Since Darwin wrote his book, many people have challenged his theory. Now this does not mean these scientsts resorted to supporting creationism. What they realised was, was that Darwins theory of evolution was either completey flawed, wrong, incomplete etc, evolution is not in question to these scientists but the process or mechanism which brought about the evolution is in question - And has actually never been solved!, there is still a huge debate amongst scientists today for example, did evolution occur gradually or by leaps? What are the mechanisms of evolution? Many evolutionists do not agree with eachother!. These scientists have all put forward there own evolutionary theories opposed to Darwin.

NONE of these scientists are creationists, NONE of them are religious in any shape or form. Most are agnostics and atheists. And yes they oppose Darwins theory of evolution!

Pierre- Paul Grasse

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Evolution is not a theory, but a set of observations.  Darwin didn't revamp the data of evolution (other than pointing out some good examples).  The Darwinian hypothesis was alteration of phenotypes by means of natural selection.  That enjoyed remarkable success in testing and quickly became the most strongly supported theory in biology.  With the (post Darwin) growing understanding of genetics it has become perhaps the strongest theory in all of science, and could be considered a 'law' if there were sufficient consensus on what that term means within a discipline that doesn't recognize absolutes.

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Ted, in my view the observations themselves don't say anything, they lead us to make certain assumptions. I see evolutionists drawing on those observations to make two assumptions, one plausible, the other not.

First, plausible: Robert Chambers in "Vestiges..." saw God's handiwork in those observations. However, his mechanism wasn't very plausible. I join with most others in being led by the observations to assume species make each other through a non-supernatural process. I make this assumption myself. I think it's plausible. So far, so good.

Second, implausible: Darwin did revamp the data on evolution, by cataloging it under the heading of "adaptation" and assuming that accounting for evolution meant coming up with a mechanism for what made creatures more adapted to the environment. I see no logic in making adaptation what needs to be accounted for. Whatever the mechanism of evolution is, creatures are bound to be adapted to the environment, or they'd be dead. Adaptation is a trivial side effect of whatever does drive the process. Trying to account for evolution in terms of adaptation is like trying to account for what kind of engine propels an automobile in terms of the gases coming out of the exhaust. Given gasoline going in, those gases are going to what comes out the back, they tell you nothing of the kind of engine the car has. Similarly adaptation coming out the back of the evolutionary process tells you nothing about what that process is.

I thought there was actually no proof that the Darwinian hypothesis could account for evolution over evolutionary time scales, only in limited lab experiments. I know I could be wrong here.  Evolution, yes, there is evidence, but for natural selection, I thought not.

True, it's become almost a law. I regret that. It stifles thinking.

Darwin did revamp the data on evolution, by cataloging it under the heading of "adaptation" and assuming that accounting for evolution meant coming up with a mechanism for what made creatures more adapted to the environment. I see no logic in making adaptation what needs to be accounted for. Whatever the mechanism of evolution is, creatures are bound to be adapted to the environment, or they'd be dead. Adaptation is a trivial side effect of whatever does drive the process.

This does not seem an accurate statement of Darwin's thesis. Evolution is based on two principle notions:

1. Reproduction naturally produces great variety within species.

2. Those members of the species best adapted to their environment survive (are naturally selected) and gradually the species modifies in the direction of their characteristics.

Many mechanisms may propel evolution, but natural selection remains the principle one. Environments are not necessarily stable and can shift over time forcing species into extinction and allowing others to flourish. Varieties can become isolated. Genetic drift may occur. Nevertheless, Darwin's hypothesis is verified by many examples of evolution over long periods of time such as that of the horse.

One of the best popular expositions is Ernst Mayr's What Evolution Is, 2001.

My post was limited to the issue of Darwin having revamped the data.

Is there any point in me nit-picking about the two notions you raised? It won't be very interesting, I think. And I don't feel strongly about the issues. But I feel like it, so here goes:

I don't think Darwin thought about where variation came from, he just observed it and accepted that it existed. I think he also assumed that variations were naturally viable. I don't think he saw natural selection as having to exclude variations that weren't viable, just as having to choose the variations that best suited conditions as they changed.

It was after his mechanism had been abandoned for there not appearing to be a source of new variations to replace those that natural selection eliminated that mutations were proposed as such a source. Only then I think did people see in reproduction itself the source of variation. There, that's a nit-pick.

Of course, those people then made natural selection responsible for seeing to it that the benefit resulting from mutation outweighed the damage from it, thanks to some nifty statistical shenanigans (calculating only how the benefits grew over time, but not the damage). Not something Darwin anticipated, I think, when he proposed the mechanism.

"Those members of the species best adapted to their environment survive..." Your honor, I object! Peacocks with the biggest tails are not best suited to their environment, not unless you include in that environment their spouses, which opens a bag of worms, in my opinion. And, aren't you guilty of a tautology, isn't the actual in-practice definition of "best adapted" that a creature survived? Or, if some that survive are not the best adapted, then your statement isn't true.

"Darwin's hypothesis is verified by many examples of evolution over long periods of time such as that of the horse." I suspect it will seem like a nit-pick to you, but the horse I believe illustrates evolution, but not necessarily Darwin's mechanism. Suppose Some-Other-Mechanism is actually responsible for evolution, then the horse, while illustrating evolution, won't be verifying Darwin's hypothesis.

I feel uneasy raising such objections just for the sake of it, as if this was all a game. Is this interesting, worthwhile, or is it better if I stick only with substantive issues I care about?

I don't think Darwin thought about where variation came from, he just observed it and accepted that it existed. I think he also assumed that variations were naturally viable. I don't think he saw natural selection as having to exclude variations that weren't viable, just as having to choose the variations that best suited conditions as they changed.

This is not at all consistent with what Darwin actually wrote. The first two chapters of Origin of Species are: Chapter I Variation under Domestication and Chapter II Variation under Nature. Later follows Chapter IV Natural Selection, which includes a section on sexual selection, and Chapter V Laws of Variation. In the chapter on natural selection Darwin discusses extinction and specifically titles one section Extinction by Natural Selection.

What Darwin lacked was the mechanism that generated variation: genetics. He observed the immense variety in nature and in domestication and in many cases he could connect characteristics with adaption—to the point that once in observing a particular flower, he described in advance the characteristics of the insect that would fertilize it.

And, aren't you guilty of a tautology, isn't the actual in-practice definition of "best adapted" that a creature survived? Or, if some that survive are not the best adapted, then your statement isn't true.

The important thing is that evolution deals with populations, not individuals. It is a population that evolves, not any individual. The issue is not whether an ill adapted individual might survive—that undoubtedly does happen—but whether the entire population of the species shifts slowly and gradually to a certain outcome in response to environmental stresses.

I feel uneasy raising such objections just for the sake of it, as if this was all a game. Is this interesting, worthwhile, or is it better if I stick only with substantive issues I care about?

All your objections and many, many more have been raised repeatedly in the 154 years since the publication of Darwin's Origin. The best source, besides the Mayr book, is The Annotated Origin by James Costa. There is a great deal of interesting information in both books, and Darwin was a superb writer.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                             

I am sorry to have made you reply at such length when we are in so much agreement on what darwinism consists of. I look forward to posting together on topics of more substance.

As for Darwin being a great writer, I entirely by chance selected "Origin..." as my text for teaching myself oratory in my mid-teens. I think his writing later became boring ("Expression in animals and man"--some-such title), but I suspect "Origins..." had a lot of the original draft he wrote while still in his twenties.

I can understand why you might find some of Darwin's writing dull—there is little direct expression of personality in it and a great deal of observation.

However, that's exactly what fascinates me. Darwin could not help but observe everything around him and spin out interesting ideas from those observations. He was capable of the kind of sustained, detailed, and careful observation most of us cannot manage, but which I find very calming to read—he seems so civilized.

I have just started a section in my web site where I am developing a new theory of evolution intended to help us account for the evolution of our experience of being conscious, creative and in possession of free will. It is dualist, but not creationist. Your comments would be very welcome, positive or negative.

I'll have to check into your ideas further, but you could be onto something. I've always said that there is no need for failed prototypes of animals and humans as evolution goes along. Some sort fo "smart gene " here prevents half formed or misformed carcasses form being found in fossil records, and it also prevents non effective sperm from being all over the place. This means that you may not ever be finding your "missing link."

Some say the second law of thermodynamics kills evolution in its tracks. I disagree. The Earth is not a sealed system. In other posts of mine, I have said that people in 1950 are not like us, and you can see this. Certainly people in 1800 were not like us. This is visibly discerned, but some reading my posts think I am talking about better dental care or better hygene, etc.

Call it what you like. The improved conditions (or otherwise changed conditions) are affecting human beings and everything else on the planet!

Indeed. While evolution is a verifiable fact, the theory has changed significantly(due to new information) in the 155(?) years. Who ever would have guessed that Darwin, who died in 1882, would not have known about genetics(because he believed in pangenesis). Thank (insert phrase of choice here) for peer review and the part of the scientific method that is SELF CORRECTING.

»Who ever would have guessed that Darwin, who died in 1882, would not have known about genetics(because he believed in pangenesis).«

In Darwin's time there was no developed science of genetics and the experiments of Gregor Mendel were not widely known. Mendel's paper appeared in 1866—seven years after The Origin of Species and was not properly understood. In other words there was no science of heredity for Darwin to employ in his work.

Indeed, heredity was not well understood or truly linked to DNA until the late 1920's, if I recall correctly. Even then the ideas were very general, at best.

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