James Shapiro Article and Neo-Darwinism

Fri, 11 Sep 1998 06:28:41 EDT

In a message dated 9/6/98 Loren Haarsma wrote:

<<If we're going to discuss those developments (referring to Shapiro's
article) and their implications for "Intelligent Design" and "Neo-Darwinism,"
I'd like to nail down a little better how those two terms are being used. Do
you mean Neo-Darwinism in the narrow sense --- as Shapiro described it --- of
macroevolution via "...localized random mutation, selection operating 'one
gene at a time' (John Maynard Smith's formulation), and gradual modification
of individual functions"? Or do you mean Neo-Darwinism in the broader sense,
as the term is often used, to
refer to the idea of macroevolution via the entire suite of natural
mechanisms, including those Shapiro describes? If your point is that these
modern developments are at odds with Neo-Darwinism in the narrow sense, then I
agree. But I'm not so sure that these new developments are at odds with Neo-
Darwinism in the broad sense.


You have hit on an important question: How is evolution to be defined?

What is "Neo-Darwinism in the broad sense" to which you refer? Neo-Darwinism
itself is clearly defined. It is *natural selection*, i. e., genetic
variation, with the environment sorting out and selecting the most adaptive
and reproductively successful phenotypes. It is *Neo* because it adds the
understanding of genetics initiated by Mendel, with the concept of mutations,
which was lacking in the vague idea of *individual variability* that Darwin
utilized, not knowing anything about genetics.

If my definition of Neo-Darwinism is correct, then what do you add to it that
qualifies as "Neo-Darwinism in the broad sense"? How do you broaden it? What
is this "entire suite of natural mechanisms" to which you refer? How do you
avoid a "grab-bag definition of evolution, which in the end defines nothing?
Would it not be better to give it a new name, such as, "pan-evolution" or
"change in general" and not tie it to the basic Darwinian concept of evolution
which, at its core, is natural selection?

Thanks for your thoughts on this matter.