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Royal Society announces guest list for Extended Synthesis meet


In plain English, a meeting November 7 – 9 that explores dumping Darwinism in favour of a more-evidence-based approach to evolution

From Royal Society:

Scientific discussion meeting organised in partnership with the British Academy by Professor Denis Noble CBE FMedSci FRS, Professor Nancy Cartwright, Professor Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, Professor John Dupré and Professor Kevin Laland.

Developments in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields have produced calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution, although the issues involved remain hotly contested. This meeting will present these developments and arguments in a form that will encourage cross-disciplinary discussion and, in particular, involve the humanities and social sciences in order to provide further analytical perspectives and explore the social and philosophical implications.

The schedule of talks, and biographies of the organisers and speakers are available below. Alternatively you can download the draft programme (PDF). Speaker abstracts will be available closer to the meeting date. Recorded audio of the talks will be available on this page after the event has taken place. More.

James Shapiro (read-write genome) and Eva Jablonka (epigenetics) are in, which would make the whole thing worthwhile. As is Greg Hurst on symbionts. Many speakers are probably there so as not to scare old hat evolutionary biologists into fits of chronic wittering (in which case many evolutionary biologists will be advised by their physicians not to attend).

Let’s keep in mind that this must be a scary moment for many of these people. Blathering for Darwin won’t work any more. It’s the Royal Society saying, this is so done, so dead, so yesterday, so used-to-was and it will wash no more.

If nothing else, such an event separates first-rate thinkers from mediocrities content to repeat the claims and truisms that they have never really engaged with. Had to happen.

See also: Rethinking evolution

Life continues to ignore what evolution experts say


What the fossils told us in their own words

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Second, it should be obvious to anyone who has actually studied ID literature — as opposed to learning about ID from Wikipedia and the NCSE and BioLogos columns and other unreliable internet sources, and unreliable print sources like the writings of Ken Miller and Francis Collins and Francisco Ayala and Karl Giberson — why ID people would be interested in a conference where neo-Darwinian theory is likely to be savaged by at least some important secular evolutionary biologists.
Practicing evolutionary biologist Joe Felsenstein felt confidant enough to bet an entire $100.00 that an intelligently guided algorithm could perform better than a blind chance algorithm. What more could a Darwinist hope for? Still waiting to see if he'll accept my $10,000.00 counter-challenge. Mung
Timaeus, I agree with you 100%. Larry Moran (I'm sorry for misspelling his name... It wasn't intentional) is open to the change that HAS TO TAKEN PLACE WITHIN EVOLUTIONARY THEORY NOW AND FAST, NOT IN 10 YEARS. Unfortunately, it is going to be stolled by the usual suspects who can't and don't handle reality very well... J-Mac
UB #24 follow-up addendum Here's a relatively recent paper where both prefixes 'micro-' and 'macro-' are used in relation to evolution:
"Resolution of the link between micro- and macroevolution calls for comparing both processes on the same deterministic landscape, such as genomic, metabolic or fitness networks."
Tradeoff between robustness and elaboration in carotenoid networks produces cycles of avian color diversification Alexander V. Badyaev, Erin S. Morrison, Virginia Belloni and Michael J. Sanderson Biology Direct 2015 10:45 DOI: 10.1186/s13062-015-0073-6 http://biologydirect.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13062-015-0073-6
Are they talking about bird feather coloration variety? Big deal! Birds remain birds anyway. When are the prefixes 'micro' and 'macro' used? What determines which one should be used in any given case? :) Dionisio
UB #23 follow-up addendum In the relatively recent paper referenced by the below link, does the word 'evolution' refer to epigenetic adjustments in the built-in adaptation mechanisms? Is it possible that sometimes some folks add the suffix 'micro-' in cases like the one illustrated in the given example? Here's the link: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1831/20160403 Dionisio
UB @20 Does that term "micro-evolution" mean something very specific? IOW, does it apply to a very particular type of process? How does the suffix 'micro' compare to the suffix 'macro' in general? How do those terms apply more specifically to biology? Bottom line, are they absolute or relative concepts? Thank you. PS. The famous Galapagos* finches beak size story seems to be about built-in adaptation mechanisms present in biological systems. Finches remain finches at the end of the story, regardless of the musical background you add to it. :) Bacteria remain bacteria even after they turn into the dreaded "antibiotic resistant" kind. (*) one of your interlocutors apparently misspelled that widely known name, which is so deeply associated with a famous person they seem to exalt so much. :) Dionisio
UB @18 Good questions (assuming you meant "affect"?). BTW, some of your interlocutors may not be willing to understand your questions, hence they won't be able to answer them correctly. That seems to happen everywhere, including here in this forum very often. Maybe that's one of the reasons why some discussion threads are much longer than others? :) Dionisio
See also: https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/is-the-royal-society-finally-catching-up-with-our-own-upright-biped/ Dionisio
How unusual (not) that you'd suggest we cannot measure the evidence of design, but most assuredly can measure the evidence of non-design. Perhaps you are as unaware of your evidentiary biases as you are of your double-standards. The genetic translation system is a semiotic mechanism. It uses combinatorial permutations in order to enable the capacity and transcribability required for the self-replication of the cell. The material conditions that identify the system were proposed in theory and confirmed by experiment. Those same material conditions also make the system exclusively identifiable among all other physical systems, and the only other instance of such conditions are found in recorded language and mathematics -- two universal correlates of intelligence. Moreover, the material observations in question can be found in textbooks from one end of the planet to the other, and are not even controversial. Perhaps you can demonstrate them to be false? Perhaps you choose to ignore them, to not reason with them, or allow them the light of day? Or, perhaps you think you can denigrate them into non-existence, or respond with something pithy instead? ** I don't think I've ever made a single comment about micro-evolution, nor do I particularly argue about evolution in general. So unless you can somehow demonstrate that I have "mocked micro-evolution", then you owe me a retraction. Biosemiosis.org . Upright BiPed
You can't measure design UB, just as you can't measure intention. You can however measure beak size, as Peter and Rosemary Grant proved through their exhaustive hard work on Daphne Major, the Galapogos. They proved conclusively (to everyone's satisfaction) that food variety, and abundance, is directly linked to reproductive success, and the natural selection of phenotype advantage, beak size. Thus proving what you mockingly call "micro"- evolution. Extend your mind a little further, add time, season with environmental flexability, and stir. rvb8
How does any of that effect any of the measurable evidence of design in biology, rv? And if it does not effect the evidence, then why should it concern anyone? Upright BiPed
Axe, Denton, and Meyer, are of the same vintage as Dembski. If you throw in Gauger, O'leary, West, Berlinski, Klinghoffer,Wells,W.J.Smith,C.Hunter,S.Chafee, and B.Dixon, I think that is the world wide kit and kaboodle; I may have missed a few. Oh! R.Sternberg. rvb8
rvb8: I agree with you that bad English is intellectually offensive whether it comes from pro-ID or anti-ID people. People should learn the English language properly before entering into public debate in English-speaking countries. Dembski has always had interests in subjects other than ID. Currently, he is pursuing those other interests. But he hasn't renounced his ID position; he has merely left the defense of it to others. And that's reasonable; he published more pro-ID writing than anyone else for a good number of years; it's time for others to shoulder the burden. So we see Axe, Denton, Meyer and others stepping up to the plate. That's a good thing. Movements identified with one man tend to die out with the man. It's a tribute to the solidity of ID that it can function without Dembski. Timaeus
J-Mac: You misspelled "Moran", but yes, I think all of those people have the right to defend their views. But it is interesting that they choose to defend them on blog sites rather than at scientific conferences on evolutionary theory -- an indication, perhaps, that they don't know enough to defend their views before an audience of world-class evolutionary theorists (as opposed to a popular blog audience where most of those reading aren't qualified to make any scientific judgments). Moran at least has had the courage to come and post here, in territory hostile to his views -- I respect him for that. Coyne, Myers, etc. won't do that. They prefer the bully pulpit of their blog sites. Moran is also brighter than the other two, with a more complex understanding of the various competing models of evolutionary theory. He can be scornful and sarcastic, but at least he is aware that there are genuine scientific problems with the neo-Darwinian model which Coyne and Myers slavishly endorse. The world of evolutionary theory is changing. 90% of the comments on the internet on sites about evolution and creation are still stuck in the old neo-Darwinian model. The blog sites of Coyne etc. are going to seem positively archaic just a few years from now. The ideas of Wagner, Shapiro and others are changing the landscape, and the old neo-Darwinians are going to be left behind. Of course, ID has said all along that neo-Darwinism is a grossly inadequate model for evolutionary change. And now secular, non-religious evolutionary biologists are starting to agree with that. I wonder if, 20 years from now, when neo-Darwinism is mostly abandoned, if the loudmouths on the internet (Coyne, Myers, Shallit, Panda's Thumb, TalkOrigins, etc.) will be man enough to eat crow and admit that they rudely and unjustly attacked ID folks when ID was on the side of truth in its critique. Probably not. Modern atheist/materialist folks -- at least, those who post on the internet -- tend to be people with very big egos, and people with very big egos rarely admit they are wrong, even in retrospect. Timaeus
Thanks for the grammar update, I am indeed a lazy spelleer (heh!), and grammarian. However, the substance of my question remains, 'where is the founding father (as twer) of ID?' And, if ID is so evidence based, why would groovamos imply that my voice be silenced, or 'expelled'? Also, I see misspellings, and poor grammar here daily; Robert Byers anyone? I hope your pedantry will extend beyond dissenters. rvb8
More interesting than the punctuation is the astounding double-standard on constant display. Upright BiPed
rvb8: It's always amusing when people who are incompetent in the English language "correct" others. You complain that "News" wrote "meet" instead of "meeting" -- yet "meet" is sometimes used in English, as in the expression, "track meet" -- referring to a meeting where athletes compete in running etc. I took the expression of "News" to be a slightly humorous play on "track meet" -- conveying the image of evolutionary theorists competing aggressively with each other in hopes of victory. Such playfulness with the language has a long history, and you are pedantic to complain about it. Also, you need to get the spelling of people's names right -- it's "Dembski", not "Dembsky", and it's "Denyse", not "Denise" O'Leary. You also don't know the punctuation rules. You wrote: it’s a, “meeting”, not a, “meet” There should be no commas before the words in quotation marks. Maybe you should take a refresher course in English before correcting people. Timaeus
groovamos! What an odd set of questions. I come here because I think ID is religiously based and you should be publicly exposed as the religious promoters you are; because the moderators graciously accept my counter opinion; because I enjoy free speech; because debate is the hall mark of civilization. (This is also one reason I think Islam has so many problems.) "Dembsky is oddly missing." This is a fair observation as you can see for yourself if you go to UD posts prior to December 2005. During this period a man more confident (arrogant?) about his argument would be hard to find; now he is silent, what happened? "He is on the circuit."?? 'Circuit?' Science is not a, 'circuit', it is a rigorous discipline with rigid rules that must be abided by. Opinion, has no place, popularity has no place, and carpet baggers, have no place. rvb8
Does anybody here thinkthat Coyne, Moraan and PZ. Myers should have been given an opportunity to defend their case even if they are wrong"? J-Mac
rvb8 Darwinism remains Of course Darwinism remains. Because the religion of scientific materialism, dominant in academia, could not exist without its 19th century cult figurehead. No religion can be without a figurehead. (with the exception of Vedanta, being 6,000 years old) BTW many thanks for use of the term Darwinism, many times angry materialists come to this board and admonish and ridicule the term. Dembsky is oddly missing. Well I saw him a couple of years ago, he is on the circuit and published a book last year. Have you published any books? Do you have a Ph.D in mathematics? Dembsky is oddly missing. But we know where you are, on this board all the time for some reason. Can you tell us why that is? Can you describe to us any possible evangelical motivation that brings you here? And why you being on here makes the world a better place? groovamos
Well the horse has already left the barn regardless of the outcome of this symposium. At the risk of being labeled a “quote minor…” You have Denis Nobel on record saying: “All the central assumptions of the Modern Synthesis (often called Neo-Darwinism) have been disproven.” You have James Shapiro in the opening statement of his recent book saying: “Innovation, not selection, is the critical issue in evolutionary change. Without variation and novelty, selection has nothing to act upon. So this book is dedicated to considering the many ways that living organisms actively change themselves. Uncovering the molecular mechanisms by which living organisms modify their genomes is a major accomplishment of late 20th Century molecular biology. Conventional evolutionary theory made the simplifying assumption that inherited novelty was the result of chance or accident.” Other comments by Shapiro: “It is difficult (if not impossible) to find a genome change operator that is truly random in its action within the DNA of the cell where it works. All careful studies of mutagenesis find statistically significant non-random patterns of change, and genome sequence studies confirm distinct biases in location of different mobile genetic elements.” Shapiro asked rhetorically: “Do the sequences of contemporary genomes fit the predictions of change by “numerous, successive, slight variations,” as Darwin stated, or do they contain evidence of other, more abrupt processes, as numerous other thinkers had asserted? The data are overwhelmingly in favor of the saltationist school that postulated major genomic changes at key moments in evolution.” More Shapiro: “Natural genetic engineering generates different kinds of variation from those produced by classical mutations, one gene at a time. Rearrangements can take place at multiple locations at once and shuffle entire domains from one protein to another, producing novel combinations quickly and abruptly, perhaps even purposefully.” Act “abruptly and even purposefully”…get that. And here Shapiro comments on the slim evidence (Luria and Delbrück experiments) that “mutations” are random: “Given the lethal nature of the selecting virus Luria and Delbrück used, there was in fact no other possible outcome. Infection was invariably lethal, and only preexisting resistant mutants could survive. Nonetheless, this experiment was cited for over six decades as proof that virus infection could not induce a genetic change to resistance. One has to be careful with the word ‘proof’ in science. I always said that conventional evolutionists were hanging a very heavy coat on a very thin peg in the way they cited Luria and Delbrück. The peg broke in the first decade of this century.” Eugene Koonin: “Major transitions in biological evolution show the same pattern of sudden emergence of diverse forms at a new level of complexity. …. The cases in point include the origin of complex RNA molecules and protein folds; major groups of viruses; archaea and bacteria, and the principal lineages within each of these prokaryotic domains; eukaryotic super-groups; and animal phyla. In each of these pivotal nexuses in life's history, the principal "types" seem to appear rapidly and fully equipped with the signature features of the respective new level of biological organization. No intermediate "grades" or intermediate forms between different types are detectable.” Koonin then goes on to defend these statements in his paper. I suppose neo-Darwinists can imagine that these folks are just wrong despite the long list of references to recent scientific research they cite. But even if unaware of any of these comments, anyone equipped with common sense and intuition could discern three clear trends indicating that neo-Darwinism is wrong: 1) Far greater levels of complexity—“astounding,” “astonishing,” “unimagined complexity”—2) this far greater complexity occurring over very brief periods of time and 3) this greater complexity occurring over brief periods of time and happening repeatedly. There is a pattern here, a repeated pattern of rapid accrual of the same types of complexity is a signature of design, not chance. And this is to say nothing about the vast quantities of novel complex specified information exhibited by the human mind in dreams and thought streams, not to mention during near death experiences where the content is ineffable and when the brain doesn’t even appear to be fully functioning. And all this rich novel, complex information arises instantaneously and spontaneously in the mind (not strictly the brain). It is all over my materialist friends who may be listening in. Here is my advice to you…get on the right side of history. Don’t be one of those persons who embraces a theory that is becoming a fossil of a bygone age till its last breath. Open your minds…and your hearts. Biological sciences have been in the dark ages for the past century…time for a renaissance, an enlightenment—“design” will be the watchword of the 21st century. And in the end it will have been all these fine folks on this forum that will have ushered in such an enlightenment. nkendall
I would be cautious about expecting too much from this. But as we know, every inch counts -- and this meeting, and each of those similar meetings to come, are all ultimately necessary. Upright BiPed
There is one other important point to be made here…when I engage folks in a light debate about Darwinism at dinner parties or a work, not knowing the details, these folks invariable retreat to two positions: 1) promissory materialism or 2) the authority of science. The unraveling of neo-Darwinism undercuts both these paths of retreat. Often in the course of my discussions someone will comment that Dawkins or Gould or whomever is “brilliant.” For me there has to be one word that is reserved for those who get the big questions in their field of study correct. You can be clever and you can be cunning and you can be smart; but to count as brilliant in my book, you also have to have been shown to be right. For the past 70 years the supposed “brilliant” academic scientists have been offering this vacuous theory as fact with the highest level of assurance. Recent research—much of which has catalyzed this event--shows that much of the research in evolutionary biology has been a massive fool’s errand collectively participated in by nearly all the best and brightest scientist in all the university of all the world. What an indictment this event is! nkendall
I'm sure that whatever happens at the meeting Susan Mazur will be able to spin it into a paradigm shift of some sort. Seversky
Wow! rhampton7 is still around! I wonder if he is still advocating his various gross misunderstandings and misapplications of Aquinas. Above, he writes: "I’m willing to bet that all of the talks/papers will refer to processes that are material in origin. Not sure why ID proponents would be excited by this." First of all, ID proponents aren't against a role for material processes. Some of them, like Denton, see the whole process of evolution, from Big Bang to man, as executed via material mechanisms. Second, it should be obvious to anyone who has actually studied ID literature -- as opposed to learning about ID from Wikipedia and the NCSE and BioLogos columns and other unreliable internet sources, and unreliable print sources like the writings of Ken Miller and Francis Collins and Francisco Ayala and Karl Giberson -- why ID people would be interested in a conference where neo-Darwinian theory is likely to be savaged by at least some important secular evolutionary biologists. The main form of evolutionary theory that ID proponents have been attacking since *Darwin's Black Box* has been neo-Darwinism. If neo-Darwinism ends up being trashed, or even seriously dressed down, at a conference of biologists who are largely atheists and agnostics, that will blow away the claim that ID's critique of neo-Darwinism has no scientific basis but is simply an expression of creationist religion. Scientists like Jablonka and Shapiro aren't creationists and in most cases evolutionary biologists aren't religious believers at all. The closer the match between their critique of neo-Darwinism and the ID critique of neo-Darwinism, the greater the vindication of ID's negative campaign over the past 20 years. Will the speakers at the conference endorse ID? I don't expect they will. Does it matter? Not if they sufficiently bash neo-Darwinism, to the point where people like Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers and the folks at BioLogos get really, really angry and defensive. No one in the ID movement ever expected that the world would rush to embrace ID before the serious flaws in neo-Darwinism had sunk into the minds of practicing biologists. We all knew it would take time for the bulk of biologists, over-schooled in their learned-by-rote population genetics mantras, to catch up to the insights already grasped by philosophers, information theorists, engineers, molecular biologists, physicists, etc. We knew that the dethroning of neo-Darwinism would have to overcome professional resistance in a field where all the senior players were trained by the likes of Mayr, Dobzhansky and Gaylord Simpson. But we also knew that the dethroning of neo-Darwinism would be the first step in making academic biology more design-friendly. The other steps would come later. ID folks play the long game. It will be great fun, sociologically speaking, if the speakers -- especially those who are active evolutionary biologists -- belittle neo-Darwinism. The main public defenders of neo-Darwinism these days are retired professors who have long since ceased doing any biology and now write anti-religious screeds (Dawkins), professors who are still being paid very high salaries at good schools, nominally to teach evolutionary theory, even while the vast majority of their time is spent blogging and writing popular books on evolution, not doing serious new research (Jerry Coyne, Ken Miller), and professors who were never evolutionary theorists anyway, and weren't even particularly prominent or important biologists, and aren't even particularly bright human beings, and have been relegated by their own intrinsic intellectual mediocrity to teaching undergrads at minor satellite campuses of state universities (Myers). If front-line researchers like Jablonka get up and light into neo-Darwinism, all these mediocrities will be able to do is sputter and fume and offer invectives (in Myers's case, invectives spiced up with four-letter words, vile language being the natural refuge of those who have no argument to offer); their own theoretical inadequacy (not keeping up with the field due to late-career academic laziness) will prevent them from offering anything like a coherent answer to the criticisms. So I have great hopes for the conference. Timaeus
The death knell; again! I've been following this site since early 2005 when Dembski was drooling over the prospect of a court case, and people were offering Scotch Whiskey toasts to a 'good ole boy', Judge Jones; a Bush appointed friend. Darwinism remains, Dembsky is oddly missing. Apparently the demise of Darwinism was first predicted when "Origin" was first published. Truth does not die so easily, and it will certainly outlast Denise O'Leary. Oh yeah, it's a, "meeting", not a, "meet". rvb8
I'm willing to bet that all of the talks/papers will refer to processes that are material in origin. Not sure why ID proponents would be excited by this. rhampton7
Beautifully put:
It’s not just some retirement-age Darwinists bitching from blogs somewhere – whom they could quietly ignore – who protected them from inquiry. It’s the Royal Society saying, this is so done, so dead, so yesterday, so used-to-was and it will wash no more.
Science is self correcting even if it takes generations, with advances in technology, to accomplish the correction.
A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. Max Planck

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