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Elephant in the Room: Douglas Axe Reports from the Royal Society

David Klinghoffer


With a palpable tension, as two scientist friends pointed out here yesterday, Day 2 of the Royal Society meeting, “New Trends in Evolutionary Biology,” is getting underway now, at 9 am in London. Apart from our confidential informants in the audience, protein chemist Douglas Axe is present and openly reporting the proceedings via Twitter.

Dr. Axe is, as you know, the author of Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed. His observations so far:

After Day 1, Royal Society meeting feels like a turf war with a large elephant in the room. Emphasis seems to be on whether certain trendy aspects of evolutionary bio are novel enough and important enough to be called a new theory. Examples: phenotypic plasticity, extra-genetic inheritance, developmental constraints, niche construction. Agreed to be real by all present. Disagreement centers on whether these phenomena have taken or should take evolutionary thinking in a substantially new direction. Bigger issue, recognized by dozens present, is that none of these additions enable the theory to explain how genuinely new things originate. Until reframed with intelligent causation at center, evolutionary theory will continue to be an “origins theory” that can’t explain origins.

Interesting. So the elephant is recognized by many in the room, but simply not acknowledged except indirectly, perhaps, in a growl yesterday from Russell Lande about how, “We all here agree on Darwin, except for some fundamentalist fanatics out there.

Wouldn’t he be surprised to know how many such “fanatics” are seated quietly about him at this moment?

Photo: Fényköv Elephant, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, by Tim Evanson [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m on Twitter. Follow me @d_klinghoffer.