Sunday, March 07, 2004
Scientific Censorship and Evolution
The article below was commissioned in February 1995 by the
British weekly newspaper,"Times Higher Education Supplement"
to appear in March 1995. It has been censored because it
challenges, scientifically, the empirical foundations of the
neo-Darwinist theory of evolution.
The article was "spiked" by the THES Following a campaign against
it by Richard Dawkins, of Oxford University.
In the interests of freedom of speech, and so that such attempts
at censorship cannot succeed, I am placing the article in the
public domain without copyright restriction and am posting it as
widely as possible on the Internet. I also attach a copy of my
letter to the editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement
saying why I believe this article should be published.
I believe there is an issue of scientific censorship involved here
that affects us all equally -- even if you disagree with the conclusions
in my article.
Please feel free to copy, distribute, re-post or reproduce the
article in its entirety, together with this introductory note, as
much as you wish.
Times Higher Education Supplement
66-68 East Smithfield
London E1 9XY
16 March 1995
Dear Ms Stevens,
I know that my article on the decline of the neo-Darwinist theory
of evolution has caused some controversy and is bound, if
published, to cause even more. May I draw your attention to two
points that I believe are important?
The first is that it has been said, by some scientists, that I am
a secret creationist opposed to neo-Darwinism for religious
reasons. I am not a creationist and my criticisms of the neo-
Darwinist mechanism are purely scientific objections -- as any
reading of the article itself clearly shows.
The second point is far more important. I believe that the great
strength of science and the scientific method is its openness to
debate. Science is strong because errors are exposed through the
process of open argument and counter-argument. Science does not
need vigilante scientists to guard the gates against heretics.
If the heresy is true it will become accepted. If false, it will
be shown to be false, by rational discourse.
In his "The Open Society and its Enemies" Sir Karl Popper says
that the great value of the scientific method is that it saves us
from "The tyranny of opinion". If neo-Darwinists can counter the
evidence I present, let them do so. If they seek to prevent my
writing being published because they don't like it, then it is
not just I that fall victim to the "tyranny of opinion", it is
all of us.
If this article were about any other subject -- finance,
politics, the economy -- I know it would be welcomed as well-
written and thought-provoking even if its claims were
controversial. It is only because it is about neo-Darwinism, a
subject on which some biologists feel insecure and ultra-
sensitive, that doubts have been raised about it.
Neo-Darwinism: time to reconsider
By Richard Milton
It was the dazzling gains made by science and technology in the
nineteenth century through the application of rational analysis
that led people to think of applying reason to other fields.
Following the brilliant success of reason and method in physics
and chemistry -- especially in medicine -- it was natural for
science to seek to apply the same analytical tool to the most
intractable and complex problems: human society and economic
affairs; human psychology; and even the origin and development of
life itself. The result was the great mechanistic philosophies
of the last century: Marxism, Freudianism and Darwinism.
The simplicities and certainties of these systems mirrored the
intellectually well-ordered life of Victorian society with its
authoritarian values and institutionalised prejudices. Now, a
century later, all three systems have run their course, have been
measured by history, and have been ultimately found to be
inadequate tools of explanation.
Unlike Marx and Freud, Darwin himself remains esteemed both
as a highly original thinker and as a careful researcher (his
study of fossil barnacles remains a text book example for
palaeontologists). But the theory that bears his name was
transformed in the early years of this century into the
mechanistic, reductionist theory of neo-Darwinism: the theory
that living creatures are machines whose only goal is genetic
replication -- a matter of chemistry and statistics; or, in the
words of professor Jacques Monod, director of the Pasteur
Institute, a matter only of "chance and necessity". 
And while the evidence for evolution itself remains persuasive --
especially the homologies that are found in comparative anatomy
and molecular biology of many different species -- much of the
empirical evidence that was formerly believed to support the
neo-Darwinian mechanism of chance mutation coupled with natural
selection has melted away like snow on a spring morning, through
better observation and more careful analysis.
Marxist, Freudian and neo-Darwinist systems of thought ultimately
failed for the same reason; that they sought to use mechanistic
reductionism to explain and predict systems that we now know are
complexity-related, and cannot be explained as the sum of their
In the case of neo-Darwinism, it was not the mysteries of the
mind or of the economy that were explained. It was the origin of
the first single-celled organism in the primeval oceans, and its
development into the plant and animal kingdoms of today by a
strictly blind process of chance genetic mutation working with
In the first five decades of this century -- the heyday of the
theory -- zoologists, palaeontologists and comparative anatomists
assembled the impressive exhibits that generations of school
children have seen in Natural History Museums the world over: the
evolution of the horse family; the fossils that illustrate the
transition from fish to amphibian to reptile to mammal; and the
discovery of astonishing extinct species such as "Archaeopteryx",
apparently half-reptile, half-bird.
Over successive decades, these exhibits have been first disputed,
then downgraded, and finally shunted off to obscure museum
basements, as further research has shown them to be flawed or
Anyone educated in a western country in the last forty years will
recall being shown a chart of the evolution of the horse from
"Eohippus", a small dog-like creature in the Eocene period 50
million years ago, to "Mesohippus", a sheep-sized animal of 30
million years ago, eventually to "Dinohippus", the size of a
This chart was drawn in 1950 by Harvard's professor of
palaeontology George Simpson, to accompany his standard text
book, "Horses", which encapsulated all the research done by the
American Museum of Natural History in the previous half century.
Simpson plainly believed that his evidence was incontrovertible
because he wrote, 'The history of the horse family is still one
of the clearest and most convincing for showing that organisms
really have evolved. . . There really is no point nowadays in
continuing to collect and to study fossils simply to determine
whether or not evolution is a fact. The question has been
decisively answered in the affirmative.' 
Yet shortly after this affirmation, Simpson admits in passing
that the chart he has drawn contains major gaps that he has not
included: a gap before "Eohippus" and its unknown ancestors, for
example, and another gap after "Eohippus" and before its supposed
descendant "Mesohippus".  What is it, scientifically, that
connects these isolated species on the famous chart if it is not
fossil remains? And how could such unconnected examples
demonstrate either genetic mutation or natural selection?
Even though, today, the bones themselves have been relegated to
the basement, the famous chart with its unproven continuity still
appears in museum displays and handbooks, text books,
encyclopaedias and lectures.
The remarkable "Archaeopteryx" also seems at first glance to bear
out the neo-Darwinian concept of birds having evolved from small
reptiles (the candidate most favoured by neo-Darwinists is a
small agile dinosaur called a Coelosaur, and this is the
explanation offered by most text books and museums.) Actually,
such a descent is impossible because coelosaurs, in common with
most other dinosaurs, did not posses collar bones while
"Archaeopteryx", like all birds, has a modified collar bone to
support its pectoral muscles.  Again, how can an isolated
fossil, however remarkable, provide evidence of beneficial
mutation or natural selection?
Neo-Darwinists were quick to claim that modern discoveries of
molecular biology supported their theory. They said, for
example, that if you analyse the DNA, the genetic blueprint, of
plants and animals you find how closely or distantly they are
related. That studying DNA sequences enables you to draw up the
precise family tree of all living things and show how they are
related by common ancestry.
This is a very important claim and central to the theory. If
true, it would mean that animals neo-Darwinists say are closely
related, such as two reptiles, would have greater similarity in
their DNA than animals that are not so closely related, such as a
reptile and a bird.
In 1981, molecular biologists working under Dr Morris
Goodman at Ann Arbor University decided to test this hypothesis.
They took the alpha haemoglobin DNA of two reptiles -- a snake
and a crocodile -- which are said by Darwinists to be closely
related, and the haemoglobin DNA of a bird, in this case a
They found that the two animals who had _least_ DNA sequences in
common were the two reptiles, the snake and the crocodile. They
had only around 5% of DNA sequences in common -- only one
twentieth of their haemoglobin DNA. The two creatures whose DNA
was closest were the crocodile and the chicken, where there were
17.5% of sequences in common -- nearly one fifth. The actual DNA
similarities were the _reverse_ of that predicted by neo-
Even more baffling is the fact that radically different genetic
coding can give rise to animals that look outwardly very similar
and exhibit similar behaviour, while creatures that look and
behave completely differently can have much in common
genetically. There are, for instance, more than 3,000 species of
frogs, all of which look superficially the same. But there is a
greater variation of DNA between them than there is between the
bat and the blue whale.
Further, if neo-Darwinist evolutionary ideas of gradual genetic
change were true, then one would expect to find that simple
organisms have simple DNA and complex organisms have complex DNA.
In some cases, this is true. The simple nematode worm is a
favourite subject of laboratory study because its DNA contains a
mere 1,000 nucleotide bases. At the other end of the complexity
scale, humans have 23 chromosomes which in total contain 3,000
million nucleotide bases.
Unfortunately, this promisingly Darwinian progression is
contradicted by many counter examples. While human DNA is
contained in 23 pairs of chromosomes, the humble goldfish has
more than twice as many, at 47. The even humbler garden snail --
not much more than a glob of slime in a shell -- has 27
chromosomes. Some species of rose bush have 56 chromosomes.
So the simple fact is that DNA analysis does _not_ confirm neo-
Darwinist theory. In the laboratory, DNA analysis falsifies neo-
An even more damaging blow to the theory was the discovery that
the very centrepiece of neo-Darwinism, Darwin's original
conception of natural selection, or the survival of the fittest,
is fatally flawed.
The problem is: how can biologists (or anyone else) tell what
characteristics constitute the animal or plant's 'fitness' to
survive? How can you tell which are the fit animals and plants?
The answer is that the only way to define the fit is by means of
a post-hoc rationalisation -- the fit must be "those who
survived". While the only way to characterise uniquely those who
survive is as "the fit". The central proposition of the
Darwinian argument turns out to be an empty tautology.
C.H. Waddington, professor of biology at Edinburgh University
wrote; "Natural selection, which was at first considered as
though it were a hypothesis that was in need of experimental or
observational confirmation, turns out on closer inspection to be
a tautology, a statement of an inevitable although previously
unrecognised relation. It states that the fittest individuals in
a population (defined as those who leave the most offspring) will
leave most offspring. Once the statement is made, its truth is
George Simpson, professor of paleontology at Harvard, sought to
restore content to the idea of natural selection by saying; "If
genetically red-haired parents have, on average, a larger
proportion of children than blondes or brunettes, then evolution
will be in the direction of red hair. If genetically left-handed
people have more children, evolution will be towards left-
handedness. The characteristics themselves do not directly
matter at all. All that matters is who leaves more descendants
over the generations. Natural selection favours fitness only if
you define fitness as leaving more descendants. In fact
geneticists do define it that way, which maybe confusing to
others. To a geneticist, fitness has nothing to do with health,
strength, good looks, or anything but effectiveness in breeding."
Notice the words; "The characteristics themselves do not directly
matter at all." This innocent phrase fatally undermines Darwin's
original key conception: that each animal's special physical
characteristics are what makes it fit to survive: the giraffe's
long neck, the eagle's keen eye, or the cheetah's 60 mile-an-hour
Simpson's reformulation means all this must be dropped: it is not
the characteristics that directly matter -- it is the animals'
capacity to reproduce themselves. The race is not to the swift,
after all, but merely to the prolific. So how can neo-Darwinism
explain the enormous diversity of characteristics?
Not only are neo-Darwinist ideas falsified by empirical research,
but other puzzling and extraordinary findings have come to light
in recent decades, suggesting that evolution is not blind but
rather is in some unknown way _directed_. The experiments of
Cairns at Harvard and Hall at Rochester University suggest that
microorganisms can mutate in a way that is beneficial. 
Experiments with tobacco plants and flax demonstrate genetic
change through the effects of fertilisers alone.  Experiments
with sea squirts and salamanders as long ago as the 1920s
appeared to demonstrate the inheritance of acquired
characteristics.  Moreover, as Sir Fred Hoyle has pointed
out, Fossil micro-organisms have been found in meteorites,
indicating that life is universal -- not a lucky break in the
primeval soup. This view is shared by Sir Francis Crick, co-
discoverer of the function of DNA 
In the light of discoveries of this kind, the received wisdom of
neo-Darwinism is no longer received so uncritically. A new
generation of biologists is subjecting the theory to the cold
light of empirical investigation and finding it inadequate;
scientists like Dr Rupert Sheldrake, Dr Brian Goodwin, professor
of biology at the Open University and Dr Peter Saunders,
professor of mathematics at King's College London.
Not surprisingly, the work of this new generation is heresy to
the old. When Rupert Sheldrake's book "A New Science of Life"
with its revolutionary theory of morphic resonance was published
in 1981, the editor of "Nature" magazine, John Maddox, ran an
editorial calling for the book to be burned -- a sure sign that
Sheldrake is onto something important, many will think. [12, 13]
The current mood in biology was summed up recently by Sheldrake
as, 'Rather like working in Russia under Brehznev. Many
biologists have one set of beliefs at work, their official
beliefs, and another set, their real beliefs, which they can
speak openly about only among friends. They may treat living
things as mechanical in the laboratory but when they go home they
don't treat their families as inanimate machines.'
It is a strange aspect of science in the twentieth century that
while physics has had to submit to the indignity of a principle
of uncertainty and physicists have become accustomed to such
strange entities as matter-waves and virtual particles, many of
their colleagues down the corridor in biology seem not to have
noticed the revolution of quantum electrodynamics. As far as
many biologists are concerned, matter is made of billiard balls
which collide with Newtonian certainty, and they carry on
building molecular models out of coloured table-tennis balls.
One of the twentieth century's most distinguished scientists and
Nobel laureates, physicist Max Planck, observed that; 'A new
scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and
making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually
die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.'
It may be another decade or more before such a new generation
grows up and restores intellectual rigour to the study of
Richard Milton is a science writer and journalist. He is the
author of "The Facts of Life" (Transworld/Corgi, London, 1993) a
critical review of neo-Darwinism and "Forbidden Science" (Fourth
Estate, London, 1994) a critical analysis of censorship and
intolerance in science.
Alternative Science : Challenging the
Myths of the Scientific Establishment
by Richard Milton
#W5765 Book - Softcover - 264 pages $14.95
 Monod, Jacques, 1972 edn. Chance and Necessity. William
 Simpson, George G. 1951. Horses. Oxford University Press.
 Simpson, George G. 1951. Horses. Oxford University Press.
 Norman, David. 1985. Encyclopaedia of Dinosaurs. Salamander
 Patterson, Colin, presentation to the American Natural
History Museum, 5 November 1981.
 Waddington, C.H., 1960, Evolutionary Adaptation in Tax
Vol. 1, pp 381-402.
 Simpson, George G. 1964, This View of Life, Harcourt Brace
and World. New York.
 Cairns, J., J. Overbaugh, S. Miller. 1988. The origin of
mutants. In Nature 335: 142-145.
Hall, Barry G. Sept. 1990. Spontaneous point mutations that
occur more often when advantageous than when neutral. In
Genetics Vol. 126, pp. 5-16.
 Durrant, Alan. 1958. Environmental conditioning of flax. in
Nature, Vol. 81, p. 928-929.
Hill, J. 1965. Environmental induction of heritable changes
in Nicotiana rustica. in Nature, Vol. 207, pp. 732-734.
Cullis, C.A. 1977. Molecular aspects of the environmental
induction of heritable changes in Flax. in Heredity.
Vol. 38, p. 129-154.
 See Koestler, Arthur. 1978. The Case of the Midwife Toad.
Hutchinson. London, for an account of the experiments of
Paul Kammerer at the Vienna Institute for Experimental
 Hoyle, F. 1983. The Intelligent Universe. Michael Joseph.
See also, Crick, Francis, 1981. Life Itself. Macdonald.
 Sheldrake, Rupert, 1988 edn. A New Science of Life, Paladin
 Nature 1981, Vol. 293, pp 245-246.
 Milton, Richard, 1993 edn., The Facts of Life: Shattering
the myths of Darwinism, Transworld/Corgi, London.
 Milton, Richard, 1995 edn., Forbidden Science: Exposing
the Secrets of Suppressed Research, Fourth Estate, London.
"Perfectly exact physics is not so very exact, just as
holy men are not so very holy."
Richard Milton |
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