Evolutionism. State of play
seminar room of group Science, Reason and Faith.
Antonio Pardo. Pamplona, 10 March 2018.
- 1.1. What is meant by evolution
1.2. There has been evolution
1.3. Evolution is different from Darwinism
- 2.1. Spontaneous variation
2.2. Natural selection
2.3. Accumulation of variation
2.4. Other ideas
It is very difficult to give a fairly complete overview of evolution, due to the complexity of all the discussions that are currently in the marketplace of ideas. framework Because of this difficulty, I will focus this intervention rather on a list of the most relevant ideas, which give a basic overview of where the evolutionist thesis is moving today. Following this exhibition, some critical remarks will be made where necessary; finally, some data will be given to give a glimpse of where an updated explanation of the evolutionary phenomenon can go.
First of all, a terminological clarification is necessary: many works (both books and articles) on evolution use common terms in this field with different meanings; it is vital, therefore, to clarify the meaning we are going to give them in this exhibition, in order to avoid confusion.
More specifically, we can distinguish two types of evolution: macroevolution and microevolution.
Macroevolution refers to the emergence of new species per generation from other species.
Microevolution refers to the occurrence of morphological variations within a single species, i.e. the emergence of what may be called races, subspecies or varieties, but which remain unambiguously of the same species.
Secondly, it must be stressed that the evolution of species, in the sense of macroevolution (which will be the one we usually use here), is not a directly observed reality, but it must be admitted if we want to maintain a minimum of coherence with what has been observed in multiple disciplines, and a coherent logic: it is the only possible deduction in the face of the evidence that there are fossils of living beings that are not alive now, and that there are living beings of which no fossils can be found; given that it has been demonstrated beyond any doubt that spontaneous generation, in the recent circumstances of the world, is impossible, the only valid deduction is that, in past times, beings of one species have given rise to beings of another species by generation. This is what we will call evolution.
Apart from this evidence and deduction from fossils, there are many other evidences that point in the same direction: the basically identical constitution of all living beings, composed of proteins, sugars, information Genetics, membrane, respiratory systems, etc. Such abundant coincidences speak of a common origin, and support the idea of evolution, i.e. the appearance of new species by generation.
Another source of confusions consists in the assimilation of the evolutionary process with one of the explanations for it. Specifically, in this era of almost absolute predominance of the Darwinian explanation, evolution is often confused with Darwinism. However, it is one thing for beings of one species to have produced beings of different species in the past, and quite another for different explanations to be given for this phenomenon. The current problem is that, given the virtually complete absence of explanations other than Darwinism, everyone has come to assimilate the evolutionary phenomenon with the almost unique explanation in the marketplace of ideas.
However, it is clear that a phenomenon that one wishes to explain is different from the scientific explanation that one constructs for that phenomenon. It is a different matter whether this scientific explanation is reasonably proven or not. But, regardless of whether it is well proven or not, the phenomenon and its explanation will always be different.
For this reason, a clear conceptual separation must be maintained between the terms "evolution" and "Darwinism". Consequently, accepting the evolutionary phenomenon will not imply accepting the Darwinian explanation; and criticising the Darwinian explanation will not imply denying the evolutionary phenomenon.
Given the predominance of the Darwinian explanation for the phenomenon of the evolution of species, it is obligatory to provide a brief summary of its basic ideas. Although the topic is not as simple as simply speaking of "Darwinism", since almost a century and a half has passed since Darwin's work and many things have been added to and subtracted from his original thesis , we will continue to use this term as a generic denomination, both for Darwin's work and for all its later derivatives that admit its basic ideas. These have been given other names, which we shall omit for the sake of clarity of exposition.
The core of Darwin's idea, presented in a article together with Wallace, but popularised by his work "The Origin of Species" (1859), basically consists of the union of three ideas: variation, selection and accumulation.
Variation, rather than an explanatory idea, is properly an elementary observation of nature. In a population of animals of one species no two are identical, but there are always small variations between individuals. This is something that farmers and those who work with animals on a regular basis are well aware of, because familiarity allows them to distinguish small differences that would go unnoticed by a layman. The small morphological or functional differences between individuals are the basis for Darwin's entire thesis .
Darwin transfers this consideration from society to nature and considers that the survival of living beings is difficult: they are threatened by multiple dangers and problems: scarcity of food, problems caused by the climate, threats from predators, etc. Life is a hard struggle for survival. In this struggle, only the best-endowed are in a position to survive, and they are the ones who will be passed on to the next generations. Nature, because of its harsh and relentless nature, sifts out spontaneous variations, and makes the forms of the beings of a species vary over time (by eliminating the forms that are less fit to survive).selection is an idea that Darwin takes from Malthus and applies to nature. Malthus, with his work "essay on population" (1798), made popular among the English educated classes the idea that the rate of population growth follows a geometrical progression while that of food is arithmetical. The consequence was, automatically, hunger for the future. In other words, man's life was, according to this thesis , hard skill for survival, simply because of the scarcity of food. This thesis is a projection of the commercial skill of England at the beginning of the industrial revolution.
Finally, Darwin accepts that the whole evolutionary process has taken place by the progressive accumulation of small spontaneous variations that are sifted out by the harshness of natural selection. At some points he openly asks himself how all the living forms observed could have arisen by such an elementary process, and he states that, despite his doubts, he is reaffirmed in his thesis , when he thinks of the very long time that this process has had to produce diverse forms.
Darwin's original work contains many other ideas and suggestions: he has no hesitation in accepting questions such as the inheritance of acquired traits (which, at the time, had a certain amount of currency among biologists) or the orthogenetic thesis , which claims an internal tendency of living things to vary.
However, this eclecticism should not deceive us: Darwin explicitly states that, if the phenomenon of natural selection is denied, his whole thesis collapses. This means that the other phenomena he mentions only occupy a marginal place in his explanation of evolution. The basics are variation, natural selection and the progressive accumulation of the results of natural selection.
As we have already mentioned, to speak of neo-Darwinism as a whole is too cursory. However, it can be summarised that its main contribution to Darwin (through the synthetic theory of Hugo de Vries) is the addition of the theory Genetics. Whereas Darwin, when speaking of variations, was only referring to the observation of an observation, neo-Darwinism claims to have found the cause of this fact: the random variations of information Genetics. A decisive factor in the training of this thesis was the appearance, at the beginning of the 20th century, of the theory Genetics: although the inheritance of traits between generations of living beings is obvious, this theory attributes them, for the first time, to a specific material component within the cell, initially called the germ plasm, then the genes, whose structure and mode of carrying information was only known much later.
At the beginning, there was the thesis that every characteristic of a living being corresponds to a gene that univocally determines this characteristic. Therefore, the synthetic theory is limited to bringing together the observation of variations and the explanation by the new theory Genetics: morphological or other characteristic variations are due to variations in genes. And, as these variations are apparently erratic, they would correspond to random variations of the genes. When the thesis of Genetics becomes a little more formalised, these random variations are transformed into random mutations. This is the concept that anyone with a basic knowledge of biology has learned since childhood.
Although the Darwinian explanation apparently accounts for biological evolution in a satisfactory way, it contains several conceptual errors and misunderstandings that are rarely discussed, but which are basic to understanding its weaknesses.
First of all, Darwin's early work only sample the word "species" in the degree scroll of his work. It does not appear in the whole content of the book. In fact, his explanation only attempts to give a reason for the change of morphology of living beings, but not of their species. The question of what constitutes the change of species through accumulation of variations has been introduced into Darwinism very late, with the concept of "speciation": there are evolutionary changes, but only some of them would lead to changes of species, to speciation.
In fact, Darwin himself recognises his despair and his problems, which are hardly insoluble, when he tries to determine, among a series of specimens he is describing, whether they are different species or varieties of the same species. After writing a scientific article in one of the senses, he does not see it clearly, puts it aside and writes it in the other sense, only to regret it again and return to the original approach . We can draw a very clear lesson from Darwin's perplexity: the change of species is not merely a change of morphology.
The problem of determining the species by means of exclusively scientific or biological criteria is insoluble. There is intellectual evidence for the species: it is the nature or essence of a living being. But, given the nature of the evidence provided by science, science alone can provide nothing on the subject. It must live at the expense of the ordinary evidence, and organise itself at agreement with it, making a reasoning that allows it to identify species from its scientific evidence.
When this common sense criterion is applied to the question of the species, it leads to the conclusion that, from a scientific point of view, a species is characterised by having a stable morphological patron saint (within certain variations, more or less large, that do not blur it). With generation, crossbreeding, etc., variations appear between the different individuals that do not break this stable patron saint .
To explain evolution, one would have to explain why new stable morphological patterns appear: this would be the only scientifically acceptable approach , as it seeks something material with its own methods. This has never been done, nor has it been seriously attempted (partly because of the blurring of the issue by Darwinism itself).
Finally, it is clear that the Darwinian thesis start from the evidence of variety, but do not explain it. With the advent of the Genetics, already in the plenary session of the Executive Council 20th century, this variety is explained in terms of the consequence of random mutations. But, as is well known, chance as a cause is very poor, and can hardly account for anything, much less for the richness, increasingly overwhelming as biology advances in its finding, that sample any living being, even the most elementary.
What Darwinism does explain, in theory, is the natural screening of the different forms (spontaneous variations) that living things take. Its strength is natural selection. In fact, many people, by oversimplifying the Darwinian thesis , attribute the origin of adapted forms to selection itself, which is a mistake: selection would be limited to eliminating non-adapted forms and preserving the valid ones. But where do these adapted forms come from? Because it is overwhelming to anyone with common sense that these forms do not appear by chance.
We have sketched, very briefly, a picture of the current evolutionary landscape, which is primarily seen from a Darwinian perspective. And some critical questions have already begun to emerge. In this and the following section we will attempt this critical view focusing on a few points that we have found to be of particular interest. The first will deal with the scientistic bias of the Darwinian explanation.
One of the attractions that have made the Darwinian explanation very popular in the present age is the claim that it is only a scientific explanation. One might add that it is the only one, since, for the time being, no alternative explanations have become popular. And Darwinism, more or less evolved, reigns undisputedly in the current scene.
Within the current culture, which assumes that the most valid explanation for reality is the scientific explanation, having a supposedly only scientific (it is not) view of the evolutionary phenomenon is very much at odds with its global pretensions to explain the world.
Along with sympathy with today's scientistic mentality, the Darwinian explanation lends itself to the play of materialistic and mechanistic ideologies. During the 19th century, other theories of evolution had a strong philosophical component, in which, along with explanations that today we would call scientific, there continued to appear questions that could be assimilated to natural purpose, natural tendencies in the evolution of living beings, etc., very classic themes in the programs of study of Philosophy of nature.
Along with these themes, and starting from them, philosophical reflection had always continued its reasoning in order to arrive at God, whose existence justifies, from the theoretical point of view, the existence of this finality, tendencies, etc., of nature.
With Darwinism, from the moment the explanation becomes purely scientific and these philosophical considerations (which are relevant) disappear, God is no longer necessary in the evolutionary picture (we do not claim that God creates evolution, but the observation of nature leads us, on reflection, to consider the existence of God as the foundation of the observed reality, including evolution). In short, with Darwinism, the possibility appears of expelling God from the vision of nature in evolution, since it is a "purely" mechanical or biological explanation. When Darwin's contemporaries accused him of being an atheist, they realised this.
This atheistic nuance of the Darwinist thesis (which is markedly accentuated in many later neo-Darwinist authors) provoked a reaction on the part of Christian believers, which has continued, with different variants, throughout the 20th century, especially in the United States. Basically, this reaction involved the joint rejection of the idea of biological evolution and its Darwinian explanations as civil service examination, in its materialistic version, to religious truths about creation and the world.
teaching Thus, although there have been more active periods, lawsuits have lasted until recently in the United States claiming that public schools could not teach Darwinist (or evolutionist) thesis as anything other than hypotheses, and that equal time should be devoted to creationist thesis , which should be presented as an alternative to scientific explanation.
These approaches are produced by a confusion of explanatory planes of reality (the scientific and the philosophical), as well as by a simplification of both the scientific position (evolution is reduced to its Darwinian explanation and only its materialistic version is considered) and the religious position (creation is reduced to the direct production by God of all things at the beginning of their existence, without differentiating between the transcendent causality of God and the immanent causality of the world).
In recent years, this panorama of "war between science and religion" has taken a different slant, when, from within the field of science itself, serious critical voices have been raised against Darwinism, in the school of intelligent design. Their basic idea is relatively simple: the mechanism advocated by neo-Darwinism is not capable of explaining the existence of irreducibly complex systems, which cannot be derived from other simpler systems by means of slight variations, because the simpler systems are not functional; there is a maximum simplification Degree , beyond which there is no functionality. And nature is full of examples of this irreducible complexity, the origin of which cannot be explained by Darwinism.
The way out of this school to explain these irreducibly complex systems is to affirm that they are mechanisms that respond to an intelligent design , because their functionality has an evident "for what". But they do not go into greater philosophical depths in this explanation. For more details on intelligent design, see Professor Collado's exhibition in this same course, entitled Science and transcendence: Intelligent design.
Obviously, this civil service examination to Darwinism (which the public and many biologists interpret as civil service examination to evolution) is done without opposing it with a religious view of life. Thus, the previous discussion between science and faith has become, rather, a discussion between liberals and conservatives, the latter not being explicitly anchored in religious ideas.
As mentioned above, the scientific outreach work of materialistic evolutionists and atheists, such as Sagan, Dawkins, etc., has had a decisive influence on this attitude against Darwinism (and against evolution, in the aforementioned simplification). By pushing to create a climate of materialist opinion, they have achieved a reaction, partly visceral, partly well founded, by those who do not consider themselves materialists or atheists, and have brought clearly philosophical questions back into the explanation of evolution, even if they do not bear that label at present.
Focusing again on Darwinism, we cannot fail to mention the difficulties of a purely scientific nature that have been raised against it in recent decades. It would take too long to even attempt to list the main ones that have been raised since the 1970s. Works such as that of Grassé, who, from his zoological knowledge, points out the radical inadequacy of Darwinism simply to explain what it claims to explain, cannot be disregarded.
To show in some depth one of the difficulties noted in these decades, we will describe the question of punctuated equilibrium and the Darwinian answer, allopatric speciation. We will end by briefly outlining other difficulties in brief, to show that the reign of Darwinian ideas is not undisputed, despite their overwhelming predominance in the present era.
As early as the 19th century it was evident that the fossil remains did not follow a smooth gradation from one another. According to Darwin's explanation, however, all evolution has occurred by the accumulation of minute variations; therefore, there must have remained traces of intermediate forms between any forms that are clearly distinguishable. What was the reason for this disparity?
In the 19th century this was attributed to the incompleteness of the fossil record: not every living thing leaves fossilised remains, and what remains there were were being discovered, so it was logical that such intermediate forms were not found among those that were available. However, as the years went by, the picture did not change, and it has not changed today: no intermediate transitional forms appear among other clearly different forms. New fossil discoveries seem to fill in a picture with steps between the different forms, not to smooth the transition between the known forms.
It was Gould's work in the 1970s that enshrined the expression "punctuated equilibrium" for this phenomenon: this author, after studying a particularly clear series of fossils, concludes that our search for "missing links" will probably always be fruitless, and that evolution has only left a stepwise trace.
But this posed a very serious problem for orthodox Darwinism, as it would not fit with the observed facts. The way to make these observations compatible with the Darwinian thesis was the hypothesis of allopatric speciation.
Darwin had already reflected on how little chance a variation has of being passed on to offspring in a large population with freedom to reproduce among its various individuals: the characteristic that may be advantageous is diluted in the population without having any impact on the form of the individuals of that species.
This difficulty, which had been seen since the beginnings of synthetic theory, was explained in the 1940s by arguing that the phenomenon of dilution and disappearance of the new characteristic need not occur if it appears in a small population, isolated in some way from the rest of the individuals. The simplest is an island; in fact, among the plants and animals that inhabit islands, it is very common to find endemic flora and fauna, the existence of which seems to support this hypothesis.
The observations in the 1980s, with bivalve shells from Lake Turkana, underlined the non-existence of intermediate forms with this particular case well analysed, while raising a serious problem: what has isolation consisted of in these circumstances; and why sometimes there are evolutionary leaps and sometimes species remain stable. In fact, Nature magazine commented on these findings in the early 1980s with a article rhetorically asking whether the Darwinian explanation had fallen (to reply that of course not, following its well-known line publishing house).
Although the problem is more complex than the succinct summary here, the appearance is that the allopatric speciation hypothesis is an ad hoc explanation concocted to simultaneously save the Darwinian explanation and the steps in a flawless fossil record.
Obviously, the question of leapfrog evolution and the Darwinian way out of allopatric speciation is only one of the difficulties posed by the neo-Darwinian hypothesis. By way of example, we could mention a few more:
Although we have mentioned that the isolation of one part of the population of a species is postulated as necessary for its transformation into another, it has never been possible to link a concrete isolation with a concrete speciation. All these are only suspicions and suggestive data (such as that of the fauna and flora on the islands). In no case has it been demonstrated that a given species comes from another species determined by isolation in specific circumstances. This is a different matter from the fact that no specific factor involved in the selection of what later became a specific species has been demonstrated (also not an insignificant matter).
Experiments have been carried out to try to mimic the mechanism of natural selection acting on nature and see if it works. One of the most classic was Kettlewell's experiment with the obscure form of the Biston betularia butterfly, the birch geometer. Kettlewell placed birch trunks, butterflies and birds in an enclosure and observed whether the birds ate the lighter or darker shapes more when the trunks were sooty; the birds preferred to eat the lighter ones, which are more visible against this background. Although the case seemed uncontroversial, it was later observed that, in nature, butterflies do not land on trunks, but on the underside of leaves, where they cannot be seen, whether light or dark (leaving aside questions such as whether your birds were hungry, or whether the butterflies were dead and glued together).
Another line of experimentation has consisted of subjecting living beings with a very rapid life cycle, such as bacteria or flies, to forced environmental conditions, in which some speciation could be achieved in a relatively short time. All experiments along these lines have result been useless: only variations have been achieved with respect to the wild subject , which is the one that inexorably reappears as soon as the external selection factor that we have artificially introduced ceases. Which brings us to another problem: it is not proven that evolution, as a global phenomenon (macroevolution), is result the accumulation of small changes (microevolution); it is only an assumption to which Darwinists cling.
Anyway, all these experiments and observations are made around the Darwinian idea, to prove or disprove it. But the problem is not that, but to explain the origin of the new forms of living beings. From that point of view, the question of selection has nothing to contribute, it is all in what is said about the cause of the origin of the new forms (which, in any case, will then be selected). But Darwinism says nothing about it, it merely repeats that everything happens by chance, although we all know from experience that chance explains very little, it is not a cause that always or most of the time produces its effects, like other causes; in seeking an explanation of evolution, we are looking for a genuine cause, one that explains a process in a clear way, with an internal law, and the answer of attributing the origin of forms to chance is a way out on a tangent.
The picture of absolute neo-Darwinian dominance, despite internal weaknesses, was confirmed in 2003 with the publication of The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, a posthumous work by Stephen Jay Gould, part of whose storyline is summarised below.
It is a very extensive work (more than 1400 pages), in which one could find a review and refutation of all the criticisms that Darwinism has suffered in recent decades. Gould, a convinced Darwinist of recognised prestige, nevertheless proposes something very different.
At the beginning of the book, in his characteristic essayistic style, Gould compares the theory of evolution to a tree with a series of critical points that cannot fail: trunk, cross, branches. If any of these elements fail, there is no chance that the structure will hold.
In the theory of evolution (in the Darwinian version that he defends) there would be a series of similar elements that cannot fail without the theory collapsing. Specifically, these would be the following three elements: the spontaneous variations of living beings (due to random genetic variations), natural selection, and the assertion that the whole evolutionary process (macroevolution) is reduced to the accumulation of small microevolutionary variations.
It is to be expected that he will then go on to defend these thesis from the numerous criticisms they have received. In particular, the reduction of the origin of all biological novelty to random change does not stand up to any halfway serious philosophical or biological analysis; natural selection, with its conception of nature as a hard struggle for survival, does not fit with spontaneous observation, in which nature seems more like a waste of life with very few difficulties (apart from the fact that it has never been possible to specify what the expression "natural selection" means, since each author gives a different version, none of which is proven, as far as the change of species is concerned); and, as we said, it has not been demonstrated that macroevolution is accumulated microevolution, that is a mere supposition.
However, Gould makes no defence of these points core topic. He simply states that, if we do not accept these basic points, we are left without an explanation for evolution. Paradoxically, such an insubstantial issue is the main current support for the Darwinist thesis : there is no halfway detailed alternative explanation for evolution.
This is basically a psychological problem: no one likes to be surrounded by data brutes, for whom he has no interpretative core topic ; and, faced with this situation, he prefers to cling to a lame (or, to put it better, false, since it does not fit the observed facts) explanation rather than to stick to the mere data, waiting for someone with sufficient ingenuity to point in the direction in which an adequate explanation should go.
After this initial statement, the whole work is devoted to outlining questions of detail. But the underlying problems (chance as the cause of forms, selection, macroevolution as cumulative microevolution) are swept under the carpet. This attitude, which would be logical to find in any other biologist, or even evolution expert, is striking in Gould, who would have been supposed to have a more critical scientific vision and enough knowledge to point out serious alternatives to some points core topic of Darwinism. Ideological fixation to the Darwinist thesis ? It is a plausible hypothesis.
In any case, this criticism, which may be valid in the case of Gould, who possesses an encyclopaedic knowledge on these subjects, would not be valid in the case of most other Darwinist authors, due to a series of preconceived ideas in biology, excessively widespread, which make it extraordinarily difficult for biologists to see a solution other than Darwinism. Let's look at what seem to me to be the main ones of these prejudices, although we could bring up more.
As we have already mentioned, when Darwin wrote The Origin of Species, he took as part of his explanation his observations on spontaneous variation: not all specimens of a species are the same. But Darwin does not point to a cause for this morphological variety, as biology had no explanation for it at the time.
It was not until Weisman, at the beginning of the 20th century, that an explanation for this phenomenon was formulated. Weisman put forward the idea of "germ plasm", i.e. a part of the liquid content of the cell ("plasma") which would be responsible for transmitting hereditary traits and another part which would not have the characteristic of transmitting traits to offspring. This "germ plasm" would be the determinant of the characteristics of the individual, and not the rest. Over time, this notion took shape, with that of genes (the units of information), it became known that this informative material was found in the nucleus of the cell, and, later, its composition Chemistry and the way in which the information was encoded (1950s).
From these beginnings, biology was left with the genetic paradigm: an individual's character responds to a gene that codes for it. And, from agreement with this initial idea, the mentality has developed that the genes of living beings have the core topic to be able to understand and dominate biology. In fact, the biological research of recent decades has turned to this field, driven in part by this presumption, which is a common mentality in our time.
With this idea in the minds of biologists, the synthetic theory could be developed, because it provided a very immediate explanation for Darwin's observation of variations among individuals in a population: if form is unambiguously caused by genes, then variations in form will be due to variations in genes. And if these variations are apparently random, the same could be said of the genetic variations that cause them.
This paradigm, which has allowed the contemporary flourishing of Genetics, is now unsustainable, given the advances in biological knowledge. We will look at this issue in a later section in a little more detail.
A second prejudice that has taken root among biologists, largely because of the unchallenged reign of Darwinist thesis and its teaching from an early age for more than half a century, is natural selection, which is associated with the conception of nature as a place of harsh struggle for survival.
This view of nature is obviously an interpretation of the observed realities, which are much more modest, and I think that they can hardly be interpreted in such a way. This is not to say that the life of living beings is unproblematic: every vital activity tries to maintain its own individuality, and the environment does not financial aid help it to do so, but must be maintained with effort on the part of the living being. Thus, homeostasis, for example, requires active processes that maintain the internal environment in reasonably stable conditions, independently of the external status . But to interpret this elementary reality of life processes as a "struggle for life", and to claim that this is an adequate description of the nature scene, is a gross exaggeration.
In any case, the incorrect extrapolation I believe has another origin: the observation of the predation of some living beings by others. We observe hunting or feeding scenes in which some living beings depend on the death of others in order to live, and we extrapolate that the life of both is a struggle for survival, of the predator to obtain its nutrition, and of the predator to escape and survive. For the particular individual, this statement may be true; but one swallow does not make a summer: from observation of a hunting scene it cannot be deduced either that the predator's species is on its last legs or that the predator is in danger of extinction. This can only be affirmed after observing these species as a whole.
Thus, many species involved in hunting scenes, such as sardines and bonito, or dragonflies and mayflies, have no problem at all in continuing to exist for generations. Their individual lives may be threatened by a particular predator, but that means nothing for the species as a whole. To cast the scene of the species as a whole, or of nature as a whole, as a harsh struggle for life and survival on the basis of a few hunting observations is a clearly unfocused statement.
In fact, hunting scenes have been observed by man for thousands of years, and yet it is only very recently, after the appearance of the Darwinist thesis , that nature has been interpreted as a struggle for life. The usual interpretation, which is much more consistent with reality, is that the world is a harmoniously ordered whole; scenes of violence occur in it, but this does not imply that this general view of nature as order should be modified.
Many observations could be made to the contrary of the interpretation of the world as a struggle: birds, when they are in heat, show off their most colourful feathers, often stand in a highly visible place and sing. If their lives were so dependent on a thread, such behaviour would be unfeasible. In short, the world is basically a peaceful place. Just ask the journalists who try to film hunting scenes in the wild and almost despair of succeeding.
Another of the prejudices frequently seen in biology derives from employment of the analytical scientific method, which ends up creating a mechanism mentality to interpret biological reality. As the scientific method, in order to study a question, artificially isolates it from the whole, and establishes how it works, those who have been initiated in this subject of programs of study end up thinking that the living being is a simple sum of those elementary mechanisms that scientific study uncovers. This is an error of approach.
As an example, let us look at the gene-form relationship: it is now sufficiently clear that, although the expression of certain genes has a decisive influence on the appearance of the forms of living beings, form is not directly related to the information Genetics. Its relationship is very indirect: form is undoubtedly influenced by the expression of genes during the development; but not only of a few genes that determine and govern the development, but of all the genes that are expressed, as well as of the correct interaction of all the elements that make up the living being and of the corresponding external factors.
The form is the result of the complex interaction of all the elements of the living being during its development, and not the simple transcription of a kind of template contained in the information Genetics (which would be that elementary mechanism that many biologists seem to seek): after all, living beings are complex, unitary realities, in which everything has to do with everything to a greater or lesser extent, and the separation of the genetic factor is nothing more than a deformation derived from the application of the analytical scientific method; the reality is the organic complexity of the living being.
Therefore, to consider that changes in a living being derive simply from random mutations is, to say the least, an oversimplification. If the origin of the inter-individual variations of living beings is to be sought, it will be necessary to look at the embryonic development and search there for the real factors (genetic -some- and non-genetic -many-) involved in the production of the form of the living being. And it will be necessary to separate, for study and consideration, the different possible levels of access to reality: the elementary mechanism (the genes and their expression), higher-level biochemical interactions (the proteins produced among themselves, and with the genes and other substances present in the cell), and interactions of another subject (of the cells among themselves, of the tissues among themselves). Reducing this tangle to the elementary factor of gene expression is an error of perspective.
We can add that biology is not yet in a position to give an overview of the living being that takes into account all the main levels of interaction at the same time, as it still has huge gaps in its knowledge.
Finally, although it is related to the above-mentioned scientistic view, I think that the peculiar approach of Darwinism's view of evolution, which has a lot to do with an incorrect view of reality, can be seen as something independent.
The Darwinist thesis points to the aforementioned combination of variation and natural selection as the biological explanation of evolution. Although this solution has, as we have seen, numerous difficulties, it has the virtue of being a very simple explanation which, at first written request, seems to account for the observed facts. However, when one tries to go deeper into it, the matter becomes more complicated, the heterogeneous or contradictory meanings of the expressions multiply, and the picture becomes quite inextricable.
It is precisely in its apparent simplicity (a factor that has favoured its triumph) that one of its difficulties lies: Darwinism, following the "finding" of this mechanism, announces that it explains evolution. It thus extrapolates from a factor that may actually exist, and claims that everything in evolution boils down to what follows from this proposed mechanism. All other possible causal factors are relegated to the background or are considered unimportant; in fact, in the basic teaching of the biological explanation of evolution, they simply disappear, indicating that they are relatively incidental elements.
However, a scientific study that claims to be serious cannot limit itself to assuming one of the elements it discovers in reality. Reality is complex, it can be observed at different levels, and each level must have its own laws and explanations. Darwinism has circumvented this need by simply expanding the mechanism of selection to all possible levels of observation. Thus, while Darwin asserted that selection sifted out less fit individuals, now selection is admitted Genetics, of individuals, of reproduction, of populations ... many of these are affirmed as freely as the selection of individuals, based on small observations interpreted as global behaviours of the systems studied.
If we want to answer the question of why evolution happens, we must abandon this simplistic attitude, which only organises a flight forward, instead of looking at the facts, at all levels (genetic, embryological, metabolic, population, etc.), in order to establish a synthetic vision that reasonably explains reality. This has yet to be done, and biology is not in a position to do it now or for a long time to come. In the meantime, Darwinism repeats its refrain: random variation and selection.
At this point, the question arises: if the Darwinian or neo-Darwinian explanation is not true, how can evolution be explained? And the answer is very simple: we don't know yet.
This is not to say that we do not have the slightest idea of where the explanation might lie. In fact, we already know a lot of loose data , not only about subject palaeontology, but also about questions of Genetics, kinship between different species, palaeometabolism, etc. Although we do not yet have an overall explanation that brings them together to form a coherent body, it cannot be said that we know nothing.
We also know with a fair degree of certainty that the Darwinian explanation is not true, and the difficulties of method and the observations that make us reject it. Although it may seem that this is a statement that leaves us in a vacuum, this is not the case, for it is not the same as not knowing anything: it is knowing, and quite a lot, for not every biologist is in a position to arrive at this knowledge, either because it is not his field of expertise work, or because of errors of method such as those mentioned above, or for other reasons. And this knowledge is delegate for future research, it is not just a door closed in front of us.
What is clear is that the fear of being left without a framework of ideas in which to insert the data we possess should not stop us from rejecting Darwinism, because its acceptance disorients the subsequent research to questions of population dynamics, to the importance of diverse factors as selective agents, or to some questions of Genetics, always under the Darwinian paradigm of chance as a cause. In other words, neo-Darwinism will focus all its work on what genes do to generate the form of living beings (partial vision), and the interactions of the environment that influence whether a species has a better or worse time, or whether certain behaviours are favoured or disadvantaged.
The basic question remains unresearched: why do new morphological patterns appear in living things? These new morphological patterns are what can be verified in a new species from a scientific point of view. And it is this point core topic that is left to chance as a cause in the Darwinian model , thus remaining unstudied. Obviously, this raises many questions in embryology and other disciplines: the rejection of Darwinism not only closes doors, it also opens them.
Once we have established the explanation of the origin of the new forms of living beings, we can ask ourselves what caused the disappearance of some and the survival of others. But this is a question of the subsequent sifting of forms that already exist, a sifting that in no way explains the existence of the forms themselves. And what we are interested in knowing in the study of evolution is the origin of the forms. Darwinism has said nothing about this origin for a century and a half.