OK, Larry. I assume you mean to say that I do not understand the basics of Darwinism. I challenge you, therefore, to demonstrate your claim.Today I'm feeling optimistic—life is good and this evening we're going to a nice restaurant for dinner with our favorite nephew.1 Let's try, once again, to convert this into a teaching moment. Hopefully, at least one or two ID proponents will learn something.2
What do they mean by "Darwinism"?
We have to start with the meaning of "Darwinism." What does Barry Arrington mean when he uses that term? Let's recall what he said yesterday [You Should Know the Basics of a Theory Before You Attack It] in his post on Uncommon Descent ...
Having studied Darwinism for over 20 years, I can tell you what it posits. Therefore, when I attack it, I am attacking the actual thing, not some distortion of the thing that exists nowhere but my own mind.In order to answer Barry Arrington's challenge we have to try and figure out what he means here. Fortunately, we have a record of a previous discussion about the meaning of Darwinism. It's a discussion initiated by Barry Arrington on Uncommon Descent back in November 2010 ["Darwinism"]. He said ...
I am not satisfied with our definition of “Darwinism” in the glossary over to the right of our home page. The definition is, I think, accurate as far as it goes, but it is incomplete and somewhat vague. In this thread I invite friend and foe alike to provide a brief definition of “Darwinism.” The best entry or a synthesis of the best entries will obtain pride of place as permanent fixture in the UD glossary. Thank you.The question suggests that he still isn't sure what "Darwinims" means after studying it for 15 years. He tries out a few of his own definitions of "Darwinism" but he's quickly shot down by the other people commenting on that blog post. Here's what he though should be added to the glossary definition ...
Of course, ID proponents do not agree with Darwinism. They believe that Darwinism is a metaphysical presupposition posing as a scientific theory. Grounded in materialistic ideology, it holds that purposeless, mindless, physical mechanisms, manifested as small genetic changes, can drive the evolutionary process to produce all observed complexity and biodiversity on earth. As such, it interprets all evidence in light of its own materialistic ideology and rules out, in principle, any possibility that any part of the evolutionary process could have been designed. Like the mythical bandit Procrustes, who reshaped the bodies of his unfortunate visitors to fit his iron bed, Darwinism reshapes biological evidence to fit its iron clad world view, saying in effect, “fit, damn you, fit.”That's the sort of conclusion you get from 15 years of study if you are Barry Arrington. It may be what he thinks but it has nothing to do with evolutionary theory. Arrington's view was rejected. The discussion in the comments section of that "Darwinism" post is surprisingly reasonable.
Eventually, Barry Arrington adopts the proposal of kairosfocus (seconded by Jonathan Wells) to use the definition of "Neo-Darwinism" and "The Modern Synthesis" found in the New World Encylopedia (NWE) [Neo-Darwinism]. (The New World Encylopedia is a Moonie project.3)
He (Arrington) adopts this definition in spite of the fact that others point out the difference between "Darwinism" and "Neo-Darwinism" or the "Modern Synthesis." He also ignores the comments from kairosfocus and others that the real version of modern evolutionary theory includes things like Neutral Theory and random genetic drift that are not in the NWE definition. These points are also made in the NWE article itself which gives the impression that the NWE experts see "Neo-Darwinism" and the "Modern Synthesis" as something different than "Darwinism" and certainly not an adequate description of modern evolutionary theory.
The current glossary entry reflects the decision made five years ago. Here it is ...
DarwinismI'll tentatively accept that Arrington's definition of "Darwinism" is not really "Darwinism" but "Neo-Darwinism" or the "Modern Synthesis" for the purpose of answering Barry Arrington's challenge. However, I note for the record that, strictly speaking, this bait-and-switch actually reveals that he DOES NOT understand the scientific meaning of "Darwinism."
When ID proponents on this site use the term “Darwinism,” they are referring to Neo-Darwinism, also called the modern evolutionary synthesis or Neo-Darwinian evolution (“NDE”), the basic tenants of which are described in the New World Encyclopedia as follows:
"At the heart of the modern synthesis is the view that evolution is gradual and can be explained by small genetic changes in populations over time, due to the impact of natural selection on the phenotypic variation among individuals in the populations (Mayr 1982; Futuyama 1986). According to the modern synthesis as originally established, genetic variation in populations arises by chance through mutation (it is now known to be caused sometimes by mistakes in DNA replication and via genetic recombination—the crossing over of homologous chromosomes during meiosis). This genetic variation leads to phenotypic changes among members of a population. Evolution consists primarily of changes in the frequencies of alleles between one generation and another as a result of natural selection. Speciation, the creation of new species, is a gradual process that generally occurs when populations become more and more diversified as a result of having been isolated, such as via geographic barriers, and eventually the populations develop mechanisms of reproductive isolation. Over time, these small changes will lead to major changes in design or the creation of new taxa.
A major conclusion of the modern synthesis is that the concept of populations can explain evolutionary changes in a way that is consistent with the observations of naturalists and the known genetic mechanisms (Mayr 1982).
Though agreement is not universal on the parameters of the modern synthesis, many descriptions hold as basic (1) the primacy of natural selection as the creative agent of evolutionary change; (2) gradualism (accumulation of small genetic changes); and (3) the extrapolation of microevolutionary processes (changes within species) to macroevolutionary trends (changes about the species level, such as the origin of new designs and broad patterns in history). Evolutionary change is a shift of the frequency of genes in a population, and macroevolutionary trends come from gradual accumulation of small genetic changes.
Note, for example, the words of two of the leading figures in evolutionary theory, Ernst Mayr and Stephen Jay Gould.
“The proponents of the synthetic theory maintain that all evolution is due to the accumulation of small genetic changes, guided by natural selection, and that transspecific evolution is nothing but an extrapolation and magnification of the events that take place within populations and species.” (Mayr 1963)
“The core of this synthetic theory restates the two most characteristic assertions of Darwin himself: first, that evolution is a two-stage process (random variation as raw material, natural selection as a directing force); secondly, that evolutionary change is generally slow, steady, gradual, and continuous. . . Orthodox neo-Darwinians extrapolate these even and continuous changes to the most profound structural transitions in life.” (Gould 1980)
If he's going to use the NWE as an authority then perhaps he should have read their entry on Evolution where it says ...
Darwinism is a term generally synonymous with the theory of natural selection. Harvard evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould (1982) maintains: "Although 'Darwinism' has often been equated with evolution itself in popular literature, the term should be restricted to the body of thought allied with Darwin's own theory of mechanism [natural selection].” Although the term has been used in various ways depending on who is using it and the time period (Mayr 1991), Gould nonetheless finds a general agreement in the scientific community that "Darwinism should be restricted to the world view encompassed by the theory of natural selection itself."So, given that Barry Arrington mistakenly equates "Darwinism" with "Neo-Darwinism" and the "Modern Synthesis" as proven in the glossary entry, is there any evidence that he doesn't even understand his version of Darwinism?
The term neo-Darwinism is a very different concept. It is considered synonymous with the term "modern synthesis" or "modern evolutionary synthesis." The modern synthesis is the most significant, overall development in evolutionary thought since the time of Darwin, and is the prevailing paradigm of evolutionary biology. The modern synthesis melded the two major theories of classical Darwinism (theory of descent with modification and the theory of natural selection) with the rediscovered Mendelian genetics, recasting Darwin's ideas in terms of changes in allele frequency.
Yes, there is, lots of it. One of the most blatant examples will be covered in my next post.
Keep in mind that Barry Arrington's version of evolutionary theory is called "Darwinism" but it's not confined to the scientific description of Dawinism as evolution by natural selection. Instead, he is referring to a version of the Modern Synthesis that incorporates common decent and gradualism but still restricts evolution to natural selection. In other words, Barry Arrington has studied evolutionary biology for many years and thinks that it's only about natural selection.
1. The competition isn't great. We only have one nephew!
2. I'm under no illusions that Barry Arrington will be one of them.
3. Here's their Vision: "This project transcends the metaphysical assumptions of both the Enlightenment and Modern Encyclopedias.
The originator of this project is Sun Myung Moon.
NWE editors and contributors promote the ideal of joy and universal happiness through the realization of human responsibility toward self-creation, constructive human relations, and the protection and enhancement of nature and the environment in life and practice. These universal values and ideals are inherent in the great religions, philosophies, and teachings of conscience."