Evolution 2.0: 5 Year Anniversary!

Five years ago this week, the first shipment of Evolution 2.0 books landed on my doorstep. It had taken six years to write. I felt such incredible elation.

The book has weathered exacting scrutiny by opponents. It’s brought me into a number of debates with people across the spectrum from left to right. While minor errors were corrected in the 2017 paperback, there is no substantial criticism of the book in the blogosphere. The book has sold well with over 200 reviews on Amazon (4.4 stars).

The Evolution 2.0 Prize is the world’s largest science research prize at $10 million. Announced at the Royal Society in May 2019 with Oxford professors Denis Noble and Paul Flather, the event was documented on video by Voices From Oxford. The story ran in the Financial Times three days later.

Harvard geneticist George Church is one of our judges for the prize; George’s lab was featured on the 60 Minutes television show in 2019. Time Magazine appointed him one of the 100 most influential people in 2017. Evolution 2.0 has been supported by many top scientists including Stuart Kauffman, Paul Davies, Azra Raza, Michael Ruse, James Shapiro, Frank Laukien, Andrew Briggs and John Torday.

In 2019 world renowned chemist Lee Cronin from the University of Glasgow appeared on the Unbelievable show alongside me and Denis Noble, where he announced he intends to win the prize. Which led to Cronin debating chemist James Tour a few weeks later, on the same show.

The book had to achieve six goals simultaneously:

  1. Satisfy the demands of a PhD molecular biologist
  2. Understandable and readable for a high school biology student
  3. Convince design advocates that evolution is true
  4. Convince evolutionists that the cell can redesign itself
  5. Read like non-religious science book
  6. Address theological questions of Christians, Muslims and Jews

A slalom. But it managed to do all these things.

Every author knows: Putting your book into the world is like sending your child to kindergarten where you dearly hope he won’t get beat up by the bullies on the playground. The first bully Evolution 2.0 encountered out of the gate was Jerry Coyne, who admitted in the very first paragraph that he hadn’t actually read the book. Fortunately, none of Coyne’s criticisms were substantive; they actually reinforced the necessity of my book.

A watershed moment came 15 months after the book was launched, when the Royal Society hosted the “New Trends in Evolutionary Biology” conference in London. Up to that point, evolutionary theory was dominated by a clique of militant Neo-Darwinists who insisted that evolution is not goal-directed and that “natural selection is the only game in town.”

Scientists from the Third Way of Evolution group including James Shapiro, Eva Jablonka, Patrick Bateson and others insisted that the evidence had become overwhelming that living things actively participate in their own evolution; not just in standard “new species” evolution, but also in diseases and cancer. This completely reverses cause and effect in biology. It calls for an “Extended Synthesis” which is the standard term for the viewpoint Evolution 2.0 espouses.

Opponents attempted to cancel the 2016 Royal Society Evolution meeting by circulating a petition, but the conference pressed forward nevertheless. After that, the Neo-Darwinists fell silent. Why? Because to put it bluntly, Neo-Darwinism is no longer a defensible scientific theory. They could only embarrass themselves by persisting. Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and Daniel Dennett have all been offered opportunities to debate Denis Noble; all have declined.

Because evolutionary biology is no longer controlled by bullies, freedom to differ with the traditional view has greatly increased. This has altered the landscape. Only a few years ago, it was not uncommon for grad students and postdocs to say to me, “Um… I agree with a lot of your ideas, but to say so in public would damage my career prospects.” I hear that much less these days.

Since Evolution 2.0 was introduced, numerous books espousing related views have also become popular:

Dance to the Tune of Life: Biological Relativity by Denis Noble

COSMOSAPIENS by John Hands

Evolution: A View from the 21st Century by James Shapiro

Purpose and Desire by J. Scott Turner

The Music of Life by Denis Noble

Recordings and proceedings from the 2016 Royal Society Evolution Meeting

The Tangled Tree by David Quammen

Genome Chaos by Henry Heng

Frank Laukien, CEO of Bruker Corporation, is working on a new book called Natural Evolution 4.0: Feedback-Driven and Actively Accelerated Biological Evolution. Watch for it.

I’ve interviewed many of these fine people on the Evolution 2.0 Podcast.

“OK,” you say. “Good for you, Perry.. But… Why does this matter?

Here’s why Evolution 2.0 matters:

  1. We Still Haven’t Solved Cancer

Evolutionary theory directly informs practical, medical, life and death issues. Cancer is cells evolving out of control. Kenneth Pienta at Johns Hopkins University calls tumor metastasis “The Cancer Cambrian,” referring to the massive proliferation of new species 540 million years ago, called the Cambrian Explosion. This name is so descriptive because one species of cancer cell can become 1000 species of cancer cells in weeks, using the same evolutionary toolkit that generated the diversity on planet earth.

And if you think it’s hard to kill one species of cancer cell… try taking on 1000 species! This is why your sister-in-law starts chemo… two months later they tell her “your numbers are looking really great and your tumors have shrunk 75%”…

…then four months after that, you’re attending her funeral.

Columbia University Oncologist Azra Raza attests that misunderstandings of evolution have a great deal to do with the fact that Stage 3 and Stage 4 cancer patients are no better off now than in 1930.

The old version of evolution has blinded us to understanding cancer because it doesn’t make accurate predictions. We will never solve cancer until we replace the current model of evolution with a model that actually works.

We are proud to be the 501c3 umbrella for the Cancer and Evolution Symposium (www.CancerEvolution.org) organized by James Shapiro, Frank Laukien, Denis Noble, Henry Heng and myself, which will be held online October 14-16, 2020. This is an interdisciplinary meeting of experts from oncology, clinical research, evolutionary biology, chemistry, physics, engineering from some of the best institutions in the world including Harvard, Yale, MIT, Oxford, Arizona State, Johns Hopkins and MD Anderson.

  1. Genetics has been Upside Down for 50 Years

“Selfish Gene” and “genes determine everything” dogmas spurred optimism that the human genome project would spawn huge leaps in disease treatment and eliminate birth defects. While incredibly valuable, the human genome project has delivered far less than originally promised.

As Nobel Prize winner and geneticist Paul Nurse, former head of the Royal Society, says science has understated the importance of the cell in comparison to the gene. This is a pressing medical issue for everyone alive.

Do genes build cells? Yes… but cells also build genes. The cell is primary.

  1. We Still Don’t Understand Viruses!

Let’s not forget about the COVID-19 pandemic. At its heart is the fundamental question of how viruses evolve. Supposing we currently understand 5-10% of how animals, plants and cells evolve, we only understand 1-2% of how viruses evolve. We don’t know how viruses generate novel “orfan” proteins; we don’t know where viruses originally came from; and we don’t understand how various families of viruses originated.

Feverish debates about whether COVID was engineered in a lab; whether it’s OK to do “gain of function” experiments or not, and how SARS-COV-2 jumped from bats to humans (with perhaps other animals between) are all evolution questions. Most virologists are running with the assumption that these evolutionary changes happened purposelessly. I believe this is wrong, and as long as we’re working with that assumption, we’ll never crack the code on viruses.

  1. Life IS Purposeful

I grew weary of dogma and unfounded assertions that become religion-like, for no good reason. Evolution sits at the intersection of science and religion. And I firmly believe that even if you set theology aside, nature speaks for herself.

Is evolution a process of chance and blind chaos, as some famous scientists insist? Or are living things intentional? Do we need to redefine “evolution” to mean purposeful and adaptive?

These questions are not merely academic; they matter to our very civilization. If evolution requires ingenuity at the cellular level, and not merely chance and selection, this has sweeping implications for medicine, health care, and technology.

If purpose and intentionality are essential to life, that changes everything.

  1. Trashing the Earth

Our new understanding of evolution signals a moral responsibility toward the environment and toward each other. The only thing we’ll accomplish by denying it is to dehumanize ourselves and destroy our planet. I have no doubt that the prevailing “survival of the fittest” narrative pits man against the earth (and everything in it) by default. It is an absolutely loathsome philosophy.

And if science points to something beyond ourselves, then we can know for sure that we’re not just so many billiard balls banging around in the universe.

It means man’s search for meaning is not just blind groping, but a quest for something that is real.

Later on you can also expect to see new information and innovations in virus research and Artificial Intelligence.

During the next five years you will see Evolution 2.0 tackling very practical issues of medicine and applications.The Cancer & Evolution Symposium is the first such project.

Dear reader, much work remains to be done. Thank you so much for supporting the project. The next five years will be incredible, and I’m delighted to have your company in this adventure.

Perry Marshall

 

 

 

Download The First 3 Chapters of Evolution 2.0 For Free, Here – https://evo-2.org/3-free-chapters/

Where Did Life And The Genetic Code Come From? Can The Answer Build Superior AI? The #1 Mystery In Science Now Has A $10 Million Prize. Learn More About It, Here – https://www.herox.com/evolution2.0

2 Responses

  1. Mark Chenoweth says:

    Hey Perry,

    It’s been a while. Congrats.

    I was wondering if you have any clue what 3rd way folks would say about the evolution of the atlas moth with wings that look unmistakably like Cobra heads. Please google them if you haven’t. My wife and I were just looking at random images of nature and came across it. It really is absolutely astounding. Can your Swiss army knife explain this or do you suspect there are a lot of undiscovered mechanisms at work here?

    • Hi Mark,

      I think the Swiss Army Knife is a very crude, “crayon drawings on the science refrigerator” concept that just barely begins to capture the true nature of the evolutionary toolkit.

      I don’t think we’re anywhere close to genuinely explaining why, for example, nature is so consistently and astonishingly beautiful. (“Because God made it” – sure that is true but it still doesn’t tell us much about the inner structure of beauty or how things develop that way.)

      One blade of grass is 10,000 years ahead of any human technology. I think there are miles of undiscovered mechanisms. I would say we understand maybe 5% of “normal” evolution and perhaps 2% of virus evolution, so far.

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