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Darwinian Evolution Gets Left Behind

Casey Luskin

Though insightful into the tactics of what they call the “anti-scientific left,” Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell’s book Science Left Behind has some serious flaws.

For example, Berezow and Campbell themselves call opposition to evolution “anti-science” (p. 10), saying that when “a politician denies evolution, it makes him look unintelligent.” (p. 240) They clearly don’t care about this issue, barely touching on it and stating that “the silly protracted ‘debate’ over evolution is little more than a minor nuisance.” (p. 239-240) They use false stereotypes to label Darwin-skeptics in the same way that people on what they call the “anti-science left” demonize Darwin-skeptics.

Berezow and Campbell probably don’t realize that there’s much credible scientific doubt about neo-Darwinian theory. Over 800 Ph.D. scientists have signed a “scientific dissent from Darwinism,” bravely declaring that they “are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life” and thus “Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” Likewise, as I explained in a recent issue of Salvo magazine, there are many scientific problems with both chemical evolution and biological evolution:

The Miller-Urey experiments, which supposedly showed how a primordial “soup” arose on the early Earth, have been discredited because they inaccurately modeled the atmosphere. The RNA world hypothesis is plagued by difficulties with creating RNA under natural conditions. No model makes a serious attempt to explain the origin of biological information.
In 2007, Harvard chemist George Whitesides was given the Priestley Medal, the highest award of the American Chemical Society. During his acceptance speech, he offered this stark analysis:

The Origin of Life. This problem is one of the big ones in science. It begins to place life, and us, in the universe. Most chemists believe, as do I, that life emerged spontaneously from mixtures of molecules in the prebiotic Earth. How? I have no idea.1

[…] The standard neo-Darwinian view holds that natural selection acting upon random mutations was the driving force that accounts for life’s diversity. But a growing number of highly credible scientists doubt this position. Lynn Margulis, a premier scientist herself and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences until her recent death, explained in a 2011 interview:

[N]eo-Darwinists say that new species emerge when mutations occur and modify an organism. I was taught over and over again that the accumulation of random mutations led to evolutionary change [which] led to new species. I believed it until I looked for evidence.3

According to Margulis, “new mutations don’t create new species; they create offspring that are impaired.” 4

The Altenberg 16
In 2008, sixteen biologists from around the world convened in Altenberg, Austria, to discuss problems with the neo-Darwinian synthesis. The top journal Nature covered this “Altenberg 16” conference, quoting leading scientists saying things like: “The modern synthesis is remarkably good at modeling the survival of the fittest, but not good at modeling the arrival of the fittest,” and “the origin of wings and the invasion of the land . . . are things that evolutionary theory has told us little about.”5

According to Susan Mazur, a science journalist who covered the conference, these sixteen are not alone. She reported that there are “hundreds of other evolutionary scientists (non-creationists) who contend that natural selection is politics, not science, and that we are in a quagmire because of staggering commercial investment in a Darwinian industry built on an inadequate theory.”6

The year after Altenberg 16, Eugene Koonin of the National Center for Biotechnology Information stated in Trends in Genetics that breakdowns in core neo-Darwinian tenets, such as the “traditional concept of the tree of life” or the view that “natural selection is the main driving force of evolution” indicate that “the modern synthesis has crumbled, apparently, beyond repair.” “Not to mince words,” Koonin concluded, “the modern synthesis is gone.”7


One of the faltering tenets of neo-Darwinism mentioned by Eugene Koonin is the “tree of life.” In Salvo 21, we saw that Francis Collins snidely compared those who doubt universal common ancestry to flat-earthers; nevertheless, the revolution in DNA sequencing has provided immense amounts of data that challenge universal common ancestry. The fundamental problem is that one gene gives you one version of the tree of life, while another gene yields an entirely different and conflicting version of the tree.

Numerous examples of this problem are recounted in the literature. To give a recent one, a June 2012 article in Nature reported that short strands of RNA called microRNAs “are tearing apart traditional ideas about the animal family tree.” Dartmouth biologist Kevin Peterson, who studies microRNAs, lamented, “I’ve looked at thousands of microRNA genes, and I can’t find a single example that would support the traditional tree.” Peterson put it bluntly: “The microRNAs are totally unambiguous . . . they give a totally different tree from what everyone else wants.” 8

I could go on with examples like this. Unfortunately, in the same way, Berezow and Campbell don’t examine any of the current scientific skepticism towards biological and chemical evolution. Darwinian evolution gets left behind.

References Cited:
1. George M. Whitesides, “Revolutions in Chemistry,” Chemical and Engineering News 85 (3/26/07), pp. 12-17.
2. Francis Collins and Karl Giberson, The Language of Science and Faith (InterVarsity Press, 2011), pp. 31, 34.
3. Quoted in “Lynn Margulis: Q + A,” Discover Magazine (Apr. 2011), p. 68.
4. Darry Madden, “UMass Scientist to Lead Debate on Evolutionary Theory,” Brattleboro Reformer (2/3/06).
5. Scott Gilbert, Stuart Newman, and Graham Budd, quoted in John Whitfield, “Biological theory: Postmodern evolution?” Nature 455: 281-284 (9/17/08).
6. Susan Mazur, The Altenberg 16: An Expos� of the Evolution Industry (North Atlantic Books, 2010), p. 55.
7. Eugene V. Koonin, “The Origin at 150: Is a new evolutionary synthesis in sight?” Trends in Genetics 25(11): 473-475 (2009).
8. Elie Dolgin, “Rewriting Evolution,” Nature 486: 460-462 (6/28/12).


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.