Darwinism is dead! Long live Darwinism!
The World Summit on Evolution just happened earlier this month with less fanfare than one might expect in these days of overhyping Darwin's legacy. It seems that about 200 biologists gathered in Chuck's old stomping grounds in the Galapagos to compare notes on neo-Darwinian evolution and breathe some life back into the aging concept.
One blogging attendee explained why it had to be kept so hush-hush:
"Arrival details were kept under wraps, said one organizer, lest the Creationist community get wind of the fact that so many evolutionary luminaries would be on the same plane to the island."For a bit more depth, you can read Michael Shermer's report for Scientific American.
Shermer delivers a blow by blow account of all the speakers, including his own "entertainment" on ID creationism. Shermer is candid at times about the Darwin doubters in their midst. But, amazingly, amongst all those evolutionary biologists he always manages to find someone to set the record straight after the "skeptic" has finished speaking. (Of course all the "skeptics" proudly assert they are truly Darwinists, lest anyone quote them out of context later.)
Cornell's William Provine apparently delivered a barely intelligible presentation which, according to Shermer "gist of his talk was that we need a new theory of evolution." Shermer dismisses him completely:
"no one else present thought that there was any merit to Provine's challenges to modern evolutionary theory."NAS member and U of Mass professor Lynn Marguiles said that neo-Darwinism is dead, but she felt guilty doing it:
"'It was like confessing a murder when I discovered I was not a neo-Darwinist.' But, she quickly added, 'I am definitely a Darwinist though.'"Shermer again sets out to firm up the foundation:
"There were no direct challenges to Margulis in the discussion period that followed, so I once again queried a number of the experts in this area after the lecture. The overall impression I received was that Margulis goes too far in her rejection of neo-Darwinism, but because she was right about the role of symbiogenesis in the origin of the first eukaryote cells, they are taking a wait-and-see approach. One scientist added that since Margulis was to receive an honorary doctorate that afternoon, it seemed inappropriate to challenge her in this venue. "
Finally, Shermer wraps up with this conclusion:
"Herein lies science's greatest strength: not only the ability to withstand such buffeting, but to actually grow from it. Creationists and other outsiders contend that science is a cozy and insular club in which meetings are held to enforce agreement with the party line, to circle the wagons against any and all would-be challengers, and to achieve consensus on the most contentious issues. This conclusion is so wrong that it cannot have been made by anyone who has ever attended a scientific conference. The World Summit on Evolution, like most scientific conferences, revealed a science rich in history and tradition, data and theory, as well as controversy and debate. From this I conclude that the theory of evolution has never been stronger."(Speaking of insular clubs maybe Mike missed the press release announcing the conference which stated: "Participation will be by invitation only so that a diverse and qualified assembly will be assured.")
What's amazing is that he actually believes that this Darwinist love-fest was not "held to enforce agreement with the party line, to circle the wagons against any and all would-be challengers, and to achieve consensus on the most contentious issues." And this right after his debunking of the debunkers -- such as they were.
The Woodstock of evolution is over, the theme of which seems to have been Darwinism is dead, long live Darwinism. What we need now is a Lolapalooza of evolution to really turn it on its head.