Posted by: Dan | December 5, 2006

Notch in Evolution, Development, Cells, and Algorithms

Yesterday on Pharyngula, PZ Myers put up a detailed and interesting essay on the versatility of an important cellular signaling pathway: that of Notch. Sparked by a paper in Science (Notch, a Universal Arbiter of Cell Fate Decisions), it inspired a good “dig” on intelligent design by Mark CC on Good Math, Bad Math that made me chuckle:

Before I go into detail, I think it’s worth throwing a bit of a dig at some of the IDist type bozos. This is very much the kind of thing that IDists look for; they try to find natural systems that strongly resemble designed systems, so that they can assert that the natural system must have been designed. But the people allegedly doing ID research don’t bother to study the fundamental science. No one in ID-land is studying developmental biology, to really understand the complex signaling pathways, and what I would call the algorithmic way that they operate. I think it’s quite damning to their arguments that they don’t study this; but I also think I know why. If you read PZs article, and you starting looking in depth into developmental pathways, and understanding how they fit together, and how very small changes in a process can produce drastically different results – well, it really sort of pulls the carpet out from under the ID argument. You can really see just how these systems evolved in terms of gradual changes. Just look at Notch – how simple the behavior is, how widely it’s used to produce very different kinds of differentiation, and how easily the process can be perturbed to produce different results.

Anyway, go check out the Science paper, and PZ’s and Mark’s posts, for some good lessons on biology.


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