I’ve long suspected that the carcass of Darwinism is finally getting dragged off the scene, and with any luck, the career atheists and the Christian Darwinists will be fighting over it full time, with few onlookers, and Templeton funding the whack. Have a look at this roundup of abstracts a friend sent me:
Forthcoming articles about Darwinism in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences:
1. The Mastodon in the room: how Darwinian is neo-Darwinism?
Daniel R. Brooks
Abstract Failing to acknowledge substantial differences between Darwinism and neo-Darwinism impedes evolutionary biology. Darwin described evolution as the outcome of interactions between the nature of the organism and the nature of the conditions, each relatively autonomous but both historically and spatially intertwined. Furthermore, he postulated that the nature of the organism was more important than the nature of the conditions, leading to natural selection as an inevitable emergent product of biological systems. The neo-Darwinian tradition assumed a creative rather than selective view of natural selection, with the nature of the organism determined by the nature of the conditions, rendering the nature of the organism and temporal contingency unnecessary. Contemporary advances in biology, specifically the phylogenetics revolution and evo-devo, underscore the significance of history and the nature of the organism in biology. Darwinism explains more bio logy better, and better resolves apparent anomalies between living systems and more general natural laws, than does neo-Darwinism. The “extended” or “expanded” synthesis currently called for by neo-Darwinians is Darwinism.
Hmmm. No idea what he is talking about except that the “neo-Darwinians” (now the bad guys) made the mistake of assuming “a creative rather than selective view of natural selection”. In other words, they thought natural selection could create information and it can’t.
So, when the debts are called … Darwinism couldn’t create a small part of the hind end of a flea?
2. What was really synthesized during the evolutionary synthesis? a historiographic proposal
Richard G. Delisle
Abstract The 1920-1960 period saw the creation of the conditions for a unification of disciplines in the area of evolutionary biology under a limited number of theoretical prescriptions: the evolutionary synthesis. Whereas the sociological dimension of this synthesis was fairly successful, it was surprisingly loose when it came to the interpretation of the evolutionary mechanisms per se, and completely lacking at the level of the foundational epistemological and metaphysical commitments. Key figures such as Huxley, Simpson, Dobzhansky, and Rensch only paid lip service to the conceptual dimension of the evolutionary synthesis, as they eventually realized that a number of evolutionary phenomena could not be explained by its narrow theoretical corpus. Apparently, the evolutionary synthesis constituted a premature event in the development of evolutionary biology. Not only are the real achievements of the evolutionary synthesis in need of reevaluation, but this reassessment also has important implications for the historiography of Darwinism and the current debates about the darwinian movement.
So there isn’t really a grand synthesis that was supposed to shut up all critics already. Figures. The only synthesis I ever heard of was, “We all agree to keep our jobs fronting this nonsense. After all, the pop science press are all on our side, and everyone else is scared shiftless.”
3. Adaptation as process: The future of Darwinism and the legacy of Theodosius Dobzhansky
David J. Depew
Abstract Conceptions of adaptation have varied in the history of genetic Darwinism depending on whether what is taken to be focal is the process of adaptation, adapted states of populations, or discrete adaptations in individual organisms. I argue that Theodosius Dobzhansky’s view of adaptation as a dynamical process contrasts with so-called “adaptationist” views of natural selection figured as “design-without-a-designer” of relatively discrete, enumerable adaptations. Correlated with these respectively process and product oriented approaches to adaptive natural selection are divergent pictures of organisms themselves as developmental wholes or as “bundles” of adaptations. While even process versions of genetical Darwinism are insufficiently sensitive to the fact much of the variation on which adaptive selection works consists of changes in the timing, rate, or location of ontogenetic events, I argue that articulations of the Modern Synthesis influenced by Dobzhansky are more easily reconciled with the recent shift to evolutionary developmentalism than are versions that make discrete adaptations central.
So, modern Darwinism is a huge, tax-funded failure?
Yes, lots of us thought that but thanks for coming 25% of the way to spelling it out, Dr. Depew.
4. Darwinism after Mendelism: The case of Sewall Wright’s intellectual synthesis in his shifting balance theory of evolution (1931)
Abstract Historians of science have long been agreeing: what many textbooks of evolutionary biology say, about the histories of Darwinism and the New Synthesis, is just too simple to do justice to the complexities revealed to critical scholarship and historiography. There is no current consensus, however, on what grand narratives should replace those textbook histories. The present paper does not offer to contribute directly to any grand, consensual, narrational goals; but it does seek to do so indirectly by showing how, in just one individual case, details of intellectual biography connect with big picture issues. To this end, I examine here how very diverse scientific and metaphysical commitments were integrated in Sewall Wright’s own personal synthesis of biology and philosophy. Taking as the decisive text the short final section of Wright’s long 1931 paper on ‘Evolution in Mendelian populations,’ I examine how his shifting balance theory (SBT) related to his optimum breeding strategy research, his physiological genetics, his general theory of homogenising and heterogenesing causation and his panpsychist view of mind and matter; and I discuss how understanding these relations can clarify Wright’s place in the longue durée of evolutionary thought.
“There is no current consensus, however, on what grand narratives should replace those textbook histories.” How about a quarter page of blank space, to remind students how little we know?
Couple years ago, I talked to a young oceanographer who told me that about 96% of the ocean was unexplored. That alone should give pause for thought.
5. Is Darwinism past its “sell-by” date? The Origin of Species at 150
Abstract Many people worry that the theory of evolution that Charles Darwin gave in his Origin of Species is now dated and no longer part of modern science. This essay challenges this claim, arguing that the central core of the Origin is as vital today as it ever was, although naturally the science keeps moving on. Darwin provided the foundation not the finished product.
Ruse! Ruse! Thanks! Be a pal and publicise this to the Fashion & Relationships editor of Famous Hair News. I sold her a whack of really ridiculous stories about “The evolutionary psychology of hair” and like, I need the money and she needs the copy. So … keep pumping the Darwin tub loud, louder, loudest, will you, till my cheque arrives in the mail. I turned up the heat in the recent cold snap due to global warming, and I’m freaked about the next utility bill. Yrs. – d.
After that, my editor can devolve back to the Age of Aquarium or whatever, but for now.
6. Phylogenetic inertia and Darwin’s higher law
Abstract The concept of ‘phylogenetic inertia’ is routinely deployed in evolutionary biology as an alternative to natural selection for explaining the persistence of characteristics that appear sub-optimal from an adaptationist perspective. However, in many of these contexts the precise meaning of ‘phylogenetic inertia’ and its relationship to selection are far from clear. After tracing the history of the concept of ‘inertia’ in evolutionary biology, I argue that treating phylogenetic inertia and natural selection as alternative explanations is mistaken because phylogenetic inertia is, from a Darwinian point of view, simply an expected effect of selection. Although Darwin did not discuss ‘phylogenetic inertia,’ he did assert the explanatory priority of selection over descent. An analysis of ‘phylogenetic inertia’ provides a perspective from which to assess Darwin’s view.
So, evolving and not evolving both prove Darwinism? Nice work if they can get it.
And they can. So now what?