In Spite of the Cognitive Dissonance
Our example comes from this 2011 review paper on epigenetics in plants. Since plants are sessile they cannot simply move away from environmental challenges that occur. Therefore they need adaptation mechanisms. And since seeds are dispersed not too far from the parent plant, the next generation is likely to face the same environmental challenge. Therefore the adaptation mechanisms should be transgenerational, or heritable. Finally, since environmental challenge may be relatively short lived, lasting only a few generations, there is insufficient time for evolution by random mutations and natural selection to act. Therefore the adaptation mechanisms need to be fast-acting and reversible. These various requirements make epigenetics an “attractive alternative”:
The heritability of reversible epigenetic modifications that regulate gene expression without changing DNA sequence makes them an attractive alternative mechanism.
Note the design language. Not only are evolutionists naming and claiming the once evil epigenetics as just another mode of evolution, they also identify it as “an attractive alternative mechanism,” which is precisely how engineers discuss their design options.
Note, as we have discussed, the notion that such epigenetic mechanisms are just another mode of evolution makes no sense for several reasons. Unlike evolutionary change which is slow, epigenetics is fast. Unlike evolutionary change which propagates through the population from a single mutation occurring in a single individual, epigenetics works in parallel, occurring in many individuals across the population. Unlike evolutionary change which must come about by the selection of changes that must not be induced by the environment, epigenetics is induced by the environment. Unlike evolutionary change which generally is not repeatable, epigenetics is repeatable.
Furthermore, epigenetic mechanisms are, themselves, sophisticated designs. Their origin is far beyond evolution’s meager resources. Random mutations are not going to produce such directed adaptation mechanisms. And even if such a miracle were to occur, it would not survive, because it would not be selected for. This is because such mechanisms provide a differential reproductive advantage, and therefore a fitness improvement, not under the current conditions, but under some future, unforeseen conditions. There is no fitness improvement at the time of origin by random mutations.
There is a reason why evolutionists have so vehemently opposed this Lamarckian idea—it contradicts evolutionary theory. But like saltationism which was once rejected (by Darwin) due to its obvious implications, only to be guardedly accepted years later when the coast was clear (though it makes no sense on evolution), so too epigenetics must be accepted while downplaying the cognitive dissonance it forces on evolution.