Why Neo-Darwinism is a Pseudoscience?

Jianyi Zhang, M.B./Ph.D./M.S.


  • The mechanism of speciation, or generation of a new species, is an essential but unsolved issue in evolutionary biology. Although many prominent evolutionists claimed to have unraveled the puzzle, the mechanism of speciation remains unknown.

What is Neo-Darwinism?

  • The mainstream theory for the mechanism of evolution or speciation is modern synthesis, which was developed in the 1940s. Modern synthesis is interchangeable with Neo-Darwinism. The modern synthesis accepts multiple mechanisms accountable for evolution/speciation that include random mutation and natural selection (RMNS), geographical isolation (GI), genetic drift, polyploidy, and parthenogenesis. RMNS, GI and genetic drift are long-term processes, whereas polyploidy and parthenogenesis are one generation processes, in which new species is generated instantaneously.
  • Jerry Coyne, a professor at University of Chicago and one of contemporary prominant Neo-Darwinians, said "In essence, the modern theory of evolution is easy to grasp. It can be summarized in a single (albeit slightly long) sentence: Life on earth evolved gradually beginning with one of primitive species-perhaps a self-replicating molecule-that lived more than 3.5 billion years ago; it then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species; and the mechanism for most (but not all) of evolutionary change is natural selection (Coyne, Jerry 2009).

Tenets of the modern synthesis

  • According to the modern synthesis as established in the 1930s and 1940s, genetic variation in populations arises by chance through mutation (this is now known to be sometimes caused by mistakes in DNA replication) and recombination (crossing over of homologous chromosomes during meiosis). Evolution consists primarily of changes in the frequencies of alleles between one generation and another as a result of genetic drift, gene flow, and natural selection. Speciation occurs gradually when populations are reproductively isolated, for example by geographical barriers. Neo-Darwinists consider only NS and GI as important, other instantaneous mechanisms play minor roles (Mayr, Ernst 1998).

The tenets is inconsistent with reality

  • Embarrassingly, no one can tell which organisms evolved by RMNS or GI.Thus far, only instantaneous speciation is without controversy among biologists. In this process, speciation does not require natural selection, GI or drifting prior to its startup. It is estimated that the majority of flowers and ferns were generated by polyploidy or instantaneous speciation, and it occurs in many other plants, land animals, and fish as well.
  • A female white spotted bamboo shark at the Belle Isle Aquarium in Michigan surprised zookeepers by giving birth to two babies. It was a virgin birth, or parthenogenesis, as the mother had not been in contact with a male shark for six years. The resulting sharks are a different species than their direct sexual ancestors because they are asexual. Parthenogenesis, which occurs in approximately 70 species, including snakes and lizards, is a process in which eggs become embryos without male fertilization. The majority of these species might have descended from sexually reproducing ancestors (Simon J. et al. 2002).
  • Although instantaneous speciation is not observable, biologists universally accept it. The time length implicated in RMNS or GI would be several hundred thousand or many million years or longer, too long to be validated, if they ever occur.

Popperian criterion of pseudoscience

  • The issue of finding a criterion for distinguishing science from pseudoscience is always controversial. Karl Popper, an Austrian-born British philosopher of natural and social science, is a pivotal person in understanding the differences between science and pseudoscience. Popper believes that the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its invalidity, i.e. person who establishes a theory should specify what events invalidate the theory. If a theory cannot specify a scenario where the theory will fail or it will justify any outcome, the theory is not a scientific one, but a pseudoscience. Sound scientific theories have many examples where it can occur theoretically if specific conditions are met, which would falsify theories. However, these scenarios do not happen in reality.

  • Testing the relationship among resistance, voltage, and current invalidate Ohm’s law. If the current is 10 and the resistant 10, then the voltage should 100. Although the voltage could be 105 or 110, it does not occur in reality. 

Ohm's law triangle

  • Three major features make the case for falsification: 1) practical and doable can be done with reasonable efforts. 2) Objective measurements are obtained; thus, no matter who runs the machine same values are obtained. 3) Relevance in that one does not use current, resistance and voltage to invalidate Newton’s law, as they are not relevant.

Darwin failed to provide the case for disproval

  • Darwin cited several sorts of observations (Patterson, C. 1999a), which would, in his view, disprove his theory.
“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”
  • This is a logical error. Mechanisms of how any complex organ formed are debatable and whether numerous successive steps are required for formation of any organ is still a question. Speciation by RMNS is not a given. The person who postulates the theory must provide evidence of its validity. In this case, Neo-Darwinians should show how numerous successive steps, in what animals, and by which genetic mechanism, form complex organs. An idea cannot be proved wrong if it never existed. If the logic stands, anyone can claim all kinds of absurd “theories” correct. If it could be demonstrated that I am not going to Heaven after death, my theory that I will go Heaven will break down. Since no one can demonstrate that, my theory is correct, and I will go the Heaven after death. If it could be demonstrated that core of the Sun is not made of diamonds, my theory that core of Sun is made of diamond will break down. Since no one can demonstrate that, my theory is correct.
"Certain naturalists believe that very many structures have been created for beauty in the eyes of man, or for mere variety. This Doctrine, if true, would be absolutely fatal to my theory."
  • Beauty in the eyes of humans is a subjective feeling as no universal criteria for beauty exists. Additionally, the creation of any structure to appeal to humans or for mere variety is not relevant to the theory of new species arrive by the natural selection.

"If it could he proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory."

  • Exclusive good of another species are not objectively measurable. Every individual within a species is different, even if criteria to measure the goodness of species can be subjectively established; the results would be diverse and heterogeneous. Members in a species will be 81% goodness, or 35% or 20%, individuals with 100% or exclusive goodness of another species are not survivable.

Neo-Darwinists make the mechanisms of RMNS and GI a pseudoscience

  • Ernst Mayr, considered as the 20th century Darwin, was also a founder of Neo-Darwinism or Modern Synthesis, wrote:

"Evolution is an opportunistic process . . .Pluralism is characteristic of all aspects of the evolutionary process. Reproductive isolation is effected in most higher animals by prezygotic isolating mechanisms (e.g., behavior), and in others by chromosomal incompatibilities, sterility, or other postzygotic factors. Speciation usually occurs for geographic reasons in terrestrial vertebrates, but it is sympatric in certain groups of fishes and perhaps in plant-host-specific groups of insect (Mayr, E. 2001)."

  • Many opportunistic processes are present in the world. At one time, persons who received blood transfusions were more likely to acquire HIV infection than those who did not. However, every species and every member within a species is the outcome of natural selection and are adaptated to their environments. Under natural selection or geographical isolation, who then will evolve into different species? Do persons in South Africa have more opportunities to evolve into a new species than those who live at the North Pole?
  • Scientists might provide many mechanisms for one particular outcome. Hepatitis B virus infection may lead to hepatitis (outcome), whereas Hepatitis C and D viruses also lead to hepatitis. These claims can be supported and refuted. There are evidences to support the claim, and ways to falsify it. One way to disprove it is to test bloods from the most suspected patients to see if there is existence of antibodies or antigens of Hepatitis C or D viruses, if not, the claim is falsified or disproved.
  • Assuming that one group of scientists postulates the theory that flu virus also causes hepatitis (in fact, it does not) To test the theory correct, all patients with hepatitis should be tested and if none of them has flu antigen or antibody, then the theory is incorrect. Even if none of the confirmed cases shows it support the flu virus theory, you can not disprove it; nobody can test ones with the virus infection died 5000 years ago, or ones not borne yet. The flu virus theory is a pseudoscience.
  • One popular misconception about Neo-Darwinism is that speciation by RMNS or GI would take millions of years, which makes the mechanism difficult to prove or disprove. In fact, this is not the reason. We can image a scenario in which a group of biologists is given unlimited money ($ 10 billion a year), and unlimited time (1 billion years) to invalidate the theory. The biologists select 1000 species to disprove the theory. Four outcomes are possible for each species: 1) the species does not evolve, and remains unchanged after 1 billion years, 2) the species becomes extinct before evolution, 3) the species evolves into another species via RMNS or GI, or, 4) the species evolve into another species under a mechanism unrelated to Neo-Darwinism or instantaneous process.
  • Apparently, the cases 1 and 2 do not provide support or disproof. The case 3 is a confirmation, not disproval. The last case supports instantaneous speciation that could falsify the RMNS or GI theories, but it would not occur with current Neo-Darwinian strategies. Even if all 1000 species in the study evolved by polyploidy into other species in the billion years, one could say that that the majority of species evolved by RMNS or GI. No one would know which animal evolved by which mechanism, no one could state that any of those 1000 animals had to evolve by RMNS or GI, and the denominator or, how many species has been formed, would be unknown.
  • Some evolutionary biologists would say that scientific evidences support the theories. History shows that wrong scientific theories or pseudoscience could have sufficient evidence to support them. Marxism, Leninism, Nazism, and Geocentricism, all have so-called scientific evidences. Evidences are what one interprets, not facts. The same observation can be interpreted with many different ways. Nature of interpretation is highly influenced by what interpreter believes. Besides not adequately explaining transitional fossils Neo-Darwinism also poorly accounts for the chicken-egg paradox, atavisms, innovative organ, Cambrian explosion, and more.
  • Characterization of Neo-Darwinism as a pseudoscience does not mean that natural selection or evolution itself wrong. Instead, it only says that instantaneous mechanisms are only valid mechanisms, whereas others (RMNS and GI) working, but not lead to speciation.
  • The Marxist’s theory of capitalism was very popular at the beginning of the 20th century. Marx predicted that wages would fall as greedy capitalists exploited workers to obtain more profits. While an increase in wages was also consistent with Marxism; as capitalists propped up the system with bribery. Therefore, Marx’s theory of capitalism could not be considered scientific by the Popperian criteria, as it can justify any outcome of the capitalist society.
  • Invalidation requires prediction. If a result is not consistent with a prediction, then the theory is invalidated. Ohm’s law could be disproved if voltage is not equal to current multiplied by resistance. However, Neo-Darwinism is consistent with every imaginable outcome. By the Popperian criteria, it is a pseudoscience.
  • Predictions do not have to be deterministic, and they could be statistically true. Persons with college degree will make more money than ones without it. The prediction however does not mean everyone with a college degree will earn more money than those with a high school diploma only. Bill Gates, the richest person in America, has no college degree. This statement could be confirmed or invalidated by comparing average incomes from 500 persons with college degree and 500 ones without by random sampling.
  • Scientific theory might be wrong. Ones can say that persons with college degree will make less money than ones without it. This statement could be disproved by comparing average incomes from two groups of persons with and without college degree.
  • Mayr considered that GI might be the most common mechanism; however, this idea is not falsifiable, as neither the nominator (how many species has been formed by GI in the past, in any) nor the denominator (how many species has been formed in the past), is known.

History did not provide Darwin the opportunity to find out correct mechanism

One predicts something on the basis of a theory, checks to see if the prediction turns out true or false, and then rejects or retains one’s theory on basis of the results. But how can one make genuine predictions with Darwinism? Who could possibly predict what will happen to the elephant’s trunk twenty-five million years down the road? In the Newtonian case, one had a paradigmatic instance of a theory which integrates from many different areas—which exhibits a consilience of induction—and which therefore was judged as a whole (Ruse, M. 2003).
  • Darwin has no such luxury. His theory fails in many fields of scientific discovery. Many developments, not foreseen by Darwin, provide severe tests of the theory. Darwin thought pangenesis the basis on hereditary. It stated that hereditary information was carried by tiny particles that bud from cells throughout a person’s body. These particles or ‘gemmules’ migrated into the reproductive organs prior to fertilization. Thus, every cell in the body contributed to the constitution of the offspring. However, Mendelian genetics indicated that hereditary units are discreet, not mixed.
  • Current biology has known that hereditary materials stored in reproductive cells (sperm and egg), which is isolated from somatic cells. In other words, no particles or ‘gemmules’ migrated into the reproductive organs to have any impact on next generation.

All dogs can interbreed.

Darwin used variation in domestic animals as one of the major arguments for his theory… The most striking example of variation in domestic animals is surely the amazing range of dogs. Darwin thought that the various breeds of dog were descended from several different wide species…and it seems he was simple unable to believe that a single species could be the source of such variety. …. All breeds of dog are interfertile, but some cross, for example between 1 kg Chihuahua and a 75 kg Great Dane, are prevented by the disparity in size (Patterson, C. 1999b).

  • Apparently, to Darwin, morphology of animals is the criterion to differentiate one species from another. The biological species concept became accepted a few decades after his death.

I look at the term species as one arbitrarily given for the sake of convenience to a set of individuals closely resembling each other .... it does not essentially differ from the term variety, which is given to less distinct and more fluxtuating forms. The term variety, again in comparison with mere individual difference, is also applied arbitrarily, and for mere convenience sake (Dawin, Charles, 1859).

  • The debate between creationism and Intelligent Design (ID) versus Neo-Darwinism is not religion versus science. Instead, it is one belief versus another or one belief versus pseudoscience. The difference is that Neo-Darwinism is masked as science and it wastes public funding and resources. On the other hand, creationism or ID is a self-sustained belief system unsupported by tax dollars.

Charles Darwin 1988 (1859) On the Origin of Species in The Works of Charles Darwin edited by Paul H. Barrett and R. B. Freeman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press vol. 15 page 39

Coyn, Jerry 2009. Why evolution is true. pp. 3. Viking, New York.

Mayr, Ernst 1998.  One long augment.  Harvard Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Mayr, Ernst 2001. What evolution is. pp. 221-222.  Basic Books, New York.

Patterson, Colin 1999a. Evolution 2nd ed. pp. 117, Comstock Publishing Ass. Cornell University Ithaca, New York.

Patterson, Colin1999b. Evolution 2nd ed. pp. 7-8, Comstock Publishing Ass. University Press, Ithaca, New York.

Ruse M. 2003.  Evolution Is Testable and Scientific in Evolution-Fact or Fiction. Pp. 130-140.  Greenhaven Press, New York.

Simon J., and Rispe, Claude & Sunnucks, Paul. 2002.  Ecology and evolution of sex in aphids.  Trends in Ecology & Evolution 17:34-39.

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