Re: Testing in historical science

Keith B Miller (
Mon, 17 Nov 1997 21:52:42 -0600 (CST)

>All the successes of physics, both in explaining nature and the resulting
>technology, have nothing to do with the origin of the universe. Isn't that
>precisely the same in biology, geology, etc. vis a vis evolutionary theory?
>Besides studying the history of man itself, is there really any specific
>discovery in those areas that could not have been made without positing
>common descent?

I really am not sure what you are getting at here. You can always have a
bunch of obervations without a coherent theory to hold them together. In
historical geology and biology, evolution is that theory. In recent years
there has been increasing focus on the integration of observations from
different fields into more comprehensive models for global change in Earth
history. For example: the Earth's climate is effected by ocean chemistry,
weathering rates, transpiration rates (water loss from plants), atmospheric
composition, surface reflectivity, etc. All these factors are directly
impacted by the Earth's biosphere. As a result, the evolution of that
biosphere would have had a climatic impact. Such effects of an evolving
biosphere can been recognized in the geologic record. The change in life
on land and in the oceans also affected a wide range of other features of
the geologic record including sedimentary structures in deposited
sediments, sediment composition (rock lithologies), soil development,
isotopic composition, etc.

Again evolution provides a coherent explanatory framework for understanding
Earth history. It also generates testable predictions for what to expect
in the fossil record, and it has correctly predicted many critical fossil


Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506