Stripping Darwin Down: Science or Ideology?
Enezio E. de Almeida Filho
Theory of Evolution… Why call into question this scientific theory? Is it not one of the most accepted scientific models among biologists and other scientists? Many lay persons, despite the fact that they do not fully understand it, they ‘trust’ it. So, why call into question in the media its Hall of Fame status granted by the Academy? ‘All biologists and scientists wholeheartedly accept the theory of evolution’…’There is no crisis within neo-Darwinism‘, ‘Evolution is a FACT!’ is widely proclaimed by the scientists in their writings, lectures and interviews. But is it really so?
Since its inception in the 1950’s (yes — more than 40 years) the neo-Darwinian paradigm (or the Modern Synthetic Theory – a combination of Classical Darwinism with Mendelian Genetics) has been facing theoretical-empirical difficulties. Discussed within the Scientific academia’s four walls, it has been peer reviewed in specialized journals and publicly discussed in some magazines as well as in some popular books. The noteworthy thing in this debate is the fact that the authors are all well known internationally evolutionist scientists. Much more interesting is the Brazilian media’s attitude concerning this so important issue – absolute silence! Deaf as a rock!
What is happening with neo-Darwinism is what Thomas S. Kuhn so brilliantly discussed in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (revised edition, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970, especially chapters 6-8). When there are anomalies that the theory did not predict, and is unable to properly answer them, the paradigm enters in crisis; the scientists attempting to maintain/save the current scientific model create ad-hoc theories to explain it. Without this, a scientific paradigm shift is necessary. Kuhn, however, did not stipulate how many years of unanswered anomalies by the current model would be necessary for the rising of a new scientific paradigm…
The scientific paradigms in Physics do change more rapidly. Why is it so? Do physicists know something else for which there is no way out but the humble answer [which scientists do not like to say] about the origin of the Universe – “We do not know”. Science is not omnipotent…It is merely a human construct attempting to describe reality that can be corrected if it is proven to be false. That is what the Nomenklatura proclaims by and large.
Throughout these more than 40 years, what has been questioned by the strictness of the scientific method is – what mechanism(s) would have caused throughout time (billions and billions of years…) the evolutionary process(s) for the origin and evolution of life: Right chemical elements + Natural forces + Time (Billions of years) + Chance (Natural selection + Genetic mutations). Abiogenesis, without any backing up from the scientific method (Redi and Pasteur already have demonstrated [by their scientific experiments] that this hypothesis does not work) is accepted as having produced the first simple living being from a non-living basis which transformed into a very complex living being. It is funny and even ironic but a frog being kissed by a princess, and turn into a prince belongs to the realm of fairy tales. Now, a supposed to be unicellular being (unobservable) throughout billions of years to transform into an Australopithecus and later on into a Charles Darwin (unobservable and without any phylogenetic relationship), this is considered to be science! Apart from irony, hello Popper, hello Kuhn, and hello Feyerabend, they have announced the end of Science. We desperately need you, câmbio…cambrio…cambriano (a play on words in Portuguese to show the evolution of words: over [a radio communication sign], cambrio > Cambrian). The Big Bang of life – the Achilles’ heel of the evolutionary theories! There is no trustworthy scientific dating beyond a million years (Dr. Carl Swissher and Dr. Garniss Curtis, Geochronology experts at The Institute of Human Origins, Berkeley, CA (Time, March 4, 1994, pp. 33-4). Metaphysics scent…
They are not just 40 days of debate. They are exactly 49 years. Scientific journalists should carefully consider the serious questions made by G. A. Kerkut (evolutionist) concerning the inadequate evidences for the 7 most important evolutionary inferences:
1. Non-living things originated living organisms;
2. Abiogenesis has occurred once;
3. The viruses, bacterias, plants and animals are all inter-related;
4. The protozoae originated the metazoae;
5. Diverse invertebrate phyla are interrelated;
6. The invertebrate originated the vertebrate ones; and
7. The fish, reptiles, birds and mammals had a common ancestor origin.
in Implications of Evolution, New York: Pergamon, 1960, pp. 150-57.
Thus far, no evolutionist scientist has solved these theoretical-empirical difficulties. One can notice a certain preoccupation in the scientific reports carried by the media – all verbs are in the conditional tenses. This is good because they do not attribute facticity to some scientific discoveries. However, they do not point out to the readers which aspects of the neo-Darwinian theory are being corroborated/called into question. Why this blatant omission? What is seen in scientific journalism, supposed to be objective, is a journalism ideologically committed to philosophical naturalism passing for scientific journalism. Pseudo scientific journalism to be unmasked. By the strictness of the scientific method.
What has happened to the Kuhnian vision of paradigm shift in this imbroglio? When anomalies exist that the scientific model cannot fully answer them, the scientific model has already entered a crisis, there are internal debates; ad-hoc theories have been created by the scientists [Neutral theory of evolution – Motoo Kimura] trying to maintain/save the paradigm. Do these ad-hoc theories really differ from the well known God of the gaps situation the Scientific Nomenklatura usually brings up to despise creationism? They seem not to. We are watching the critical transition of neo-Darwinism into a new biological paradigm. There are other proposals such as Intelligent Design (Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, New York: Free Press, 1996) but the Scientific Nomenklatura [I have borrowed this term from Milovan Djilas, a communist Yugoslav dissident who criticized the Marxist dogmas defended by the Party leaders despite its productive efficiency failure. Throughout this text it means the unwarranted defense of Darwinist dogmas.] not even wants to listen to the innovators’ plead.
This may sound as a strange paradox, but the great hindrance for the free and full development of science throughout time have been the fundamentalist scientists. Galileo Galilei was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church but with approval and consent of the scientific Nomenklatura of his days, which almost unanimously believed that the Earth was the center of the Universe… They also had believed in the past that the Earth was flat! Internationally well known scientists of that time. Not much different from modern well known scientists of today. They are not so aseptic as their smocks… Pasteur has something to say about this.
In the scientific reports by the media there is no distinction in the usage of the term theory of evolution: Special Theory of Evolution – microevolution does occur within species, is observable and empirically confirmed (Dobzhansky). The General Theory of Evolution — macroevolution among different species [one becoming another specie] supposed to be unusual and unobservable events that happened in a very very distant past which cannot be empirically confirmed (Goldschmidt). Why this essential distinction is not made when the general theory of evolution is presented as an undisputed scientific fact?
All scientific idea and theory should be publicly debated for science’s own good. This is a very popular saying among scientists, but least followed by them – especially when it applies to the theory of evolution. Why so? Because it permeates all our actual cultural Weltanschauung. Why cannot neo-Darwinism be subjected to the strictness of the scientific method? Why not the public debate of its theories? The neo-Darwinist model should be brought for this rational debate, because as a theory it cannot claim the status of fact beyond any suspicious doubts. If not, then we have an odd example of Theoria perennis. By not doing this, scientific journalists are condemning their readers to a deep well of intellectual ignorance. What if the scientific paradigm is wrong? What were/are/will be the consequences for the biological research?
The scientific method (Fernando Gewandsznajder, O que e o metodo cientifico? [What is the Scientific Method?], São Paulo: Pioneira, 1989) still is the accepted standard for the acceptance of any scientific theory. Would neo-Darwinism pass the rigor of the scientific method? It seems not. Why is not this theoretical model considered by scientific journalists using this Science-accepted criteria? Is it the fear to find Darwin naked? Or is it the fear that neo-Darwinism will be found lacking in scientific grounds as a theory? What is behind the emotional reactions of fundamentalist scientists/ultra-Darwinists such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett et al? Would not the limits of natural selection be a good reason for considering new theories [Stephen C. Meyer, Science philosopher, Cambridge University]? What is the media’s reason for this sepulchral silence on such important subject?
This ‘silence‘ by the media around the theoretical-empirical difficulties facing neo-Darwinism has to do with the fact that Darwin is a scientific icon. An idol. Yes, an idol, and as such it is destined for destruction. Marx and Freud, as scientific idols have fallen down. Who will be Darwin’s Phineas? Nietzsche said in one of his books: “To put idols down – this has become part of my trade”. This Nietzschean mood is absent within Brazilian journalism. Special Theory of Evolution – Darwin is right. General Theory of Evolution – Darwin has no reason, is naked, and there is something stinking within the Scientific Nomenklatura for not willing to have this fact disclosed to the students and the non-specialized readers.
When Karl Popper arrived at the conclusion that ‘Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme’ [in Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography, La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, 1976, p. 168, emphasis added], what was the Scientific Nomenklatura’s reaction? To deal with the Popper’s assertion? To demonstrate otherwise or to deny him the scientific citizenship in the scientific kingdom for not uttering the current canon? They did not deal with Popper’s assertion, and almost deprived him of his citizenship within the scientific kingdom – he recanted on pragmatic basis from some of his skeptical theses concerning the biological sciences, so as to survive in the Academia. Ideological patrolling. True Inquisition. Without burning…Different handling from the one applied to Galileo? Not so!
Later on, Collin Patterson, a senior paleontologist [evolutionist] from the British Natural History Museum, on November 5, 1981, in a lecture given at the American Museum of Natural History, before an audience made up of American scientists, all evolutionists, asked:
“Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing…that is true? I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of the Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology seminar in the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time and eventually one person said ‘I do know one thing – it ought not to be taught in high school.”
The audience remained silent…18 years have gone by and Patterson’s disturbing question remains unanswered. Not even a Nobel Prize in Biology has answered his question up to now… By the way, do you know or have heard of any Nobel Prize winner who has advanced the scientific status of evolutionism? Collin Patterson, pressed by the Scientific Nomenklatura has softened a little on his criticisms against neo-Darwinism, and later on tried to explain the inexplicability of his famous question. Why? Was it from fear of losing his academic reputation and office at the British Natural History Museum in London? If so, isn’t it a very different attitude from Galileo who dared to go against the Academia of his time?
In 1985, Michael Denton, Senior Research Fellow, Human Genetic expert at Otago University, New Zealand, wrote the book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis [Bethesda, MD, Adler & Adler, Published in 1986] presenting his serious objections to neo-Darwinism. There are many organs highly complex, as well as systems and structures which cannot be conceived as having arisen in terms of gradual accumulations of mutations by chance throughout the years. As it was expected, the Nomenklatura reacted, and still continues to react to Dr. Denton’s objections. He, however, has been resisting these personal attacks hurled against him. He wrote another book: Nature’s Destiny – How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe [New York: The Free Press, 1998].
In 1991, Phillip E. Johnson, Law professor at the University of California at Berkeley for over twenty years wrote a devastating book against Darwinism – Darwin on Trial [Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway]. For this one and other published books such as Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds; Objections Sustained, and Reason in the Balance [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press], Dr. Johnson has been suffering virulent attacks by the Scientific Media just because he has no related academic background. With this sort of reasoning, they have just denied Darwin the right to write his Origin of Species (that deals with everything but the origin of species… Read it and confirm yourself): he studied Theology in Cambridge, and was a naturalist much more by hobby rather than academic background…
Opening the Black Box
But then Michael J. Behe, a biochemist and assistant professor at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania came around with his Intelligent Design and Irreducible Complexity theses well delineated in his famous book Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution [New York: The Free Press, 1996]. As it was expected, the Scientific Nomenklatura has been reacting deeply against the novelty. In neo-Darwinism establishment everybody has to act like toy soldiers: uniform thinking. Any diversity is considered to be heresy. However, among evolutionists there were those who called and paid attention to Behe’s proposition as being one which cannot be dismissed without a hearing. Cum granum salis. They were a few members of the Scientific Academia who did so. Just like in Galileo’s case…
There are many other scientists in this growing intelligent design movement. All scientists, biologists, biochemists, and philosophers of science like Charles Thaxton, David Berlinski, Walter Bradley, William Dembski, Stephen C. Meyer, Jonathan Wells and many other think-tanks such as David Berlinski. All calling into question the scientific validity of the neo-Darwinist paradigm in many theoretical-empirical aspects.
For more than 10 years (yes, more than 10 years this writer has been writing letters to science editors of the largest Brazilian magazines and newspapers: VEJA (weekly magazine like Time and Newsweek), Folha de São Paulo (sort of New York Times), and more recently Superinteressante, Globo Ciencia (now Galilei – all Brazilian popular scientific magazines) and EPOCA (same as VEJA) calling the attention of these important scientific issues. The only answer received, even from Ombudsman (Folha de São Paulo’s Caio Túlio Costa et al) was that they would check if my assertions really proceeded. Or automatic answer such as the one from VEJA: We thank you for your earnest interest, blah, blah, blah… Hardly had they dealt with the scientific aspects of the disclosed issues. A more exact answer I have got was from VEJA’s Editor: “we do not evaluate the scientific value of the research/findings, we only inform.” On a later report VEJA contradicted itself. Its reporters ‘blindly’ followed the neo-Darwinist dogmas…
Does the scientific journalism have scientific relevance? Yes, it does. The journalist is the one who propagates the scientific ideas and theories for the lay people. Does the scientific journalism have social relevance? Indeed, it does. It is one of the links that show to society how the Academia works. Unfortunately, as it propagates the scientific ideas and theories, the Brazilian scientific journalism has not promoted the debate, it has not ‘listened to the other side’s version’. It is necessary to find out why the evolutionist scientists refuse to publicly debate these devastating anomalies. Just a clue – the ones who practice normal science feel threatened in their offices and researches if they start questioning the most accepted scientific model by the fin de siécle Scientific Nomenklatura: scholarships, research funds, academic reputation, prominence in the international scientific community, fear of being labeled fool, ignorant, flat Earth believer and other raving names used by the sober and elegant members of the Academia’… Debate in scientific journalism should be the norm and not the exception. Scientia Qua Scientia [Wissenschaft] by the skeptical strictness of the scientific method. No more, no less.
As to its social relevance, the scientific journalism needs to show another unknown angle of the Nomenklatura: the popular concept of ‘intellectual integrity’ of scientists, and that Science practiced nowadays is done totally deprived of ideology or exempt from a particular Weltanschauung. The Brazilian scientific journalism has lost a great opportunity to demonstrate that it is an investigative and objective journalism when, throughout more than 10 years receiving data about the subject, it did not make known to the public the so many anomalies facing neo-Darwinism. This was so due to a blind ideological positioning bound to the Scientific Nomenklatura’s credo rather than by love for the ‘scientific truth’. A new scientific paradigm in Biology is undergoing labor pains, but the Scientific KGB through its agents wish to abort it when so many biologists, biochemists and other evolutionist scientists are more than willing to see the birth of this child. Vade retro Herodes (Dawkins, Dennett, Gould et al.)!
The scientific journalism that covers ideas and theories about the origin and evolution of life on Earth has to have the interest to make some questions, such as – What/who are we? Where do we come from? Can ex-nihilo create anything? Does Science have the competence in this area or when it formulates these theories is it not substituting the so-called ‘religious myths’ by ‘adult fairy tales’? Would the Zeitgeist have any influence upon the Weltanschauung of those who do science? Would the scientists be ‘objective’, ‘neutral’, trustworthy in their researches? What to say about the so many frauds that happened in the past, and still happen nowadays within the scientific community?
A Refined Myth
At first sight, the above questions seem to be so naive, but they are very fundamental. They are fundamental because the scientific theories that we have about the origin/evolution of the universe and of life do not differ from the so-called religious myths: they are unobservable, and there is something of naturalist omnipotence. When Darwin elaborated his theory, he did so with the hidden philosophical naturalistic interests of his time. A refined myth, and well supported even by a Zeitgeist where philosophical naturalism reigns disguised as Science.
The scientific journalism needs to inform the readers that, unlike what is reported by the media, heretical Galileo faced great opposition by the Academia luminaries/peers of his time. The same applies to Darwin. There is no way to keep hiding the bankruptcy of the neo-Darwinist paradigm – Empirica empirice tratanda! In science, when a dead paradigm is out, a new paradigm is in. Despite posing as ‘scientific orthodoxy’, neo-Darwinism as a theory has been proclaimed dead. Let the new paradigm come to the fore – Intelligent Design!
The theoretical framework of the Brazilian and international scientific journalism as to the origin and evolution of life is based on the scientific majority’s position – neo-Darwinism (or the Modern Synthetic Theory). Some Brazilian journalists cannot plead ignorance of this model’s theoretical crisis for they were informed by this Author for more than 10 years [VEJA, Folha de São Paulo, and more recently EPOCA]. They became aware of these anomalies, and that despite its being ‘the most reliable scientific model’, it is called into question on theoretical-empirical grounds in the macro-evolution level by so many evolutionist scientists. The theoretical framework that sustains the whole business of Biology is about to blow up… Why omit this knowledge from non-specialized readers and students? Why?
There are, at least, five crises within the current scientific model. Not even the ad-hoc theories created could save the theory, rather, they brought in more problems:
1. The unsubstantiation of a Darwinian mechanism of evolution;
2. The total failure of origin of life studies to produce a workable model;
3. The inability of evolutionary mechanism to explain the origin of complex adaptations;
4. The bankruptcy of the blind watchmaker hypothesis (Richard Dawkins);
5. The biological evidence that the rule in nature is morphological stability (stasis) over time and not constant change.
Dr. Ray Bohlin’s article The Five Crises in Evolutionary Theory at http://www.probe.org
If anybody scan the pages of our magazines and newspapers, despite the fact that some scientific journalists have stressed that the scientific theories are near-the-truth constructs, the species evolution – macroevolutionary level, is mentioned as if it really had happened. Empirically, it is another thing… The fossil record has been saying no since Darwin’s time. Molecular Biology, too. So has Biochemistry. Some Brazilian journalist had access to this questioning done by distinguished evolutionist scientists. Others did not. The ones who knew, why did not they deal with those theoretical-empirical difficulties? Journalistic dishonesty or the presence of a ‘strait-jacket’ in the editorial offices imposed by the Zeitgeist and the Scientific Nomenklatura?
After what has been exposed in this article, some Brazilian media organs will have to deal with the following questions and hypotheses:
· Why the theoretical-empirical difficulties facing neo-Darwinism was not presented to the readers? (Central question – CQ)
Around this question, the following ones were conceived:
· Was there any knowledge by the scientific journalists about the ‘anomalies’ not answered by neo-Darwinism as a scientific paradigm? (Question 1)
· If there was knowledge about them, why not consider Kuhn’s proposition [The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, specially chapters 6-9] – a paradigmatic crisis demanding a paradigm shift? (Q2)
· What is the specific place of ‘naturalistic philosophy’ on the part of the scientific journalists in their maintaining of a scientific model that, despite being considered ‘the most reliable’ among scientists, it suggests to be more metaphysics rather than Science properly? (Q3)
· Why the scientific journalists do not make distinction between the Special Theory of Evolution (micro-evolutions, intra-species, empirically corroborated) and General Theory of Evolution (macro-evolutions, inter-species, empirically not corroborated) since this distinction is essential for the understanding of all evolutionary theoretical framework? (Q4)
· Why the Science editors did not point out these ‘anomalies’ for the scientific journalists when reporting about this theme? (Q5)
The Central Hypothesis that I have suggested that answers the Central Question (CQ) is the following:
· The theoretical-empirical difficulties facing neo-Darwinism were not pointed out to the readers due to a Weltanschauung totally influenced by philosophical naturalism passing as Science; consciously done by some, and unconsciously done by other journalists. (HC)
The other hypotheses offered to the other questions are the following:
· According to this Author’s correspondence with some Science editorial offices there was a knowledge of these anomalies by some editors, but others did not know anything about them. Journalistic dishonesty on the part of the ones who knew them, and lack of scientific updating on the part of other ones. (H1)
· Kuhn says that there is reluctance in accepting a paradigm shift on the part of those who practice Normal Science, setting out to or waiting for the creation of ad-hoc theories aiming to save the old scientific model. This can also be applied to those who practice Normal Journalism. (H2)
· The ‘naturalistic philosophy’ occupies, consciously or unconsciously ‘the epistemological ground’ not only in the Zeitgeist and Weltanschauung of scientists but as well as of scientific journalists, too, without any questioning of such positioning by the scientific method. (H3)
· This distinction is not done because some scientific journalists do not fairly know the Theory of Evolution so as to make such theoretical distinction to the readers. (H4)
· The Science editorial offices did not point out these anomalies of the neo-Darwinist paradigm due to its ‘epistemological reductionism’ totally based on the ‘naturalistic philosophy’ rather than follow the strictness of the scientific method applied to the General Theory of Evolution. (H5)
Listening to the Other Side
The Science editorial office that may come to publish a solid text about the theoretical-empirical difficulties facing neo-Darwinism, in order to listen to the other side, will have to point out the following essential points:
· Science and the Scientific Method
· Darwinism: Science or Philosophy (Facts or Faith)?
· Origin and Evolution of Life
· Natural Selection
· The Fossil Record
· The Cambrian Explosion and the Origin of Phyla
There are articles and books by evolutionist scientists dealing with these aspects. Why not ‘reduplicate’ them? Is there an ‘epistemological filter’ for what must be published or not? Index prohibitorum?
I want to record here that Mauricio Tufani [Folha de São Paulo], was the only Science editor who accepted the criticism made by renowned scientists against the neo-Darwinian model, but published on December 13, 1998 a special report about the difficulties of this scientific model as if the hard question was: Has evolution happened by gradualism or saltationism?, and an unfair treatment of Dr. Michael Denton’s and Dr. Michael J. Behe’s positions — a snow job on the Intelligent Design movement.
This article is a slight modification of a research project proposal presented to the Pos-graduation Education Department at UNIMEP (Piracicaba Methodist University) for selection to its Science Education Master Program on 11.16.98. It was about the complete omission of these anomalies in the Brazilian second grade Biology textbooks. It was rejected without appeal… I have applied it to the scientific journalism for it was the mail sent to the Science editorial offices that the idea came up of verifying if the most enlightened ones were dealing with the issue. A serious mistake…
The Scientific journalism, pro bono publico, has to have in mind that this kind of journalism is a horizon pointing – education, how to critically think, and not the actual fossilised situation by the neo-Darwinist mythological dogma – ideology, in what must be thought – only what the Scientific Nomenklatura pontificates. To do otherwise, is to condemn generations of students and non-specialized readers to a deep well of scientific ignorance, and be, in some cases, journalistically dishonest!
Darwin is dead…Hail Darwin!!!
Hoping against hope for the rising of a new scientific paradigm in Biology!
Enezio E. de Almeida Filho
Science Education Researcher – Piracicaba – São Paulo – Brazil