evolgen

Darwinism is Dead

Olivia Judson says Darwinism is dead. She’s right. Anyone who talks about “Darwinism” or “evolutionists” gets my attention. That’s not to say that any use of those terms is incorrect. But they are often used as framing devices by creationists, and those frames get carried over into the lay discussion of biology. You should read her discussion of why we should get rid of Darwinism.

On a somewhat unrelated note, Judson also writes the following:

We’d want to discuss evolution beyond natural selection — the other forces that can sometimes cause (or prevent) evolutionary change. For although natural selection is the only creative force in evolution — the only one that can produce complex structures such as wings and eyes — it is not the only force that affects which genes will spread, and which will vanish.

Natural selection is not creative. It acts on variation that is created by mutation. That makes mutation the only creative force. Natural selection, like all other forces besides mutation, can produce complex structures (yes, complexity can be produce by entirely neutral processes). But, without mutation, there is no new variation upon which those forces can act.

Comments

  1. #1 gfb
    July 17, 2008

    not to be argumentative… but, can’t migration/hybridization also “create” variation…

  2. #2 Jonathan Badger
    July 17, 2008

    I think this is being somewhat misleading — classical arch-selectionists (self-styled “Darwinists” in the non-slur sense, such as Dawkins, Trivers, etc.) fully acknowledge that natural selection requires the existence of variation created through mutation and is powerless without the needed variation. (see the “Constraints on Perfection” chapter in “The Extended Phenotype” for example)

    What they don’t believe is that any complexity at the phenotypic level can be created by anything other than selection. The paper of Lynch’s that you link to is (pardon the pun) “neutral” on that issue, suggesting that the neutral processes merely provide a substrate for selection to act upon — hardly different from what Dawkins would say.

    I personally think that we *will* find cases of phenotypic complexity created by neutral forces, but we haven’t found any convincing cases yet.

  3. #3 razib
    July 17, 2008

    not to be argumentative… but, can’t migration/hybridization also “create” variation..

    it’s hard though. i assume you’re pointing to soft selection on extant variation where polymorphism is maintained by balancing dynamics?

    It acts on variation that is created by mutation. That makes mutation the only creative force.

    this is like saying that geological forces which are necessary to produce malleable clay are creative, while sculptors are producing complex structures….

  4. #4 RPM
    July 17, 2008

    this is like saying that geological forces which are necessary to produce malleable clay are creative, while sculptors are producing complex structures….

    I’d say the sculptors are creating, and the critics/buyers/frailty-of-clay are selecting.

  5. #5 Matt McIntosh
    July 19, 2008

    RPM, you’d be right if you were trying to model cultural dynamics but this isn’t Razib’s point. What gets casually referred to as “creativity” is, neurologically, largely a selective process. The analog to mutation here would be random environmental inputs; the clay would be more like, uh, carbon and hydrogen mostly.

  6. #6 Kerwin
    August 2, 2008

    Actually applying the term Darwinist to all evolutionist is incorrect as there are different schools of thought of which Darwinism or Pseudo-Darwinism is just one. I believe there is at least three main areas of though based on how change in living organisms occur from the Darwin’s slow change to the monster to the hopeful monster hypothosis. The third is basically an attempt the divide by proposing less drastic changes than with the hopeful monster hypothosis but which occur less frequently than with Darwin’s. Still we are talking politics and so such loose use of a word is common and still gets the point across.

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