Wednesday, 10 February 2010

What Darwin Got Wrong About Natural Selection

Charles Darwin’s views are facing strong headwinds. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

“Much of the vast neo-Darwinian literature is distressingly uncritical.” This is how Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini characterise the writings of many evolutionists in New Scientist. For instance, Daniel Dennett, Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins praise natural selection to the skies and fail to notice that it is not all-powerful.

Natural selection plays a decisive role in the writings of Charles Darwin. Darwinists regard it as the mechanism of evolution that helps us to understand how phenotypic traits are passed from one generation to the next. Few have stopped to think about the limits of natural selection.

”Each generation contributes an imperfect copy of its genotype - and thereby of its phenotype - to its successor. Neo-Darwinism suggests that such imperfections arise primarily from mutations in the genomes of members of the species in question.”

Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini suggest that this combination of natural selection and random changes cannot explain how phenotypic traits develop, however.

They compare Darwin’s view to that of B. F. Skinner whose behaviourist psychology overestimated the role of one’s environment in behaviour.

Although Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini are not ready to throw evolution overboard, their view speaks of a type of courage that is seldom seen but is necessary in standing up against Darwinian orthodoxy. A year ago, when New Scientist published its Darwin was wrong cover story, many Darwinists were calling for a boycott of the magazine.


Fodor, Jerry ja Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini. 2010.
Survival of the fittest theory: Darwinism's limits. New Scientist 2746 (3 February)