Re: Evolution's Imperative (was Def'n of Science)

Vernon Jenkins (
Wed, 10 Mar 1999 23:36:29 +0000

Greetings Brian:

Thanks for your follow-up.

I assume that, by now, you will have read my response to Kevin re
falsification, and clearly there would be little point in my referring
again to the broader issues. Let me therefore address the specifics you

> Now, it seems to me that an attempt to falsify evolution shows
> that evolution is falsifiable. Unless, of course, you can provide
> some argument as to why such attempts were illegitimate.

Before the true nature of the theory had been fully appreciated I
suggest this was a perfectly natural creationist reponse, and hardly a
ratification of evolution's falsifiability.

> So, I'm trying to figure out what the point is. Let me ask you
> this. Suppose many attempts have been made to falsify a particular
> theory and that all have failed. Do you count this as evidence
> that the theory is "...incapable of ever being falsified"?

No. We should be able to work out a falsification scenario (if one
exists) before any such attempt is made.

> You quote Ian Stewert later as saying "The more a theory fails to be
> falsified when confronted by experiment, the more likely it is to be true..."
> Do you agree? This is what I had in mind by pointing out the attempts
> to falsify evolution in the past

Yes, I do agree - but only in respect of a genuinely scientific theory.

> OK, let me try another idea. From what you say later I get the
> impression that you think that enough evidence has been accumulated
> to falsify evolution but that people are ignoring this evidence
> because of some bias or whatever. Evolution then is unfalsifiable
> for these people, they will believe it no matter what? OK, once
> again this would be a reasonable use of the word unfalsifiable but
> once again would not be what Popper meant by the word.

I believe you are getting closer to the mark here. Kevin presented us
with a number of falsification scenarios. (Perhaps Popper had some such
idea in mind when he gave evolution his blessing.) However, all are
illusory, I believe, for the reasons given in my earlier posting. The
ultimate scenario is a universe teeming with life - a logical
consequence of Darwinian thinking. This expectation (clearly
unfalsifiable) is the atheist's last resort.

> Popper says the theory has been well tested. How is this a failure
> to apply his principles?

I have not read this particular book. Did he elaborate on what he meant
by 'well tested'?

> I would caution you against the argument from silence. It is
> very weak.


> Again, I invite you to re-read the quote from Popper. No where
> does he suggest that evolution be accepted because of consensus.
> He says instead that it is well tested. Thus he did not, as
> matter of fact, seek an alternative criteria for evolution.

I accept what you say, of course, but wouldn't you have supposed that
peer pressure had a hand in it somewhere?

Kind regards,