Lynn Margulis Quotes:
Darwin was wrong, creationist critics are right

Famous evolutionist Lynn Margulis (1938–2011), formerly married to Carl Sagan, is most famous for the faulty endosymbiotic hypothesis of origin of eukaryotes, for which she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. But in a wide-ranging interview1 not long before she died, she was skeptical that neo-Darwinism—random mutations plus natural selection—was the right explanation for evolution. She also pointed out that many disease germs are the result of devolution not evolution, in that they have lost a huge amount of their original genetic information.

“This is the issue I have with neo-Darwinists: They teach that what is generating novelty is the accumulation of random mutations in DNA, in a direction set by natural selection. If you want bigger eggs, you keep selecting the hens that are laying the biggest eggs, and you get bigger and bigger eggs. But you also get hens with defective feathers and wobbly legs. Natural selection eliminates and maybe maintains, but it doesn’t create.

“I was taught over and over again that the accumulation of random mutations led to evolutionary change—led to new species [sic— we would say ‘kinds’]. I believed it until I looked for evidence.”

“What you’d like to see is a good case for gradual change from one species to another in the field, in the laboratory, or in the fossil record—and preferably in all three. Darwin’s big mystery was why there was no record at all before a specific point [dated to 542 million years ago by modern researchers], and then all of a sudden in the fossil record you get nearly all the major types of animals. The paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould studied lakes in East Africa and on Caribbean islands looking for Darwin’s gradual change from one species of trilobite or snail to another. What they found was lots of back-and-forth variation in the population and then—whoop—a whole new species. There is no gradualism in the fossil record.”

“The critics [of evolution], including the creationist critics, are right about their criticism. It’s just that they’ve got nothing to offer but intelligent design or ‘God did it.’ They have no alternatives that are scientific. ”

“Both the Treponema that cause syphilis and the Borrelia that cause Lyme disease contain only a fifth of the genes they need to live on their own. Related spirochetes that can live outside by themselves need 5,000 genes, whereas the spirochetes of those two diseases have only 1,000 in their bodies. The 4,000 missing gene products needed for bacterial growth can be supplied by wet, warm human tissue. This is why both the Lyme disease Borrelia and syphilis Treponema are symbionts—they require another body to survive.”


  1. Teresi, D., Discover Interview: Lynn Margulis says she’s not controversial, she’s right: It’s the neo-Darwinists, population geneticists, AIDS researchers, and English-speaking biologists as a whole who have it all wrong, Discover, April 2011. Note, emphasis and links added, and we don’t endorse her HIV denialism that first appeared in this interview. Return to text.

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