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giving up darwin

1991 Oxford University Press published Mirror Worlds by Yale computer science Professor David Gelernter, in which he accurately forecast the coming of the World Wide Web. 2019 the Claremont Review of Books published an essay by Prof Gelernter in which he bemoans the failure of Darwinian evolution.

“Darwinian evolution is a brilliant and beautiful scientific theory. Once it was a daring guess. Today it is basic to the credo that defines the modern worldview. Accepting the theory as settled truth—no more subject to debate than the earth being round or the sky blue or force being mass times acceleration—certifies that you are devoutly orthodox in your scientific views.”
Charles Darwin theorized (beware connecting Darwin with theory in today’s culture) that all life descended from a common ancestor. Over hundreds of millions of years and via random, heritable variation and natural selection, nature produced increasingly sophisticated life-forms. Without a strategy. All by trial and error. Everything resulting from a mindless accumulation of small adaptations.

Darwin successfully explains the small adjustments by which organisms adapt to local, sometimes temporary circumstances. However, Prof Gelernter writes, “There are many reasons to doubt whether he can answer the hard questions and explain the big picture … the emergence of new species. The origin of the species is exactly what Darwin cannot explain.”

It is the molecular biology of cells led Prof Gelernter to reluctantly give up Darwin. Molecular biology was unknown in Darwin’s time. What has been discovered—particularly regarding the double helix DNA strands—is what makes the theory unworkable.

Douglas Axe at the Biologic Institute, estimates that of all the possibilities available in DNA amino-acid sequences, only 1 in 1077 will fold into a stable protein that performs some useful function. These are long odds. As a comparison, the entire universe contains 1080 atoms. At these odds the possibility of random improvement in DNA are nil.

Prof Gelernter concludes, “Darwinian evolution is—so far—a dead loss. Try to mutate your way from 150 links of (DNA) gibberish to a working, useful protein and you are guaranteed to fail. Try it with ten mutations, a thousand, a million—you fail. The odds bury you. It can’t be done. … Zero odds of producing a single promising mutation in the whole history of life. Darwin loses.” ~

Dan Nygaard