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Evolutionary biologist Will Provine vs genetic drift?

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Friends write to say that Darwinian evolutionary biologist (retired) William B. Provine has written a book , The “Random Genetic Drift” Fallacy (2014):

Much of my life has been devoted to the history of population genetics. My early book was my Ph.D. thesis still in print: The Origins of Theoretical Populations Genetics (1971, 2nd edition, 1991). I stated in the 2nd edition in the Afterword that “random genetic drift” was giving me pause, as does the evolutionary synthesis. My later book was Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology (1986) and is also still in print. Now I am writing this book against “random genetic drift,” invented by R. A. Fisher and followed by Sewall Wright and J. B. S. Haldane. “Random genetic drift” is the core of population genetics. Any person who believes in “random genetic drift” should read this book.

It’s not clear how many people have read the book; there are no reviews at Amazon.com.

According to the Berkeley evolution site,

In each generation, some individuals may, just by chance, leave behind a few more descendents (and genes, of course!) than other individuals. The genes of the next generation will be the genes of the “lucky” individuals, not necessarily the healthier or “better” individuals.

It’s also unclear to an onlooker why random genetic drift would not be a demonstrable fact rather than a fallacy. A sinkhole in a rainforest might obliterate an otherwise viable species except for a few outliers who had wandered away from the species’ half acre, no?

So whatever they are like and whatever they beget is the new normal for that species, for better or worse.

But actually, anyone who “believes in” any claims about evolution needs help soon.

Evolution isn’t the sort of topic amenable to “belief,” only to the demonstration of evidence-based claims. When it becomes a form of belief, it becomes a religion. And we see so much of that among “sciencey-minded” people today.

Incidentally, Provine and a colleague did a study a while ago showing that evolutionary biologists are a highly diverse community where 78% are pure naturalist atheists.

Here is a defense of genetic drift in evolution by Michael Lynch. Readers?

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5 Replies to “Evolutionary biologist Will Provine vs genetic drift?

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    I actually started reading this a few months back. Never finished it. Perhaps I should have started at the end.

  2. 2
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Larry Moran?

  3. 3
    jerry says:

    Evolution isn’t the sort of topic amenable to “belief,” only to the demonstration of evidence-based claims. When it becomes a form of belief, it becomes a religion. And we see so much of that among “sciencey-minded” people today.

    Will Provine is the main person who convinced me that naturalistic evolution was nonsense. In a debate between him and Phillip Johnson at Stanford in the early 90’s, Provine ends up saying that his beliefs were based on faith, the faith that deep time will explain all.

    During nearly all of the debate, Provine attacks religion as incoherent and offers no science while Johnson argues on science. A real eye opener.

  4. 4
    jerry says:

    Why would anyone want to pin their beliefs about evolution on genetic drift? Isn’t this just the removal of alleles from the gene pool. So we may all end up with brown eyes some day. Wow!!

  5. 5

    Sorry about the placement of this, but Will Provine, perhaps the greatest historian of evolutionary biology of the 20th century, has died. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1995, had it surgically removed and underwent chemo and radiation. The tumor returned about four years ago and eventually killed him. Here is a link to his FaceBook page announcing his passing:
    https://www.facebook.com/will.provine?fref=ts
    Will was an unusually generous, gentle, and kind man. He always invited creationists and ID supporters to his evolution class, and always treated them with the utmost respect. He was a mentor to me and to hundreds of other historians, philosophers, and practitioners of evolutionary biology and population genetics. We will miss him.

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