“Ambition” or “boredom” are behind all the criticism from so many different quarters.
Further to Epigenetics: Dawkins’ “selfish gene” discredited by still more scientists you should have heard of, it seems that Jerry “Why Evolution Is True” Coyne has also noticed David Dobbs’s “Die, Selfish Gene, Die” in Aeon :
I’m constantly puzzled these days by how often people argue that the neo-Darwinian synthesis is wrong, and that we need a new paradigm. Genetic assimilation, epigenetics, horizontal gene transfer—all of these buzzwords are evoked as reasons to jettison our “conventional” view of evolution. But always, when you look at the data, the evidence that these phenomena will overturn neo-Darwinism is nonexistent.
I’ve already written a lot on the epigenetics hype, and have shown that there’s no evidence that a single adaptation in nature involves the fixation in the DNA of an epigenetic alteration of the genome that isn’t initially inherited. Yet people keep banging on about epigenetics.
I’m not sure why the hype continues, but perhaps it has to do with the fact that the main paradigm of evolution—the neo-Darwinian synthesis—is largely consolidated, and is correct. Sure, there are surprises to come, and interesting new phenomena, but there’s no “quantum mechanics” of evolution on the horizon. Some theories don’t need to be overthrown because they’re generally right. Perhaps people don’t like working in a field where there’s no new “paradigm” to forge, and Kuhn has ruined us all!
The “neo-Darwinism is dead” trend may have to do with ambition, or perhaps with boredom. I don’t know. What I do know is that the many recent challenges to neo-Darwinism have all failed to hold water, but people keep pouring liquid into that sieve.