From the Author
The theory of evolution is the leading explanatory principle of biology. Its chief strength is that it provides a unifying rationale for many diverse biological phenomena, and it is also of value to biologists as a working hypothesis which stimulates research. Since being proposed by Darwin nearly 150 years ago, the theory has been eminently successful and, whilst recognising there are differences of opinion over details, it is now widely accepted as fact as factual as any other established scientific theory. Indeed it is endorsed to such an extent that those who do not share this conviction are likely to be considered ill-informed and/or antiscience.
However, there are scientists who in the course of their work have come across what they see as substantial if not insurmountable obstacles. This is my own position. Because evolution so permeates our education, it is not surprising that from an early age I totally accepted the whole story of evolution from simple forms of life, and probably of the origin of life itself. But in studying for a degree in natural sciences in which the theory of evolution formed a backdrop to almost every aspect of the curriculum I was prompted to question whether the biochemical structures and mechanisms which were being discovered at the time could really have arisen in an opportunistic evolutionary manner: and it seemed to me that they could not. Over the years since then, mostly spent as a research scientist, this view has been strengthened as we have learned more of how biological systems work; and I have become well aware that similar issues have been raised by others, including experts in their field. Eventually, the opportunity arose to research the subject more fully, and this book is the outcome.
It is primarily and predominantly an examination of evolution as a scientific theory: how it arose, the evidence on which it is based, the extent to which the theory of evolution is a satisfactory explanation of that evidence and, importantly, the facts that are inconsistent with an evolutionary explanation and consequently undermine the theory as a whole. A central issue is that, whilst I accept the principle of natural selection, it cannot account for the formation of biological macromolecules, though this is the usual evolutionary explanation for them. Evidence for the operation of natural selection at the level of the whole organism, and evidence from the fossil record do not answer this objection, in fact I show that they add weight to it.
The book is written firstly for biologists because it is primarily they whom I want to challenge to take a fresh look at the facts. However, because of the widespread interest in and acceptance of evolution, I have sought to make the book accessible to a much wider readership. To this end the early chapters describe how the theory of evolution arose (Darwinism), became well established once we understood hereditary processes (Neo-Darwinism), and finally assimilated our modern understanding of the biochemical nature of genetic mechanisms (the modern synthesis). The aim of these chapters is to provide an adequate understanding of the science of evolution to enable subsequent discussion to be followed readily by those with a basic knowledge of biology, and hopefully by many who may not even have that. For example, evolution has become so generally accepted as a factual biological theory that the principle of evolution has been assimilated by many other disciplines such as sociology, philosophy and even theology. I trust the book will be of interest, indeed of value, to non-biologists from disciplines such as these, who need to hear from a scientist of the substantial difficulties with the theory that it is nothing like so secure as they have probably been led to believe.
So far as any science versus religion debate is concerned, I write entirely as a scientist and my purpose here is not to offer any sort of reconciliation or accommodation between the two camps. To present the scientific advances of the 16th and 19th centuries in a proper light it is necessary to describe something of the religious background; but there is no discussion here of Genesis 1 or any other religious text. My only comment in this area relates to the changing attitude to the concept of a supernatural God who intervenes in the affairs of the world, a
From the Inside Flap
This book is sure to make a distinctive and valuable contribution to the debate about evolution. For too long the debate has been polarized between those trying to defend a traditional creationist position that species were made with little or no capacity for change, and those advocating that all forms of life have evolved from a common source. David Swift examines the evidence from molecular biology, genetics, the operation of natural selection and the fossil record, and concludes that neither position faces up to the facts. Whilst it is evident that some significant changes can occur, which may legitimately be described as evolutionary, he explains why these do not substantiate the supposition that higher organisms evolved from simpler forms. Indeed, his analysis exposes fundamental flaws in the overall theory of evolution.
He calls upon biologists to take a fresh, objective look at all the facts. And this book is not only for biologists: it will be of value for its clear exposition of the history and science of evolution which make the subject accessible to many others. Whatever your current view, be prepared to rethink your ideas on this emotive subject.