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Philosophy of evolution, history and life
The theory of Darwin and criticism of Darwinism. Intellectuals who find Darwinism unconvincing think of Darwinism as defeating mind opening which goes against the scientific method
The Darwinian theory considers as a driving force in evolution the adaptation to the environment derived from the combined effect of the natural selection and of the random mutations. Despite the generally acceptation of Darwinism, since its start, it has posed quite a few problems from the scientific point of view and there have always been a criticism of Darwinism.
Before getting into enumeration of the main points of criticism of Darwinism, I would like to analyze why it beat onto the Theory of Lamarck or other evolutionary theories. At the end of this section, after the cited enumeration, I will discuss the current difficulties for its rejection or substitution.
In the second half of the 19th century, the humanist rationalism had extended into all of the scientific circles and found itself in full peak. There were already sufficient indications that the Earth was much older than what had been thought; a scientific theory was needed that would position the human being in the planet’s history.
Of course, the new theory had to comply with a seemingly scientific condition, and had to completely and radically remove itself from the religious ideas that had hindered the scientific development so much. The old problems of Galileo and Miguel Servet had not been forgotten by the scientific community. Let’s hope they never forget!
The Theory of Lamarck seems very logical and reasonable, but it suffered a problem: it was given a leading role in the life outside of the human dimension. There was something inside the plants and animals that, faced with environmental modifications, evolved consciously and guidingly.
On one side, the powerful influence of the religious ideas, still existing today, could not allow losing monopoly of spirituality; and, on the other, the scientific community was not going to openly struggle with the religious powers that be in order to shift conscious and intelligent life on an internal scale to the live organisms different from themselves. Moreover, there wasn’t any scientific proof of their existence. In this case, we could talk about thesis, antithesis and synthesis; any theory that resolves the contradictions of the era with a minimum of rigor in its approaches would undoubtedly triumph.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
(Public domain image)
In this context, emerged the Darwinian Theory clearly showing the effects of the evolution of the species and, from the scientific point of view, there was no reasonable doubt that man descended from the ape, and, that we know of, no one has questioned it outside of the strictly religious realm such as the Creationist Theory or Creationism. In fact, even the predominantly religious confessions do not directly attack the Darwinian Theory or pose a strong criticism of Darwinism.
Another interesting aspect is that the title of Darwin’s work comes about referring to the "evolution of species" and not to the "life evolution" for which it avoids having to define life; this should not be anything easy because it is not well-known whether the existence of life has scientific or rather a philosophical nature.
We are not trying to deny or diminish the great contribution of Darwin’s theory to modern thought in anthropology, but rather to make a positive criticism of Darwinism delimiting the extension of the theory and to avoid erroneous or defective implications having negative effects in the development of society. It is worth pointing out that any theory of evolution has countless consequences on philosophical and social thinking that pervade any number of individual attitudes and acts; for example, different approaches to certain problems of social justice or to the efficiency of a certain educational system.
The weak points allowing the criticism of Darwinism are numerous and interrelated; nonetheless, we are going to try to indicate them in order of importance from a methodological perspective even if it means repeatedly mentioning some topic by presenting problems of a different nature:
The Darwinian Theory of natural selection tries to explain the disappearance of non-optimal genetic modifications by lesser, or lack of, adaptation of individuals to the environment, but it does not say anything about the origin of modifications or about the processes in which they are carried out.
This is the first argument of criticism of Darwinism because it is implicitly denying or limiting the slightest expression of the very concept of evolution, given that the new beings have the same genetic information as their ancestors with supposed mutations that can have a positive as well as negative effect. (Let us think about the idea of all humans been born with the same potential of intelligence)
The process of evolution is not in the changes in the genetic information but rather the disappearance of the less favorable changes. In Darwin’s time, there was no genetic knowledge, but they knew that something goes from some generations to others.
Likewise, it is indirectly assumed that where there is no natural selection there is no evolution.
The second issue of criticism of Darwinism is that the main argument of natural selection, or putting it another way: "that which exists is because it has survived and hasn’t disappeared" is a tautology for which there is no humanly way to deny it. The only possible criticism is to point out the total lack of scientific severity in it.
"The Spanish mountain cats, direct descendants of the wild cats of 20,000 years ago, see better during the day than the domestic cats...
...but its true importance lies in that it proposes a new mechanism of rapid adaptation of the species in very few years (between 15,000 and 20,000) in evolutionary terms.
...The adaptation of animals to their environment takes place by means of the death of certain cells, in this case: neurons, during the second half of fetal development..."
El País 15-01-1993. Journal of Neuroscience
The model, designed the way it is, only works in long-term in our physical scale. Later, it eliminates short-term evolution and that’s the way ideas emerge, reaching completely into present day, like the Homo sapiens in their beginning moments who practically had the same intellectual capacity as nowadays. With that, all that is achieved is unnaturally intensifying the problems of evolutionary leaps.
Implicitly, the Darwinian Theory accepts the randomness of genetic modifications, hence the generally used name of "random mutations", denying the existence of a real driving force of evolution without any scientific proof on this matter, when logic appears to indicate the contrary. The lack of evidence it clear a subject of the criticism of Darwinism.
Obviously, Darwin did not scientifically show the randomness in all of the cases of the variation in genetic information, nor was it shown later; it is become an axiom.
El País 21-06-2003.
As far as I know, modern Neo-Darwinism still have not told us which statistical distribution the random mutations follow; it could be the uniform or normal distribution, that of Poison or that of Fisher. Without a doubt, it is a great secret of science or a metaphysical mystery.
Under certain assumptions, the method of evolution by means of random mutations or modifications can be acceptable. We know that some bacteria produce different bacteria in an extremely small proportion. If there were a change in the environmental conditions, such as the acidity of the environment in which they live, those bacteria would be the ones that would survive. After numerous generations, these bacteria would be the ones that make up the new population. At the same time, would produce an extremely small population of bacteria like the initial one that, where appropriate, they would again allow the survival of the species.
This is the common example that used to "prove" Darwin’s theory of evolution, but it is a very special case, in which generations change at an extremely fast rate with enormous quantities of descendants.
"The mysterious origin of the resistance of bacteria.
It is not known yet from where the genes that bacteria borrow to make themselves resistant to antibiotics, for example, really come from. The results of the search for these genes on different grounds have shown to be negative, as explained by professor Jorge Laborda"
El País 24-11-2010
This example of Neo-Darwinism is not completely free of criticism, since the attempted random mutations or modifications are not random modifications of so many elemental letters or units of DNA. But rather that they could easily be understood as pre-established modifications and generated in one or various parts of DNA that make up an efficient set in regard to the different characteristics of the new being and preserving the structural code in its totality. That is, the fact of definitely using the mechanism of natural selection doesn’t itself imply that other mechanisms aren’t used to create diversity in the descendants.
Moreover, natural selection does not manage to eliminate the supposedly less adapted variant, given that this evolutionary line is maintained as the same example shows.
However, the most serious issue of the criticism of Darwinism here is the fact that after accepting as proven that the mutations are random, it is also accepted that the contrary is proven. That the mutations are random but by perfectly delimited groups and with specific points of entrance – which would be completely incompatible with the first randomness so "proven" according to the scientific method.
In its day, there were criticisms of Darwinism about the lack of the scientific method of this theory; specifically, it is a theory supported by the inductive reasoning from the observation of certain facts and making inferences about generality.
The inductive reasoning is perfectly valid but the generalization that it makes should comply with certain requirements. One of requirements is that whatever example not satisfying the theory implies its refutation. In this respect, we can cite the following cases:
The genetic changes that are obtaining the new techniques do not have a random but guided nature; moreover, the mechanism of the natural selection is not bringing about the appearance of the new beings like in the agriculture field. It could be argued whether these changes made by humans are natural or not, but we have to keep in mind that we humans, except for contrary evidence, make up a part of nature just like the viruses do.
Likewise, we are aware that the viruses make changes in the DNA of the invaded cells, in order to reproduce themselves. It would not be surprising if they could perform another type of changes; for example, with the intention of cheating the immune system in the future, that not even one of these modifications would be transmitted or that one of the reactions would not be transmitted in the genetic sphere as a defense against these aggressions.
El País 19-02-2001. Conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Recently, new knowledge of genetic evolution has been emerging that openly contradicts the Darwinian Theory of evolution. They are so numerous that they cannot be mentioned, but some of them are distributed throughout this book in the form of literal quotes from biology news that have been appearing subsequent to the initial formulation of the General Theory of Conditional Evolution of Life (GTCEL) and, in the majority of the cases, of the very redaction of the book.
Darwinism has, on one hand, significant shortcomings when it comes to explaining reality. Darwin tried, unsuccessfully, to give sexual differentiation a broader sense than that of pure specialization of certain tasks because he sensed that it was necessary to do so; but his theory did not offer any explanation, except that of having to be one of the best methods of evolution, and for that reason it exists.
Of course, it does not explain why in superior animals the descendants of very genetically close individuals, such as in the case of siblings, is not feasible or presents serious defects.
I have the impression sexual selection, about which Darwin wrote a book, goes conceptual and directly against natural selection. The first one explains the evolutionary tendency while the second one only explains the deletion of some branches of the real evolutionary process.
Any farmer knows perfectly the preeminence of sexual selection versus natural selection. It makes sense that Darwin needed to go to Galapagos Islands to convince about the non-relevance of sexual selection; obviously, no farmer could correct him because they were not in Galapagos Islands.
The irony of the evolution of the life does that to the sexual selection, of stallion or seed, the present engineers, farmers and cattle dealers denominate natural selection. Without a doubt, it must be another conquest or adaptation of the Darwinist Theory.
Another important shortcoming is the almost impossibility of producing the commonly called evolutionary leaps; it is difficult to logically argue a change in the basic structure of the genetic code through mutations. The only option is to resort once again to the long-term evolution with the added advantage that, when we talk about the long-term evolution, we automatically lose the temporal notion. However, the very concept of the evolutionary leap impedes us from using the long-term in evolutionary terms.
Other aspects related to the sexual differentiation and the evolutionary leaps discussed in the section about the objectives of evolution, and that make up part of the main argument of the General Theory of the Conditional Evolution of Life, are completely absent from the approaches of the Darwinian Theory. It makes sense due to the temporal difference of both; but as I will cite much later, the criticism is that neither the Neo-Darwinian Theory nor the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis says anything on this matter. Quite the contrary, they don’t exist. The life in the scientific realm has no objective and doesn’t make any sense at all!
El País 14-03-2001
In view of the previous premises of the criticism of Darwinism, there should be strong reasons for Darwinian Theory of evolution to have lasted throughout the entire 20th century with small conceptual modifications contributed by the trend called Neo-Darwinian and by the Modern Synthetic Theory. In fact, these modifications suppose a mere update of the Darwinian Theory of evolution according to the new scientific discoveries in the subject matter, as we will see when talking about them. For this reason, the theory is still Darwinism for the population in general.
Some of these strong reasons are similar to those that made its acceptance possible. Before I have discussed the formal requirements of a scientific theory’s independence from any philosophical or religious approach; nowadays this requirement is still maintained but with an additional problem. To refute the Darwinian Theory now would assume, to a certain extent, that not just rationalism of the 18th and 19th centuries but the whole scientific community of the 20th century have made a serious mistake in embracing an evolutionary theory so weak. Once more, the philosophers are partly right and the scientific method, to which it would have to be added, is not foolproof, especially if it is not correctly applied.
The basic novelty of the General Theory of Conditional Evolution of Life is the consideration of evolution as an internal improvement mechanism of living beings; which transmits to the descendants and that, given the complexity of the involved aspects, uses multiple systems, methods or processes, depending for each case according to its specific conditions.
For a large part of society, the acceptance of the GTCEL, or of any other evolutionary theory assuming the existence of the mentioned internal improvement mechanism of the living beings, would mean a step back. Scientifically recognizing that there seems to be an intelligent evolution guided from the very interior of living beings sounds like a religious idea about life. It distorts the distinction of the human being and attacks the delightful egocentrism of the human species; in other words, it is completely unacceptable on principle.
Another large part of society maintains its religious ideas, and as a result, the comments in the previous paragraph are equally applicable; so in the same words, it is completely unacceptable on principle.
Putting it another way, the Theory of Darwin is a very convenient theory, socially speaking, having a strong idealist component given that denying short-term evolution does not compromise the implanting of certain traits in the genetic sphere related to the desirable equality of opportunities.
In this sense, efforts have been made to keep the essence of the evolutionary theory. However, the mentioned weakness in the previous points 1) and 5) are practically maintained, in spite of the fact that, with the introduction of genetics and the knowledge derived from other advances in science, we can talk about short-term evolution but always on a microscopic scale. These updates have been carried out principally first, by the trend called Neo-Darwinism and, afterwards, by the Modern Synthetic Theory; although the latter tries to distance itself a little more, in my opinion, it does not manage to do it.
The updates have been possible to a great extent due to that we still do not have conclusive proof of the non-random nature of the modification of the genetic information, despite that there well-known are special points of DNA change. In addition, one of the main issues of criticism of Darwinism, that the term "natural selection" has, at times, an almost absurd generalization because of its tautological content.
Everything unknown has come to be considered random a priori, even against logic. This tendency also diminishes or limits itself in the view of the explanations, based on the theory of chaos and the fractal structures, of facts that previously seemed totally random (incidentally, it is the contrary to the famous example of the butterfly)
Despite of the greater comprehension of the sexual differentiation concerning its difference with the germ line evolution and about the sexual equality in society from the scientific point of view; the lack of satisfactory explanations of previous points 7) and 8) allows the criticism of the essence of the Darwinian Theory by methodological means in the fields of biology and genetics. In any case, any rational explanation of the facts to which the mentioned points are referring to will difficult to be compatible with the theory of natural selection.
There have always been authors that do not share the predominant vision, although they have not managed to formulate an alternative evolutionary theory capable of shifting it. And on the other hand, the expression of this attitude conveys of some way, although increasingly less, a professional marginalization and the risk of being described as being close to certain ideologies that have nothing to do with a scientific attitude or the contrary; without a doubt, this is due to the apparent philosophical and social repercussions that can implicate several theories. I say “apparent” because reality is not going to change by explaining it better one way or another.
The General Theory of Conditional Evolution of Life will suffer this risk largely, by citing the inheritance of intelligence as a recurrent example. I want to take advantage of the occasion to state in defense of this example, which has been, if not the principal, the direct cause of the development of the new evolutionary theory and, therefore, not having been chosen to intentionally attract attention. Furthermore, it is difficult to obtain models of evolution that can be statistically confirmable.
The list of authors would be too long but we can make a special note of Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873), a distinguished English geologist for being one of the first which, regardless of his attack on Darwinian Theory for religious reasons (he was educated in the Creationist Theory which was dominant in his time), after reading his theory, expressed the following:
"You have deserted - after a start in that tram-road of all solid physical truth - the true method of induction..."
It basically says that Darwin, after a beginning in the path of pure physical reality, abandons the true inductive reasoning...
Adam Adam Sedgwick, despite his creationist education, was not opposed to evolution or development in its broad sense. He believed that the Earth was extremely old, as Darwin recognizes in his notes from classes that Adam Sedgwick received at the university.
However, Adam Sedgwick believed in the Divine creation of life during long periods of time… Given that, he also said that evolution was a fact of history. His personal objections to the theory of Darwin were the immoral and materialistic nature of natural selection and the abandonment of the scientific method.
In conclusion, the GTCEL understands that natural selection is just one more method of evolution, but it is neither unique, nor general, nor the most important. In addition, from a conceptual point of view, this method is produced in a moment subsequent to the changes in the genetic information that makes up the actual evolution.
On the page on Studies on evolution of intelligence, the EDI Study is explained and its incredible results that confirm the GTCEL are discussed. Besides, the Darwinout experiment is suggested to verify the aforementioned extremes of the new scientific theory, with a much simpler methodology than the one used in the research of the EDI Study, both in its execution and comprehension.
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