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Section 3: Quotations from Scientists

Other Problems With the Theory

Incompleteness and Uncertainty

Ernst Mayr, Systematics and the Origin of Species (Columbia University Press, New York, 1942), p. 196.

...The development of the heavy bill [of finches, editor] was a slow process, probably involving dozens of small mutational steps, each one surviving only if proving its usefulness in the actual test of selection. It must be admitted, however, that it is a considerable strain on one's credulity to assume that finely balanced systems such as certain sense organs (the eye of vertebrates, or the bird's feather) could be improved by random mutations. This is even more true for some of the ecological chain relationships (the famous yucca moth case, and so forth). However, the objectors to random mutations have so far been unable to advance any alternative explanation that was supported by substantial evidence.

G.G. Simpson, Tempo and Mode in Evolution (Columbia University Press, New York, 1944), p. xviii.

...For almost every topic discussed in the following pages the data are insufficient.

Murray Eden, Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution (Wistar Institute Press, Philadelphia, 1967), p. 109.

Aside from the pre-Darwinian postulate that offspring resemble their parents, only one major tenet of neo-Darwinian evolution can be said to retain empirical content; namely, that offspring vary from parental types in a random way. It is our contention that if "random" is given a serious and critical interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws--physical-chemical and biological.

G.A. Kerkut, Implications of Evolution (Pergamon, London, 1965), p. 155.

...It seems at times as if many of our modern writers on evolution have had their views by some sort of revelation and they base their opinions on the evolution of life, from the simplest to the complex, entirely on the nature of specific and intra-specific evolution. ...It is premature, not to say arrogant, on our part if we make any dogmatic assertion as to the mode of evolution of the major branches of the animal kingdom.

Sir Gavin De Beer, "In the Genes," New York Review of Books, vol. 6, 14 April 1966, pp. 27, 29.

...It must readily be admitted that the causes of the origins of patterns, colors, and of many other things, are not known. ...According to the synthetic theory, organic evolution is satisfactorily explained, in principle and in many details by the mechanisms of heritable variation and natural selection.

Walter J. Bock, "The Role of Adaptive Mechanisms in the Origin of Higher Levels of Organization," Systematic Zoology, vol. 14, Dec. 1965, p. 274.

...The major problem associated with the question of the adaptive origin of higher taxa lies...with the description and analysis of the events involved in the origin and development of the new groups. ...most analyses of the origin of new groups are very vague and weak in their discussion of the sequence of events involved.

G.G. Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution (Bantam Books, New York, 1967), p. 252.

...Within the realm of what is clearly knowable, the main problem seems to me and many other investigators to be solved, but much still remains to be learned.

G.G. Simpson, This View of Life (Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1964), p. 10.

...How evolution occurs is much more intricate, still incompletely known, debated in detail and the subject of most active investigation at present.

Ernst Mayr, Animal Species and Evolution (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1963), p. 12.

...It is not nearly so widely recognized that Darwin failed to solve the problem indicated by the title of his work. Although he demonstrated the modification of species in the time dimension, he never seriously attempted a rigorous analysis of the problem of the multiplication of species, of the splitting of one species into two. I have examined the reasons for this failure and found that among them Darwin's lack of understanding of the nature of species was foremost.

Ibid., p. 8.

...The basic framework of the theory is that evolution is a two-stage phenomenon: the production of variation and the sorting of the variants by natural selection. Yet agreement on the basic thesis does not mean that the work of the evolutionist is completed. The basic theory is in many instances hardly more than a postulate and its application raises numerous questions in almost every concrete case. The discussions throughout this volume are telling testimony to the truth of this statement.

James F. Crow, "Ionizing Radiation and Evolution," Scientific American, vol. 201, Sept. 1959, p. 142.

...The general picture of how evolution works is not clear. ...Despite the clarity and simplicity of the general idea, the details are difficult and obscure.

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