Is Neo-Darwinism Dead?


Symbiogeneticist Lynn Margulis, who was awarded the US Presidential Medal for Science in 1999, says “survival of the fittest” is a “capitalistic, competitive, cost-benefit interpretation of Darwin” and that natural selection is “neither the source of heritable novelty nor the entire evolutionary process”. Margulis has pronounced neo-Darwinism “dead”, since there’s no adequate evidence in the literature that random mutations result in new species. In a recent conversation with me from Balliol College at Oxford University, where she is spending the year as Eastman Professor, Margulis explored whether “evolution”, i.e., the Anglo-Saxon “take” on the history of life, might be viewed by some as being “racist”. Excerpts from that interview follow.

SUZAN MAZUR: What is the significance of the Rome evolution conference [organized by the Jesuits at Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome) and the University of Notre Dame (Indiana)] and why was it limited to US-European papers?

Lynn Margulis: I didn’t know it had been. You mean no Chinese or Japanese?

SUZAN MAZUR: There are no Russian, Chinese, African, Indian or Japanese presenters listed.

Lynn Margulis: This is not a policy of limitation, this fact resulted from historical circumstances.

It must be deeply understood that the term “evolution,” which is not used by Charles Darwin — he called the process “descent with modification” — is Anglo-Saxon. It is very much a British-American “take” on the history of life, traditionally limited to Anglophones.

Most English-speaking scientists think in hushed hagiographic terms when they mention Charles Darwin, comparable to English thought about physics before Einstein when Newton was the only game in town. It’s a very English nationalist phenomenon, especially as Darwin was later interpreted.

SUZAN MAZUR: Do you think the Rome conference organizers had that in mind when they were inviting papers?

Lynn Margulis: No I don’t think so. It probably didn’t even occur to them that the guest list on their “international meeting” might strike some as racist!

The Chinese and the Navajos lack any tradition in evolution, although they both enjoy superb medicine (healing) traditional practice.

Professor Tom Glick, a former colleague of mine at Boston University — he’s wonderful — wrote a book, The Comparative Reception of Darwin, with chapters by country.

A joint student of ours suggested the study needed a chapter on the Chinese reception of Darwinism. The book has a chapter on Japan, Latin American coverage, Spain, many countries — on how Darwinism was perceived and received in the century between 1859 and about 1970.

This young man, a doctoral candidate in the history of science, went to China for a year and discovered no tradition of Darwinian evolution there. He ended up studying aspects of Chinese medicine. Also, my colleague Tacheeni Scott, a fine cell biologist, a Navajo, told me that his culture has no concept whatsoever of evolution. They just have no tradition.

SUZAN MAZUR: But there is significant research on evolution taking place in India and Japan. [Hundreds Of Natural-selection Studies Could Be Wrong, Study Demonstrates]

I haven’t looked at African evolution studies but I did interview scientists in Africa in the 1980s for Omni magazine — they were trained by the Soviets, so there must be important African thinking about evolution.

Lynn Margulis: Most of Africa was colonized by Europe. Let’s put it this way. In the Russian equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica, some 250 pages describe symbiogenesis. You have a point. Certain countries are expected to be excluded because they lack traditional study of evolution. . . .

SUZAN MAZUR’s reports have appeared in the Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Archaeology, Connoisseur, Omni and others, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. She can be reached at: sznmzr@aol.com

Suzan Mazur is the author of  The Altenberg 16: An Expose’ of the Evolution Industry and of a forthcoming book on Origin of Life.  Her reports have appeared in the Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Archaeology, Connoisseur,Omni and others, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC.  She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs.  For a few years along the way she was a runway fashion model, visiting Iran in 1976 as part of a US bicentennial goodwill tour of the Middle East (former CIA Director Richard Helms was then ambassador to Iran and attended the Tehren fashion gala). 


December 01, 2015
John Wight
From Iraq to Syria: Repeating a Debacle
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: the Left Takes Charge
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Revenge? The Fight for the Border
Sami Al-Arian
My Ordeal: One of America’s Many Political Trials Since 9/11
Steffen Böhm
Why the Paris Climate Talks Will Fail, Just Like All the Others
Gilbert Mercier
Will Turkey Be Kicked Out of NATO?
Bilal El-Amine
The Hard Truth About Daesh and How to Fight It
Pete Dolack
Solidarity Instead of Hierarchy as “Common Sense”
Dan Glazebrook
Rhodes Must Fall: Decolonizing Education
Colin Todhunter
Big Oil, TTIP and the Scramble for Europe
Eric Draitser
Terror in Mali: An Attack on China and Russia?
Linn Washington Jr.
Torture and Other Abuses Make Turkey as American as Apple Pie
Randy Shaw
Krugman is Wrong on Gentrification
Raouf Halaby
Time to Speak Out Against Censorship
Jesse Jackson
It’s Time for Answers in Laquan McDonald Case
Patrick Walker
Wake Up Zombie, Kick Up a Big Stink!
November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism