Anti-Darwinism


"I am skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

 

My Anti-Darwinian views:

Neo-Darwinian macroevolution has been decisively refuted by modern science and is demonstrably failing to be a feasible explanation. Furthermore, phenomena like the origin of life and of complex biological novelties, the origin and fine-tuning of the universe, and the origin and nature of consciousness all suggest that mechanistic and materialistic theories fail to explain the evidence, which is better explained by an intelligent cause or at least an influx of information from outside the system. In spite of all attempts for an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis, in my humble opinion Neo-Darwinism was the only conceivable option for a materialistic and mechanistic bottom-up explanation of biological origins, which is why a refutation of Neo-Darwinism implies a refutation of materialism as well. I arrived at this conclusion exclusively based on scientific evidence, totally independent from any metaphysical or even religious background beliefs.

 

Instead of Neo-Darwinism, I endorse a modern version of saltationismmutationism, and orthogenesis, based on non-random adaptive macro-mutations (analogous to Schindewolf's and Goldschmidt's "hopeful monster" hypothesis, more recently endorsed by Rieppel 2017), correlated with the spatiotemporal instantiation of non-material and eternal templates (platonic forms) that function as attractors ("special transformism" sensu Chaberek 2017). I also consider front-loaded design in terms of process structuralism (fine-tuned laws of form and fine-tuned fitness landscape), but this cannot explain complex adaptations (what Dawkins called "apparent design"). I definitely do affirm that every organism (apart from the first living cell) was produced / born from a biological parent organism and thus did not pop into being ex nihilo. I also affirm microevolutionary speciation within biological kinds through Neo-Darwinian processes. However, these never generate new specified complex information, but mostly represent minor variation, devolution, and reshuffling of pre-existing information (e.g., homozygosity from heterozygosity, deactivation or detioration of genes, polyploidy, gene duplication, horizontal gene transfer, hybridogenesis). All macroevolutionary transitions happened abruptly and required a flow (or "downloading") of information from outside of the system.

 

I see neither any scientific nor compelling other reasons to dispute the conventional dating of the age of the universe and Earth, or the conventional explanations for the origin of the geological column and the fossil record. I also consider so-called Flood Geology of Young Earth Creationists as a totally failed endeavor.

 

Reasons:

As a scientist, who should follow the evidence wherever it leads, I came to doubt the materialistic paradigm of Neo-Darwinian macroevolution via a purely mechanistic process of chance (random mutation, sexual recombination, genetic drift) and necessity (natural and sexual selection), even when supplemented with more modern concepts like symbiogenesis, multilevel (group) selection, epigenetic inheritance, evolvability, natural genetic engineering, phenotypic plasticity, and niche construction, as suggested by the proponents of an extended evolutionary synthesis ("Third Way of Evolution", "Evolution 2.0"). None of these phenomena can sufficiently explain the origin of complex biological novelty, and some of them (e.g., natural genetic engineering, phenotypic plasticity, and evolvability) require finetuning and specified information themselves. Therefore, I signed the "Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" list.

 

Even before my sympathy for intelligent design theory, I became convinced that only a goal-directed (teleological) process, either with laws of biological form (structuralism) or with non-random adaptive macro-mutations, can explain the evidence. This assumption is also compatible with and supported by the discontinuous fossil record, which contradicts the gradualistic predictions of Neo-Darwinism and strongly suggests saltational origins. Therefore, I largely agree with the views in Stephen C. Meyer's book "Darwin's Doubt".

 

My rejection of Neo-Darwinian macroevolution was not motivated by religion, but by some very convincing and still unrefuted scientific arguments from intelligent design proponents, based on information theory (William Dembski, Stephen C. Meyer), population genetics (Richard Sternberg), molecular machines (Michael Behe), new proteins (Douglas Axe), and causal circularity (Ann Gauger, Richard Sternberg)). These arguments emphasize the discontinuities of the fossil record, the prohibitive waiting time for coordinated mutations, the problem of new specified complex information in the genetic code and irreducible complexity of molecular machines, the isolated islands of functionality (folding proteins) in the vast search space of possible aminoacid sequences, which all strongly limit the feasibility of Neo-Darwinian processes.

 

Concerning the origin of life and the first replicator I consider all materialistic explanations as wanting and inadequate, and support the critical arguments and conclusions presented by Stephen C. Meyer in his excellent book "Signature in the Cell". When non-material sources of information are required to get life even started, then I see no reason to exclude such non-material explanations as possible cause for the origin of biological novelties in the subsequent history of life.

 

Why I sympathize with Intelligent Design Theory and consider it as a legit scientific approach

Since intelligent design theory is not based on scripture or religious faith, but is a purely empirical inference to the best explanation, it is definitely not creationism in a cheap tuxedo. ID theory just provides a scientific method to identify phenomena in nature that cannot be sufficiently explained with chance and necessity (laws of nature), but require either an intelligent cause or at least an introduction of information from outside of the system. I therefore concur with the atheist philosophers Thomas Nagel and Bradley Monton that Intelligent Design is not religion but a valid scientific approach. Other thinkers, who are not ID proponents themselves but still support the approach of ID theory as legit scientific enterprise include David Berlinski and David Gelernter (see here).

 

Intelligent design theory in principle cannot (and does not have to) elucidate the identity and motivation of the intelligent cause. It is fully compatible with naturalistic designers like space aliens or the matrix hypothesis, which are even acceptable for skeptics like Richard Dawkins or Neil deGrasse Tyson, even though such naturalistic designers would only shift the problem and create an infinite regress. Also, ID does not imply any commitment to special creation rather than universal common descent. Thus, ID makes no claim to supernatural explanations for empirical data, even though it is of course compatible with theistic interpretations. The derogative propaganda label "ID creationism" is therefore wholly inappropriate.

 
On the other hand, creationism (esp. Biblical young earth creationism) is based on the presupposed authority and inerrancy of revealed scripture and postulates the direct special creation of all natural kinds of organisms by supernatural divine intervention. Creationism is a faith-based religious position, contrary to the scientific theory and methodology of intelligent design. Unlike so-called creation science, which is nothing but an unscientific exercise in confirmation bias by cherrypicking evidence that supports a preconceived world view, ID is unbiased and free to go wherever the evidence leads.
 
I despise the dogmatic and sometimes even fanatical stance of some ignorant hardcore Darwinists like P.Z. Myers (Pharyngula blog), Laurence Moran (Sandwalk blog), Jeffrey Shallit (Recursivityblog), Jerry Coyne (Why Evolution is True blog), Jason Rosenhouse (Evolution Blog), Donald Prothero, Nick Matzke and his cronies at Panda's Thumb, freelance writer John Farrell, the master of gutter language Bill Needle (Marmotism blog), the anonymous cowards behind The Sensuous Curmudgeon and Encyclopedia of American Loons blogs, and other infamous web activists against intelligent design. Such anti-ID zealots and "evangelical" New Atheists have become an embarrassment and disgrace for the scientific community with their ill-bred behavior, e.g. regularly insulting scientists, who endorse intelligent design theory as "ID creationists" and even "IDiots", or the ID think tank Discovery Institute as "Dishonesty Institute" or "Disco'Tute", or William Dembski as "Bill Dumbski". I feel personally offended by this, as I know all of the guys from Discovery Institute and the intelligent design community as very open-minded and tolerant, highly cultured and competent, sincere, and incredibly warm-hearted people, whom I am proud to rank among my dearest friends and colleagues.
 
I fully agree with the ID movement's critique of the Neo-Darwinian theory of macroevolution and with the suggested methodology of the design inference to detect biological phenomena that cannot be sufficiently explained with any kind of material mechanism. I also agree with its positive case that any sufficient explanation will have to include some source of information outside the system. I disagree with some ID proponents that this requires deliberate miraculous interventions and rather think in terms of platonic attractors and/or "downloading" of eternal templates, also because I consider divine intervention to be inelegant and plagued by the inevitable problem of evil.
 

Personally, I distinguish between three different meanings of intelligent design theory:

  1. ID as empirical method: this refers to the design inference (see above) using Dembski’s explanatory filter with an inference to the best explanation (abductive reasoning). If chance and necessity or a combination thereof can be excluded, then the cause must be intelligent design (also because we positively know that only intelligence can generate specified information beyond a certain threshold, which in our universe this is about 500 bit due to its limited probabilistic resources).
  2. ID as scientific research program: there is no reason to a priori exclude the scientific detectability of design signals in natural phenomena (after all the same method is totally uncontroversial in forensics, archaeology, or SETI research). This question should only be decided by empirical evidence and we should follow the evidence wherever it leads.
  3. ID as explanatory hypothesis: the claim that some phenomena indeed are best explained by an intelligent cause (or at least by a flow of information from outside the system).

Disclaimer:

I strictly separated all my activities against materialism and Neo-Darwinism from my professional work when I still worked as a museum scientist at SMNS.

 

My critique of Neo-Darwinism and endorsement of real teleology in nature is exclusively my private point of view and is neither shared by my former colleagues at SMNS nor by the co-authors of my paleontological publications, who to my best knowledge generally subscribe to the mainstream evolutionary paradigm of Neodarwinism (aka Modern Synthesis)!

 

After resigning from my job at SMNS in December 2016 I am still actively working as a paleontologist and publish my research in peer-reviewed scientific journals. My Darwinism-critical work is published in appropriate media that are open to teleological and design conclusions.