oc ia tion. Among his ma ny honors a re the
Na tiona l M e da l of S c ie nc e (1964) a nd the Gold M e da l Awa rd
f or Dis tinguis he d Ac hie ve me nt in S c ie nc e (1969). He holds
18 honora ry doc tora te s f rom unive rs itie s in this c ountry a nd
a broa d. Among his we ll-k nown book s a re The Biologic a l
Ba s is of Huma n Fre e dom (1956) a nd M a nk ind E volving
(1963). The p re s e nt p a p e r wa s p re s e nte d a t the 1972 NABT
c onve ntion.
S he ik bin Ba z a nd his lik e re f us e to a c c e p t the
ra diome tric e vide nc e , be c a us e it is a "me re the ory."
Wha t is the a lte rna tive ? One c a n s up p os e tha t the
Cre a tor s a w f it to p la y de c e itf ul tric k s on ge ologis ts
a nd biologis ts . He c a re f ully a rra nge d to ha ve va rious
roc k s p rovide d with is otop e ra tios jus t right to mis -
le a d us into think ing tha t c e rta in roc k s a re 2 billion
ye a rs old, othe rs 2 million, while in f a c t the y a re only
s ome 6,000 ye a rs old. This k ind of p s e udo-e x p la na tion
is not ve ry ne w. One of the e a rly a ntie volutionis ts ,
P. H. Gos s e , p ublis he d a book e ntitle d Omp ha los
("the Na ve l"). The gis t of this a ma zing book is tha t
Ada m, though he ha d no mothe r, wa s c re a te d with a
na ve l, a nd tha t f os s ils we re p la c e d by the Cre a tor
whe re we f ind the m now-a de libe ra te a c t on His
p a rt, to give the a p p e a ra nc e of gre a t a ntiquity a nd
ge ologic up he a va ls . It is e a s y to s e e the f a ta l f la w in
a ll s uc h notions . The y a re bla s p he mie s , a c c us ing
God of a bs urd de c e itf ulne s s . This is a s re volting a s
it is unc a lle d f or.
Dive rs ity of L iving Be ings
The dive rs ity a nd the unity of lif e a re e qua lly
s trik ing a nd me a ningf ul a s p e c ts of the living world.
Be twe e n 1.5 a nd 2 million s p e c ie s of a nima ls a nd
p la nts ha ve be e n de s c ribe d a nd s tudie d; the numbe r
ye t to be de s c ribe d is p roba bly a bout a s gre a t. The
dive rs ity of s ize s , s truc ture s , a nd wa ys of lif e is s ta g-
ge ring but f a s c ina ting. He re a re jus t a f e w e x a mp le s .
The f oot-a nd-mouth dis e a s e virus is a s p he re 8-12
m,u in dia me te r. The blue wha le re a c he s 30 m in
le ngth a nd 135 t in we ight. The s imp le s t virus e s a re
p a ra s ite s in c e lls of othe r orga nis ms , re duc e d to ba r-
e s t e s s e ntia ls -minute a mounts of DNA or RNA,
whic h s ubve rt the bioc he mic a l ma c hine ry of the hos t
c e lls to re p lic a te the ir ge ne tic inf orma tion, ra the r
tha n tha t of the hos t.
It is a ma tte r of op inion, or of de f inition, whe the r
virus e s a re c ons ide re d living orga nis ms or p e c ulia r
c he mic a l s ubs ta nc e s . The f a c t tha t s uc h dif f e re nc e s
of op inion c a n e x is t is in its e lf highly s ignif ic a nt. It
me a ns tha t the borde rline be twe e n living a nd ina ni-
ma te ma tte r is oblite ra te d. At the op p os ite e nd of the
s imp lic ity-c omp le x ity s p e c trum you ha ve ve rte bra te
a nima ls , inc luding ma n. The huma n bra in ha s s ome
12 billion ne urons ; the s yna p s e s be twe e n the ne urons
a re p e rha p s a thous a nd time s a s nume rous .
S ome orga nis ms live in a gre a t va rie ty of e nviron-
me nts . M a n is a t the top of the s c a le in this re s p e c t.
He is not only a truly c os mop olita n s p e c ie s but, ow-
ing to his te c hnologic a c hie ve me nts , c a n s urvive f or
a t le a s t a limite d time on the s urf a c e of the moon a nd
in c os mic s p a c e s . By c ontra s t, s ome orga nis ms a re
a ma zingly s p e c ia lize d. Pe rha p s the na rrowe s t e c o-
logic nic he of a ll is tha t of a s p e c ie s of the f ungus
f a mily L a boulbe nia c e a e , whic h grows e x c lus ive ly on
the re a r p ortion of the e lytra of the be e tle Ap he nop s
c rone i, whic h is f ound only in s ome lime s tone c a ve s in
s outhe rn Fra nc e . L a rva e of the f ly Ps ilop a p e trole i
de ve lop in s e e p a ge s of c rude oil in Ca lif ornia oil-
f ie lds ; a s f a r a s is k nown the y oc c ur nowhe re e ls e .
This is the only ins e c t a ble to live a nd f e e d in oil, a nd
its a dult c a n wa lk on the s urf a c e of the oil only a s
long a s no body p a rt othe r tha n the ta rs i a re in
c onta c t with the oil. L a rva e of the f ly Dros op hila c a r-
c inop hila de ve lop only in the ne p hric groove s be -
ne a th the f la p s of the third ma x illip e d of the la nd
c ra b Ge oc a rc inus ruric ola , whic h is re s tric te d to c e r-
ta in is la nds in the Ca ribbe a n.
Is the re a n e x p la na tion, to ma k e inte lligible to re a -
s on this c olos s a l dive rs ity of living be ings ? Whe nc e
c a me the s e e x tra ordina ry, s e e mingly whims ic a l a nd
s up e rf luous c re a ture s , lik e the f ungus L a boulbe nia ,
the be e tle Ap he nop s c rone i, the f lie s Ps ilop a p e trole i
a nd Dros op hila c a rc inop hila , a nd ma ny, ma ny more
a p p a re nt biologic c urios itie s ? The only e x p la na tion
tha t ma k e s s e ns e is tha t the orga nic dive rs ity ha s
e volve d in re s p ons e to the dive rs ity of e nvironme nt
on the p la ne t e a rth. No s ingle s p e c ie s , howe ve r p e r-
f e c t a nd howe ve r ve rs a tile , c ould e x p loit a ll the
op p ortunitie s f or living. E ve ry one of the millions of
s p e c ie s ha s its own wa y of living a nd of ge tting s us -
te na nc e f rom the e nvironme nt. The re a re doubtle s s
ma ny othe r p os s ible wa ys of living a s ye t une x -
p loite d by a ny e x is ting s p e c ie s ; but one thing is
c le a r: with le s s orga nic dive rs ity, s ome op p ortuni-
tie s f or living would re ma in une x p loite d. The e volu-
tiona ry p roc e s s te nds to f ill up the a va ila ble e c ologic
nic he s . It doe s not do s o c ons c ious ly or de libe ra te ly;
the re la tions be twe e n e volution a nd the e nviron-
me nt a re more s ubtle a nd more inte re s ting tha n
tha t. The e nvironme nt doe s not imp os e e volutiona ry
c ha nge s on its inha bita nts , a s p os tula te d by the now
a ba ndone d ne o-L a ma rc k ia n the orie s . The be s t wa y
to e nvis a ge the s itua tion is a s f ollows : the e nviron-
me nt p re s e nts c ha lle nge s to living s p e c ie s , to whic h
the la tte r ma y re s p ond by a da p tive ge ne tic c ha nge s .
An unoc c up ie d e c ologic nic he , a n une x p loite d op -
p ortunity f or living, is a c ha lle nge . S o is a n e nviron-
me nta l c ha nge , s uc h a s the Ic e Age c lima te giving
p la c e to a wa rme r c lima te . Na tura l s e le c tion ma y
c a us e a living s p e c ie s to re s p ond to the c ha lle nge by
a da p tive ge ne tic c ha nge s . The s e c ha nge s ma y e na ble
the s p e c ie s to oc c up y the f orme rly e mp ty e c ologic
nic he a s a ne w op p ortunity f or living, or to re s is t
the e nvironme nta l c ha nge if it is unf a vora ble . But
the re s p ons e ma y or ma y not be s uc c e s s f ul. This
de p e nds on ma ny f a c tors , the c hie f of whic h is the
ge ne tic c omp os ition of the re s p onding s p e c ie s a t the
time the re s p ons e is c a lle d f or. L a c k of s uc c e s s f ul
re s p ons e ma y c a us e the s p e c ie s to be c ome e x tinc t.
The e vide nc e of f os s ils s hows c le a rly tha t the e ve n-
tua l e nd of mos t e volutiona ry line s is e x tinc tion. Or-
ga nis ms now living a re s uc c e s s f ul de s c e nda nts of
only a minority of the s p e c ie s tha t live d in the p a s t-
a nd of s ma lle r a nd s ma lle r minoritie s the f a rthe r
ba c k you look . Ne ve rthe le s s , the numbe r of living
s p e c ie s ha s not dwindle d; inde e d, it ha s p roba bly
grown with time . All this is unde rs ta nda ble in the
light of e volution the ory; but wha t a s e ns e le s s op e r-
a tion it would ha ve be e n, on God's p a rt, to f a bric a te
126 THE AM E RICAN BIOL OGY TE ACHE R, M ARCH 1973
a multitude of s p e c ie s e x nihilo a nd the n le t mos t
of the m die out!
The re is , of c ours e , nothing c ons c ious or inte ntion-
a l in the a c tion of na tura l s e le c tion. A biologic
s p e c ie s doe s not s a y to its e lf , "L e t me try tomorrow
(or a million ye a rs f rom now) to grow in a dif f e re nt
s oil, or us e a dif f e re nt f ood, or s ubs is t on a dif f e re nt
body p a rt of a dif f e re nt c ra b." Only a huma n be ing
c ould ma k e s uc h c ons c ious de c is ions . This is why
the s p e c ie s Homo s a p ie ns is the a p e x of e volution.
Na tura l s e le c tion is a t one a nd the s a me time a blind
a nd a c re a tive p roc e s s . Only a c re a tive but blind
p roc e s s c ould p roduc e , on the one ha nd, the tre -
me ndous biologic s uc c e s s tha t is the huma n s p e c ie s
a nd, on the othe r, f orms of a da p te dne s s a s na rrow
a nd a s c ons tra ining a s thos e of the ove rs p e c ia lize d
f ungus , be e tle , a nd f lie s me ntione d a bove .
Antie volutionis ts f a il to unde rs ta nd how na tura l
s e le c tion op e ra te s . The y f a nc y tha t a ll e x is ting s p e -
c ie s we re ge ne ra te d by s up e rna tura l f ia t a f e w
thous a nd ye a rs a go, p re tty muc h a s we f ind the m
toda y. But wha t is the s e ns e of ha ving a s ma ny a s
2 or 3 million s p e c ie s living on e a rth? If na tura l
s e le c tion is the ma in f a c tor tha t brings e volution
a bout, a ny numbe r of s p e c ie s is unde rs ta nda ble :
na tura l s e le c tion doe s not work a c c ording to a f ore -
orda ine d p la n, a nd s p e c ie s a re p roduc e d not be c a us e
the y a re ne e de d f or s ome p urp os e but s imp ly be -
c a us e the re is a n e nvironme nta l op p ortunity a nd
ge ne tic whe re witha l to ma k e the m p os s ible . Wa s the
Cre a tor in a joc ula r mood whe n he ma de Ps ilop a
p e trole i f or Ca lif ornia oil-f ie lds a nd s p e c ie s of Dros -
op hila to live e x c lus ive ly on s ome body-p a rts of
c e rta in la nd c ra bs on only c e rta in is la nds in the Ca -
ribbe a n? The orga nic dive rs ity be c ome s , howe ve r,
re a s ona ble a nd unde rs ta nda ble if the Cre a tor ha s
c re a te d the living world not by c a p ric e but by e vo-
lution p rop e lle d by na tura l s e le c tion. It is wrong to
hold c re a tion a nd e volution a s mutua lly e x c lus ive
a lte rna tive s . I a m a c re a tionis t a nd a n e volutionis t.
E volution is God's , or Na ture 's , me thod of Cre a tion.
Cre a tion is not a n e ve nt tha t ha p p e ne d in 4004 B.C.;
it is a p roc e s s tha t be ga n s ome 10 billion ye a rs a go
a nd is s till unde r wa y.
Unity of L if e
The unity of lif e is no le s s re ma rk a ble tha n its
dive rs ity. M os t f orms of lif e a re s imila r in ma ny re -
s p e c ts . The unive rs a l biologic s imila ritie s a re p a r-
tic ula rly s trik ing in the bioc he mic a l dime ns ion.
From virus e s to ma n, he re dity is c ode d in jus t two,
c he mic a lly re la te d s ubs ta nc e s : DNA a nd RNA. The
ge ne tic c ode is a s s imp le a s it is unive rs a l. The re a re
only f our ge ne tic "le tte rs " in DNA: a de nine , gua -
nine , thymine , a nd c ytos ine . Ura c il re p la c e s thymine
in RNA. The e ntire e volutiona ry de ve lop me nt of the
living world ha s ta k e n p la c e not by inve ntion of ne w
"le tte rs " in the ge ne tic "a lp ha be t" but by e la bora -
tion of e ve r-ne w c ombina tions of the s e le tte rs .
Not only is the DNA-RNA ge ne tic c ode unive rs a l,
but s o is the me thod of tra ns la tion of the s e que nc e s
of the "le tte rs " in DNA-RNA into s e que nc e s of
a mino a c ids in p rote ins . The s a me 20 a mino a c ids
c omp os e c ountle s s dif f e re nt p rote ins in a ll, or a t
le a s t in mos t, orga nis ms . Dif f e re nt a mino a c ids a re
c ode d by one to s ix nuc le otide trip le ts in DNA a nd
RNA. And the bioc he mic a l unive rs a ls e x te nd be yond
the ge ne tic c ode a nd its tra ns la tion into p rote ins :
s trik ing unif ormitie s p re va il in the c e llula r me ta bo-
lis m of the mos t dive rs e living be ings . Ade nos ine
trip hos p ha te , biotin, ribof la vin, he me s , p yridox in,
vita mins K a nd B12, a nd f olic a c id imp le me nt me ta -
bolic p roc e s s e s e ve rywhe re .
Wha t do the s e bioc he mic a l or biologic unive rs a ls
me a n? The y s ugge s t tha t lif e a ros e f rom ina nima te
ma tte r only onc e a nd tha t a ll orga nis ms , no ma tte r
how dive rs e in othe r re s p e c ts , c ons e rve the ba s ic
f e a ture s of the p rimordia l lif e . (It is a ls o p os s ible
tha t the re we re s e ve ra l, or e ve n ma ny, origins of
lif e ; if s o, the p roge ny of only one of the m ha s s ur-
vive d a nd inhe rite d the e a rth.) But wha t if the re
wa s no e volution, a nd e ve ry one of the millions of
s p e c ie s wa s c re a te d by s e p a ra te f ia t? Howe ve r of -
f e ns ive the notion ma y be to re ligious f e e ling a nd to
re a s on, the a ntie volutionis ts mus t a ga in a c c us e the
Cre a tor of c he a ting. The y mus t ins is t tha t He de lib-
e ra te ly a rra nge d things e x a c tly a s if his me thod of
c re a tion wa s e volution, inte ntiona lly to mis le a d s in-
c e re s e e k e rs of truth.
The re ma rk a ble a dva nc e s of mole c ula r biology
in re c e nt ye a rs ha ve ma de it p os s ible to unde rs ta nd
how it is tha t dive rs e orga nis ms a re c ons truc te d f rom
s uc h monotonous ly s imila r ma te ria ls : p rote ins c om-
p os e d of only 20 k inds of a mino a c ids a nd c ode d
only by DNA a nd RNA, e a c h with only f our k inds
of nuc le otide s . The me thod is a s tonis hingly s imp le .
All E nglis h words , s e nte nc e s , c ha p te rs , a nd book s
a re ma de up of s e que nc e s of 26 le tte rs of the a lp ha -
be t. (The y c a n be re p re s e nte d a ls o by only thre e
s igns of the M ors e c ode : dot, da s h, a nd ga p .) The
me a ning of a word or a s e nte nc e is de f ine d not s o
muc h by wha t le tte rs it c onta ins a s by the s e que nc e
of the s e le tte rs . It is the s a me with he re dity: it is
c ode d by the s e que nc e s of the ge ne tic "le tte rs "-the
nuc le otide s -in the DNA. The y a re tra ns la te d into
the s e que nc e s of a mino a c ids in the p rote ins .
M ole c ula r s tudie s ha ve ma de p os s ible a n a p p roa c h
to e x a c t me a s ure me nts of de gre e s of bioc he mic a l
s imila ritie s a nd dif f e re nc e s a mong orga nis ms . S ome
k inds of e nzyme s a nd othe r p rote ins a re qua s iuni-
ve rs a l, or a t a ny ra te wide s p re a d, in the living world.
The y a re f unc tiona lly s imila r in dif f e re nt living be -
ings , in tha t the y c a ta lyze s imila r c he mic a l re a c tions .
But whe n s uc h p rote ins a re is ola te d a nd the ir s truc -
ture s de te rmine d c he mic a lly, the y a re of te n f ound
to c onta in more or le s s dif f e re nt s e que nc e s of a mino
a c ids in dif f e re nt orga nis ms . For e x a mp le , the s o-
c a lle d a lp ha c ha ins of he moglobin ha ve ide ntic a l
s e que nc e s of a mino a c ids in ma n a nd the c himp a n-
ze e , but the y dif f e r in a s ingle a mino a c id (out of
141) in the gorilla . Alp ha c ha ins of huma n he moglob-
L IGHT OF E VOL UTION 127
in dif f e r f rom c a ttle he moglobin in 17 a mino a c id
s ubs titutions , 18 f rom hors e , 20 f rom donk e y, 25 f rom
ra bbit, a nd 71 f rom f is h (c a rp ).
Cytoc hrome C is a n e nzyme tha t p la ys a n im-
p orta nt role in the me ta bolis m of a e robic c e lls . It
is f ound in the mos t dive rs e orga nis ms , f rom ma n
to molds . E . M a rgolia s h, W. M . Fitc h, a nd othe rs
ha ve c omp a re d the a mino a c id s e que nc e s in c yto-
c hrome C in dif f e re nt bra nc he s of the living world.
M os t s ignif ic a nt s imila ritie s a s we ll a s dif f e re nc e s
ha ve be e n brought to light. The c ytoc hrome C of
dif f e re nt orde rs of ma mma ls a nd birds dif f e r in 2 to
17 a mino a c ids , c la s s e s of ve rte bra te s in 7 to 38, a nd
ve rte bra te s a nd ins e c ts in 23 to 41; a nd a nima ls dif -
f e r f rom ye a s ts a nd molds in 56 to 72 a mino a c ids .
Fitc h a nd M a rgolia s h p re f e r to e x p re s s the ir f ind-
ings in wha t a re c a lle d "minima l muta tiona l dis -
ta nc e s ." It ha s be e n me ntione d a bove tha t dif f e re nt
a mino a c ids a re c ode d by dif f e re nt trip le ts of nuc -
le otide s in DNA of the ge ne s ; this c ode is now k nown.
M os t muta tions involve s ubs titutions of s ingle nuc -
le otide s s ome whe re in the DNA c ha in c oding f or
a give n p rote in. The re f ore , one c a n c a lc ula te the
minimum numbe rs of s ingle muta tions ne e de d to
c ha nge the c ytoc hrome C of one orga nis m into tha t
of a nothe r. M inima l muta tiona l dis ta nc e s be twe e n
huma n c ytoc hrome C a nd the c ytoc hrome C of othe r
living be ings a re a s f ollows :
M onk e y 1 Chic k e n 18
Dog 13 Pe nguin 18
Hors e 17 Turtle 19
Donk e y 16 Ra ttle s na k e 20
Pig 13 Fis h (tuna ) 31
Ra bbit 12 Fly 33
Ka nga roo 12 M oth 36
Duc k 17 M old 63
Pige on 16 Ye a s t 56
It is imp orta nt to note tha t a mino a c id s e que nc e s
in a give n k ind of p rote in va ry within a s p e c ie s a s
we ll a s f rom s p e c ie s to s p e c ie s . It is e vide nt tha t the
dif f e re nc e s a mong p rote ins a t the le ve ls of s p e c ie s ,
ge nus , f a mily, orde r, c la s s , a nd p hylum a re c om-
p ounde d of e le me nts tha t va ry a ls o a mong individu-
a ls within a s p e c ie s . Individua l a nd group dif f e re nc e s
a re only qua ntita tive ly, not qua lita tive ly, dif f e re nt.
E vide nc e s up p orting the a bove p rop os itions is a mp le
a nd is growing ra p idly. M uc h work ha s be e n done
in re c e nt ye a rs on individua l va ria tions in a mino
a c id s e que nc e s of he moglobins of huma n blood. M ore
tha n 100 va ria nts ha ve be e n de te c te d. M os t of the m
involve s ubs titutions of s ingle a mino a c ids -s ubs titu-
tions tha t ha ve a ris e n by ge ne tic muta tions in the
p e rs ons in whom the y a re dis c ove re d or in the ir a n-
c e s tors . As e x p e c te d, s ome of the s e muta tions a re
de le te rious to the ir c a rrie rs , but othe rs a p p a re ntly
a re ne utra l or e ve n f a vora ble in c e rta in e nviron-
me nts . S ome muta nt he moglobins ha ve be e n f ound
only in one p e rs on or in one f a mily; othe rs a re dis -
c ove re d re p e a te dly a mong inha bita nts of dif f e re nt
p a rts of the world. I s ubmit tha t a ll the s e re ma rk -
a ble f indings ma k e s e ns e in the light of e volution;
the y a re nons e ns e othe rwis e .
Comp a ra tive Ana tomy a nd E mbryology
The bioc he mic a l unive rs a ls a re the mos t imp re s -
s ive a nd the mos t re c e ntly dis c ove re d, but c e rta inly
the y a re not the only ve s tige s of c re a tion by me a ns
of e volution. Comp a ra tive a na tomy a nd e mbryology
p roc la im the e volutiona ry origins of the p re s e nt
inha bita nts of the world. In 1555 Pie rre Be lon e s ta b-
lis he d the p re s e nc e of homologous bone s in the s u-
p e rf ic ia lly ve ry dif f e re nt s k e le tons of ma n a nd bird:
L a te r a na tomis ts tra c e d the homologie s in the s k e l-
e tons , a s we ll a s in othe r orga ns , of a ll ve rte bra te s .
Homologie s a re a ls o tra c e a ble in the e x te rna l s k e l-
e tons of a rthrop ods a s s e e mingly unlik e a s a lobs te r,
a f ly, a nd a butte rf ly. E x a mp le s of homologie s c a n
be multip lie d inde f inite ly.
E mbryos of a p p a re ntly quite dive rs e a nima ls of te n
e x hibit s trik ing s imila ritie s . A c e ntury a go the s e
s imila ritie s le d s ome biologis ts (nota bly the Ge rma n
zoologis t E rns t Ha e c k e l) to be c a rrie d by the ir e n-
thus ia s m s o f a r a s to inte rp re t the e mbryonic s imi-
la ritie s a s me a ning tha t the e mbryo re p e a ts in its
de ve lop me nt the e volutiona ry his tory of its s p e c ie s :
it wa s s a id to p a s s through s ta ge s in whic h it re -
s e mble s its re mote a nc e s tors . In othe r words , e a rly-
da y biologis ts s up p os e d tha t by s tudying e mbryonic
de ve lop me nt one c a n, a s it we re , re a d of f the s ta ge s
through whic h the e volutiona ry de ve lop me nt ha d
p a s s e d. This s o-c a lle d bioge ne tic la w is no longe r
c re dite d in its origina l f orm. And ye t e mbryonic
s imila ritie s a re unde nia bly imp re s s ive a nd s ignif i-
c a nt.
Proba bly e ve rybody k nows the s e de nta ry ba r-
na c le s whic h s e e m to ha ve no s imila rity to f re e -s wim-
ming c rus ta c e a ns , s uc h a s the c op e p ods . How re -
ma rk a ble tha t ba rna c le s p a s s through a f re e -s wim-
ming la rva l s ta ge , the na up lius ! At tha t s ta ge of its
de ve lop me nt a ba rna c le a nd a Cyc lop s look unmis -
ta k a bly s imila r. The y a re e vide ntly re la tive s . The
p re s e nc e of gill s lits in huma n e mbryos a nd in e m-
bryos of othe r te rre s tria l ve rte bra te s is a nothe r f a -
mous e x a mp le . Of c ours e , a t no s ta ge of its de ve lop -
me nt is a huma n e mbryo a f is h, nor doe s it e ve r
ha ve f unc tioning gills . But why s hould it ha ve un-
mis ta k a ble gill s lits unle s s its re mote a nc e s tors did
re s p ire with the a id of gills ? Is the Cre a tor a ga in
p la ying p ra c tic a l jok e s ?
Ada p tive Ra dia tion: Ha wa ii's Flie s
The re a re a bout 2,000 s p e c ie s of dros op hilid f lie s
in the world a s a whole . About a qua rte r of the m
oc c ur in Ha wa ii, a lthough the tota l a re a of the
a rc hip e la go is only a bout tha t of the s ta te of Ne w
Je rs e y. All but 17 of the s p e c ie s in Ha wa ii a re e nde -
mic (f ound nowhe re e ls e ). Furthe rmore , a gre a t
ma jority of the Ha wa iia n e nde mic s do not oc c ur
throughout the a rc hip e la go: the y a re re s tric te d to
128 THE AM E RICAN BIOL OGY TE ACHE R, M ARCH 1973
s ingle is la nds or e ve n to a p a rt of a n is la nd. Wha t is
the e x p la na tion of this e x tra ordina ry p rolif e ra tion
of dros op hilid s p e c ie s in s o s ma ll a te rritory? Re -
c e nt work of H. L . Ca rs on, H. T. S p ie th, D. E . Ha rdy,
a nd othe rs ma k e s the s itua tion unde rs ta nda ble .
The Ha wa iia n is la nds a re of volc a nic origin; the y
we re ne ve r p a rts of a ny c ontine nt. The ir a ge s a re
be twe e n 5.6 a nd 0.7 million ye a rs . Be f ore ma n c a me
the ir inha bita nts we re de s c e nda nts of immigra nts
tha t ha d be e n tra ns p orte d a c ros s the oc e a n by a ir
c urre nts a nd othe r a c c ide nta l me a ns . A s ingle dro-
s op hilid s p e c ie s , whic h a rrive d in Ha wa ii f irs t, be f ore
the re we re nume rous c omp e titors , f a c e d the c ha l-
le nge of a n a bunda nc e of ma ny unoc c up ie d e c ologic
nic he s . Its de s c e nda nts re s p onde d to this c ha lle nge
by e volutiona ry a da p tive ra dia tion, the p roduc ts of
whic h a re the re ma rk a ble Ha wa iia n dros op hilids of
toda y. To f ore s ta ll a p os s ible mis unde rs ta nding, le t
it be ma de c le a r tha t the Ha wa iia n e nde mic s a re by
no me a ns s o s imila r to e a c h othe r tha t the y c ould
be mis ta k e n f or va ria nts of the s a me s p e c ie s ; if a ny-
thing, the y a re more dive rs if ie d tha n a re dros op hilids
e ls e whe re . The la rge s t a nd the s ma lle s t dros op hilid
s p e c ie s a re both Ha wa iia n. The y e x hibit a n a s tonis h-
ing va rie ty of be ha vior p a tte rns . S ome of the m ha ve
be c ome a da p te d to wa ys of lif e quite e x tra ordina ry
f or a dros op hilid f ly, s uc h a s be ing p a ra s ite s in e gg
c oc oons of s p ide rs .
Oc e a nic is la nds othe r tha n Ha wa ii, s c a tte re d ove r
the wide Pa c if ic Oc e a n, a re not c ons p ic uous ly ric h
in e nde mic s p e c ie s of dros op hilids . The mos t p rob-
a ble e x p la na tion of this f a c t is tha t the s e othe r
is la nds we re c olonize d by dros op hilids a f te r mos t
e c ologic nic he s ha d a lre a dy be e n f ille d by e a rlie r
a rriva ls . This s ure ly is a hyp othe s is , but it is a
re a s ona ble one . Antie volutionis ts might p e rha p s
s ugge s t a n a lte rna tive hyp othe s is : in a f it of a bs e nt-
minde dne s s , the Cre a tor we nt on ma nuf a c turing
more a nd more dros op hilid s p e c ie s f or Ha wa ii, until
the re wa s a n e x tra va ga nt s urf e it of the m in this
a rc hip e la go. I le a ve it to you to de c ide whic h hy-
p othe s is ma k e s s e ns e .
S tre ngth a nd Ac c e p ta nc e of the The ory
S e e n in the light of e volution, biology is , p e rha p s ,
inte lle c tua lly the mos t s a tis f ying a nd ins p iring s c i-
e nc e . Without tha t light it be c ome s a p ile of s undry
f a c ts -s ome of the m inte re s ting or c urious but ma k -
ing no me a ningf ul p ic ture a s a whole .
This is not to imp ly tha t we k now e ve rything tha t
c a n a nd s hould be k nown a bout biology a nd a bout
e volution. Any c omp e te nt biologis t is a wa re of a
multitude of p roble ms ye t unre s olve d a nd of que s -
tions ye t una ns we re d. Af te r a ll, biologic re s e a rc h
s hows no s ign of a p p roa c hing c omp le tion; quite the
op p os ite is true . Dis a gre e me nts a nd c la s he s of op in-
ion a re rif e a mong biologis ts , a s the y s hould be in a
living a nd growing s c ie nc e . Antie volutionis ts mis -
ta k e , or p re te nd to mis ta k e , the s e dis a gre e me nts a s
indic a tions of dubious ne s s of the e ntire doc trine of
e volution. The ir f a vorite s p ort is s tringing toge the r
quota tions , c a re f ully a nd s ome time s e x p e rtly ta k e n
out of c onte x t, to s how tha t nothing is re a lly e s ta b-
lis he d or a gre e d up on a mong e volutionis ts . S ome of
my c olle a gue s a nd mys e lf ha ve be e n a mus e d a nd
a ma ze d to re a d ours e lve s quote d in a wa y s howing
tha t we a re re a lly a ntie volutionis ts unde r the s k in.
L e t me try to ma k e c rys ta l c le a r wha t is e s ta b-
lis he d be yond re a s ona ble doubt, a nd wha t ne e ds
f urthe r s tudy, a bout e volution. E volution a s a p ro-
c e s s tha t ha s a lwa ys gone on in the his tory of the
e a rth c a n be doubte d only by thos e who a re ignora nt
of the e vide nc e or a re re s is ta nt to e vide nc e , owing to
e motiona l bloc k s or to p la in bigotry. By c ontra s t,
the me c ha nis ins tha t bring e volution a bout c e rta inly
ne e d s tudy a nd c la rif ic a tion. The re a re no a lte rna -
tive s to e volution a s his tory tha t c a n withs ta nd c riti-
c a l e x a mina tion. Ye t we a re c ons ta ntly le a rning ne w
a nd imp orta nt f a c ts a bout e volutiona ry me c ha nis ms .
It is re ma rk a ble tha t more tha n a c e ntury a go
Da rwin wa s a ble to dis c e rn s o muc h a bout e volu-
tion without ha ving a va ila ble to him the k e y f a c ts
dis c ove re d s inc e . The de ve lop me nt of ge ne tic s a f te r
1900-e s p e c ia lly of mole c ula r ge ne tic s , in the la s t
two de c a de s -ha s p rovide d inf orma tion e s s e ntia l
to the unde rs ta nding of e volutiona ry me c ha nis ms .
But muc h is in doubt a nd muc h re ma ins to be
le a rne d. This is he a rte ning a nd ins p iring f or a ny
s c ie ntis t worth his s a lt. Ima gine tha t e ve rything is
c omp le te ly k nown a nd tha t s c ie nc e ha s nothing
more to dis c ove r: wha t a nightma re !
Doe s the e volutiona ry doc trine c la s h with re ligious
f a ith? It doe s not. It is a blunde r to mis ta k e the Holy
S c rip ture s f or e le me nta ry te x tbook s of a s tronomy,
ge ology, biology, a nd a nthrop ology. Only if s ymbols
a re c ons true d to me a n wha t the y a re not inte nde d to
me a n c a n the re a ris e ima gina ry, ins oluble c onf lic ts .
As p ointe d out a bove , the blunde r le a ds to bla s -
p he my: the Cre a tor is a c c us e d of s ys te ma tic de c e it-
f ulne s s .
One of the gre a t think e rs of our a ge , Pie rre Te il-
ha rd de Cha rdin, wrote the f ollowing: "Is e volution
a the ory, a s ys te m, or a hyp othe s is ? It is muc h more
-it is a ge ne ra l p os tula te to whic h a ll the orie s , a ll
hyp othe s e s , a ll s ys te ms mus t he nc e f orwa rd bow a nd
whic h the y mnus t s a tis f y in orde r to be think a ble
a nd true . E volution is a light whic h illumina te s a ll
f a c ts , a tra je c tory whic h a ll line s of thought mus t
f ollow-this is wha t e volution is ." Of c ours e , s ome
s c ie ntis ts , a s we ll a s s ome p hilos op he rs a nd the o-
logia ns , dis a gre e with s ome p a rts of Te ilha rd's te a c h-
ings ; the a c c e p ta nc e of his world vie w f a lls s hort of
unive rs a l. But the re is no doubt a t a ll tha t Te ilha rd
wa s a truly a nd de e p ly re ligious ma n a nd tha t
Chris tia nity wa s the c orne rs tone of his world vie w.
M ore ove r, in his world vie w s c ie nc e a nd f a ith we re
not s e gre ga te d in wa te rtight c omp a rtme nts , a s the y
a re with s o ma ny p e op le . The y we re ha rmonious ly
f itting p a rts of his world vie w. Te ilha rd wa s a c re a -
tionis ts , but one who unde rs tood tha t the Cre a tion is
re a lize d in this world by me a ns of e volution.
C1
L IGHT OF E VOL UTION 129