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Evolutionary Manifesto by John Davison (part I)

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Dr. Davison has been a professor of biology for over 45 years. He is among the few elite who have managed to get a pro-ID paper published in a peer-reviewed journal. I very much enjoyed reading An Evolutionary Manifesto.

I am opening a thread to focus on the preface and introduction of his work. If I sense that readers enjoyed the discussion, I will open more threads on the rest of the manifesto.

Here is the eloquent preface to his work:


This work represents an elaboration of material presented by the author in courses offered here at the University of Vermont, especially Biology 255, The Comparative Physiology of Reproduction and Biology 202, Quantitative Biology. It is my hope that this treatise will reach not only the professional biologist but all others who realize how little we really understand concerning the history of life on this planet. I have assumed little in the way of background and I have defined most technical terms as they appear. The basic ideas put forth here were first published in 1984. I hope that this expanded and more completely documented treatment will reach a larger and more receptive audience. My own background is in General and Developmental Physiology which is to say that I am interested in how things work. Like others before me, I have come to the realization that Darwinism simply does not work. That conclusion has led to a series of questions which I pose and attempt to answer. Answering one question often leads to asking another. Only by asking questions is one compelled to provide answers. I employ that approach throughout this presentation.

Among those questions are the following: Is evolution finished? Is sexual reproduction incapable of supporting evolutionary change? Is selection, natural or artificial, incapable of producing new life forms? In contrast to the Darwinian view, has evolution proceeded by means of leaps (saltation) rather than gradually through intermediate forms? Is there an alternative to Darwinism which, unlike that hypothesis, is compatible with all the facts revealed by paleontology, embryology, cytology, taxonomy, physiology and genetics? Do internal factors have a role in evolution? Is evolution irreversible? Is the individual, rather than the population, the instrument of evolutionary change? Are there laws governing evolution? Is there compelling evidence that evolution (phylogeny), like the development of the individual (ontogeny), involves the release or derepression of preformed information? Finally, the most controversial question of all: Has evolution been guided? With the exception of the last question, to which no certain answer will probably ever be given, I will answer yes to each of these questions. I realize these claims will seem outrageous to the doctrinaire Darwinian. I can only explain that I have not arrived easily at these convictions but have been driven to them through a host of incontrovertible realities that demand those responses. I ask only that the evidence be heard. I cannot overemphasize the debt that I owe to my many predecessors, especially those six to whom I dedicate this work. Their monumental contributions speak for themselves and they should be given serious consideration by every thinking person. Without them I would have been unable to proceed. Whenever possible, I quote them directly so there can be no misunderstanding about what they meant. Most of the quotations from authors not in the cited literature are from the sixteenth edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. I owe a very special debt to Dr. Judith Van Houten, Chair of the Department of Biology and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In addition to freezing my salary, her continuing and largely successful attempts to isolate me from the students have served only to provide me with a powerful incentive to continue the search for the truth concerning the great mystery of Evolution. We are once more reminded of the profound significance of Arnold Toynbee’s celebrated aphorism:

The Virtues of Adversity


I begin with the very last words in Darwin’s Origin of Species: … endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

I will show that the last three words are without foundation for the vast majority of higher life forms, both those which have existed in the past as well as those which are still extant today. I am aware of the effect of such an assertion and I am delighted to accept the responsibility of demonstrating its validity. Several years ago, when I was still teaching introductory biology, a rumor got started among the students that I didn’t believe in evolution. I finally responded in lecture by indicating that the rumor was entirely correct. I told the students that I did not “believe” in evolution; I knew that it had occurred. I hoped by this means to impress upon the students the difference between matters of belief (faith) and matters of knowledge. Darwinism is a matter simply of belief since the progressive evolution of no creature now living has ever been demonstrated. As an experimentalist I am not impressed by unconfirmed hypotheses and accordingly I began casting about for possible explanations for this remarkable state of affairs.

Accepting the reality that evolution has occurred leads to the question as to whether or not it is still occurring and, if not, why not? I will present a substantial body of evidence indicating that the evolution of higher organisms is at a virtual standstill, a conclusion that had been reached by others long before me. Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the huge debt that we all owe to some of the greatest biologists of the twentieth century. Among them are the Russian ichthyologist and zoogeographer Leo S. Berg (1876-1950), the geneticists Richard B. Goldschmidt (1878-1958) and William Bateson (1861-1926), the paleontologists Otto Schindewolf (1896-1971) and Robert Broom (1866-1951) and the French zoologist Pierre Grassé (1895-1985). Each is a widely acclaimed scholar of the first rank and not one could be described as an armchair theoretician.

They had each disclosed major difficulties with the Darwinian model and had discussed them at great length in their books and papers. I am very pleased to be able to consolidate and incorporate many of their common and often independent conclusions into a new hypothesis
of organic evolution. This is a truly international assemblage of investigators with Otto Schindewolf coming from Germany, Robert Broom from Scotland and later South Africa, Leo Berg from Russia, Pierre Grassé from France, William Bateson from England and Richard Goldschmidt, a naturalized American who escaped Nazi Germany. All the more remarkable then is the unity of their perspectives on the complete failure of the Darwinian hypothesis.

By way of contrast, Ernst Mayr, in his opus magnus, The Growth of Biological Thought (1982), deals with these six skeptics as follows. Broom is not even mentioned. The books by Grassé (1973) and Berg (1969) are listed in the bibliography, but no reference to either author is made in the text. Goldschmidt and Schindewolf are dispensed with in a few words. Only Bateson is given a remotely even-handed treatment. Perhaps it is understandable why Mayr shortchanged these scientists since on page 132 he made his position indelibly plain (literally) by describing himself as a “dyed-in-the-wool Darwinian”!

The new mechanism, which I have called the semi-meiotic hypothesis, is based upon an obvious fact that has been before us for a very long time. It has to do with the manner in which the sex cells, the eggs and sperm, are formed. This process, known as meiosis or chromosome reduction, occurs in two steps. Prior to the first meiotic division the chromosomes become duplicated as they do in mitosis. Then two divisions take place. The first returns the chromosome number to the diploid state and so can be considered to be a form of diploid presexual reproduction. This first division takes place in a special way which I feel provides the mechanism of macroevolution. Also since the second division cannot occur until the first has taken place, the first meiotic division is logically the more primitive of the two and accordingly must have evolved first (Davison 1984 1993 1998). Upon this premise I proceed.

[ Here is a link to the next installment: Evolutionary Manifesto by John Davison (part II-1,II-2,II-3) ]