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A walk through history: How the great Karl Popper avoided getting …

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Karl Popper (1902-1994)

Expelled

The late Karl Popper, universally regarded as a referee of what constitutes a valid scientific theory, complained that Darwinian selection is not, strictly speaking, a scientific theory because it can neither make predictions nor be rigorously tested abve the micro-level, where it is a mere truism. Unlike Einstein’s theory of gravity, the idea of evolution by natural selection is in principle not falsifiable. No matter what the complexity of an organism, a Darwinist can always make up an “adaptive” story explaining its origin. And when pressed to explain a severe problem like the usefulness of incipient organs, he can take refuge in the unobservable. This was Darwin’s own tactic in later editions of the Origin , where he seems chiefly to argue that since the transitional stages of animal groups are hidden, his theory cannot well be refuted.

Fierce protests from the Darwinian camp eventually caused Popper to retract his criticism without explaining why. The retreat was also demanded by Popper’s own philosophical materialism.

- Catholic writer George Sim Johnston, Did Darwin Get It Right?: Catholics and the Theory of Evolution (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1998), p. 62.

Fast forward from 1978 when Popper recanted with no clear explanation to 1998 when Sim wrote, to 2011, and we find that philosophical materialists such as Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini have no problem critiquing Darwinism.

Are atheists braver today? Or has something changed?

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3 Responses to A walk through history: How the great Karl Popper avoided getting …

  1. Since making this claim, Popper himself has modified his position somewhat; but, disclaimers aside, I suspect that even now he does not really believe that Darwinism in its modern form is genuinely falsifiable. If one relies heavily on natural selection and sexual selection, simultaneously downplaying drift, which of course is what the neo-Darwinian does do, then Popper feels that one has a nonfalsifiable theory. And, certainly, many followers agree that there is something conceptually flawed with Darwinism. Michael Ruse, Darwinism Defended (1982) p.133

  2. The answer clearly is “yes.” It is now possible to question Darwin and still remain an insider, as Fodor has done.

  3. The answer clearly is “no.” It has been impossible to question Darwin and still remain an insider, since St. George Jackson Mivart in the 1870s as well as some Expelled scientists have tasted the Inquisition without burning from the Scientific Nomenklatura!!!

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