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Biologist Laments, “I Want Deeply for [Darwinism] to Make Sense”

David Klinghoffer

In his important new book, coming out on September 12 from HarperOne, State University of New York biologist J. Scott Turner tells the story about the Christmas pony. As a gift for a child who wants a pony, a poor family could afford only a pile of horse manure. Traipsing downstairs on Christmas morning to behold this well-intentioned mess, the child delightedly squealed and clapped.

Her parents asked her why. She answered, “Because I know there’s a pony in there somewhere.”

In evaluating the coherence of Darwinian theory, Dr. Turner finds many of his fellow biologists in much the same mood. Squealing and clapping, they know there’s a coherent theory in there somewhere.

His book, Purpose and Desire: What Makes Something “Alive” and Why Modern Darwinism Has Failed to Explain It, underlines that Turner is not an “anti-Darwinist.” On the contrary, he explains that “I want deeply for it” – meaning the modern theory of Darwinian evolution – “to make sense.” The reasons for his disillusion, which he outlines in this fascinating contribution to the evolution debate, turn upon long-ignored problems with the theory, and counterevidence from the mysterious nature of life itself.

It is still a couple of months too early for reviews of Purpose and Desire, but Kirkus welcomes it with a pre-publication starred review as an “ingenious mixture of science and philosophy that points out major defects in Darwinism and then delivers heterodox but provocative solutions…a highly thought-provoking book.”

Turner writes:

For the longest time, we’ve been able to fudge these problems, carried along on the faith that, to paraphrase the punch line of an old joke, there had to be a pony in there somewhere. But the dread possibility is beginning to rear its head; what if the pony isn’t there?

The problem for modern Darwinism is, I argue, that we lack a coherent theory of the core Darwinian concept of adaptation.

It all unravels from there, thanks to unexpected insights from Biology’s Second Law – homeostasis – and the great 19th-century French physiologist Claude Bernard, writing just six years after Darwin’s Origin of Species. After some delay, the crisis for the evolutionary biologist is at hand.

Without giving away any more punch lines, I recommend this: Pre-order Purpose and Desire now, because if you do so, for a limited time only, you’ll also get two free e-books to go along with it. The free e-books are Fire-Maker: How Humans Were Designed to Harness Fire and Transform Our Planet, by biologist Michael Denton, and Metamorphosis, which I edited as a companion to the Illustra Media documentary. Find the details here. (Note: When we first pointed out this offer, the web page wasn’t working correctly. It’s now fixed.)

Well. Turner’s book is a great read, and while he’s not a proponent of ID, he turns a fresh new page for the case for design in nature. Promise: We’ll have more to say about his argument in due time.

Photo credit: © Azaliya (Elya Vatel) — stock.adobe.com.