Evolutionary Science, not Darwinism

If you want to know their personal motives, you will have to ask them.

I doubt that most full-time evolutionary theorists would say that the Modern Synthesis (aka neo-Darwinism) was “falsified” 50 years ago. I think they would say that the Modern Synthesis was modified, corrected, and extended to include a richer set of mechanisms, rather than simply declared false and set aside. I think they would say that variation, random mutation, and selection (all parts of neo-Darwinism) are still important components of modern evolutionary theory.

It seems, however, that most of the mechanisms proposed by modern evolutionary theorists would fall under the same ID criticism that neo-Darwinism does; i.e., they are unguided mechanisms, and the same ID doubts about the creative capacity of unguided mechanisms would obtain. So even if you could persuade Behe never to use the word “neo-Darwinian” again, he would make much the same criticism of most modern accounts of evolution, i.e., that unguided changes don’t have sufficient creative capacity to explain what we see. I don’t think he would believe that acknowledging most mutations to be neutral would help the situation very much, or that occasional accidental lateral transfers would help the situation very much.

Some ID folks have been less critical of the ideas of Gunter Wagner or Stuart Newman than of the others, probably because they perceive Wagner and Newman (rightly or wrongly) as upholding formalist or structuralist thinking, as opposed to resting heavily on random genetic changes. Denton in fact seems quite impressed with Wagner and cites Newman favorably. He actually seems to think that evolutionary theory has improved over the past 30 years! So it’s not as if all ID writers reject all proposals by all modern evolutionary biologists. It is mainly ideas, whether neo-Darwinian or later, that rely upon blind searches for adaptive success, that ID people are critical of.

And there is little doubt that, even though neo-Darwinism in its old form is no longer held by most, many biologists still place a lot of faith in the power of evolution to blind-search its way to successful new forms. As long as that is a major theme in modern evolutionary thought, whether it is called “neo-Darwinian” or something else, ID folks will oppose it. But any account of evolutionary change that sounds teleological, ID folks will be open to. And we’ve see in recent exchanges here that any account of evolution that has even a whiff of teleology, whether in Shapiro or Turner, still evokes massive and instinctive hostility from “mainstream” biologists. So you can talk all you want about how much evolutionary theory has changed from neo-Darwinism over the past 50 years, and you may be entirely right, but to the ID people, most of the changes (excepting possibly the ideas proposed by Wagner, Newman, etc.) don’t affect the anti-teleological character of the enterprise.

For good or evil, ID folks will never buy an account of evolution that is non-teleological. If “modern evolutionary theory” insists that evolution is without direction, without plan, without any internally proposed or externally imposed ends, it will continue to provoke the criticism of ID folks. You’ll get assent to common descent from some of them, but never to blanket rejection of teleology.

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They would all agree that Darwinism as defined by Behe was falsified a long time ago.

The rest is just a distraction.

And hear is where the failure to engage Theology comes through. They assume science can speak teloelgically by it can’t. Theology can legitimately speaking of teloeology but science doesn’t.


Your decree here is a philosophical statement about science, not a scientific statement – you realize that, don’t you?

We have gone over this before. Science is silent on God. So it cannot speak of Gods purposes. We can’t really figure out how to demonstrate scientifically God’s intent.

Even in normal interactions we can’t even determine intent and purpose in many many situations, not without a truthful explanation from the actor.

So all I’m doing is restating the methodological limits of science and affirming the theology of Revelation. Nothing controversial here.


I didn’t speak of God, God’s purposes, or God’s intent. I spoke of teleology. It’s possible to speak of teleology without invoking God. Aristotle did, for example.

As decreed by Bacon, Descartes and Kant, not as decreed by Newton, Boyle, and Kepler. This is the point: you’ve made a philosophical decision about the limits of science. And it’s a defensible one, but it’s not built into nature itself. It’s a heuristic strategy. You think the benefits of adopting such a strategy outweigh the costs. The ID folks think the costs outweigh the benefits – at least when it comes to origins questions. They don’t think you can explain origins without teleology, and therefore they don’t acknowledge the authority of the methodological boundary that you’re insisting on. They would rather have a true explanation and “bad” methodology than “good” methodology and a wrong explanation.

Richard Dawkins, the hapless victim of Creationist typecasting! He wrote and directed the part himself.


Just one small comment having finally perused this long thread.

If Behe consistently seeks to refute specifically Neo-Darwinism (which seems to be agreed on all sides, given all the criticism that he should be using “evolution”), and Neo-Darwinism was refuted 50 years ago, then I’m mystified at why people haven’t been saying to Behe, “Well said, but you missed the boat” rather than referring to all the papers that show that neo-Darwinian mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection could easily have produced the changes he says they couldn’t.

Why publish papers defend a theory that’s been dead for half a century by attacking one of its belated attackers?

There’s a lot of “No True Scotsman” going on, it seems to me - The Royal Society thought it worth inviting numerous Third Way members and discussing whether the Modern Synthesis needed extending, replacing, or leaving in situ. A number of those who have been critiqued here spoke - and a number of those who are lauded for critiquing them didn’t.


A number of them did, though. If I recall, Doug Futuyma was one.

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So when you are talking about neo-Darwinism you are talking about a theory that wasn’t even used when Gould was writing his book “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory”, correct?

So then why are all of these ID supporters going after a theory that hasn’t been used since the 1940’s?


At least we seem to agree that the use of Darwnism and Darwinist is rhetoric.


Yes. And we actually see this in Stephen Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt.

In addition to your own comments, which have been excellent, let me add the following:

Did Mootoo Kimura himself think his neutral theory killed off what was at that time the modern theory of evolution? Apparently not.

The theory was introduced by the Japanese biologist Motoo Kimura in 1968, and independently by two American biologists Jack Lester King and Thomas Hughes Jukes in 1969, and described in detail by Kimura in his 1983 monograph The Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution. According to Kimura, the theory applies only for evolution at the molecular level, and phenotypic evolution is controlled by natural selection, as postulated by Charles Darwin. The proposal of the neutral theory was followed by an extensive “neutralist-selectionist” controversy over the interpretation of patterns of molecular divergence and polymorphism, peaking in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, much evidence has been found for selection at molecular level.

I also hold in my had a book published in 1997, some 40 years after the alleged passing of Darwinian theory. Gene Avatars: The Neo-Darwinian Theory of Evolution. A couple quotes:

This book … defends the evolutionist and especially neo-Darwinian paradigm.


It is intellectually dishonest, therefore, to mistake current scientific controversy and debate for a radical attack of the neo-Darwinian paradigm and to propose, even impose, a “new paradigm” which is most often unscientific and and whose problem posing and solving modes are hardly any different.

What attack could be more radical than declaring Darwinism dead?


Yes and no. Scientists don’t all move in unison. The pure neo-Darwinism (or if you prefer, Modern Synthesis) of, say, the early 1940s (described by Gould in his book as “pluralistic”, centered on natural selection but giving weight to other things such as random mutations) may not have had as many followers after the mid-1960s, but I doubt they all vanished overnight. Dawkins’s description of evolution in The Blind Watchmaker sure sounds very neo-Darwinian, decades after NDE was supposedly “falsified”; so does Ken Miller’s account in Finding Darwin’s God, which was written even later. However, I think that Gould is saying that taken on the whole, evolutionary theory did move away from pure neo-Darwinism to adopt a more complex set of mechanisms.

That sounds like a good objection, and in principle I would agree that their behavior is odd; but see Jon Garvey’s comment above: when Behe etc. said that random mutations, even helped along by natural selection, couldn’t create all the complex nanomachinery we see in the cell, the reaction was quite often to say: “Yes, they could!” (The mutation rate is more than fast enough, the selection landscape is the right shape, etc.) As Jon points out, if random mutation plus natural selection as a formula was really dead in evolutionary theory, then it is a very odd reaction for biologists to come out swinging their fists to defend the creative powers of random mutation plus natural selection. It would have made more sense for them to say, “You ID guys are right that RM + NS would not be sufficient; but evolutionary theory today includes much more than these things, and you’ve failed to take the other mechanisms into account. When you add them in, they make up for what RM + NS can’t do.” But that was almost never the response, not on Panda’s Thumb, not on Talk Origins, not at the NCSE, not anywhere. I never once saw an argument like: “It’s true that the bombardier beetle could never have developed its mechanism by RM + NS alone, but if you add in even just 25 horizontal gene transfer events over the course of 30 million years, it could have done so.” The rebuttals were always phrased as if RM + NS could do the job.

So there is an inconsistency here. Internet refuters of ID are quite happy to allege that RM + NS can create anything, and only if for some reason they are afraid to assert so much, do they fall back to, “Oh well, RM + NS is old hat in evolutionary theory anyway.” Which are they arguing? Or doesn’t it matter, the only point being to come up with any kind of argument, however inconsistent with other arguments, that ID people are wrong, irrelevant, and must not be listened to, lest America fall behind Paraguay in scientific excellence?


Witness how often they appeal to genetic algorithms.

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Yeah, it’s just terrible how scientifically literate people refer to empirical demonstrations of evolutionary processes to show how evolutionary processes work. Of course to ID-Creationists such evidence doesn’t count because it was run on an intelligently designed computer. Just like running a gravity simulation program on a computer is evidence gravity was intelligently designed. :roll_eyes:


Dawkins embraced neutral theory, but simply didn’t find it as exciting as positive and negative selection.

Time and time again, your recollections of books don’t jive with the actual books.

That is a complete misrepresentation. Random mutation and natural selection are part of the modern theory, but they are not the only parts. Neutral theory along with contingency and epistasis are part of the modern theory, and this completely falsifies Behe’s continual false claim that every change has to be positively selected for.

If Behe can only attack his strawman version of evolution, then what does that say about his model?


Don’t forget about intelligent falling being calculated on NASA computers.

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Further to what I posted above.

Someone mentioned the book Speciation by Coyne and Orr:

It gives special emphasis to topics that are either controversial or the subject of active research, including sympatric speciation, reinforcement, the role of hybridization in speciation, the search for genes causing reproductive isolation, and mounting evidence for the role of natural and sexual selection in the origin of species.


What Evolution Is

At once a spirited defense of Darwinian explanations of biology and an elegant primer on evolution for the general reader, What Evolution Is poses the questions at the heart of evolutionary theory and considers how our improved understanding of evolution has affected the viewpoints and values of modern man.

@mung is both and thinking difficult for you? Is there a reason you want modern science to be darwinism when it is demonstrably not?


Why the obsession with Darwnian, Darwnism, and Darwnist? Are you a Beheist who accepts Beheism?

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No and no.

The assertion was that Darwinism is dead, that it was killed in 1968 by the neutral theory. That’s what I am focused on. That to me doesn’t sound like both and thinking. If someone wants to say that Darwinian thinking is alive and well and remains a major part of modern science I would be fine with that. Common descent, after all, is Darwinian. But that’s not what people are arguing.

Someone mentioned Dawkins, as if there is some confusion where he is concerned. Surely the following should put that doubt to rest:

River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life