The Evolution of the Species – Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism

30-11-2010 20:57

Although Charles Darwin, in his work The Origin of the Species, have not approached the problem of the origin of life directly, with his long journey of more than five years in the Beagle around the world, and after exhausting comparative studies based on the variations of species, he inferred several laws about those variations, establishing the natural selection theory. In truth, it was not easy to theorize on a subject still not explored by the naturalists, since Aristotle.

In spite of being much ridiculed in his time, little by little the theory was accepted and established, receiving credit and becoming firm. Who read his work knows of the difficulties that he found, as for instance, in the imperfections of the geological registrations and in the incoherencies that came and, perhaps for that reason, he has taken so much time to publishing it. Nevertheless, he approached subjects such as the animal instinct, the mutual likeness among species, the hybridism, embryology of rudimentary organs, etc. He admitted many imperfections in his work but in that work it was evident the fight for the preservation of species, based in the natural selection.

Darwin died in 1882 and, after the doubt of many years, the natural selection as evolutionary mechanism was accepted and became a fact, even without him having explained how the variation appeared in the organisms and passed from generation to generation. Only with the emergence of genetics, founded by Gregor Mendel (1822–1884), the inheritance among the species was fully explained in 1865, being retaken at the beginning of last century. Even so, during the first quarter of the 20th century, the evolution theory starts losing ground, for only reacquiring force with the Russian geneticist’s Theodosius Dobzhansky works (1900–1975), from 1936 on, when he proposed the unification of genetics with Darwinism. Many other subjects that were kept open in Darwin’s theory were later explained by zoologists Ernst Mayr and Julian Huxley (Thomas Huxley’s grandson), by the geneticists of populations R.A. Fisher, J.B.S. Haldane and by the paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson. The definition of species by Ernest Mayr (37), as a group of organisms that breed among themselves, but that are sexually isolated of similar groups, it is adopted until today. Ernest Mayr, who created the Modern Synthesis of Evolution, also known as Neo-Darwinism, a theory which gathers Charles Darwin's natural selection with genetics and ecology. This way, we see that Darwin's work was not dethroned; on the contrary, it has been completed and finished little by little, what demonstrates that the idea of evolution is well accepted by science and by humanity in general. Ernest Mayr (1904–2005), emeritus teacher at University of Harvard, was the author of the Systematics and the Origin of the Species, published in 1942. Totaling, he wrote 25 books, the last published a little before his death, in 2005, treating on the philosophy of biology.

Besides the dispute Evolutionism versus Creationism, that we will see further on, there is also, at the present time, bitter critics of the physicists to the biology, as science. But, there is no doubt that biology is really an independent science as we observed in Ernest Mayr’s statements: (32)

I show that biology is a serious, legitimate and honest science, like the physical sciences, and that all the ideas that were customarily mixed with the philosophy of biology, like vitalism (belief that life in organisms is caused and maintained by a force that is distinct from all chemical and physical forces), and teleology (study of final causes) came to try to discredit biology, all those eccentric things are out. Biology has the same bases of the physical sciences exactly, composed of natural laws. The natural laws are applied to the biology in the same way that they are applied to the physical sciences. But, people that compare both and philosophers that put biology together with the physical sciences leave many things out. You can see clearly that biology is not the same thing that the physical sciences. I give only two examples – one is the biopopulations. Biopopulation is something that doesn't simply exist in the physical sciences, and, however, it is the base of almost all the concepts in biology. And the second thing is that biology differs, in principle, of the physical sciences, because in the physical sciences, all of the theories, without exception, are based on natural laws. In biology there are no natural laws that correspond to the one of the physical sciences. You can ask: how can you have theories without laws? Well, in biology, the theories don't base on laws, but in concepts – as the one of natural selection, in evolutionary biology, or concepts as the one of resources or of competition in ecology. Clear, ultimately, the physical laws are the base of all, but not directly of ecology.

It is interesting to notice that the Darwinist theory and the Neo-Darwinism have been resisting as theories to the largest progress of science in the area of molecular biology, embryology and genomics., accomplished, since the 50´s of last century to today, as still teaches us Ernest Mayr in the interview already mentioned (37)

When did biology arise? Well, until the 18th century you had several fields of biological activity, as anatomy and taxonomy, but you didn’t have the field of biology. The word "biology", surprisingly, was proposed three times, independently, about 1800, by three authors – two Germans and one French. My proposition, which I did in previous books, was that biology as a field that you can recognize as something different from the physical sciences that you can designate by a unique word, developed itself and became what it is today, in a relatively short period. They were about 40 years since 1828, when Karl Ernst von Baer organized Embryology, and soon after came the founders of cytology. [Theodor] Schwann and [Matthias Jakob] Schleiden, that caused a great rage when they published their work on the decade of 1830, showing that the animals and plants are composed of the same elements, the cells. Then, the great period of physiology arrived with Claude Bernard, in France, and people as Johannes [Peter] Müller and others, in Germany. That was a third field. After some time, came [Charles] Darwin and [Alfred Russel] Wallace and the evolutionary biology, and then, in 1865–1866, genetics. Then, that series of sciences that begin with Embryology and they finish with genetics are the foundations of biology.

You ask about molecular biology. Well, let me to give one or two steps behind. There was a period at the beginning of the past century during which the evolutionary synthesis had place. Until that time, in other words, the period between 1859 and the synthesis, in the years 1940, there was a complete turn in the evolutionary biology, in which they were proposed, at least, four or five great basic theories of evolution, as the one of germinative cells. The evolutionary synthesis, initiated by [Theodosius] Dobzhansky and to which joined people later, Julian Huxley and [George] Simpson, put an end to the theoretical elaborations in the field of evolution. You have [Oswald Theodore] Avery, showing that the nucleic acids, and no the proteins, are the material of evolution, and then came James Watson and Francis Crick and all the developments in molecular biology, later in genomics. Every time that one of those great revolutions happened, somebody waited, for instance, that the evolutionary synthesis would need to be rewritten. But the fact is that none of those revolutions in the structure of the new biology, from Avery to the genomics, nothing of that really affected the Darwinist paradigm. Said that, after Watson and Crick, appeared new books, all them trying to prove that the Darwinism was invalidated. None of them was a success. Now, finally answering to your question, the funny is that molecular biology has a notably small impact in the structural theory of biology. At least it is what I think nowadays. It is clear, the molecular biologists can point to the genetic code and say that the code showed that life as we met it only might have been originated once, or else, we would not have the same code for all the organisms. And there are other contributions of molecular biology, but none of them really altered the structural theory of the Darwinist paradigm, in my opinion.

But, on the other hand, if you were a cytologist, you could say that the demonstration of Schwann and Schleiden that all the organisms consist of cells is a such important foundation of biology as, let us say, the one that all the nucleic acids consist of pairs of bases. I would say that, from the philosophical point of view, the descriptive discoveries of molecular biology are not more important than the conquests in the origin of biology in the period from 1828 until 1866. Those discoveries are as important as any thing in molecular biology.

Regarding the determination of different species with base in DNA, the molecular difference themselves cannot be indicative of such differences, and there are not rules to determine them.

It can be a single gene. You have two schools of evolutionists, those centered in the genes and those centered in the organisms. In the decade of 20 of the last century, when J.B.S. Haldane and R.A. Fisher had great success in molecular genetics, there was a great faith in molecular genetics. There was a great faith in isolated genes, and they had the evolution definition as the change in the frequencies of genes through the generations, a definition that no geneticist who respects himself would give today. In that time, there was a polarization among the so-called geneticists of populations, who are centered in the genes, and the naturalists, who said that the individual is whom is selected and that the gene is just the form through which the individual is selected. This discussion extended until the years 1930. Then, it began to demonstrate, case by case, that all also depended on the context of other genes. Therefore, a sole gene could not be selected immediately. A gene always occurs in the context of a genotype, and in the phenotype produced by that genotype. That was indicated by Dobzhansky in 1937, but not emphasized really by him. There several authors came, some friends of Dobzhansky, standing out that was the combination of genes, and therefore, the individual, the objective of the natural selection. Then, in 1970, it was published an article by Dick [Richard] Lewontin showing that could not be a sole gene to support this combination, and, in 1984, other article by Lewontin together with the philosopher Eliott Sober, confirmed that conclusion. It took 60 years, from 1924 to 1984, for that vision centered in the gene to be discarded. But still today, authors like [Richard] Dawkins insist on it. I have a wonderful citation by Dawkins, in which in a single phrase, he admits that the gene is not the objective of the selection, and later, he ignores this, thereon.

It seems out of doubt that, nothing happens in the evolution without having gone by the roads of the natural selection. Mayr interpretation is that many times what can happen is the elimination of the inferior genes in the natural selection and nor always the selection of the best ones, and of that persons don’t perceive, and finally he affirms that “[…] that selection is well less egoist than the selection of the best one.” In short, in the evolution, two things can happen: selection of the best genes, and also, elimination of the inferior genes, understanding that many genes are not sufficiently good to be selected, although, in the same way, they are not sufficiently bad to be eliminated.

Another international renowned geneticist, Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900–1975), thinking about the biological world, which contains among 1.5–2 millions of classified species and may be other so much still unknown, varying in size of the order of 10 micra (ten millionths of the meter) in the viruses, until 30 meters in length and 135 tons in the blue whale. He calls our attention to this prodigious diversity and he concludes: "[…] all this is comprehensible to the light of the theory of the evolution, but what seems to us an operation without sense is God have created a crowd of species for nothing.” Still, in favor of the selection of species, Theodosius affirms: "[…] the ambient present challenges to the species, which can answer them through adaptative genetic variations.” (13)

Recently, a book was published with the title The Selfish Gene, (14) of Richard Dawkins´ authorship, zoologist with wide knowledge on biology and genetics, respected in scientific communities of the United States of America, but also much refuted by his ideas differentiated from Darwin's natural selection, of whom he is ardent disciple. The main differentiation aspect is that, unlike Darwin, who considered in his theory the survival of the most capable, Dawkins prefers to adopt as regulator of the evolution, the survival of the stable specimen. Unsatisfied by many explanations offered by other respectable thinkers, like Sir Karl Popper, geneticist L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, anthropologist F. T. Cloak and etiologist J. M. Cullen, Dawkins questions: “What, after all, is so special regarding the genes?” (14) And he answers: “The answer is that the genes are replicators.” His main argument is that the genes acquire certain and special qualities, however limited qualities in function of the environment in that they grow and transfer characteristics to their descending genes. But, contrarily of what many people might think, one should not suppose that the inherited characteristics are fixed and unalterable. Another interesting aspect of Richard’s book is the use of the term “survival or genetic machine” to qualify not only the humans, but all the living beings.

3. Creationism versus Evolutionism

It seems incredible that, with all the technological progress of our time, there is still a great current against evolutionism, created by religious persons that are based in the Old Testament and in the New Testament (Bible). Still worse, to those religious fundamentalists joined the scientists who didn’t get rid of the religious believes, giving support to those currents, which don't resist to the well founded arguments of evolutionism.

Many are the creationists´ currents that are making pressure, inclusive close to legislators to gain their opinions, in the United States of America (State of Arkansas and other Southern States), England and Brazil, with the objective of forcing the schools to teach their biblical creationism. But, for the effect of our work, we will just mention the three main currents.

In first place, we detached the Young Earth Creationism (YEC), fundamentalist, without scientific pretension, based strictly on biblical texts. It is a mystic vision, distorted of world in which we live and of the wonderful universe that science is pulling the curtain, and to which their followers insist keeping their eyes closed, in spite of the technological reality of our times. Not even they accept the rational arguments and the ones of the philosophical logic, preferring to maintain their positions based on the archaic understanding of a remote past. It is a religious faith, ingrained at the individual and collective level in the core of the biblical religions that only the school education and the elevation of the cultural level, in long term, can alter.

There is an intermediate position that we can call Intermediate Creationism, also known (15) as Old Earth Creationism (OEC), a little more educated, composed by people's legions, who are adepts of one or other religion, but they are not fundamentalists. They are people that maintain their religions, in general of biblical origin, but without dedicating to them. They keep just the ethical and moral teachings. They do not matter with the divine part that is impregnated on them. For those people, there is no conflict between their religions and science, being more flexible, not adhering to certain religious dogmas. They interpret the deluge as local and non- universal episode and they accept the history of the Earth according to the geological eras and geological periods. There is even, among them, those who accept the theory of the Big Bang on the creation of the universe. In spite of these positioning, they don't accept the theory of the evolution.

The third current is composed of the ones that defend the Scientific Fundamental Creationism. (15) They are people with very strong convictions that want to rescue the religious orthodoxy, however with the appearance of science. For that reason, it would be better that it was denominated of "scientific current", which comes to diffuse itself and to win ground since the fifties of the last century. Their followers intend to give scientific validity to all that is in the Bible, by containing this the word of God, trying, among other things, to prove: (a) the age of the Earth between 6,000–12,000 years, (b) the existence of the Noah's ark, (c) the existence of the Babel Tower, and (d) Joshua’s episode, when God stopped the Sun on Jericho, etc. By all this, this group is also known as Young Earth Creationism. Such group has gained acceptation in the United States of America and got to include a federal intervention in some Southern States for the teaching of the creationism in the schools. Although the defenders of that group present some concepts that could be even considered reasonable, they take the risk of the occurrence of certain corruptions under the mantle of the science to defend a cause that their followers judge fair.

4. The Intelligent Design Group

More recently, a new group appeared under the title of "Intelligent Design" proposed by the biochemical Michael Behe, (16) in his book Darwin's Black Box, who also dealt on the subject in his interview given under the title, The True Question. Behe´s ideas were introduced during the Mere Creation Conference, in 1996 and, ever since, he is recruiting followers. Mike Behe is catholic and he was always exposed to the Darwinism. But, in 1997, when reading the book Evolution: a Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton, Behe perceived that there were still many subjects in the evolutionary theory not yet discussed and explained, for instance, it hadn’t been discussed how life emerged. Behe intrigued, and after much research in the literature, he discovered that, actually there were no documents that treated on the subject of how life had emerged. Then, he developed the idea that, in fact, these systems were the result of an "Intelligent Design.” Little later, Behe with Phil Johnson, researcher that also presented ideas in this same direction, not to refute, but to point that the theory of the evolution left questions to be solved, created The Intelligent Design Group, destined to criticize the evolution under the scientific point of view. Another book that got Behe´s attention was The Blind Watchmaker (Editions, 1970), written by Richard Dawkins. This book and the one of Denton used similar examples, but such books reached conclusions completely different to explain how one can support a theory with evidences and which legitimate extrapolations we can take from them.

According to Behe, the basic theme of his book, Darwin's Black Box, shows us that, "[…] in science, a black box is a machine, device or system that makes something, but you don't know how it works, it is completely mysterious. It can be mysterious because you cannot see inside or because you cannot simply understand it. For Darwin and for their contemporaries of the 19th century, the cell was a black box.” (16) Today, we know that the cell is the base of the physical life and biologists have already discovered its secrets, but the only thing that science of Darwin’s epoch could see with their rude microscopes was just the outline of a cell. Thence, according to Behe, that explains the simplistic vision of Darwin’s contemporary scientists. For that reason, we can say, Darwin was a notable genius and, until today, he was not dethroned.

Taking into consideration the existent complexity inside the cell as base, Behe examines what he calls "miniaturized machines" (the proteins and the nucleic acids) and he argues that Darwin’s natural selection “[…] could not have produced them, because they have a property known and called of irreducible complexity.” Behe compares the irreducible complexity with a mousetrap that has various parts and all the parts should be present before it can work. And, he argues that such systems are better explained as the result of a deliberate intelligent design, since that we behave ourselves like so when we see something very real in our macroscopic world. Thence, the reason for the name "Intelligent Design", with which Behe baptized his idea, proposing to work on it to see whereto his ideas will drive the science.

It is worthwhile to say that there are many reactions and critics to the idea of the intelligent design, affirming that this is a masked creationism. But, Behe rebuts that there is a good difference among reaching conclusions based in the observation of the physical world, as it is expected from a scientist, and to arrive at a conclusion based on the deeds or in religious convictions. It is undeniable that some biochemical systems are too much complex for they be considered work of a simple chance or of the spontaneous generation of life, outdated idea since Pasteur. Any that comes to be the direction that the idea of the intelligent design may lead, it is undeniable that it has obvious implications of the religious or theological nature and its eventual unfolding will still lift much dust. There is, at present, a great progress in molecular biology, sequencing techniques of DNA, embryology, genomics, clonage of cells, etc., but we are far away from explaining the essential subject of how life emerged on the Earth, and much more distant still, of how one could explain man's nature and why he is here in evolution in this insignificant planet. Thus, we thought that it cannot have any obstruction type, be it by science, be it by philosophy, regarding the true knowledge of life.

It is undeniable that Evolutionism and nowadays Neo-evolutionism came to stay, although such theories don’t still have answers to all the questions. Scientists continue offering studies and conclusions on many of them, as science moves forward. It is worth to point out that, even by incentive of the debates that are happening through Internet, through books and in scientific or religious seminars, there will always be gaps to be explored and fails to be investigated of which the scientists will take many advantages, and even the religious persons.

5. The Evolution of the Force in Man

The immediate definitive, crystallized, divine creationism, as it is in the text of Genesis, by which God would have created all of the living beings' species, such as they are at present, doesn’t adjust to the archeological and paleontological discoveries of our times nor to the progresses occurred in other science branches. Nowadays, the creationism doesn't pass of a beautiful allegory and, as such, it should be understood. It is easy to understand this, because at the epoch when the Genesis was written, the humanity was not prepared nor didn’t have the knowledge it has today to comprehend and understand other different cosmogony.

Science, being the search for the truth, have no need to isolate itself of other branches of the knowledge as it has done in the last two centuries, standing back of philosophy, although their investigation methods use different methodologies. Last, but not without less force, there is to consider the progresses occurred in psychology and why not to say, also, in parapsychology, in Spiritism and in Spiritualism, as we put in Chapter 6 – The Birth of the Spiritism, and in Chapter 7 – The Advent of the Christian Rationalism.

The great controversy that today we are observing between the creationists and the evolutionists is in a single discord knot: the understanding that, some and others, imagine about the nature of the Creative Force or Universal Intelligence. To the Muslins people the denomination is Allah, and the Christian religious denominate the Creative Force as God and others have their own denominations. No true knowledge derives from that true greatness if man doesn´t put a shovel of whitewash in the mysticism and undress himself of his sore spots, his selfishness, his vanity and of anything else that considers him like a superior being. While this is happening, we will be exposing our inferior instincts, we won't be rational beings or we will be using the logic that the common sense advises us. It is on this subject that we will treat in the chapters of the second part of this work.

In first place, we need to leave aside the religious dogmas, which will continue serving the most part of humanity because its level of spiritual evolution doesn't reach more than that: to express its faith in what is revealed to humanity, through religions as coming from God. But also, science needs to liberate of its hermetic positions and also scientists need to open the box of their discoveries to the man of medium knowledge, because science and the truths from it derived should be for all and not just for some few privileged people. Also, it is necessary to simplify the things for the common use and for a possible and most general understanding.

It is interesting also to mark that the great controversy has its main fulcrum, besides the purely religious interests, in the appearances brought by what Matter represents, because in it resides almost exclusively the effects and not the causes of all that happens, which in the Force resides. Unhappily, with rare exceptions, science is dedicating its efforts only to the study of Matter and, for that, it counts with great budgets. We can even understand that science will be like this for a long time, but it won't be for the entire time, because the studies about Matter should exhaust in it very soon, and arrive to a blind alley.

If we really want to deserve the title of homo sapiens, we need to consider, profoundly and seriously, the study of the Force in itself and its performance on the Matter, in an evolutionary process of the Force that in man found its appropriate substratum in the planet Earth. Everything that was done here regarding to evolution, only treated about the somatic evolution of the Matter as such, neglecting the most important evolution, or say, the evolution of the Force. To that we will consecrate our work, with the purpose of pointing what is already known and to stimulate the research of what is still lacking to know. Many scientists already arrived near, really very near, of a paradigmatic change, but by one reason or other, they gave up on taking researches ahead in that direction. Few of them made it, but they were isolated cases and their scientific works either didn't have the necessary publication or their authors were put in the ostracism. Therefore, such objective is not being taken forward.

A dictation exists and the evolution is a proof of that: “the nature doesn't give leaps", which can be used to mean that everything has its right time. Thus, this saying is worth for us to put ourselves inside the hominal evolution. It is easy to understand that there are about two million years, and that is almost anything in terms of the somatic evolution of the species, we had the primitivism of our ancestral human beings that came to constitute the first adequate bodies for the evolution of the Spirit, although they were bodies in transition to our current stage of human evolution. But they were necessary and enough, to the time, for us to start what we will call the hominal evolution.

The moment arrived for we to affirm that the beginning of the hominal evolution, that is, of the Force in the human body as incarnated Spirit, also coincides with the beginning of the spiritual evolution on the planet Earth, from which it began to appear, gradually, the different races with their differentiated cultures, like it still happens at the present time. As the somatic evolution progressed together with the respective cultures, it was accomplished as it continues accomplishing, silently, the spiritual evolution that more and more found favorable conditions for its achievement. We will be able to present in the chapters composing the second part of our work that also the spiritual evolution doesn't give leaps and it aims, mainly, the evolution of the intelligence, morals and of ethics. It is worth to emphasize that man’s character is developed through continuous depuration of his most noble feelings, until the complete elimination of the animalistic instincts. As a rule, this evolution is individualized, that is, it is made "per himself", but it takes place, also, in groups.