Thursday, 19 April 2012

Why You Can't Refute Evolution With Science.

Darwinian Evolution is probably the best supported of any scientific theory. Not only has it survived virtually intact as science has progressed in the intervening years since Wallace and Darwin first published their theory in 1859, but it has been strengthened by many discoveries undreamed of by them.

It came into a world which was assumed to be some 6000 years old in a Universe believed to the same age and to consist of Earth, the moon, the sun and planets and a few thousand stars. There was no known biological method by which the necessary information could be passed on from parent to offspring; there was no known agent which could change to produce the observable variability on which natural selection acts.

We did not know about Mendel's Laws of Inheritance; we did not know about genes or DNA or even about how male and female gametes unite to form a new individual in sexual reproduction.

Related land animals and plants appeared to be distributed in different continents and islands with no obvious ways in which they could have got there. We knew nothing of plate tectonics.

We knew nothing of protein structure or immunology or how enzymes worked. Biochemistry was in its infancy. We knew nothing of the genetic control of embryological development.

Although we had a few fossils we did not know what they were telling us. We did not know that there might even be some which showed a history of change over time because we did not know there had been change over time so why would anyone look for evidence of it? We did not even know that there had once been species which were now extinct. In fact, we believed the animals had always been with us as we see them today.

We were just becoming aware that Earth's geology was showing evidence of change over time; that it was not created as is. The Uniformitarians had proposed the then revolutionary idea that Earth and the universe were subject to natural laws which were responsible for the way things were, but this was one of the few example of people using science to question established Judeo-Christian and Islamic creationist dogma.

Since 1859 the sciences of geology, cosmology, chemistry, physics, physiology, genetics, archaeology, psychology, sociology and anthropology have undergone profound change and revision and few theories from 1859 remain intact. Even the Newtonian theory of gravity has been swept aside by Relativity which has changed our idea of space and time and the fabric of reality itself. The 'Law' of conservation of matter has given way to the law of conservation of energy. Quantum theory has replaced earlier theories of atomic structure and the nature of matter and energy.

Yet Darwinian evolutionary theory has not only survived but has been strengthened at every turn. Nothing has yet falsified it or even cast doubt on its basic principles. It was strengthened by Mendel's work and then by the discovery of Chromosomes and of DNA. The science of genetics has explained apparent paradoxes like altruism and explained how Natural Selection works on actual units of replicating information.

So fundamental has the idea of evolution of variable replicators in a selective environment become that we are now able to apply it to human history, to cultural development; to ethics; to the growth and evolution of religions, myths and superstitions and even to the development of science itself. Evolution explains how small differences can be accumulated selectively to give big change and how the appearance of design can be gained by a natural process.

We should now feel justified in using the fact of evolution to validate other science. Just as with the Laws of Thermodynamics, where we can feel as confident as we can be that if the science violates them the science is wrong, we should be able to say that if the science argues against the Theory of Evolution, the science is wrong.

We have a few recent examples:

It was once said that the universe and Earth were not old enough for all the necessary changes to have occurred to give the present diversity of life. We now know it was. We should have known it must be because the fact of evolution and the observable diversity meant it must be. Biology should have validated geology and cosmology, not vice versa.

It was once believed the sun was young because otherwise it would have used up all its energy by now. We now know it is not and that we had not understood the physics. We should have known we had the wrong physics because evolution told us the solar system was very old.

It was once believed the continents were more or less fixed on the surface of Earth and fanciful notions were thought up to explain earthquakes, mountains and volcanoes. We now know they are not and that plate tectonics explains mountains, earthquakes and volcanoes. It also explains the distribution of related species of land animals and plants. We should have known from evolution that the continents must have moved apart after the common ancestors of related species had evolved.

What other tricks are we missing because evolution should be telling us that the other theory is wrong? There are now many people who are prepared to say the theory of evolution should be telling us the notion of special creation by magic by a magic man in the sky is disproved by evolution of course, but that idea was never more than an infantile fantasy and should not be regarded as a science to be falsified in the first place. Evolution is of course perfectly capable of explaining the evolution of the notion of gods and of the evolution and diversification of religions.

Are we in a position yet to say, just as when you tell me your religion disagrees with science I can say that this is because your religion is wrong, when you tell me that your 'science' disagrees with evolution I can confidently say this is because your 'science' is wrong or you do not understand the science and/or evolution, and if your theory of information tells you that evolution is wrong then your theory of information is wrong or is being misapplied or you do not understand evolution.

If the Darwinian Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is not yet that fundamental a law of science, what more does it need to do to be one?

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  1. Good article, but absolutely full of typos and preposition fails. Please edit.

  2. No typos found but thank you for your contribution,

    Did you not have anything worthwhile to say?

    1. "it's" instead of "its".

      But I agree it was ridiculous nitpicking. And the correct use of the word is "failure", not "fails", Anonymous.

      I should point out that the "magic man in the sky" is a hypothesis and should not be dignified by the term theory.

  3. Technically it's not a "scientific law" because there really isn't any math to it, like there is with the Law of Universal Gravitation (which is just the math behind the Theory of Gravity).

    Science doesn't really go for "laws" like math does.

  4. I really like that first pic - of the tree of life - but the resolution is too low to read the writing.


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