Why I Don’t Think I’m a Darwinian Anymore

Yesterday (4 September 2017), I appeared on the Janet Mefferd Today show, to be interviewed about Purpose and Desire (one week from the official release date, and alas the end of the substantial pre-order discount!). It was a wide-ranging interview, a lot of fun. Toward the end of the interview, Janet asked me what I thought the long-term implications for acceptance of Darwinism were. In response, I told her that, after many years of being a quite staunch Darwinist, as a result of writing this book, I don’t think I’m a Darwinian anymore.

Some immediate disclaimers, in anticipation of the reflexive distortions that are likely to arise. I’m still a staunch evolutionist: I just no longer find the conventional Darwinian explanation for evolution to be plausible. I’m also not coming out in favor of Intelligent Design Theory (IDT). I will have more to say about that topic in future posts, no doubt. Finally, I am not abandoning modern Darwinism in favor of a form of natural theology.

Rather, I just don’t think the modern form of Darwinism—gene selectionism, at the heart of it—explains very much that is important. That we think it does explain much is more a reflection of how modern Darwinism has distorted the power and nature of the gene. Our prevailing assumption has long been the gene as specifier—of form, of function, of behavior, etc.

Rather, our evolving understanding of the relationship between sequence code in DNA and hereditary memory, how the physiology adaptive experience feeds back onto that code and defines new genes on the fly, of the vast array of different types of hereditary memory, has convinced me that sequence code in DNA is the lagging indicator of the evolutionary process, rather than its driver. In short, sequence code memory is more of a participant in the evolutionary process rather than its driver. What drives life forward through time is the striving inherent in homeostasis: life is always seeking new ways to exploit the streams of matter and energy that permeate the world. It is the genes (whatever they are) that fit themselves to that striving rather than the other way round.

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