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Mae-Wan Ho

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Mae-Wan Ho (November 12, 1941–March 24, 2016) was a geneticist known for her criticism of the modern evolutionary synthesis and genetic engineering.


Ho received a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1967 from Hong Kong University, was Postdoctoral Fellow in Biochemical Genetics, University of California San Diego, from 1968 to 1972, Senior Research Fellow in Queen Elizabeth College, Lecturer in Genetics (from 1976) and Reader in Biology (from 1985) in the Open University, and since retiring in June 2000 Visiting Professor of Biophysics in Catania University, Sicily. Ho was a co-founder and director of the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS), an "interest" group that campaigns against what it sees as unethical uses of biotechnology. The group published about climate change and GMOs but also about homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, and water memory.[1] The institute in question also happens to be on the Quackwatch list of questionable organizations[2] and has been critcized by David ColquhounWikipedia for promoting pseudoscience.[3]


Ho rejected the neo-Darwinian synthesis instead advocating a form of non-Darwinian evolution. Her theory of evolution was based on epigeneticWikipedia factors.[4]

According to Ho, when studying biochemistry she wanted to know the definition of life, but was unable to find it:

So I went into biochemistry thinking I would find the answer there. But it was very dull because biochemistry then was about cutting up and grinding up everything, separating, purifying. Nothing to tell you about what life is about.

Biology as a whole was studying dead, pinned specimens. There was nothing that answered the question, what is biological organization? What makes organisms tick? What is being alive? I especially detested neo-Darwinism because it was the most mind-numbing theory that purports to explain anything and everything by “selective advantage”, competition and selective advantage.

I spent a lot of time criticizing neo-Darwinism until I got bored. What neo-Darwinism leaves out is the whole of chemistry, physics, and mathematics, all science in fact. You don't even need any physiology or developmental biology if everything can be explained in terms of selective advantage and a gene for any and every character, real or imaginary.[5]

Starting with a paper in 1979 that was later expanded into a book with Peter Saunders and other scientists, Ho published Beyond Neo-Darwinism: An Introduction to the New Evolutionary Paradigm (1984) which claimed that the basic neo-Darwinian framework consisting of natural selection of random mutations is insufficient to account for evolution as selection is limited and cannot account for the origin of new species. Instead Ho, Saunders and a group of other scientists advocated the view that the "dynamical structure of the epigenetic system itself, in its interaction with the environment, is the source of non-random variations which direct evolutionary change" and that a new paradigm shift in evolution has occurred which involves studying the dynamics of the epigenetic system and its response to the environment.[6]

Ho is a signatory to A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.


Ho since the 1980s has written that a new paradigm shift for evolution has occurred which has moved beyond neo-Darwinism. In a review of her book Beyond Neo-Darwinism, (1984) John Maynard SmithWikipedia denied the paradigm shift and criticized the ideas of Ho and her colleagues.[7]

Marvalee H. Wake has written that Ho and her colleagues have written some interesting material which offers an expanded approach for studying the processes in evolution but in places have set up straw man arguments in their criticism of natural selection.[8]

Because of her criticism of neo-Darwinism, Ho is usually quote mined by creationists.[9]


  • Mae-Wan Ho. Beyond Neo-Darwinism: An Introduction to the New Evolutionary Paradigm (1984).
  • Mae-Wan Ho. The Rainbow and the Worm, the Physics of Organisms (1998).
  • Mae-Wan Ho. Genetic engineering: dream or nightmare? Turning the tide on the brave new world of bad science and big business (2000).
  • Mae-Wan Ho. Living with the Fluid Genome (2003).
  • Mae-Wan Ho. Sam Burcher, Rhea Gala and Vejko Velkovic. Unraveling AIDS: the independent science and promising alternative therapies (2005).

External links[edit]