Larry Moran discusses recent publications from anti-evolutionists Denis Noble and James Shapiro:
Why would you call these guys anti-evolutionists? They just think (for no good reason) that there are evolutionary processes that mainstream science doesn’t accept, and that those processes are more important than the standard ones. It’s still evolution.
I suppose I don’t really understand what Shapiro is complaining about. Many of the processes he highlights–HGT, epigenetic modification, and MEIs–are already incorporated into evolutionary theory.
Because they reject the current theory of evolution for (as you say) no good reason.
Well that would just make them anti-current-theory-ists. Under that definition, Kimura would have been an anti-evolutionist.
No, they don’t really reject it. They are acting politically, trying to rebrand big parts of it, while pretending (to sell books) as though they are contributing something scientifically.
Incidentally, an acquaintance of mine thinks he may be responsible for that disclaimer about ID and other forms of creationism on the Third Way website. Over at Amazon, we had a high-volume commenter (he would cut and paste the same comments to thread after thread after thread) who, for a couple of years, invoked Shapiro at every opportunity and insisted that Shapiro’s views pointed to ID. When one of the biologists on these threads pointed this out to someone at the Third Way website, that disclaimer went up.
Because I was always having to argue about it, I then went and read Shapiro’s book. It was a bit of “meh” really. It seemed as though he was mostly trying to make some not-that-novel ideas sound novel, along with offering up some notions about “consciousness” and cells being involved in “genetic engineering” that were sufficiently non-specific that it was hard to say they were wrong, but harder to say what they meant in the first place.
This pervasive misunderstanding of the Central Dogma is certainly surprising. I too shared that misconception until I visited Sandwalk some years back, and got directed to Crick’s papers on it.
Its a wonder many distinguished scientists could get this wrong for so long.
The difference is that Kimura understood the issues he was talking about and had legitimate evidence to back him up. He was working within evolutionary theory as it then existed. Noble and Shapiro are arguing against some non-existent idea that they misconstrue/misrepresent as “the current theory of evolution.”
The main thing to say about the Third Way people is that they have no Way. Or rather, that each of them has a different Way. Some just want more attention paid to their favorite mechanism, but are otherwise OK with modern evolutionary biology. Some are big fans of epigenetics. Some are Lamarckians, or think that they are Lamarckians. And so on. It is not a website with a Way, but with 53 Ways, It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by the great Canadian scientist Stephen Leacock:
He flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.
Maybe call them “100 other ways” .
Or better yet, “100 Third Ways (we’re not good at counting)”
“Many Ways” would seem snappier.
I had thought there were 53 people there but now they seem to be up to 73. So the 73 Ways of Evolution. Unless some of them are of two minds about it …
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