Intelligent Design

Cornell evolutionary biologist declares neo-Darwinism dead

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The “modern synthesis” is dead

Allen MacNeill

This echoes exactly the words of Eric Davidson and Stephen J. Gould. Below is the full quote in context:

Allen MacNeill on Modern Synthesis

the evidence that macroevolution has happened is all around us, in the patterns of biogeographical distribution of species and in the fossil record. What is not so obvious is the mechanism(s) by which such macroevolution has occurred. Prof. Giertych is probably right in asserting that the “modern synthesis” mechanisms grounded in theoretical population genetics are insufficient to explain macroevolution. However, scientists within the field of evolutionary biology have been saying the same thing for over a century. The distinction between microevolution and macroevolution was probably first drawn by the Russian Russian entomologist Iuri’i Filipchenko in around 1927 (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/macroevolution.html). In the first half of the 20th century, Richard Goldschmidt did pioneering work into possible mechanisms of macroevolution, work that was later discredited and/or ignored by the population geneticists of the “modern synthesis” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Goldschmidt). Eldredge and Gould, in their landmark 1972 paper on punctuated equilibrium (http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/ridley/classictexts/eldredge.asp) initiated the newest revolution in macroevolutionary theory, pointing out that the “modern synthesis” model of gradualistic macroevolution via purely populaton genetics mechanisms is not compatible with much of the fossil record.

So, the history of the concept of macroevolution is not entirely compatitible with the neo-darwinian “modern synthesis” – this is supposed to be some sort of surprise, or to undermine the idea that macroevolution has not occurred? You folks need to pay a little more attention to what has actually been going on in evolutionary biology over the last half century, and less time tilting at “modern synthesis” windmills that have long since fallen into disrepair within our discipline.

The “modern synthesis” is dead – long live the evolving synthesis!

and interestingly, Allen reports about Will Provine in Comment on the Celeste Biever affair

BTW, I wish one of you folks would attend Will Provine’s evolution course, and participate when you have a chance. Will spent the whole lecture this morning lambasting the “modern evolutionary synthesis” (and I jumped in at the end to deliver the coup de gras to the biological species concept for eveything except vertebrates). I think you might find it enjoyably iconoclastic, and we could get into some interesting (and illuminating) discussions…

In fairness to Dr. MacNeill, he accepts that evolution happened and is open to ideas as to how. He probably is not enamored with the ID explanation, but he has certainly won the appreciation of the IDEA chapter at Cornell for his knowledge and candor.

I hope we get access to Will Provine’s lambasting of “modern synthesis” someday. That would be very interesting!

Note:
According to Wikipedia, neo-Darwinism is also known as modern synthesis:

The modern evolutionary synthesis (often referred to simply as the new synthesis, the modern synthesis, the evolutionary synthesis, neo-Darwinian synthesis or neo-Darwinism), generally denotes the integration of Charles Darwin’s theory of the evolution of species by natural selection, Gregor Mendel’s theory of genetics as the basis for biological inheritance, random genetic mutation as the source of variation, and mathematical population genetics.

60 Replies to “Cornell evolutionary biologist declares neo-Darwinism dead

  1. 1

    Before people on this list start hanging the crepe and breaking out the champagne bottles, I would like to hasten to point out that evolutionary theory is very much alive. What is “dead” is the core doctrine of the “modern evolutionary synthesis” that based all of evolution on gradualistic changes in allele frequencies in populations over time as the result of differential reproductive success.

    This idea was essentially based on theoretical mathematical models originally developed by R. A. Fisher, J. B. S. Haldane, and Sewall Wright, with some experimental confirmation (using Drosophila) by Theodosious Dobzhansky and field observations (chiefly of birds) by Ernst Mayr (with some supporting observations on the fossil record by G. G. Simpson and plants by G. Ledyard Stebbins). Its high water mark was the Darwin centenial celebration at the University of Chicago in 1959, which most of the aforementioned luminaries attended, and which has been chronicled by Ernst Mayr and William Provine.

    However, cracks were already showing in the “synthesis” by 1964, when W. D. Hamilton proposed his theory of kin selection. They widened considerably in 1969 when Lynn Margulis proposed her theory of serial endosymbiosis. Then, in 1972, the dam broke, when Niles Eldredge and Stephen J. Gould published their landmark paper on “punctuated equilibrium. Not content to pull the rug out from under the “micro=macro” doctrine lying at the heart of the “modern synthesis”, Gould went on to publish yet another landmark paper with Richard Lewontin, this one undermining the “Panglossian paradigm” promoted by the founders of the “modern synthesis”:
    that natural selection is the primary mechanism of evolutionary change at all levels, and that virtually all of the characteristics of organisms are adaptive.

    And then Motoo Kimura and Tomiko Ohto dealt the “modern synthesis” its coup de grace: the neutral theory of genetic evolution, which pointed out that the mathematical models upon which the “modern synthesis” was founded were fundamentally and fatally flawed.

    But what has come out of all of this is NOT the end of the theory of evolution, but rather its further integration into the biological sciences. Darwin only hinted at (and the founders of the “modern synthesis” mostly ignored) the idea that the “engine of variation” that provided all of the raw material for evolutionary change is somehow intimately tied to the mechanisms by which organisms develop from unicellular zygotes into multicellular organisms, and the mechanisms by which genetic information is transferred from organism to organism.

    We are now in the beginning stages of the greatest revolution in evolutionary biology since the beginning of the last century, perhaps since the publication of the Origin of Species in 1859. Rather than dying away to a trickle as the field of evolutionary biology collapses, the rate of publication on all aspects of evolution is accelerating exponentially. IDers and YECs who hail the “death of Darwinism” are like the poor benighted souls who hailed the death of the “horseless carriage” and the return to “normal equine transportation” in 1905 or thereabouts: they are either ignorant of the most basic principles of current evolutionary theory, or they see the onrush of the juggernaught and close their eyes to avoid witnessing the impending impact.

    It is indeed a wonderful time to be an evolutionary biologist, and a wonderful time for anyone whose curiosity about nature exceeds their fear of the unknown.

  2. 2
    scordova says:

    Allen,

    I do not know how feasible it is, I can only say there are many in the ID and even YEC community who might be able to make a contribution to the field of evolutionary biology. Whether that is a pipe-dream is another story.

    I laid out what I believe will be a topic of intererst to every party:

    Marsupials and Placentals: a case of front-loaded, pre-programmed, designed evolution?

    This quest would take a lot of money, but I think it has a real chance of success if cooperation is achieved.

    Sal

  3. 3
    tribune7 says:

    Allen,

    How is common descent doing as in everything can be traced to a single cell?

    Evolution is dead. Long live Evolution.

  4. 4
    scordova says:

    Allen,

    Thank you for your candor. I fear you will be baraged by many questions, and I realize you may not be able to answer them all.

    Thank you for taking the time however to make an appearance at this weblogs in the face of some hostile criticism.

    regards,
    Salvador

  5. 5
    Ben Z says:

    “IDers and YECs who hail the “death of Darwinism” are like the poor benighted souls who hailed the death of the “horseless carriage” and the return to “normal equine transportation”…

    So, would you include William Dembski? Heh…
    I recall that he stated that ID and evolution (properly understood) aren’t incompatible at all.

  6. 6
    Douglas says:

    Dr. MacNeill,

    “Before people on this list start hanging the crepe and breaking out the champagne bottles, I would like to hasten to point out that evolutionary theory is very much alive.”

    These things take time, sometimes. Often, those propping up the body must be made aware of its lifelessness.

  7. 7
    jerry says:

    Allen,

    Why don’t you video tape your course on evolutionary biology and put it on the internet for others to watch. Berkeley and MIT have put several of their courses on websites for general public viewing.

    That way we could watch you and Dr. Provine explain the details of each of your positions.

    Again, we would all enjoy a list of the various different ways of novel allele generation along with appropriate reading for non biology reader if there is any.

  8. 8

    In comment #3, tribune7 asked:

    “How is common descent doing as in everything can be traced to a single cell?”

    Let me repost what I said about this on another thread here:

    I side with evolutionary biologists Ford Doolittle, Lynn Margulis, and Stephen J. Gould (among others) in inferring that life itself may be massively polyphyletic: that rather than there being a single common ancestor to all current living organisms, there may have been many. The extent of lateral genetic transfer among prokaryotes makes it almost impossible to reconstruct a phylogeny with a single root, and the lack of genetic evidence for either a single or multiple origin of life may be permanent, as all living organisms are the result of four billion years of phylogenetic evolution, and no fossils preserve any genetic evidence of the origin of life.

    That said, there is one very strong piece of evidence in favor of a monophyletic origin of all current forms of life: the universality of the genetic code. However, I believe that it is still an open question whether the code is arbitrary (and therefore strong evidence for homology) or necessary (and therefore strong evidence for convergence, despite multiple origins). It may very well be the case that, in the early stages of the origin of the genetic code, there were multiple codes (and multiple ways of translating it), but that over time one code and one translation mechanism (the “universal” one that we observe today) replaced all other alternatives.

    However, given the fact that molecules don’t fossilize and the rocks that might contain such fossils have already been subducted into oblivion anyway, it seems problematic at the present time to assert that one or the other hypothesis is “true.” Indeed, I strongly suspect that we will never have a definitive answer to this question.

    So what? Darwin didn’t speculate on any of this, but rather “started in the middle” and proposed a testable hypothesis for decent with modification and the mechanisms by which it occurs (i.e. natural and sexual selection). After a century and a half of intensive biological research, no other hypothesis has generated anything close to the same amount of confirmatory evidence, and so we continue to investigate the world around us using Darwin’s original insights.

    Is evolutionary theory therefore “true?” No, of course not. I can’t emphasize this enough: NO SCIENTIFIC THEORY IS “TRUE”, at least not “true” in the sense that most people use that word. On the contrary, it’s the most useful and productive “guess” we have at the present, and until new evidence is discovered that unambiguously falsifies it, we will continue to use it as the underlying basis for nearly all of the science of biology.

  9. 9

    In comment #6, Jerry asked:

    “Why don’t you video tape your course on evolutionary biology and put it on the internet for others to watch?”

    Will and I have discussed this possibility, but right now I’m concentrating on two projects: an introductory textbook on evolution for non-majors (for a major academic publisher) and a lecture series on evolutionary psychology for The Teaching Company. After those are done, perhaps we might be able to find a way to video-stream our course on evolution.

    It’s very gratifying to know there’s such interest in the evolving field of evolutionary biology, even at website that is moderated by someone who believes that it is morally detestible and the source of most of the moral failings of modern society (see http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Da.....0830826661).

  10. 10

    Also, many of my positions (including much of what I have posted here) are already available online at my blog:

    http://evolutionlist.blogspot.com/

  11. 11
    Ben Z says:

    “It’s very gratifying to know there’s such interest in the evolving field of evolutionary biology, even at website that is moderated by someone who believes that it is morally detestible and the source of most of the moral failings of modern society”

    That was an interesting book. However, for some reason it seems to me that what you’re referring to as Evolutionary Biology and what Wiker links to Darwin through Epicurus (or, more properly, the original work of Democritus and other atomists) himself are quite different.

    “I can’t emphasize this enough: NO SCIENTIFIC THEORY IS ‘TRUE'”

    You might be surprised to learn that most people here have probably heard that WAY too many times., considering that they probably already knew it even before hearing it from someone who disagrees with them.

  12. 12
    tribune7 says:

    Dr. MacNeill,

    Thank you for your quite reasonable response. I suspect the danger is real that there are those who would seek to inhibit you from investigating the hows and whys of the relationships of life via enforcment of dogma, and it is important to to oppose this.

    It seems, however, that some have evolved (irony intended) into what they hate and fear.

    Why the attacks against Dr. Dembski, Dr. Behe Dr. Sternberg etc.?

    The point of my question is that that single cell common ancestor was taught almost dogmatically not so long ago (and probably still is) in a lot of our high schools.

    And you have to ask yourself, why?

    You seem to be pursuing this as it should be pursued but for many, Darwinism seems to be more of a validation of atheism and an imposition of a philosophy, than answering naturalistic questions.

    When I find myself in these debates I am sometimes faced with the sneer “God did it” implying that I somehow hate science.

    It seems a naturalist with a bit of self-confidence can say “Fair enough, God did it,” now let’s find out how. And if a natural answer is found, that scientist can expect the accolades that have traditonally been bestowed.

    OTOH, what almost always happens is that the one claiming to defend science insists that there is a natural answer to an unexplained event and when challeged with what that might be rejoins with name-calling.

    So, anyway thank you very much for your answer it is much appreciated.

  13. 13

    In comment 10, Ben Z wrote:

    “…it seems to me that what you’re referring to as Evolutionary Biology and what Wiker links to Darwin through Epicurus (or, more properly, the original work of Democritus and other atomists) himself are quite different.”

    On the contrary, I thought Wiker and Dembski’s book was crystal clear: that the philosophical implications of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection are the source of most if not all of modern society’s ills, from the rise of Naziism to the tendency for men to leave the toilet seat up.

    This is, of course, news to those of us who actually do evolutionary biology for a living, who have loving families and friends, and who participate in social and religious communities in which most of us do not commit genocide and (unless we forget to do so because we are sleep-walking) we leave the toilet seat down…

  14. 14

    In comment 11, tribune7 asked:

    “Why the attacks against Dr. Dembski, Dr. Behe Dr. Sternberg etc.?”

    I personally have never attacked any of these people. I have, however, attacked their positions and their ideas, especially when I have perceived those ideas to be not only incorrect but deliberately misleading. That’s what academic debate is all about, and why I enjoy it so much. As my fencing master says, we seek “…to improve our society by promoting the ‘All for one and one for all’ spirit of classical fencing that emphasizes respect, cooperation, honesty, fairness and personal responsibility” (see http://www.classicalfencing.com/)

  15. 15
    tribune7 says:

    I personally have never attacked any of these people.

    I did not mean you and I’m glad you are posting here. Debate is good.

  16. 16
    Jehu says:

    Allen MacNeill said;

    Before people on this list start hanging the crepe and breaking out the champagne bottles, I would like to hasten to point out that evolutionary theory is very much alive.

    Doesn’t mattter, you’re still alright in my book. I hope that doesn’t hurt you professionally.

  17. 17
    JGuy says:

    Allen,
    If Darwin’s requirement of numerous/slight/successive-modification (genetic type), where time was falsely honored as the hero of the plot, is dead/falsified… then what makes you confident that evolution is stronger than ever? Whatever modifying mechanism & selection mechanism will you propose – evolution must still contend with the population mathematics regardless and time can not be the hero any longer. I can only imagine, forgive me for any oversights, that it will then be taught that the hopeful monster theory w/ Punctuated E. as the new ‘science’? Otherwise, it’s just an even more nebulous and materialist theory.

    Thanks for your posts & openess!

    JGuy

  18. 18
    great_ape says:

    I just wanted to confirm that the picture Dr. Macneill paints of the state of current evolution theory is precisely the same as what I was taught –not so very long go–during grad school. No one tried to hide or otherwise minimize the historical disagreements and ongoing internal debates within the discipline. All these seminal events and ideas were highlighted, and I see them as indicative of a growing maturity. It’s unfortunate that the phrase “modern synthesis” has specific historical connotations in biology because the real modern synthesis has been the blending of several of these lines of thought into a cohesive modern perspective; one which attempts to acknowledge rectify its own limitations, both empirical and theoretical. As I’m sure Dr. Macneill is aware, we needn’t toss out positive natural selection as an important mechanism of evolutionary change because of neutral theory. Rather, neutral theory has provided the ability to detect such selection at the molecular level with a degree of quantitative rigor previously unavailable. And so it goes with several of the other movements in biology that “killed” the modern synthesis. I think it would be more accurate to say that they introduced several novel and often complementary forces that were previously neglected due to an adaptationalist fixation. The unfortunately narrow adaptationist perspective has been and continues to be remedied as the science of evolution advances. Nevertheless, there is still much we have learned and can continue to learn from Sewall, Wright, Dobzhansky, etc. I think it would be unfortunate for people to be left with the notion that their work was overturned completely. For the most part, it’s been supplemented. And while there might be a few die-hard punctuated-equlibrium zealots out there, I suspect most of us fall somewhere within the spectrum between gradualism and pure P-E. So gradualism is not dead either; it’s just no longer thought to explain everything. As more empirical data accumulates relating molecular changes to phenotype, we may be able to say with some degree of confidence what fraction of evolution was gradual vs. not.

  19. 19
    Houdin says:

    Allen_MacNeill: “I side with evolutionary biologists Ford Doolittle, Lynn Margulis, and Stephen J. Gould (among others) in inferring that life itself may be massively polyphyletic: that rather than there being a single common ancestor to all current living organisms, there may have been many. ”

    I disagree. I think there was one single First Living Thing and that it is the ancestor of all living things. My reasoning is:

    1. Biogenesis is fairly rare. For purposes of this argument, assume that a new life form is “born” from non-living matter only once every million years.

    2. Assume for the sake of argument that after the First Living Thing appears, it is another million years before the second case of biogenesis occurs.

    3. In the intervening million years, the First Living Thing will have multiplied and evolved to the point where it eats whatever is produced by the Second Biogenesis.

    4. Nothing in the above says that after the First Living Thing had evolved to produce other living things that massive horizontal transfers of genetic information didn’t occur, making it impossible to trace the history of the first few million years of life.

  20. 20
    Houdin says:

    JGuy: “If Darwin’s requirement of numerous/slight/successive-modification (genetic type), where time was falsely honored as the hero of the plot, is dead/falsified… then what makes you confident that evolution is stronger than ever? ”

    I don’t want to speak for Dr. MacNeill, but most of the current controversy involves swapping chunks of information that was formed by numerous/slight/successive-modifications between different organisms.

    For example, Lynn Margulis believes that mitochondria were once free living bacteria-like creatures that were engulfed by larger cells, but not digested and eventually became well integrated parts of those larger cells. Her once heretical views are now pretty much a standard part of evolutionary science and she’s about due for a Nobel prize any year now.

    Other examples would be bacteria exchanging plasmids – small rings of DNA containing quantities of information that was originally built up the old fashioned Darwinian way between organisms.

    There are also viruses that embed themselves into their host’s genomes, hybridization between different species, etc.

  21. 21
    scordova says:

    Her once heretical views are now pretty much a standard part of evolutionary science and she’s about due for a Nobel prize any year now.

    Thank you for your comment, however, not so fast. Her endosymbiotic theory is falling apart. See Timothy Standish’s critique:
    Critique of Endosymbiosis

    Regarding the widespread acceptance of her theory, here is what one wise man had to say:

    The fact that an opinion is widely held is no evidence whatsoever that it is not utterly absurd.

    Bertrand Russell

  22. 22
    Douglas says:

    Dr. MacNeill,

    “That said, there is one very strong piece of evidence in favor of a monophyletic origin of all current forms of life: the universality of the genetic code.”

    And why couldn’t that just as well be a very strong piece of evidence in favor of a common Designer? In fact, if the initial “pre-biotic soup” was so fecund in producing the first replicator, and that first replicator was so plucky in not getting itself dissolved before it and its copies could generate the first living cell, wouldn’t it be more likely that more than one replicator and code evolved? Was evolution really just incredibly, incredibly lucky in having just one genetic code become established? Was it just one of those things that amazingly, one might almost say miraculously, occurred, but never did so again? Nothing like “convergent evolution” in a soupy mix? (I’m serious about these questions, thought not having formed them completely seriously.)

  23. 23
    Houdin says:

    I should have expressed myself more clearly. Decades of scientific investigation have provided so much support for Lynn Margulis’s theory that it is regarded as fact by most biologists. In particular, discovering that mitochondria have DNA that is very similar to bacteria has convinced most biologists.

    The fact that it hasn’t convinced everybody is normal. Frankly, the opponants to the theory are starting to sound strained. For instance, Professor Standish lists these reasons why mitochondria resemble bacteria: [My comments in brackets]

    Mitochondria resemble bacteria in size and morphology.

    They are bounded by a double membrane: the outer thought to be derived from the engulfing vesicle and the inner from bacterial plasma membrane. [I think this is a big point. If mitochondria really were absorbed by a larger cell, we’d expect to see them with a double membrane because cells typically bring external food into their interiors by sucking in their outer membrane until it surrounds the food, then breaking it off to form a “bubble” of cellular membrane with the food (in this case a bacteria) inside it.]

    Some enzymes and inner membrane transport systems resemble prokaryotic plasma membrane systems.

    Mitochondrial division resembles bacterial binary fission

    They contain a small circular loop of genetic material (DNA). Bacterial DNA is also a circular loop.

    They produce a small number of proteins using their own ribosomes which look like bacterial ribosomes.

    Their ribosomeal RNA resembles eubacterial rRNA.

    He finds these reasons why they don’t:

    Mitochondria are not always the size or morphology of bacteria. [which is hardly surprising for something that’s been evolving for a few billion years]

    In some Trypanosomes (ie Trypanosoma brucei) mitochondria undergo spectacular changes in morphology that do not resemble bacteria during different life cycle stages (Vickermann, 1971) [ditto]

    Variation in morphology is common in protistans, “Considerable variation in shape and size of the organelle can occur.” (Lloyd, 1974 p1) [ditto]

    Mitochondrial division and distribution of mitochondria to daughter cells is tightly controlled by even the simplest eukaryotic cells. [Yes. Mitochondrial are, in fact, slaves to their host eukaryotic cells. You don’t let an invading organism do as it pleases or you’re dead.]

    Circular mtDNA replication via D loops is different from replication of bacterial DNA (Lewin, 1997 p441). [Again, billions of years of evolution will do that.]

    mtDNA is much smaller than bacterial chromosomes. [Yes, lots of DNA that is not needed for a parasitic/symbiontic cell has disappeared – again, this is to be expected after a few billion years of evolution. See “Spiegelman’s Monster” for more on this.]

    Mitochondrial DNA may be linear, examples include: Plasmodium, C. reinhardtii, Ochromonas, Tetrahymena, Jakoba (Gray et al., 1999). [In a few organisms.]

    Mitochondrial genes may have introns which eubacterial genes typically lack (these introns are different from nuclear introns so they cannot have come from that source) (Lewin, 1997 p721, 888). [(Yawn) Excuse me for being repetitious. After billions of years of separate evolution, you would expect a few new introns.]

    The genetic code in many mitochondria is slightly different from bacteria (Lewin, 1997). [Yes, slightly different. Need I repeat, “after billions of years of evolution”?]

    All in all, I’m predicting a Nobel for Margulis sometime in the next few years.

  24. 24
    Mats says:

    It is indeed a wonderful time to be an evolutionary biologist

    Seeing that challenges to Darwinism are coming from areas evolutionary biologists might have thought “secured” (academics), I think that the days we are living are not “wonderful” for the theory.

    That said, there is one very strong piece of evidence in favor of a monophyletic origin of all current forms of life: the universality of the genetic code.

    1. The universality of genetic code can be used as evidence for the Same Designer more easily. I don’t see how it helps unguided evolution.

    2. The theory of evolution *never* predicted biological universals: it only acomodated them.

    Is evolutionary theory therefore “true?” No, of course not. I can’t emphasize this enough: NO SCIENTIFIC THEORY IS “TRUE”, at least not “true” in the sense that most people use that word. On the contrary, it’s the most useful and productive “guess” we have at the present, and until new evidence is discovered that unambiguously falsifies it, we will continue to use it as the underlying basis for nearly all of the science of biology

    The problem of course is that *nothing* can falsify unguided evolutionism. Whatever evidence one brings can be easily acomodated with the theory.

  25. 25
    tribune7 says:

    Houdin –Biogenesis is fairly rare.
    Why do you think biogenesis is possible?

  26. 26
    David vun Kannon says:

    Douglas,

    A pre-biotic mix certainly could have crossed over to life several times. LUCA (Last Univesal Common Ancestor) could have had lots of relatives and complete strangers crawling around next to it. It’s just a random bit of history that that one little cell has had descendents for billions of years and the others next to it had descendants that have died out sooner or later.

    The same is true of the African Eve, or the last universal common mammal. The existence of a LUCA is almost an actuarial certainty.

    It is also possible that tomorrow we will crack open a rock from deep in the earth and find a microbe with a different code and a different biochemistry. But you need an ecological niche that is large, stable, and isolated to have a chance of finding such a beast.

  27. 27
    PaV says:

    Allen McNeil:

    And then Motoo Kimura and Tomiko Ohto dealt the “modern synthesis” its coup de grace: the neutral theory of genetic evolution, which pointed out that the mathematical models upon which the “modern synthesis” was founded were fundamentally and fatally flawed.

    Well, it then seems that we have wasted our time here at UD arguing against that which, it appears, you would already concede; viz., that the “modern synthesis” cannot sufficiently explain the evolution of biological forms that have lived, or, are now living. Isn’t this a deathblow to Darwinism? Mendelism was a deathblow to Darwinism (cf. Wm. Bateson). The “modern synthesis” came to its rescue. But now it, too, per your concession, is dead. So what’s left?

    So what? Darwin didn’t speculate on any of this, but rather “started in the middle” and proposed a testable hypothesis for decent with modification and the mechanisms by which it occurs (i.e. natural and sexual selection). After a century and a half of intensive biological research, no other hypothesis has generated anything close to the same amount of confirmatory evidence, and so we continue to investigate the world around us using Darwin’s original insights.

    So, this would seem to be your defense of Darwinism: more, or less, that it’s the best thing around (even though there is experiment after experiment where, using Darwinian assumptions, the experimenter is “surprised”; whereas, from an ID perspective, the very same results would have been expected), so we’ll keep it.

    I’ve stated before that if Darwin had entitled his book “The Origin of Adaptations”, then I would see much to commend it for. Yet, to admit that NS is, at times (Lewontin and Gould’s paper undermining the “Panglossian paradigm), visible and verifiable in what would be termed “microevolution”, does not, by extension, lead us to “macroevolution”, nor does it confirm “descent with modification” at higher taxonomic levels. So why “extend” the theory from what is known (“microevolution”), to what is unknown (“macroevolution”)? What is the scientific motivation for this?

    In your statement you invoke evo-devo and a reproductive mechanism as the sources of explaining the evolution of higher forms of life. Well, what in the world does evo-devo have to do with Darwinism? Perhaps that is why you say, “long live the evolving synthesis!”, and why biologists want to be known as “evolutionary biologists.” This seems to mean that we’re living in a ‘brave new world.’ Perhaps you can comment.

  28. 28
    Jack Golightly says:

    Sorry, but I can’t get past this:

    “the evidence that macroevolution has happened is all around us, in the patterns of biogeographical distribution of species and in the fossil record.”

    I don’t see the difference between this thinking and the 5 year old kid who says, “But Santa Claus has been here: look at all the different presents under the tree!”

  29. 29
    Ben Z says:

    “On the contrary, I thought Wiker and Dembski’s book was crystal clear: that the philosophical implications of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection are the source of most if not all of modern society’s ills, from the rise of Naziism to the tendency for men to leave the toilet seat up.”

    Let me clarify what I think is real implication: Darwin’s (unscientific) part of his theory, which through intellectual-exchange down the ages picked up by Darwin, snuck in total randomness in matter and an exclusion of any interacting God in nature. These might not be the “true” implications of his theory–as you suggest because it’s “news to you”–but they are the ones Darwin intended and people picked up one.

  30. 30
    Ben Z says:

    ..picked up on*

  31. 31
    Ben Z says:

    For instance: If we read this interview of Wiker here, you will notice he focuses on Darwin’s social and moral implications–implications that are either there or not there.

    If you believe they are not there… please explain why. Wiker’s evidence sure pointed to it, and I’ve been looking for counter-evidence for a while but the evidence just keeps growing.

    If they are there, but you claim it’s not part of science and not even a valid philosophical position–that still has no affect on the fact that Darwin thought so.

  32. 32
  33. 33
    Ben Z says:

    Hate to post so many times, but there’s no edit controls:

    Also, I think you are incorrect to assume that Wiker and Dembski believe that neo-Darwinism are the cause of so many ills. Wiker and Dembski are both trained Theologians–they’d have to be fools to think that; they believe that humans have been fallen for a long time. They might think Darwin’s thought has had MORE bad affects on society–but this might only apply to mostly higher levels of education.

    Second, considering that a lot of people don’t even buy common descent or Darwinian evolution, you’d be at a loss to explain how it affected them much.

  34. 34
    franky172 says:

    Social Darwinism and eugenics are derived directly from his principle of natural selection.

    No more so than “we should stay on the ground-ism” is derived directly from the theory of gravitation.

  35. 35
    David vun Kannon says:

    Dr Macneill:
    However, I believe that it is still an open question whether the code is arbitrary (and therefore strong evidence for homology) or necessary (and therefore strong evidence for convergence, despite multiple origins).

    With respect to the arbitrary nature of the coding system, what is your opinion of the work of Dr. Stephen Benner’s group at University of Florida? For example, in the entertainingly written

    http://www.ffame.org/sbenner/c.....72-689.pdf

    their work on expanding the number of base pairs from 4 to 12 is mentioned.

  36. 36
    Doug says:

    “The “modern synthesis” is dead – long live the evolving synthesis.”….
    is that a nod to Cronenberg’s Videodrome?
    If so, that’s disturbing.

  37. 37
    David vun Kannon says:

    People might also enjoy discussing the definition of life used in Dr. Benner’s article!

  38. 38

    Several people stated that Darwin “snuck in” non-directed evolution into the Origin of Species. This is an interesting charge, given that we assign our students the whole of the first edition of the Origin every year, and as a consequence I’ve read it cover to cover at least a dozen times. Furthermore, I’ve given students the assignment of finding quotes from the Origin in which Darwin does what the commentators on this list allege that he does. The outcome? They can’t find it.

    In fact, Darwin never writes directly about the apparent lack of purpose or design in nature at all: not in the Origin, the Descent of Man, nor The Expression of Emotions in Men and Animals, nor in any of his other publications on evolution. He speculates on the subject here and there in his notebooks, but once again he doesn’t come right out with any definitive statements about purpose in nature or that lack thereof.

    Why not? And why do so many people think he did?

    I believe that the answer to this seeming paradox is that Darwin proposed mechanisms for evolution – natural and sexual selection – that did not include (nor require) purpose or design for the production of adaptations. In other words, Darwin was trying to do for biology what other scientists had already done for physics, chemistry, and geology: provide an explanation that relied completely on purely natural causes, without reference to purpose. For this reason, Darwin is often referred to as the “Newton of biology”, because he provided an explanation for the production of adaptations that was essentially “mechanistic”, rather than teleological.

    Hence, Darwin found it unnecessary to discuss purpose in nature when explaining how natural selection could bring about the evolution of adaptations. In this context, it is essential to understand that just because something isn’t necessary doesn’t imply that it doesn’t exist. According to Occam’s Razor, we simply don’t include unnecessary items in a scientific explanation.

    Indeed, I firmly believe that jumping to the conclusion that purpose doesn’t exist in nature because it is unnecessary for the evolution of adaptations is to make a metaphysical jump without any empirical support whatsoever. IMHO it amounts to metaphysical speculation without any visible means of support.

  39. 39

    As to why Darwin didn’t entitle his most famous book “On the Origin of Adaptations”, it turns out that this was exactly what he was planning to do. Darwin worked for two decades on a book that he planned to call Natural Selection, only to be “forced” into writing an “abstract” of his theory by the receipt of the famous letter from Alfred Russel Wallace in April of 1858, a letter that contained essentially the same explanation for the evolution of adaptations that Darwin had labored over for so long. Exactly why Darwin chose to call his magnum opus On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection… we don’t exactly know, and it is somewhat ironic to discover upon reading it that he barely mentions the “origin of species” at all. His obsession (which is apparently shared by virtually every IDer and most EBers except those working on the neutral theory) was natural selection and the origin of adaptations.

  40. 40
    bFast says:

    Dr. MacNeill, you said, “What is not so obvious is the mechanism(s) by which such macroevolution has occurred. Prof. Giertych is probably right in asserting that the “modern synthesis” mechanisms grounded in theoretical population genetics are insufficient to explain macroevolution.”

    I am trying to understand very clearly what you are saying. I know that lots of progress has been made at fleshing out the theory of evolution — the evolving synthesis as you called it. Are you saying, as it appears, that even with this fleshing out, science still does not have an adequate understanding of the process of macroevolution, or are you saying that folk like myself who are preseting ID are doing so because we don’t understand the nature of the fleshing out that has happened?

  41. 41
    Ben Z says:

    “I’ve given students the assignment of finding quotes from the Origin in which Darwin does what the commentators on this list allege that he does. The outcome? They can’t find it.”

    I remember reading your post on Telic Thoughts and seeing that you’d read through the 1st edition a dozen times. I also remember thinking then, as I am now, that the quotes come from later editions. Of course you wouldn’t find them in the first when the writers who point out the quotes specifically say they’re not in the first edition.

  42. 42
    Ben Z says:

    “Indeed, I firmly believe that jumping to the conclusion that purpose doesn’t exist in nature because it is unnecessary for the evolution of adaptations is to make a metaphysical jump…”

    Careful now, that’s just “metaphysical speculation” also (which can be based on reason, which makes it a little more than speculation).

    BTW here is Wiker in Architects of the Culture of Death: “…”Darwin very early on had seen the radical implications of evolutionary theory for human beings; however, he avoided saying anything about these implications in his most famous book, The Origin Species.”

    Here’s where Wiker starts his critique: The “moral faculties of man” evolved from “social qualities” which were acquired “through natural selection, aided by inherited habit.” The Descent of Man (part 1, ch 5, page 162Princeton, NJ, 1981). “In order that primeval men…should have become social, they must have acquired the same instinctive feelings which impel other animals to live in a body. (ibid 161-162).

    He also writes that he does not wish to maintain that any strictly social animal, with intellects like man, would develop the same morals (pg. 73). Pages 73 and 74 elaborate, where he makes it clear that morals such as these are clearly arbitrary under his theory.

  43. 43
    Ben Z says:

    Also, to make it clear, I have looked up the editions Wiker claims to quote from online and found the quotes.

  44. 44
    PaV says:

    Allen, that was a most interesting set of posts. As I sort of read between the lines, I suspect our position is really not too far apart. I think biological science helps itself by leaving behind Darwinism and simply looking at what experimental evidence is now showing us. We certainly are in a “brave, new world” when it comes to biological experimentation. It borders on the incredible what they are now doing in labs across the U.S. And it would seem that our understanding of biological phenomena is exponentially growing; so why try to force all of this into the narrow confines of Darwinian theory that in no way could have envisioned the kind of experimental work that is now being done?

    Allen Orr recently wrote a paper (last year, I think) where he spoke openly about the “quest”, let us say, for a new theory of evolution. In it he mentions several proposed solutions/scenarios(along with their inherent problems of each such solution). Is there some theory that you presently favor, or that you feel marshals the latest experimental evidence well? Again, I would appreciate your comments.

  45. 45
    j says:

    Allen MacNeill (38): “In fact, Darwin never writes directly about the apparent lack of purpose or design in nature at all: not in the Origin, the Descent of Man, nor The Expression of Emotions in Men and Animals , nor in any of his other publications on evolution. He speculates on the subject here and there in his notebooks, but once again he doesn’t come right out with any definitive statements about purpose in nature or that lack thereof.”
    ——————————
    Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (1859 — First Edition):

    Further we must suppose that there is a power always intently watching each slight accidental alteration…

    M-W dictionary:

    accident – 1 a : an unforseen and unplanned event or circumstance b : lack of intention or necessity : CHANCE [etc.]
    ——————————
    Asa Gray, writing in the Atlantic Monthly, Vol. VI, October 1860:

    Wherefore so long as gradatory, orderly, and adapted forms in Nature argue design, and at least while the physical cause of variation is utterly unknown and mysterious, we should advise Mr. Darwin to assume in the philosophy of his hypothesis that variation has been led along certain beneficial lines. Streams flowing over a sloping plain by gravitation (here the counterpart of natural selection) may have worn their actual channels as they flowed; yet their particular courses may have been assigned; and where we see them forming definite and useful lines of irrigation, after a manner unaccountable on the laws of gravitation and dynamics, we should believe that the distribution was designed.

    To insist, therefore, that the new hypothesis of the derivative origin of the actual species is incompatible with final causes and design, is to take a position which we must consider philosophically untenable. We must also regard it as highly unwise and dangerous, in the present state and present prospects of physical and physiological science. We should expect the philosophical atheist or skeptic to take this ground; also, until better informed, the unlearned and unphilosophical believer; but we should think that the thoughtful theistic philosopher would take the other side. Not to do so seems to concede that only supernatural events can be shown to be designed, which no theist can admit–seems also to misconceive the scope and meaning of all ordinary arguments for design in Nature.

    Charles Darwin, The Variation of Plants and Animals under Domestication (1868):

    I may recur to the metaphor given in a former chapter: if an architect were to rear a noble and commodious edifice, without the use of cut stone, by selecting from the fragments at the base of a precipice wedge-formed stones for his arches, elongated stones for his lintels, and flat stones for his roof, we should admire his skill and regard him as the paramount power…. And here we are led to face a great difficulty, in alluding to which I am aware that I am travelling beyond my proper province. An omniscient Creator must have foreseen every consequence which results from the laws imposed by Him. But can it be reasonably maintained that the Creator intentionally ordered, if we use the words in any ordinary sense, that certain fragments of rock should assume certain shapes so that the builder might erect his edifice? If the various laws which have determined the shape of each fragment were not predetermined for the builder’s sake, can it be maintained with any greater probability that He specially ordained for the sake of the breeder each of the innumerable variations in our domestic animals and plants;–many of these variations being of no service to man, and not beneficial, far more often injurious, to the creatures themselves? Did He ordain that the crop and tail-feathers of the pigeon should vary in order that the fancier might make his grotesque pouter and fantail breeds? Did He cause the frame and mental qualities of the dog to vary in order that a breed might be formed of indomitable ferocity, with jaws fitted to pin down the bull for man’s brutal sport? But if we give up the principle in one case, — if we do not admit that the variations of the primeval dog were intentionally guided in order that the greyhound, for instance, that perfect image of symmetry and vigour, might be formed,–no shadow of reason can be assigned for the belief that variations, alike in nature and the result of the same general laws, which have been the groundwork through natural selection of the formation of the most perfectly adapted animals in the world, man included, were intentionally and specially guided. However much we may wish it, we can hardly follow Professor Asa Gray in his belief “that variation has been led along certain beneficial lines,” like a stream “along definite and useful lines of irrigation.” If we assume that each particular variation was from the beginning of all time preordained, then that plasticity of organisation, which leads to many injurious deviations of structure, as well as the redundant power of reproduction which inevitably leads to a struggle for existence, and, as a consequence, to the natural selection or survival of the fittest, must appear to us superfluous laws of nature. On the other hand, an omnipotent and omniscient Creator ordains everything and foresees everything. Thus we are brought face to face with a difficulty as insoluble as is that of free will and predestination.

  46. 46

    Hi, J:
    Thanks for the citation; I’ve searched for something like this for years, but never thought of looking in the 2-volume Variation of Plants and Animals Under Domestication. I don’t own a copy myself, and just haven’t had the time to plow through the online version available at:

    http://pages.britishlibrary.ne.....n_fm1.html

    Having not read all of his correspondence either, I can’t say one way or the other whether Darwin deliberately omitted references to purpose (or the lack thereof in evolution) from the Origin. However, it would not be uncharacteristic for him to have done so, as he assiduously avoided provoking controversy whenever possible.

    And, as I asserted earlier, even the quote listed above from the Variation of Plants and Animals Under Domestication doesn’t contain a flat-out denial of purpose in nature; it simply makes an analogical argument that assuming that such purpose exists is neither necessary nor likely, given what we know about the actual variations that exist among living organisms.

  47. 47

    In comment #44, PaV asked:

    “Is there some theory that you presently favor, or that you feel marshals the latest experimental evidence well? ”

    In a word, yes. I am currently working on an introductory textbook on evolution, in which I lay out the skeleton of what I think evolutionary theory consists of today. Basically, I tend to side with Lynn Margulis and Stephen J. Gould in dividing evolutionary theory into explanations of microevolution (i.e. changes in populations over relatively brief periods of time) and macroevolution (i.e. changes at and above the species level over deep evolutionary time).

    Furthermore, I think the paleontological and genetic/developmental evidence is sufficiently robust at the present time to assert that macroevolution cannot be simply reduced to microevolutionary processes working over longer periods of time. There appear to be macroevolutionary mechanisms that operate somewhat differently that those traditionally placed under the heading of microevolution. One of the most important of these macroevolutionary mechanisms is the process known as “adaptive radiation”, in which a population of organisms of relatively restricted phenotype rapidly diverge into many phenotypically distinct forms in a relatively brief period of time (i.e. under a million years).

    An example of this phenomenon is the fantastic diversification of the cichlid fishes of Lake Victoria, which apparently diversified into hundreds of distinct “species” in less than 13,000 years. As I will explain in my forthcoming textbook, I believe that adaptive radiation is based on the exact opposite process as natural selection: that is, rapid diversification of phenotypic forms occurs most rapidly when selection is relaxed, rather than intensified.

    This conforms with recent field investigations showing that, in general, most selection in the “wild” is stabilizing selection, which tends to maintain a population in relatively unchanged condition, rather than directional or diversifying selection, which tend to change it. It fully incorporates the observations upon which the theory of “punctuated equilibrium” as first outlined by Niles Eldredge and Stephen J. Gould, is based. It also squares with recent observations from molecular genetics, which indicate that the vast majority of genetic change is selectively neutral, and therefore does not directly contribute to phenotypic change at all. Last (but not least) it incorporates new findings (summarized in Mary Jane West-Eberhard’s book, Developmental Plasticity and Evolution), which indicates that phenotypes appear to change first, followed by changes in alleles, rather than the other way around as asserted in the “modern evolutionary synthesis.”

    Which leads me to suggest that the title of Darwin’s most famous book, if he were writing it today, might be more accurately stated as On the Origin of Species by Means of the Relaxation of Natural Selection, or the Proliferation of Unopposed Variations in the Absence of the Struggle for Life.

  48. 48
    bFast says:

    Dr. MacNeill, I was hoping that you would respond to my question #40 above. Maybe it got lost in the chatter.

  49. 49

    bFast:

    I think I did that in the previous post (#47). If not, let me know, and I’ll try to do better.

  50. 50
    jerry says:

    I have read Sean Carroll’s book on Evo Devo and found zip, zero, nada on anything that would explain macroevolution level changes.

    It is a fascinating book which implies that the secret to species differences is not in the genes but in the switches which control the expression of the genes, cell by cell during development. But it gives no clue as to how the switches evolved to produce the large differences between phyla, orders etc.

    Everybody should read it just to know what it actually says so they know when smoke is being blown or not.

  51. 51
    scordova says:

    I have Carrol’s book, but I’ve been to busy to read it. I hope one day soon.

    Ironically, there are a couple of IDers like Mike Gene and company who are friendly to writings of the evo-devos.

    I don’t think evo-devo can explain things like the common ancestor of plants and animals. It might explain limited amounts of “macro” evolution such as the issue of Placentals and Mammals.

  52. 52
    j says:

    Dr. MacNeill,

    You’re welcome. I presented the quote because you claimed that Darwin didn’t make any “definitive statements about purpose in nature or that lack thereof” in his “publications on evolution.” Now you know that’s not true. He was quite definitive in rejecting the design of biological variation.

    “[Darwin argued that] assuming that such purpose exists is neither necessary nor likely, given what we know about the actual variations that exist among living organisms.”

    Darwin was making a theological argument against the design of microvariation, and unjustifiably extrapolated from that to deny design of all variation. Further, he did not address Gray’s implication that there are patterns observed in nature that are “unaccountable [from] laws.”
    ——————————
    You didn’t address Darwin’s use of the word “accidental” to describe the variations. He discontinued it’s use in subsequent editions of the Origin; it appears he realized that he let slip a statement of his belief in lack of purpose in nature.
    ——————————

    On the Origin of Species by Means of the Relaxation of Natural Selection, or the Proliferation of Unopposed Variations in the Absence of the Struggle for Life.

    So much for Mr. Darwin’s vaunted “power intently watching” (natural selection).

  53. 53
    jerry says:

    Salvador,

    The main premise of Sean Carroll’s book is that the animal kingdom (I know nothing of plants) use a common set of genes to produce their forms, systems etc.

    Since these genes are common to arthropods and mammals, it implies that there existed a common ancestor before the Cambrian Explosion that had all the various types of genes. This very developed ancestor has evaded the fossil record and would have had eyes, appendages and many other systems from which all the phyla of the Cambrian Explosion descended.

    No proof of this, only assertions. This seems like all homology arguments. The genes are what Carroll calls the toolbox of life.

    The other interesting part of Carroll’s book is that the genes are relatively unimportant for determining body parts, systems etc. and it is what he calls switches that control all the cell types that unfold during gestation. There are tens of thousands of these switches or maybe more that control the form of an organism and how they fire or turn on and off various genes seems to be the secret of life’s difference (the genes are the nuts and bolts that are assembled) .

    I am not a biologist so I may not understand everything clearly but it seems from Carroll’s book and Allen MacNeill’s comment here the last few days that we are all barking up wrong trees.

    I don’t think there is anything in either Carroll’s book or Dr. MacNeill’s comments in any way obviates the ID position. In fact I think they actually support ID.

    They admit Darwin is dead but then again they won’t admit Darwin is dead. They want it both ways.

    I suggested before and maybe you could implement some time in the future a discussion of various books or papers for threads. Each would be a separate thread. That way we could maybe learn from each other or experts if they choose to participate the pros and cons of each book or article.

  54. 54
    David vun Kannon says:

    Dr. MacNeill,

    What I hear you saying is that adaptive radiation is the visible effect, the cause is reduced pressure to select the existing stable phenotype. Is that correct?

    IMHO, you have to go one step further and discuss the sources of this reduced pressure. Why, in ecological terms, are there so many open niches to radiate into? Is it mainly catastrophic events such as asteroids or a plague wiping out a monotype population? Is it plate tectonics and weather patterns? Or has gradual phenotypic development opened a new set of niches that previously did not exist? Here I’m thinking of arguments such as in Andrew Parkers “In the Blink of An Eye”
    http://www.amazon.com/Blink-Ey.....738206075/
    to the effect that the development of vision in one species conferred such a great advantage that other species were forced to invent vision also. Further that widespread vision induced changes in predator-prey arms races, leading to hard pody parts.

    I don’t see that you are arguing for a different mechanism, just that contingent events allow that mechanism freer range of expression.

  55. 55
    scordova says:

    I think your idea is great, Jerry. Regarding Carrol and evo-devo, as you know I accept special creation, and there are probably some YECs who would still find something salvageable about Carrol’s work. Even in the YEC community there is warming toward the idea of limited macro-evolution, the question is the extent of the evolution.

  56. 56
    Joseph says:

    Sal:
    Even in the YEC community there is warming toward the idea of limited macro-evolution, the question is the extent of the evolution.

    Seeing that the definition of macro-evolution is “evolution that occurs above the level of species, over long periods of time, that leads to speciation, in contrast to microevolution, which refers to smaller evolutionary changes (described as changes in allele frequencies) within a species or population. ” Wikipedia on macro

    “In evolutionary biology today, macroevolution is used to refer to any evolutionary change at or above the level of species.” Talk Origins

    I would be surprised if there were any YECs who didn’t accept it. But that also demonstrates why/ that the definitions provided are part of the problem.

    The NCSE cited Berkley site- Evolution 101 has this to say:

    Macroevolution is evolution on a grand scale—what we see when we look at the over-arching history of life: stability, change, lineages arising, and extinction.”

    And True Origins offers:

    evolution, biological n.
    1) “microevolution”—the name used by many evolutionists to describe genetic variation, the empirically observed phenomenon in which exisiting potential variations within the gene pool of a population of organisms are manifested or suppressed among members of that population over a series of generations. Often simplistically (and erroneously) invoked as “proof” of “macro evolution”; 2) macroevolution—the theory/belief that biological population changes take (and have taken) place (typically via mutations and natural selection) on a large enough scale to produce entirely new structural features and organs, resulting in entirely new species, genera, families, orders, classes, and phyla within the biological world, by generating the requisite (new) genetic information. Many evolutionists have used “macro-evolution” and “Neo-Darwinism” as synonymous for the past 150 years.

    IOW what is required before even discussing micro/ macro is a clear, concise definition of the term.

  57. 57
    bFast says:

    Dr. MacNeill

    bFast:

    I think I did that in the previous post (#47). If not, let me know, and I’ll try to do better.

    Your post #47 was an interesting fleshing out of the theory, but you did not pointedly answer my basic question. In your opinion, does modern evolutionary biology theory (including your theory/hypothesis) provide a reasonably complete explanation for the variety of life that exists, or do you believe that there still is some primary piece(s) missing?

  58. 58
    jerry says:

    Salvador,

    Carroll’s book does nothing more that describe how a particular life form develops during gestation. Hence the “devo” part of the Evo Devo description.

    The “evo” part is more suspect. There is nothing in the book that supports naturalistic evolution other than the assumption that it happened and this is how it might have happened.

    If an intelligence somewhere was designing organisms, then this intelligence would use a similar set of parts. This would also fit with Carroll’s thesis though he wouldn’t touch that explanation with a 100 foot pole. Think about how humans would go about creating a life colony on some other planet some time in the future. We would use a common set of tools or genes to do so.

    One of the main arguments from hearing the materialists defend their beliefs is that the designer would not have done it this way. That is prevalent with Darwin himself and frequently mentioned in evolutionary biology classes or books. They say that the actual life forms on the planet seem a little too haphazarded to be the result of any grand plan. It never considered that the much of the variation but not all might have been naturalistic and part of a plan. All ID says is that some of it was a plan. How much is what we argue over. The materialist says nothing; the ID proponents says somethings were directed by an agency.

    There is other circumstantial evidence against an intelligent agent such as the geographical distributions of species caused by continental drift. Wallace’s famous trench is a good example.

    Anyway some time in the future it may be worth while to discuss Carroll’s book and invite Dr. MacNeill and Darrel Falk to participate. Falk suggested Carroll’s book to defend his beliefs in Darwinism. It might be good to ask Dr. Falk what he has to say about Dr. MacNeill’s comments on neo Darwinism.

  59. 59
    PaV says:

    Asa Gray, in a quote furnished by j above, wrote:

    “Wherefore so long as gradatory, orderly, and adapted forms in Nature argue design, and at least while the physical cause of variation is utterly unknown and mysterious, we should advise Mr. Darwin to assume in the philosophy of his hypothesis that variation has been led along certain beneficial lines. Streams flowing over a sloping plain by gravitation (here the counterpart of natural selection) may have worn their actual channels as they flowed; yet their particular courses may have been assigned; and where we see them forming definite and useful lines of irrigation, after a manner unaccountable on the laws of gravitation and dynamics, we should believe that the distribution was designed.”

    To which Darwin responded:
    “However much we may wish it, we can hardly follow Professor Asa Gray in his belief “that variation has been led along certain beneficial lines,” like a stream “along definite and useful lines of irrigation.” If we assume that each particular variation was from the beginning of all time preordained, then that plasticity of organisation, which leads to many injurious deviations of structure, as well as the redundant power of reproduction which inevitably leads to a struggle for existence, and, as a consequence, to the natural selection or survival of the fittest, must appear to us superfluous laws of nature. On the other hand, an omnipotent and omniscient Creator ordains everything and foresees everything. Thus we are brought face to face with a difficulty as insoluble as is that of free will and predestination.

    It is very late to be re-entering this discusion; yet, for discussion’s sake, several points should be made:

    (1) Darwin wrongly interprets Asa Gray’s meaning. Darwin, in his reply, suggests that Gray’s position was that all species were “specially created”. Yet, the final words of Gray’s quote (above) are: “. . . we should believe that the distribution was designed.” This is simply a way of saying that if the laws of nature cannot explain the variation that is seen in each particular species, nonetheless in higher taxa “gradatory, orderly, and adapted forms” (distributions) are encountered. So Darwin is wrong in assuming that Gray is saying that “each particular variation was . . . preordained.”

    Which leads to a second point:
    (2) Gray is distinguishing between what is ordered and what is not. Streams that are simply meandering around can be fully explained in terms of “gravitation and dynamics”, but when we encounter “definite and useful lines of irrigation”, meaning, ‘when we encounter furrowed farm land’, we know that we’re looking at design. Man, an intelligent agent, is involved. (Just imagine, a ‘design argument’ way back when!) Gray, in stating that the particular courses of these otherwise “meandering” streams “may have been assigned”(just as in ordinary erosion the stream flows in a particular “direction”), taken together with this observation that “the physical cause of variation is utterly unknown and mysterious”, suggests that Gray, philosophically, takes the position that there might be an “overall direction” given to whatever turns out to be the “physical cause” of variation.

    I have argued in the past that it would only be sensible for a “designer” to design organisms in a “dynamic”, rather than a “static” fashion, given that the interaction of the laws of physical nature cause things to vary in the short term. Rather than prescribing species to be ‘utterly’ specific, an “intelligent designer” would construct a species so that it had the potential to vary given variable environmental conditions. Just think of Darwin’s finches. They exactly do this. Their beak sizes vary depending on the amount of rainfall the islands receive.

    Hearkening back to Darwin’s analogy of the “architect” and the “wedge-shaped stones” he uses to build with (see post #45 above), Darwin is more or less arguing that it is silly to think that God made odd-shaped stones so that an architect would have something build wonderfully designed homes with, and that, likewise, it is silly to think that God included variation into “species” just so that a “breeder” would have something to design strange birds with. And, so, to Darwin, no “final cause” is apparent in this “principle of variation”. But Darwin’s analogy is wrong. And that’s why Gray says that Darwin would be well advised “to assume in the philosophy of his hypothesis that variation has been led along certain beneficial lines.” Darwin’s analogy breaks down because he is unaware of the discrete (stochastic) nature of the principle of inheritance, i.e., Mendelian genetics. Ferguson Jenkin, an engineer and a contemporary of Darwin, already anticipated this error when he pointed out that Darwin’s principle of variation, which was a “blending” type of inheritance, would have the effect of “diluting” any variation that cropped up in the original species. The force of his criticism was such that Darwin eventually (last edition) had to back away from this notion altogether. Knowing what we know now (again, Mendelian genetics), it is easy to see that discrete “blending” is a mechanism of inheritance that allows organisms to “adapt” to their particular, changing, environment. Thus, the “principle of variation” is not ordered to the well-being of “man”; rather, it is directly ordered to the well-being of each organism; hence, it is designed.

    As an example, in a Monte Carlo simulation, randomly generated input is fed through a defined series of mathematical equation (such equations are meant to ‘simulate’ the object of interest) leading to a probability distribution of possible outcomes. An element of randomness is part, and parcel, of a designed, purposeful, mathematical process.

    The final point is this:]
    (3) Dr. MacNeill’s notion that “adaptive radiation” is the clue to understanding “macroevolution” does not cut the mustard. Back in 1940 Richard Goldschmidt pointed out that the “radiation” of phenotypes in a cline of butterflies (moths) he had studied was not, in fact, genetically based, but was environmentally produced. Along the lines that I’ve been pointing out, this is exactly what one would expect to see from an “intelligent designer” who designed organisms in such a way as to be able to “adapt” to their environment.

    Dr. MacNeill makes the following statement:
    “Last (but not least) it incorporates new findings (summarized in Mary Jane West-Eberhard’s book, Developmental Plasticity and Evolution), which indicates that phenotypes appear to change first, followed by changes in alleles, rather than the other way around as asserted in the ‘modern evolutionary synthesis.'”

    If, as I argue, the “environment”, interacting with the genome, is the “cause” of new phenotypes, then one would expect phenotypic changes to occur rather suddenly, and, with an eventual underlying genotypic change: that is, the environment changes, which causes the genome to be expressed differently, which, through successive generations, leads to a genomic change. A process that can repeat itself in environment, by environment; hence, “adaptive radiation”.

  60. 60

    […] created, that of course doesn't happen, Randomness destroys intention. Neo-Darwinism is dead. Cornell evolutionary biologist declares neo-Darwinism dead | Uncommon Descent Thomas Nagel vs. his critics: Has Neo-Darwinian evolution failed, and can teleological naturalism […]

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