But Professor James Shapiro also criticizes Neo-Darwinism.
Summary of A Blog Post by James Shapiro: A concurrence of events on December 4 showed how opponents of science education operate. I (James Shapiro) had just participated in a Union of Concerned Scientists webinar on how to combat misinformation in research. Later when I checked my email, I found I too had been a victim of skillful misquoting for an “anti-science” purpose.
Some members of the Texas state school board review committee had quoted me in a report. In opposing a certain textbook, they quoted excerpts from my 2011 book (the caps were in the original):
THE CURRENT UNDERSTANDING OF THE GROWING BODY OF EVIDENCE IS THAT NATURAL SELECTION ONLY PURIFIES BUT SOMETHING ELSE IS REQUIRED TO CREATE SIGNIFICANT VARIANTS TO BE SELECTED. The critical aspect is introduction of novelty. It is gradually being recognized that no mechanism for this has been firmly established. See "Evolution: A view from the 21st century," James A. Shapiro, Prof of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Univ. of Chicago, (2011), page 144, "Selection operates as a selective but not a creative force."
I was astonished to see my book being cited by opponents of evolution and outraged by a completely false statement that “no mechanism for this [introduction of novelty] has been firmly established.” In my book I had referred to the molecular mechanisms by which organisms modify their genomes as a major accomplishment of late 20th Century molecular biology. I call these processes Natural Genetic Engineering (traditionally called Variation). In the book I refer to symbiogenetic cell fusions, horizontal DNA transfer, mutagenic DNA repair, reverse transcription of RNA into DNA, mobile genetic elements, interspecific hybridization and whole genome doubling.
The opponents of evolution are trying to mislead the public and the Texas textbook review committee. They have taken a real scientific debate and used it to challenge the legitimacy of evolution science itself. It is true that I disagree with the Neo-Darwinist theory that Natural Selection is the major creative force in evolution. I think the generation of novel genome structures is a more importation cause of evolutionary innovation. To me Natural Selection operates as a purifying force eliminating novelties that are not useful. The difference between my view and traditional Neo-Darwinism is a legitimate scientific disagreement.
Evolutionary novelties do arise. We see them in the genome sequence record and know the detailed underlying molecular mechanisms for many of these changes. We regularly observe the same processes in our laboratories and fields. Much remains to be learned about the evolutionary process. Many problems remain, but the sources of genome variation are no longer mysterious. The fact that evolution science changes over time is not surprising. That is how science works. The textbook committee members who misquoted me are not just against evolution. They are against freedom of speech in scientific research, honesty in public decision-making, and modern education for Texas students.
To read the entire article, click on HUFFINGTON POST.
Comment: It is not clear from Mr. Shapiro’s blog post how many geneticists and other scientists agree with his contention that natural selection is not a major creative force in evolution. Is there now a major controversy on this issue among evolutionists, or is Mr. Shapiro trying to elevate the disagreement into a major controversy?
Anyway, the deviation from standard Neo-Darwinism on the part of Shapiro reminds me of what once was, and maybe still is, a bona fide major evolution controversy—the introduction of punctuated equilbrium theory by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge years ago. These two scientists theorized that evolution happens in sudden bursts, punctuating what is in general long periods of little evolution or little change (stasis). That belief opposes traditional Darwinism which has supported the idea of gradualism, meaning that small evolutionary changes are constantly occurring in organisms, changes which gradually add up to major changes over time.
Gould is often quoted by creationists. In 1980, for instance, he wrote, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. … to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study.” In 1980 he reportedly said, “The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution.” While Mr. Gould, as Mr. Shapiro is now doing, accused creationists of misinterpreting his comments, the comments speak for themselves. He frankly admitted the scarcity of intermediate fossils when there should be an abundance. Of course, creationist writers and speakers must be careful not to misquote secular scientists like Dr. Gould or take their comments out of context. However, I don’t believe either Mr. Gould or Mr. Shapiro was misquoted.
As for Mr. Shapiro, he clearly is suggesting that natural selection is relatively powerless to create something new or some new novelty in organisms. That seems like a major deviation from classical neo-Darwinism which proposes natural selection acting on mutations is basically all you need to evolve new organisms. His list of Natural Genetic Engineering processes which he believes drives evolution looks impressive, but where is the fossil evidence to support the evolution of entirely new creatures—by any method? These processes may produce some variation, but how much? Variation within a species does not mean the evolution of an entirely new organism. Creationists agree that variation occurs, but it is variation that is limited.
Mr. Shapiro laments what he sees as attempts in Texas to limit freedom of speech in scientific research. Isn’t this what creationists have been complaining about for decades? Not many creationists want the Genesis account of creation taught in public schools (non-believing teachers would just mock Genesis if they were told to teach it), but most, I believe, want teachers to have the freedom to present ALL the scientific evidence for and against evolution and not just the evidence that has been approved by the evolutionist establishment. This evidence might even include some of Shapiro’s ideas.
For Christians, all the evidence we really need is God’s Word. That tells us how we got here and where we are headed. For believers in Jesus as our Savior, the message for our futures is clear: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-3).
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QUESTION OF THE DAY
Can e-cigarettes help smokers quit?
A New Zealand study of 657 smokers compared the use of e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) with wearing a nicotine patch and found the two to be about equally helpful over six months. Truthfully, neither method had a very high success rate. Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that deliver a vaporized form of nicotine.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health (December, 2013)
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