EVOLUTION

Neo-Darwinism

Nash Popovic profile image

Written by Dr. Nash Popovic

Neo-Darwinism attempts to operate within strictly materialistic boundaries. Evolution is regarded as a gradual process that comes about through the interplay of two factors: random mutations (accidental changes of genetic material) and natural selection that enables some of these changes to take over due to their adaptive and reproductive advantages.

The dynamic of evolution is based on struggle and competition within and between species for limited resources. Although this process is considered directionless, it is responsible for bringing forth the successive forms of life from single cell organisms to human beings.

This interpretation of evolution has many merits and its simplicity is seductive. However, Neo-Darwinism also has some flaws. It was widely accepted in the 20th century not because it explained everything perfectly, but because it accounted for the facts better than any alternative, and because it fitted well with the prevailing ideology of materialism in scientific circles. The purpose of what follows is not an attempt to disprove Neo-Darwinism, but rather to show that it is incomplete. Because of this incompleteness, it cannot provide plausible explanations for all the characteristics of evolution and for all the salient paleontological and biological facts. We will argue that, for the same reason, the key terms associated with this view – chance, natural selection, competition, and gradualism – do not appear fully adequate, especially if taken dogmatically, as it has often been the case[2].

Chance

The materialist view is that all the changes in living organisms, from the original single cell to a great variety of species that have existed and currently exist, are the result of accidental genetic mutations[3]. Sure enough, some mutations may be accidental, but the claim that all mutations in all organisms have been random seems improbable for several reasons.

The effects of random mutations may be harmless only in extremely rare cases. They are almost always harmful and incur a loss, not a gain of information and complexity:

The fact that the vast majority of all mutations which have some detectable influence on the functioning of the organism are deleterious suggests that each functional living system is indeed enormously constrained to adaptive changes along only a tiny fraction of all the possible evolutionary trajectories available to it. (Denton, 1998, p.341).

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