Computational biologist & MD Joshua Swamidass continues to misunderstand ideology. Whether he does so intentionally or not, it reveals a rather important social problem of pseudo-knowledge being presented as knowledge simply because it is being said by a natural scientist. Swamidass has multiple times claimed that “Darwinism was falsified by population genetics back in 1968” (https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/darwinism-falsified-in-science-long-ago/4325). Yet he still doesn’t seem to understand that one cannot actually ‘falsify’ Darwinism. That is the wrong language (likely based on an outdated view of Karl Popper’s notion of ‘falsifiability’) that is rather harming than helping the conversation.
One can only argue, strongly or weakly, visibly or invisibly, against Darwinism, whether or not one uses an alternative ideology to do so. Likewise, one cannot falsify Marxism. One can, however, argue against it. Indeed, non-Marxists and anti-Marxists do this often and regularly. Yet they haven’t ‘falsified’ or erased Marxism (or neo-Marxism) and likely won’t succeed in significantly reducing it for a long time, evidence that there are still many self-proclaimed Marxists & neo-Marxists in universities today, especially in the social sciences and humanities departments (cf. Jordan Peterson’s ‘corrupted universities’ hypothesis). Similarly, there are many people who still promote ‘Darwinism’ and ‘neo-Darwinism’ and who write ‘confessionally’ about ‘Darwinism’ as a kind of worldview today, regardless of the population genetics work of Kimura and others. Swamidass’ lack of understanding about ideology has led him to pretend that he can scientifically reject ideology, which is both myopic and simply wrong.
Darwinian evolution, i.e. Darwin’s natural scientific theory of evolution, however, and later, the ‘neo-Darwinian synthesis’ or ‘modern evolutionary synthesis’ (MES), could potentially be overcome with an alternative ‘strictly scientific’ theory of change-over-time in natural history. The so-called ‘extended evolutionary synthesis’ (EES) is being claimed as doing just that. Yet what one doesn’t see much in Swamidass’ writing that one finds regularly in the writings of IDists and of EES proponents, is legitimate push-back against specifically Darwinian evolutionary theory. No doubt the IDists would like to see Joshua write more about how he believes Darwinian evolutionary theory is now obsolete or how it has been improved upon such that a *different name* should be used nowadays to identify the current type of evolutionary theory that is most accepted in biological sciences. Yet Joshua’s ideology seems to hold him back from doing this, while he promotes evolutionary science and even sometimes evolutionist ideology in defense of his evangelical anti-YECist worldview.
“Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations. The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the adaptedness and diversity of the world solely materialistically.” – Ernst Mayr
Gary Hurd is correct when he writes: “The generalization of of [sic] Darwin’s core ideas about natural selection, and common ancestry most certainly have not been falsified.” Thus, the term ‘generalized Darwinism’ was made (cf. Levit, Hodgson, Vromen, Knudsen, Thomas, et al.), usually for applications of ‘evolutionary science’ outside of biology. The ideologues are running amok in evolutionary biology as well as in economics! Let’s not even talk about ‘universal Darwinism’ (coined by Dawkins 1976/83?) as if that offers a sustainable or coherent view of reality, when it is merely a cover for ideological materialism, naturalism & usually either atheism, agnosticism or anti-theism.
However, there is no name associated with a post-Darwinian ‘synthesis’ (the late Lynn Margulis perhaps most well-known) that would give the EES ‘name brand’ credibility, which is likely in part why the EES has yet to catch on broadly among biologists.
When Swamidass writes the following, however, it should be treated as nonsense, not as a credible position or worth taking seriously: “Kimura replaced Darwinism in 1968. No need to make up a pseudo history. Neo-Darwinism as understood within science was falsified a long time ago.” People simply shouldn’t listen to Swamidass’ pseudo-philosophy when he wanders so far outside of his fields of competence, as he so often does nowadays on his PS website. Indeed, many IDists clearly understand this much better than Swamidass does, given that they have evidently paid more attention to philosophy of science than Swamidass has from his ’empty chair.’
TSZ’s Mung, however, also confuses the terminology, when he asks: “The question I have is, if Neo-Darwinism has been falsified why is it still the reigning paradigm in biology?” Sorry Mung, but neo-Darwinism always was and still is an ideology, while evolution is the reigning paradigm in biology. Dembski, Behe, Meyer, et al. get this wrong as well, since they treat ‘Darwinism’ as ‘strictly scientific’, and thus paint themselves into a unnecessary corner of incredulity involving evolutionary theories. Once one starts addressing post-Darwinian biology with appropriate terminology, more positive thinking on the topic can take place, which to their credit, IDists have actually tried to do, however, over against their predominantly negative arguments against ‘evolution’ and misnamed ‘Darwinism’.
To set the record straight, Darwinism is an ideology, neo-Darwinism is an ideology and ‘evolutionism’ is an ideology. Evolutionary theory is part of biological sciences. Let me therefore issue yet another warning about this ambitious ‘science vs. religion’ activist in St. Louis who is muddying the communicative waters with his misunderstanding of ideology. Be careful not to let people like Swamidass mangle the English language in order to suit their own neo-creationist, quasi-YECist ideologies as if this is ‘simply good science.’ It is not science. He is in fact just hawking his uninformed opinions as if they count as ‘scientific’ and showing obvious confusion about ideology, including apparently, his own. Will he correct himself or continue to misrepresent the conversation as a ‘fifth voice’ who claims to be bringing revolutionary ‘peace’?
Unfortunately, Swamidass’ scientistically pretentious strategy is simply not going to work. To Mung, he writes: “Yes, defer to the scientists here. That will resolve it.” This kind of ‘Me-Scientist-Man’ arrogant statement reveals just how much work is needed to be done to help natural scientists who are ignorant of ideology finally realise what they’ve been missing that makes all the difference in the conversation.
Let me try to be clear in attempting to be fair to Swamidass that I believe one of the biggest challenges to constructive dialogue with people in the science, philosophy and theology/worldview discourse broadly construed is the general lack of knowledge and understanding about ideology among participants. It is not only Dr. Swamidass who misses the mark, but rather a general condition in North America due to public school teachings that don’t address ideology and thus leave people almost entirely ill-equipped to deal with it, even when most required.
“[I]f we do not resist the idea of Darwinism as a universal principle, biology literally eats itself as it becomes like a racing driver who, to avoid friction, chooses tyres that are so smooth they offer no resistance.” – Connor Cunningham