Do we need a new theory of evolution?

Article is here -

It always amazes me that people argue over the precise way that Evolution of organisms happens. For me it is more of a concept as opposed to a specific theory. Chance, mutations, genetic drift, climactic change, as well as natural selection all play a part in how any organism evolves physically in our world.

I would be interested to know what others think about the topic. And please, no arguing!


Interesting article, perhaps overstated in a few places in terms of controversy. Evolutionary theory is really multiple theories included under what can be called evolutionary science. Not all ideas are compatible but in some cases more than one can be right at the same time. There are probably various processes at work as different species evolve which aren’t mutually exclusive. When I took biology in college, epigenetics and evolutionary-developmental biology weren’t even talked about; now they seem important components in understanding evolution and gene expression (I need to go read some of the more recent research). I certainly don’t think any of this controversy undermines the basic idea which goes back to Darwin, that differentiation and divergence of organisms happens over time and generations, leading to new species.


This goes on since a while now. I am not convinced by the arguments of the EES and feel that there is more ego involved then should be (unfortunately that is a part of science as scienctists are just humans and many would like to make a permanent mark). However, I trust that the scientific process will solve this issue given enough time…


By the way, back in college I sat in on a lecture by Niles Eldredge, who with S. Gould proposed the punctuated equilibrium idea of evolution. That caused a stir at the time which was blown out of proportion by some. The lecture made clear (at least to me) it wasn’t an overhaul of evolutionary theory but merely an observation that evolution can proceed at different rates over long periods of time, which helped explain the discontinuous paleontological record for certain species. It was a misinterpretation of what the authors were saying (or not saying very clearly) that caused the controversy.


I agree, this seems to play up the controversy implies exclusivity where little exists. Evolution happens in lots of different ways -it’s complex, just like the rest of life. The “modern synthesis” is probably the best place to start when teaching evolution because it links more closely with other concepts. I usually teach the idea that randomness is quite important as well, but I don’t see this as being contradictory.

I don’t think the search for a “grand theory” of evolution (or EES) is all that worthwhile. There’s no rule that says there is any grand explanation, just a lot of different ways that things work.


Hah, one of my colleagues just yesterday sent a link to the entire department with a critique of that article. I admit I haven’t had the chance to read either of them in their entirety yet so just leaving this here as a reference to come back to when I have the time.


I’m a huge fan of Gould, and agree that it is one aspect of the overall process. Not a replacement.

Read three paragraphs and already don’t agree with what they say. Btw we already use a new, synthetic theory of evolution, and nowhere it states that “photo-sensitive cells just happened to be around”.


There is nothing in that critique that I disagree with!
Organisms evolve in many ways, but Natural selection does tend to underlie it all. Or rather the persistence of a trait. I have no idea about how light sensitivity and eyes evolved, but once they did in multicellular organisms it proved to be so beneficial that it led to the development of visually based organisms like us. Once a trait becomes entrenched, it tends to persist, unless it is a disadvantage. For most of them, it is part of their general body plan, but their development in those conditions poses no significant disadvantage, so they persist.


No we don’t

1 Like

So there is nothing about the pure Natural Selection idea that can be modified? Or are you speaking in different terms than I am? I am not an evolutionary theorist, so this is not my dogma. I am interested to hear your insights.

1 Like

Why would you modify it? This idea that we think of evolution as being purely by natural selection is just not a thing. It happens, and so does evolution by other means. We have known and studied the fact that other processes contribute to evolution for a very long time.

This article is creating false equivalences and contrasts to start arguments in bad faith just to stir things up and draw attention to itself. And in the end it makes no point. It is a bit embarassing it was published at all.


Evolution is cleverer than you are. — Leslie Orgel’s second rule. When faced with something in biology we can’t quite understand, I think of that.


FWIW I think natural selection, as a basic logical principle of existence, is highly underrated.

It is active at all levels from molecular to organismal, and all speeds from single chemical reactions to generations of long-lived organisms. And one could argue it extends throughout the inorganic realm too.

Things and processes insufficiently suited to persist in their environment, won’t. And thus are no longer here for those currently persisting to examine and argue about. Sometimes the simplest things are the most wondrous and powerful.

(They are harsh and reductionist only if one loses the wonder…)


I agree. But it seems like there is a philosophical battle between Neo Darwinians, and other schools of thought. I tend to see evolution as a melting pot, where lots of factors are in play. For example, in moths, there are variations that harbour no advantage or disadvantage. If they are widely separated they may eventually develop into different species. Or not.
I don’t know if modification is the best word, and as I said, I am not an evolutionary biologist. I simply thought it was an interesting thing to discuss.

I think that the Creationist movement does this intentionally. I have long since stopped giving them the benefit of the doubt or assuming good faith on their part.


They do, although in this case quite a few biologists piled on also. Which of course is what anti-evolutionists love to see. I suppose any radical new idea is attacked by some, too readily accepted by others, with the rest of us taking a wait-and-see position (awaiting further evidence) before deciding. That’s human nature and also science and its practitioners.


The content of the article is OK IMHO. The headline is the usual emotive nonsense I expect from the Graun.


Agree, but I also believe that female sexual selection plays a role as well. Some years ago I had a job that required me to spend a lot of time in the upland tropical rainforests of NE Queensland. I saw many bowers constructed by the golden bowerbird Prionoduna newtoniana.;_ylt=AwrgBE4vSr5iRFcAfVAL5gt.;_ylu=Y29sbwNncTEEcG9zAzIEdnRpZAMEc2VjA3Nj?p=golden+bowerbird&fr=mcafee

The bowers of these birds consist of two asymmetrical conical towers of twigs constructed on a low branch near the forest floor. One of the towers would also have a ‘bed’ made of mosses or lichens. Over time I noticed that the most striking feature of these bowers was their similarity. Always the same design, the branch was nearly always a shrub of the same species, the same thickness and the same angle to the ground. I formed the theory, that for this species at least, bower building was not a competition to build the largest or best decorated bower as has been suggested for some bowerbird species. Rather the golden bowerbird female has a concept of the ‘perfect bower’ and is attracted to a male who can come closest to achieving that ideal. Because sites with the perfect branch to build on are limited, I guess it is really territorial competition between males. There are several other closely related bowerbird species in the same forests who apparently have the same diet and occupy the same niche as the golden variety. Other species however, tend to build different types of bower. Is it possible that female preference for different types of bower design has given rise to separate species without the role of natural selection?


Well, you described natural selection here as sexual selection is part of it.