While doing research for an earlier post I ran across a document called a “Leader’s Guide” on one of the official Expelled web-sites. This little bit of propaganda which was created “to assist you with promoting the issues surrounding the film Expelled“. It is filled to the brim with rhetoric, misinformation, out of context quotations, and half-truths that have been staples in antievolutionist literature, since long before the latest version, “intelligent design” evolved from its parent species “creation science” in the late 1980′s. To demonstrate the evolutionary link between these ideologies I will often follow quotes from the Guide (in blue for clarity) with quotes from pre-ID movement, “creation science” sources making identical, or nearly identical, statements.
The “creation science” material I am referencing is mostly from well known young Earth creationists dated prior to 1991, the year Phillip Johnson published Darwin On Trial, which is often said to have launched the ID movement. The use of pre-1991 material ensures that there was no chance of backwards contamination from ID creationists back to “creation science” advocates. Something common in later YEC literature.
The document is divided up into six sections.
- Molecular Biology
- Where does the science lead?
- Why Does It Matter?
I will primarily address the material in sections 1, 3, and 4 which are areas I am more familiar with. This is in no way intended to be a complete refutation of the material found in the “Leader’s Guide”, rather I am just going to hit a few highlights that I felt were particularly telling or egregious.
The introduction begins with a logical fallacy known as an “argumentum ad populum“. The idea that if a lot of people believe something then there must be something to it or that at least it should be seriously considered merely because it is popular. Attached to this fallacy is essentially a conspiracy theory interwoven with an appeal to let the masses decide.
L.G. Despite the fact that most Americans believe that God created life, the only “origin of life” theory taught in the majority of American schools is Neo-Darwinism…
Despite the compelling modern science in support of intelligent design, and despite the fact that most Americans want the evidence for and against Darwin’s theory taught in schools, any questioning of Darwinism is systematically suppressed in nearly all academic and scientific communities.
The suppression of new scientific ideas – particularly those that pertain to the origins of life – presents today’s students with a one-sided argument in the court of public opinion. It’s as if they’re a jury being shown evidence for only ONE SIDE of the case. All evidence from the opposing side is being thrown out of court, not by the jury or even the judge, but by the side presenting the contrary argument!
It’s suppression at its worst, where the implications reach far beyond the classroom. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed seeks to expose this suppression and give today’s students a glimpse into the amazing discoveries that modern science is revealing. In the pages of this Expelled Discussion Guide, you’ll be given the facts being hidden from most students today. (p.2)
Setting aside the argumentum ad populum and the conspiracy theory, we have here a clear echo of the “equal time for creation science” and appeal to fairness that was common in the literature of the ancestor of ID creationism.
To restrict the teaching concerning origins to a single theory, that of organic evolution, and to teach it as an established scientific fact, constitutes indoctrination in a humanistic religious philosophy. Such a procedure violates the Constitutional prohibition against the teaching of sectarian religious views just as clearly as if the teaching concerning origins were restricted to the Book of Genesis. In the spirit of fairness and of academic freedom we plead for a balanced presentation of all the evidence. (Duane Gish 1973, emphasis mine)
In view of the fact that evolution and creation are the only two possible concepts of origins, that evolution requires at least as much of a “religious” faith as does creation, and that creation fits all the “scientific” data at least as well as does evolution, it is clear that both should be taught in the schools and other public institutions of our country, and that this should be done on an equal-time, equal-emphasis basis, in so far as possible.
This is obviously the only equitable and fair approach to take, the only one consistent with traditional American principles of religious freedom, civil rights, freedom of information, scientific objectivity, academic freedom, and constitutionality. (Henry Morris 1975, emphasis mine)
The present practice of programming young minds in public schools to a single religious (and anti-theistic) point of view is unconscionable. Nevertheless, the anti-creationist, the humanist and the liberal theologian continue to demand this new religion, and they are succeeding only because they control curricula in our schools.
Scientific integrity! It doesn’t appear that students can expect to find it among the anti-creationists. On the other hand, creationist scientists are pleading, on behalf of students around the world, for good science, good education, and the highest standards of integrity in science education. These students deserve to hear all the scientific data in an honest context. They deserve to be educated so they can be their own decision makers. This is the essence of “scientific integrity.” (Richard Bliss 1985, emphasis mine)
Of course the viability of scientific theories is not determined by the “court of public opinion”, i.e. the general public (the majority of the jurors in that “court” being scientifically illiterate), rather it is decided by the consensus view of the relevant portion of the scientific community; in this case primarily biologists and paleontologists. Of course the court of science reached its verdict in the case of creation v. evolution nearly 150 years ago, and the facts of nature being what they are, it didn’t go the creationist’s way.
No jury of ill informed lay persons, tainted as they are by creationist propaganda like that found in this Guide, can change the facts of nature.
A theme that runs throughout this document is another creationist staple; that being a not so subtle attempt to characterize evolution as a “random”, “accidental” process, here are the to most blatant examples:
L.G. …Neo-Darwinism, which at its core holds that a random undirected process has led from non-life to all of the marvellous [sic] complexity we see in the living world. (p.2, emphasis mine)
L.G.Darwinian evolution argues that life arose from a primordial sea on a lifeless planet through a chance collision of chemicals, and that over billions of years, this biological accident gave rise to all of life, including humans. In other words: NOTHING + TIME AND CHANCE = EVERYTHING (p.6, emphasis mine)
L.G. What is Darwinism?
- Unguided process produces new forms of life through random mutations
- Nothing + Time/Chance = Everything (outline p. 3, emphasis mine)
Natural selection is mentioned repeatedly (usually in conjunction with random mutation), but its relationship to random mutation in neo-Darwinian theory is never adequately explained. Nor is it made clear that while natural selection may be a “blind”, “unguided” process it is absolutely non-random. Of course, like much in the Guide this mischaracterization of Darwinian evolution as being merely a chance process has its roots in earlier forms of creationism:
At the heart of the evolutionary viewpoint is the assumption that the universe, including its psychological life forms, is the result of a strictly materialistic process involving vast amounts of time and random changes. If one assumes the validity of this “time plus chance” explanation, it becomes very difficult to believe that present natural phenomena are as complex as they might superficially appear. (Paul D. Ackerman 1977, emphasis mine)
Evolutionists ultimately believe, to use an example from commercial television, that frogs turn into princes. But if the mechanism turned out to be the kiss of a princess rather than time, chance, and the properties of matter, then the evolutionary explanation for change would be wrong and the theory falsified in this instance. Whether it’s the changing of frogs into princes, fish into philosophers, or molecules into men, calling evolution a fact without at least broadly specifying a mechanism is both non-science and non-sense – unless evolutionists are willing to consider the kiss of a princess a potentially valid evolutionary hypothesis!
Creationists don’t believe that frogs turn into princes at all, of course, but rather that frogs and people were separately created from the same kinds of molecular “building blocks.” Remember the tumbled pebble and the arrowhead (Fig. 1)? Both were shaped from the same substance, one by the means or mechanism of time and chance acting on the inherent properties of matter; the other by the means of [sic] mechanism of design and creation, producing irreducible properties of organization. Mechanisms – the explanation of how – is, therefore, the heart of the creation/evolution issue. Substance, adaptation, and change are the “givens” or “facts” shared by those on both sides. The central question is: how – by what means or mechanism – did these patterns of order come into being: by time and chance like the tumbled pebble; or, like the arrowhead, by design and creation? (Morris & Parker 1987, pp. 110-111, emphasis mine)
Their real objection is that evolutionary theory seems to conflict with their theological beliefs in an interventionalist deity:
L.G. At its core, Darwinism explicitly excludes purpose or intelligent guidance from the history of the development of life. (p.3)
However, what they really mean is that it excludes supernatural intelligent guidance. This makes evolutionary theory no different than any other scientific theory. Strangely though we don’t hear about how horrible germ theory is given that it excludes supernatural intelligent guidance (except maybe from the followers of Christian Science), or how atomic theory is just a cover for atheism because it excludes supernatural intelligent guidance as an explainatory mechanism.
The difference here is not that evolutionary theory is somehow more “materialistic” or “atheistic” than any other scientific theory; it is that evolutionary theory conflicts with their theology whereas germ and atomic theory do not.
L.G. Despite what we continue to read in the popular press and textbooks, modern science is increasingly raising serious questions about Darwinism along with other key elements of the “materialistic” worldview. (p.3)
There are no “serious questions” about the overall validity of evolutionary theory in the scientific community; though disputes about the details continue, as they do around all well established scientific theories. The only people pushing this business about there being a “controversy” or “serious questions” about evolution, are antievolutionists motivated largely by the fact that evolutionary theory (and often other scientific theories) conflicts with their personal theological beliefs.
L.G. The “Anthropic Principle” states that if the physical structure of the universe were even slightly different, life would not exist. (p.5)
I won’t linger here as cosmology is outside my main area of knowledge (evolutionary biology, paleontology, and creationist claims about them). The whole section seems to be little more than a reiteration of the anthropic principle which always struck me as something akin to being surprised that our legs are long enough to reach the ground. That life like ours exists in a universe suitable to supporting our form of life isn’t terribly shocking. It would be much more puzzling if life like ours existed in a universe that wasn’t suitable to support our form of life.
Molecular Biology section
L.G. When Charles Darwin first proposed his theory, the world within the cell was unknown. Darwin and his contemporaries built their early theories believing the cell was very simple. They could not have been more wrong.
The inner workings of the cell are a fantastic assembly of intricately intertwined biological machinery which is vastly more complicated than anything humans have engineered. (p.6)
It is true that in the mid-19th century, science had not yet learned of how complex the inner workings of the cell are. But at the time, and for that matter even today, living things outside their cells are more complex than anything engineered by humans. The average adult human has something like one trillion cells making up their bodies with different cell types making up our various organs and tissues.
Cell theory was well accepted by the time Darwin published the Origin of Species (1859), so even though he and his contemporaries were not aware of the further complexity of the interior of cells, they did understand that they were dealing with incredibly complex systems. And they faced basically the same argument from creationists of their day, only then the focus was on “organs of extreme perfection” such as the eye, rather than bacterial flagella.
In fact Darwin titled a section of the sixth chapter of the Origin of Species “Organs of extreme Perfection and Complication”. Ironically, the Leader’s Guide prominently quotes the very first paragraph from this section in a sidebar (p.9) to the molecular biology section of the document entitled “Darwin in his own words”.
L.G. “To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” (p.9)
This quote will be recognizable to just about anyone who follows the machinations of the antievolutionist movement, as it is probably the archetypal creationist out-of-context quotation (something they never tire of using).
Darwin himself was acutely aware of this evidence of creation and the problem it posed for his theory. In a chapter of Origin of Species called “Difficulties With the Theory,” he included traits that depend on separately meaningless parts. Consider the human eye with the different features required to focus at different distances, to accommodate different amounts of light, and to correct for the “rainbow effect.” Regarding the origin of the eye Darwin wrote these words:
To suppose the eye, [with so many parts all working together] …could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.
“Absurd in the highest degree.” That’s Darwin’s own opinion of using natural selection to explain the origin of traits that depend on many parts working together. (Morris & Parker 1987, pp. 86-88, emphasis mine)
Charles Darwin acknowledged the utter inadequacy of the evolutionary theory when attempting to account for a structure such as the eye:
“To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree… The belief that an organ as perfect as the eye could have formed by natural selection is more than enough to stagger anyone”
An incomprehensible constellation of favorable, integrated, and synchronized mutations would have to occur to produce an organ such as the eye. (Huse 1983, p. 73, emphasis mine)
Consider the eye, for example, “with all its inimitable contrivances,” as Darwin called them, which can admit different amounts of light, focus at different distances, and correct spherical and chromatic aberration. Consider also the splitting of pigment molecules that must be coupled to nerve impulse initiation, and consider that none of these impulses has any meaning apart from millions of neurons integrated into interpretive centers in the brain. Each of these features of optic structure and function is a complex trait itself, and none of these separate components would have any meaning or “survival value,” until nearly all were put together in a functioning whole of compounded complexities. No wonder Darwin wrote: “To suppose that the eye, … could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” (Gary Parker 1980, emphasis mine)
And just to show you how far back this goes with creationists, here is a 19th century example:
The believer in the teleological argument, that the Supreme Creator worked by design, when He pronounced all things “very good,” naturally thinks of such an object as “the eye,” in contradiction of this speculative theory; but Darwin has anticipated him by candidly owning the weakness of his own argument. “To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” I suppose most persons possessed with the average amount of common sense will agree with him. Nevertheless there are infidels bold enough to declare that this complicated and wonderful organ, the eye, which gives evidence of an Almighty designer more than any thing else in creation, so far from this, proves to be a very poor specimen of workmanship in their estimation. (Savile 1885, pp. 52-53, emphasis mine)
Here is the quote back in context:
To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself originated; but I may remark that, as some of the lowest organisms, in which nerves cannot be detected, are capable of perceiving light, it does not seem impossible that certain sensitive elements in their sarcode should become aggregated and developed into nerves, endowed with this special sensibility.
In searching for the gradations through which an organ in any species has been perfected, we ought to look exclusively to its lineal progenitors; but this is scarcely ever possible, and we are forced to look to other species and genera of the same group, that is to the collateral descendants from the same parent-form, in order to see what gradations are possible, and for the chance of some gradations having been transmitted in an unaltered or little altered condition. But the state of the same organ in distinct classes may incidentally throw light on the steps by which it has been perfected. (Darwin 1872, emphasis mine)
Darwin then continues on for several more paragraphs giving examples.
In the same sidebar we find this quotation which is from the same chapter of the Origin of Species:
L.G.“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” (p.9)
This is another favorite creationist out-of-context target. Once again here is the quote back in context:
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case. No doubt many organs exist of which we do not know the transitional grades, more especially if we look to much-isolated species, round which, according to the theory, there has been much extinction. Or again, if we take an organ common to all the members of a class, for in this latter case the organ must have been originally formed at a remote period, since which all the many members of the class have been developed; and in order to discover the early transitional grades through which the organ has passed, we should have to look to very ancient ancestral forms, long since become extinct.
We should be extremely cautious in concluding that an organ could not have been formed by transitional gradations of some kind. Numerous cases could be given amongst the lower animals of the same organ performing at the same time wholly distinct functions; thus in the larva of the dragon-fly and in the fish Cobitis the alimentary canal respires, digests, and excretes. In the Hydra, the animal may be turned inside out, and the exterior surface will then digest and the stomach respire. In such cases natural selection might specialise, if any advantage were thus gained, the whole or part of an organ, which had previously performed two functions, for one function alone, and thus by insensible steps greatly change its nature. (Darwin 1872, emphasis mine)
Interestingly in the context of this quote Darwin presages the idea of exaptation or “preadaptation“, that structures or organs originally used for one function can, if they are no longer used for their primary purpose, be co-opted for other uses. This principle in both morphological and genetic contexts explains many (if not all) of the “irreducibly complex” features found in living things that creationists claim are unexplainable by evolutionary means.
Next we have the claim that the only source of new “information” is an “intelligent source”:
L.G.What is the source of that information encoded in the DNA? Dr. Stephen Meyer points out that
“Everything we know from our uniform and repeated experience is that information always comes from an intelligent source. So when we find information in the cell in the form of the digital code in DNA, the most likely explanation is that DNA also had an intelligent source.” (p.6)
And this claim by Meyer also traces back to its “creation science” forbearer:
Creationists maintain that highly ordered systems could not arise by chance, since random processes generate disorder rather than order, simplicity rather than complexity and confusion instead of “information.” …This means that, whenever one sees any kind of real ordered complexity in nature, particularly as found in living systems, he can be sure this complexity was designed. (Henry Morris 1979, emphasis mine)
Meyer’s is doing a double bait and switch here. First, ‘information’, we as natural intelligent beings generate (written language, computer programs etc.) comes, in our experience, from natural intelligent sources. If we started receiving alien sitcom reruns coming from the vicinity of Tau Ceti we would assume that the source of the signal was a natural intelligence, something like ourselves, using some technology comparable to what we use to broadcast TV and radio signals.
However, ID creationism advocates are not just calling upon their intelligent designer to create new information in the DNA of living things. They argue that the designer set up the conditions of the entire universe. Or as comedian Jon Stewart quipped when describing ID proponents: “they’re not saying its God, just someone with the basic skill set to create an entire working universe.” In other words they’re not arguing for another natural intelligence like ours at all, but a supernatural intelligence of a sort that is not part of “our uniform and repeated experience.”
Secondly we have no experience whatsoever of biological information being generated by anything other than natural processes (mutation and selection).
L.G. Dr. Michael Behe (Professor of Biochemistry, Lehigh University) says, “Molecular evolution is not based on scientific authority. There is no publication in the scientific literature—in prestigious journals, specialty journals, or books—that describes how molecular evolution of any real, complex, biochemical system either did occur or even might have occurred.” (p.7)
Putting this quote in context, it was said during his direct testimony, at the Dover Pennsylvania intelligent design trial (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District). During the trial Behe was confronted with the scientific literature on one of the complex biochemical systems that he talked about in his book Darwin’s Black Box (1996), the immune system. The journal Nature published a commentary on what happened when he was cross-examined by one of the plaintiff’s attorneys’ on this subject:
During cross-examination by the plaintiffs’ lead counsel Eric Rothschild, Behe reiterated his claim about the scientific literature on the evolution of the immune system, testifying that “the scientific literature has no detailed testable answers on how the immune system could have arisen by random mutation and natural selection.” Rothschild then presented Behe with a thick file of publications on immune system evolution, dating from 1971 to 2006, plus several books and textbook chapters. Asked for his response, Behe admitted he had not read many of the publications presented (a small
fraction of all the literature on evolutionary immunology of the past 35 years), but summarily rejected them as unsatisfactory and dismissed the idea of doing research on the topic as “unfruitful.”
This exchange clearly made an impression on Judge Jones, who specifically described it in his opinion:
In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not ‘good enough.’
We find that such evidence demonstrates that the ID argument is dependent upon setting a scientifically unreasonable burden of proof for the theory of evolution.
Other important scientific points stood out during trial relating to other purported irreducibly complex systems such as the flagellum and the clotting cascade, the nature of science itself and the lack of experimental tests and supporting peer-reviewed publications for ID. But the stark contrast between the lively and productive field of evolutionary immunology and the stubborn refusal by ID advocates such as Behe to even consider the evidence was undoubtedly crucial in convincing the judge that the ID movement has little to do with science. As Rothschild remarked in his closing argument,
Thankfully, there are scientists who do search for answers to the question of the origin of the immune system. It’s the immune system. It’s our defense against debilitating and fatal diseases. The scientists who wrote those books and articles toil in obscurity, without book royalties or speaking engagements. Their efforts help us combat and cure serious medical conditions. By contrast, Professor Behe and the entire intelligent design movement are doing nothing to advance scientific or medical knowledge and are telling future generations of scientists, don’t bother. (
So contrary to Behe’s claim there has been work published in the scientific literature on the evolution of complex biochemical systems, it is just that Dr. Behe doesn’t like what they have to say, or perhaps he doesn’t even care.
L.G. Breeding essentially mixes and matches among all the genes in an existing gene pool, much like you would shuffle and deal a deck of cards. But breeding cannot create new genes, any more than shuffling a deck can create new cards. (p.7)
Darwin didn’t even know about genetic mutations or DNA, he only spoke of variations. And while it is true that breeding (artificial selection) doesn’t create new genes, no one from Darwin onward ever claimed otherwise:
Man can hardly select, or only with much difficulty, any deviation of structure excepting such as is externally visible; and indeed he rarely cares for what is internal. He can never act by selection, excepting on variations which are first given to him in some slight degree by nature. No man would ever try to make a fantail till he saw a pigeon with a tail developed in some slight degree in an unusual manner, or a pouter till he saw a pigeon with a crop of somewhat unusual size; and the more abnormal or unusual any character was when it first appeared, the more likely it would be to catch his attention. (Darwin 1872, emphasis mine)
We now understand that mutations create new genes (new variations) randomly with respect to the needs of the organisms. Natural and artificial selection, which are both non-random processes, act on these mutations to produce adaptive (in the case of natural selection) changes in populations over time.
L.G. Plus, selective breeding of plants and animals is a process guided by intelligence, not mere chance and survival of the fittest—unlike Darwinian evolution.
Yet Darwinists from Charles Darwin to Francis Crick to Richard Dawkins have continued to cite selective breeding as if it were a powerful example of unguided “evolution”! (p.7)
Darwin cited artificial selection merely to show the power of selective processes to bring about morphological changes in living things and to argue that an analogous process (natural selection) could do likewise.
In the case of artificial selection it is the breeder who selects for some particular shape or color etc. in a plant or animal from the available variations they find in a captive population of organisms. Those they select are bred again, the rest are weeded out. With natural selection it is the differential reproductive success of organisms in their particular environments which “guides” adaptive changes.
L.G. What about the power of mutations to promote evolution by introducing dramatic changes in an organism—like adding an extra pair of wings to a fruit-fly? (p.7)
As is typical with antievolutionists they focus on large scale mutations (macromutations). While these are obvious and dramatic, they are not thought by most evolutionary biologists to play a major role in evolution compared to the smaller less obvious mutations, which all living things have in varying amounts.
L.G. Scientists are still struggling to understand the full impact of mutations on living things, but what they do know is that the vast majority of mutations are damaging to an organism or neutral. Far less than one percent might actually be beneficial. (p.7)
Also from another side bar:
L.G. Mutations are almost always harmful or neutral, and those that are beneficial cannot create genuinely new genetic information. (p.8)
This is yet more warmed over creationist rhetoric that they have been spouting for decades:
Creationists maintain that it is extremely doubtful if a truly beneficial mutation ever occurs. A random change in a highly complex and intricately coordinated machine could produce only disorder and loss of function. Even if a beneficial mutation could occur, a mutation could only bring about a change in an existing characteristic and thus could not create any new trait or generate increasing complexity. (Duane Gish 1975), emphasis mine)
Something that should always be remembered is that what is deleterious and what is beneficial are not necessarily absolutes. What might be a deleterious mutation in one environment may be beneficial in another. Nor do mutations that might be beneficial overall necessarily come without a downside.
For example a single copy of the sickle cell gene is beneficial for people in malaria ridden areas granting them resistance to the disease and therefore allowing them to survive at much higher rates than those with out the gene. The downside is persons born with two copies of the gene suffer from sickle cell anemia. So the distinction between deleterious and beneficial is not always clear cut.
L.G. So how can incomprehensibly complex organisms be the result of mutations that are rarely if ever beneficial? (p.7)
This can be so because natural selection acts as ratcheting filter, weeding out the large number of mutations that are deleterious, ignoring neutral mutations that may become deleterious or beneficial in an ever changing environment, and preserving the few beneficial (under present conditions) mutations that do occur.
L.G. As biologist Lynn Margulis at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has concluded: “New mutations don’t create new species; they create offspring that are impaired.” (p.7)
Setting aside this particular quote from Dr. Margulis (which comes from a newspaper article rather than a peer reviewed source), it is interesting nonetheless to note that they are quoting her at all. This is because she is a good counter example to their claims that anyone who questions the “Darwinian orthodoxy” is subject to censure and expulsion.
You see, despite the fact that Margulis is respected for her work on endosymbiotic theory – the now widely accepted explanation for the origin of eukaryotic cells (cells with a nucleus and organelles like chloroplastsmitochondria) – she has significantly parted ways with the majority of biologists in her fervor to promote symbiosis as a major explanatory factor in evolution. and
However, despite the fact that she is promoting a “non-Darwinian” mechanism for evolutionary change and often says unflattering things about neo-Darwinian theory, she has not been censured or expelled.
Not only is she not shunned by biologists with more traditional views but they sometimes even go out of there way to encourage the airing of her ideas in spite of their disagreement. For example one of Margulis’ more recent books (coauthored with her son Dorion Sagan) Acquiring Genomes: A theory of the origin of species (2002), argues that random mutation is of “marginal importance” in evolution and that a more significant source of new genes comes via what she calls “symbiotic merger”. But despite this blatant departure from standard neo-Darwinian theory the foreword of the book was written by the late Ernst Mayr (one of the founders of the modern evolutionary synthesis).
Mayr makes it clear in his foreword that he disagrees strongly with many of the ideas set forth in the book but nevertheless thinks that she and her coauthor have interesting and important things to say.
This seems greatly at odds with the idea that the “Darwinian establishment” squelches dissent. Perhaps it is because her ideas, though they may not be accepted by other biologists, are still natural testable hypotheses, not patently religious beliefs masquerading as science.
End part 1 of 2 (click here for part 2)
Bottaro Andrea et al (2006) “Immunology in the spotlight at the Dover ‘Intelligent Design’ trial“, Nature Immunology 7:433-435
Bourchier Wrey Savile (1885) The Neanderthal Skull on Evolution in an address supposed to be delivered A.D. 2085
Darwin, Charles (1872) On the Origin of Species, 6th Ed.
Huse, Scott (1983) The Collapse of Evolution
Morris, Henry & Parker, Gary (1987) What is Creation Science (Revised Edition).