From: Dr. Blake Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sun Dec 01 2002 - 11:19:40 EST
First caveat -- I have no problem whatsoever with
Second caveat -- I think that "evolution" is an
imprecise term that encompasses a lot of data from a
vast array of biological science. In that sense, it
is not a theory or a fact -- neo-Darwinianism,
punctuated equilibrium, and lamarckianism -- are all
theories regarding how evolution occurs. Data support
or do not support those understandings of the
mechanisms. Evolution becomes a broad term that
overarches a set of facts -- genetic similarities
among species, a fossil record which displays changes
in types, numbers, and shapes of species, etc.
However, evolution, is so broad that it, in and of
itself, is not falsifiable. This does not make it
non-scientific. But talking about "evolution" as such
is not particularly useful, because evolution does not
specify mechanisms or causal patterns, simply a
general proposition that encompasses data. The
underlying theories are constantly refined in light of
new data. As described below, each of the
"falsifications" proposed can be worked in or
dismissed as need be. Of course, that doesn't mean I
think biological science good science, I do. It also
doesn't mean that I think "evolution" occurs, because
I also think it does.
--- Michael Roberts <email@example.com>
> Evolution is easily falsifiable.
> 1.) Find human fossils in the mid-Tertiary or
With tongue only slightly in cheek.
First response would be to claim there was error in
the dating or otherwise discredit the results.
Assuming widespread confirmatory fossils were found,
the next step is to encompass this into existing
knowledge of the fossil record, resulting in lots of
articles and books and research grants on a reanalysis
of the fossil record and development of life on earth.
The quest would immediately begin for hominids before
the mid-Tertiary or earlier, etc., etc.
> 2.) Find palaeozoic mammals
> 3) Precambrian vertebrates.
These are just variations on no. 1. Essentially the
response is the same. Assuming that the presence of
such "more advanced" creatures at an earlier time
could not be explained and remained anomalous, the
answer of course would be that the fossil record is
always incomplete and we are likely to find precursors
to these animals if we had a complete fossil record...
> 4) A young or a youngish earth i.e less than 100
> million - consider what
> Kelvin nearly did to evolution after 1860
This just requires an assumption that the rate of
mutation is faster than we necessarily believe. Good
evidence shows that it does vary over time, so not a
> 5)0 our DNA more like insects than rats
More apt, that our DNA does not share any similar
features with other creatures -- this would put a
crimp in common descent, but I suppose we could always
hypothesize and independent line of descent to man
that did not involve any branching that survived at
any stage during the line of descent.
This challenge is where we actually get into something
that is more empirical and thus seemingly scientific
than the other assertions as to what would falsify
> We could go on.
Yes, indeed. But some are less troublesome than
others. The underlying hypotheses regarding how
evolution occurs, like any scientific hypotheses, are
flexible and accomodate new data more or less easily.
Biological laws certainly are not as rigid as laws of
physics or chemistry. The phenonemna are more
complex. Biology has always been a "softer" science,
and hence these kinds of concerns. But general
relativity is an approximation to reality. Hypotheses
for how evolution works are approximations to reality.
The game that is played on both sides is one of
semantics rather than trying to portray the status of
> Hasn't anyone got the skill to falsify evolution on
> these points
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