In the native land of Charles Darwin for the first time, the Royal Society is challenging evolution academia to develop a new theory of biological evolution. Recognized as the original science organization in western civilization, the society explains the problem with today’s most popular current theory: “Developments in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields have produced calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution, although the issues involved remain hotly contested.”
Increasingly, the standard theory of evolution has been challenged in the wake of the twentieth century genomic revolution. On center stage is the validity of random genetic mutations coupled with natural selection as the standard theory of biological evolution. The Royal Society’s radical referendum scheduled for this November in London is slated to revolutionize the current “hotly contested” and chaotic landscape of the evolution industry.
The standard theory has survived previous challenges, however, but only by default. The latest organized angle on evolution was a closed-door conference held in Altenberg, Switzerland, during the summer of 2009. Leading the charge was Massimo Pigliucci, professor of Philosophy at CUNY–City College, along with Gerd B. Müller (pictured), professor of Theoretical Biology and president of the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution, University of Vienna, Austria.
Pigliucci and Müller find the evidence for the standard theory to be “either inaccurate or incomplete.” Since they see that the scientific evidence “clearly demolish[s] the alleged central dogma [the standard theory],” they convened sixteen leading evolution advocates for the purpose of developing a framework for a new evolutionary consensus.
While the “standard theory” is the Royal Society’s newest vogue name for the theory of evolution, over the past half century there have been a number of different names for essentially the same theory – genetic mutations + natural selection. Included on this list are neo-Darwinism, neo-Darwinism synthesis, the central dogma, modern evolutionary synthesis, new synthesis, modern synthesis, evolutionary synthesis, millennium synthesis, and the modern synthesis theory of evolution.
The conference summit, dubbed The Altenberg-16, met locked in secrecy behind closed-doors barred from any news media coverage. Eventually, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published an essay from each attendee in the book Evolution, the Extended Synthesis (2010).
Despite their determination, though, a consensus for a new evolution theoretical framework has remained elusive. Francisco J. Ayala, professor of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, endorsement of the book was less than revolutionary –
“If you want to know how the theory of evolution will likely expand and be configured in the twenty-first century, reading Evolution, the Extended Synthesis is a good way to start.”
“The essays in this volume provide ample food for thought, and from all the major food groups!”
Only two from the Altenberg-16 contingency have survived to serve on the Royal Society’s referendum. These include Eva Jablonka (pictured) of Tel Aviv University and Gerd Műller of the University of Vienna. Along with the other Altenberg-16 attendees, Jablonka and Műller both reject the standard theory of evolution.
Beyond the storm of denials within the evolution industry, the mounting scientific evidence for biological evolution has forced the theory of evolution into a crisis mode–as even recognized by the Royal Society.
“Since the 1990s,” Jablonka argued in Evolution, the Extended Synthesis, “a growing number of evolution-oriented biologists have expressed the view that the foundations of the Modern Synthesis [also known as the standard theory or central dogma]—the evolutionary paradigm that was constructed during the 1930s and 1940s and dominated views of evolution for the past 60 years—need rethinking.”
Műller echoes Jablonka’s sentiments –
“The origin of novelty and its role in the evolution of phenotypical complexity represents an evolutionary problem that had been sidelined by the Modern Synthesis, due to its focus on variation and population dynamics.”
Jablonka and Műller’s anti-standard theory coalition is shared by a number of the 20 other Royal Society attendees. James Shapiro in “Evolution, a View from the 21st Century” (2011) explains –
“… the intellectual foundations of molecular biology [evolution] have indeed been shaken−and shaken hard.”
Right Turn, Wrong Street
While taking the right turn in the attempt to resurrect a dying theory, though, the Royal Society is turning down the wrong street−from hard science to soft science. In looking for a new theory, the society is turning away from hard scientists and towards behavioral scientists, social scientists and philosophers.
Hard sciences include physics, chemistry, and astronomy–not the social sciences. Unlike the soft sciences, observed qualitative and quantitative data from hard sciences can be used to formulate ideas, hypotheses, theories. With extensive testing, theories can eventually lead to the identification of natural laws.
Using this method, known as the scientific method, Isaac Newton, once president of the Royal Society (1703 – 1727), discovered the laws of gravity and motion. Soft sciences cannot meet the standards of hard science.
On the societies original coat-of-arms (pictured above) is the phrase Nullius in verba meaning “take nobody’s word for it.” However, since the soft sciences cannot escape the subjectivity of words, the Royal Society is now drastically different from it’s founding in 1660.
The soft scientists invited include Nancy Cartwright of Durham University, UK, Douglas Futuyma of Stony Brook University, USA, Eva Jablonka of Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel-Aviv University, Israel, Sir Patrick Bateson of University of Cambridge, UK, Agustín Fuentes of University of Notre Dame, USA, Susan Antón of New York University, USA, and Melinda Zeder of National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, USA. The philosophers are John Dupré of University of Exeter, UK, Karola Stotz of Macquarie University, Australia, and Tim Lewens of University of Cambridge, UK.
As configured by the referendum invitees, the Royal Society will move even further from the hard sciences than the Altenberg-16 summit. Only a minority of the Altenberg-16 attendees were soft scientists.
Once the vanguard of science, the Royal Society’s November referendum serves as yet another example how the evolution industry is progressively blurring the lines between science, pseudoscience, and mythology.
The Science Slide
No law of nature has ever been discovered through the soft sciences. In the opinion of George Ellis from the University of Cape Town, and Joe Silk (pictured) of the Paris Institute of Astrophysics (2014) at the Romanesque-style Ludwig Maximilian University event earlier this year –
“The imprimatur of science should be awarded only to a theory that is testable… Only then can we defend science from attack.”
Turning down the wrong street highlights the increasingly apparent problem with the theory of evolution–science is not on its side. A promising theory now destroyed by reality. To resurrect theory of evolution, however, the sidelining of science is now seen as essential.
Nobel laureate David Gross, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2004, noted at the Ludwig workshop that the problem with evolution is not with science, but with the “fact of nature.” The human engineering a non-testable theory, Gross noted, only serves to demonstrate “anthropomorphic arrogance.”
“… theoretical beauty is not always truth.”
The Royal Society’s new alliance with the soft sciences will continue to drive the theory of evolution further into the realm of mythology. Isaac Newton must be horrified. The turning of the Royal Society to the soft sciences demonstrates why the theory of evolution is still not a “scientific fact.”
Despite a flood of challenges since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859 by Charles Darwin to prove otherwise, the scientific evidence on the laws of nature continues to be compatible with the Genesis record written by Moses.
“Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind,” said Isaac Newton, “that it never had many professors”
Evolution, once a theory in crisis, is now in crisis without even a cohesive unifying theory.
Biological evolution exists only as a philosophy, not a science.