I find “Culture War Linguistic Pedantry” interesting, and even amusing, but depressing (remembering being labelled a creationist at BioLogos for referring to “gene frequency” instead of “allele frequency.”) I’m afraid I’m seeing that on this thread.
So “Neo-Darwinism” is a creationist/ID windmill which died in the 60s and is certainly not a term used by scientists of repute? And Eddie’s use of “mechanism” was a faux pas revealing a false engineering view of biology, no doubt because he likes ID?
Well, although I could have simply cited the several uses of “Neo-darwinian” in the mainstream 2018 book on evolution I’ve just been reading, I thought I’d check out the proceedings of the 2016 Royal Society symposium already mentioned - both the audios and the later re-worked articles.
The conference organisers (Patrick Bateson, Nancy Cartwright, John Dupré, Kevin Laland, and Denis Noble) in their overview, begin:
We anticipated that some speakers would reflect on, and perhaps even question, the adequacy of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, but this does not go beyond the fundamental right of any researcher to explore the assumptions that lie at the heart of their field and to propose constructive new ways of understanding. We take such discussion to be a healthy feature of any academic discipline. Recall too that the meeting was announced as a Discussion Meeting. In practice, there was a great deal of discussion about standard neo-Darwinian processes, but much of the discussion also centred around whether additional processes are also causally relevant and on the different manner in which these developments are handled in different fields.
The word also appears in two of the presentation abstracts (I’ve not had time to check out all the audios). One is from a proponent of “Extended Synthesis,” Eva Jablonka:
I argue that considering the many evolutionary consequences of epigenetic inheritance requires an extension of the evolutionary synthesis beyond the current neo-Darwinian model.
But the other is from a defender of orthodoxy, Cambridge evolutionary biologist Russell Lande:
Using standard methods from neo-Darwinian population genetic theory, I review recent models on the evolution of phenotypic plasticity in changing environments, emphasising the roles of environmental predictability and costs of plasticity in constant and labile characters. Adaptation to a novel environment may often occur by rapid evolution of increased plasticity followed by slow genetic assimilation of the new phenotype. I elucidate the connection between environmental tolerance and plasticity. The theory of evolution of phenotypic plasticity is an important extension to neo-Darwinism, but does not necessitate a major revision of its foundations.
Above in the thread, Douglas Futuyma was mentioned as a “kosher” speaker at the conference. In his presentation he prefers “Modern Synthesis” to the “Neo-Darwinian” adjective. He does, however, cite the 1984 Beyond neo-Darwinism: an introduction to the New evolutionary paradigm as an example of challenges to the mainstream Modern Synthesis. This was a book he himself reviewed in Science, concluding that
“…the critics of neo-darwinism fail to appreciate the richness, the plurality, of evolutionary mechanisms inherent in the synthetic theory.”
Incidentally, note the word “mechanisms” here: Futuyma refers to “the mechanisms” of evolution several times in his RS presentation (no less than 14 times in his written article). But the review mentioned above was written only a decade or so after Neo-darwinism is said to have passed into oblivion, so perhaps his use of the term was a momentary lapse? No. Futuyma in Human Evolutionary Biology (2010) writes (ch1, Evolutionary Theory, summary):
Our contemporary understanding of evolutionary processes builds on theory developed during the “Evolutionary Synthesis” of the 1930s and 1940s, when Darwin’s ideas, especially on natural selection, were joined with Mendelian genetics. Since, then, of course, our understanding of evolution has been greatly advanced by the discoveries in molecular genetics, as well as by continuing elaboration of the “neo-Darwinian” theory that issued from the Evolutionary Synthesis (Futuyma, 1998, 2009).
Now, Neo-darwinism might be variously defined as the original gene-led theory, as the mutationist reversal that soon replaced it, or broadly as “the current state of mainstream evolutionary theory,” but if you are telling me that the term is only a quaint reference to the past perpetuated by ignorant opponents who are either Creationists or (as Larry Moran said of James Shapiro) “crypto-creationists” from the Third Way), I’m going not only to have to disagree, but to use the English expression, “You’re 'aving a larf, aren’t you?”
Do I care overmuch about the terminology? No, except when seeking to give a degree of precision (“Why not just say evolution?” - c’mon… you really want one word to describe both Jerry Coyne and Teilhard de Chardin??).
But the sustained assault on Eddie’s use of words (as supposed social markers of his views, perhaps?), when half an hour online refutes the accusations, does make me wonder what kind of mutual reinforcement the professional scientists here are about. To the outsider it seems, well - tribal.