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Is this a serious attempt to evaluate natural selection as something other than an ideology? At PNAS?


From W. Ford Doolittle and S. Andrew Inkpen at PNAS:

Many practicing biologists accept that nothing in their discipline makes sense except in the light of evolution, and that natural selection is evolution’s principal sense-maker. But what natural selection actually is (a force or a statistical outcome, for example) and the levels of the biological hierarchy (genes, organisms, species, or even ecosystems) at which it operates directly are still actively disputed among philosophers and theoretical biologists. Most formulations of evolution by natural selection emphasize the differential reproduction of entities at one or the other of these levels. Some also recognize differential persistence, but in either case the focus is on lineages of material things: even species can be thought of as spatiotemporally restricted, if dispersed, physical beings. Few consider—as “units of selection” in their own right—the processes implemented by genes, cells, species, or communities. “It’s the song not the singer” (ITSNTS) theory does that, also claiming that evolution by natural selection of processes is more easily understood and explained as differential persistence than as differential reproduction. ITSNTS was formulated as a response to the observation that the collective functions of microbial communities (the songs) are more stably conserved and ecologically relevant than are the taxa that implement them (the singers). It aims to serve as a useful corrective to claims that “holobionts” (microbes and their animal or plant hosts) are aggregate “units of selection,” claims that often conflate meanings of that latter term. But ITSNS also seems broadly applicable, for example, to the evolution of global biogeochemical cycles and the definition of ecosystem function. (paywall) More.

See also: Alpbach Symposium: Another 1960s revolt by serious thinkers against Darwinism

From Biology Direct: Darwinism, now thoroughly detached from its historical roots as a falsifiable theory, “must be abandoned.” It sounds as though evolution is becoming a history of life, as opposed to a metaphysic for life, which is more or less what a lot of us have thought should happen for quite some time. The less we hear of Thus spake Darwin and Thus saith Ernst Mayr the better.Incidentally, Ford Doolittle, who speaks well of this paper, has justified mental gymnastics in the past (2009) because “much is at stake socio-politically,” namely the need to defeat “anti-evolutionists” in “the culture wars.” It’s too late for that now.


Setting the record straight on Wistar II

Eric, I would never take a half-baked idea to Berlinski and ask for his opinion. He feasts on evolutionism. ET
But what natural selection actually is (a force or a statistical outcome, for example) . . .
This shouldn't be much of an open issue. There is no such thing as a force of natural selection in the real world, despite the pervasive and repeated tendency of Darwinists to speak of it as though it were some kind of force. It is nothing more than a convenience label applied to a statistical outcome. But I'm glad to see that they at least acknowledge that natural selection might not be an actual force, and that this is recognized by some biologists. This is good progress. Eric Anderson
ET, great essay, thanks for sharing. I enjoy Berlinski's incisive observations and commentaries. Eric Anderson
“much is at stake socio-politically,” namely the need to defeat “anti-evolutionists” in “the culture wars.” IOW, evolution became a political ploy hence anti-science. Ponder that: evolutionists literally became the enemies of science. tribune7
The Strength of Natural Selection in the Wild Seems it isn't that powerful after all ET

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