On-line version ISSN 2304-8557
Print version ISSN 0023-270X
STRAUSS, D.F.M.. A perspective on (neo-)Darwinism (2010). Koers (Online) [online]. 2009, vol.74, n.3, pp.341-386. ISSN 2304-8557.
A perspective on (neo-)Darwinism first of all has to account for those assumptions derived from the humanities, causing neo-Darwinism not to be a purely special scientific or natural scientific theory. A discussion of the many-sidedness of living entities highlights the difficulties surrounding a definition of biology. Attention is briefly given to the physicalism of Darwin's 1859 work before the quest for origins is discussed. These considerations pave the way for an assessment of striking shortcomings in the thought of Darwin and his followers. In particular, modern nominalism is identified as an important source for neo-Darwinism, especially manifest in the idea that organisms are not types and do not have types (Simpson). Darwin's idea of incremental (continuous) change both in respect of the genesis of a complex organ (or the origination of the first living entity) and of successive fossil forms contradict the current state of affairs - and the same applies to his own radical idea that "injurious" variations will be eliminated immediately by natural selection, for it cannot be reconciled to the role of mutations in neo-Darwinian theory. In addition neo-Darwinian paleontologists pointed out that evolution requires intermediate forms and paleontology does not provide them (Kitts) and explicitly confessed that they have paid lip-service to the idea of change while they knew all the time that it was not true (Eldredge): the dominant theme of the paleontological record is stasis, constancy - a type appears and remains constant for millions of years before it disappears (Gould). The supposition of incremental continuity received a further blow from the "Cambrian explosion", the "nasty fact" that most "major animal groups appeared simultaneously" about 530 million years ago. A few aspects of the uniqueness of humankind are treated as well as the confused picture found in an attempt to synthesise neo-Darwinism and Christianity. In an appendix a brief assessment is added concerning the pretentions of neo-Darwinism.
Keywords : attempted synthesis:Christianity and evolution; continuity and discontinuity; Neo-Darwinism; origin of life; paleontology; schools of thought.