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Beyond the Flow of Pro-ID Scientific Publications, a Much Greater Ferment of Doubt About Darwinism

David Klinghoffer

Casey Luskin has done fantastic work in tracking and now analyzing (in a currently ongoing series) the flow of peer-reviewed articles supporting intelligent design in mainstream science journals. This is notwithstanding the persistent Myth of No Peer-Reviewed Publications that you still hear. “The intelligent design movement has not published a properly peer-reviewed article in a scientific journal,” as Wikipedia notes authoritatively.
So far the science-deniers haven’t responded to our newly updated page listing peer-reviewed pro-ID scientific papers. I wonder how many will have the guts and honesty to admit they were wrong. Some Darwin defenders may respond by shifting the goal post, pretending they never said there was no ID research going on but turning nimbly to mock the number of papers that have appeared as being too small to be worthy of notice. They would be missing the point that, as ENV observes, ID is a young and underfunded field — given which, fifty-plus papers in a few years with more on the way is pretty good.
But describing the extent of peer-reviewed pro-ID research leaves aside the equally impressive evidence of ferment among scientists who don’t support ID but who do trash the primary Darwinian thesis that natural selection has the creative power to conjure the wonder of life as it has unfolded over the course of billion of years.
Recently ENV hosted an online debate between a leading representative of that perspective (anti-ID, anti-Darwin) — University of Chicago’s James Shapiro — and ID theorist William Dembski. Now our friend Denyse O’Leary at Uncommon Descent points out a frank confession in the Oxford University Press journal Genome Biology and Evolution. Reviewing Shapiro’s current book, Evolution: A View from the 21st Century, Adam Wilkins writes:

The book’s contention that natural selection’s importance for evolution has been hugely overstated represents a point of view that has a growing set of adherents. (A few months ago, I was amazed to hear it expressed, in the strongest terms, from another highly eminent microbiologist.) My impression is that evolutionary biology is increasingly separating into two camps, divided over just this question. On the one hand are the population geneticists and evolutionary biologists who continue to believe that selection has a “creative” and crucial role in evolution and, on the other, there is a growing body of scientists (largely those who have come into evolution from molecular biology, developmental biology or developmental genetics, and microbiology) who reject it. In contrast to Victorian scientists who regarded Darwinian natural selection as incapable of creating high degrees of biological complexity, the modern sceptics tend to regard it as of trivial importance: the “right” variant for the right place and time arises and, presto, the population changes! The two contemporary groups, divided over this point, are not so much talking past each another as ignoring one another. This cannot be a constructive situation though whether it has the makings of a full-fledged Kuhnian paradigm-crisis is too soon to tell.

Wilkins criticizes Shapiro’s book, but the point to take away is his depiction of a scholarly field profoundly rent by disagreement on the doctrine — evolution by natural selection — that we were always told to accept by faith as being at the very foundation of modern biology, totally indispensible to it, without a full and unquestioning adherence to which the contemporary high school biology student like the well-informed adult and the professional scientist would be utterly lost and bereft.
Note well, the candid admission of a Darwin defender: “My impression is that evolutionary biology is increasingly separating into two camps, divided over just this question.” This is the evolution controversy that supposedly doesn’t exist.
Here’s a further illustration from another peer-reviewed article that came across my desk just yesterday. In Biological Theory, David J. Depew and Bruce H. Weber consider “The Fate of Darwinism: Evolution After the Modern Synthesis.” They

trace the history of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, and of genetic Darwinism generally, with a view to showing why, even in its current versions, it can no longer serve as a general framework for evolutionary theory. The main reason is empirical. Genetical Darwinism cannot accommodate the role of development (and of genes in development) in many evolutionary processes.

And so on. Here at ENV, we’ve covered some of the traffic in skepticism about Darwinian theory, mainly kept out of the public view, from scientists with no ID affiliations or sympathies. From all the available evidence, the bubbling doubt from those quarters dwarfs actual expressions of support for intelligent design, yet is equally ominous for Darwinism. Tracking it all is a task that would challenge even Casey.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.



Darwinian theoryintelligent designJames Shapiropeer-reviewScience