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The Tautology Question Revisited

Stephen L. Talbott tackles the tautology question over at The New Atlantis:

Along with his anecdote about the wolf, Bethell argued that evolutionary theory based on natural selection (survival of the fittest) is vacuous: it states that, first, evolution can be explained by the fact that, on the whole, only the fitter organisms survive and achieve reproductive success; and second, what makes an organism fit is the fact that it survives and successfully reproduces. This is the long-running and much-debated claim that natural selection, as an explanation of the evolutionary origin of species, is tautological — it cannot be falsified because it attempts no real explanation. It tells us: the kinds of organisms that survive and reproduce are the kinds of organisms that survive and reproduce.

It happens that Bethell was savaged by Stephen Jay Gould in 1976 for making this claim. Gould pointed out that Darwin and his successors hypothesized independent conditions — “engineering criteria,” as biologists like to say — for the assessment of fitness. These conditions may facilitate and explain reproductive success, but do not merely equate to it. In other words, the concept of fitness need not rely only on the concept of survival (or reproductive success).

However, the appeal to engineering criteria in the abstract does not by itself get us very far. As philosopher Ronald Brady reminded us when discussing this dispute in an essay entitled “Dogma and Doubt,” what matters for judging a proposed scientific explanation is not only the specification of non-tautological criteria for testing it, but also our ability to apply the test meaningfully. If we have no practical way to sum up and assess the fitness or adaptive value of the traits of an organism apart from measurements of survival rates (evolutionary success), then on what basis can we use the idea of survival of the fittest (natural selection) to explain evolutionary success — as opposed to using it merely as a blank check for freely inventing explanations of the sort commonly derided as “just-so stories.”

Some philosophers and evolutionary biologists have long referred with a note of patronizing scorn to anyone who brings up the “tautology problem,” as if the reference betrays hopeless ignorance of a problem long ago solved. For example, Michael Ruse, reviewing a book by Philip Kitcher, could already refer in 1984 to the “hoary old chestnut” about tautology, and then (in sympathy with Kitcher) dismiss the claim as “ridiculous.” After all, he writes, “Could generations of evolutionists really have been deceived into thinking they were doing empirical studies, when they spent hours crouched over fruit-flies in the lab, or weeks tramping through the woods looking at butterflies, snails, and finches? A tautology requires no such study.”

But what is really ridiculous is to suggest that empirical work, simply by virtue of being empirical work, offers a proper test of any particular theory. Certainly the work of evolutionary biologists has brought us many wonderful insights into the lives of organisms — insights of the sort that were being gained long before Darwin. But such insights provide a test of the theory that the origin of species can be adequately explained by natural selection of the fittest organisms only if they do in fact provide a test. Simply refusing to address the question does no one any good. (The dismissive attitude exemplified by Ruse continues into our own day. As a response to it, Brady’s essays remain relevant and illuminating.)

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22 Responses to The Tautology Question Revisited

  1. The tautology problem is very real. It is frankly disappointing to see so many critics of evolutionary theory shy away from it. The just-so stories come up all the time and are largely based on the tautological formulation, and it is absolutely appropriate to point out when this circular reasoning is being used.

    Gould is correct that independent criteria could be used to ascertain fitness and thus avoid the tautology problem, but that is an exceedingly difficult task and our knowledge is so limited at this stage that the only way we can possibly ascertain if our engineering criteria are correct is to see which organisms in fact survive. Which means we are back to the same circular assessment.

    Furthermore, if we have detailed engineering criteria for ascertaining which organisms will survive, then we can make assessments based on engineering alone — without invoking some kind of broad “survival of the fittest” notion.

    Perhaps most importantly, survival of the fittest, whether tautological or not, tells us precisely nothing about the arrival of the fittest — i.e., how the engineering criteria came to be realized in the organism in the first place.

  2. Besides the ‘tautology problem’ of natural selection, whatever survives, survives) as a explanatory circle, there is also what I find to be the devastating ‘princess and the pea’ problem pointed out by Dr. John Sanford, at the 8:14 minute mark, of this following video,,,

    Genetic Entropy – Dr. John Sanford – Evolution vs. Reality – video
    http://vimeo.com/35088933

    ,,,In which Dr. Sanford points out ‘selection’ acts at the coarse level of the organism and yet the vast majority of mutations have effects that are only ‘slightly detrimental’ and are far below the power of selection to remove from genomes before they spread throughout the population.

    Further notes:

    Evolution Vs Genetic Entropy – Andy McIntosh – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4028086/

    Using Computer Simulation to Understand Mutation Accumulation Dynamics and Genetic Load:
    Excerpt: We apply a biologically realistic forward-time population genetics program to study human mutation accumulation under a wide-range of circumstances.,, Our numerical simulations consistently show that deleterious mutations accumulate linearly across a large portion of the relevant parameter space.
    http://bioinformatics.cau.edu......aproof.pdf
    MENDEL’S ACCOUNTANT: J. SANFORD†, J. BAUMGARDNER‡, W. BREWER§, P. GIBSON¶, AND W. REMINE
    http://mendelsaccount.sourceforge.net/

    The GS (genetic selection) Principle – David L. Abel – 2009
    ABSTRACT: The GS (Genetic Selection) Principle states that biological selection must occur at the nucleotide-sequencing molecular-genetic level of 3’5′ phosphodiester bond formation. After-the-fact differential survival and reproduction of already-living phenotypic organisms (ordinary natural selection) does not explain polynucleotide prescription and coding. All life depends upon literal genetic algorithms. Even epigenetic and “genomic” factors such as regulation by DNA methylation, histone proteins and microRNAs are ultimately instructed by prior linear digital programming. Biological control requires selection of particular configurable switch-settings to achieve potential function. This occurs largely at the level of nucleotide selection, prior to the realization of any integrated biofunction. Each selection of a nucleotide corresponds to the setting of two formal binary logic gates. The setting of these switches only later determines folding and binding function through minimum-free-energy sinks. These sinks are determined by the primary structure of both the protein itself and the independently prescribed sequencing of chaperones. The GS Principle distinguishes selection of existing function (natural selection) from selection for potential function (formal selection at decision nodes, logic gates and configurable switch-settings).
    http://www.bioscience.org/2009.....lltext.htm

  3. “Along with his anecdote about the wolf, Bethell argued that evolutionary theory based on natural selection (survival of the fittest) is vacuous: it states that, first, evolution can be explained by the fact that, on the whole, only the fitter organisms survive and achieve reproductive success; and second, what makes an organism fit is the fact that it survives and successfully reproduces.

    Seeing if it survives is how you TEST an organism to see if its various features make it fit. Think of a dragster – you put in a bigger engine, a supercharger and fuel injection. Then you take it to the drag strip. If it wins the race, then the engine, supercharger and fuel injection made it fitter. If not, they didn’t.

  4. Survival of the fittest.
    How do you know it’s fit?
    By “seeing if it survives”, says dmullenix.
    If it survives, it’s a survivor.

    Survival of the survivors.

    How is that NOT a tautology, dmullenix?

  5. Talbott is such a good writer on these topics, glad to see him being given a shout-out at UD. Check out everything he has written in this series (all at New Atlantis).

    Going a little OT, but relevant to the blog, Jerry Coyne has just done an interview with Alex Tsakiris over at the latter’s Skeptiko podcast. The topic is ‘Jerry Coyne sees no connection between Consciousness Research and Evolutionary Biology’! I kid you not.

    http://www.skeptiko.com/161-ou.....rry-coyne/

    You can listen to it or even read the whole transcript at the link.

    Notable comments from Coyne in response to Tsakiris:

    ..Again, I don’t understand why you keep trying to connect evolution with free will. Free will is, I believe, an illusion that we have that we can somehow affect the workings of our brain and free them from the laws of physics. My answer to that is no, we can’t arrange the subject of the laws of physics because they’re material entities.

    ..The feeling that we have free will, which of course we all have, we all have that feeling of agency. Whether or not that’s proactive evolution or whether it’s an epiphenomena or anything like that is something that I don’t know. None of us know the answer to that question.

    The interview with Coyne includes his usual harebrained digs you can see coming a mile off. Re Michael Flannery he has this to say:

    First of all, the guy you describe as a Wallace scholar, he’s an Intelligent Design Creationist. He publishes at the Discovery Institute website. He’s not described there as a Wallace scholar. He’s described as a historian of science who has written a book about Wallace, so okay, let’s just get that straight.

    It gets really feisty between Tsakiris and Coyne in that interview. And remember Tsakiris isn’t even an ID supporter!

    Coyne is as Coyne does.

  6. dmullenix,

    Organisms survive for many reasons and not all do so because they are more fit than others.

    Think of two identical dragsters- the driver will make the difference or the conditions or any number of other variables.

    Natural selection is a result, it doesn’t do anything.

  7. “Seeing if it survives is how you TEST an organism to see if its various features make it fit. Think of a dragster – you put in a bigger engine, a supercharger and fuel injection. Then you take it to the drag strip. If it wins the race, then the engine, supercharger and fuel injection made it fitter. If not, they didn’t.”

    But you don’t actually either see the modifications, nor watch the race. All you have is one dragster that goes, and because it exists, it must be the one that won a race some time in the past, and that must be because of its combination of features. Unless, of course, it’s because a meteorite totalled all the other dragsters.

  8. you put in a bigger engine’

    OK, I’ll play along,, and exactly where is this more analogous to neo-darwinism and not to intelligent design???

  9. 9

    dmullenix, Joe has well summarized the point of the post. It is obvious to us that the bigger engine gave the dragster more speed, but just here is where your analogy breaks down. With the dragster we have an evaluation criterion that is independent of the result (bigger engines obviously produce faster dragsters). With organisms we do not.

    As Talbott points out in the article, any particular trait in an organism may — or may not — increase fitness depending on the circumstances. That is why “fitness” is a very slippery concept. For that reason, the only way we “know” that a trait increased the fitness of the orgamism is that it survived and reproduced. But we knew it survived and reproduced already. Thus, the tautology.

  10. It’s a tautology in practice of not by the letter of the theory. This is demonstrated every time that fossils and phylogenetic hierarchies are cited as evidence of the processes of evolution at work. Billions upon billions of instances of natural selection are assumed in a single sentence on the basis that each fossil, each element in the hierarchy, and even every extinct species exists and/or existed, and therefore must have been selected.

    Look at any just-so narrative – the mammalian ear, for example. It pays lip service to natural selection by reminding us that the variation between one fossil and the next would have been beneficial and therefore was selected, which is tautological because every living thing ever observed is comprised almost entirely of features which are beneficial for it. But in reality they sidestep and thereby assume natural selection by ignoring it on the level at which it is supposed to actually operate, selection of genes, as opposed to visible changes from one fossil to the next which consist of an unknown number of unknown genetic differences.

    If natural selection is not assumed and therefore tautological then why is it missing from every single evolutionary narrative?

  11. There are so many things that have to do with survival: sudden weather events, natural disasters, number of predators, how many other prey happen to be around, whether you were asleep, whether you are distracted, whether the thing you ate happened to be carrying disease, etc. So much of this is just dumb luck and so much of this has nothing to do with making the organism more “fit” in the long run in its particular environment.

    Oh sure, no-one disputes that if an organism is more adapted to its environment it will tend to survive, stastically speaking, more often than its less adapted siblings. But what does it mean to be better adapted to one’s environment? We’re simply restating the tautology in different words.

    dmullenix is right that we could, in principle, look at all of an organism’s characteristics, understand what everything does, analyze all the factors in the environment and their specific influence, and then make a prediction beforehand about fitness in the environment.

    But this is not what happens. Partly this is no-one’s fault. We simply don’t understand organisms well enough to do the analysis. We simply don’t understand everything about environments to do the analysis. So we are left to gaze around in nature after the fact and note that certain organisms survived and proclaim that they must have been more fit than those that didn’t. I can’t tell you how many reports, papers, and news stories I’ve seen that tout a wonderful adaptation or a wonderful survival advantage, because, well, gee, the organism survived after all didn’t it?

    Look, it’s OK to observe nature and events after the fact — we do it all the time. Further, if we are able to objectively ascertain the organism and its environment and determine that the survival wasn’t due to a fluke event or dumb luck we might even be justified in saying that the organism is well adapted to its environment. We can even note that some organisms survived while others didn’t. And we could label this result “survival of the fittest”. But let’s then recognize that all we have done is apply a label to the after-the-fact result of a process we have not fully identified and which we scarcely understand. Let’s not trick ourselves into thinking that we have some kind of meaningful principle that can help us make predictions for the future or guide our thinking about specific organisms and specific characteristics in specific environments.

  12. Slightly tangential, but I should add here . . .

    Darwin’s whole idea of slight successive changes leading to fitness and survival is really between a logical rock and a hard spot. The idea is that the changes are extremely slight, almost imperceptible at times (Darwin referred to the “slightest differences of structure or constitution”). And yet, at the very same time, the changes have to be large enough to actually confer a survival advantage that is significant enough to statistically overcome all the other vagaries of the species and its environment in order to become fixed in the population. We’re talking real survival advantages here, not minor fluctuations and variations that are typical in a population.

    So which is it? Are the changes slight and almost imperceptible, as Darwin proposed, or are they large and significant enough to actually confer a survival advantage that can get fixed in the population, like Goldschmidt’s ‘hopeful monster’? Evolutionists like to have their cake and eat it to, but there is a real tension between these two concepts. Only by appealing to concepts like ‘drift’ and ‘neutral evolution’ is the hope kept alive that “slight, successive variations” can hang around and accumulate until, suddenly and with triumphant trumpets blaring we imagine, the changes are significant enough to actually do something; but on closer inspection, drift and neutral evolution don’t help much either.

    Natural selection is therefore in the unenviable position of having to select those changes that provide a real, meaningful competitive advantage, when in fact most of the changes, as evident in the real world and as acknowledged by Darwin, are insignificant. Darwin’s faith, however, was unwavering, and he proposed a solution to this conundrum by painting natural selection as a near-benevolent force, much wiser and more omnipotent than our limited faculties and “immeasurably superior to man’s feeble efforts.” Natural selection, Darwin proposed, was “daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good . . .”

    Despite Darwin’s literary skills, however, this description of natural selection is but a metaphor, and the fact remains that natural selection is logically limited to selecting changes that are significant enough to actually provide a survivability advantage.

  13. 13

    This is one of the reasons Darwinists can say with a straight face that their theory explains every trait and the opposite of that trait with equal alacrity. A bird has a camouflaged feather pattern – that increased fitness by reducing its profile to predators. Another bird has a bright red feather pattern one can see from a mile away – that increased fitness too by making it more attractive to potential mates.

    Darwinists can point to any trait and the opposite of that trait and make up just so stories about how the trait increased fitness when in fact, as the example shows, any given trait can be both “good” and “bad” from a survival perspective depending on the circumstances. And how do they know a trait is “good” overall? It is most assuredly NOT because they know independently of the survival of the organism that the trait increased fitness. They “know” it increased fitness only because the organism survived. Thus, again, the tautology.

  14. dmullenix is right that we could, in principle, look at all of an organism’s characteristics, understand what everything does, analyze all the factors in the environment and their specific influence, and then make a prediction beforehand about fitness in the environment.

    It’s a interesting challenge. First of all, map all the available alleles of all the 20K+ genes to all the many more individual characteristics they produce. Then discover which ones are actually expressed in each individual. Then do a rating on all the characteristics in all the variant phenotypes and divide a loading system to score them in combination. Then simply make your prediction based on the highest score.

    And Bob’s your uncle – as easy as changing the engine on a hotrod. Though you’d have to repeat it a few times to weed out ther accidental variables like your weather events and natural disasters.

    But good science is about good predictions, and hard work never hurt anybdoy.

  15. There is another old tautology in Darwinism. Any objection to the theory is castigated as an “argument from incredulity”.

    The argument from incredulity claim raises three issues:

    1. What’s wrong with incredulity per se? If I feel that an argument lacks a credible basis, then there is nothing epistemologically wrong with believing it to be not credible.

    2. Not finding Darwinism to be credible is not an “argument” anyway. The burden of the argument is on the person positing the theory, not on the one that finds it unbelievable. To find it unbelievable is not an argument, it’s just a statement that the person making the argument for Darwinism didn’t make a satisfactory case. Darwinists effectively want to say, “Prove to me it is not true”. Of course no one can prove a negative, so Darwinism is not falsifiable on this reasoning.

    3. The tautology of the “argument from incredulity” claim is obvious. Darwinists are in other words saying, “You don’t believe in our theory just because you find it unbelievable”.

  16. 16

    Barry,

    This is one of the reasons Darwinists can say with a straight face that their theory explains every trait and the opposite of that trait with equal alacrity. A bird has a camouflaged feather pattern – that increased fitness by reducing its profile to predators. Another bird has a bright red feather pattern one can see from a mile away – that increased fitness too by making it more attractive to potential mates.

    Darwinists can point to any trait and the opposite of that trait and make up just so stories about how the trait increased fitness when in fact, as the example shows, any given trait can be both “good” and “bad” from a survival perspective depending on the circumstances. And how do they know a trait is “good” overall? It is most assuredly NOT because they know independently of the survival of the organism that the trait increased fitness. They “know” it increased fitness only because the organism survived. Thus, again, the tautology.

    This post raises a few really excellent points. And in fact, the quest to find fitness advantages of every morphological feature has fallen out of favor. Today, biologists seem to agree that many features are not helpful, some are quite deleterious generally, and the utility of many are environment dependent.

    But it’s not tautological to point out that Real Life is quite competitive, that most organisms do not survive to reproduce, that there is a very real filtration/selection process in constant operation. And clearly, some organisms DO survive to reproduce. Most models of this process indicate that survival to reproduce is mostly luck, that beneficial mutations within a current environment generally don’t improve the odds much, that even clearly beneficial changes usually do not propagate to fixation, etc.

    So given all this, it’s often not clear whether a change is helpful – some of the organisms possessing it will probably reproduce, most will not. EVEN IF a mutation reaches fixation within a population, this does NOT automatically designate it a beneficial mutation. Genetic drift holds that many neutral or even moderately harmful mutations nonetheless reach fixation if they happen to fall at the far end of a normal statistical curve. Just luck.

    So “just because it survived” is NOT the criterion by which a mutation is judged beneficial. Usually, that judgment requires some sort of detailed observation and engineering analysis. Consider some small animal, and a mutation that makes it larger or smaller. Is this “beneficial”? In a vacuum, there’s no way to tell. Careful observation might show us that smaller individuals adopt a somewhat different lifestyle more suitable for their smaller size. Sometimes this lifestyle change leads to speciation. Does the new smaller species survive? Maybe. But we can’t say that being smaller was helpful or harmful based on whether it survives, there’s too much chance involved.

    Instead, what we get is small trends. Some changes give their possessors a slight edge. Over time, with large numbers of individuals, small edges add up. Speciation gradually increases diversity, fills niches. The actual dynamics of all this are dicey, unpredictable. It’s a messy process. But in the long run, speciation tends to fail if the new species can’t find a job, and succeed if it can. Selection occurs, suitability for the environment is maintained.

    The illusion of the tautology seems to be a semantic one, because it appears to use the result of a process, as the cause of that same process. That’s circular, but it’s not what’s happening.

  17. 17

    StuartHarris,

    There is another old tautology in Darwinism. Any objection to the theory is castigated as an “argument from incredulity”.

    The argument from incredulity claim raises three issues:

    1. What’s wrong with incredulity per se? If I feel that an argument lacks a credible basis, then there is nothing epistemologically wrong with believing it to be not credible.

    Nothing is wrong with finding something not credible. We all have BS meters, and we all need them. But whether or not we find something credible is not the sole decider of whether it’s true. For that, we need testing, investigation. If you never investigate, then you will never correct those instances where your BS meter led you astray.

    2. Not finding Darwinism to be credible is not an “argument” anyway. The burden of the argument is on the person positing the theory, not on the one that finds it unbelievable.

    Absolutely true. Whosoever puts forth a positive claim has the onus of supporting that claim. “You can’t prove me wrong” is NOT support for any claim. For that, you need real evidence. This OUGHT to be as true for gods as for scientific theories. No claim should get a free ride.

    To find it unbelievable is not an argument, it’s just a statement that the person making the argument for Darwinism didn’t make a satisfactory case.

    Oops, not quite. We’re talking about the person who doubts the claims. If someone sincerely doesn’t believe Ford pickup trucks exist, then there is NO WAY to make the contrary case that meets his satisfaction. You could run over him, and he STILL wouldn’t believe. So this is a 2-way street. The claimant must present a reasonable level of evidence, and the incredulous person must be amenable to accepting that the evidence is adequate.

    Darwinists effectively want to say, “Prove to me it is not true”. Of course no one can prove a negative, so Darwinism is not falsifiable on this reasoning.

    This has never been the case in my experience, I must confess. Evolutionary biologists present as evidence literally millions of scientific studies of all kinds, all of which were required to override the null hypothesis that evolution didn’t occur. By now, the positive evidence for evolution is the bedrock of all of biology and most of medicine. It has often been asserted, with some justification, that the theory of evolution is the most exhaustively attested, and thus the most resoundingly successful, theory in the history of science. If this level of evidence is insufficient to overcome incredulity, we’re back to the guy who denies Ford pickups exist.

    3. The tautology of the “argument from incredulity” claim is obvious. Darwinists are in other words saying, “You don’t believe in our theory just because you find it unbelievable”.

    Well, not exactly. We are still talking here about the weight of evidence necessary to overcome incredulity. So what the scientists are saying is “you reject this theory NOT on the basis of the evidence, which is flat enormous, but rather out of ideological principle no amount of evidence can possibly overcome.” Recall the aphorism that convictions not based on evidence, cannot be altered by evidence.

    Quite often, I’ve seen this turned around. The challenge is, what scientific evidence WOULD convince you? By now, it probably exists.

  18. David W. Gibson:

    Instead, what we get is small trends. Some changes give their possessors a slight edge. Over time, with large numbers of individuals, small edges add up.

    The illusion of the tautology seems to be a semantic one, because it appears to use the result of a process, as the cause of that same process. That’s circular, but it’s not what’s happening.

    But that’s just begging the question. The thing to be shown is that small edges do add up in practice. Not that they can theoretically if we abstract the actual mechanisms away until nothing is left but a smooth analytical curve.

    There are a few difficulties here. The first is that plain logic is only useful for stateless domains. Which I think we would both agree evolution is not. But if it is not a stateless domain then it is necessary that we can show the operation of the stateful and chaotic domain experimentally.

    Not as a matter of ‘proof’ but as a matter of being able to even begin characterizing the system so that we can begin discussing it in terms of natural laws.

    This has yet to be done successfully.

    Which is not to say that it has always been an invalid concept. Under a Lamarckian scheme we could state that Darwin’s model was a suitable abductive explanans. But with DNA we have a chaotic model that refutes this simplistic grant and the current research program is not mathematically feasible.

    To continue to hold to the same conclusion, by the same reasoning, that was valid under Lamarck requires that the underlying system work precisely in the same manner as Lamarck envisioned. Qualitatively if not quantitatively. But to do that we need new math. Or we need to show, repeatedly, the evolution of species on the lab table.

    I say “we need”, but we need to do nothing. It is perfectly fine to sit on our laurel’s and watch Darwinism go in the dustbin of failed research programs to join Alchemy, Epicycles and Phlogistons.

  19. David W. Gibson:

    This OUGHT to be as true for gods as for scientific theories. No claim should get a free ride.

    This. There are no ‘special’ claims or propositions. If anyone claims that anything is ‘true as fact’ then they can certainly demonstrate the validity of their claim experimentally.

    If this cannot be done, it is not science. If it can, it is. Religious employees with a testable claim have a scientific grant. Scientific employees without a testable claim have a religious grant.

    Such that if I see flying monkeys come about stochastically, I’ll be first in the line of people to convert to the Darwinian church. Until then, it’s just one of another 30,000 ‘One True Gods’.

  20. Whosoever puts forth a positive claim has the onus of supporting that claim.

    Well, whosoever puts forth a claim has the onus of supporting that claim. Positive or negative doesn’t really matter.

  21. David W. Gibson: “It has often been asserted, with some justification, that the theory of evolution is the most exhaustively attested, and thus the most resoundingly successful, theory in the history of science. If this level of evidence is insufficient to overcome incredulity, we’re back to the guy who denies Ford pickups exist.”

    David, note that I didn’t use the word “evolution” in my post. I fully accept evolution as a valid observation, a “fact” if you will. I also accept the fact that Ford pickups exist. The questions are: what caused the sequence of Ford pickups through time, and what caused the sequence of life that we see in the fossil and homology record through time? Evolution and the sequence of Ford pickups are not theories, they are observations that need theories to explain them.

    In the Victorian era Darwin (and others) came up with a hypothesis to explain how observed evolution could have happened. On analysis, I have come to the conclusion that On The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, or the more modern neo-Darwinian synthesis, is an erroneous theory, and that at this point we don’t have a good theory as to how evolution could have happened.

    Darwinism is based on tautologies, just-so stories, hopeful hand waving, and academic bullying. To assert that it’s “the most resoundingly successful theory in the history of science” is to belittle the real science of physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc. that has given mankind actual quantifiable knowledge and material benefit.

  22. David W. Gibson:

    It has often been asserted, with some justification, that the theory of evolution is the most exhaustively attested, and thus the most resoundingly successful, theory in the history of science.

    This is the most incredible statement I’ve seen in some time. Really? The most exhaustively attested of any theory in the history of science? Ever hear of physics and chemistry? In the last 30 seconds I’ve seen literally 100′s of demonstrations of gravity and not one — not a single one — demonstration of evolution. The same thing is true, all day, every day, year after year. We could list all kinds of other concepts from motion, to aeronautics, to thermodynamics, to chemistry which are vastly more secure, both in confirmation and specificity, than evolution.

    Further, the only reason the idea of evolution’s exhaustive proof has any legs at all is due to a rhetorical ploy that obfuscates what is meant by the word “evolution.” The word means many different things, from the obvious and well-supported to the outrageous and wildly-speculative. Only those who are metaphysically blinded to think that all reality is just a manifestation of the same process of evolution could think evolution — big evolution, grand evolution — is well supported by the evidence.

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