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Design Disquisitions: H. Allen Orr on Darwin’s Failure

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Did Darwin really explain the origin of species?

 

My quote of the month is now up on my blog. This is an interesting one as it comes from an evolutionary biologist and critic of ID. I also focus on comments of a similar nature that have been made in more recent years. Surprise, surprise, Darwin’s work isn’t all it is cracked up to be.

 

                                             H. Allen Orr on Darwin’s Failure

 

 

16 Replies to “Design Disquisitions: H. Allen Orr on Darwin’s Failure

  1. 1
    DATCG says:

    JoshuaG,

    Nice collection of quotes and information at your blog. Including interchange of ideas, reviews on ID. Saved it for later reading. Recommend people check it out. Lot of good info you are collecting. Great online find for the Allen Orr quote on Darwin’s Origin of Species! I’m saving the paper your referenced too. The history he covered on Dobzhansky’s research and Bateson was interesting review.

    Thought I might add some quotes. You may have covered these already. From Suzan Mazur’s book notes on Altenberg 16 meeting – An Expose’ of the Evolution Industry…

    “Darwinism and the neo-Darwinian synthesis, last dusted off 70 years ago, actually hinder discovery of the mechanism of evolution” Antonio Lima-de-Faria, Geneticist, Professor Emeritus Lund University Sweden – Altenberg 16

    another…

    “She(Lynn Margulis) sees natural selection as ‘neither the source of heritable novelty nor the entire evolutionary process’ and has pronounced neo-Darwinism ‘dead’, since there’s no adequate evidence in the literature that random mutations result in new species”(Suzan Mazur, Altenberg 16 pg 257).

    Ouch!

    Another quote, from Margulis and Sagan’s 2002 book – Acquiring Genomes. A Theory of the Origins of Species, Basic Books, New York, p. 3, 2002

    Still working on a theory of Origins of Species in 2002.

    “… this Darwinian claim to explain all of evolution is a popular half-truth whose lack of explicative power is compensated for only by the religious ferocity of its
    rhetoric.
    Although random mutations influenced the course of evolution, their influence was mainly by loss, alteration, and refinement. One mutation confers resistance to malaria but also makes happy blood cells into the deficient oxygen carriers of sickle cell anemics. Another mutation converts a gorgeous newborn into a cystic fibrosis patient or a victim of early onset diabetes. One mutation causes a flighty red-eyed fruit fly to fail to take wing. Never, however, did that one mutation make a wing, a fruit, a woody stem, or a claw appear. Mutations, in summary, tend to induce sickness, death, or deficiencies. No evidence in the vast literature of heredity change shows unambiguous evidence that random mutation itself, even with geographical isolation of populations, leads to speciation.”
    Margulis, L. and Sagan, D., pg 29

    That’s a serious critique. And matches other research and reviews done. Like Geneticist Dr. John Sanford who authored Genetic Entropy. What researchers keep finding or running into is limits in variation, loss of function, deleterious events from mutations(weak form of survival), not build up of new information and arrival of fittest.

  2. 2
    Eric Anderson says:

    Darwin most certainly did not explain the arrival of the fittest, he assumed it.

    But that really isn’t the part of his theory that had the bite anyway.

    Just as Darwin, Darwinists today continue to simply assume that beneficial changes will come along eventually — that the fittest will arrive — we just have to wait long enough. They imagine that occasional beneficial mutations might do the trick. Or perhaps co-option. Or perhaps horizontal gene transfer. Or maybe something no-one has thought of yet. We just need more patience. And more imagination.*

    But the part of the theory that has the bite, still bites. Namely, that once those fittest organisms arrive on the scene, then natural selection can take over and channel these changes into something useful, something new, something creative and utterly unlike what preceded it. Many Darwinists still defend to the death this alleged ability of natural selection to be creative, to remove the randomness and flog the resistant population ever onward and upward up Mount Improbable.

    Except that once you think about it, you realize the theory has no bite. Natural selection isn’t a force in nature. It doesn’t do anything. It is just a convenience label applied after the fact to what is, in essence, more randomness.

    And so the significant variations seem to remain forever out of reach and the vaunted mechanism of selection remains forever impotent to do anything about it.

    —–

    * For astute readers, a little fun at Allen Orr’s expense there. See Dembski’s unfettered response to Allen Orr. 🙂

  3. 3
    Bob O'H says:

    I think Coyne & Orr make the same statement in their Speciation book. Part of the reason to say this is to show that evolutionary biology didn’t end with Darwin, and there has been a lot of progress since then.

    Eric – I’m afraid you’ve totally missed the point of Orr’s comment. Click through the link Joshua gave & read the context.

  4. 4
    Origenes says:

    Joshua Gidney seems interpret the Orr quote to be solely about natural selection. If so, that would be a mistake, since it specifically deals with a problem that is allegedly solved by Dobhansky who attributes hybrid sterility to the interaction between at least two genes.

    It seems to me that Joshua intended to focus on natural selection and its failure to be creative.

    J.Gidney: Orr’s comment here echoes the pioneering Dutch geneticist, Hugo De Vries, when he famously stated that ‘natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest.'(1) In more modern times, we hear similar admissions from evolutionary biologists like Andreas Wagner in his book Arrival of the Fittest, claiming that Darwin left evolution’s greatest puzzle unexplained.

    Andreas Wagner is indeed very clear on the lack of explanatory power of natural selection:

    When the seventeenth-century lyric poet Andrew Marvell bemoaned, “Had we but world enough, and time” to avoid the “deserts of vast eternity” that lay before him, he was attempting to unlock his mistress’s bedchamber, not the secrets of nature. But he was on to something. Common wisdom holds that natural selection, combined with the magic wand of random change, will produce the falcon’s eye in good time. This is the mainstream perspective on Darwinian evolution: A tiny fraction of small and random heritable changes confers a reproductive advantage to the organisms that win this genetic lottery and, accumulating over time, such changes explain the falcon’s eye—and, by extension, everything from the falcon itself to all of life’s diversity.
    The power of natural selection is beyond dispute, but this power has limits. Natural selection can preserve innovations, but it cannot create them. And calling the change that creates them random is just another way of admitting our ignorance about it. Nature’s many innovations—some uncannily perfect—call for natural principles that accelerate life’s ability to innovate, its innovability. …

    … natural selection is not a creative force. It does not innovate, but merely selects what is already there. Darwin realized that natural selection allows innovations to spread, but he did not know where they came from in the first place. ….

    … Selection did not—cannot—create all this variation. A few decades after Darwin, Hugo de Vries expressed it best when he said that “natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest” (emphasis added).22 And if we do not know what explains its arrival, then we do not understand the very origins of life’s diversity.

    [Andreas Wagner, ‘Arrival Of The Fittest’, Prologue / Ch.1]

  5. 5
    Bob O'H says:

    Ah, the mistake is Joshuas. But the Orr quote is quite clear – it’s the speciation process Darwin failed to explain.

  6. 6
    Larry Moran says:

    Stop the presses! Rewrite the textbooks! Somebody who wrote about evolution 150 years ago didn’t know as much as we know today.

    Who would have guessed!?

  7. 7
    Origenes says:

    Larry Moran,

    for clarity, do you agree with Andreas Wagner that natural selection is “not a creative force” and “does not innovate”?

  8. 8

    Stop the presses! Rewrite the textbooks! Somebody who wrote about evolution 150 years ago didn’t know as much as we know today.

    Larry, we’ve known for half a century that DNA is a medium of information using symbolic representations and the formal constraints required to interpret them — yet you want to ignore those facts and literally pretend that its just chemistry. Thus, your sarcasm is placed into its proper perspective.

  9. 9
    Eric Anderson says:

    Bob O’H @3:

    I’m giving a general comment on the subtitle of the OP: “Did Darwin really explain the origin of species?”

    My footnote refers to a separate discussion between Orr and Demski many years ago.

  10. 10
    Eric Anderson says:

    Dr. Moran @6:

    Yes, we shouldn’t expect Darwin to have had all the answers, given the limited understanding of biology at the time.

    Unfortunately, Darwin still gets held up as though he were some genius who solved the riddle of biology and whose ideas undergird the whole of biology and more, so we are told.

    It would seem relevant, therefore, for someone to point out that Darwin didn’t actually do what has so often been claimed.

    —–

    Somebody who wrote about evolution 150 years ago didn’t know as much as we know today.

    Contrary to propaganda, it isn’t that we know more today about how great Darwin’s theory was. What we know today is that the theory is a bust. In fact, a more accurate description would be this: Everything Darwin got right is trivial. Everything non-trivial Darwin got wrong.

  11. 11
    Origenes says:

    Larry Moran: Somebody who wrote about evolution 150 years ago didn’t know as much as we know today.

    That’s quite an understatement. Exemplary for Darwin’s confusion WRT natural selection is the following:

    “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.”
    Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

  12. 12
    J-Mac says:

    Larry Moran,

    Stop the presses! Rewrite the textbooks! Somebody who wrote about evolution 150 years ago didn’t know as much as we know today.

    Who would have guessed!?

    Interpretation:

    Don’t stop the presses please! I don’t want to rewrite my text books (and look like an idiot)! Somebody who wrote about evolution 150 years ago didn’t know much and neither do we today (because we still can’t really explain the origin of species and neither did Darwin).

    BTW: 10 million species and counting and not one of them is macro-evolving! Evolutionary miracle! Another one…

  13. 13
    J-Mac says:

    It’s about rewriting your textbooks and humiliation isn’t it Larry?

    You see Larry, if I were the ID who designed life, I would do the same thing. I would humiliate the proud who see the intelligent design in nature firsthand, refuse to acknowledge it, and give credit to dumb-luck for it while profiting from it at the same time…

  14. 14
    Seversky says:

    Eric Anderson @ 10

    Unfortunately, Darwin still gets held up as though he were some genius who solved the riddle of biology and whose ideas undergird the whole of biology and more, so we are told.

    That version of Darwin is a strawman held up for creationists and the ID movement to beat. Darwin’s original theory was a seminal work and a great achievement for its time but, as Professor Moran knows rather better then the likes of J-Mac, evolutionary biology has moved on considerably since 1859.

    If I was minded to return the favor I could refer to intelligent design theory as “Paleyism” and imply thereby that it had not moved on from William Paley’s Natural Theology first published in 1802. Would that be fair comment or just a rhetorical device?

  15. 15
    Eric Anderson says:

    Seversky @14:

    That version of Darwin is a strawman held up for creationists and the ID movement to beat.

    Wait a minute. Are you saying that Darwinists are purposely making unsubstantiated claims about the importance of Darwin’s work and the centrality of his theory to biology in order to give his detractors a strawman to beat? LOL!

    Surely you aren’t claiming that Darwin’s detractors are the primary ones making claims about the importance of Darwin’s work and the centrality of his theory to biology? It would take you about 15 seconds on Google to find many of the leading Darwinians of the last 100 years paying obeisance to Darwin and making wild unsubstantiated claims about the centrality of his theory to all of biology (and several other disciplines to boot).

    I’m glad, however, to hear that you don’t think Darwin deserves that much credit and that evolutionary theory has “moved on”.

    So which parts of Darwin’s theory should we not take seriously any more? The idea that the fossil record is hopelessly faulty? The idea that natural selection can channel random changes toward a creative end? The idea that all organisms are descended from an original “few forms or one” by purely natural processes? The idea that species are “plastic” and can turn into new species by random variation and natural selection?

    Yes, I agree that biology has “moved on” from all of those faulty claims Darwin made, as they have all turned out to be wrong.

    As I said, essentially everything Darwin got right has turned out to be trivial. Everything non-trivial Darwin got wrong.

  16. 16
    J-Mac says:

    Seversky,

    “…as Professor Moran knows rather better then the likes of J-Mac, evolutionary biology has moved on considerably since 1859…”

    You are actually correct!

    Professor Moran knows better or should know better than the likes of me and others…That’s why he doesn’t call himself a Darwinist, because he knows enough to realize that natural selection acting on random variation (neo-Darwinism) can’t explain evolution…

    So, what does he do to fix this issue? He starts to promote random genetic drift as the main or additional mechanism of evolution… Well, it is a noble idea if you want to believe in evolution…

    However, how many respected evolutionary biologists buy Larry’s idea, that random genetic drift is the solution to neo-Darwinian evolutionary problems? I have counted a handful of the ones who are very outspoken about the issues…

    However, if random genetic drift is the solution to the problems that darwinian evolution is facing today, why nobody mention it at the Royal Society Meet in November last year in UK?

    Larry was there… Why didn’t he speak up and presented the evidence and wrap up the meet? Why?

    Why doesn’t Larry or one of his supportive buddies preform some experiments, publish the results and shut everyone up, including the likes of J. Coyne, R. Dawkins?

    They and many others who attended the Royal Society Meet last year don’t buy Larry’s random genetic drift bs…

    Why?

    Because random genetic drift “… does not have the molding power of natural selection…”-Jerry Coyne

    All Larry has to do is to prove his buddy Jerry Coyne wrong…Can he do it?

    He can’t, he won’t and never will even attempt to prove it!

    And that is it!

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