Talbott, a Third Way* scientist, has been writing a book for some years online as a critique of Darwinism. Here’s some information from a recent instalment where he talks about the fact that “natural selection” acting on random mutation to produce the immense diversity of living things is so simple an idea that many felt it really didn’t need evidence, just acceptance. But:
Look at it this way: everything depends on what organisms actually do — and, as has long been recognized, one of the most remarkable things they are capable of doing is to give consistent, generation-by-generation expression to the character of their own kind. Whether that kind needed to be understood as a static or dynamic reality could only be resolved through empirical investigation.
Moreover, once we see that species have in fact evolved, we are still left with the most basic questions about how they have done so:
– What sorts of directionality, if any, will we discover in evolutionary change? For example, might change be directed toward more complex or less complex forms of life? Toward greater individuality or more collective interdependence? Toward some sort of diversity, balance, and qualitative completeness upon the earth as a whole? Toward the realization of human potentials?
– What pathways of change are open to any given species at a particular time, and what pathways are closed off by the character of the organisms themselves or of the surrounding world? In what ways will molecular and physiological processes be conserved in different organisms during evolution, and in what ways will they diverge?
– How much convergent evolution should we expect? (“Convergent evolution” refers to the independent development of similar features in distinct branches of the “tree of life” — something now known to be strikingly common, as when the “camera-eye” of the octopus and of humans developed independently of each other)?
– How much diversity of life should we expect, and how radically disparate are the possible forms of life?
– Is evolutionary change more or less possible today than at various times in the past?
– Do populations evolve sporadically or continuously, and why?
– What accounts for the uncanny qualitative unity of an organism — a unity leading one observer to say of the sloth, for example, that “every detail speaks ‘sloth’” (Holdrege 1999).
I can think of no fundamental question about evolution whose answer is suggested by the advertised formula for natural selection. Everything depends on what the amazingly diverse sorts of organism actually do as they respond to and shape their environments. Contrary to Susan Blackmore’s exultant insight, nothing in the “algorithmic logic” of natural selection tells us that evolution must have happened — and, given that it has happened, the logic by itself tells us little about what we should expect to find in the fossil record. We may ask then, “What, in truth, is being celebrated as the revolutionary principle of natural selection?”Stephen L. Talbott, “Chapter 19: Let’s Not Begin With Natural Selection” at Nature Institute
*The Third Way of Evolution seems to want to rescue science from the twin perils of pulpit-banging about creation and, for example, the Darwinbird of pop science (theses about nature whose only merit is support of Darwinian ideas).
It’ll certainly be an interesting book when he finishes it.
Hat tip: Philip Cunningham