Evolution, as a theory for explaining how all life forms came to their present form, is regularly presented as “settled science” – an “irrefutable fact” for which there is no sound room for disagreement or dissent. On par with gravity. But is it really?
Not if you read real academics doing work in the field of evolutionary theory.
There are a wealth of working scientists who demonstrate healthy amounts of intellectual humility regarding the present strengths and weaknesses of the theory. This is outlined in a major article published just this week in The Guardian, a famously liberal British newspaper. Entitled “Do We Need a New Theory of Evolution?”, the author, a leading science writer and researcher, explains there has been a ferocious backlash taking place over decades among leading evolutionary scientists and increasingly competing theories. He asks,
What accounts for the ferocity of this backlash? For one thing, this is a battle of ideas over the fate of one of the grand theories that shaped the modern age. But it is also a struggle for professional recognition and status, about who gets to decide what is core and what is peripheral to the discipline.
Yes, academic politics loom large in the supposed “purity” of science.
The Guardian adds, “Behind the current battle over evolution lies a broken dream.” It has not become, and is not, the clean, confident “unifying theme” explaining how life developed to its present form that popular assumptions claim. Disagreement is robust among leading scientists who generally align with the theory.
The Royal Society held a major scientific conference on evolutionary theory in 2016 in partnership with the British Academy because, as its organizers explained, “Developments in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields have produced calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution, although the issues involved remain hotly contested.”
Even the prestigious science journal Nature featured a forum in 2014 where leading scientists wrestled seriously with the question: “Does evolutionary theory need a rethink?” Eight evolutionary biologists argued, literally, “Yes” and “urgently.”
These scientists explain, “The number of biologists calling for change in how evolution is conceptualized is growing rapidly,” adding, “Strong support comes from allied disciplines, particularly developmental biology, but also genomics, epigenetics, ecology and social science.” In essence, the more science advances, the more challenges we see to the original theory. They conclude, “We contend that evolutionary biology needs revision if it is to benefit fully from these other disciplines. The data supporting our position gets stronger every day.”
Nature notes that ideological battles are limiting scientists’ freedom and responsibility to criticize important aspects of standard evolutionary theory. They admit, “Perhaps haunted by the spectre of intelligent design, evolutionary biologists wish to show a united front to those hostile to science” and thus are reticent to admit substantial weaknesses in the popular conception and dangerous hubris of the theory.
These scholars are not the only scientists raising this concern. Evolution News asked the same question in 2011, “If discussing criticisms of Darwin’s theory amounts to promoting Intelligent Design?” They conclude, “Mere ‘critical analysis’ of evolution does not logically lead to the conclusion of ID. It’s simply good science and would be good for students.” Yes, raising serious questions about so-called settled science is itself, very good science. It is, after all, what the scientific method itself does.
The Guardian carefully details the major scientific and academic turns since Darwin himself that recognize and endeavor to address serious fundamental and developing problems with the theory itself. They explain much of the history of the theory itself has been a coming to terms with its inability to keep up with other essential and sophisticated scientific developments. They provide a story of the vulnerability of the theory itself, rather than being so-called “settled science.”. The author of the piece even notes,
Where once Christians had complained that Darwin’s theory made life meaningless, now Darwinists levelled the same complaint at scientists who contradicted Darwin.
But these scientists exist, and this article details the fact. The Guardian’s lengthy and detailed article is certainly worth reading for anyone interested in an honest and humble appraisal of evolution’s frailties by a major liberal publication.