Recently, we’ve seen some rather abrupt shifts: The Royal Society is suddenly rethinking the importance of Darwinism in evolution—which will have huge ramifications even if they lose heart and flee the scene.
It’s enough that they even considered such grave apostasy.
For most people who grew up in the English-speaking world, evolution (indeed, all of biology) is Darwinism. The American Darwin-in-the-schools lobby, for example, has no similar interest in horizontal gene transfer, hybridization, epigenetics, or other ways evolution can happen. No one is suing the school board over chromosome doubling or getting their pants in a knot over convergence.
But then these demonstrated ways evolution can happen do not add up to a grand naturalist scheme either. It’s more like an honest history: attested but messy
And now we learn that Templeton is funding non-Darwinian approaches to evolution.
Meanwhile, predictably, some who are benefiting from Templeton’s largesse want the world to know that nothing is happening with this new Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES). For example, beneficiary Kevin Laland allows us to know,
Steve Gould spoke of the need for a new evolutionary paradigm and more recently Denis Noble has argued that neo-Darwinism needs ‘replacing’. I personally find such language counterproductive. I defend people’s right to think differently, and I strongly believe that in a healthy science no assumptions, no matter how longstanding or cherished, should be beyond questioning. However, I worry that talk of ‘revolution’ and ‘replacement’ gives the wrong impression. It implies that the radicals want to rip up the textbooks and start all over, and that is simply not correct. I know of no professional biologist that wants that. What the people who use those terms want to ‘replace’ is simply how the findings are interpreted. It is certainly true that many EES sympathizers, myself included, would like to see fundamental change in how the evolutionary process is described and understood. But what this really boils down to is recognition that, in addition to selection, drift, mutation and other established evolutionary processes, other factors, particularly developmental influences, shape the evolutionary process in important ways. However, that influence is hard to see from the traditional standpoint, so we need to encourage alternative conceptual frameworks. Nevertheless, in the EES, all processes central to contemporary evolutionary theory, and all empirical and theoretical findings, remain important. That is why I am more comfortable speaking of ‘extension’ or ‘revision’.
Translation: It’s a demolition project, described by the authorities as urban renewal. And it’s happening mainly due to the dogged efforts of Denis Noble.
Now, as to how it will affect the ID community: First, it’s becoming okay to talk about what’s wrong with the neo-Darwinian model of evolution without getting fired or flatlined, or even creating a sense of walking on the wild side. That’s why Darwin spear carrier Jerry Coyne thinks the end is nigh.
Once it’s accepted that both Darwinian and post-Darwinian models of evolution are flawed, we are back in the world of evidence, arguing about history. EESers think that a fully naturalist model that works can be found; IDers think that no model that ignores the nature and laws of information can work. If the IDers are right, the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis will solve only those problems directly created by Darwinism.
Let’s see how that prediction fares.
The big advance is if evidence starts to matter again. That’s because, to a great extent, Darwin’s followers have prevailed by establishing dogmas that were only to be supported, not contested. Support for so many propositions whistling through the science media consisted simply in showingthat the claims were consistent with Darwinism.
If we’re through with that, we have something to talk about.
See also: Denton on the growing chorus of dissent It’s helpful to keep in mind, however, that most of the news the public hears from pop science media is generated by the Darwin Boys’ Fan Club.
What the fossils told us in their own words
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