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On Neo-Darwinism, Denis Noble Puts It Bluntly (and Accurately)

Paul Nelson

At Why Evolution Is True, Jerry Coyne sputters with indignation that Oxford physiologist Denis Noble had the effrontery — the sheer gall — to criticize textbook evolutionary theory in a public lecture available on YouTube:

Coyne admits that Noble’s

contributions to physiology are apparently multifarious, though I confess I don’t know much about Noble or what he did. Nevertheless, in his dotage he’s taken to writing and talking about how modern evolutionary biology (“neo-Darwinism” or “the Modern Synthesis”) is wrong.

MoLCover.jpgBut Noble has been deeply critical of neo-Darwinism for many years. See, for instance, his beautiful short book from Oxford University Press, The Music of Life: Biology Beyond Genes, published in 2006, which presents a very insightful critique of the main assumptions of the Modern Synthesis.
So why did Coyne miss The Music of Life, or Noble’s many articles on the same theme?
One can only guess, so I’ll do so. For Jerry, neo-Darwinism simply is The Settled Truth, with minor details (such as development) to be clarified later. When one has The Settled Truth in hand, there is little point in reading or thinking elsewhere. So don’t bother.
And Jerry Coyne doesn’t bother, until someone brings (for instance) a YouTube video to his attention.
The lecture by Noble that got under Coyne’s skin is really spot-on. He explains, for example, that DNA, by itself, is entirely an inert molecule. Stone cold dead, directing nothing, doing nothing.
See here for an online sourcebook supplementing The Music of Life — a valuable resource.

Paul Nelson

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Paul A. Nelson is currently a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute and Adjunct Professor in the Master of Arts Program in Science & Religion at Biola University. He is a philosopher of biology who has been involved in the intelligent design debate internationally for three decades. His grandfather, Byron C. Nelson (1893-1972), a theologian and author, was an influential mid-20th century dissenter from Darwinian evolution. After Paul received his B.A. in philosophy with a minor in evolutionary biology from the University of Pittsburgh, he entered the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. (1998) in the philosophy of biology and evolutionary theory.



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