Evolutionary Theorist Concedes: Evolution “Largely Avoids” Biggest Questions of Biological Origins
At this past November’s Royal Society meeting, “New Trends in Evolutionary Biology,” the distinguished Austrian evolutionary theorist Gerd B. Müller gave the first presentation. As we’ve noted before, it was a devastating one for anyone who wants to think that, on the great questions of biological origins, orthodox evolutionary theory has got it all figured out. Instead, Müller pointed to gaping “explanatory deficits” in the theory. Now the Royal Society’s journal Interface Focus offers a special issue collecting articles based on talks from the conference.
Let’s see what Dr. Müller has to say in an article titled, “Why an extended evolutionary synthesis is necessary.” A friend highlights the following paragraph, with his own emphasis added.
As can be noted from the listed principles, current evolutionary theory is predominantly oriented towards a genetic explanation of variation, and, except for some minor semantic modifications, this has not changed over the past seven or eight decades. Whatever lip service is paid to taking into account other factors than those traditionally accepted, we find that the theory, as presented in extant writings, concentrates on a limited set of evolutionary explananda, excluding the majority of those mentioned among the explanatory goals above. The theory performs well with regard to the issues it concentrates on, providing testable and abundantly confirmed predictions on the dynamics of genetic variation in evolving populations, on the gradual variation and adaptation of phenotypic traits, and on certain genetic features of speciation. If the explanation would stop here, no controversy would exist. But it has become habitual in evolutionary biology to take population genetics as the privileged type of explanation of all evolutionary phenomena, thereby negating the fact that, on the one hand, not all of its predictions can be confirmed under all circumstances, and, on the other hand, a wealth of evolutionary phenomena remains excluded. For instance, the theory largely avoids the question of how the complex organizations of organismal structure, physiology, development or behavior — whose variation it describes — actually arise in evolution, and it also provides no adequate means for including factors that are not part of the population genetic framework, such as developmental, systems theoretical, ecological or cultural influences.
Uh, whoa. Or as our friend says, “BOOM.” Read that again. Müller says that “current evolutionary theory…largely avoids the question of how the complex organizations of organismal structure, physiology, development or behavior…actually arise in evolution.” But how stuff “actually arises” is precisely what most people think of when they think of “evolution.”
Says our friend, see Michael Behe in The Edge of Evolution, where Dr. Behe asks, “The big question, however, is not, ‘Who will survive, the more fit or the less fit?’ The big question is, ‘How do organisms become more fit?’” Müller concedes that conventional evolutionary thinking “largely avoids” this “big question.” Though expressed in anodyne terms, that is a damning indictment.
Here are some other gems from the paper…
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