Alternative evolutionary theories

Introduction to the Evolution literature

This page lists the most accessible literature on evolution including the critics of evolution. The emphasis is on recent, affordable books for non-specialists written by specialists.

by Gert Korthof (updated 23 Apr 2010)

5 Extensions & alternative evolutionary theories
10 Evo-Devo
3 Non-religious Anti-Darwinism + Anti-Evolution
1 Religious criticism:
1 Creationism / Intelligent Design
2 Fine Tuning
12 Theistic Evolution
Buddhism Buddhism & Hinduism
9 Orthodox neo-Darwinism
textbooks textbooks Evolutionary Biology
introductions introductions
8 Anti-Creationism/ID
11 Origin of life & Astrobiology
13 Ecology & Earth System Science
6 History of Darwinism
4 Bibliographies, anthologies, encyclopedias
human Human evolution (general)
psychology Psychology, Behaviour & Brain
sex Sex & evolution
genomics Genetics & genomics
medicine Medicine & evolution
economics Economics & evolution
politics Politics, ethics & evolution
Theo Theoretical & mathematical biology
philosophy Philosophy & evolution
history History & evolution
engineering Engineering & evolution
literature Evolution & Literature

suggestions philosophy of science different page
suggestions books suggested by readers different page
controversies Scientific controversies different page
Dutch Nederlandse literatuur different page

This page lists the most accessible literature on evolution including the critics of evolution. The emphasis is on recent, affordable books for non-specialists written by specialists. This page shortly characterises noteworthy books and gives links to book reviews in Nature, Science, etc (19). Furthermore, I have written detailed reviews of many books which are on separate pages of the site Was Darwin Wrong? (now called: ‘The Third Evolutionary Synthesis’). Those reviews are listed in a handy table on the index page. I have subdivided the literature in categories and subcategories (see directory structure above). The goal of this site contains also information about myself. If the reader feels I omitted books that belong on this introduction page, please drop me a note. They are included on this page or suggestions by readers.

5 Extensions, revisions & alternative evolutionary theories

This is a category of scientific, non-religious critics of Darwinism. Here we find scientists who do accept evolution (common descent), but aren’t happy with parts of the neo-Darwinist explanation of evolution (mainly the mechanism of evolution: natural selection). 

Against natural selection
One of the earliest critics of the sufficiency of natural selection as an explanation of form in biology was D’Arcy Thompson On Growth and Form (1917). He was not a creationist: he granted that natural selection could weed out the unfit, but doubted the power of natural selection to explain why life took one form and not another. He preferred to explain the forms of organisms by mechanical and mathematical principles (13). In his spirit are books by Philip Ball and Brian Goodwin. About the same time geneticist and Nobelprize winner Thomas Hunt Morgan expressed similar doubts in Evolution and Adaptation (1903) (24). The criticism of population geneticist Motoo Kimura was that all-powerful natural selection was not powerful enough to eliminate all mutations at the DNA level. He called these mutations neutral mutations, because they are not affected by selection, positive or negative. He was right. An alternative explanation for the peacock’s tail turned into a new principle: The Handicap Principle. A missing piece of Darwin’s puzzle by A & A Zahavi (1999); initially unanimously rejected, currently largely accepted by mainstream science. Gabriel Dover claims there is a third force in evolution.
An example of a palaeontologist who accepts evolution, but rejects the claim that palaeontology can determine missing links with certainty, is: Henry Gee. Although cladism is now widely accepted, I hesitate to place Gee in the category ‘Orthodox Neo-Darwinism’ because of his criticism of orthodox palaeontology. The eminent but unorthodox astronomer sir Fred Hoyle wrote an attack on the fundamentals of neo-Darwinism using high level mathematics: Mathematics of Evolution. Years ago Hoyle introduced the much quoted analogy that the chance of life originating out of raw materials would be equal to the chance that a Boeing-747 resulted from a hurricane going over a junkyard. Hoyle believes life came from space (panspermia). The immunologist Edward J. Steele wrote what could be called the textbook of ‘neo-Lamarckism’. He explains in molecular terms how acquired characteristics of the immune system can be inherited in: Lamarck’s Signature: How Retrogenes Are Changing Darwin’s Natural Selection Paradigm. The embryologist Brian Goodwin has interesting ideas about scientific alternatives for Darwinism. A critique of selectionism and the proposal of an alternate theory of emergent evolution is: Biological Emergences. Evolution by Natural Experiment by Robert G. B. Reid (2007) (info), emeritus Professor of Biology and author of ‘Evolutionary Theory: The Unfinished Synthesis‘ (1985). Palaeontologist Niles Eldredge argues against the reductionism of the ‘ultra-Darwinist’. Hubert Yockey is an expert in the information content of genomes, DNA and proteins. Yockey believes that there is too much information in the simplest organisms to have originated by chance, but unlike "intelligent design theorists", he does not infer design or a designer (at least in his book). He has no alternative theory.
    Palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould is known by the public from his column in Natural History and the New York Review of Books and as a defender of evolution (that includes rejection of creationism). It is not so well known that he is also a critic of orthodox neo-Darwinism. Two criticisms are: not everything is adaptation, and evolution is not gradual but punctuated. This and much, much more in his voluminous The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (2002).
In The tinkerer’s accomplice: how design emerges from life itself J. Scott Turner (2007) argues that "organisms are designed not so much because natural selection of particular genes has made them that way, but because agents of homeostasis build them that way" (Review).
Evolutionary biologist John Reiss (2009) Not by Design; Retiring Darwin’s Watchmaker argues that we can’t infer the past action of selection from the present adaptedness (apparent design) of organisms (25).
Jerry Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini (2010) wrote a critique of the theory of natural selection: What Darwin Got Wrong (Reviews: Michael Ruse, Philip Kitcher, (continued), Philip Ball, Mary Midgley, interview, Nature).


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