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Evolutionary Manifesto by John Davison (part II-1,II-2,II-3)


This is the next installment in the series on John Davison’s An Evolutionary Manifesto: A New Hypothesis for Organic Change. In addition to being a professor of biology since 1954, John is one of the few elites with a published pro-ID peer-reviewed paper (see: Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis).

Dr. Davison’s work is relevant to the ideas of pro-ID evolutionists who explore the concept of front-loaded evolution as well as modern scientific creationists. I never thought that I (a creationist) would be so enthusiastic about a work promoting an evolutionary hypothesis. Dr. Davison’s work is gaining appreciation across the spectrum of views within ID’s big tent.

This installment will be part of Dr. Davison’s cogent refutation of the concluding remarks in Darwin’s Origin of Species.

I would like to thank Dr. Davison for taking the time to visit Uncommon Descent and his willingness to respond to question about his work. I hope the readers will also be mindful of what he endured at the hands of Darwinians while a professor of biology at the University of Vermont. See: WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN ANTIDARWINIAN AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT. The material you are about to read are forbidden ideas at the University of Vermont, so take care lest the thought police find you reading this. 🙂

Here is the link to the full text: An Evolutionary Manifesto: A New Hypothesis for Organic Change. That said, let us proceed to Dr. Davison’s work part II-1, II-2, II-3:


II. Is evolution finished?

All intelligent thoughts have already been thought;
what is necessary is only to try to think them again.
— Goethe

It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there
is no ground whatsoever for supposing it to be true.
— Bertrand Russell

II-1. Why has Darwinism prevailed?

Darwinism has prevailed entirely for negative reasons since alternative hypotheses have proven to be inadequate. Chief among these is Lamarckism or the genetic transmission of characters acquired during the life of the individual. Such transmissions have never been demonstrated at least in higher forms. Accordingly, in the absence of experimental verification, Lamarckism cannot be given serious consideration.

A second alternative view is Creationism. Here caution must be observed. While it is true that the existence of a Creator, while a logical necessity, has never been rigorously proved and perhaps never can be, it is also true that neither has been the spontaneous generation of life. Pasteur’s flasks, on display at the Sorbonne and open to the air, remain sterile to this day and there is no evidence whatsoever from the geological record to support the celebrated “organic soup” hypothesis for spontaneous generation.

Perhaps the most compelling feature for the Darwinists resides in their persistent conviction that all of evolution is the result of blind chance. In so doing, the Darwinists refuse to consider that evolution might be subject to laws and precise mathematical relationships such as those that govern virtually every aspect of the inanimate world. Obvious examples are Galileo’s Law of Falling Bodies, Newton’s Laws of Motion and Einstein’s equation of energy and mass. One must be prepared to realize that there may be comparable laws at work in the living world. Furthermore, blind chance demands that life should have arisen and should still be arising on countless other planets in the vast cosmos, yet there is no evidence that life exists now, or has ever existed anywhere, except on this planet. With all our advanced technology, we still have not been able to produce even the simplest organic system which could even remotely be described as being alive. Are we to believe that mere chance can accomplish that which has proven quite impossible for the enlightened scientist to achieve? I regard that notion as absurd! I quote Albert Einstein on the matter of chance: “I shall never believe that God plays dice with the world.”

If Einstein’s physical world does not operate through chance, would one really expect the living world to do so? I, as others before me, do not think so. The Darwinists’ stubborn refusal to consider any possible role for laws, order and purpose is what primarily accounts for their failure to present a rational mechanism for evolutionary change. Technically, Darwinism is not even a theory. It is only a hypothesis which, to this day, remains totally devoid of experimental and descriptive verification. Theories, sensu strictu, are hypotheses which, having been tested, have been found valid. For example, Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity remained a hypothesis until it had been verified. Only then did it become a theory. Scientists, after all, are expected to maintain open minds. But do they? Sadly, I must answer that question — Not always!

II-2. Living and nonliving systems compared

One of the most influential of Darwin’s predecessors was the geologist Charles Lyell. He expounded the concept of uniformitarianism. Stated simply, he believed that the forces we now see gradually reshaping the surface of the earth have operated the same way throughout the past. This idea gave Darwin the necessary timescale to account for the gradual evolution of the life forms we now see. His total acceptance of the uniformitarian doctrine is clearly evident in those closing words of the Origin which I quoted in the introduction: “… have been, and are being, evolved”.

Can the notion of uniformitarianism be applied to living systems? The answer at every level is a resounding no. A muscle cell, having contracted, must relax before it can contract again. An amoeba grows and then it stops to divide before it recommences growth. Embryos undergo cellular differentiation, then stop when the definitive state is reached. Most creatures grow until they reach adult size and then stop. In other words, living systems practice autoregulation and self-limitation. These are fundamental distinctions between the animate and inanimate worlds (Davison 1998). I now present the evidence that evolution, like other biological processes, has also been subject to autoregulation.

II-3. The evidence from paleontology

The question — Is evolution finished? — like all others concerning evolution, must ultimately be reconciled with the fossil record. I have no credentials as a paleontologist, so I will offer the views of two authorities, the first a professed Darwinian and the second a skeptic of Darwinism. Julian Huxley, the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, published what unfortunately proved to be an excessively influential book in 1942. Evolution: The Modern Synthesis summarized a consensus among certain geneticists, systematists and paleontologists that evolution was a Darwinian phenomenon, guided by chance and natural selection. Among these were the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky, the ornithologist Ernst Mayr and the paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the text is the revealing and totally contradictory summary that Huxley offers on page 571, seven pages from the end.

Evolution is thus seen as a series of blind alleys. Some are extremely short — those leading to new genera and species that either remain stable or become extinct. Others are longer — the lines of adaptive isolation within a group such as a class or subclass, which run for tens of millions of years before coming up against their terminal blank wall. Others are still longer — the links that in the past led to the development of the major phyla and their highest representatives; their course is to be reckoned not in tens but in hundreds of millions of years. But all in the long run have terminated blindly. That of the echinoderms, for instance, reached its climax before the end of the Mesozoic.

For arthropods, represented by their highest group, the insects, the full stop seems to have come in the early Cenozoic. Even the ants and bees have made no advance since the Oligocene. For the birds, the Miocene marked the end; for the mammals the Pliocene.

Note Huxley’s language: blind alley, terminal blank wall, terminated blindly, full stop and marked the end. Is this language compatible with the Darwinian perspective? Of course
it isn’t!

Robert Broom, who was certainly no Darwinian, had reached comparable conclusions:

There is, however, no doubt that evolution, so far as new groups are concerned, is at an end. That a small line of generalized animals should have continued on till in Eocene times the Primates originated and then ceased, and that except for specializations of Eocene types there has been no evolution in the last forty million years, and that the evolutionary clock has so completely run down that it is very doubtful if a single new genus has appeared on earth in the last two million years …
The Coming of Man (1933)

In Eocene times — say between 50,000,000 and 30,000,000 years ago — small primitive mammals rather suddenly gave rise to over a dozen very different Orders — hoofed animals, odd-toed and even-toed, elephants, carnivores, whales, rodents, bats and monkeys. And after this there were no more Orders of mammals ever evolved. There were great varieties of evolution in the Orders that had appeared, but strangely enough Nature seemed incapable of forming any more new Orders. What is equally remarkable, no new types of birds appear to have evolved in the last 30,000,000 years. And most remarkable of all, no new family of plants appears to have evolved since the Eocene. All major evolution has apparently come to an end. No new types of fishes, no groups of molluscs, or worms or starfishes, no new groups even of insects, appear to have been evolved in these latter 30,000,000 years.
Finding the Missing Link
(1951), page 107

Only once — perhaps in Cambrian times — did an invertebrate give rise to a vertebrate, and the invertebrate ancestor seems to have early become extinct. And today, there is no invertebrate that could again give rise to a vertebrate. “Evolution as the paleontologist sees it”
(1932), page 686

There are no mammals today in the world that are not already specialized so far that they can never evolve into anything very different.
Ibid., page 69

In a demonstration of his faith, Broom continued:

As evolution has practically finished and cannot be repeated unless all higher life is wiped off the earth and a new start made from the very beginning, we may perhaps conclude that man is the end to which some power has guided evolution.
Ibid., page 71

I discovered that Broom and Huxley had corresponded on this matter as early as 1933 as revealed by the following:

And a few zoologists are beginning to recognize that evolution is slowing down, if not quite stopped. In a letter I had from Professor Julian Huxley only a few months ago he says, “I have often thought about your idea of the fading out of evolutionary potency, and though I cannot pretend to agree with some of the philosophical corollaries which you draw from it, I more and more believe that it is of great importance as a fact.”

“Evolution — Is there intelligence Behind It?” (1933), page 14

While Huxley shared Broom’s scientific conclusions, it is not surprising that as a humanist (as opposed to a deist) he did not agree that evolution may have been guided. Nevertheless, one might ask — If it has not been guided, then why has it stopped? I address the question of guidance in a later section.

Without mentioning either Huxley or Broom, the French zoologist Pierre Grassé reached the same conclusion. Curiously, the following comments by Grassé (with which I agree completely) stand in marked contrast to the title of the book which is their source!

Facts are facts; no new broad organizational plan has appeared for several hundred million years, and for an equally long time numerous species, animal as well as plant, have ceased evolving. … At best, present evolutionary phenomena are simply slight changes of genotypes within populations, or substitution of an allele with a new one.

Evolution of Living Organisms
(1977), page 84

In order to proceed I am going to accept the consensus of Huxley, Broom and Grassé that evolution has indeed ceased, at least for the majority of higher life forms. Thus, intrinsic to the evolutionary process itself has been the capacity to bring it to a halt, thereby demonstrating autoregulation. One might now ask — Is it possible to observe, and thereby explain, a mechanism that is no longer in operation? To this question I answer — Of course not, which means that one must attempt to reconstruct that mechanism from contemporary observations. That reconstructive synthesis is a primary goal of this treatise.

Another feature of evolutionary history bears on the question of autoregulation. The vast majority of all the organisms that ever existed have become extinct. I propose that they became extinct because they could no longer evolve or otherwise manage to survive. Isn’t it interesting that today we see rampant extinction, and the list of endangered species continues to grow, yet no one has observed the progressive evolution of any one of these forms as a response to the challenges offered by a changing environment. Admittedly, man is altering the environment at an unprecedented rate. Aren’t these precisely the conditions that should be evoking dramatic evolutionary responses? Where are they?