Originally posted on Why Evolution Is True:
The science editor of HuffPo keeps asking me to come aboard and contribute a column, and I keep saying that I’m not going to write for free for a profit-making venture (their columnists are all wage slaves, or rather no-wage slaves, since they’re never paid). And I always take the opportunity to offer some “constructive” criticism about the page. One of my complaints is that they give a venue for James Shapiro, a colleague in biology at the University of Chicago, to attack neo-Darwinian evolution for completely bogus reasons. There is no scientific vetting of whether what Shapiro (or anyone else) says is correct. And in his case, his criticisms of modern evolutionary theory are dead wrong. So HuffPo perpetuates the idea that something is wrong with evolutionary theory.
Shaprio has four beefs about neo-Darwinism (the modern theory of evolution)
1. It’s not “gradual,” but can happen nearly instantaneously due to things like horizontal gene transfer, gene duplication, and other “self-engineering” features of the genome. In my post linked to above, I explain why this is fallacious. Some evolution can happen quickly due to horizontal gene transfer, but that’s not the main engine of adaptive evolution, and even gene duplication takes a long time for the duplicated genes to evolve new function. Also, groups of genes transferred “horizontally,” between very unrelated organisms, will persist only if they have a salutary effect on the fitness of the recipient.