He writes [Closet Darwinism, and definitions],
Larry’s argument is roughly this: modern evolutionary theory includes a host of ideas that do not rely upon the ubiquity of natural selection. "Darwinism" and cognates is basically a focus upon natural selection (and hence adaptationist views of biology). Ergo, modern evolutionary theory is not “Darwinian” in the main. I would say both of these premises are correct (of course – Larry is a very clever and erudite man), but that the conclusion doesn’t follow.Well, it follows for me. If the term "Darwinist" has become associated with an adaptationist view of evolution then I don't want to be called a "Darwinist."
There are plenty of other terms that are just as suitable. You could refer to everyone who studies evolution as an "evolutionary biologist." What's wrong with that?
So let’s ask, what counts as "Darwinism"? Sure, a great many philosophically inclined thinkers, like Dawkins, Mayr and others have treated natural selection as the be-all and end-all of "Darwinism", but in fact the field has always been wider than that. In the 1980s, this got recast as a battle between followers of Dawkins (and indirectly, John Maynard Smith) and Gould (and indirectly, Richard Lewontin), or between "adaptationists" (Gould’s term) and "contingency theorists" (my term).The field of "evolution" has always been wider than that but a few scientists wanted to narrow it and restrict it to "Darwinism." By that, they mean that natural selection is by far the most interesting part of evolution and everything else can be dismissed as noise.
I'm on the side of Gould and the other pluralists who accept the importance of random genetic drift, embrace Neutral Theory, and give serious consideration to species sorting and other mechanisms of evolution. I go even further; I think mutationism is a viable addition to evolutionary theory. Few "Darwinists" would agree.
There are very good reasons why famous evolutionary biologists like King and Jukes wrote about non-Darwinian evolution back in 1969 [Non-Darwinian Evolution in 1969: The Case for Junk DNA]. I'm with them. Darwinism is too restrictive a term for modern evolutionary theory.
Given that Larry is a constant advocate for processes and ideas other than natural selection in evolutionary biology, he might well be seen as not Darwinian in the manner that the adaptationists (whether they think that only natural selection matters, or simply ignore or run roughshod over other processes) are, but historically, he is well within the Darwinian research program, and I suspect he would agree to this. The broad version of "Darwinism", not the simplistic version of popular science. Larry is Darwinian.I am Darwinian in the sense that I accept and embrace Darwin's fundamental discovery; natural selection. But just because I accept his discovery, does not mean that I accept the way the term has come to describe some evolutionary biologists one hundred years later.
I certainly don't accept the adaptationist research program. I believe that that the null hypothesis is evolution by accident (drift). Is that something you would call a "Darwinian research program"? I hope not.
A large part of the problem lies in the way some (for example, Daniel Dennett) have made natural selection the only thing that matters, in any arena let alone biology. Natural selection certainly does matter, but so too do the other implications of a population genetical approach to biology, drift and neutral evolution. Gavrilets has even shown how populations under strong selection can "drift" in high dimensional fitness landscapes of thousands of genes. All this is coming together in ways nobody had thought possible decades before. "Darwinism" is evolving. I take Larry to be a Darwinist, Darwinian in his ideas, and promoting the broad sense of "Darwinism".Sorry John. You are dead wrong. I am not Darwinian in my ideas by any stretch of the imagination. The term has NOT evolved to the point where it even comes close to defining my views about evolution.
John, why do you care about this? Why is important for you to label me as a Darwinist when I clearly don't want to be associated with that view of evolution?