Darwinism Evolution Intelligent Design Natural selection

At Aeon: Damage control attempted re the current evolution upheavals

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By evolutionary biologist Kevin Laland, who seems to have adopted that role:

Evolution unleashed: Is evolutionary science due for a major overhaul – or is talk of ‘revolution’ misguided?

If you are not a biologist, you’d be forgiven for being confused about the state of evolutionary science. Modern evolutionary biology dates back to a synthesis that emerged around the 1940s-60s, which married Charles Darwin’s mechanism of natural selection with Gregor Mendel’s discoveries of how genes are inherited. The traditional, and still dominant, view is that adaptations – from the human brain to the peacock’s tail – are fully and satisfactorily explained by the natural selection (and subsequent inheritance). Yet as novel ideas flood in from genomics, epigenetics and developmental biology, most evolutionists agree that their field is in flux. Much of the data implies that evolution is more complex than we once assumed.

Some evolutionary biologists, myself included, are calling for a broader characterisation of evolutionary theory, known as the extended evolutionary synthesis (EES). A central issue is whether what happens to organisms during their lifetime – their development – can play important and previously unanticipated roles in evolution. The orthodox view has been that developmental processes are largely irrelevant to evolution, but the EES views them as pivotal. Protagonists with authoritative credentials square up on both sides of this debate, with big-shot professors at Ivy League universities and members of national academies going head-to-head over the mechanisms of evolution. Some people are even starting to wonder if a revolution is on the cards. [color emphasis added]

When something goes from being “largely irrelevant” to being “pivotal,” we are indeed witnessing a revolution, whether people want to call it that or not.

Consider the American Revolution. The opinions of residents of North America had previously been “largely irrelevant” to government but became “pivotal” afterward.*

In contrast to how evolution has traditionally been conceived, in the EES the burden of creativity in evolution does not rest on natural selection alone. This alternative way of thinking is being used to generate fresh hypotheses and establish new research agendas. It’s early days, but there are already signs that this research is starting to yield dividends. [color emphasis added] More.

Do the vast majority of science writers even know that evolution is no longer thought of in terms of “natural selection alone”?

One awkward problem is that, unlike most revolutions, this is one that sees popular science media firmly on the side of the ancien regime, the old guard. But never mind, we have the internet now.

* Granted, not all human beings were enfranchised at that time. But the idea was bound to spread…

See also: Neanderthals have changed a lot in the last few decades. Maybe they didn’t even necessarily look the way we think. Funny, isn’t it, how we used to “know” way more about human evolution when we actually knew very little. On the whole, current ignorance is a very good sign. It’s hard to build anything on splintered lecterns. Evolution is morphing from an ideology into a history, with all that that means about varying interpretations.

Rewriting human origins is one of RealClearScience’s (Ultimate) Top Ten stories for 2017

and

Most of the pop science media are poised on the edge of the recycle bin…

5 Replies to “At Aeon: Damage control attempted re the current evolution upheavals

  1. 1
    Mark from CO says:

    “This alternative way of thinking is being used to generate fresh hypotheses and establish new research agendas.”

    Seems to me, admittedly a sceptic and non-expert, that EES is just another way of redressing Darwanism and keeping the money flowing. Instead of the mystical power of Natural Selection, we just move to another mystical derivation that basically supports the old Myth, but with added ingredients. However, we remain with but a grand myth purportedly explaining ‘what’ supposedly happened, without providing any real details (or evidence) of how, specifically, the ‘what’ happened.

    Mark from CO

  2. 2
    Bob O'H says:

    When something goes from being “largely irrelevant” to being “pivotal,” we are indeed witnessing a revolution, whether people want to call it that or not.

    Or we’re seeing someone create a straw man. For some aspects of evolution, development is irrelevant. But for others it’s important (e.g. understanding the evolution of beak morphology in birds).

  3. 3

    Only academics interested in evolutionary theory can keep up with the swirling changes taking place within the Darwinian camp. The masses, if they care at all, generally still think of natural selection as being the driving force behind Darwinian evolution.

    I thank God for sites such as UD and EN for revealing the true state of Darwinian theory and maintaining a platform for robust debate/discussion on the topic.

  4. 4
    Nonlin.org says:

    Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) http://nonlin.org/ees/

    “Modern synthesis” never was anything other than Darwinism hitchhiking the real science of Genetics out of its well deserved obscurity. But Mendel’s genetics demolished Darwin’s “gradualism” and is the anti-Darwin and true, testable science unlike Darwinism. Therefore, the shotgun marriage between Mendel and Darwin known as “Modern Synthesis” never made any sense. Blending inheritance in which offspring were thought to be the genetic intermediates of their two parents is the gradualism imagined by Darwin, but blending inheritance would result in the rapid end of genetic variation within a population contrary to biologic observations. Once demonstrated false, biologic gradualism should have been dropped altogether and without this pillar, Darwinism would have crumbled like the sandcastle it is.

    More and more evidence against Darwinian evolution comes to light and can no longer be ignored. Epigenetics, antibodies, hormones, and parts of the microbiome are passed on from parents to descendants. So why not just merge Darwinism with Lamarckism and be done with it? It’s not as simple given that – “easy come easy go” – epigenetic adaptations do not seem to persist beyond a few generations while other adaptations, such as antibiotic resistance, seem part of the inbuilt capabilities of organisms rather than representing the evolution narrative.

    As an EES proponent notes, “the extraordinary level of parallel evolution between cichlid fishes in Lake Malawi, and Lake Tanganyika was brushed off as convergent evolution, but something else might be going on. What if some ways of building a fish are just more probable than others?” That of course means “Blind, mindless, unguided and purposeless” qualifiers of evolution are contrary to evidence.

    The solution? According to the same EES proponent: “In the EES the burden of creativity in evolution does not rest on natural selection alone… If evolution is not to be explained solely in terms of changes in gene frequencies; if previously rejected mechanisms such as the inheritance of acquired characteristics turn out to be important after all; and if organisms are acknowledged to bias evolution through development, learning and other forms of plasticity – does all this mean a radically different and profoundly richer account of evolution is emerging? No one knows…”

    Actually, a better alternative would be reexamining the whole “evolution” narrative. We would learn that more than a small part of the evolution dogma is flawed. But this is hard to do objectively, if not impossible, given how vested in the evolution philosophy are its proponents regardless of the accumulating contrary observations. http://nonlin.org/evolution/

    Question: I was going to flag this AEON article, but you got it.
    For the future, how does one communicate with the person in charge of your website?

  5. 5

    Nonlin.org @ 4: Excellent comment.

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