Life after Darwin
MARSEILLE – Many Greek philosophers perceived the world to be in perpetual motion – a process of constant evolution. In Charles Darwin’s world, however, creationism set the rules for science. So, underpinning his theory of evolution is the literal interpretation of the Bible that dominated his era, combined with Aristotle’s vision of nature as definitively fixed.
Darwin, together with J. B. Lamarck, promoted a vision of a changing world, while upholding the idea that organisms evolved from a single root – a position held by Adam and Eve in the creationist worldview, and taken over in the modern era by the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA). And from that remnant of the Biblical story of creation sprung the notion of a tree of life, alongside major concepts such as gradualism (the view that speciation does not occur abruptly) and the idea that minor selection pressures can, over time, have a profound effect on improved fitness.
Darwin’s vision of the world deeply influenced biology in the twentieth century, despite persistent questions posed by factors such as lateral gene transfer, neutral evolution, and chaotic bottlenecks in natural selection. But recent genetic research unequivocally refutes this worldview.
We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.
To continue reading, subscribe now.
Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.
Already have an account or want to create one to read two commentaries for free? Log in