RE: What's Neo-darwinism?

John E. Rylander (
Wed, 6 Oct 1999 10:10:26 -0500

> Bertvan
> > >I say
> > >let's forget "random mutation and natural selection" and try to figure
> what
> > >really might have happened. In my opinion there are several
> possibilities.
> > >Horizontal transfer of DNA, as is being pursued by panspermia.
> Some kind
> of
> > >symbiosis, as is favored by Margulus. Or the possibility that DNA
> itself is
> > >alive and creative, as is being pursued by Shapiro. None of these
> > >possibilities could be construed as Neo Darwinism.
> >
> Susan
> > I haven't heard of many of these, but as described here by you,
> they also
> do
> > not contradict neodarwinism.
> Chris
> Some of them have, in fact, been advocated or supported by neo-darwinists.
> Neo-darwinists are not particularly choosy about the naturalistic
> mechanisms
> that evolution may involve. They are willing to allow anything
> that doesn't
> involve design or purpose for the basic process. Whether it is called
> "random" or not is partly a semantic issue. The term is misleadingly
> ambiguous. "Without purpose" would be better for the naturalistic view,
> which does not suggest that there are no patterns, but only that the
> patterns are naturalistic patterns.

I wonder if you're inadvertently conflating methodological and metaphysical
naturalism here, Chris. "Without purpose" is not much of a synonym for
"caused by natural processes", unless one is in turn convinced that nature
is completely without purpose. I know -you- and many leading evolutionists
are so convinced (indeed, for many this is absolutely critical, it seems),
but I think you will agree that this conviction is neither foundational for
nor implied by science, at least if the history of science is any guide.

This is why the NCTB (is that the right acronym?) modified its statements
recently to avoid this kind of language.

There's no question that purpose does not explicitly inhere in our
forumulations of the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, population
genetics, etc.. That's an important and philosophically interesting point.
But, limiting oneself to science anyway, one shouldn't go beyond that. And
maybe you didn't, but it wasn't clear to me.

Perhaps this is precise enough, if not exactly catchy, language:

(1) There is no intentionality or purposiveness explicit in any hard-science


(2) There is no intentionality or purposiveness underlying any hard-science

Proposition (1) seems pretty unambiguous, at least so long as (hard) science
is methodologically naturalistic and mechanistic. (2) seems more like a
deep philosophical and religious proposition, which science may (I think
must) inform, but does not decide.