"We must not be led astray, however, by the popular characterization of selection as "the survival of the fittest." the word "fit" has many everyday connotations-physically fit, morally fit, and so forth-but none of these is what the evolutionist means by fitness. All that matters for evolutionary change is survival and reproduction. In evolutionary terms, an Olympic athlete who never has any children has a fitness of zero whereas J.S. Bach, who was sedentary and very much overweight, had an unusually high Darwinian fitness by virtue of his having been the father of twenty children." (Lewontin, Richard. [Professor of Zoology and Biology, Harvard University], "Human Diversity," Scientific American Library: New York NY, 1995, p.150).[top]
"Paleontologists (and evolutionary biologists in general) are famous for their facility in devising plausible stories; but they often forget that plausible stories need not be true." (Gould, Stephen Jay, [Professor of Zoology and Geology, Harvard University, USA], Raup D.M., Sepkoski J.J., Jr., Schopf T.J.M., & Simberloff D.S., "The shape of evolution: a comparison of real and random clades," Paleobiology, 1977, vol. 3, pp.34-35).[top]
"The argumentation used by evolutionists, said de Quatrefages, makes the discussion of their ideas extremely difficult. Personal convictions, simple possibilities, are presented as if they were proofs, or at least valid arguments in favour of the theory. As an example de Quatrefages cited Darwin's explanation of the manner in which the titmouse might become transformed into the nutcracker, by the accumulation of small changes in structure and instinct owing to the effect of natural selection; and then proceeded to show that it is just as easy to transform the nutcracker into the titmouse. The demonstration can be modified without difficulty to fit any conceivable case. It is without scientific value, since it cannot be verified; but since the imagination has free rein, it is easy to convey the impression that a concrete example of real transmutation has been given. This is the more appealing because of the extreme fundamental simplicity of the Darwinian explanation. The reader may be completely ignorant of biological processes yet he feels that he really understands and in a sense dominates the machinery by which the marvellous variety of living forms has been produced." (Thompson W.R.*, [entomologist and Director of the Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control, Ottawa, Canada], "Introduction", in Darwin C.R., "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection", , Everyman's Library, J.M. Dent & Sons: London, 6th Edition, 1928, reprint, p.xi).[top]
for one, in spite of all the benefits drawn from genetics and the mathematical theory of selection, am still at a loss to understand why it is of selective advantage for the eels of Comacchio to travel perilously to the Sargasso sea, or why Ascaris has to migrate all around the host's body instead of comfortably settling in the intestine where it belongs; or what was the survival value of a multiple stomach for a cow when a horse, also vegetarian and of comparable size, does very well with a simple stomach; or why certain insects had to develop those admirable mimicries and protective colorations when the common cabbage butterfly is far more abundant with its conspicuous white wings. One cannot reject these and innumerable similar questions as incompetent; if the selectionist explanation works well in some cases, a selectionist explanation cannot be refused in others." (von Bertalanffy, Ludwig [biologist, founder of General Systems Theory and Professor, State University of New York, Buffalo], "Chance or Law," in Koestler A. & Smythies J.R., ed., "Beyond Reductionism: New Perspectives in the Life Sciences," , Hutchinson: London, 1972, reprint, p.65).[top]
"Nabokov [Vladimir, leading amateur butterfly collector and writer] had a problem with natural selection. He stated repeatedly in Speak, Memory and elsewhere that he found natural selection inadequate to the task of explaining protective devices when developed to a degree of "mimetic subtlety, exuberance, and luxury far in excess of a predator's power of appreciation." Not that he was a creationist by any stretch: in his science as in his literature he often and explicitly celebrated the exuberance and wonder of organic evolution. Nabokov, like Darwin, was fascinated by mimicry in nature and by the astonishing array of protective adaptations in the survival repertoire of butterflies. But he doubted that Darwinian selection could tell the whole story." (Boyd B. & Pyle R.M., ed., "Nabokov's Butterflies," Nabokov D., Transl., Allen Lane / Penguin Press: London, 2000, pp.64-65).[top]
"Mivart gathered, and illustrated "with admirable art and force" (Darwin's words), all objections to the theory of natural selection-"a formidable array" (Darwin's words again). Yet one particular theme, urged with special attention by Mivart, stood out as the centerpiece of his criticism. This argument continues to rank as the primary stumbling block among thoughtful and friendly scrutinizers of Darwinism today. No other criticism seems so troubling, so obviously and evidently "right" (against a Darwinian claim that seems intuitively paradoxical and improbable). Mivart awarded this argument a separate chapter in his book right after the introduction. He also gave it a name, remembered ever since. He called his objection "The Incompetency of Natural Selection to Account for the Incipient Stages of Useful Structures." If this phrase sounds like a mouthful, consider the easy translation: We can readily understand how complex and fully developed structures work and how their maintenance and preservation may rely upon natural selection-a wing, an eye, the resemblance of a bittern to a branch or of an insect to a stick or dead leaf. But how do you get from nothing to such an elaborate something if evolution must proceed through a long sequence of intermediate stages, each favored by natural selection? You can't fly with 2 percent of a wing or gain much protection from an iota's similarity with a potentially concealing piece of vegetation. How, in other words, can natural selection explain the incipient stages of structures that can only be used in much more elaborated form?" (Gould, Stephen Jay [Professor of Zoology and Geology, Harvard University], "Not Necessarily a Wing," in "Bully for Brontosaurus: Further Reflections in Natural History," , Penguin: London, 1992, pp.140-141).[top]
"Is selection really so strong? If the philosophers are satisfied that the idea of selection is not tautologous, that it really is a useful scientific theory, our next task is to measure it in the wild and find out how powerful a force it is. This has posed some difficulties. Not only is natural selection extremely difficult to pin down and measure, but many of the observations of variation among plants and animals in different environments also appear to contradict the expectations of selection. Why is there so much variability in creatures in the first place? Why doesn't that variability respond to environmental stresses in any predictable way? The vast amount of genetic variation that is now known to exist in most species does not confer any obvious benefits. In addition, the variation doesn't occur as one would expect-species found in stable environments seem to show as much variability as species in changing, unstable environments contrary to what Darwinian principles would lead one to expect." (Leith, Brian [producer, Natural History Unit, BC, Bristol UK], "The Descent of Darwin: A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinism," Collins: London, 1982, p.22).[top]
* Authors with an asterisk against their name are believed not to be evolutionists.
Copyright © 1999-2003, by Stephen E. Jones. All rights reserved. This page and its contents may be used for non-commercial purposes only. If used on the Internet, a link back to my home page at http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones would be appreciated. Created: 28 August, 1999. Updated: 17 March, 2003.