In a recent scientific presentation and subsequent journal article, a well-known evolutionary biologist noted that a “rising number of publications” believe that the standard theory of evolution might need to be revised or even replaced because it has shortcomings and has failed to account for recent trends in evolutionary biology.
Gerd B. Müller is a biologist and professor at the University of Vienna in Austria who is considered an expert in the field of evolutionary biology. In a journal article published by Royal Society Publishing, while by no means dismissing his evolutionary beliefs, Müller posited that the standard theory of evolution needs to be rethought and adjusted to accommodate for modern scientific discoveries as there are “a growing number of challenges to the classical model of evolution.”
“Slight modifications and adjustments to the received theory are recognized even in the most traditional quarters,” Müller wrote. “But in the past decade, without much notice by general audiences, a more wide-ranging debate has arisen from different areas of biology as well as from history and philosophy of science, about whether and in which ways evolutionary theory is affected, challenged or changed by the advances in biology and other fields.”
Furthermore, Müller explained, a “rising number of publications” are calling for “a major revision or even a replacement of the standard theory of evolution.” He said this “cannot be dismissed as a minority view but rather is a widespread feeling among scientists and philosophers alike.”
Müller’s journal article was based on a presentation he gave at a meeting of the Royal Society in London last year, during which a number of scientists discussed new trends in evolutionary biology.
Although Müller believes that “evolution is the fundamental conceptual framework of biology all scientific explanations of living phenomena must be consistent with,” he acknowledged that “a growing number of challenges to the classical model of evolution have emerged over the past few years” from many different fields, including evolutionary developmental biology, epigenetics, ecology, behavioral biology and microbiology.
“None of these contentions are unscientific,” he said, adding that “all are backed by substantial empirical evidence.”
According to Müller, recent scientific discoveries are not all compatible with the classical theory of evolution.
“[The] repeatedly emphasized fact that innovative evolutionary mechanisms have been mentioned in certain earlier or more recent writings does not mean that the formal structure of evolutionary theory has been adjusted to them,” he wrote. “To the contrary, the discrepancies between the current usage of evolutionary concepts and the predictions derived from the classical model have grown.”
He also acknowledged that “genetic evolution alone has been found insufficient for an adequate causal explanation of all forms of phenotypic complexity, not only of something vaguely termed ‘macroevolution.’ Hence, the micro–macro distinction only serves to obscure the important issues that emerge from the current challenges to the standard theory.”
And while Müller characterized the call for change and updating as “an exciting period in evolutionary biology,” he noted that as the “principal Darwinian research tradition is upheld, … the specifics of evolutionary theory structure are undergoing ferment, including the revision of some of its traditional elements and the incorporation of new elements.”
“Instead of privileging selected mechanisms such as random variation, genetic control and natural selection, the multitude of factors that dynamically interact in the evolutionary process will be better expounded by a pluralistic theory framework,” he concluded.
In response to Müller’s recently-published report, the Discovery Institute published an analysis of his statements, describing the acknowledgment for a need to revise and update evolutionary theory as “devastating” for “anyone who wants to think that … orthodox evolutionary theory has got it all figured out.”
“[Müller’s report is] a major concession on the part of a major figure in the world of evolution theory,” it opined. “It’s a huge black eye to the ‘All Is Well’ crowd. Who will tell the media? Who will tell the Darwin enforcers? Who will tell the biology students, in high school or college, kept in the dark by rigid Darwinist pedagogy?”
Because Müller is a distinguished voice in the field of evolutionary biology, the Discovery Institute says his admissions about the weaknesses of evolution are significant.
“Evolution has only ‘strengths’ and no ‘weaknesses,’ you say? Darwinian theory is as firmly established as ‘gravity, heliocentrism, and the round shape of the earth?’ Really? How can anyone possibly maintain as much given this clear statement, not from any ID advocate or Darwin skeptic, not from a so-called ‘creationist,’ but from a central figure in evolutionary research,” it asked. “To maintain at this point that ‘All Is Well’ with evolution, you have to be in a state of serious denial.”