It isn't scientific investigation of Darwinism that's forbidden -- it's
public debate of the findings of such research. Most educated, rational
people will find it almost impossible to believe that the debate of
Darwinism through mainstream news papers and the principal TV channels is
forbidden. I still find it hard to believe myself.
The article below was first commissioned and later censored by the Times
Higher Education Supplement. (The circumstances under which it came to be
censored, following the intervention of Dr Richard Dawkins, are described in
the pages on Scientific Censorship).
The readers of the Times Higher Education Supplement (a large proportion of
the University lecturers of Britain) have thus been prevented from learning
of its contents. Now you have the facts before you and can make up your own
Neo-Darwinism: time to reconsider
It was the dazzling gains made by science and technology in the nineteenth
century through the application of rational analysis that led people to
think of applying reason to other fields.
Following the brilliant success of reason and method in physics and
chemistry -- especially in medicine -- it was natural for science to seek to
apply the same analytical tool to the most intractable and complex problems:
The result was the great mechanistic
philosophies of the last century: Marxism, Freudianism and
The simplicities and certainties of these systems mirrored the
intellectually well-ordered life of Victorian society with its authoritarian
values and institutionalized prejudices. Now, a century later, all three
systems have run their course, have been measured by history, and have been
ultimately found to be inadequate tools of explanation.
Unlike Marx and Freud, Darwin himself remains esteemed both as a highly
original thinker and as a careful researcher (his study of fossil barnacles
remains a text book example for paleontologists). But the theory that bears
his name was transformed in the early years of this century into the
mechanistic, reductionist theory of neo-Darwinism: the theory that living
creatures are machines whose only goal is genetic replication -- a matter of
chemistry and statistics; or, in the words of professor Jacques Monod,
director of the Pasteur Institute, a matter only of "chance and necessity".
And while the evidence for evolution itself remains persuasive -- especially
the homologies that are found in comparative anatomy and molecular biology
of many different species -- much of the empirical evidence that was
formerly believed to support the neo-Darwinian mechanism of chance mutation
coupled with natural selection has melted away like snow on a spring morning,
through better observation and more careful analysis.
Marxist, Freudian and neo-Darwinist systems of thought
ultimately failed for
the same reason; that they sought to use mechanistic reductionism to explain
and predict systems that we now know are complexity-related, and cannot be
explained as the sum of their parts.
In the case of neo-Darwinism, it was not the mysteries of the mind or of the
economy that were explained. It was the origin of the first single-celled
organism in the primeval oceans, and its development into the plant and
animal kingdoms of today by a strictly blind process of chance genetic
mutation working with natural selection.
In the first five decades of this century -- the heyday of the theory --
zoologists, paleontologists and comparative anatomists assembled the
impressive exhibits that generations of school children have seen in
Natural History Museums the world over: the evolution of the horse family; the
fossils that illustrate the transition from fish to amphibian to reptile to
mammal; and the discovery of astonishing extinct species such as "Archaeopteryx",
apparently half-reptile, half-bird.
Over successive decades, these exhibits have been first disputed, then
downgraded, and finally shunted off to obscure museum basements, as further
research has shown them to be flawed or misconceived.
Anyone educated in a western country in the last forty years will recall
being shown a chart of the evolution of the horse from "Eohippus", a small
dog-like creature in the Eocene period 50 million years ago, to "Mesohippus",
a sheep-sized animal of 30 million years ago, eventually to "Dinohippus",
the size of a Shetland pony.
This chart was drawn in 1950 by Harvard's professor of paleontology George
Simpson, to accompany his standard text book, Horses, which encapsulated all
the research done by the American Museum of Natural History in the previous
Simpson plainly believed that his evidence was incontrovertible because he
wrote, 'The history of the horse family is still one of the clearest and
most convincing for showing that organisms really have evolved. . . There
really is no point nowadays in continuing to collect and to study fossils
simply to determine whether or not evolution is a fact. The question has
been decisively answered in the affirmative.'
Yet shortly after this affirmation, Simpson admits in passing that the chart
he has drawn contains major gaps that he has not included: a gap before "Eohippus"
and its unknown ancestors, for example, and another gap after "Eohippus" and
before its supposed descendant "Mesohippus".
3 What is it, scientifically,
that connects these isolated species on the famous chart if it is not fossil
remains? And how could such unconnected examples demonstrate either genetic
mutation or natural selection?
Even though, today, the bones themselves have been relegated to the basement,
the famous chart with its unproven continuity still appears in museum
displays and handbooks, text books, encyclopedias and lectures.
The remarkable "Archaeopteryx" also seems at first glance to bear out the
neo-Darwinian concept of birds having evolved from small reptiles (the
candidate most favored by neo-Darwinists is a small agile dinosaur called a
Coelosaur, and this is the explanation offered by most text books and
museums.) Actually, such a descent is impossible because coelosaurs, in
common with most other dinosaurs, did not posses collar bones while
"Archaeopteryx", like all birds, has a modified collar bone to support its
4 Again, how can an isolated fossil, however remarkable,
provide evidence of beneficial mutation or natural selection?
Neo-Darwinists were quick to claim that modern discoveries of molecular
biology supported their theory. They said, for example, that if you analyze
the DNA, the genetic blueprint, of plants and animals you find how closely
or distantly they are related. That studying DNA sequences enables you to
draw up the precise family tree of all living things and show how they are
related by common ancestry.
This is a very important claim and central to the theory. If true, it would
mean that animals neo-Darwinists say are closely related, such as two
reptiles, would have greater similarity in their DNA than animals that are
not so closely related, such as a reptile and a bird.
Fifteen years ago molecular biologists working under Dr Morris Goodman at
Michigan University decided to test this hypothesis. They took the alpha haemoglobin DNA of two reptiles -- a snake and a crocodile -- which are said
by Darwinists to be closely related, and the haemoglobin DNA of a bird, in
this case a farmyard chicken.
They found that the two animals who had least DNA sequences in common were
the two reptiles, the snake and the crocodile. They had only around 5% of
DNA sequences in common -- only one twentieth of their haemoglobin DNA. The
two creatures whose DNA was closest were the crocodile and the chicken,
where there were 17.5% of sequences in common -- nearly one fifth. The
actual DNA similarities were the reverse of that predicted by
Even more baffling is the fact that radically different genetic coding can
give rise to animals that look outwardly very similar and exhibit similar
behavior, while creatures that look and behave completely differently can
have much in common genetically. There are, for instance, more than 3,000
species of frogs, all of which look superficially the same. But there is a
greater variation of DNA between them than there is between the bat and the
Further, if neo-Darwinist evolutionary ideas of gradual genetic change were
true, then one would expect to find that simple organisms have simple DNA
and complex organisms have complex DNA.
In some cases, this is true. The simple nematode worm is a favorite subject
of laboratory study because its DNA contains a mere 100,000 nucleotide
bases. At the other end of the complexity scale, humans have 23 chromosomes
which in total contain 3,000 million nucleotide bases.
Unfortunately, this promisingly Darwinian progression is contradicted by
many counter examples. While human DNA is contained in 23 pairs of
chromosomes, the humble goldfish has more than twice as many, at 47. The
even humbler garden snail -- not much more than a glob of slime in a shell
-- has 27 chromosomes. Some species of rose bush have 56 chromosomes.
So the simple fact is that DNA analysis does not confirm neo-Darwinist
theory. In the laboratory, DNA analysis falsifies neo-Darwinist theory.
An even more damaging blow to the theory was the discovery that the very
centerpiece of neo-Darwinism, Darwin's original conception of natural
selection, or the survival of the fittest, is fatally flawed.
The problem is: how can biologists (or anyone else) tell what
characteristics constitute the animal or plant's 'fitness' to survive? How
can you tell which are the fit animals and plants?
The answer is that the only way to define the fit is by means of a post-hoc
rationalization -- the fit must be "those who survived". While the only way
to characterize uniquely those who survive is as "the fit". The central
proposition of the Darwinian argument turns out to be an empty tautology.
C.H. Waddington, professor of biology at Edinburgh University wrote;
"Natural selection, which was at first considered as though it were a
hypothesis that was in need of experimental or observational confirmation,
turns out on closer inspection to be a tautology, a statement of an
inevitable although previously unrecognized relation. It states that the
fittest individuals in a population (defined as those who leave the most
offspring) will leave most offspring. Once the statement is made, its truth
George Simpson, professor of paleontology at Harvard, sought to restore
content to the idea of natural selection by saying; "If genetically
red-haired parents have, on average, a larger proportion of children than
blondes or brunettes, then evolution will be in the direction of red hair.
If genetically left-handed people have more children, evolution will be
towards left-handedness. The characteristics themselves do not directly
matter at all. All that matters is who leaves more descendants over the
generations. Natural selection favors fitness only if you define fitness as
leaving more descendants. In fact geneticists do define it that way, which
maybe confusing to others. To a geneticist, fitness has nothing to do with
health, strength, good looks, or anything but effectiveness in breeding."
Notice the words; "The characteristics themselves do not directly matter at
all." This innocent phrase fatally undermines Darwin's original key
conception: that each animal's special physical characteristics are what
makes it fit to survive: the giraffe's long neck, the eagle's keen eye, or
the cheetah's 60 mile-an-hour sprint.
Simpson's reformulation means all this must be dropped: it is not the
characteristics that directly matter -- it is the animals' capacity to
reproduce themselves. The race is not to the swift, after all, but merely to
the prolific. So how can neo-Darwinism explain the enormous diversity of
Not only are neo-Darwinist ideas falsified by empirical research, but other
puzzling and extraordinary findings have come to light in recent decades,
suggesting that evolution is not blind but rather is in some unknown way
directed. The experiments of Cairns at Harvard and Hall at Rochester
University suggest that microorganisms can mutate in a way that is
Experiments with tobacco plants and flax demonstrate genetic change through
the effects of fertilizers alone.
9 Experiments with sea squirts and
salamanders as long ago as the 1920s appeared to demonstrate the inheritance
of acquired characteristics.10 Moreover, as
Sir Fred Hoyle has pointed out,
Fossil micro-organisms have been found in meteorites, indicating that life
is universal -- not a lucky break in the primeval soup. This view is shared
by Sir Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the function of DNA.11
In the light of discoveries of this kind, the received wisdom of
neo-Darwinism is no longer received so uncritically. A new generation of
biologists is subjecting the theory to the cold light of empirical
investigation and finding it inadequate; scientists like Dr Rupert
Sheldrake, Dr Brian Goodwin, professor of biology at the Open University and
Dr Peter Saunders, professor of mathematics at King's College London.
Not surprisingly, the work of this new generation is heresy to the old. When
Rupert Sheldrake's book A New Science of Life with its revolutionary theory
of morphic resonance was published in 1981, the editor of "Nature" magazine,
John Maddox, ran an editorial calling for the book to be burned -- a sure
sign that Sheldrake is onto something important, many will think.
The current mood in biology was summed up recently by Sheldrake as,
like working in Russia under Brehznev. Many biologists have one set of
beliefs at work, their official beliefs, and another set, their real
beliefs, which they can speak openly about only among friends. They may
treat living things as mechanical in the laboratory but when they go home
they don't treat their families as inanimate machines.'
It is a strange aspect of science in the twentieth century that while
physics has had to submit to the indignity of a principle of uncertainty and
physicists have become accustomed to such strange entities as matter-waves
and virtual particles, many of their colleagues down the corridor in biology
seem not to have noticed the revolution of quantum electrodynamics. As far
as many biologists are concerned, matter is made of billiard balls which
collide with Newtonian certainty, and they carry on building molecular
models out of colored ping-pong balls.
One of the twentieth century's most distinguished scientists and Nobel
laureates, physicist Max Planck, observed that:
'A new scientific truth does
not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but
rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up
that is familiar with it.'
It may be another decade or more before such a new generation grows up and
restores intellectual rigor to the study of evolutionary biology.
 Monod, Jacques, 1972 edn. Chance and Necessity. William Collins.
 Simpson, George G. 1951. Horses. Oxford University Press.
 Simpson, George G. 1951. Horses. Oxford University Press.
 Norman, David. 1985. Encyclopaedia of Dinosaurs. Salamander Books.
 Patterson, Colin, presentation to the American Natural History Museum, 5
 Waddington, C.H., 1960, Evolutionary Adaptation in Tax Vol. 1, pp
 Simpson, George G. 1964, This View of Life, Harcourt Brace and World.
 Cairns, J., J. Overbaugh, S. Miller. 1988. The origin of mutants. In
Nature 335: 142-145.
Hall, Barry G. Sept. 1990. Spontaneous point mutations that occur more often
when advantageous than when neutral. In Genetics Vol. 126, pp. 5-16.
 Durrant, Alan. 1958. Environmental conditioning of flax. in Nature, Vol.
81, p. 928-929.
Hill, J. 1965. Environmental induction of heritable changes in Nicotiana
rustica. in Nature, Vol. 207, pp. 732-734.
Cullis, C.A. 1977. Molecular aspects of the environmental induction of
heritable changes in Flax. in Heredity. Vol. 38, p. 129-154.
 See Koestler, Arthur. 1978. The Case of the Midwife Toad. Hutchinson.
London, for an account of the experiments of Paul Kammerer at the Vienna
Institute for Experimental Biology 1903-1926.
 Hoyle, F. 1983. The Intelligent Universe. Michael Joseph London.
See also, Crick, Francis, 1981. Life Itself. Macdonald. London.
 Sheldrake, Rupert, 1988 edn. A New Science of Life, Paladin London.
 Nature 1981, Vol. 293, pp 245-246.