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The majority of our biologists still accept, and our textbooks still teach, the “neo-Darwinian synthesis”….
Though this theory is usually taught as an established scientific truth, it is nothing of the sort. It has too many lacunae. [The] evidence does not provide us with the spectrum of intermediate species we would expect.
Moreover, laboratory experiments reveal how close to impossible it is for one species to evolve into another, even allowing for selective breeding and some genetic mutation. There is unquestionably evolution within species: every animal breeder is engaged in exemplifying this enterprise. But the gradual transformation of the population of one species into another is a biological hypothesis, not a biological fact.
Moreover, today a significant minority of distinguished biologists and geneticists find this hypothesis incredible and insist that evolution must have proceeded by “quantum jumps,” caused by radical genetic mutation. This copes with some of the problems generated by neo-Darwinist orthodoxy, but only to create others. We just don’t know of any such “quantum jumps” that create new species, since most genetic mutations work against the survival of the individual. So this is another hypothesis – no less plausible than the orthodox view, but still speculative.
And there are other speculations about evolution, some by Nobel prize-winning geneticists, that border on the bizarre — for example, that life on earth was produced by spermatozoa from outer space. In addition, many younger biologists (the so-called “cladists”) are persuaded that the differences among species — including those that seem to be closely related -are such as to make the very concept of evolution questionable.
So “evolution” is no simple established scientific orthodoxy, and to teach it as such is an exercise in dogmatism. It is reasonable to suppose that if evolution were taught more cautiously, as a conglomerate idea consisting of conflicting hypotheses rather than as an unchallengeable certainty, it would be far less controversial. As things now stand, the religious fundamentalists are not far off the mark when they assert that evolution, as generally taught, has an unwarranted anti-religious edge to it.