Bravo! Here’s an important new website to explore that puts a serious dent in the view that only "creationists" seek an alternative theory to neo-Darwinism. It’s The Third Way, subtitled Evolution in the Era of Genomics and Epigenomics. No, these are not advocates of intelligent design by any means. This is very significant.
TTW is populated by a group of scientists including microbiologist and sometimes ENV contributor James Shapiro of the University of Chicago, along with similarly minded researchers at the University of Oxford, MIT, Princeton, UCLA, universities around the world (Tel Aviv, Haifa, Vienna, Bonn, etc.), and elsewhere. The site gives its "rationale" as follows:
The vast majority of people believe that there are only two alternative ways to explain the origins of biological diversity. One way is Creationism that depends upon supernatural intervention by a divine Creator. The other way is Neo-Darwinism, which has elevated Natural Selection into a unique creative force that solves all the difficult evolutionary problems. Both views are inconsistent with significant bodies of empirical evidence and have evolved into hard-line ideologies. There is a need for a more open "third way" of discussing evolutionary change based on empirical observations.
That second sentence could be more accurately formulated:
One way, very loosely speaking, that includes Biblical creationism and the scientific theory of intelligent design either insists on (in the case of creationism) or (in the case of ID) sees no grounds in biology for ruling out the possibility of guidance by a creator or designer outside nature.
But we’ll let that go. The folks at TTW are correct that thought about evolution is in a state of high ferment. That is the great forbidden fact that popular science reporting and commentary conceal from the public. Scientists increasingly sense the inadequacy of Darwinian theory and are looking for a replacement. This ferment is by no means driven by religious fervor, but instead by the recognition of "significant bodies of empirical evidence" at odds with neo-Darwinism.
They go on:
Even today, the general public, and many scientists, are not aware of decades of research in evolutionary science, molecular biology and genome sequencing which provide alternative answers to how novel organisms have originated in the long history of life on earth. This web site is dedicated to making the results of that research available and to offering a forum to expose novel scientific thinking about the evolutionary process. The DNA record does not support the assertion that small random mutations are the main source of new and useful variations. We now know that the many different processes of variation involve well-regulated cell action on DNA molecules.
Genomes merge, shrink and grow, acquire new DNA components, and modify their structures by well-documented cellular and biochemical processes. Most of the scientists referenced on this web site have come to a wide range of conclusions about different aspects of evolutionary change. Many see evolution as a complex process with distinct mechanisms and stages rather than a phenomenon explainable by a small number of principles. The divergences and multiplicity of ideas, opinions and theories on this website are necessary since many fields of evolutionary biology remain relatively unexplored.
We’ll keep a close eye on The Third Way, wishing this group of daring scholars much success in helping to turn the ship of evolutionary biology slowly, slowly on a new course.
Image credit: Grant Hutchinson/Flickr.