Darwinism Falsified in Science Long Ago?

Continuing the discussion from A New Deal for Intelligent Design?:

This post generates some good off topic conversation that can be continued here.


When you wrote of Neo-Darwinism as a reigning paradigm, did you mean Neo-Darwinism as defined by the ID community or Neo-Darwinism as defined by the scientific community?

When @swamidass stated that Neo-Darwinism has been replaced and is not the reigning paradigm in biology he appears to me to mean Neo-Darwinism as defined in ID.

The more interesting question, in my mind at least and perhaps also in yours, is whether Neo-Darwinism as defined by the scientists who defend it (not as defined in ID), is still the reigning paradigm.

Philosopher of Biology Michael Ruse seems to think it still is:

See also:


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No this is just false. Kimura replaced Darwinism in 1968. No need to make up a pseudo history. Neo-Darwinism as understood within science was falsified a long time ago. Evolutionary science is not in and of itself an ideology anyways.


I have been using the same broom for 35 years. Over that time I have replaced the head of the broom 4 times and the handle 5 times. Does the second sentence contradict the first? I think it does.

The theory of evolution has changed a lot over the last 70 years, starting with the initial conception of the Modern Synthesis which predated the discovery of DNA. So much of the theory has been altered, changed, and removed that I don’t see anyway of using the same term to describe both. Any concrete name you give to the theory as it exists today will die tomorrow as the theory is modified by continual discoveries and new theoretical models.

Also, naming theories after people has mostly fallen out of favor. It carries to much ideological baggage.


The generalization of of Darwin’s core ideas about natural selection, and common ancestry most certainly have not been falsified. Darwin kept adding to “Natural Selection.” Individual survival was emphasized in the 1859 “The Origin.” Sexual selection, or “behavioral selection” in modern parlance was explored in the 1871 “Descent of Man.” Then, co-evolution and mutualism was brought up in 1862, but fully developed in 1877 (and revised 1882), “The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects” (London: John Murray. 2d ed.)

The more abstract version joining genetics, and population level statistical analysis, Neo-Darwinism, is still valid.

Kimura’s Neutral theory is an important correction to the “mutation über ales” enthusiasm of R. A. Fisher, J. B. S. Haldane, and Sewall Wright. It was even more ‘deadly’ to the saltationist theory of evolution, eg. Richard Goldschmidt’s “hopeful monster.” And it should have quieted the “no macroevolution” cant of the creationists. But it didn’t. But, Kimura didn’t falsify anything. He did answer one of the questions that Charles Darwin was always raising which was the power of isolation on speciation, esp. ocean island evolution.

If I were to pick the next “big thing” to come along in evolutionary theory it was Lateral Gene Transfer. It happens. That is huge. And as noted by Carl Woese, it really pours sand in the notion of a “Last (or finding a First) Common Ancestor.”

But I fail to see that HGT invalidates the basic notion of common ancestry. It merely invalidated the trivial notion that simple genetic sequences could unravel all of evolutionary history on Earth.

I’ll end this with a quote from Collin Patterson’s 1999 edition of his book, “Evolution.”

Blockquote “… evolution is about what Darwin called ‘descent with modification’ - it concerns the idea of common or shared ancestry and the belief that all species are related by descent. I think that belief is now confirmed as completely as anything can be in the historical sciences.”


I think you are missing my point. I didn’t say that everything Darwin though was wrong. I said that Darwinism defined as Positive Selection Dominated Change has been falsified definitively, most clearly in DNA sequences. Of course, there are domains where Darwinian processes might dominate, but usually non-Darwinian processes (which include nuances of natural selection) are very important.

If you want to use a different definition of Darwinism, you’ll have to define it. What I said only applies to the definition I’m using here, which matches the way it is used in population genetics and by ID.

To be 100% clear, i"m not saying that Darwinian processes aren’t important (they are), but they are not sufficient to explain everything we see. We also need non-darwinian processes. If you mean “common descent”, great, I don’t dispute common descent, but that is not “Darwinism”.


Since Charles Darwin was totally clueless about the mechanics of heredity, no genetic discovery will do much to his theory of “decent with modification acted on by natural selection.” Barring special creation, descent is what we have left. And descent is all that fits the data. Darwin and “Darwinism” could care less about how the “modification part happened.” And I already showed that “natural selection” was quite flexible.

And, “positive selection dominated change” coupled with recombination is exactly what cleared away the creationist nonsense of John Sanford, and “genetic entropy.”


I’m pretty sure that is NEGATIVE selection coupled with recombination. Of note, this doesn’t explain how to make sense of how Y chromosomes evade Mullers rachet. A recent study solved this. Y Chromosomes are protected by large duplications and self-gene conversion events, plus negative selection. Effectively each Y chromosome is highly redundant and self-recombining. Pretty cool, right?


2 posts were merged into an existing topic: Muller’s Rachet and the Y-Chromosome


I was thinking of extinctions, and “purifying selection.”


You assume everyone defines things the same way you do, so as to define the term Darwinism out of the picture.

Was there a public service announcement by the AAAS that Darwinism no longer meant evolution? Because not everyone got the memo.

29• Universal Darwinism

R Dawkins - The nature of life: Classical and contemporary …, 2010 - books.google.com

[HTML] Group adaptation, formal Darwinism and contextual analysis

S Okasha, C Paternotte - Journal of evolutionary biology, 2012 - Wiley Online Library

Epigenetic variation and cellular Darwinism

JP Issa - Nature genetics, 2011 - nature.com

Neo‐ Darwinism , the Modern Synthesis and selfish genes: are they of use in physiology?D Noble - The Journal of physiology, 2011 - Wiley Online Library

Evolutionary developmental biology offers a significant challenge to the neo - Darwinian paradigm

MD Laubichler - Contemporary debates in philosophy of biology, 2010 - books.google.com

Evolution of adaptive phenotypic traits without positive Darwinian selection

AL Hughes - Heredity, 2012 - nature.com

Extending and expanding the Darwinian synthesis: the role of complex systems dynamics

BH Weber - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C …, 2011 - Elsevier


Yes, I’ve seen the list. There are a few hundred (?) papers that use the term “Darwinism”, most of them (all?) are outside the evolutionary science literature. Compare that with tens of thousands of papers in evolutionary science that use terms like “evolution”, “phylogeny”, “non-Darwinian”, and do not include the word Darwinism.

Look at some of the examples you give.

  1. The first one is Dawkins in a book, not the scientific literature. He also conflates modern evolutionary science with Darwinism, in error.

  2. Okasha is a specific of a new mechanism of group selection, and has little to do with the meaning used by ID. It is just a bad name for single mechanism. At no point does this claim that Darwinism explains the diversity of life we see.

  3. This attempts to apply “Darwinism” to understand cancer evolution, once again it does not claim that Darwinism explains the diversity of life we see.

  4. Next one is by Noble of EES who misrepresents modern evolutionary science as neo-Darwinism. Very confused is he.

  5. Laubichler - is just like Nobel, a EES proponent who forgot about what happened in the 60s and 70s. Confused is he.

  6. The Hughs paper is hilarious, because Hughes is one of the key people who showed that Darwinian selection is not sufficient. Notice, also, there is no reference to “Darwinism.” That is like citing Kimura as a Darwinist. Regardless, this is a philosophy journal, nothing to do with evolutionary science.

  7. Weber is a philosophy journal, nothing to do with evolutionary science.

It is fairly entertaining, actually, but NONE of the papers your cite support your claim that anyone is publishing in scientific journals that they themselves think that “the Darwinian mechanism is sufficient to explain the diversity of life.” Is this really what you think the literature says?


I know that you have more detailed and thoughtful reasons but this, IMHO, is the most convincing and succinct reply to people who ask “why don’t you call yourself a theistic evolutionist?” :wink:



Obviously not. By either reading of the word Darwinism. I did not claim that these papers did either. I was pointing out that the term, and the idea was still in use, including by Austin Hughes, who knew what he was saying, and wasn’t the kind to use a term improperly.

Lay off. Surely there are better thing we can do with our time than argue about the use of the word Darwinism in place of evolution. You know why we do, don’t you? It’s to distinguish evolutionary change over time due to small scale processes (evolution) that we have no problem with, from the large scale claims that everything is the product of evolutionary processes that we don’t think are capable of producing the changes ascribed to them (neo-Darwinism). In any case it gets messy quickly. You also don’t like the micro, macro distinction. So what’s it to be? Mini and maxi? You don’t want us to say random mutation and natural selection. Just evolution. But that won’t work. We aren’t evolution deniers. We don’t like a certain kind of evolution. How about Beyond Behe’s Boundary evolution, or BBB evolution for short?

Going to bed. Goodnight.


I think this is a legitimate distinction. When did I last object to it? That doesn’t really work for you though, because Behe seems to affirm common descent (i.e. macro evolution).

You can say that, except no one thinks that this explains everything. I dunno about terminology, I suppose we can think about it and come up with something.

Yes. It’s to make it sound like ideology rather than science, right? 'Cause if you said “Dissent from Evolutionary Biology”, it wouldn’t seem so nice.

Well, some of you are. You do vary in the type and amount of evolution you deny, though. I have no idea how much you deny; apparently you aren’t sure yourself. But you seem to be claiming that humans are not related to chimps by common descent, and that’s a pretty serious denial.


Let us recall that most of the people who signed that statement were not biologists, many weren’t even scientists, and hardly any of them were named Steve.


82 posts were merged into an existing topic: Comments on Darwinism’s Falsification

I don’t think this is true. ID/creationism likes using the word “Darwinism” so that they can pretend it is an ideology instead of a scientific theory.


Doesn’t science assume (as an axiom?) that evolution is blind and unguided, rather than that being a conclusion supported by the evidence? The hypothesis that evolution is unguided doesn’t seem to be one that can be examined by science.

I’d be interested in @swamidass and other scientists input this.