Rapid developments in biology over the past two decades have spawned many scientific, mora

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Rapid developments in biology over the past two decades have spawned many scientific, moral, and philosophical controversies. Accordingly, a new journal has appeared, Biology and Philosophy , which is edited by two biologists and two philosophers. Michael Ruse , one of the editors (and a well-known promoter of orthodox neo-Darwinism), admits in an opening editorial that the controversy caused by scientific creationists has had its positive side-effects: American biologists have only contempt for so-called "Scientific Creationism", feeling that this movement is merely a thinly veiled version of religious fundamentalism, designed only to get the Bible into schools. Yet, the Creationists have certainly forced people to go back and examine, not just the bases of their own ideas, but also their general views on the nature of proper biological education. (pg. 1) Characteristic of this journal is an article by David R. Oldroyd from the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of New South Wales. Oldroyd points out in his paper, "Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution: A Review of Present Understanding" (pgs 133-168), that recent findings in developmental biology are very difficult to reconcile with standard evolutionary reasoning. He writes: ...for Darwin, "propinquity of descent" should be the ultimate criterion of taxonomic relationships. This principle, he thought, could be applied partly by examination of the stratigraphical record and partly by examining embryological development and vestigial or rudimentary organs. He believed--in keeping with his ideas about inheritance--"that at whatever age any variation first appears in the parent, it tends to reappear at a corresponding age in the offspring." Hence, by examining the development of embryos and young, one might form a reasonable picture of their genealogical relationships. Unfortunately, however, this is a very weak empirical reed to lean on, given that one cannot use the paleontological record with certainty to establish genealogical relationships. Moreover, contemporary researches in developmental biology indicate that there are many puzzling phenomena that are hard to reconcile with Darwin's original conception. Anatomically homologous parts in different related organisms appear to have quite different embryonic origins. This is almost impossible to reconcile with orthodox Darwinian or neo-Darwinian theory, and it is by no means evident at the time of writing how such problems may be overcome. Indeed, as is well known, much modern taxonomy has abandoned its Darwinian, historicist or genealogical approach, and has adopted a positivistic methodology based simply on an examination of observable morphological similarities and differences, and excluding attempted reconstructions of genealogies. This so-called cladistics is fundamentally a non-evolutionary classification. As such, it generates something very like the nineteenth- century typologies of authors such as Henri Milne-Edwards. Cladistics, which is, of course, an anathema to neo-Darwinians, is favoured by those who prefer not to transcend the observable data in their theorizing to "speculate" about genealogical relationships. (pg. 154)


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