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

More articles by:

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). 


Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South