Darwin and Doubt
This morning's edition of Salon featured an interview with the authors of What Darwin Got Wrong, a book that questions the theory of evolution "scientifically." In the interview, the authors discuss the fact that "Darwinism" assumes that traits are inherited individually, whereas in the real world some traits are linked genetically and inherited together. This, therefore, disproves evolution as currently understood because there is no way for contemporary observers to know which of the linked traits the environment selected for and which went along for the ride.
The real problem the authors have is with the idea of "just-so" stories used to explain the emergence of traits. For example, the proposal that peacocks grew large tails to impress females, or zebras developed stripes to confuse lions. These types of stories, they say, can't be proved and cast doubt on Darwinism, especially in cases where linked traits cannot be separated and treated as independent variables.
I'm afraid I don't follow the logic. Just because one trait hitches its wagon to another does nothing to disprove the notion of natural selection. Even if we can never really know which traits the environment acted upon, our epistemological conundrum has absolutely zero impact on the actual world where the environment is acting on real, living organisms. It is rhetorical sleight of hand to claim that just because we cannot know something 100% we cannot know it at all.
Oh, and nobody but creationists talks about "Darwinism." Contemporary evolutionary theory has made many leaps and bounds since Darwin (who, after all, knew nothing of genes or DNA).
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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