The Changing Face of Evolutionary Theory? | The BioLogos Forum


I am forthright in that I address my concerns mainly at the claims that are (and have been) made for Darwinian evolutionary thinking. As a scientist, it is all I can do to make progress in my field, so on that level I have very little to add to other fields, esp. biology. Thus my criticisms are more in line with theological claims/synthesis that involve Darwinian evolution. I cannot say with greater clarity - random events without purpose or meaning cannot be founded on any scientific outlook, yet Darwinian evolution is used for this on a daily basis. THUS, if people do make such claims (in theistic or atheistic debates), the bar for assessing the adequacy of the science (Darwinian thinking) is raised - in this context, it is imo VERY inadequate - and I have given examples to illustrate my point. A current series dealing with a notion you support, that of so called common descent, is another example where many areas are based on supposition and workers openly state they cannot understand or explain numerous questions. This is not a problem for those who focus on the science, but it becomes a problem if people adopt such things as settled and fully understood, and decide to provide theological perspectives based on these inadequate ideas.

So, to summarise, I do not have any weighty views for biologists as long as they confine their opinions to biology - in most cases that I read, they express themselves as other scientists, in that we wish to understand things we may not know fully. You seem puzzled, from what I can make out, because you may wrongly equate the term “inadequate” with terms such as “false”, or “rejection”. Simple equations, if fully proven mathematically, are associated with scientific laws - I have stated that your paradigm may eventually be stated with greater clarity once NS has been replaced with some type of hierarchy of scientific definitions/statements (with accompanying equations). I cannot suggest what these may be.

I moved a post to a new topic: Mutations and Randomness

I think that you are on to something.

Lou pointed me to a book on population math as proof that natural selection is understood. However the author of a similar book that I was able to read on line (because the books cost more than $100. each, admitted that the math does not say why selection worked this way, only a picture of how it worked. Math model does not equal understanding.

You say that selection changes with time and environment, but thus far evolutionists have refused to look at environment as the key to natural selection as I have been urging. Symbiosis is the key to life, not competition as Darwin following Malthus.

Evolution is not simple as SET would have it because it is the result of two processes interacting with each other, Variation and Natural Selection. EES is taking on that task to some extent with Niche Construction Theory etc. exploring how Variation interacts with the environment, but until we understand this process with all its complexity we will be facing our environmental crisis with no sound theory for understanding it.

Dawkins has raised two ways of looking at evolutionary change, sky hook or “top-down” and crane or “down-up.” The horizontal option, or relational view, apparently does not exist for him or others, but it is the way that most of the world works. Try it. You’ll like it.


Thank you for the information concerning some new trends in evolution. This helps to explain I think how evolution can take place, but not how and why it takes place. Only ecological Natural Selection does this and this is the source of the teleology of evolution.

Only ecological Natural Selection does this and this is the source of the teleology of evolution.

Hello Roger, one thing I appreciate about your posts is your emphasis on the involvement of habitat and ecology in evolution. These concepts are well known among biologists (and so you are wrong to assert that “evolutionists have refused to look at environment as the key to natural selection”) but nearly always neglected by laypersons and in basic outlines of evolutionary biology.

But unfortunately, you appear to believe that “ecological Natural Selection” is the only source of evolutionary novelty, and I think you believe that competition cannot drive evolutionary change. (Do correct me if I have misconstrued you on these points.) You are mistaken about these things. Competition is fundamental to evolutionary change, and Darwin correctly made it a linchpin of his theory. It is surely important to nuance this by noting the existence of cooperation and by generally acknowledging the complexity of real life. But competition is indeed utterly central to evolutionary biology, and “ecological Natural Selection” does not–cannot–explain everything.

I haven’t read enough of your comments to identify the source of your confusion, but I surmise that one problem is that ‘competition’ is envisioned as rams fighting for dams or baby animals struggling against their sibs to get a bite of food. Those things happen, and they are drivers of selection, but the ‘competition’ that Darwin described and that explains adaptation so well is simply the notion of differential reproductive success. The competitors need never specifically enter into conflict in any direct sense or in any observable instance. Adaptation is a straightforward consequence of differential reproductive success, which is the straightforward result of ‘competition’ broadly understood. More pointedly, I would say that there is no such thing as adaptation without differential reproductive success and the kind of competition that Darwin correctly described.

In short, adding emphasis to ecological thinking (and to other ‘new’ ideas as I mentioned above) is a very good thing for evolutionary biology and very important for curious people to understand as they think about evolution. But denying a role for competition (if that’s what you are attempting) or singling out ecological forces as the only ones that matter? Those are major errors.


Thank you for your response. Your description of my position is accurate. I do believe that ecology and symbiosis are the proper basis for evolution as opposed to unrelenting struggle, which is the way Darwin described evolution and this seems to be the basis of neoDarwinian view of evolution.

Darwin called evolution the “war of nature” in his summary statement at the end of The Origin. Since evolution is not the war of nature against something else, it is clear that he meant the war of nature against itself.

I personally reject this understanding of how nature works, and so does Christianity. More importantly there is to my knowledge no scientific evidence to support the unrelenting struggle theory. I am not a scientist by profession, but what o appreciate about the scientific method is that it requires concrete evidence and verification.

You make a several claims in your statement, a) that ecology is compatible with evolutionary thought, and b) that Darwin was right to make unrelenting struggle the basis the development of life on this planet, but no tangible evidence supporting these views. The reason why Darwinian theory of Natural Selection fails is that it is not backed up by solid scientific evidence as to how it works.

On the other hand most people know the evidence for symbiosis as a common method of adaption and change. We have the pilot fish and sharks, the little bird that helps the rhino, and the billions of symbiots who live in our bodies. Thus it seems that the evidence points in favor of symbiosis , not struggle.

I had a similar discussion with PNG and later Bren last fall (See Nov. 18, 2014 "From the Archives: Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, Pt.1 by Tim Keller.) Sadly the discussion was cut short on BioLogos, but it was continued through email, so contact me if you are interested in the rest of an excellent dialog.

Also there are other places where we are discussing this issue currently, so we can discuss there or here as you wish.

This topic is now closed. New replies are no longer allowed. I don’t see any evidence of a productive conversation continuing on this thread. As always, anyone is welcome to create new topics on our main Discourse page and continue the discussion there.