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Monday, May 04, 2009

More tales from the Altenberg: Suzan Mazur's interview with David Koch

Here's a story I have been meaning to put up forever (well, only since February 24, 2009, actually): Suzan Mazur's continuing coverage of post-Darwinism (what to do after Darwin turns out not to have all the answers):

Suzan Mazur: Much of the media and scientific community appear to be stuck in the debate on evolution vs. creationism. A recent Gallup poll in America revealed that two-thirds of Republicans questioned rejected Darwin's theory and a majority of Democrats and political Independents accepted it. What is consistently ignored by pollsters and the media is the evolutionary mechanisms aside from Darwinian natural selection.

More sophisticated evolutionary thinkers are now saying natural selection is not the most important mechanism of evolutionary change. I'm talking about scientists who are funded by the National Science Foundation, not kooks.

What Darwin Got Wrong is a forthcoming book co-authored by Jerry Fodor, one of America's most celebrated philosophers, who argues that at the end of the story "it's not going to be the selectionist story". A Swedish cytogeneticist, Antonio Lima-De-Faria, who's been knighted by the king of Sweden for his scientific accomplishments, has noted that "there has never been a theory of evolution."

In fact, there is a parallel celebration this year of the 200th anniversary of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, the scientist who was onto the idea of evolution before Darwin. New York Medical College cell biologist Stuart Newman has said publicly he believes that "over the next couple of decades Lamarck's way of looking at things [the inheritance of acquired characteristics] will be more incorporated into mainstream biology."

Would you comment?

David Koch: Well I'm not an authority on all those details. I have a general working knowledge of evolution. I'm not competent to challenge some of the claims of those folks.

Suzan Mazur: This is a big debate, which the media is not covering. It's reached a crescendo and a lot of people are saying there's a sea change happening. Some of the evolutionary mechanisms being discussed, which relegate natural selection to a less important role, include self-organization--where cells organize themselves into more complex structures. The concept of morphogenetic fields, a developmental grid guiding development, is something Mount Holyoke paleontologist Mark McMenamin and Stuart Pivar have been investigating, identifying the famous Seilacher Namibian fossil that was part of Steve Gould's Scientific American article as a flattened morphogenetic torus, a metazoan creature.

Mazur sounds to me like one sharp gal, and way smarter than her interview subject, Koch, who fronts the current tax-funded establishment line pretty reliably.

Note: Re Altenberg, go here.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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