Intelligent Reasoning

Promoting, advancing and defending Intelligent Design via data, logic and Intelligent Reasoning and exposing the theory of evolution as the nonsense it is. I also educate evotards about ID and the theory of evolution one tard at a time and sometimes in groups

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Darwin, Too Wrong to be Important

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Over on Uncommon Descent Nullasalus has an entry titled Darwin Too Important To Be Wrong. In that blog entry Nullasulas points out that evolutionitwits have a fit every time someone points out that Darwin was wrong about something.

But given that Darwin didn't know squat compared to what we now know it is a given he made mistakes along the way, ie he was going to be wrong on some things.

However it also could be that Darwin wasn't even wrong or even too wrong to be important:

The Scientist, Aug. 29, 2005

Why do we invoke Darwin?
Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology

By Philip S. Skell

Darwin’s theory of evolution offers a sweeping explanation of the history of life, from the earliest microscopic organisms billions of years ago to all the plants and animals around us today. Much of the evidence that might have established the theory on an unshakable empirical foundation, however, remains lost in the distant past. For instance, Darwin hoped we would discover transitional precursors to the animal forms that appear abruptly in the Cambrian strata. Since then we have found many ancient fossils¬ – even exquisitely preserved soft-bodied creatures – but none are credible ancestors to the Cambrian animals.

Despite this and other difficulties, the modern form of Darwin’s theory has been raised to its present high status because it’s said to be the cornerstone of modern experimental biology. But is that correct? “While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky’s dictum that ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,’ most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas,” A. S. Wilkins, editor of the journal BioEssays, wrote in 2000.1 “Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one.”

I would tend to agree. Certainly, my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution. Nor did Alexander Fleming’s discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin. I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin’s theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No.

I also examined the outstanding biodiscoveries of the past century: the discovery of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; the development of new surgeries; and others. I even queried biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin’s theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.

In the peer-reviewed literature, the word “evolution” often occurs as a sort of coda to academic papers in experimental biology. Is the term integral or superfluous to the substance of these papers? To find out, I substituted for “evolution” some other word – “Buddhism,” “Aztec cosmology,” or even “creationism.” I found that the substitution never touched the paper’s core. This did not surprise me. From my conversations with leading researchers it had became clear that modern experimental biology gains its strength from the availability of new instruments and methodologies, not from an immersion in historical biology.

When I recently suggested this disconnect publicly, I was vigorously challenged. One person recalled my use of Wilkins and charged me with quote mining. The proof, supposedly, was in Wilkins’s subsequent paragraph:

"Yet, the marginality of evolutionary biology may be changing. More and more issues in biology, from diverse questions about human nature to the vulnerability of ecosystems, are increasingly seen as reflecting evolutionary events. A spate of popular books on evolution testifies to the development. If we are to fully understand these matters, however, we need to understand the processes of evolution that, ultimately, underlie them."

In reality, however, this passage illustrates my point. The efforts mentioned there are not experimental biology; they are attempts to explain already authenticated phenomena in Darwinian terms, things like human nature. Further, Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive – except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed¬ – except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.

Darwinian evolution¬ – whatever its other virtues – does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology. This becomes especially clear when we compare it with a heuristic framework such as the atomic model, which opens up structural chemistry and leads to advances in the synthesis of a multitude of new molecules of practical benefit.

None of this demonstrates that Darwinism is false. It does, however, mean that the claim that it is the cornerstone of modern experimental biology will be met with quiet skepticism from a growing number of scientists in fields where theories actually do serve as cornerstones for tangible breakthroughs.

Philip Skell (tvk@psu.edu) is Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor, The Pennsylvania State University, member, National Academy of Sciences, research contributions to Reactive Intermediates in Chemistry: Triplet/Singlet Carbenes, Free-Atom Reactions, Bridged and Optically Active Free Radicals, Reactions of Free Carbonium Ions, etc.

1. A.S. Wilkins, BioEssays 22, 1051(2000).


From The Scientist, Sept. 26, 2005

Philip Skell responds: My essay about Darwinism and modern experimental biology has stirred up a lively discussion, but the responses still provide no evidence that evolutionary theory is the cornerstone of experimental biology. Comparative physiology and comparative genomics have certainly been fruitful, but comparative biology originated before Darwin and owes nothing to his theory. Before the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859, comparative biology focused mainly on morphology, because physiology and biochemistry were in their infancy and genomics lay in the future; but the extension of a comparative approach to these sub-disciplines depended on the development of new methodologies and instruments, not on evolutionary theory and immersion in historical biology.

One letter mentions directed molecular evolution as a technique to discover antibodies, enzymes and drugs. Like comparative biology, this has certainly been fruitful, but it is not an application of Darwinian evolution — it is the modern molecular equivalent of classical breeding. Long before Darwin, breeders used artificial selection to develop improved strains of crops and livestock. Darwin extrapolated this in an attempt to explain the origin of new species, but he did not invent the process of artificial selection itself.

It is noteworthy that not one of these critics has detailed an example where Darwin’s Grand Paradigm Theory guided researchers to their goals. In fact, most innovations are not guided by grand paradigms, but by far more modest, testable hypotheses. Recognizing this, neither medical schools nor pharmaceutical firms maintain divisions of evolutionary science. The fabulous advances in experimental biology over the past century have had a core dependence on the development of new methodologies and instruments, not by intensive immersion in historical biology and Darwin’s theory, which attempted to historicize the meager documentation.

Evolution is not an observable characteristic of living organisms. What modern experimental biologists study are the mechanisms by which living organisms maintain their stability, without evolving. Organisms oscillate about a median state; and if they deviate significantly from that state, they die. It has been research on these mechanisms of stability, not research guided by Darwin’s theory, which has produced the major fruits of modern biology and medicine. And so I ask again: Why do we invoke Darwin?

See also Does Nothing In Biology Make Sense Except in the Light of Evolution?



Let the flailing begin...

7 Comments:

  • At 2:11 PM, Blogger TFT said…

    Skell is a Discovery Institute Imbecile. He, and his "Dissent" have been discredited by the scientific community (sort of like you!)

    You are funny, Joe.

     
  • At 3:23 PM, Blogger Joe G said…

    TFT resorts to lying out of it's ass- no surprise there.

    Skell was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, ie a member of the scientific community.

    Just how was he discredited?

    And why is it you can't refute anything he said?

     
  • At 10:35 PM, Blogger TFT said…

    Here is the actual document from the Discovery Institute, called: A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism.

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=660

    What's funny is your pal Skell is the first name on the dubious list, and as a sidebar graphic reminding visitors that he is a NAS member!

    See? He's both! But you knew that, you obtuse fucker!

    Apology accepted.

     
  • At 8:15 AM, Blogger Joe G said…

    1- Skell was never a member of the Discovery Institute

    2- Just because he signed the document does not make him a member of the DI you moron.

    3- Yes I knew he signed the document but that does not support anything you have said

    4- Neither he nor anyone on that list has been discredited by anyone

    IOW TFT you are nothing but a fucking asshole and a liar.

     
  • At 8:18 AM, Blogger Joe G said…

    TFT sed:
    Skell is a Discovery Institute Imbecile.

    That is a lie

    TFT sed:
    He, and his "Dissent" have been discredited by the scientific community (sort of like you!)

    Neither he, his dissent nor I have been discredited by any alleged scientific community.

    However it is a fact that your alleged scientific community couldn't support their position if their lives depended on it. And that is because their position is too wrong to be supported!

    IOW TFT you are a loser and a crybaby. Thankfully you no longer teach...

     
  • At 5:33 PM, Blogger TFT said…

    I don't think I said he was a member. I was describing him, not conferring membership.

    That he signed the Dissent means he is sympathetic to DI thinking.

    The DI has been discredited by the NAS, as has their Dissent.

    You are correct that Skell is not a "member" of the DI. He is merely a sympathizer and supporter. He probably refuses to join so he can lend his unaffiliated name to the supporters of his nonsense.

    Like I said, he is a DI imbecile, though he is not officially a member of the DI.

    Any other petty, unrelated bullshit you want to counter with?

     
  • At 5:48 PM, Blogger Joe G said…

    TFT:
    I don't think I said he was a member. I was describing him, not conferring membership.

    In order to be "a Discovery Institute Imbecile" he would have to be a member of the Discovery Institute.

    Also yours was just a bald assertion obviously based on your own ignorance and personal agenda.

    TFT:
    That he signed the Dissent means he is sympathetic to DI thinking.

    No, it means that he is honest.

    And it is very telling that no one has demonstrated that neither Darwinism nor neo-Darwinism has any use at all.

    TFT:
    The DI has been discredited by the NAS, as has their Dissent.

    You are full of shit- you are a shit-fuck stack.

    To prove my point- How has the DI and their dissent been discredited?

    TFT:
    He probably refuses to join so he can lend his unaffiliated name to the supporters of his nonsense.

    He just recently passed away you ignorant fuck.

    Not only that he was a very accomplished scientist.

    So go ahead you piece of shit- try supporting anything you have claimed.

     

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