Evolution Fist Fight at the Wistar Institute

The now-famous Wistar evolution conference took place exactly 50 years ago at the University of Pennsylvania. An all-star panel of mathematicians, biologists and engineers debated the merits of Neo-Darwinism… based on MATH.

The verdict:

The engineers and mathematicians said, “No way Jose.”

The biologists said, “You guys are ignorant. You don’t understand.”

OK, it wasn’t a fist fight… but it was intense. Fascinating to read even 50 years later. MIT and ivy-league guys duking it out over evolutionary theory.

The papers and transcripts are published in a book called “Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution.” You can still get copies, if you don’t mind dropping a couple hundred bucks. (It’s good, but I don’t recommend you pay $200 for it.)

I secured a copy through my local library. Fascinating stuff, especially considering people have now been arguing about THIS conference for 50 years.

The math guys insisted, “This dog don’t hunt. The numbers are impossible. Your model doesn’t work. Back to the drawing board.” But the biologists fired back: “The model works just fine. Look, stuff obviously evolves. What part of this don’t you understand?”

The biologists couldn’t make the numbers work, and mostly dodged the question. The two sides talked past each other for most of the conference.

The question is not whether evolution happens. It does and we can plainly observe it: new structures and species in days, weeks or months. The question is: Where the do the innovations come from? Are they random and accidental? Or are they produced by systems?

None of this was arguments about creationism or whatever. It was simply a study of whether the Neo-Darwinian model actually works. Well, it doesn’t because it’s mathematically impossible. The actual statistics for the idea that random events can improve codes are absurd.

Nowhere in the literature will you find a sound statistical case FOR the assertion that random copying errors, combined with natural selection, can actually generate new species. Run the numbers and you’ll find they’re the worst odds to be found in all of science. Old-school Darwinists are trained early and often to dodge these discussions about probability.

If you have a scientific model and the math doesn’t work, your model is broken. Period. End of story. You need another model.

Most of the biologists were unwilling to accept this. They seemed to feel personally threatened. You hear vitriol and bickering in the transcripts.

New Paradigm for Evolution

The thing they lacked then – that we do have now – was a Post Modern Synthesis. A new model for evolution. When the Wistar conference was held, Barbara McClintock was still 15 years away from winning her Nobel Prize. Symbiogenesis theory had been nearly lost to Russian history, and Lynn Margulis was just starting her crusade to resurrect and popularize it in the west.

Horizontal Gene Transfer was barely understood. Genome Duplication via Hybridization was vastly underrated. We couldn’t sequence genomes and there were no Craig Venter type guys hacking cells and rebuilding their genomes.

Today we know organisms respond to threats in real time and systematically re-arrange their DNA. Cells perform feats in minutes that chance could never achieve in a trillion years. Evolution defies entropy and randomness – through Natural Genetic Engineering.

Old-school Darwinism has been hacking and wheezing for decades. But now it’s dying of emphysema. Meanwhile a promising new synthesis is upon us, one that restores live, results-based experiments to the evolution debate.

Landmark New Conference

The Royal Society of London is hosting a conference November 7-9 called “New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives.” If you have any means of getting there, you should register and go.

I will be attending, as will many leaders of the “Third Way” movement. One of the leading lights is biologist Denis Noble of Oxford, who will be presenting his latest findings. For a preview of Noble’s approach, watch his video “Rocking the Foundations of Evolutionary Biology” above. It is well worth your time.

The London event promises to be a lively exchange. I predict it will cripple the twilight efforts to sustain Darwinism by its last holdouts. Folks like Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins, who continue to propagate a version of science that practicing scientists abandoned long ago.

Long live the revolution.

[See my in-person report from this landmark conference here]

21 Responses

  1. ted bauer says:

    very intresting /thankyou for sharing information!

  2. Ed Secco says:

    “Cells perform feats in minutes that chance could never achieve in a trillion years.”.

    This is because cells have life. They are not merely a collection of atoms and molecules. This is a metaphysical and supernatural explanation that atheists refuse to acknowledge because it contradicts their religion. That last sentence is correct. Atheism is a religious belief based on materialism. But without any explanation of origins. It hangs its hat on science, but without God there is no science. Without God nothing exists.

    • Paul Cotton says:

      Atheism is a refusal to accept the existence of a supernatural being for which there is not a single scrap of evidence. I do not believe that fairies exist either but that does not make it a religion, simply a lack of belief. Your God is a product of original ignorance, followed by millennia of indoctrination. God is man made – not the other way around.

      • Glen says:

        Let us suppose you are the smartest person ever to walk the earth. That being said, it is possible you may be using 10% of your brain which means out of all there is to know and understand 90% still remains. Being intelligent one would have to admit that quite possibly GOD could exist in the 90% of all there is to know that you do not

        • Paul Cotton says:

          This is another popular myth. There is no evidence that we use only ten percent of our brains. I imagine though that your god exists in your brain, and wonder if it would be there without indoctrination.

      • JPierce says:

        Paul – You seem so very certain. But materialist explanations don’t explain why we even care about the answer to these questions. What good is knowing, if only for utilitarian reasons? Machines don’t care to know unless there is something quantifiable to gain. Yet we humans seem to want to know things for the mere sake of knowing. If we are machines, we are very soulful machines.

        • Richard Morgan says:

          Materialist explanations most certainly DO explain why we care about the answers to those questions!
          You say, ” we humans seem to want to know things for the mere sake of knowing.” The operative word there is “seem”. Scratch beneath the surface and you will see how untrue that is. The brain is a knowledge / information-seeking organ. It evolved that way because there are considerable survival advantages in “seeking” and processing information about our environment.
          (I am a Christian – in case my comment leads you to think otherwise.)

        • Paul Cotton says:

          Certain about what? That there is no evidence for God? Well until someone comes up with something what choice do I have? God is made in mans image by man himself.

      • Robert says:

        Paul, not a scrap of evidence for God…?
        Who made all that there is?
        The fact of matter and the organization and complexity of it is, plain and simple, evidence for a designer who is greater than it all.

    • Debra Jackson says:

      I believe you’ll find that God and science go hand in hand. If you look at the order in which God created the world is the same order scientists say happened.

      • Paul Cotton says:

        Again and again you people fall back on your mythology as if it was written by something not human. No wonder the world is falling apart.

    • Lester granville young says:

      Wow what a wonderful powerful way to put it . Get up on that platform and speak it preach it teach it brother and may God bless you for it Amen

  3. d burke says:

    The “argument.” such as it was, was always about injecting “religious” nonsense into the process. I look forward to seeing what different thoughts that dont involve superstition have been arrived at.

  4. Doug says:


  5. Alexander de Leon says:

    Well, if creationism is not the answer against Neo-Darwinism, for being so unscientific (which I agree 100%), then what do you support? Evolution as a natural phenomenon is so undeniable! The public tend to realize this simple difference between the phenomenon and the explanation of it, which is Natural selection.

  6. Seems like claims made by intelligent designers manipulating cell structures and\or exploiting “dormant” DNA that the creator built into animals so, like Darwin’s Finches they can adjust to their environment. (They are still birds and in todays world verses the original creation still Finches.) There is no scientific evidence for any kinds of changes like reptile to bird or mammal. That is pure fantasy, of in the creation myth of western governments, faith.
    Why try to prop up the most disproven conjecture in the history in science by a bunch idolatrous people in white robes other than because they want to continued access to the public treasury?

    • Paul Cotton says:

      I think we can all agree that fossil evidence is incomplete. What is remarkable is that is exists at all, the conditions necessary for their formation being fairly precise. I have heard arguments that suggest that fossils were put there by your god as a means of distraction. From what I am not sure. Fossils do however provide evidence of an evolution that has taken place over millions of years and because of gaps there has to be interpolation and interpretation of probable events. This you refer to as fantasy and yes you still subscribe to a theory of a creator that is based on nothing at all. The religious argument is so thin that is has to make poor attempts at discrediting those who do not support their mythology.
      Organised religion requires less access to the treasury because it has been bleeding the poor for centuries and basks in its own vast wealth. Hypocrites all.

  7. Paul Cotton says:

    So there is disagreement about the mechanism of evolution. So what? It would appear from this site that this is forming the basis of some strange idea that there must be an intelligence behind everything. Science is about debate and challenge. Silly ideas do not last long and evidence sooner or later is found to support an argument, or otherwise. It is a grown up way of going about things and so much more satisfying than squabbling about who has the best invisible friend.
    Darwin’s ideas shook the foundations of religion to the core and you guys are still scared. Maybe rather than attacking scientific ideas, you could devote energy to providing evidence for your god rather than nit picking holes in the evidence to the contrary.

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