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At New Scientist: We must rethink the (Darwinian) theory of nature

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They said it; we didn’t. Of course, some of it is put in muted tones:

Our modern conception of evolution started with Charles Darwin and his idea of natural selection – “survival of the fittest” – to explain why certain individuals thrive while others fail to leave a legacy. Then came genetics to explain the underlying mechanism: changes in organisms caused by random mutations of genes.

Now this powerful picture is changing once more, as discoveries in genetics, epigenetics, developmental biology and other fields lend a new complexity and richness to our greatest theory of nature. Find out more in this special feature.

Michael Le Page, Colin Barras, Richard Webb, Kate Douglas and Carrie Arnold, “Evolution is evolving: 13 ways we must rethink the theory of nature” at New Scientist (September 23. 2020)

If by “our greatest theory of nature,” the writers mean textbook Darwinism, well these new concepts are destroying it. What becomes of “natural selection acting on random mutation” if a variety of means of evolution are “natural,” mutations are not necessarily random, genes aren’t selfish and don’t come only from parents, and the fittest don’t necessarily survive? Just for a start…

Never mind that. They also say “species don’t really exist…” What? After all the hoo-haw around “speciation?” This is like saying “phlogiston doesn’t really exist.”It’s not an idle thing to transform the science picture of the world. But it is about time to begin.

Most of the article is paywalled but here is their outline, courtesy Rob Sheldon:

1 GENES ARENʼT DESTINY (genetic plasticity)
2 EVOLUTION SHOWS INTELLIGENCE (memory, optimization, induction)
3 MOVE OVER, SELFISH GENE (cultural group altruism)
5 SPECIES DONʼT REALLY EXIST (taxonomic anarchy)
6 ADAPT FIRST, MUTATE LATER (Neo-Lamarckian adaptation)
7 WE CAN SHAPE OUR OWN EVOLUTION (Niche construction)
8 CHANGE CAN BE QUICK (contemporary evolution)
9 SURVIVAL OF THE… LUCKIEST (genetic drift)
13 WE CAN STOP EVOLUTION (anti antibiotic-resistance)

Evolution might be a much more interesting topic without Darwin and his militia. The article is very long so we’ll get back to you about other stuff they have to say that is of interest.

See also: A physicist looks at biology’s problem of “speciation” in humans

5 Replies to “At New Scientist: We must rethink the (Darwinian) theory of nature

  1. 1
    martin_r says:

    and no word about so called CONVERGENT AKA REPEATED EVOLUTION ?

    here you go:

  2. 2
    martin_r says:

    perhaps a stupid question, but what is left of Darwinism ?

    This sounds more like an intelligent design stuff …

  3. 3
    martin_r says:

    and no word about viruses? Viruses are the most abundant biological entity on Earth, but Darwinian theory of evolution can’t explain the existence of viruses. Common ancestor idea does not work with viruses, a virus is a completely different system, not made of cells.

    I am surprised, that no Darwinian ever mentions this fact…

    What is the Darwinian theory good for, when it can’t explain the existence of the most abundant biological entity on Earth ?

    Where viruses come from ?

    What is wrong with Darwinians ?

  4. 4
    Truthfreedom says:

    2 Martin_r

    Perhaps a stupid question, but what is left of Darwinism ?

    Dogmatism, ignorance, fallacies, bullying and a fair amount of “darwinian clowns” to amuse us. With their bright-red colored noses.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    As to:

    lend a new complexity and richness to our greatest theory of nature.

    Hmmm, funny that the supposedly ‘greatest theory of nature’ has no actual law of nature to appeal to so as to make it the supposedly greatest theory of nature in the first place.

    “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.”
    Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.

    The Evolution of Ernst: Interview with Ernst Mayr – 2004 (page 2 of 14)
    Excerpt: biology (Darwinian Evolution) differs from the physical sciences in that in the physical sciences, all theories, I don’t know exceptions so I think it’s probably a safe statement, all theories are based somehow or other on natural laws. In biology, as several other people have shown, and I totally agree with them, there are no natural laws in biology corresponding to the natural laws of the physical sciences.
    ,,, And so that’s what I do in this book. I show that the theoretical basis, you might call it, or I prefer to call it the philosophy of biology, has a totally different basis than the theories of physics.

    WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT? Evolution is True – Roger Highfield – January 2014
    Excerpt: If evolutionary biologists are really Seekers of the Truth, they need to focus more on finding the mathematical regularities of biology, following in the giant footsteps of Sewall Wright, JBS Haldane, Ronald Fisher and so on.
    ,,, Whatever the case, those universal truths—’laws’—that physicists and chemists all rely upon appear relatively absent from biology.
    Little seems to have changed from a decade ago when the late and great John Maynard Smith wrote a chapter on evolutionary game theory for a book on the most powerful equations of science: his contribution did not include a single equation.

    Moreover, the ‘law of nature’ that Darwin himself put forth is far more of a (a)moral statement about the world than it is a statement of any natural law that could possibly be measured in laboratory:

    “One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.”
    – Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species – (1861), page 266

    There simply is no empirical evidence, nor mathematical evidence, for natural selection being a law of nature as Charles Darwin himself falsely imagined.

    Genome-wide analysis of a long-term evolution experiment with Drosophila – 2010
    Excerpt of concluding paragraph: “Despite decades of sustained selection in relatively small, sexually reproducing laboratory populations, selection did not lead to the fixation of newly arising unconditionally advantageous alleles. This is notable because in wild populations we expect the strength of natural selection to be less intense and the environment unlikely to remain constant for ~600 generations. Consequently, the probability of fixation in wild populations should be even lower than its likelihood in these experiments.”

    “The Third Way” – James Shapiro, Denis Noble, and etc.. etc..,,,
    excerpt: “some Neo-Darwinists have elevated Natural Selection into a unique creative force that solves all the difficult evolutionary problems without a real empirical basis.”

    The waiting time problem in a model hominin population – 2015 Sep 17
    John Sanford, Wesley Brewer, Franzine Smith, and John Baumgardner
    Excerpt: The program Mendel’s Accountant realistically simulates the mutation/selection process,,,
    Given optimal settings, what is the longest nucleotide string that can arise within a reasonable waiting time within a hominin population of 10,000? Arguably, the waiting time for the fixation of a “string-of-one” is by itself problematic (Table 2). Waiting a minimum of 1.5 million years (realistically, much longer), for a single point mutation is not timely adaptation in the face of any type of pressing evolutionary challenge. This is especially problematic when we consider that it is estimated that it only took six million years for the chimp and human genomes to diverge by over 5 % [1]. This represents at least 75 million nucleotide changes in the human lineage, many of which must encode new information.
    While fixing one point mutation is problematic, our simulations show that the fixation of two co-dependent mutations is extremely problematic – requiring at least 84 million years (Table 2). This is ten-fold longer than the estimated time required for ape-to-man evolution. In this light, we suggest that a string of two specific mutations is a reasonable upper limit, in terms of the longest string length that is likely to evolve within a hominin population (at least in a way that is either timely or meaningful). Certainly the creation and fixation of a string of three (requiring at least 380 million years) would be extremely untimely (and trivial in effect), in terms of the evolution of modern man.
    It is widely thought that a larger population size can eliminate the waiting time problem. If that were true, then the waiting time problem would only be meaningful within small populations. While our simulations show that larger populations do help reduce waiting time, we see that the benefit of larger population size produces rapidly diminishing returns (Table 4 and Fig. 4). When we increase the hominin population from 10,000 to 1 million (our current upper limit for these types of experiments), the waiting time for creating a string of five is only reduced from two billion to 482 million years.

    “Darwinism provided an explanation for the appearance of design, and argued that there is no Designer — or, if you will, the designer is natural selection. If that’s out of the way — if that (natural selection) just does not explain the evidence — then the flip side of that is, well, things appear designed because they are designed.”
    Richard Sternberg – Living Waters documentary
    Whale Evolution vs. Population Genetics – Richard Sternberg and Paul Nelson – (excerpt from Living Waters video)

    Thus, the claim that Darwin’s theory is ‘our greatest theory of nature’ is ironic in that no one can seem to scientifically establish that Darwin’s theory of natural selection has an actual connection to nature.

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