IF SOMEONE HAD PREDICTED A YEAR AGO that Oxford University Press would publish a book with the subtitle Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian
Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, I might have wondered what alternate universe he was inhabiting.
The longevity of the neo-Darwinian
paradigm, in other words, ought to prompt a general concern about what sort of cultural forces might explain a self-consciously rational society to institute what on the face of it is a highly simplistic approach to a very complex idea.
How much of the generally accepted Neo-Darwinian
theory does the interpretation acknowledge?
This so-called neo-Darwinian
synthesis was selectionist, to be sure, but it did not exclusively rely on random genetic variation of the kind that this book decries as unable to fully account for evolution.
Presented in a debate format, the essays offer different sides of one question, such as whether traits have evolved because of a past advantage, whether species are real, whether selection operates primarily on genes, whether microevolution and macroevolution are governed by the same processes, whether memetics provide a useful way for understanding cultural evolution, whether there is a place for intelligent design in the philosophy of biology, and evolutionary developmental biology versus the neo-Darwinian
Originating at a conference on religion and evolutionary biology held at the Center for Process Studies (Claremont, Calif., October 2004), these 23 papers examine both the standard formulation of what is called the "Neo-Darwinian
synthesis"-the combination of Darwin's insights about random mutation and natural selection with modern genetics--and recent attempts to reconcile that formulation with religion.
Following a summer of intellectual contestation, Carroll then wrote a rejoinder to each respondent, some individually, some as part of an aggregate, arguing with many, confirming the opinions of a few, and dismissive of those constructivists operating mostly out of the old hegemony of "theory." Unfortunately, many of those who consider neo-Darwinian
criticism not worth doing, or irrelevant, stand in a long line of literary people uninterested in the relationships between the sciences and the arts.
Abstract: The recent rise of intelligent design theory in opposition to the Neo-Darwinian
synthesis as an account for the nature of life reflects an underlying shift in the defining ideological polarity of our time.
The Cardinal stated that, "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian
sense--an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection--is not.
For me, b however, simply as a reader of English, the most significant part of the Op-Ed piece was the use of the phrase "neo-Darwinian
dogma." It clearly stands as a rhetorical attempt to diminish a certain set of theories or hypotheses as being less than intellectually honest.
This reasoning is patently absurd, and is imbued with the same illogicality that has given birth to the Darwinian and neo-Darwinian
theories which have collectively been anointed as the official religion of contemporary science: only the fittest survives; what has survived is the fittest.
"Whenever the Neo-Darwinian
doctrine was preached," Shaw writes, "I made no attempt to conceal my intellectual contempt for its blind coarseness and shallow logic, or my natural abhorrence of its sickening inhumanity."