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Does Nothing In Biology Make Sense Except in the Light of Evolution?

Casey Luskin

A recent article in The Scientist titled “The Devolution of Evolution” states:

Nearly 40 years ago Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” How is it, then, that so few newly minted PhDs in the biological sciences have taken any formal graduate school courses in evolution or biodiversity? This fosters a knowledge gap that can become difficult to fill by “osmosis” later in a scientific career. Consider the two to five years of intense postdoctoral work, followed by the even more challenging process of earning tenure. Success requires complete dedication to a specialized field of knowledge for professors who then act as advisors for the next generation of scientists, judge hundreds of submitted papers and dozens of grants, and chart new research directions.

To some extent the problem appears to be hereditary: a generation of biologists without an adequate background in evolution gave rise to a second generation of biologists who came of age during the molecular biology boom of the 1980s and 1990s. These trends could now repeat with a third generation working in the current genomic era that began early in the 21st century.

Frankly, the answer is so obvious that few committed evolutionists will accept it: Much in biology can make sense outside of the light of neo-Darwinian evolution.

The article concludes: “As Peter Medawar eloquently put it, ‘The alternative to thinking in evolutionary terms is not to think at all.'” But it seems that the past two generations of biologists, who have made many of the most important advances in the history of biology were supposedly working without “an adequate background in evolution.” They seem to be doing just fine.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.