[Quotes main page] [Mechanisms, #1, #2, #4, #5]
"Given the newcomer's ability to grow over its rival and knock it out, a simple reading of Darwin would predict a speedy victory for the newcomer. But in recent years, some prominent paleontologists have questioned whether such competition among animals has all that much to do with who wins and who loses in the evolutionary wars. High school biology lessons notwithstanding, it's been difficult to find hard evidence that interactions among animals matter, they noted, so externalities, such as the meteorite that did in the dinosaurs, might be more important." (Kerr, Richard A. [Staff writer], "When Fittest Survive, Do Other Animals Matter?" Science, Vol. 288, 21 April 2000, p.414)[top]
"SEEKING a case of extreme competition between individual plants, I thought I had found it in the desert. When, on rare occasions, a heavy rain awakens the seeds which have been lying dormant in the desert sands during the dry years, a thousand or more seedlings may sprout on every square foot of this usually barren soil. They may be so dense that the seedling leaves cover the surface with a carpet of green. Everything I had ever read about evolution prepared me to find at such a time a jockeying for supremacy a struggle for space and an ultimate victory of a few plants which managed to outgrow the others. And what actually happened? All these seedlings grew. They grew slowly, to be sure, but more than half of them got far enough in that arid habitat to form a few leaves, at least one flower and ultimately a few seeds. It was not a case of a few outgrowing the others and monopolizing the light, moisture and nutrients-they grew up evenly, equally sharing available space. It was clear that if a seed of a desert annual plant once manages to germinate, it has a better than even chance to grow up into a mature plant and to fulfil its function or mission of producing at least one but usually more seeds. There is no violent struggle between plants, no warlike mutual killing, but a harmonious development on a share-and-share-alike basis. The co-operative principle is stronger than the competitive one: the controlling factor in the desert's carpet of flowers is the germination of the seed, and it is differential germination which regulates the plant population in the world. In other words, not war, but birth control is nature's answer." (Went, Frits W.[Professor of Plant Physiology, University of California, Berkeley and Director of the Missouri Botannical Gardens, St. Louis, USA], "The Plants", , Time/Life Books: Netherlands, 1965, reprint, p.168).[top]
"On the other hand, wherever I saw animal life in abundance, as, for instance, on the lakes where scores of species and millions of individuals came together to rear their progeny; in the colonies of rodents; in the migrations of birds which took place at that time on a truly American scale along the Usuri; and especially n a migration of fallow-deer which I witnessed on the Amur, and during which scores of thousands of these intelligent animals came together from an immense territory, flying before the coming deep snow, in order to cross the Amur where it is narrowest-in all these scenes of animal life which passed before my eyes, I saw Mutual Aid and Mutual Support carried on to an extent which made me suspect in it a feature of the greatest importance for the maintenance of life, the preservation of each species, and its further evolution." (Kropotkin, Peter [Russian nobleman, geographer and social theorist], "Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution," , Freedom Press: London, 1987, p.12)[top]
"But the problem goes still deeper. Even if there is such a process as sexual selection (which is arguable) and even if it produces the structures and behavior in question (which is very doubtful), what it has really brought forth is a monumental challenge to natural selection, the keystone of the whole Darwinian theory. In the peacock and the Argus pheasant ... we have conspicuous and appetizing animals that cannot run, fly, fight, or hide. As Sir Julian Huxley says: "... the display-characters may even be clearly disadvantageous to the individual in all aspects of existence other than the reproductive, as in the train of the peacock, the wings of the argus pheasant, or the plumes of some birds of paradise." (Huxley J.S., "Evolution: The Modern Synthesis," Allen & Unwin: London, 1942, p.427) By all reasonable standards ... natural selection should never have allowed such animals to come into existence. But they have not only come into existence, they have stayed there and have not become extinct. Have the birds, through their patterns of sexual choice, established a system in which the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the strong? If so, they have shaken the whole structure of Darwinism." (Macbeth, Norman [Harvard-trained lawyer], "Darwin Retried: An Appeal to Reason," Gambit: Boston MA, 1971, pp.84-85).[top]
"However, there is a real danger that in explaining so much the theory actually explains nothing. This is the core of the philosophical doubt facing Darwinism. An example of the perils of 'explaining too much' can be seen in the notion of adaptation. When a biologist finds a creature with an intricate and useful adaptation-such as the chameleon's ability to change colour to match its background-he immediately explains it in terms of natural selection and evolution. In fact the existence of such adaptations is frequently taken as proof of the power of selection. But what will the biologist say when he finds a similar lizard without this camouflage adaptation? The chances are he will conclude that such an adaptation is unnecessary for the survival of the second lizard, or that selection has not been strong enough to 'create' it. Both of these conclusions may be validthey seem reasonable enough-but we are tempted now to ask him what sort of evidence would contradict the idea of selection? If the presence of adaptations is evidence for selection, but the absence of adaptations is not evidence against selection, then is it possible to deny the existence of selection at all? In other words if selection can explain everything then it really explains nothing. Good scientific theories should be testable and even falsifiable." (Leith, Brian [producer, Natural History Unit, BBC, Bristol UK], "The Descent of Darwin: A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinism," Collins: London, 1982, p.21. Emphasis in original).[top]
"The problem was, as so often, that adaptive explanations were just too powerful. They could explain anything. If they are, in Daniel Dennett's phrase, 'a universal acid', capable of eating through everything, they will eventually consume even the subjects we want them to illuminate. It's not much use having a magic substance that will unblock your intellectual drains if it eats out the bottom of the sink as well." (Brown, Andrew [journalist], "The Darwin Wars: How Stupid Genes Became Selfish Gods," Simon & Schuster: London, p.119).[top]
"And finally Darwinism itself grew more and more theoretical. The paper demonstration that such and such a character was or might be adaptive was regarded by many writers as sufficient proof that it must owe its origin to Natural Selection. Evolutionary studies became more and more merely case-books of real or supposed adaptations. Late nineteenth-century Darwinism came to resemble the early nineteenth-century school of Natural Theology. Paley redivivus, one might say, but philosophically upside down, with Natural Selection instead of a Divine Artificer as the Deus ex machina. There was little contact of evolutionary speculation with the concrete facts of cytology and heredity, or with actual experimentation." (Huxley, Julian [late grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, former Professor of Zoology at King's College, London, and founding Director-General of UNESCO], "Evolution: The Modern Synthesis," , George Allen & Unwin: London, 1945, reprint, p.23).[top]
"Even if it can be shown that the structure of an animal is such that it is specially fitted for the life which it in fact pursues, it does not necessarily follow that this structure has arisen as a definite adaptation to such habits, It is always conceivable, and often probable, that after the structure had arisen casually, the animal possessing it was driven to the appropriate mode of life." (Watson D.M.S. [British palaeontologist], "Adaptation", Nature, No. 3119, Vol. 124, August 10, 1929, pp.231-234, p.231).[top]
"Writing in the mid-1830s, Edward Blyth was well aware of the precision of adaptation at the level of varieties of species, but not above the level of species he maintained. The argument he gave was a powerful one, and in the later enthusiasm for the Darwinian theory it was never answered properly. Most species are limited to a geographical area, with good adaptation to the conditions well inside the area but with less and less good adaptation toward its boundaries. Why, Blyth asked, if species can evolve to the great extent that would be needed to explain the differences between genera, families, orders, and classes can they not evolve to the lesser extent that would maintain adaptation to and beyond the boundaries of their respective areas? Instead of doing so, however, species stay obstinately fixed, disappearing as the limits of their habitats are reached. According to Blyth, this fact, which was the rule not the exception, proved that the capacity of species to adapt must be limited, making what today we call the Darwinian theory (but which Blyth considered in 1837) untenable." (Hoyle, Fred [late mathematician, physicist and Professor of Astronomy, Cambridge University], "Mathematics of Evolution," , Acorn Enterprises: Memphis TN, 1999, p.1053).[top]
* Authors with an asterisk against their name are believed not to be evolutionists.
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Created: 28 August, 1999. Updated: 28 January, 2003.