There have been a number of scientific discoveries that challenge the thesis of Neo-Darwinism.1 And many people that I have talked to about Neo-Darwinism are not aware of these significant obstacles to the theory. These problems are not of the sort that can just be dismissed due to theoretical objections like, say, the objection of circularity in a theory. Here is an example of what is meant by a problem of circularity:
Darwin suggested that one of the evidences for common descent was homology—or various characteristics of creatures being homologous (Homology here just means similarity). But then if one defines homology as common descent, you can no longer use it as evidence for common descent.
How do we know that feature B descended from feature A? Because B is homologous to A. How do we know that B is homologous to A? Because B descended from A.
This is not something you want to do in your scientific theory. And yes, this type of circularity is a problem, but the issues being presented in this article are not of that sort.
The significant issues facing Neo-Darwinism are evidentiary in nature; namely, there is empirical evidence indicating the theory is not sufficient to account for what is being observed in science. And in fact, there are a number of very prominent biologists who are rejecting Neo-Darwinism because of these evidences. Here are just a few of them:
James Shapiro – Dept. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology; Univ. of Chicago
Dennis Noble – Dept. of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics; Univ. of Oxford
Eugene Koonin – Evolutionary Genomics Research Group; NCBI
You can read more about them at this website: www.thethirdwayofevolution.com. These gentlemen (and many others on that website) have openly rejected Neo-Darwinism. It needs to be made clear that they do not endorse creationism or intelligent design due to philosophical objections. But they specifically do reject Neo-Darwinism.
So what are their evidentiary objections? They are at least four in number:
Symbiogenesis: which “refers to the origin of new tissues, organs, organisms—even species—by establishment of longterm or permanent symbiosis.”2
Horizontal DNA transfer: “non-genealogical transmission of genetic material from one organism to another”3
Action of mobile DNA: “DNA sequences that have the ability to change their position within a genome.”4 This is also known as transposable elements.
Epigenetic modifications: “stable, often heritable, changes that influence gene expression that are not mediated by DNA sequence … these epigenetic features can be modified, or erased in response to developmental cues or external and environmental stimuli.”5
The reasoning for these items as problems for Neo-Darwinism is, as they say on the third-way website, because “Neo-Darwinism ignores (these) important rapid evolutionary processes” and that “… some Neo-Darwinists have elevated Natural Selection into a unique creative force that solves all the difficult evolutionary problems without a real empirical basis.” Remember that Neo-Darwinism (and Darwinism) is based on gradualism: a slow, continuous change. These four biological features overturn this major tenet.
These issues for Neo-Darwinism are of no small matter. They need to be recognized and understood. And I know of very few people that are even aware of these discoveries, let alone the reasons why they are a challenge to Neo-Darwinism.
But now you know.
- Natural selection and variation via mendelian genetics. Darwin did not know what the mechanism of variation might be. Mendelian genetics was incorporated as the mechanism in the 1920’s and 30’s.
- Lynn Margulis, Symbiotic Planet (Amherst: Basic Books, 1988), 6
- Goldenfeld N, Woese C Nature. 2007 Jan 25; 445(7126):369
- Bourque, Guillaume et al. “Ten things you should know about transposable elements” Genome biology vol. 19,1 199. 19 Nov. 2018,
- Fingerman, Ian M et al. “NCBI Epigenomics: what’s new for 2013” Nucleic acids research vol. 41,Database issue (2012): D221-5.