Re: Neo Darwinism

Susan Brassfield (susan-brassfield@OU.EDU)
Mon, 11 Oct 1999 09:46:34 -0600

Bertvan wrote [to Chris]:

>I am trying to nail down a definition of Neo Darwinism.
>You say: They are willing to allow anything that doesn't involve design or
>purpose for the basic process.
>Do all of you Neo Darwinists on the list agree with that? Is it called Neo
>Darwinism because that was Darwin's contribution to evolution--that nature
>must be basically devoid of purpose?

Purpose is a religious issue. Johnson's rhetoric to one side, science does
not and cannot address religious issues. Evolution does not *seem* to have
a purpose. It appears to be completely opportunistic. If there is a purpose
of some kind, science cannot detect or measure it and to demand that
evolutionary biologists attempt to do the impossible is a waste of your and
their time.

I strongly recommend you read as much of the archive as you
can stand ( but you might want to start with this:

This is a part of what you will find there:

Here [thanks to Ken Smith] is a quote from the final chapter of the sixth
edition of
On the Origin of Species:

But as my conclusions have lately been much misrepresented, and it
has been stated that I attribute the modification of species
to natural selection, I may be permitted to remark that in the first
edition of this work, and subsequently, I placed in a most
position -- namely, at the close of the Introduction -- the following
words: "I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but
not the exclusive means of modification."

This has been of no avail.

Great is the power of steady misrepresentation; but the history of
science shows that fortunately this power does not long endure.

Mayr recaps the history of Darwinist theories, and addresses the claims that
Darwinism has been disproved or superseded in Chapter Ten: "New Frontiers in
Evolutionary Biology".

Just as in the decade after the rediscovery of Mendel's rules, since
about 1970 the claim has been made increasingly often that
"Darwinism is dead."


Opponents of the [modern evolutionary] synthesis consistently
confound three schools of Darwinism:

1.neo-Darwinism, a term coined by Romanes in 1896 to designate
"Darwinism without an inheritance of acquired characters";

2.early population genetics, a strongly reductionist school that
defined evolution as the modification of gene
frequencies by
natural selection; and

3.the holistic branch of the [modern evolutionary] synthesis,
which continued the traditions of Darwin and the
while accepting the findings of genetics.




"Life itself is the proper binge."
--Julia Child