Memo To Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, Jerry Coyne & PZ Myers: Recess is OVER

apple2_book_brennerIf you were studying computers today…

Would you start with the 1984 “Apple II Plus Troubleshooting and Repair Manual”?

Then… why would you learn evolution by reading Richard Dawkins and Bill Nye?

Dawkins’ books on evolution – like those of his pals Bill Nye, Jerry Coyne and others – are every bit as outdated as this computer book.

You may be tempted to doubt me. But don’t take my word for it. In a minute I’m going to show you how to prove this to yourself.

Old-school Neo-Darwinism has been replaced by a new, Post Modern Synthesis. Practicing biologists know this. Only now is the public beginning to hear the truth.

Most folks in 2016 won’t be quite sure what I’m talking about. But everyone will know by 2020.

Message to the current kingpins of popular evolution: The 1980’s version of evolution you evangelize in your books is dead. It’s time to start teaching modern science. 

Let’s start with Bill Nye the Science Guy.

FICTION   FACT
“The remarkable thing about the evolutionary process that produces new species is that it’s brought on by small, random changes in genes.” (Bill Nye, Undeniable)  

Dr. Lynn Margulis (former wife of Carl Sagan) exposes the truth in her book Acquiring Genomes:

“Many ways to induce mutations are known but none lead to new organisms. Mutation accumulation does not lead to new species or even to new organs or new tissues . . . Even professional evolutionary biologists are hard put to find mutations, experimentally induced or spontaneous, that lead in a positive way to evolutionary change” (Lynn Margulis, Acquiring Genomes)

Margulis showed symbiotic mergers – not accidental mutations – were a major source of new species. This wasn’t theory or conjecture. Symbiogenesis is observable experimental fact.

FICTION   FACT
“The main defense a bacterium has against a phage attack is to somehow modify or reconfigure the protein pattern on its outer membrane. Now, individuals cannot change themselves, as such. Instead, their descendants, their offspring, can have modifications as their DNA is replicated. Random changes may or may not help them resist a phage.” (Bill Nye, Undeniable)   No biologist who knows the current literature would agree with Bill Nye. A bacterium under stress does literally change itself. It re-arranges its own DNA in real time and seeks DNA from other organisms (horizontal gene transfer). By changing its own genome, a bacterium can generate resistance in as little as 30 minutes.
FICTION   FACT
“Mutations are the random changes in genes that constitute the raw material for evolution by non-random selection.” (Richard Dawkins, Greatest Show on Earth)  

Cells militantly guard against random changes in genes! Their first line of defense is the “SOS” response. In SOS mode, cells rush to repair damage from radiation and copying errors.

So… where does the raw material for evolution come from, if not from random mutations?

Answer: Genes switch on & switch off (epigenetics); rearrange and exchange (transposition and hybridization). Hybrids double (genome duplication); viruses hijack; cells merge (symbiogenesis); and winners emerge (natural selection). Natural selection has no creative juice; it’s only the final eliminating step.

FICTION   FACT
“These mutations occur willy-nilly, regardless of whether they are good or bad for the individual. But it is the filtering of that variation by natural selection that produces adaptations, and natural selection is manifestly not random. It is a powerful molding force, accumulating genes that have a greater chance of being passed on than others…” (Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution Is True)  

Barbara McClintock induced mutations in her corn plants. Yes, those mutations were “willy-nilly” from radiation. But the plants surprised Barabara by repairing their DNA. They moved missing code from elsewhere and built new code. The adaptations were anything but willy-nilly.

Her colleagues thought she was crazy. But she won the Nobel Prize in 1983 for discovering DNA transposition. (James Shapiro, Evolution: A View from the 21st Century)

FICTION   FACT
“Living things in nature cannot alter their genes. All organisms – sea anemones, fireflies, giant squid, miniature poodles, and humans – have to play the genetic hand they’re dealt.” (Bill Nye, Undeniable)   Cells cut, splice, and re-arrange their own DNA. Horizontal Gene Transfer (cells exchanging DNA) is so universal, there are no hard limits to where genetic material can come from. Cells re-purpose new genetic material from viruses, bacteria, parasites, and other animals – in hours. (Shapiro, Evolution: A View from the 21st Century
FICTION   FACT

“Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity” -PZ Myers, from his Pharyngula blog

  “The stimulus associated with placement of the insect egg into the leaf will initiate reprogramming of the plant’s genome, forcing it to make a unique structure adapted to the needs of the developing insect.” -Barbara McClintock, from her Nobel lecture

None of their books even pass a basic FACT CHECK from a first-year grad student!

The evolution story fed to the public by Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Bill Nye and PZ Myers pretends the last 30 years of molecular biology never happened.

By the way, most of this is not new. Practicing biologists have been using these tools for decades.

dawkins_Fronteiras_do_Pensamento_e3

In most topics, errors this large would force a recall by book publishers. Evolutionary biology seems to have lower standards than other fields.

Books like Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker and Selfish Gene and Greatest Show on Earth; Nye’s Undeniable and Coyne’s Why Evolution is True sport a somewhat fictitious and wildly out-of-date version of evolution.

They completely omit the cell’s repair machinery and ability to re-engineer itself. Their explanations are less than 50% accurate (for facts they do present) and leave out the really interesting, useful stuff. 

Sort of like a computer book that never mentions the mouse, video or the internet.

Check for yourself. Search Google Books for “hybridization” and “transposition” and “symbiogenesis” and “horizontal gene transfer” in Dawkins’ and Nye’s and Coyne’s books.

Experimental biologists who make antibiotics and develop gene therapies harness these systems all the time. They don’t simply rely on “random mutation and natural selection.” They harness the cell’s built-in systems as much as possible.

The red-hot new CRISPR gene-editing technology is actually humans co-opting the bacterial immune system. The reason we are able to edit genes with such precision now is because we’re hitching a ride with the tools of the Post-Modern Synthesis.

The geocentric view of the universe was once embraced by everyone.

Today it’s an embarrassment.

IBM once reigned as the supreme computer supplier.

How many of your friends today own an IBM?

The taxi industry once dominated in every major city.

Now Uber and Lyft are ripping them to shreds.

Yahoo! was once king of online advertising.

Verizon bought them out for for 1% of the current value of Google.

Memo to Dawkins, Nye, Coyne and Myers:

You’ve missed the biggest story in science. You guys are running on fumes. 

Recess is over. If you persist in your 1980s version of evolution – if you do not update your books, your websites and doctrines – you too will be obsolete. And a younger generation of scientists will be all too happy to take your place.

Knowing that we have decades of live, real-time evolutionary experiments that produce new species in the lab and in the wild…

Why aren’t these guys telling you the whole story???

What do you think? Post your comments below.

145 Responses

  1. D. Andrew White says:

    There are influences of teleonomy (autopoiesis) that bias mutation and selection to some degree. (Evolvability traits.) These traits are still physical, and can be modelled with systems theory. Evan Thompson and Eva Jablonka, for example, discuss these. But, it is a bit of a straw man to say Dawkins is unaware of these developments.

  2. Thomas E Ruddick says:

    As I am primarily concerned with humanities rather than hard science, I note that your writing style seems strongly influenced by such sources as National Enquirer. Did the publisher force you to use that blurb “Evolution 2.0 tells the biggest untold story in the history of science – the story neither side wants you to hear”? I know that writing standards change but hyperbole and straw men aren’t in fashion on my side of the academic street.

    • I said it because it’s the truth. Dawkins doesn’t want you to understand epigenetics, or symbiogenesis. Jerry Coyne hated Lynn Margulis. Look it up and see for yourself.

      And Ken Ham is not interested in showing you any empirical mechanism that shows how you get a new species.

      • Tollie Mitchell says:

        I think that Ken Ham subscribes to the “poof” mechanism (I’m actually not trying to be disrespectful when saying that). It seems to me that God made the universe that way. He said it and it appeared. I wonder if it is possible that He used both Evolution 2.0 and “poof” to create species.

    • João Morossini says:

      Couldn’t agree more!

  3. Douglas Kruse says:

    I think the author of this post is rude.
    Is he right? Maybe. But I dont like his style.

  4. Ben Fugate says:

    It’s always you’re building a straw man or you’re rude. How is it that every network reporting the evening news is never accused of getting their opinions from the same source, but any agreement against a militant atheistic agenda and we have ourselves a “crazy right wing conspiracy “

    • Economiser says:

      “…military atheistic agenda…” That might have something to do with why you get labeled as pushing a “crazy right wing conspiracy.”

  5. Richard DiMartino says:

    Is the point of this article to demonstrate evidence for some sort of cosmic “higher power” that helps in the design of new genotypes/phenotypes?

    • Read the other links and articles and decide.

      • Joseph Ratliff says:

        No Perry, what is your take? What is your refutation based on, and what alternate theory /enhanced theory do you propose based on your research and any experiments you’ve conducted (personally)?

        Dawkins et al. may not be entirely correct (and I’m not a “fanboy” either), but you’re not making your point very well by arguing from authority, presenting straw man arguments, and not offering a comprehensive model (testable by scientific method and evidence instead of referring to others) that adds to / enhances / refutes the current understanding.

        I’ve read a few posts, I’ve read your free chapters, and I’m ordering your book right now to read in its entirety.

        But I will state upfront that I have the impression all you’re doing is constructing a (good) marketing channel to sell your book, instead of presenting a competing / enhancing hypothesis / theory.

        That said, I will read your book in its entirety with an open mind to get a firm grasp of your entire position, despite the first impression.

        • You will find a complete argument in the book.

          And I appreciate you being willing to buy and read the book despite your skepticism. I have often learned much from books I was initially inclined to toss aside.

          I hope you enjoy it. Do report back.

  6. Arjen ten Have says:

    Bill Nye is NOT an evolutionary biologist, rather he popularizes science and in general in a rather accurate way. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist that, rather than focusing on details such as epigenetics, draws a very correct picture of evolution. The examples indicated here may be right, I can put 100 examples of strange things that happen in evolution. the point is that general public can very well learn from Nye and Dawkins, rather than getting lost is a number of seemingly random examples.

    • Their general descriptions of evolution are at least 60% wrong. It’s not random, and natural selection alone isn’t anywhere near enough to generate evolutionary events. They leave out all the interesting parts. In fact I suspect based on your comment that you yourself may not be up to speed on what is really going on in biology and genetics today.

      • Arjen ten Have says:

        1 based on what if I may ask you suspect I am not up to speed? Somebody who disagrees with you is not up to speed or do you have some knowledge on me that actually supports you suspicion?
        2 60% of their general descriptions is wrong? That is ridiculous and lacks any metric to support. Do you know the basics of science and discussion?
        3 Looking at what you write I wonder if you are up to speed. Epigenetics is the current prodigal son in science but the fact is that there is hardly any real evidence for a significant role for epigenetics in evolution. It seems you missed the whole debate on this book on epigenetics by Mukherjee. He claimed an important role for epigenetics and, despite his good name earned with earlier writings, got completely slaugthered. Why would Dawkins want you to understand epigenetics if it is a mere minor force.
        4 What you put as FACTS, are issues that are either not in contradiction with what you name under fiction, or are marginal examples. Do you really think that the fact that certain microorganisms can speed up their mutation rate is A) A significant force in evolution B) Not known by Nye?

        There are issues in evolution and they are discussed in scientific literature, I suggest you do the same. Dawkins and Nye are in line with scientific consensus. Hence, according to your idea 60% of evolutionary biology papers is incorrect. There is work to do for you!

        • 1. I am very much up to speed. Read my book “Evolution 2.0” and note the 300+ academic references in the back; and endorsements from, for example, Kwong Jeon, who is editor of International Review of Cell and Molecular Biology. Most people who will come here and object are people who learned evolution from Dawkins in the first place and received a very slanted, inaccurate version. James Shapiro who discovered in 1968 that bacteria can re-arrange their DNA said in a 2010 lecture at Fermilab, “Dawkins lives in a fantasy land.”
          2. Dawkins et. al. say that evolution is driven by random mutations. That is absolutely false and there is no actual evidence this is true. They say the rest is natural selection, population genetics and gene flow; and while that’s true in a very limited sense they tell you next to nothing about symbiogenesis, horizontal gene transfer, transposition, epigenetics, genome doubling through hybridization, or endogenous retroviruses. Most large evolutionary changes are one of those six things. So if they tell you three things that are true, one thing that is false, and leave out six things that are vital, 60% wrong is roughly the score.
          3. Read Nessa Carey’s book and James Shapiro’s book and then let’s talk about epigenetics.
          4. Read Shapiro’s “Evolution: A View from the 21st Century” – and you’ll find out that (A) the ability to speed mutations rates is ESSENTIAL to evolution and (B) I don’t care if Nye knows this or not, he didn’t tell you.

          Thus Nye’s book does not even pass a basic first year grad student fact check. And that is a fact. 30 years out of date.

          • Arjen ten Have says:

            1 300+ citations is not a lot for a book, in addition I have no means of verifying they are any good, except that the names you refer to do not sound too promising. I could not find a single paper in pubmed by your name. Anybody can write a book. And an endorsement by an editor of a book series without official impact factor is also not helpful. All you write is that
            others are wrong and that you are right, but not a single detail showing you actually understand evolution.
            2 Dawkins is certainly not the frontman of a movement claiming that mutations are the ONLY source of evolution. You will find mentions of many if not all the other mechanisms throughout his books. He is no interested in these aspects of evolution since his aim is not to study the molecular mechanisms underlying evolution but rather how mutations (to your knowledge recombination et cetera are all forms or of mutation) affect evolution. “So if they tell you three things that are true, one thing that is false, and leave out six things that are vital, 60% wrong is roughly the score.” Point mutations are by far the major force of evolution as demonstrated by recent sequencing projects in Drosophila, E coli, yeast, human and likely other organisms. Hence, there is no mistake made, except by you. Then, I can list 20 maybe 100 other mechanisms that result in evolution. Would that make you 99% wrong? That is a ridiculous metric. Point mutations are the most important AND for other mutations it basically works in the same way. Except for epigenetics that are not hardcoded and are therefore, despite the hype NOT a major source for long term evolution
            3 Shapiro is not exactly a good example of a trusted scientist. His work is heavily crititized by many scientists.
            4 What is your problem with Bill Nye, as said and as even agreed upon by Bill Nye, he is NOT a scientist, rather a science promoter, and far from a biologist. The difference between Bill Nye and you is that Bill accepts when he is wrong, as he recently did in the GMO debate, when he correctly changed sides based on evidence.

            • If you want to research the facts at hand you will have to do better than deliver ad hominem attacks. You do not appear to have read any of the literature I have cited.

              And point mutations are the least important, not the most important. If you disagree, then please demonstrate that point mutations have ever been the source of any major evolutionary event. I will expect you to bring robust proof to the table.

              • Arjen ten Have says:

                Hence, consensus says X is the best explanation for a phenomenon and you claim Y is better. Then, I have to explain why the consensus is correct? That is science upside down!

                Ad hominem? Where did I attack you as a person? You claim you are up to speed, I just indicate why you do not convince me of that. I reread what I wrote and cannot find any personal statement. Sorry you feel offended, I see offense as something passive and see no reason for offending anybody.

                Indeed I did not read the literature cited. You cite books, which are not subject to peer review, and given the reviews I found, are not scientifically sound, I prefer to spend my time on other things. Hope that explains my position.

                • You attacked Shapiro and colleagues and dismissed them based on “criticism from other scientists.” All scientists who challenge the status quo get criticized. If you don’t want to read my work, read theirs. Until you do, you don’t know the score.

                  • Arjen ten Have says:

                    To that I can agree, except for that I did not attack Shapiro. “Shapiro is not exactly a good example of a trusted scientist. His work is heavily crititized by many scientists.” Indeed, if you are not criticized, you are not doing it correctly in science. But that is not ad hominem, it is up to me on what I spend my time, I wish I could read it all. Evolution is such a vast field, sorry to say that I am not convinced at all by this post, nor your defense to my and other critiques. Shapiro is in paper domain so I will read some of his papers and judge for myself…..

              • Adam Goodhall says:

                Lol the irony of you bemoaning ad hominem attacks…

            • Chris Ames says:

              Excellent comment.

          • Steve S says:

            I’m really confused here. Are you saying that ERV insertions are planned by cells to achieve a specific function? I must ask the same question about symbiogenesis, indels, and dups. Or are you making the argument that an outside, unseen, force is planning these features of evolution? Obviously, if events such as ERVs, indels, symbiogenesis, and gene dups don’t occur randomly, then that implies that something is planning them. If this is not what you are saying, it seems that your objection is simply that Dawkins, Nye, Myers, Coyne, etc. are making simplified arguments and not bringing in all the details. It seems to me that simplifying for a lay audience is absolutely necessary. Every work you cited (and Nye, of course, is not a biologist and may not be up-to-speed at all on all the nuances of evolutionary theory) was written with a lay audience in mind.

            • If you read the work of Barbara McClintock (detailed discussion and links here for example: //cosmicfingerprints.com/pz-myers/ – I’m specifically referring to her Nobel Prize paper, which you should read) you see that yes, insertions, deletions, epigenetic changes are highly specific responses to very specific changes in the environment.

              I never said that an outside, unseen force is planning these features. I am saying what McClintock is saying, which is that cells alter their own genetics actively in response and even anticipation of future events.

              Dawkins, Nye, Myers are not oversimplifying; they are bulldozing empirical science with false information. None of this genetic activity is remotely random at all.

              I am alarmed at the willingness of Nye’s fans to excuse him on the basis of him not being a biologist. I’m not a biologist either – I’m an engineer like he is – but I do know how to do research (as every bona fide engineer does) and I can verify facts before I write a book. Compare the scholarship of my book to the scholarship of his and judge for yourself.

              Lay audiences are quite capable of understanding that cells re-arrange their own DNA in response to threats. In fact this explanation is perfectly compatible with common sense – unlike neo-Darwinism, which requires one to believe in magical powers of randomness which they have never seen in their own practical life experience.

              • Ma GaO says:

                “you see that yes, insertions, deletions, epigenetic changes are highly specific responses to very specific changes in the environment. ”
                But McClintock’s papers _do not say that_. She worked on Maize and discovered that groups of genes could migrate from a chromosome to another. She does not state that these events happen in response to environmental changes, but that they _may happen_. She does not state that these events happen in any directed form, either.
                Bacterial plasmids are an enlightening example: bacteria create plasmids but not all plasmids are created equal. It is known now that, to efficiently transfer a new genetic characteristic (namely, antibiotic resistance), the plasmid needs to have many copies of the involved genes. Otherwise it won’t work. This doesn’t automatically happen in response to external events either.
                Thus we have a genetic migration (from cell to cell even!) that is not caused by external events nor is it constantly efficient.

                • You evidently have not read any of her work, or you would know that the name of McClintock’s 1983 Nobel Prize speech was “The Significance of Responses of the Genome to Challenge.”

                  She says:

                  “The ability of a cell to sense these broken ends, to direct them toward each other, and then to unite them so that the union of the two DNA strands is correctly oriented, is a particularly revealing example of the sensitivity of cells to all that is going on within them. They make wise decisions and act upon them.” From http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1983/mcclintock-lecture.pdf

                  • Ma Gao says:

                    Very wise, indeed… not. See just a bit below: “If not repaired, such breaks could lead to genomic
                    deficiencies having serious consequences”.
                    Meaning that not having those mechanisms would make cells probably die (and the individuals as well).
                    No need for intelligence or wisdom. Pure natural selection: either your are able to knit your genome back together or you risk disappearing.

                  • Ma Gao says:

                    Also, her work on maize showed that these issues happened even if no environmental pressure existed, and that the repairs were faulty at times. This does no match a designed system. It matches an evolutionary system though.

                    • I’m sorry but you are wrong. These plants never did this under normal conditions and this is why McClintock stressed the plants. Cells under stress increase their mutation rates 100,000X from less than 1 per billion to 10^5 more.

                      You do not seem to be familiar with McClintock’s work.

                    • Ma Gao says:

                      “Just because not having those features would cause the organism to die does not somehow magically cause these features to exist.”
                      No, it does not. These features, like everything else, *evolve* by selection from a set of random mutations in the population. Individuals unable to deal with DNA breakage disappear.
                      “You have reversed cause and effect.”
                      No, sorry. It is you who has (re)invented a cause that is not needed.
                      Example: bacteria do not have several chromosomes but a circular one. And plasmids.
                      Either bacteria had a recovery mechanism from DNA breaks that was imprecise and generated mini-DNA-rings which happened to be beneficial in some situations or it was designed to create plasmids _and_ keep the main DNA working correctly.
                      The first option is a lucky coincidence. The second one requires two different processes (even if they happen to go through the same set of proteins) because the bacterium “magically” knew it would need them.
                      Occam’s razor is quite clear on which is more reasonable.

                    • This experiment contradicts everything you have said above:

                      //cosmicfingerprints.com/bacteria-evolve-fast/

                    • Ma Gao says:

                      Mc Clintock did not stress anything to get her initial results.
                      She just crossed over selected genetic varieties: https://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~mcclean/plsc431/transelem/trans1.htm
                      Stressing the DNA may ramp up the number of events but the mechanism was already there, happening spontaneously.

                    • Ma Gao,

                      Anyone who has studied McClintock will recognize that you have not read anything substantive about McClintock and you don’t appear to have even understood her basic story. She stressed her plants with radiation and broke the chromosomes deliberately.

                      Thus far you have contributed almost nothing to these discussions, you have just been parroting 40 years out of date Dawkins-esque pronouncements and oversimplified models. I ask you to do some research into these topics because thus far you are wasting my time.

                    • Ma Gao says:

                      Really… That experiment contradicts _nothing_. She talks about finding new ways of enabling the flagellum.
                      You accuse me of wasting your time. But you’re wasting everyone else’s time and money seems to be OK.

      • Economiser says:

        Cast doubt. Create a need. Spin. The Sales is strong with this one. And can you provide evidence for 60%? A proper scientist doesn’t cite statistics haphazardly or without evidence to back it up.

    • Absolutely- what Darwin correctly identified and Dawkins as a promoter of the Science of Evolution and Nye as a promoter of Science have described is the process by which some versions of a species survive for long periods of time and others fail. Survival of the fittest is not about eugenics or intelligent design, it is about the survivability of a particular species in their environment, which means not only the production of progeny, but also the success of their progeny to produce successful progeny. Not withstanding catastrophic events like a Meteor of several kilometres diameter striking the earth, the species best adapted to the demands of their environment will survive and reproduce: if that species moves to new environments with different survival demands and survives, their progeny who possess traits that best match the demands of their new environment will eventually become the dominant version of their species, like the finches with different beaks determined by the type of feed available. Switching genes on and off is significant, but only if the switching directly effects survivability of the species in their environment over time. It is not that a species changes to meet the demands of the environment, it is that there is sufficient genetic variation within the species for a sufficient number of that species to survive and thrive: a successful species will have members who are not successful and will eventually disappear if the traits they carry do not allow them to survive. The process of Evolution does not elimate species with traits that have no apparent value, as long as those traits do not make the species vulnerable to extinction.

      • All you are doing is regurgitating Dawkins. And all he does is explain THAT superior species survive, he doesn’t correctly explain anything about how you genetically get superior species and genetic innovations. That requires the above mentioned mechanisms discovered by McClintock, Margulis etc.

        • MaGaO says:

          There is problem with your reference to McClintock. You quote the part that interests you and gloss over this other part in her speech:
          “Many known and explored responses of genomes to stress are not so precisely programmed. Activation of potentially transposable elements in maize is one of these. We do not know when any particular element will be activated. Some responses to stress are especially significant for illustrating how a genome may modify itself when confronted with unfamiliar conditions. Changes induced in genomes when cells are removed from their normal locations and placed in tissue culture surroundings are outstanding examples of this.”
          So gene reorganization is not as clearly cut out as one would assume from your quotation.

          • I’m fine with what you said, but remember that was 30 years ago. Our knowledge of how transposition works has only increased.

            Claiming that it’s simply random is never anything other than a scientific step backwards.

            • MaGaO says:

              Is it? Inducing random mutations by radiation or DNA-aggressive chemicals has been used for decades. If mutations weren’t random then the treated plants wouldn’t develop differing characteristics.
              Which, by the way, is one of the issues with non-randomness: it seriously hampers evolutionary radiation.

                • MaGaO says:

                  Oh, please. Not the old creationist rubbish of random mutations never being beneficial.
                  Change one base (guanine to thymine), produce valine instead of glycine, become immune to Kuru: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18172-gene-change-in-cannibals-reveals-evolution-in-action/
                  Enjoy your accidentally beneficial mutation if you happen to be a ritual cannibal.

                  • From now on use your real name. I don’t allow anonymous blog comments.

                    If you look hard enough in any computer program, you can always find a way to toggle ONE bit and get a very useful result. One single bit can turn your wi-fi on and off.

                    But that isn’t remotely the same thing as proving that the toggling of that bit at a particular time was random. It doesn’t prove you can evolve software by randomly changing it.

                    In fact, anyone with any real-world experience of digital communication knows that randomness destroys information 99.9999999999999999% of the time and the exceptions are so rare as to be functionally useless.

                    The real problem with what you just said is that evolution through random mutations is a non-scientific theory because you can’t prove randomness and you can’t build a scientific predictive theory based on purely random inputs.

                    Furthermore we have known since the 1940s (McClintock’s work) that cells edit their own DNA. So the useful scientific hypothesis of any beneficial mutation is that the cell engineered it via systematic mechanism. Which is the thesis of Evolution 2.0.

                    • MaGaO says:

                      Theories based on statistics abound: quantum mechanics, thermodynamics are just two of the most noticeable ones.
                      Lamarck also posited a mechanicist theory evolution. It didn’t work either.
                      By the way, your computer analogies keep being wrong.

                    • Your real name please.

                    • Steve S says:

                      It’s extremely interesting then that genetic algorithms work just fine with randomly generated variations.

                    • It doesn’t sound like you’ve studied GA’s very much. I devote a whole chapter to this in my book.

                      From this point forward use your full first and last name please.

                    • Steve Sommers says:

                      Since I’ve worked with GA’s, I’d say I know quite a bit about them. I’m wondering if you agree with Dembski’s take on GA’s that the solution has been surreptitiously built in to the algorithm?

                    • I’ve never seen a GA work without a prior defined fitness function. Have you?

        • Andrew Wilson says:

          Species are not “genetically superior” to other species. Superiority is a human judgment. Genes vary on their ability to allow an organism to pass that gene on. Indeed, that gene in one organism may get passed on easily but in a different organism less so.

  7. Juan says:

    I agree, the article is hiperbolic. Not I fine way to write in science.
    The Selfish Gene have problems, and some ideas for discussing, But was a book for explaining evolution in the social sciences, and for that it had a good effect. I agree with others who claim that Dawkins is not misunderstanding the importance of epigenetics.

  8. Hussein says:

    Evolution is not a theory any more. It is a fact, as fact as the earth is round, as fact as the planets orbits the sun in our solar system. The molecular Biology has confirmed that from the primitive single cell bacteria to the modern multi cell organism, there is a big resemblance Genetically. DNA test is a part of molecular Biology. In modern time, we believe a DNA evidence is more reliable than eye witness or CCTV to investigate a crime.

    • Did you read the article?

      • MaGaO says:

        I think he may be referring to the sender field in your update mails: “Evolution Vs. Creationism Debate | Cosmic Fingerprints”
        There is no debate there.

    • MaGaO says:

      There is the fact of evolution: the inescapable fact that strata is different enough ages will have different fossils.
      Then there is the theory of evolution (namely, that new characteristics appear in a population an the individuals with some advantage tend to propagate their characteristics). In fact, there are several theories of evolution but the one derived from Darwin is the only one standing (groso modo)

  9. Pat Mc Ginley says:

    There’s a definite sense that your attacks on Dawkins, etc. are in support of ‘creationism’ and the Bible story rather than in any perceived inaccuracies in their conclusions. Such hostility and sensationalism smacks of desperation rather than conviction. If so, how do you reconcile the Bible story – based on a 6,000 year-old Earth – with the fact that most Europeans and Asians have between 0-4% Neanderthal DNA i.e. more evidence for evolution?

    • Pat,

      That is a common perception. There is nothing I have actually said that would support such a conclusion. There are many more options than just Neo-Darwinism and YEC. If you want to get an idea of my views specific to the spiritual aspect, see http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/genesis1 or //cosmicfingerprints.com/bible-science-reconciled/

    • Jon says:

      ‘Such hostility and sensationalism’ and ‘creationism’ …you are the one depicting this…the ‘theory of evolution’ will stand or fall on its merit.

    • Darryl says:

      If I may jump in on this one. I’m not a scientist–and I’m not as acquainted with the jargon, so on much I will plead ignorance. But I do know something about Ancient Near Eastern Literature (graduate degree). The Hebrew and Christian scriptures are not based on a 6,000 year old Earth–period. That was the creation of Bishop Usher who used the genealogies to calculate the age of the earth. Huge problem with that considering the genealogies would have major gaps in them and their purpose is not to gauge how long the Earth has been in existence. So to say it is based on a 6,000 year Earth is to say something not even addressed in these texts.

      Debate how evolution works–but if you are going to bring Hebrew and Christian Scriptures into the discussion please represent them accurately (doesn’t it drive you crazy when preachers misquote and misunderstand biology?). 8^)

      Now I’ll let you guys have at it. It is a very interesting discussion and I’m trying to get up to snuff–but at my age, I know better than trying to jump in–I really don’t want to unnecessarily make myself look like a total ignoramus!

  10. bruce h. says:

    I am not a scientist or even a student of science but i do have a question i would like someone to answer.from what i have read the act of evolution has taken millons of years to accomplish. I read the other day in an article that the sun is shrinking at a rate of 2.5 ft. per hr on the radius. If this is true life on earth could not have existed even 100,000 yrs ago. 20 million yrs ago the surface of the sun would be touching the surface of the earth (if that were possible without destroying te earth) if my math is correct how then can these vast amounts of time for evolution to work be correct

  11. John Bitmead says:

    Some interesting points put forward but I feel the attacking of Dawkins and Nye a bit crass and disturbing.
    If you support the Biblical view on evolution and creation then that’s a bit of an embarrassment with regards to this article and automatically leads me to assume that you are deeply biased and therefore not really in a position to give a critical along with honest view.
    On the flip side you have raised some interesting points that I will be looking forward to researching.

  12. srx says:

    There are few things you are missing. The blind watchmaker IS 30 years old hence it speaks of the genetics of the 80s.
    Why arent they telling a whole story?Who published those books? BARNES AND NOBLE which published HARRY POTTER?! Thats not a science magazine! SO now you can ask Why? – Because the books they publish arent for scientists but more for a general public?
    The article is dumb comparing geocentric system and the fall of IBM. You compared bad business decisions with advancements in science. Who wrote this anyway, authors name is nowhere to see…. bad article is bad

    • Science books don’t have to be true because someone else is selling Harry Potter???????

      Is this “atheist logic”?

      Barnes and Noble is not a book publisher. They are a retailer.

      Selfish Gene is published by Oxford University Press.

      One would expect their books to pass a basic fact check. They don’t.

      Why are you making excuses for them? Don’t you aspire to be more than a shill for Richard Dawkins?

      By the way no anonymous posts allowed here. From now on use your real name.

      • James Dickson says:

        I have briefly read through the responses to your article, and your responses to the responses, I now that I understand that you are indeed coming at this topic from a religious bias I must respond.
        I am an atheist, i’ll be up front, and I want to make this comment in hopes that it might help you understand why I, me personally, think that your intellect would be better used if NOT biased by religion. You are clearly well read. I would never claim, for myself, to have your level of intellect. But, the belief in God means that you feel that there is indeed someone with incalculable power watching over us always. You believe that this being loves us one and all. This is where I get offended and here is why. Just the other day a man made the headlines locally here for getting a 5yr sentence for raping an 11yr old girl to badly that she could not walk for a time afterwards as her pelvic bone was damaged. Now please set aside your scientific arguments and explain to me why I should follow your belief that this all powerful being loves us yet did nothing to help that poor child?
        Any decent human being would have intervened if they could. Why did your God not? ….. by the way…. there is NO answer you can offer that would be valid if it even ventures towards defending God. Have a good day sir.

        • I am very sorry for what happened to this girl.

          I don’t suppose that you expect your blog comment to be the first time it has ever come to my attention that atrocities happen in the world.

          No matter WHAT you believe or even hypothesize about God, it is clear that God grants humans freedom.

          Are you saying that God cannot exist because God would never allow humans to exist and possess moral freedom?

          • Ben Andrews says:

            You just admitted that you believe in god so the suspicion that your research is biassed in that direction is warranted. Without saying it explicitly you are disregarding randomness to imply a directed force e.i. implying the existence of an intelligent creator. Why not being honest about it.

            • I am utterly honest about everything. I hide nothing here on my website. My beliefs are in plain view.

              You are an atheist so you are likewise biased. You have confirmation bias.

              The difference is, I have proof (in huge abundance) that evolution is non-random. You do not have any proof that it is random, and if you understand information theory or engineering, you understand that randomness only destroys information. It’s called Information entropy re: Claude Shannon, 1948.

  13. R. Jill says:

    Great info. However, I don’t really agree in most parts since those are rather too subjective. For example, the “xx% of what they’re saying is wrong” doesn’t really lay out how you came up with that number, and it would be quite an indefensible point which will prove to be a bad distraction later on. The kind of narrative which takes a condescending tone may prove to be a bad distraction as well. I don’t agree with the general conclusion too – that they should change the stance that you don’t agree with just because they’re “outdated”. My friend, In science we often go back to previously “debunked” theories if it applies a current finding so being a proponent of something just because it is “new” is a bit unscientific, don’t you think? The most important part is to follow the evidence, and based on all the conversation that I’ve read and the article itself it seems some of the theories that you’re a proponent of are rather controversial and not exactly set in stone. I’m not a biologist, and my field is in information technology but I did have a background in electrical engineering because I shifted after my third year in the course, so I can’t really speak much about the recent findings in this field. However, as an outsider and an enthusiast in a wide variety of sciences (which I find potentially useful in running my family’s agri-business), I have to say that it is more often the case that we gravitate towards easily understandable concepts rather than too much technical detail. That said, the rant about “missing out too much detail” is a bit out-of-touch with how communicating the fun parts of sciences work. The condescension is mean-spirited and unfair. I mean, when it really comes down to it, it is up to the individual to dig deeper into each corner of the subject at hand.

    I love giving seminars to students for free, and I often tone down the technical details of the subect I’m talking about (often programming, putting up web servers, and basic routing) to catch the interest of the people I’m communicating with. And I understand that most of these topics you’re talking about are not everything either since there seem to be lots of mechanisms for evolution so even as an outsider who doesn’t really study these things, I think it is fair to assume that you might be falling into that trap where Galileo did when he said Grassi was wrong about comets. In fact, didn’t we still use the Newtonian physics despite it being overthrown by Einstein’s relativity? Scientific discoveries are often counter-intuitive and it is a bit conceited to assume what should be considered true just because it is “new” and the former is “outdated”. Most especially if the theory in question is, well, in question.

    • If you watch the video at the top of this post, by Denis Noble of Oxford (impeccable credentials, and the lecture is at an international congress of evo devo experts) you’ll see that, in Noble’s words “nearly every assumption of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis has been overturned.”

      //cosmicfingerprints.com/wistar-institute-evolution/

      He reveals key mistakes in Dawkins’ model in several places. By the way he is one of the professors that approved Dawkins’ PhD thesis, so he is no lightweight. Today he regrets approving Dawkins’ PhD. Dawkins has hindered practical science with this “selfish gene” theories. These are taken much more serious by lay atheists than they are by practicing evolutionary biologists.

      Dawkins’ model isn’t merely superseded / improved upon the way Newtonian physics was; Newtonian physics continued to be more or less correct except in certain circumstances. Dawkins’ model is largely wrong at this point.

      Don’t take my word for it, though, watch the video and decide for yourself.

  14. Hussein, while agreeing with what you are trying to say, I wonder if you understand the scientific meaning of the word “theory” as opposed to its popular meaning? In scientific language a theory is an hypothesis that has been proven in so many ways, that we can believe it to be proven true. Hence “the theory of evolution” means that it is true. On that one I agree with you!

  15. Alvaro Caso Chavez says:

    Idiotic piece peddling a book that promotes as earth shaking news minor developments and inflated additions to mainstream evoutionary theory, that everybody has known for a while, includding, of course, Dawkins, Nye, etc.

    • The biological innovations in EV2.0 are not minor developments. They are in fact the only reason why evolution works at all. If you simulate on a computer or run genetic algorithms, you find that programs based on Dawkins’ theory don’t actually work at all. Holland et al showed that GA’s based on transposition, symbiogenesis etc do actually work. I am not exaggerating when I say Dawkins’ version of evolution is obsolete and does not work in real life.

      • Ben Hayles says:

        I am very interested in EV2.0. I welcome all updates to evolutionary theory and I hope your book is a success. Unfortunately you are marketing a science book as though it were a “get rich quick” scam and thus lose all credibility with an intelligent audience. I highly recommend a change in marketing strategy.

        • Ben,

          We’ve done a lot of scientific testing on web traffic (in the vein of Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins) and we’ve found the languaging we are using to be most effective based on measurements.

  16. Paul Buhl says:

    To all here who are attacking Perry Marshall and accusing him of being anti-science: YOU ARE A PART OF THE PROBLEM! What is the problem? The problem is that Science gets mired with politics when those who want to challenge the scientific consensus get immediately labeled as Bible thumpers, and we continue to devolve the conversation as one that requires Science to put up walls, and “defend” itself from religious attack. There is not ONE thing I’ve read from Perry that suggests he is anti-Science and a simple Creationist or Bible-Literalist, yet many here accuse him of that! The debate between Atheists and Religionists should not be happening in this conversation, which is about expanding our understanding of the Universe and it’s natural processes. Dawkins constantly interjects his personal beliefs about Atheism in lectures and public forums that should be about advancing Science, not claiming to know the unknowable, or what may or may not drive the natural processes we are learning to observe. REMEMBER: we cannot mistake observation for understanding or demystification, and all we are doing through Science when it comes to Evolution is observing processes that we have no control over.

    • Thank you. You are exactly right.

    • MaGaO says:

      “To all here who are attacking Perry Marshall and accusing him of being anti-science: YOU ARE A PART OF THE PROBLEM!”
      You write in capital letters so you must be right.
      ” What is the problem? The problem is that Science gets mired with politics when those who want to challenge the scientific consensus get immediately labeled as Bible thumpers,”
      Did you even read the comments? Many of them are about technical issues, not name calling. Might it be that you are hurriedly calling anyone that disagrees with the article “mired in politics” (not with, mind you).
      ” and we continue to devolve the conversation as one that requires Science to put up walls, and “defend” itself from religious attack.”
      Between us, now that nobody reads this: religion is attacking science. You may have not noticed though.
      ” There is not ONE thing I’ve read from Perry that suggests he is anti-Science and a simple Creationist or Bible-Literalist, yet many here accuse him of that!”
      If you have subscribed to this page, you will receive mails from “Evolution Vs. Creationism Debate | Cosmic Fingerprints”
      There might be a kernel in those accusations.
      ” The debate between Atheists and Religionists should not be happening in this conversation, which is about expanding our understanding of the Universe and it’s natural processes.”
      And yet you add to it.
      ” Dawkins constantly interjects his personal beliefs about Atheism in lectures and public forums that should be about advancing Science, not claiming to know the unknowable, or what may or may not drive the natural processes we are learning to observe.”
      I deduce that you don’t know the difference between atheism and anti-theism.
      ” REMEMBER: we cannot mistake observation for understanding or demystification, and all we are doing through Science when it comes to Evolution is observing processes that we have no control over.”
      Several GMO companies might want to disagree on that point.

    • Alan McBride says:

      How do evolutionary theories account for the specified information that instructs for flesh and blood seeing as all specified information originates in mind rather than chemistry?

      • Alan McBride says:

        I meant to say ‘specified information in the cell’.

      • Steve Sommers says:

        Define ‘specified information’ and how it can be recognized.

        Let’s suppose we are playing a game of lawn darts. We are shooting at a target we’ve painted on the ground. The specification for this game is that the object is to be the closest to the center of the target. Now suppose, instead, we are throwing the lawn darts randomly. Also, randomly, we paint a bullseye around where a few of the darts land and then pick up the remaining lawn darts. Another person comes along and says, “Oh my! There were some really good players of lawn darts here. They hit the bullseye several times.”

        So, this stranger, made an assumption about the specification of the game of lawn darts that was inaccurate. Do you see the point?

  17. Kevin Carroll says:

    An earlier commentator definitely had it right…..your overall tone and language are unprofessional. Let’s assume, for the moment, that you are correct in your assertions. Science is a process, where information is presented, peer reviewed, discussed…..and if it holds water will become the basis for models moving forward. You seem to want to circumvent that process. If everyone won’t listen to and agree with you right now, then maybe a little name calling is in order. Trust me….any scientist who values the scientific method will always be open to new/better/refined ideas, even if they disagree with conventional “wisdom”. State your case, present your evidence, defend your results, and above all, be open to the possibility that YOU could be wrong as well. “Certainty” is a quality we ascribe to religion….not science! In the mean time, you have piqued my interest and I will be doing some literature reviews on this subject.

    • Nilgün Öven says:

      Exactly.

    • This has been going on way to long to continue to be nice about it. Lynn Margulis was arguing with these guys years ago and they still don’t listen. Now we’re precision editing genomes with CRISPR (borrowing the method bacteria have been using for 3 billion years) and they’re still pretending evolution is random and accidental.

      It’s not. It is cell-directed, based on signals from the environment. The cell is a signal processing, DNA editing machine of the highest order.

      There’s no nice way to say that Dawkins Coyne etc. are trading on long-obsolete science that practicing biologists now know today is more than half wrong. As you dig into real science, you’ll be dismayed at how inaccurate their representations actually are.

      You should be upset.

      • MaGaO says:

        Except that you are trying to give the cell the ability to effect changes on its DNA at will which just does not happen. If it did, all bacteria exposed to an antibiotic would simultaneously develop resistance to it. They don’t: a few lucky ones do and reproduce, other lucky ones manage to get hold of resistance inducing plasmids.

      • Even if evolution were “cell directed, based on signals from the environment”, that’s still random.

        Effectively you are saying nothing different to anything any other evolutionist has said. They all agree the environment has an influence on gene control and mutations. You are just saying the environment somehow does it through the cell.

        There are no decisions made by the cells to affect change. They, like the genes, would simply be responding to the environment in which they find themselves.

        • You need to read McClintock’s Nobel Prize paper as you do not grasp what is really going on here:

          http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1983/mcclintock-lecture.pdf

          • The only thing vaguely relevant in that lecture (from 1983) is the the cell has mechanisms to repair broken DNA and that repaired DNA is passed down to offspring.

            There’s nothing new in that.

            There is also nothing there to suggest the the cell is “controlling” anything. It just has proteins (encoded by the DNA) that help repair the DNA itself.

            It is also important to remember, that anything the cell does in reaction to broken DNA is as a result of the DNA itself.

            • You didn’t read the paper.

              Or if you did, you didn’t understand what she was saying.

              I quote:

              “The ability of a cell to sense these broken ends, to direct them toward each other, and then to unite them so that the union of the two DNA strands is correctly oriented, is a particularly revealing example of the sensitivity of cells to all that is going on within them. They make wise decisions and act upon them.”

              “Time does not allow even a modest listing of known responses of genomes to stress that could or should be included in a discussion aimed at the significance of responses of genomes to challenge.”

              “In addition to modifying gene action, these elements can restructure the genome at various levels, from small changes involving a few nucleotides, to gross modifications involving large segments of chromosomes, such as duplications, deficiencies, inversions, and other more complex reorganizations.”

              “The responses of genomes to unanticipated challenges are not so precisely programmed. Nevertheless, these are sensed, and the genome responds in a discernible but initially unforeseen manner.”

              “A goal for the future would be to determine the extent of knowledge the cell has of itself, and how it utilizes this knowledge in a “thoughtful” manner when challenged.”

              “Induction of such reprogrammings by insects, bacteria, fungi, and other organisms, which are not a required response of the plant genome at some stage in its life history, is quite astounding… It is becoming increasingly apparent that we know little of the potentials of a genome. Nevertheless, much evidence tells us that it must be vast.”

              “The stimulus associated with placement of the insect egg into the leaf will initiate reprogramming of the plant’s genome, forcing it to make a unique structure adapted to the needs of the developing insect. The precise structural organization of a gall that gives it individuality must start with an initial stimulus, and each species provides its own specific stimulus. For each insect species the same distinctive reprogramming of the plant genome is seen to occur year-after-year.”

              I think her point has been made well enough.

              • Andrew Wilson says:

                “They make wise decisions and act upon them”

                No they don’t. They react to the chemistry. The same way water does not make a decision to flow downhill.

  18. Tomi Aalto says:

    Thanks Mr. Marshall, I agree with you in almost every point you made in the article, except one. The speciation. Scientists often make too busy definitions of new species because they use mating behaviour as a criterion for speciation. But they don’t take account with the fact that pheromones also affect the mating behaviour. So the question often is, are the organisms willing to mate or are they incapable of? Chromosomal barrier is a true reason for subspeciation and gene and chromosome loss is a fact within every organism. Methylated cytosines are easily substituted into thymines and hydroxymethylated cytosines into guanines. Sometimes these changes are useful genetic markers but mostly they cause gene inactivation, chromatin remodeling and chromosome loss. Seems that due to intensive needs of adaptation epigenetic factors lead to chromosome loss which is the most significant reason for subspeciation.

    Wolf 78 chromosomes
    Bat-eared fox 72 chromosomes
    Gray Fox 66 chromosomes
    Fennec Fox 64 chromosomes
    Bengal Fox 60 chromosomes
    Kit Fox 50 chromosomes
    Tibetan sand fox 36 chromosomes
    Red Fox 34 chromosomes

    Epigenetic layers constitute an analog information layer. Methyl groups can be measured as levels and patterns on genes and histones. A great example of how this analog data layer works is the level of EGFR gene methylation that gradiently affects the size of Florida Carpenter ants.
    http://www.whatisepigenetics.com/dna-methylation-influences-continuous-variation-in-ant-worker-size/

  19. Dr. David Corpus says:

    Science is self-correcting as advancements are made. By the time your book was published, a paper was published that contradicted something in it. High School textbooks are not replaced annually. In some States, those texts present evolution as a controversy and world view.
    It seems to me that you are exploiting minor variations in the topic of evolution and are targeting the mainstream sources as a means to sell a book that will also be obsolete science in five years. I am comfortable with my layman understanding having a few nuances that I didn’t retain in the first place as being inaccurate. While I’m sure your book has an audience, I’m not making an argument for my willful ignorance as much as I am for what details of the subject matter are important enough to a layman be relevant to the topic as a whole. Attacking the mainstream as if they are dinosaurs is not merited by these nuances.

    • These technical issues are not nuances. They are wholesale shifts from what all four of these guys have been saying for decades.

      As Denis Noble says, “all the central assumptions of the Modern Synthesis have been disproved. Moreover, they have been disproved in ways that raise the tantalizing prospect of a totally new synthesis.”

      You deserve to be told the truth.

  20. Aaron doo says:

    Just propaganda for intelligent design, the article is at best childish, with little or no understanding for the scientific method.

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