• Darwin’s Doubt – Prologue Part VI

    Here is where the creationists excel.  Many of them scour the web and research and other publications so that they can find a comment to take out of context and imply that the author supports them.  And so it is with Meyer.  So, what I’ve found the original source (and will continue as I find these quotes) will show them both.  What Meyer said, which is generally an accurate comment, but the context, explains what they were saying, is missing.

    I can’t wait to hear creationists howl over this.

    The first is from Stephen J Gould, a world renown biologist and evolutionary theorist. Meyers quotes him saying

    Since 1980, when Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould declared that neo-Darwinism “is effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy,” the weight of critical opinion in biology has grown steadily with each passing year.

    Does anyone else think it odd that one of the world’s most prominent evolutionary scientists is ‘critical’ of evolution?  So what did he actually say?

    Paleontological Society
    Stephen Jay Gould
    Vol. 6, No. 1 (Winter, 1980), pp. 119-130
    Published by: Paleontological Society
    Stable URL:
    I well remember how the synthetic theory beguiled me with its unifying power when I was
    a graduate student in the mid-1960’s. Since then I have been watching it slowly unravel as a universal description of evolution. The molecular assault came first, followed quickly by renewed
    attention to unorthodox theories of speciation and by challenges at the level of macroevolution
    itself. I have been reluctant to admit it-since beguiling is often forever-but if Mayr’s  characterization of the synthetic theory is accurate, then that theory, as a general proposition, is
    effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy.
    So, Gould isn’t saying that evolution is dead.  But that the neo-Darwinian Synthesis, as a universal description of evolution, as a general proposition, is dead.
    That’s actually a big difference.  Let’s look at what Gould is talking about (from the same article).
    The version known as the “modern synthesis” or “Neo-Darwinism” (different from what the late 19th century called Neo-Darwinism-see Romanes, 1900) is, I think, fairly characterized in its essentials by Robson and Richards. Its foundation rests upon two major premises: (1) Point mutations (micromutations) are the ultimate source of variability. Evolutionary change is a process of gradual allelic substitution within a population. Events at broader scale, from the origin of new species to long-ranging evolutionary trends, represent the same process, extended in time and effect large numbers of allelic substitutions incorporated sequentially over long periods of time. In short, gradualism, continuity and evolutionary change by the transformation of populations. (2) Genetic variation is raw material only. Natural selection directs evolutionary change. Rates and directions of change are controlled by selection with little constraint exerted by raw material (slow rates are due to weak selection, not insufficient variation). All genetic change is adaptive (though some phenotypic effects, due to pleiotropy, etc., may not be). In short, selection leading to adaptation.
    Now, that’s a think paragraph and I apologize.  That’s the problem with creationism… it takes a lot more work to show that they are wrong than they have to actually write.  It’s the Gish Gallop in written form.
    According to Gould the neo-Darwinian synthesis is 1) point mutations and 2) variation and natural selection.  That’s it.  Of course, as Gould describes, there are so many more things going on than random mutation and natural selection.  Scientists have known this.
    This isn’t an admission that evolution, in any sense, is wrong.  It’s that trying to make evolution fit the simplistic modern synthesis (as creationists try to do) is flawed.  There is so much more going on (and Gould lists some in this very paper).
    The modern synthesis (random mutation and natural selection) isn’t so much dead as merely incomplete.
    I’ll let Gould finish, with the conclusion to this paper:
    Most of the other changes in evolutionary viewpoint that I have advocated throughout this paper fall out of Galton’s metaphor: punctuational change at all levels (the flip from facet to facet, since homeostatic systems change by abrupt shifting to new equilibria); essential non-adaptation, even in major parts of the phenotype (change in an integrated organism often has effects that reverberate throughout the system); channeling of direction by constraints of history and developmental architecture. Organisms are not billiard balls, struck in deterministic fashion by the cue of natural selection, and rolling to optimal positions on life’s table. They influence their own destiny in interesting, complex, and comprehensible ways. We must put this concept of organism back into evolutionary biology.
    I’m done with the prologue.  It’s getting tedious.  Meyer goes back to macroevolution (see part V here) and then some more claims on biologists who don’t like evolution (like the Altenberg 16, again taken out of context and debunked by one of the members here).
    Moving on to Part 1, Chapter 1.  The rest of the series is here.

    Category: Book ReviewCreationismEvolutionResearchScienceSkepticism


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat