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High-Level Defectors from Evolutionary Theory Leave a Top Darwin Defender Feeling “Disturbed”

David Klinghoffer

At Why Evolution Is True, Jerry Coyne is troubled by the increasingly unmanageable problem of high-level academic defectors from evolutionary theory:

Virtually all of the non-creationist opposition to the modern theory of evolution, and all of the minimal approbation of [Coyne’s University of Chicago colleague James] Shapiro’s views, come from molecular biologists. I’m not sure whether there’s something about that discipline (the complexity of molecular mechanisms?) that makes people doubt the efficacy of natural selection, or whether it’s simply that many molecular biologists don’t get a good grounding in evolutionary biology.
And now we learn that another respected philosopher (Jerry Fodor was the first) has come out against neo-Darwinism, too: the distinguished philosopher Thomas Nagel is about to issue Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Concept of Nature is Almost Certainly False.

He promises to read and review Nagel’s book (from Oxford U. Press), noted here earlier by John West, a brief description of which Coyne already finds “disturbing.”
You may recall Nagel’s warm approbation of intelligent-design theorists (though he himself is not an ID advocate):

I believe the defenders of intelligent design deserve our gratitude for challenging a scientific world view that owes some of the passion displayed by its adherents precisely to the fact that it is thought to liberate us from religion. That world view is ripe for displacement….

Of course we know that the number of Darwin doubters who are professional scientists or philosophers — and who are not “creationists” on anyone’s reasonable definition — is much higher than Coyne is willing to concede. But his admission is significant nevertheless.
The standard talking point among Darwin advocates had been that there exists no genuine scientific opposition to Darwinian theory, whether among molecular biologists or anyone else who isn’t a “creationist” or otherwise under the spell of Iron Age religious beliefs. How easily and comfortably that idea used to tumble from the mouths of Darwin defenders and lobbyists.
But the party line has grown so obviously unsupportable that even Coyne is driven to take refuge in the rationalization that it’s only (or “virtually” so) some molecular biologists who are somehow misled. Misled by what? By their own superior knowledge of the inner workings of life at its most basic levels, it seems. They fail to understand because, well, they understand too much!
That’s a fallback position that, I think it’s evident, isn’t going to last long either.