Re: [asa] Predictive Power: Astronomy vs. Evolution

From: Don Nield <>
Date: Wed Dec 06 2006 - 16:53:24 EST

Moorad is correct that the predictive power of Newtonian theory is not
the same as that of evolutionary theory, but that is irrelevant. One
cannot impose an arbitrary criterion for the level of predictive power.
In this context *any* predictive power is sufficient. Evolutionary
theory predicts that a certain class of phenomena (which famously
includes rabbit fossils in Cambrian rocks) will never be observed . That
is enough for the present argument.

Alexanian, Moorad wrote:

>I do not think the predictive power of Newtonian gravitational theory is
>the same as that of evolutionary theory. In physics there are
>variational principles, e.g. Hamilton's variational principle in
>mechanics, Fermat' principle in geometrical optics, that lead to
>dynamical equation that can be solved for the motion of particles and
>that light travels between two points along a path that the time taken
>is the least. These principles are not vacuous but are based on models
>that lead to explicit results. I view evolutionary theory as a
>variational principle governed by the requirement that "organisms will
>adapt to environmental and competitive pressures." However, such
>requirements do not lead to any specific dynamics. Hence, the predictive
>power of evolutionary theory is not there as in Newtonian gravitation.
>-----Original Message-----
>From: [] On
>Behalf Of Ted Davis
>Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006 1:57 PM
>Subject: Re: [asa] Predictive Power: Astronomy vs. Evolution
>>>>"David Opderbeck" <> 12/06/06 12:56 PM
>Second, it seems to me that evolutionary theory does make some general
>predictions. The basic one is that organisms will adapt to
>and competitive pressures. This is a very general prediction, but it
>specific application in areas like disease resistance. This kind of
>prediction may not have the granularity of predictions about the
>of the planets based on Newton's laws of motion and gravity, but that is
>just a matter of degree, not of kind.
>The author of the original argument didn't really address my first
>As to my second point, he accused me of dishonesty or ignorance. ID, he
>said, recognizes the type of microevolution I described, so that doesn't
>count as a prediction based on evolutionary theory. After some further
>exchanges about this accusation of dishonesty, I was banned from the
>So here is my question for this group: was my instinct about this
>comparison of the predictive power of astronomy and evolution right?
>there better ways to frame / address this argument?
>Ted replies:
>My sense is that you were dead on target, David. I would add the
>prediction that "transitional forms" would be found as more of the
>record is revealed. Darwin specifically predicted that, and he appears
>have been correct. This argument seems to defy closure, of course;
>time a good candidate for a transitional form appears, all of a sudden
>creates two new "gaps" to be closed rather than filling an existing one.
>so it seems, as we all know. When a position -- that there must be
>in the fossil record -- is not falsifiable, it is not falsifiable.
>However, there are many others on this list far more qualified than me
>respond to your comments. I don't know why microevolution doesn't count
>a prediction for Darwin's theory; the fact that ID (and YEC) both accept
>simply means that they agree that Darwin predicted at least some
>right! I wasn't there and don't know why you got tossed, but I got
>from a similar list once myself before I even had a chance to respond to
>those who did the tossing. This issue can be pretty hot, obviously, and
>doesn't tend to bring out the best in people....

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Received on Wed Dec 6 16:54:27 2006

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