Re: Is evolution really the central theory for all of biology?

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Wed Sep 21 2005 - 17:24:26 EDT

For me, the persuasion regarding the centrality of evolution lies not in
the plethora of micro-arguments, some portion of them forever ongoing
and in dispute, as long as one them does not in time turn out to be a
Instead, there are three, yea four sorta big-picture aspects of the
evolution picture that remain most persuasive for me.

The first is the elegant evolutionary power of the selection/survival
process in combination with the remarkable capacity to pass along
heritable characteristics to subsequent generations.

The second is lies in the fact that findings from several sciences
(paleontology, geology, astronomy, biology, etc.) can be laid alongside
each other and where they overlap, they tell non-contradicting stories
which are consistent with an evolutionary course of history. In this
regard, particularly telling is the relatively new flood of genomic
information, providing yet another fairly independent line of evidence
that is consistent with the evolutionary model derived from other sciences.

The third is that we can see rapid evolutionary changes among small and
short-lived living microscopic creatures. That permits a reasonable
extrapolation to evolution in larger and more complex beings, the only
requirement being longer time frames. I am completely baffled by any
distinction between the notions of microevolution and macroevolution,
given that only time is required for the micro-to-macro scaling and that
I don't find Scripture to require a young earth.

A fourth perspective is simply that I find no problem with theistic
evolution with God as the author of the processes. That of course is not
the same evolution as dismissed in some's views.

If I were to identify a fifth consideration, it would be that I do honor
the 2nd book of Creation as a (relatively) timeless and reliable witness
to something of itself, of its author, and of what we might be expected
to do and be.

As long as the arguments remain inconclusive about how to interpret the
a given snippet of the evidence outside my discipline or level of
knowledge, these big-picture perspectives suffice for me. Accordingly, I
accept that evolution is indeed a central, credible, and so far
unfalsified working hypothesis for at least certain aspects of biology.

That's how it works for me, not iron clad but sufficiently persuasive
for me at this point. Of course this need not be the case for others.


Cornelius Hunter wrote:

> Douglas and Pim:
> Douglas:
>> Cornelius,
>> Are you engaged in this debate with Terry and David for the sake of
>> critically evaluating epistemology as it relates to evolutionary
>> biology,
>> or do you in fact think that evolution did not take place? I'm just
>> wondering.
> My main point is that we need to be far more circumspect about
> evolution, both pre and post Darwin. Historically, the development and
> subsequent justification of evolution incorporated theological
> assumptions. For me, those assumptions are unorthodox. It also seems
> abundantly clear that the scientific claims of evolutionists are
> exagerrated and problematic. I am unaware of a single type or category
> of evidence for evolution that is compelling, yet we are told it is a
> fact. Something is wrong with this picture.
> Do I think evolution took place? I really don't know and when it comes
> to that level of speculation I really don't want to go there.
> Obviously the evidence is against it. And most damning, historically
> the movement is rooted in unorthodoxy. On the other hand, there is
> *some* evidence for evolution. Who knows, maybe God bridges the
> evidential problems and the residual legitimate evidences reflect the
> secondary causation that took place. This would be kind of a BB
> Warfield brand of evolution, which is unacceptable to evolutionists
> because it entails detectable and efficacious divine action.
> But for me such speculation is pretty non productive. What is far more
> important is to undertand the history of thought behind evolution and
> the science of biology. We need to get educated on this crucial issue
> rather than ignoring obvious facts or relying on the "experts."
>> I think you need to realize that once a theory has been established
>> as fact
>> (I use "fact" in the lowercase, understanding that all scientific
>> knowledge
>> is provisional on some level), every application and new investigations
>> involving that theory are not really constructed for the purpose of
>> testing
>> the theory, per se. For example, applications of general relativity to
>> understanding differences in space-time at different elevations on the
>> earth's surface or to charting the positions of stars are not
>> specifically
>> constructed as tests of the hypothesis "The theory of general
>> relativity is
>> true/false". However, when those applications of the theory "work" well,
>> those occurrences do rightly become additional "evidences" for the
>> theory.
> Yes, agreed. Good point and I do realize that. The evidential problems
> with evolution are far more serious than merely being retrodictions
> (which are perfectly legitimate in my view).
>> In the same way, all these data that Terry, David and others have been
>> describing are evidences in favor of evolution even though they may
>> appear
>> circular in the sense that they were obtained and analyzed assuming
>> evolution in the first place. It is valid and right that evolution
>> textbooks should list and describe all these kinds of data as
>> evidences for
>> evolution even thought they were not obtained by strict Popperian
>> constructions of the scientific method for testing evolution, per se.
> Let me give you a textbook example, pun intended. A well known
> prediction of evolution that has been falsified is that homologous
> structures should derive from homologous genes and embryonic
> development pathways. Similar designs, in cousin species, come from
> *different* genes and development pathways. Sadly, a very popular,
> current high school biology text cites homologous development pathways
> as *an evidence* for evolution. It could hardly be more misleading.
> The fact of the matter is that this is yet another prediction that has
> been falsified. Of course, the text is also writing from an
> evolution-is-true perspective, so there is a circularity to their
> discussion of evidences. The theory is true, so all observations must
> support the theory, one way or another.
>> I've said this before (and I'm sure it is not original with me), but
>> Darwin's theory of evolution required a specific form of inheritance to
>> work, and this requirement constituted a bold prediction that amounts
>> to a
>> Popperian test of evolution. No one had ever conceived of inheritance in
>> the manner predicted by Darwin, yet we later found (thanks to Mendel and
>> the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis of the 1930s) that inheritance works in
>> precisely the manner that allows for evolution to work. I think if one
>> thought about it, many such historical examples could be described.
> Actually this prediction was not quite so bold. Darwin was simply
> using the well known fact that populations contain some level of
> variation. In any case, if we want to evaluate how Darwin's notion
> fares with later findings, let's not stop at 1930. Even then it was
> well understood (though routinely ignored) that evolution had no
> explanation for how the Mendelian machine could have evolved. How
> remarkable, evolution somehow creates an intricate machine which, in
> turn, makes evolution possible. How clever nature is. Today, the
> details of this story are being filled in. Adaptational changes are
> somehow preprogrammed in a phenomonally complex adaptation machine.
> Small-scale changes for adaptation are not the result of a unguided,
> random machine. This hardly suggests Darwin had it right.
> --Cornelius
> Pim:
> I admire your steadfast faith and strong defense of your theory. And
> this is common amongst evolutionists. Very rarely can one find an
> evolutionist admitting to any sort of evidential problem. All the
> evidence supports the theory, and the theory is a fact. Consider this
> exchange:
>>> This is
>>> an unambiguous falsifier and, needless to say, was very surprising to
>>> evolutionists.
>> Surprising yes, falsifier... Until we understand UCE it seems a bit
>> early to reject a solid theory especially since data are hinting that
>> UCE's are not functionless. [...]
>> Let's not blow this out of proportions just because of our ignorance.
>> Such gaps have more than once shown to be poor places to hide one's
>> hopes.
> Can we imagine this sort of leniency being granted to, for instance,
> special creation? Of course, it goes without saying that future
> research may provide new surprises that overturns what seems obvious
> now. But this is not license to overturn a falsification. The theory
> has been falsified. You can patch the theory or you can hold out for
> future findings to overturn the falsification. That's fine, but that
> doesn't change the fact that right now, once again we have evidence
> against the theory. Unfortunately, evolutionists routinely respond to
> problems with this conservativism. Nothing is really an evidential
> problem, just a research problem. Is it any wonder people say
> evolution is not falsifiable?
> Or again,
>> I find your claim to be highly at odds with what science suggests how
>> this universe works. Complexity under variation and selection is hardly
>> surprising. And the more we learn about life, the more it seems to
>> support
>> evolutionary theory.
> Hardly surprising? Well I guess anything is possible at this point.
> The trilobite eye, an all-time feat of optimization is "hardly
> surprising." The DNA code, hemoglobin, echolocation, the brain, and a
> thousand other wonders are now "hardly surprising." This is not science.
> Or again,
>>> Evolution would be just fine if there was no such complexity increase,
>>> no extinctions, a nice clean gradual succession of species with ever
>>> so slight changes between each, consistently evolving species, and
>>> gradual diversity increase (or no diversity increase for that matter).
>>> None of these observations are predicted by evolution. They are
>>> accommodated.
>> Your point being?
> My point being that an observation cannot be held to be compelling
> evidence if the theory can accomodate a range of alternative
> observations.
> --Cornelius
Received on Wed Sep 21 17:25:56 2005

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