Modern evolutionary synthesis

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The modern evolutionary synthesis is a school of evolutionary thought which incorporates the concepts of natural selection, de Vries’ mutations, and studies in population genetics.[1]

The creation scientist Dr. Ariel A. Roth, who holds a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Michigan, wrote concerning the modern evolution synthesis school of evolutionary thought:

In the middle of the 20th century, leading evolutionists proposed the “modern synthesis.” Hailed as the final evolutionary model, it incorporated Darwin’s natural selection, de Vries’ mutations and studies in population genetics. At the same time, other evolutionists were calling for much larger sudden changes than those noted for mutations.

These larger changes were needed because of major gaps between groups of organisms in assumed evolutionary lineages, as seen in the fossil record, and also because of the inadequacy of the survival value of small evolutionary changes while developing complex systems with interdependent parts.5 The term “hopeful monster” was suggested for these proposed suddenly appearing new forms. But they would need matching mates to be able to breed with, and as one critic commented, “Who will breed with a monster, hopeful or otherwise?”

The modern synthesis did not remain as the dominant evolutionary mechanism for very long, although a number of leading evolutionists still defend the model. One evolutionist comments, “And today the modern synthesis—neo-Darwinism—is not a theory, but a range of opinions which, each in its own way, tries to overcome the difficulties presented by the world of facts.”[1]

Theory of evolution and little scientific consensus

See also: Theory of evolution and little consensus and Theories of evolution

There is little scientific consensus on how macroevolution is said to have happened and the claimed mechanisms of evolutionary change, as can be seen in the following quotes:

When discussing organic evolution the only point of agreement seems to be: "It happened." Thereafter, there is little consensus, which at first sight must seem rather odd. -(Simon Conway Morris, [palaeontologist, Department of Earth Sciences, Cambridge University, UK], "Evolution: Bringing Molecules into the Fold," Cell, Vol. 100, pp.1-11, January 7, 2000, p.11)[2]
"“The history of organic life is indemonstrable; we cannot prove a whole lot in evolutionary biology, and our findings will always be hypothesis. There is one true evolutionary history of life, and whether we will actually ever know it is not likely. Most importantly, we have to think about questioning underlying assumptions, whether we are dealing with molecules or anything else.” - Jeffrey H. Schwartz, Professor of Biological Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, February 9, 2007[3]
"If it is true that an influx of doubt and uncertainty actually marks periods of healthy growth in a science, then evolutionary biology is flourishing today as it seldom has flourished in the past. For biologists collectively are less agreed upon the details of evolutionary mechanics than they were a scant decade ago. Superficially, it seems as if we know less about evolution than we did in 1959, the centennial year of Darwin's on the Origin of Species." - Niles Eldredge, "Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, 1985, p.14[4]

Recent clamour to revise the modern evolutionary synthesis

See also: Recent clamour to revise the modern evolutionary synthesis and Theory of evolution and little consensus

In 2005, Massimo Pigliucci, in a book review for the prestigious science journal Nature, wrote: "The clamour to revise neo-darwinism is becoming so loud that hopefully most practising evolutionary biologists will begin to pay attention. It has been said that science often makes progress not because people change their minds, but because the old ones die off and the new generation is more open to novel ideas."[5] In July 2008, Elizabeth Pennisi wrote in the prestigious science journal Science: "Seventy years ago, evolutionary biologists hammered out the modern synthesis to bring Darwin's ideas in line with current insights into how organisms change through time. Some say it's time for Modern Synthesis 2.0."[5]

Atheist Jerry Coyne and Templeton Foundation friction related to revamping evolutionary ideology

The atheist Jerry Coyne speaking at a 2013 atheist meeting entitled The Amazing Meeting (TAM). TAM is an annual meeting.

Jerry Coyne is an evolutionary biology professor and atheist who runs a leading pro-evolution blog.

In terms of its ideology the Templeton Foundation is non-profit foundation which espouses both conservative and liberal positions.

In terms of liberal ideology The Templeton Foundation helps fund the Biologos Foundation which promotes theistic evolution. Dr. Francis Collins, an ex-atheist who became a Roman Catholic heads the Biologos Foundation. Pope Benedict XVI has also appointed Collins to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Collins has been criticized by pro-life advocates for some for his views on aborting babies with learning disabilities.[6]

CNS News reported:

Don't let anyone tell you the evolutionary paradigm isn't in serious turmoil. Just in time for DNA Day today, Science Magazine announced on Friday an $8.7 million project by the Templeton Foundation seeking an “evolution rethink." I'm trying to think of the last time I heard Science reporting on support for a "gravity rethink," or a "heliocentrism rethink." The gist of it:
“For many evolutionary biologists, nothing gets their dander up faster than proposing that evolution is anything other than the process of natural selection, acting on random mutations. Suggestions that something is missing from that picture – for example, that evolution is somehow directed or that genetic changes can't fully explain it – play into the hands of creationists, who leap on them as evidence against evolution itself.”

Oh, those dreaded "creationists" and evolution deniers.

“No wonder some evolutionary biologists are uneasy with an $8.7 million grant to U.K., Swedish, and U.S. researchers for experimental and theoretical work intended to put a revisionist view of evolution, the so-called extended evolutionary synthesis, on a sounder footing. Using a variety of plants, animals, and microbes, the researchers will study the possibility that organisms can influence their own evolution and that inheritance can take place through routes other than the genetic material.”

Whatever the outcome, the news has yanked Jerry Coyne's chain. He complains in the article:

“Evolutionary biologists shouldn't accept its money, says Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois, who has been a persistent critic of the foundation for linking science and religion. ‘It really slants the way science is done,’ he told Science.”...

The scope is impressive – "49 researchers from different fields and ... 22 interconnected projects across eight institutions." Coyne's dyspeptic reaction gives you an idea of what a huge deal this is.

Oh, so you want to dismiss Templeton because its perspective isn't rigidly materialist enough? They aren’t the only ones “rethinking” Neo-Darwinism. This coming November, the Royal Society plans a conference on "New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives." Despite the subdued title – reflecting British understatement, perhaps – this is more big news, a gathering of major mainstream voices from the world of biology and other fields to hash out the merits of the call for a Third Way for evolution – not classic Darwinism, not intelligent design, but something ... else:

“Scientific discussion meeting organised in partnership with the British Academy by Professor Denis Noble CBE FMedSci FRS, Professor Nancy Cartwright, Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, Professor John Dupré and Professor Kevin Laland.
“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. This meeting will present these developments and arguments in a form that will encourage cross-disciplinary discussion and, in particular, involve the humanities and social sciences in order to provide further analytical perspectives and explore the social and philosophical implications.”

When it comes to "hotly contesting" the "standard theory of evolution," the timing couldn't be better. Today we are celebrating two significant anniversaries – that of the description of the structure of the DNA molecule by Watson and Crick (DNA Day 2016) (they published on April 25, 1953), and the fiftieth anniversary of the Wistar Institute conference on "Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution."...

If you'll forgive a morbid metaphor, Wistar was like the ominous spot first seen on the X-ray of a vital organ – the beginning of the end for unguided Darwinian processes as the sole, satisfactory explanation of how complex biological features evolve.

Intelligent design, obviously, is one source of the current challenge to Darwinism, but it's only one source. You could erase ID advocates entirely from the battle map, and Darwinian theory would still be under siege. Evolution's smug cultists are in denial about that, but it's true.[7]

Most of the Templeton Foundation funds for the evolutionary rethink appears to be going to the University of St. Francis which is a Roman Catholic University.[8]

Previously, creationists have exploited significant differences among evolutionists and the punctuated equilibrium vs. neo-darwinian gradualists is an example of this matter.[9]

See also