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The “Species” Problem

“If we join Darwin in assuming that macro changes must have accomplished in small steps, so that the gaps were at one time filled, then what has happened to all the intermediate forms? This question occurred to Darwin, and he furnished the answers that are still in use today–the extreme imperfection of the geological record and the poorness of our paleontological collections….” –Norman Macbeth

Taxonomy as a Major Focus in Biology

After the discovery of the Fossil Record, it was necessary to arrange, to represent the fossil data in a significant way. “Taxonomy” is a sub-field of biology, one concerned with the systematic representation of the said data.

“Taxonomists,” writes Norman Macbeth, “perform the valuable and necessary task of classifying plants and animals into a hierarchical system of groups. Species that are more like each other than like other species are grouped together into families; families into orders; orders into classes; and classes into phyla.” What is a species? “A species is a small unit such as the marigold or the camel, whereas a phylum is a vast group such as the vertebrates.”

Taxonomy originated with Carolus Linnaeus of Sweden (1707-1778). Using the species-phylum hierarchy, he and his followers worked out exhaustive classifications of plants and animals long before Darwin was born. The discovery of the Fossil Record provided taxonomists with a new, major opportunity–to reconstruct the biological histories of various members of the plant and animal realms.

Taxonomy thus became, in the last century, the major focus in biology, at least until Darwinian biology entered the scene. Naturally, the tree-charts of the taxonomists showed major gaps here and there, there and here. How did the mouse become winged?–how did it become a bat? A big change, such as a mouse developing wings, is called a “macro” change. No one has ever seen a macro change. Here we see a mouse, there we see a bat. We assume that the bat evolved from the wingless mouse. We don’t know how.

The taxonomical trees of the last century made it painfully obvious that there were more than a few “missing links” in the histories of various plant and animal groups. The commonly used phrase “missing link” utterly minimizes the question of the gaps, the whatever-it-was-that-occurred that resulted in the macro changes.

Understandably, many Darwinists argued that the taxonomical trees ought to be cut down, as they cluttered and confused the truth, the truth being the Darwinian doctrine that the biological realms evolved very gradually over the eons, little step by little step. The main objection of the Darwinists to the taxonomical enterprise is summarized by John Maynard Smith (1958) in this way: “The theory of evolution holds that existing plants and animals have originated by descent with modification from one or a few simple ancestral forms…. Now there is no reason to suppose that either the processes of division of a single species into two, have always, or even usually, occurred in a series of sharp, discontinuous steps. Therefore, any attempt to group all living things, past and present, into sharply defined groups, between which no intermediates exist, is foredoomed to failure.”

Behind all the words is the simple fact that the tree charts suggest contradiction of the Darwinian doctrine that evolution is a very slow and continuous process. The doctrine is true, the Darwinists presume, and consequently, the charts must be false. Indeed, any attempt to fabricate such charts is “foredoomed to failure.” The poor taxonomists weren’t supposing anything other than what Darwin himself supposed, that species come from parental species and that at the beginning there are primordial ancestors. As Darwinism became more and more established as the orthodoxy, the charts of the taxonomists fell by the way.

Despite their difficulties with the question of macro changes, which taxonomy continually put in their faces, the Darwinists shared with the taxonomists the same “symbolic premise,” which is that evolution is best described as a kind of tree. The evolutionary tree. The Darwinists didn’t care for the trees of the taxonomists; they had their own tree.

The Darwinian tree of life is most akin to the tree of the impressionistic painter. It doesn’t exist in chart form; rather, it exists as a kind of mental construct–an ideational model. One might imagine its trunk, branches, twigs and leaves as composed of multitudes of points, each point representative of a slight (genetic) mutation.

In The Blind Watchmaker, a contemporary exposition and defense of Darwinian gradualism, Richard Dawkins writes: “We have seen that living things are too improbably and too beautifully ‘designed’ to have come into existence by chance. How, then, did they come into existence? The answer, Darwin’s answer, is by gradual, step-by-step transformations from simple beginnings, from primordial entities sufficiently simple to have come into existence by chance….”

In fact, it was not Darwin’s position that there were primordial entities that came into existence by chance. Darwin acknowledged the “Creator” as responsible for the primordials. The idea that Darwin personally repudiated the Creator concept is Neo-Darwinian revisionism. Dawkins is a Neo-Darwinist, and the view he attributes to Darwin is in fact his own. It is Dawkins who presumes that the primordial organisms came into existence by chance. This presumption of chance origin is sheer conjecture. It has no basis in fact whatsoever. Further, as indicated previously, even the very earliest organisms to emerge on Earth–the prokaryotes–are far from “simple.”

On the basis of his invalid premise, Dawkins goes on to postulate a long chain of chance organismal alterations following upon the first chance event: “Each successive change in the gradual evolutionary process was simple enough, relative to its predecessor, to have arisen by chance.” Again, the postulate is invalid. It is an example of “begging the question.” It assumes that which is to be proved.

“But the whole sequence of cumulative steps,” Dawkins continues, “constitutes anything but a chance process, when you consider the complexity of the final end-product relative to the original starting point.” This is an abstract re-presentation of the old idea that if given enough time, a basement full of monkey pecking away randomly at typewriters could come up with the Origin of Species…. or was it “Romeo and Juliet”?

There is a principle of order, after all, Professor Dawkins concludes–“nonrandom survival.” “Nonrandom survival” is merely a Neo-Darwinist variant of Natural Selection. The orthodox view, even today, is that all order in the natural world is the product of Natural Selection.

Nothing can be more apparent than the fact that the Neo-Darwinist position, as represented by Dawkins, is a fabrication of fallacies. How is it possible, we may wonder, that this sort of pseudo-science continues, year after year, as our orthodoxy. The watchdogs are asleep. Our philosophers have become a bunch of archivists.

At the time of this writing, the most reasoned challenge to the Darwinian doctrine that biological evolution is a gradual, long-term, uninterrupted process comes from the paleontological wing of Neo-Darwinism. Niles Eldredge, in Reinventing Darwin, charges “ultra-Darwinists,” such as Richard Dawkins, with maintaining a “thoroughgoing reductionist stance.” It boils down to this, Eldredge writes: “ultra-Darwinians emphasize [evolutionary] continuity through natural selection and the primacy of active competition for reproductive success as the prime mover underlying absolutely all evolutionary phenomena. Naturalists, in contrast, see the complex biotic world as composed of discrete entities. Discontinuity is as important as continuity in depicting the real, natural world.”

The standard orthodox position (Dawkins et al) is that evolution may be described as a very long gradually ascending inclined plane. Eldredge is too much of a scientist to go along. While assuring us frequently that he has his Neo-Darwinian credentials in order (“No naturalist evolutionary biologist seated at the High Table entertains the slightest doubt that natural selection is the deterministic process underlying adaptive evolutionary change….”), Eldredge challenges the orthodoxy by making a case for the proposition that evolution proceeds not by little, little steps (gradualism) but by “punctuated equilibria,” which he defines as “an attempt to address patterns of discontinuity in evolution. Darwinists maintain that evolution is continuous – uninterrupted.

The simple fact of the matter is that macro changes (“giant steps”) have occurred in evolution. How does the orthodoxy explain them? It doesn’t. It simply ignores them. The most obvious example of a macro change is the development of the first multi-cellular organism. How did it happen? All that we hear from Dawkins and the rest of the Darwinian Dunciad (with the exception of Eldredge and a few others) is “little, little changes, occurring over a long, long period of time.”

After his hypothesis of “punctuated equilibria” began to appear in religious tracts as evidence that some scientists doubt evolution, Eldredge writes, he was quick to join ranks with other evolutionists at the High Table (i.e., the “theologians” and priests of Scientism). “Closing ranks to face a common enemy is a natural reaction. In a way creationism was good for evolutionary biology. And it reminded us that we have, after all is said and done, more in common as evolutionists that we have issues that drive us apart….” 95

Eldredge’ Reinventing Darwin represents the best available exposition of the current state of affairs in the Darwinist priesthood. “The grand mistake,” he writes, “the cardinal sin that carries automatic suspension of seating privileges at the High Table, is to suggest a theoretical proposition that assumes that the Neo-Darwinian paradigm is somehow erroneous …” 96 The Neo-Darwinian establishment is not only unscientific, it is anti-scientific.

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