At Scoop freelance reporter Suzan Mazur pulls back the veil on one of science’s dirty little secrets — Darwinism is dead as a theory of evolution. This won’t be surprising to the early adopters here at ENV, but it will come as a surprise to many in the media who have lazily just regurgitated the tired old refrain of the NCSE that Darwinian evolution is the be-all and end-all of modern biology.
Mazur reports on an upcoming conference at the Konrad Lorenz Institute in Altenberg, Austria which she thinks will be the Woodstock of evolution.
What it amounts to is a gathering of 16 biologists and philosophers of rock star stature — let’s call them “the Altenberg 16” — who recognize that the theory of evolution which most practicing biologists accept and which is taught in classrooms today, is inadequate in explaining our existence. It’s pre the discovery of DNA, lacks a theory for body form and does not accommodate “other” new phenomena.
Say what? Sixteen scientists who recognize that the theory of evolution, which most practicing biologists accept and which is taught in classrooms today, is inadequate in explaining our existence. (Suzan, shhhh, don’t tell anyone, there’s hundreds more over here.)
Mazur seems a bit surprised to find out something that intelligent design advocates have known for years. It is not safe to doubt Darwin.
A wave of scientists now questions natural selection’s relevance, though few will publicly admit it. And with such a fundamental struggle underway, the hurling of slurs such as “looney Marxist hangover”, “philosopher” (a scientist who can’t get grants anymore), “crackpot”, is hardly surprising.
The meeting seems largely to have come about because of Jerry Fodor’s article Why Pigs Don’t Have Wings.
In an act of near-heresy, Fodor wrote:
In fact, an appreciable number of perfectly reasonable biologists are coming to think that the theory of natural selection can no longer be taken for granted. This is, so far, mostly straws in the wind; but it’s not out of the question that a scientific revolution — no less than a major revision of evolutionary theory — is in the offing. Unlike the story about our minds being anachronistic adaptations, this new twist doesn’t seem to have been widely noticed outside professional circles. The ironic upshot is that at a time when the theory of natural selection has become an article of pop culture, it is faced with what may be the most serious challenge it has had so far. Darwinists have been known to say that adaptationism is the best idea that anybody has ever had. It would be a good joke if the best idea that anybody has ever had turned out not to be true.
You can imagine what Eugenie Scott, Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers and the rest of the Darwinian politburo thought about that. Mazur reports:
When I called Fodor to discuss his article, he joked that he was now in the Witness Protection Program because he’d been so besieged following the LRB piece. … Fodor also told me that “you can’t put this stuff in the press because it’s an attack on the theory of natural selection” and besides “99.99% of the population have no idea what the theory of natural selection is”.
Eminent biologist Stanley Salthe read Fodor’s piece and was inspired to start an e-mail debate among a number of leading biologists, which looks to have led to this Altenberg meeting. Interestingly, Salthe, long having been a Darwin dissenter, is pretty straightforward in what he thinks about it all:
“Oh sure natural selection’s been demonstrated. . . the interesting point, however, is that it has rarely if ever been demonstrated to have anything to do with evolution in the sense of long-term changes in populations. . . . Summing up we can see that the import of the Darwinian theory of evolution is just unexplainable caprice from top to bottom. What evolves is just what happened to happen.”
Someone had better call the NCSE and give them a heads up. What’s that? Mazur already has? How’d that work out for her?
Curiously, when I called Kevin Padian, president of NCSE’s board of directors and a witness at the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover trial on Intelligent Design, to ask him about the evolution debate among scientists — he said, “On some things there is not a debate.” He then hung up.
Many different points of view are to be represented at the meeting from Stanley Pivar’s geometric approach, to Fodor’s endogenous variables, to Stuart Kauffman’s ideas on self-organization. Yet one entire field is not represented — intelligent design. It would seem that such a meeting would benefit from including Stephen Meyer or Michael Behe in its discussion as ID researchers, even if only to argue against their ideas.
Regardless, there is a debate (whether the NCSE will admit it or not) and a paradigm shift is on the way.