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No. 129: MAY-JUN 2000

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A Third Way?

A THIRD WAY? In the never-ending, ever-acrimonious "dialog of the deaf" between the Darwinists and the Creationists, we are perpetually exposed to their extreme, non-negotiable positions. The Darwinists insist upon their one-gene/one-protein genome in which random mutations slowly accumulate and adapt living things to the changing environment. The Creationists only accept a one-time, supernatural creation of "kinds" plus minor adaptations ("microevolution").

J.A. Shapiro, a professor at the University of Chicago, is searching for a "third way," a scientific, non-Darwinian way. Shapiro maintains that five decades of genetic and molecular-biology research have transformed our vision of life. Ile compares the conceptual changes to those accompanying the transition from classical physics to relativity and quantum mechanics. This new theory of evolution -- his "third" way -- will emerge from the convergence of biology and information science.

Genomes, asserts Shapiro, are not really the static "beads on a string" envisioned by the Darwinians. Rather, they are fluid and complex. Genes are now seen as multipurpose elements that turn on and off as required for the survival and well-being of the organism they belong to.

In this paradigm-eroding paper (referenced below), Shapiro describes four categories of molecular discoveries that have revised our thinking about how evolution works: (1) Genome Organization; (2) Cellular-Repair Capabilities; (3) Mobile Genetic Elements and Natural Genetic Engineering; and (4) Cellular Information Processing. He then writes:

The point of this discussion is that our current knowledge of genetic change is fundamentally at variance with neo-Darwinist postulates. We have progressed from the Constant Genome, subject only to random, localized changes at a more or less constant mutation rate, to the Fluid Genome, subject to episodic, massive and non-random reorganizations capable of producing new functional architectures. Inevitably, such a profound advance in awareness of genetic capabilities will dramatically alter our understanding of the evolutionary process.
Toward the end, Shapiro approaches, as he logically must, the really crucial point in the Darwinism-Creationism de-bate. Is there guiding intelligence at work in the evolution of life? He cannot answer this question at this time, and neither can science in general. He puts his hope for a definitive answer on the fact that we are now "on the threshold of a new way of thinking about living organisms and their variations." It is time, he says, for the Darwinists to abandon their "posture of outraged orthodoxy," to become real scientists, and to use the new insights we have gained about the workings of the genome and try to answer this most-fundamental of all the questions that face science.

(Shapiro, James A.; "A Third Way," Boston Review, February/March 1997. Cr. D. Moncrief.)

From Science Frontiers #129, MAY-JUNE 2000. 2000 William R. Corliss

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