Scientific Censorship and Evolution

Richard Milton richard at milton.win-uk.net
Tue Mar 21 23:54:10 EST 1995


             Scientific Censorship and Evolution
             ===================================

The article below was commissioned in February 1995 by the 
British weekly newspaper,"Times Higher Education Supplement" 
to appear in March 1995.  It has been censored because it 
challenges, scientifically, the empirical foundations of the 
neo-Darwinist theory of evolution.

The article was "spiked" by the THES Following a campaign against 
it by Richard Dawkins, of Oxford University.

In the interests of freedom of speech, and so that such attempts 
at censorship cannot succeed, I am placing the article in the 
public domain without copyright restriction and am posting it as 
widely as possible on the Internet.  I also attach a copy of my 
letter to the editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement 
saying why I believe this article should be published.

I apologise to those who feel that this is off-topic for their 
news group, but I believe there is an issue of scientific 
censorship involved here that affects us all equally -- even 
if you disagree with the conclusions in my article.

Please feel free to copy, distribute, re-post or reproduce the 
article in its entirety, together with this introductory note, as 
much as you wish. 


     ===========================================================

Auriol Stevens
Editor
Times Higher Education Supplement
Admiral House
66-68 East Smithfield
London E1 9XY

16 March 1995


Dear Ms Stevens,

I know that my article on the decline of the neo-Darwinist theory 
of evolution has caused some controversy and is bound, if 
published, to cause even more. May I draw your attention to two
points that I believe are important?

The first is that it has been said, by some scientists, that I am 
a secret creationist opposed to neo-Darwinism for religious 
reasons.  I am not a creationist and my criticisms of the neo-
Darwinist mechanism are purely scientific objections -- as any 
reading of the article itself clearly shows.  

The second point is far more important.  I believe that the great 
strength of science and the scientific method is its openness to 
debate.  Science is strong because errors are exposed through the 
process of open argument and counter-argument.  Science does not 
need vigilante scientists to guard the gates against heretics.  
If the heresy is true it will become accepted.  If false, it will 
be shown to be false, by rational discourse.

In his "The Open Society and its Enemies" Sir Karl Popper says 
that the great value of the scientific method is that it saves us 
from "The tyranny of opinion".  If neo-Darwinists can counter the 
evidence I present, let them do so. If they seek to prevent my 
writing being published because they don't like it, then it is 
not just I that fall victim to the "tyranny of opinion", it is 
all of us.

If this article were about any other subject -- finance, 
politics, the economy -- I know it would be welcomed as well-
written and thought-provoking even if its claims were 
controversial.  It is only because it is about neo-Darwinism, a 
subject on which some biologists feel insecure and ultra-
sensitive, that doubts have been raised about it.


Best wishes

Yours sincerely



Richard Milton


          ==============================================


Neo-Darwinism: time to reconsider
By Richard Milton


It was the dazzling gains made by science and technology in the 
nineteenth century through the application of rational analysis 
that led people to think of applying reason to other fields. 

Following the brilliant success of reason and method in physics 
and chemistry -- especially in medicine -- it was natural for 
science to seek to apply the same analytical tool to the most 
intractable and complex problems: human society and economic 
affairs; human psychology; and even the origin and development of 
life itself.  The result was the great mechanistic philosophies 
of the last century: Marxism, Freudianism and Darwinism.

The simplicities and certainties of these systems mirrored the 
intellectually well-ordered life of Victorian society with its 
authoritarian values and institutionalised prejudices.  Now, a 
century later, all three systems have run their course, have been 
measured by history, and have been ultimately found to be 
inadequate tools of explanation.

Unlike Marx and Freud, Darwin himself remains esteemed both 
as a highly original thinker and as a careful researcher (his 
study of fossil barnacles remains a text book example for 
palaeontologists).  But the theory that bears his name was 
transformed in the early years of this century into the 
mechanistic, reductionist theory of neo-Darwinism: the theory 
that living creatures are machines whose only goal is genetic 
replication -- a matter of chemistry and statistics; or, in the 
words of professor Jacques Monod, director of the Pasteur 
Institute, a matter only of "chance and necessity". [1]

And while the evidence for evolution itself remains persuasive -- 
especially the homologies that are found in comparative anatomy 
and molecular biology of many different species -- much of the 
empirical evidence that was formerly believed to support the 
neo-Darwinian mechanism of chance mutation coupled with natural 
selection has melted away like snow on a spring morning, through 
better observation and more careful analysis.

Marxist, Freudian and neo-Darwinist systems of thought ultimately 
failed for the same reason; that they sought to use mechanistic 
reductionism to explain and predict systems that we now know are 
complexity-related, and cannot be explained as the sum of their 
parts.

In the case of neo-Darwinism, it was not the mysteries of the 
mind or of the economy that were explained.  It was the origin of 
the first single-celled organism in the primeval oceans, and its 
development into the plant and animal kingdoms of today by a 
strictly blind process of chance genetic mutation working with 
natural selection.

In the first five decades of this century -- the heyday of the 
theory -- zoologists, palaeontologists and comparative anatomists 
assembled the impressive exhibits that generations of school 
children have seen in Natural History Museums the world over: the 
evolution of the horse family; the fossils that illustrate the 
transition from fish to amphibian to reptile to mammal; and the 
discovery of astonishing extinct species such as "Archaeopteryx", 
apparently half-reptile, half-bird.

Over successive decades, these exhibits have been first disputed, 
then downgraded, and finally shunted off to obscure museum 
basements, as further research has shown them to be flawed or 
misconceived.

Anyone educated in a western country in the last forty years will 
recall being shown a chart of the evolution of the horse from 
"Eohippus", a small dog-like creature in the Eocene period 50 
million years ago, to "Mesohippus", a sheep-sized animal of 30 
million years ago, eventually to "Dinohippus", the size of a 
Shetland pony.  

This chart was drawn in 1950 by Harvard's professor of 
palaeontology George Simpson, to accompany his standard text 
book, "Horses", which encapsulated all the research done by the 
American Museum of Natural History in the previous half century.

Simpson plainly believed that his evidence was incontrovertible 
because he wrote, 'The history of the horse family is still one 
of the clearest and most convincing for showing that organisms 
really have evolved. . . There really is no point nowadays in 
continuing to collect and to study fossils simply to determine 
whether or not evolution is a fact.  The question has been 
decisively answered in the affirmative.' [2]

Yet shortly after this affirmation, Simpson admits in passing 
that the chart he has drawn contains major gaps that he has not 
included: a gap before "Eohippus" and its unknown ancestors, for 
example, and another gap after "Eohippus" and before its supposed 
descendant "Mesohippus". [3]  What is it, scientifically, that 
connects these isolated species on the famous chart if it is not 
fossil remains?  And how could such unconnected examples 
demonstrate either genetic mutation or natural selection? 

Even though, today, the bones themselves have been relegated to 
the basement, the famous chart with its unproven continuity still 
appears in museum displays and handbooks, text books, 
encyclopaedias and lectures.

The remarkable "Archaeopteryx" also seems at first glance to bear 
out the neo-Darwinian concept of birds having evolved from small 
reptiles (the candidate most favoured by neo-Darwinists is a 
small agile dinosaur called a Coelosaur, and this is the 
explanation offered by most text books and museums.)  Actually, 
such a descent is impossible because coelosaurs, in common with 
most other dinosaurs, did not posses collar bones while 
"Archaeopteryx", like all birds, has a modified collar bone to 
support its pectoral muscles. [4]   Again, how can an isolated 
fossil, however remarkable, provide evidence of beneficial 
mutation or natural selection? 

Neo-Darwinists were quick to claim that modern discoveries of 
molecular biology supported their theory.  They said, for 
example, that if you analyse the DNA, the genetic blueprint, of 
plants and animals you find how closely or distantly they are 
related. That studying DNA sequences enables you to draw up the 
precise family tree of all living things and show how they are 
related by common ancestry.

This is a very important claim and central to the theory. If 
true, it would mean that animals neo-Darwinists say are closely 
related, such as two reptiles, would have greater similarity in 
their DNA than animals that are not so closely related, such as a 
reptile and a bird.

In 1981,  molecular biologists working under Dr Morris 
Goodman at Ann Arbor University decided to test this hypothesis.  
They took the alpha haemoglobin DNA of two reptiles -- a snake 
and a crocodile -- which are said by Darwinists to be closely 
related, and the haemoglobin DNA of a bird, in this case a 
farmyard chicken.

They found that the two animals who had _least_ DNA sequences in 
common were the two reptiles, the snake and the crocodile.  They 
had only around 5% of DNA sequences in common -- only one 
twentieth of their haemoglobin DNA.  The two creatures whose DNA 
was closest were the crocodile and the chicken, where there were 
17.5% of sequences in common -- nearly one fifth. The actual DNA 
similarities were the _reverse_ of that predicted by neo-
Darwinism. [5]

Even more baffling is the fact that radically different genetic 
coding can give rise to animals that look outwardly very similar 
and exhibit similar behaviour, while creatures that look and 
behave completely differently can have much in common 
genetically.  There are, for instance, more than 3,000 species of 
frogs, all of which look superficially the same. But there is a 
greater variation of DNA between them than there is between the 
bat and the blue whale.

Further, if neo-Darwinist evolutionary ideas of gradual genetic 
change were true, then one would expect to find that simple 
organisms have simple DNA and complex organisms have complex DNA.  
In some cases, this is true. The simple nematode worm is a 
favourite subject of laboratory study because its DNA contains a 
mere 1,000 nucleotide bases.  At the other end of the complexity 
scale, humans have 23 chromosomes which in total contain 3,000 
million nucleotide bases. 

Unfortunately, this promisingly Darwinian progression is 
contradicted by many counter examples.  While human DNA is 
contained in 23 pairs of chromosomes, the humble goldfish has 
more than twice as many, at 47.  The even humbler garden snail -- 
not much more than a glob of slime in a shell -- has 27 
chromosomes.  Some species of rose bush have 56 chromosomes. 

So the simple fact is that DNA analysis does _not_ confirm neo-
Darwinist theory.  In the laboratory, DNA analysis falsifies neo-
Darwinist theory.

An even more damaging blow to the theory was the discovery that 
the very centrepiece of neo-Darwinism, Darwin's original 
conception of natural selection, or the survival of the fittest, 
is fatally flawed.

The problem is: how can biologists (or anyone else) tell what 
characteristics constitute the animal or plant's 'fitness' to 
survive?  How can you tell which are the fit animals and plants?  

The answer is that the only way to define the fit is by means of 
a post-hoc rationalisation -- the fit must be "those who 
survived". While the only way to characterise uniquely those who 
survive is as "the fit".  The central proposition of the 
Darwinian argument turns out to be an empty tautology.

C.H. Waddington, professor of biology at Edinburgh University 
wrote; "Natural selection, which was at first considered as 
though it were a hypothesis that was in need of experimental or 
observational confirmation, turns out on closer inspection to be 
a tautology, a statement of an inevitable although previously 
unrecognised relation.  It states that the fittest individuals in 
a population (defined as those who leave the most offspring) will 
leave most offspring.  Once the statement is made, its truth is 
apparent." [6]

George Simpson, professor of paleontology at Harvard, sought to 
restore content to the idea of natural selection by saying; "If 
genetically red-haired parents have, on average, a larger 
proportion of children than blondes or brunettes, then evolution 
will be in the direction of red hair.  If genetically left-handed 
people have more children, evolution will be towards left-
handedness.  The characteristics themselves do not directly 
matter at all.  All that matters is who leaves more descendants 
over the generations.  Natural selection favours fitness only if 
you define fitness as leaving more descendants.  In fact 
geneticists do define it that way, which maybe confusing to 
others.  To a geneticist, fitness has nothing to do with health, 
strength, good looks, or anything but effectiveness in breeding." 
[7] 

Notice the words; "The characteristics themselves do not directly 
matter at all."  This innocent phrase fatally undermines Darwin's 
original key conception: that each animal's special physical 
characteristics are what makes it fit to survive: the giraffe's 
long neck, the eagle's keen eye, or the cheetah's 60 mile-an-hour 
sprint.

Simpson's reformulation means all this must be dropped: it is not 
the characteristics that directly matter -- it is the animals' 
capacity to reproduce themselves. The race is not to the swift, 
after all, but merely to the prolific. So how can neo-Darwinism 
explain the enormous diversity of characteristics?

Not only are neo-Darwinist ideas falsified by empirical research, 
but other puzzling and extraordinary findings have come to light 
in recent decades, suggesting that evolution is not blind but 
rather is in some unknown way _directed_. The experiments of 
Cairns at Harvard and Hall at Rochester University suggest that 
microorganisms can mutate in a way that is beneficial. [8]

Experiments with tobacco plants and flax demonstrate genetic 
change through the effects of fertilisers alone. [9] Experiments 
with sea squirts and salamanders as long ago as the 1920s 
appeared to demonstrate the inheritance of acquired 
characteristics. [10]  Moreover, as Sir Fred Hoyle has pointed 
out, Fossil micro-organisms have been found in meteorites, 
indicating that life is universal -- not a lucky break in the 
primeval soup. This view is shared by Sir Francis Crick, co-
discoverer of the function of DNA [11]

In the light of discoveries of this kind, the received wisdom of 
neo-Darwinism is no longer received so uncritically.  A new 
generation of biologists is subjecting the theory to the cold 
light of empirical investigation and finding it inadequate; 
scientists like Dr Rupert Sheldrake, Dr Brian Goodwin, professor 
of biology at the Open University and Dr Peter Saunders, 
professor of mathematics at King's College London.  

Not surprisingly, the work of this new generation is heresy to 
the old.  When Rupert Sheldrake's book "A New Science of Life" 
with its revolutionary theory of morphic resonance was published 
in 1981, the editor of "Nature" magazine, John Maddox, ran an 
editorial calling for the book to be burned -- a sure sign that 
Sheldrake is onto something important, many will think. [12, 13]

The current mood in biology was summed up recently by Sheldrake 
as, 'Rather like working in Russia under Brehznev.  Many 
biologists have one set of beliefs at work, their official 
beliefs, and another set, their real beliefs, which they can 
speak openly about only among friends.  They may treat living 
things as mechanical in the laboratory but when they go home they 
don't treat their families as inanimate machines.' 

It is a strange aspect of science in the twentieth century that 
while physics has had to submit to the indignity of a principle 
of uncertainty and physicists have become accustomed to such 
strange entities as matter-waves and virtual particles, many of 
their colleagues down the corridor in biology seem not to have 
noticed the revolution of quantum electrodynamics.  As far as 
many biologists are concerned, matter is made of billiard balls 
which collide with Newtonian certainty, and they carry on 
building molecular models out of coloured table-tennis balls.

One of the twentieth century's most distinguished scientists and 
Nobel laureates, physicist Max Planck, observed that; 'A new 
scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and 
making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually 
die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.'

It may be another decade or more before such a new generation 
grows up and restores intellectual rigour to the study of 
evolutionary biology.

                                ---


Richard Milton is a science writer and journalist.  He is the 
author of "The Facts of Life" (Transworld/Corgi, London, 1993) a 
critical review of neo-Darwinism and "Forbidden Science" (Fourth 
Estate, London, 1994) a critical analysis of censorship and 
intolerance in science.


References

[1] Monod, Jacques, 1972 edn. Chance and Necessity. William 
    Collins. Glasgow.

[2] Simpson, George G. 1951. Horses. Oxford University Press.

[3] Simpson, George G. 1951. Horses. Oxford University Press.

[4] Norman, David. 1985. Encyclopaedia of Dinosaurs. Salamander 
    Books. London. 

[5] Patterson, Colin, presentation to the American Natural 
    History Museum, 5 November 1981.

[6] Waddington, C.H., 1960, Evolutionary Adaptation in Tax
    Vol. 1, pp 381-402.

[7] Simpson, George G. 1964, This View of Life, Harcourt Brace 
    and World. New York.

[8] Cairns, J., J. Overbaugh, S. Miller. 1988. The origin of 
    mutants. In Nature  335: 142-145. 

    Hall, Barry G. Sept. 1990. Spontaneous point mutations that
    occur more often when advantageous than when neutral. In
    Genetics Vol. 126, pp. 5-16.

[9]  Durrant, Alan. 1958. Environmental conditioning of flax. in 
     Nature, Vol. 81, p. 928-929.

     Hill, J. 1965. Environmental induction of heritable changes 
     in Nicotiana rustica. in Nature, Vol. 207, pp. 732-734.

     Cullis, C.A. 1977.  Molecular aspects of the environmental 
     induction of heritable changes in Flax.  in Heredity. 
     Vol. 38, p. 129-154.

[10]  See Koestler, Arthur. 1978.  The Case of the Midwife Toad. 
      Hutchinson. London, for an account of the experiments of
      Paul Kammerer at the Vienna Institute for Experimental
      Biology 1903-1926. 

[11]  Hoyle, F. 1983. The Intelligent Universe. Michael Joseph.
      London.  

      See also, Crick, Francis, 1981. Life Itself. Macdonald.
      London.

[12]  Sheldrake, Rupert, 1988 edn. A New Science of Life, Paladin
      London.

[13]  Nature 1981, Vol. 293, pp 245-246.

[14]  Milton, Richard, 1993 edn., The Facts of Life: Shattering 
      the myths of Darwinism, Transworld/Corgi, London.

[15]  Milton, Richard, 1995 edn., Forbidden Science: Exposing 
      the Secrets of Suppressed Research, Fourth Estate, London.




--
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Richard Milton               | 
10 Pembury Road              | "Perfectly exact physics is not
Tonbridge, Kent TN9 2HX      |  so very exact, just as holy men
United Kingdom               |      are not so very holy."
Tel/Fax: 0732 353427         |
richard at milton.win-uk.net    |             Wilhelm Reich
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