Extending Evolution in London?

(system) #1
Despite robust discussions about the details of the theory, the big picture of evolution is not disputed by mainstream science.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/extending-evolution-in-london

(George Brooks) #2

I think Roger @Relates would love this paragraph from the article:

“The EES is not claiming that the genetic basis of evolution is just wrong (like Newton said of Aristotle), nor that it is only approximately correct in certain situations (like Einstein said of Newton). The genetic code really does mutate, causing differences at the phenotypic level, and these are passed on to offspring. What the EES does is show that there are complicating factors.”

" For example, when an organism alters its environment (that is, constructs a niche), it affects the kinds of organisms that will be most successful in that environment. Think of a beaver constructing a dam and altering the ecosystem, or humans developing agriculture and settling down from their hunter-gatherer mode of existence."

Ecology and Ecosystems … they are not just for kids …

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #3


I do not love this paragraph. I wish you would stop putting words in my mouth.

My critique of Neo-Darwinism (MS) is more fundamental that that of EES is or should be. Einstein did not say that Newton’s understanding of gravity was only approximate correct in certain situations, because that is untrue. Gravity is never attraction at a distance. Gravity is always the curvature of space/time.

Also of course evolution is never based on Variation or genetic change alone, but always in the interaction of Variation and Natural Selection. Thus while the MS is partially correct, as was Newton, it does not understand how evolution works, anymore the Newton understood how gravity worked.

Is this important? I think it is. When science endorses the conflict model of evolutionary change, it is endorsing the same conflict based model political relationships that Social Darwinism and the alt right endorse. To the victors go the spoils.

The USA political system is founded view that all humans are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is based on the theological understanding that humans, male, and female, are created in the Image of God, which makes them not the same, but equal.

Christians believe that ultimate our identity and the identity of everyone comes from God. Nationalists who backed Mr. Trump take their identity from the fact that they were born with a European American heritage and are reclaiming what they say is their own. There is no common ground between those who claim survival of the fittest and those who say that God created humans to work together.

(sy_garte) #4

As some readers might remember, I respectfully disagree with you, Jim, about the importance of the EES. You are right of course, that the whole thing could be viewed as much ado about very little, since there is no dispute about basic Darwinism, nor about the role of natural selection or mutation as basic mechanisms of evolution (with one or two exceptions). However, what the EES has already succeeded in doing is to break down some of the philosophical add-ons to the Modern Synthesis, which (not accidentally) were among the most difficult aspects of Darwinism for many Christians to accept.

These included the view that evolution is guided entirely by random events (such as Gould’s famous tape rewinding quote), and that evolution was without either direction or purpose. It was correctly stated by many Christians, not just YECs, that such views were difficult to reconcile with an omniscient, loving Creator God.

But the science, we were told by Dawkins, Gould, Coyne and so on, made it clear that this was the case, and they enthusiastically agreed with YECs that such a view was not at all compatible with a Christian God.

As it turned out, it wasn’t the science of evolution, but the philosophical views of the new Atheists impinged upon the Modern Synthesis integration of genetics (population genetics in particular) with evolution that led to the bleak conclusion of a meaningless, random, purposeless process of biological evolution.

The findings of punctuated equilibrium by Gould himself, convergence by Conway Morris, non random mutations by Rosenberg and others, niche construction by Laland, epigenetics by Jablonka and others, and the importance and complexity of gene expression and genome interaction within the cell by Shapiro, Noble, Wagner et al, have changed the science to some extent. But, as you say, not to the point of a revolution. On the other hand, what they have done, which is far more important in my view for Biologos and all Christians, is to demolish the damaging concept of evolution as a simple, purely atheistic phenomenon, by scientifically demonstrating the enormous complexities of the underlying mechanisms. We can now see evolution as non random, directional, and (in my view) purposeful process, based on scientific evidence.

Of course, the practitioners of the EES (most of them anyway) are not theists, and their goal is not to enhance our theological or philosophical understanding of evolutionary processes, even if that is one of the outcomes of their work. Their interest is in opening up evolutionary biology, including evolutionary theory, to newer and more exciting ideas, not found in the Modern Synthesis (where modern is defined as the 1920s or 1930s). Is this a scientific revolution? I agree that it is not. But it is a philosophical revolution (the originator of the term EES, Massimo Pigliucci, is after all, a philosopher).

I will conclude this mini essay, by saying that from what I have read, I can understand that the conference might have been disappointing. I think it is very unfortunate, however, that so little interest in the EES has been evident from Biologos and other organizations that purport to have a conciliation between evolutionary science and Christian belief as their purpose for existence. Frankly I am at a loss to understand this reluctance to engage the new science of the EES from a Christian perspective.

I myself will continue to publish and proclaim the good news of the EES along with the gospel, in the hopes that at some point, other evolutionary creationists will see the enormous potential from this scientific development for Christian thought.

(George Brooks) #5

But nevertheless, @Relates, I have given you a convenient platform to launch your more detailed views.

I get no credit for anything?

I give you plenty of billing and exposure … smile…

(James Stump) #6

Hi Sy. I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with, as I didn’t really take a position in this post about the EES, but just tried to describe the dynamic between the two camps. And it seems to me that there are people in the Modern Synthesis camp who disavow the “purely atheistic phenomenon” of evolution propagated by some there – not just the EES group. Also, I wouldn’t say the conference was disappointing. I found it very interesting.

I’m not sure it’s fair to say we’ve had very little interest in EES. We highlighted the Nature article, wrote a Common Question about the EES vs. Modern Synthesis, posted your review, and now this article today. I’d say we’re very interested to see where this conversation goes. What we’re not interested in doing is allowing people to spin this disagreement into the rhetoric of “evolutionary theory is in crisis” without challenging that. The posts I’ve seen claiming to that effect are not at all representing the EES speakers I heard at the conference.

(George Brooks) #7

Perfect! Up until I saw this post, I really didn’t know much about EES at all.

(sy_garte) #8

Good points, Jim, and of course I do agree, and as I think we said in the review of Denton, that title of his book about crisis was really terrible and misleading. It is unfortunate that the EES has been so far eagerly adopted by the ID folks, and in the worst cases, used to “refute” Darwinism.

I also appreciate your comment about Biologos and the EES, and I will admit that I can be a tad oversensitive (nothing new to you) about some topics. Also, while you didnt mention this, the fact is that you did take the trouble to attend the conference (which is more than I did), so I will back off from my claim of disagreement.

I dont completely retract my earlier comment however, because while I do respect your position of seeing where the conversation goes, I still feel that its important for Christians involved in science to not miss the opportunities presented by the EES for moving forward. I do understand that it is far easier for me as an individual to be less cautious than an organization such as Biologos can be in jumping wholeheartedly into a new paradigm.

Thanks for posting this blog post (I should have started my first comment with that), and I hope to see some interesting conversation about the issue.

(Doug B) #9

“Paging Dr. Venema, paging Dr. Venema: please report stat to the Extended Evolution Synthesis chat room immediately. We are in need of technical assistance.”

(James Stump) #10

Roger, it was Newton’s mathematical formulations that were approximately correct–not his metaphysical understanding.

(Dennis Venema) #11

Ok, that was good for a chuckle. :slight_smile:

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #12


I do not accept the view that space/time is metaphysical. How space/time functions is part of our natural and a scientific worldview, although on the border of the metaphysical where few people travel.

I am certainly aware that Newton’s math was approximate, so his theory was believable, while it was not accurate. On the other hand evidence that Newton’s theory was not right is found that his math was not right. Einstein brought the right math and right theory together to produce good science.

Thomas S. Kuhn used the idea of a scientific model when discussing scientific revolutions. Many people including Dawkins reject this concept and maybe you are one of them. I find it very helpful and compelling in part because it helps us to understand the basic relationship of the theoretical and the mathematical. Some people think that math equals science when it does not.

We do not have the equations in evolution that we have in gravity. All we have is alternative models. We have basically two as far as I can see, Dawkins’ Selfish Gene and Margulis’ Symbiosis. The scientific evidence of EES supports Symbiosis and that is a scientific revolution.

(Doug B) #13

Hi Dennis! I would like the opinion of a professional molecular biologist on this topic. I’ll give my opinion–I’m sure it won’t affect yours. EES seems to hang by a thread and has no possible mechanism for experimental verification.

  • A beaver’s dam is a product of the beaver’s brain at the time of construction, the success of which will or will not be passed down.
  • Epigenetic influence is simply environmental influence directly via the genes. And its influence is limited several generations.
  • Gene regulation itself is surely controlled by inheritable genetic elements.

There is no way to disentangle EES examples from a common definition of environment. Of course I’m not impressed at all with those that use this topic to reflate God-of-the Gaps argument or undermine general evolution without reproducing the actual discussion.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #14


The Harvard Experiment clearly demonstrated the impact of the environment on genetic change.

For some reason some people fail to understand how Natural Selection can select the proper adaption to ecological change. However it happens as is clearly demonstrated by this experiment and other detailed studies.

(Doug B) #15

Yes, that the environment affects the organism via natural selection is the MS. The EES is arguing that this can change orgamisms (groups of organisms) outside of Mendelian inheritance (perhaps outside any sort of inheritance). I’m wondering how/if this could be proved.

(George Brooks) #16


Here here!, well said Roger!

And I’ve put together an illustration for how the same experimental design could go into creative FOUR (instead of 2) ecological gradients… and then bringing the four (apparently) unique gene pools into a climactic collision… in a four sided “arena” (marked as a green square below), where the four populations contend for a new and pristine environment !!!

What are the genetic factors of the ultimately successful strain?

Below is the link to the thread - - which is now closed and locked: