Quote: Lynn Margulis on Evolution as a Religious Sect

Michael Behe has quoted the famous evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis:

And Lynn Margulis says that history will ultimately judge neo-Darwinism as "a minor twentieth-century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuasion of Anglo-Saxon biology."
Proponents of the standard theory, she says, "wallow in their zoological, capitalistic, competitive cost-benefit interpretation of Darwin - having mistaken him ... Neo-Darwinism, which insists on (the slow accrual of mutations), is in a complete funk."

Darwin's Black Box, page 26
Reference given is to: Science Vol. 252, 19 April 1991, pp. 379-381
Which references: American Zoologist, 30:861-875 (1990)

These quotes are certainly hilarious. However, they cannot support Dr. Behe's contention that evolution is in trouble, since Dr. Margulis has said it isn't in trouble.

The "religious sect" line comes from American Zoologist. The article is Kingdom Animalia: The Zoological Malaise from a Microbial Perspective and it is basically an argument for a particular philosophical view. It's sort of along the lines of holistic versus reductionist. But it's mostly not about facts per se, and it claims to return "towards Darwin's original intentions" (page 861).

The line "wallow in their zoological, capitalistic, competitive cost-benefit interpretation of Darwin - having mistaken him" is from an unnamed article, so I can't look it up. However, she attacks cost-benefit analysis in the American Zoologist article, so I assume this quote is another sally in the same battle.

In the referenced Science article, the bit about "neo-Darwinism .. in a complete funk" refers specifically to the evolution of certain features of eukaryotes and has nothing at all to do with evolution in general. Worse, the line refers to the Theory of Evolution as it was before everyone decided that Dr. Margulis's theory was right. (Well, right in places.) Since all textbooks now teach her explanation for chloroplasts and mitochondria, the funk is now ancient history. Basically, the quote shows her throwing rocks at people who opposed her on a specific topic of debate. Both sides of the debate called themselves Darwinist.

Dr. Margulis is a botanist, and specifically an expert in single-celled life. Pound for pound, single celled life is the dominant life on this planet, and it is mostly in the sea. Dr. Margulis has often opposed biology's traditional focus on big land animals. So, these quotes seems to be mostly an attempt to give other biologists a good swift kick in the intellect.

Last modified: 23 March 1999

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