Devolution of Evolution

Leonid Moroz, professor of neuroscience, chemistry, and biology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in a recent article published in The Scientist entitled “The Devolution of Evolution,” comments on Theodosius Dobzhansky assertion nearly 40 years ago that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

If Dobzhansky’s assertion is true, “How is it, then”, Moroz asks, “that so few newly minted PhDs in the biological sciences have taken any formal graduate school courses in evolution or biodiversity?”

Ryan Gregory, a professor at the University of Guelph Department of Integrative Biology in Ontario, Canada, mirrors Moroz observations. In a 2009 survey of over 200 science graduate students, Gregory discovered that only 20 to 30 percent of the students could apply elementary basic principles of evolution—School House Chaos.

Gregory laments, “We’re looking at a subset of people who have spent at least four years, sometimes even six or seven years, in science and still don’t necessarily have a full working understanding of basic evolutionary principles or scientific terms like ‘theories.’”

“Indeed, it appears that evolutionary biology and biosystematics courses,” Moroz argues, “that which deal with the most fundamental concepts in biology, have quietly lost their place of eminence within the biomedical curriculum—‘outcompeted’ by escalating specialization and the increasingly technical nature of many biological sciences.”

Technology has indeed now outstripped Dobzhansky’s evolutionary tenet of biology: result—the devolution of evolution. Gregory points to the origin of the evolution problem, “Misconceptions about natural selection still exist, even at the most advanced level.”

The reason “misconceptions” stems from a lack of consensus on what the theory of evolution. Incredibly, even the National Science Teachers Association [NSTA] the vanguard of evolution in public education has now been forced to cautiously approach this now obvious reality -

There is considerable debate about how evolution has taken place.

How can a curriculum on the mechanisms of evolution be developed for a theory in the absence of a consistent theory? Developing a consensus on the theory of evolution is now at the center of the evolution debate.

Current theoretical options available for the evolution industry for a mechanism for evolution include Darwinism, neo-Darwinism, Modern Synthesis theory, or the Third-Wave of evolution, one of the emerging extended Modern Synthesis theories highlighted by Massimo Pigliucci 2010 book entitled Evolution-The Extended Synthesis published by MIT Press following the Altenberg-16 Summit in the summer of 2008.

Jerry Coyne, evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago, has little time for “these notions [Extended Synthesis theories] haven’t forced us to change the neo-Darwinian paradigm.” The Altenberg-16 attendees clearly disagree, and accepted the invitational challenge -

[W]e are also grappling with the increasing feeling – for example as reflected by an almost comical proliferation of ‘-omics,’ that we just don’t have the theoretical and analytical tools necessary to make sense of the bewildering diversity and complexity of living organisms.

In other words, evidence observed at the highest intellectual levels within the evolution industry understands that advanced technologies have undermined the basic tenets of evolution promoted by Dobzhansky and Coyne. The Altenberg-16 includes – John Beatty of the University of British Columbia, Werner Callebaut of the University of Hasselt, Sergey Gavrilets of the University of Tennessee, Eva Jablonka of Tel Aviv University, David Jablonski of the University of Chicago, Marc Kirschner of Harvard University, Alan Love of the University of Minnesota, Gerd Műller of the University of Vienna, Stuart Newman of the New York Medical College, John Odling-Smee of Oxford University, Massimo Pigliucci of Stony Brook University, Michael Purugganan of New York University, Eors Szathmary of Collegium Budapest, Gunter Wagner of Yale University, David Sloan Wilson of Binghamton University, Greg Wray of Duke University

From the Alternberg-16, what consensus developed? The answer is none, except that neo-Darwinism and Modern Synthesis theories were not consistent with the scientific evidence. Albert Einstein captured the essence of evolution science problem –

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.

The theory of evolution was once a theory in crisis, now the theory of evolution is without a theory. Italian geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti, the chief editor of Rivista di Biologica the longest-running biology journal in the world, cuts to the chase –

Science has taken on the wager… and lost.

No wonder even graduate university science majors score poorly in evolution, as lamented by Moroz and Gregory, since no one knows what to teach, no less what to test. Modern day teachers and scientists should recognize that evolution is founded on a philosophy, not science –

I am quite conscious that my speculations run quite beyond the bounds of true science, Charles Darwin, 1957

4 Responses to “Devolution of Evolution”

  • Jason:

    Hi there,

    Have just finished reading your article: http://www.darwinthenandnow.com/2011/02/devolution-of-evolution/

    Great article by the way. I am looking for a citation or reference for the quote by Giuseppe Sermonti “Science has taken on the wager… and lost.” – if possible?

    I would like to use this quote in the future

    Many thanks.

  • Greetings!

    Thanks for your comment on the article. The quote is from Sermonti’s book entitled Why a Horse is Not a Fly published by Discovery Institute (2005) page 43.

    Rich

  • Hi Rich,
    I am amazed by your article and your book which I just bought
    at Amazon UK: Darwin then and now.
    Am a second year I-Science student at Canterbury Christ Church
    University and was searching information to write a precis on the
    article I chose from Evolution: “Slowly switching between environments facilitates reverse evolution in small populations.
    Tan, L. and Gore, J. (2012)
    Reverse Evolution is for me the subject and I would be so proud
    if you would comment shortly this scientific paper with your words, which I could quote from Richard William Nelson. I would
    keep it in your book as dedicated to me.

    Thanks in advance.

    Wish you a Happy New Year 2013 !

  • Greetings!

    Thanks for your very kind comments. I would like to comment on your article. Could you e-mail a copy?

    Rich

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