Talk:Falsifiability of evolution

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Misconceptions about the Theory of Evolution

Many people assume the "Theory of Evolution" is a single theory. It is not. Rather, it is a collection of 1,000,000+ theories, papers, experiments, observations and tests, all of which contribute to the overall theory of evolution". The Bible is similarly comprised of a collection of books which are a collection of verses.

A common false assumption made is that disproving one of the underlying theories, invalidates the entire theory of evolution. Unlike the Bible, evolutionary theory does not claim to be Inerrant. An error in a single theory does not disprove the larger body of knowledge. Falsifying the "Theory of Evolution" would require disproving thousands of supporting theories.PerpetualAngst 16:23, 20 June 2007 (EDT)

So you are agreeing that evolution per se is not falsifiable? Philip J. Rayment 09:43, 21 June 2007 (EDT)
I think that Perpetual is correct. Maybe in fact Evolution should be considered a separate branch of science itself like Physics, Chemistry or Biology. No one would claim that Physics is not falsifiable because Physics is a field of study that is made up of laws, theories and hypothesis all of which are falsifiable. In the same sense Evolution is the study of the laws, theories and hypothesis that describe a larger process of evolution. Wismike
A process upon which there is no agreed definition, and which, unless a meaninglessly-broad definition is adopted, there is no conclusive evidence that that this "field" even exists. Philip J. Rayment 10:02, 5 August 2007 (EDT)
With apologies to Mr. Rayment, I must take issue with Angst's claim that "The Bible claims to be inerrant." It makes no such claim. And even if it did claim to be inerrant, finding an error would only disprove the individual proposition of inerrancy -- it would not prove that everything in the Bible is wrong. Ungtss
Correction accepted. The Bible makes no claim to be inerrant. Instead, others make this claim of the Bible. Similarly, finding an error in the theory of evolution would only disprove the individual proposition -- it would not disprove evolutionary theory in it's entirety. PerpetualAngst
The Theory of Evolution is still falsifiable. Tens of thousands of papers and supporting theories would need to be refuted before one could claim the larger evolutionary theory has been refuted. PerpetualAngst
Okay, that's your position, but clearly it's not something that even all evolutionists agree on. And I did notice the error in claiming that the Bible claims to be inerrant, but whilst the Bible doesn't directly explicitly claim that, I believe that is a reasonable deduction from what it does claim, and furthermore it wasn't the key point that PerpetualAngst was making, so I decided to ignore that point (which is not to suggest that there was anything wrong with Ungtss responding to it). Philip J. Rayment 10:30, 21 June 2007 (EDT)
The Theory of Evolution is still falsifiable. Tens of thousands of papers and supporting theories would need to be refuted before one could claim the larger evolutionary theory has been refuted.
Could you be more specific in defining what "Theory of evolution" could only be falsified by disproving all the papers and supporting theories? Do you mean the idea that all life evolved from a single protocell? Or do you mean the idea that all life changes gradually as the result of variation and natural selection? If you mean the latter, I think you're right -- there are a lot of papers showing that life changes over time by variation and natural selection, and it would take a lot of work to disprove it. But if you mean the former, then explain what you mean: what papers are out there providing scientific evidence for universal common ancestry that would have to be disproven? How would you falsify the proposition that all life evolved from a single protocell? Ungtss 19:24, 21 June 2007 (EDT)
Without an answer to my question above, your argument fails. Creationists don't dispute the falsifiable, scientific, and obvious proposition that life changes over time by variation and natural selection. They dispute the unfalsifiable and unscientific proposition of universal common ancestry. Ungtss 08:10, 22 June 2007 (EDT)
See http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section1.html for a much more detailed argument in favor of common descent.
According to Steven J Gould: "Darwin continually emphasized the difference between his two great and separate accomplishments: establishing the fact of evolution, and proposing a theory - natural selection - to explain the mechanism of evolution." - "Evolution as Fact and Theory", May 1981.
http://www.google.com/search?q=evolutionary.biology
http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcevolbiol/ PerpetualAngst
But my friend, that wasn't the question:). I know there are arguments out there in favor of universal common ancestry. There are also arguments against it. But is the proposition falsifiable? What experiment could be performed to prove it wrong? That's the issue here. Ungtss 15:34, 22 June 2007 (EDT)
My original point was that there is no single potential falsification test for evolution, the same as there is no single falsification test for particle physics. For example, http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section1.html gives a falsification test for each of its 29 predictions. There is no single test to falsify the proposition that all life evolved from a single protocell. Instead, you would need to refute the lines of evidence with lead to that conclusion. (See link).PerpetualAngst
I agree that evolutionists present "a number of lines of evidence that reasonably lead to a conclusion." But I submit that this doesn't comply with a meaningful falsificationism. When you have a number of different lines of evidence that "lead to a conclusion," you still have room for interpretation. For example, "I believe Joe murdered Jane because he was seen running away from the scene, covered in blood." A reasonable conclusion -- but not a falsifiable conclusion. And the reason is this: Somebody else might look at the same facts (Joe running away covered in blood), but interpret the facts differently, saying, "Joe was walking with Jane when she was murdered by somebody else, got covered in blood trying to do CPR, and was running for help when he was seen." The same facts can reasonably lead to either conclusion -- and that's why it's not science. Falsifiable science leaves no room for alternative explanations. The force of gravity is 32 ft/second squared. The earth revolves relative to the sun. The human heart pumps blood through blood vessels. There's no doubt. There's no interpretation. The answers are right up there for us to see and test. That's what falsifiable science is. The same problem applies to the "potential falsification" provided by the link you cited. Consider, for example, the section in the article you linked on "Common metabolism." They say that evolution predicts that "we will never find any modern species from known phyla on this Earth with a foreign, non-nucleic acid genetic material. We also make the strong prediction that all newly discovered species that belong to the known phyla will use the 'standard genetic code' or a close derivative thereof." But there are two problems with this. First, even if a phylum was found with a non-nucleic acid genetic material, the theory of evolution could be altered to say "Well, early in our evolution, life evolved two different types of genetic material by variation and natural selection." Second, a common genetic code is consistent with creationism -- a creationist could say "God just used a common genetic material in all life." In other words, falsifying that prediction would only alter, not discredit, evolution; and the facts as we observe them are consistent with both creationism and evolution. In sum, I submit that falsifiable science is not science where there are "lines of evidence that lead to a conclusion, but which still require interpretation of the evidence." Falsifiable science consists of specific propositions that can be specifically and experimentally tested. What do you think? Ungtss 13:09, 23 June 2007 (EDT)
falsifying that prediction would only alter, not discredit, evolution. Exactly my point: To discredit evolution would require refuting millions of data points. There is no single theorem which, if disproved, will invalidate the encompassing theory of evolution.PerpetualAngst
But even refuting millions of data points would only alter evolution. Find human bones in precambrian rock -- "Oh! Must not be precambrian rock, because there's a human in it!" No matter what findings are made, they can all be "fit into" evolution, because it's such a malleable concept that it cannot be held to account. "I cannot see your dragon!" "That's because it's invisible!" That's why I'm arguing that universal common ancestry is not a falsifiable proposition -- because it's too malleable to test. However, the experimental datapoints you mention ARE falsifiable science. Those datapoints can be interpretted any number of ways with respect to the origins of life, but the datapoints themselves require no interpretation. Science has nothing to say (yet) about how life originated. But it has a lot to say about how it works today. Ungtss 15:27, 23 June 2007 (EDT)
Falsifiable science leaves no room for alternative explanations. I disagree. No science is absolute, including the theory of gravity or the theory of evolution. Nor do they claim to be. Any competing theory must explain all the observations and data points, at least as well as the original theory, and in a manner which is consistent at every level. The objective of science it to reduce the margins of error as much as possible.PerpetualAngst
I think that your point of view is exactly what Popper (and earlier creationist proponents of falsifiability, like G.K. Chesteron) was arguing against. It's always possible to come up with alternative explanations that completely explain the data points as well as the original theory in a manner which is consistent at every level. "Gravity is caused by little invisible strings on every object, and a little gopher named George is pulling them down at exactly the same rate." It explains the facts. But it's not testable. So it's no better than any other nonsense we can concoct. Just because you can hypothesize an explanation doesn't mean we can TEST it. And until you can TEST an alternate explanation, it's no better than any other crazy explanation I can come up with. Ungtss 15:27, 23 June 2007 (EDT)
What is the force of gravity on the mars? How do you know?PerpetualAngst
Approx .38G at the equator. I know because if the gravity calcs were off, the spacecraft orbiting and landing on it would not have been successful. Also readings from Mars Global Surveyor. Those readings are testable. That's falsifiable science. Ungtss 17:57, 24 June 2007 (EDT)
As given, you answer is correct to within 5x10-3G. That is what science seeks to do: make the error bars as small as possible. PerpetualAngst 17:36, 25 Jun 2007 (PDT)
Agreed. And the magic of falsifiable science is that you can move toward that improvement. But with unfalsifiable hypothesis, you can just pick one error you're emotionally attached to, and stick with it 'cause it can't be tested. Ungtss 20:56, 25 June 2007 (EDT)
Hubble Deep Field image showed light from galaxies 12 billion light years from earth. The estimation of the time it took the light to reach earth was based on the observed redshift values of galaxies in the image. Do you contend that this estimate is false because it is not falsifiable? The light was emitted 12 billion years ago. Is it wrong because it is simply an interpretation of the evidence?PerpetualAngst
No, I'm not saying it's false, I'm saying it's unfalsifiable. From a scientific perspective, it could be true and it could be false -- we don't know with scientific certainty, because we cannot test it. Ungtss 10:05, 26 June 2007 (EDT)
Actually we can create a falsification test for it. Disprove Hubbles Law, the doppler effect or the speed of light and my statement The light was emitted 12 billion years ago will be false. Falsification can be established by refuting principals used interpret the evidence. PerpetualAngst
Not necessarily. The Doppler effect (and by this I mean specifically the proposition that light emitted from receding objects is red-shifted) could be wrong and the light still 12 billion years old. The stars might still be 12 billion light-years away, even if they are not receding. Same with the speed of light. The speed of light might be twice what we think it is -- and the stars could still be 12 billion light years away (although that would be twice as many AUs). Just because the assumptions underlying a proposition are proven false does not necessarily disprove the proposition itself. Ungtss 21:25, 26 June 2007 (EDT)
Second, a common genetic code is consistent with creationism -- a creationist could say "God just used a common genetic material in all life." In other words, falsifying that prediction would only alter, not discredit, evolution; and the facts as we observe them are consistent with both creationism and evolution. In sum, I submit that falsifiable science is not science where there are "lines of evidence that lead to a conclusion, but which still require interpretation of the evidence." Falsifiable science consists of specific propositions that can be specifically and experimentally tested. Using your own definition of falsification, would you agree that creationism is not science?
I'd agree that parts of it aren't science ... Ungtss 10:05, 26 June 2007 (EDT)
Evolution is so malleable, it would accept creationism if creationism decreased the margins of error! Science rejects creationism because creationism widens, (not narrows), the error bars. Creationism tries to explain complexity by creating an even larger unexplainable complexity: (a creator or designer). Evolution explains complexity using observable facts. For Example: We know that retroviruses insert a copy of their DNA into their host's genome; if the DNA is inserted into a sperm or egg cell, the mutation will be passed to offspring. If the mutation enhances the viability of the recipient it will be passed to future generations,if it does not, the recipient will die before pro generating (also known as natural selection). The same mutations, across different species, indicate common descent. It is not just the commonality of the genetic code that supports common descent, it is also the differences. The differences in the genetic code indicate accumulated mutations over time. Common descent is not a single theory. It is a explanation of existing falsifiable theorems explaining observable facts. ...a common genetic code is consistent with creationism -- a creationist could say "God just used a common genetic material in all life." In so doing the creationist has introduced more complexity, (an unknown creator), without reducing existing complexity.
"Reducing complexity" is not a fair measure for the "scientificness" of a proposition. General relativity introduced more complexities than Newtonian physics, which introduced more complexities than Aristotle's Physics. Quantum physics introduces more complexities than ancient atomism. Modern biology introduces more complexity than the doctrine of humors. Science says, "if experimental data indicates that reality is more complicated than we thought, then reality is more complicated than we thought. same thing if the experimental data indicates simplicity. We just follow the experimental data." Just because creationism introduces more complexity to the equation does not make it "unscientific" any more than genetics makes biology "unscientific." Ungtss 10:05, 26 June 2007 (EDT)
I do not claim science "reduces complexity". I claim science reduces the margins of error. General relativity reduced the error bars provided by Newtonian physics. Creationism, by comparison, increases the Error Bars, (to infinity), by introducing new unknowable complexity, (creators). Creationism provides no new knowledge to science. Hence, creationism can make no new predictions about science. PerpetualAngst
It's important to note that I put evolutionism and creationism in the same category -- hypotheses that are not yet falsifiable. So I agree with you that creationism can make no falsifiable predictions, while applying the same conclusion to evolution. At the same time, I think both hypotheses are worthy of investigation, because they may somebody yield falsifiable results. Creationism may indeed add new knowledge to science, if we were created. Because then, common ancestry would be false. Were we created? I think so, but neither of us can prove it or disprove it with science. Yet. Hopefully someday science will get there. Ungtss 21:25, 26 June 2007 (EDT)
the theory of evolution could be altered to say "Well, early in our evolution, life evolved two different types of genetic material by variation and natural selection." Absolutely. Guess what? You just falsified an evolutionary biology theory supporting common descent! Because science can not deal in absolutes, (with the exception of mathematics) , it is forced to make self corrections. Disproving a theorem is just as valuable to science as proving a theorem. Richard Feynman said it best: "If you thought that science was certain — well, that is just an error on your part."
But the real point is that the point of contention, common descent itself remains unfalsifiable. Maybe someday it will be falsifiable. Then we can either call it science, or call it fiction. But for the moment, it remains steeped in the interpretation of evidence, which reasonable people can interpret differently. In my opinion, you may call it "obvious," but you cannot call it "scientific," because you cannot test it. Ungtss 10:05, 26 June 2007 (EDT)
One falsification test for common descent: find an example of an organism that fails to conform to the unified genetic code by using some method, other than DNA, to store genetic information. Common descent can be falsified by disproving its predictions. So far, every new species tested verifies a unified genetic code. This testing supports common descent because it continually reinforces the prediction of common descent. PerpetualAngst
That wouldn't falsify common descent. As I said above, it would only modify it to either "one form of genetic material evolved to the other," "both evolved separately," or "both diverged." Common descent might still be true. Only "All genetic information is contained in nucleic acid" would have been falsified. I can make the same sort of pseudo-falsification with creationism. "Finding the missing link between land mammals and whales will falsify the proposition that they were created separate." You find a fossil with characteristics of both and I say either "They're not related" or "Those two are related, but they're not related to insects." You haven't falsified creationism -- you've just modified it.
Copyright laws prevent me from including the text here, but I would urge you to read http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/ It presents 30 evidences supporting common descent including falsification tests! PerpetualAngst
I've read them -- but in my opinion, they do not provide experiments to test the point of contention -- common ancestry. They provide hypothetical findings that could alter evolution, and which are consistent with creation. That's not falsificationism in any meaningful sense. Ungtss 10:05, 26 June 2007 (EDT)
To give but one falsification test for common descent, show that a single-celled organism can not evolve into multi-cellular form. Common descent requires this to be true for evolution to occur. Proving it would refute common descent. PerpetualAngst
It's virtually impossible to prove something impossible -- one can only point to the absence of evidence that it did happen, and the myriad difficulties it would have to overcome. (e.g. prove it's impossible to fly at the speed of light -- it might be impossible now, but that might only be because we don't know how). A better example, I think, would be the evolution of sexual reproduction. Which came first, the male or the female? The egg or the sperm? One without the other is useless. Both had to appear at the same time. And both are enormously complex, even in their simplest forms. Nobody's provided any plausible explanation as to how it happened. All the efforts to provide such an explanation strike me as absurd. Does that mean it's impossible? Naw. It might have happened -- we just might not know how. But please don't call it scientific, because it's not. It's bald speculation, devoid of experimental or observational support. Ungtss 21:25, 26 June 2007 (EDT)


PerpetualAngst closing remarks:

The problem is not that common descent is potentially falsifiable, the problem is that the level of proof requested in this forum is impossible meet.

The first clue came with the discussion of the falsifiability of the age of galaxies in the Hubble Deep Space photograph. After reading irrefutable falsification criteria, Ungst made the argument that if two of the criteria were falsified, the proposition would still be theoretically possible. This level of falsification far beyond normal levels of proof. For the theoretical possibility to be true, two alternative theories would have to be proved.

When presented with the potential falsification of unified genetic code, Ungst argues that is invalid because evolution will adapt it's theories to accommodate the falsification. the theory of evolution could be altered to say... Falsification results invalidate the original theory. Arguing that an alternative theory might be the presented to explain the data points, does not negate the original falsification. That a new theory might be proposed is completely irrelevant.

Again, when faced with a link containing 29+ falsification tests, it was summarily dismissed because they do not provide experiments. Not all proofs are performed in a laboratory. For example, fossil evidence.

Again, when presented with the single-cell the multiple-cell falsification proof, which would unequivocally refute common descent, it was dismissed as virtually impossible to prove.

Why summarily dismiss perfectly valid proofs? Ungst answers this question with two statements. First, It's important to note that I put evolutionism and creationism in the same category -- hypotheses that are not yet falsifiable. Second, I agree with you that creationism can make no falsifiable predictions Given that creationism is not falsifiable, it removes itself from the realm of science. The only way left for creationism to compete with evolution is to try to also remove common descent from the realm of science by claiming there are no valid falsification arguments for evolution.

As demonstrated, there are multiple valid potential falsification proofs for common descent.

Quod erat demonstrandum PerpetualAngst 10:00, 27 Jun 2007 (PDT)
p.s. Which came first the egg or the sperm?

The first clue came with the discussion of the falsifiability of the age of galaxies in the Hubble Deep Space photograph. After reading irrefutable falsification criteria, Ungst made the argument that if two of the criteria were falsified, the proposition would still be theoretically possible. This level of falsification far beyond normal levels of proof. For the theoretical possibility to be true, two alternative theories would have to be proved.

You're stating without showing that the falsification criteria are irrefutable. I believe I have refuted them. Let me reiterate: Even if light didn't redshit, the stars we observe might still be 12 billion light years away -- that would just be a lot farther in kilometers. Why? Because our measurement of distant stars has nothing to do with redshift. You failed to address my point. Similarly, alternative forms of genetic information were found to exist, both common descent and creationism might be true. Evolution could be true and either both forms arose separately, one arose form the other, or both diverged. Creationism could be true and either both forms were created separately, or one descended from the other. The proposed falsifications would not falsify the core propositions. Ungtss 16:23, 27 June 2007 (EDT)

When presented with the potential falsification of unified genetic code, Ungst argues that is invalid because evolution will adapt it's theories to accommodate the falsification. the theory of evolution could be altered to say... Falsification results invalidate the original theory. Arguing that an alternative theory might be the presented to explain the data points, does not negate the original falsification. That a new theory might be proposed is completely irrelevant.

The original theory was not falsified. The original theory was "common descent." A different proposition, "All life shares a common genetic structure," was falsified and replaced with "All life does not share a common genetic structure." The original theory, "common descent" was not touched. Ungtss 16:23, 27 June 2007 (EDT)

Again, when faced with a link containing 29+ falsification tests, it was summarily dismissed because they do not provide experiments. Not all proofs are performed in a laboratory. For example, fossil evidence.

First, I did not dismiss them that way. Second, fossil evidence is not "proof" -- it is evidence that can be interpretted in a number of different ways, consistent with both evolution and creation. You haven't grasped falsification, my friend. Falsification involves testing. You can't "test" fossil evidence to determine whether it evolved or was created. You can look at it, and decide what you think reasonably explains the facts. Ungtss 16:23, 27 June 2007 (EDT)

Again, when presented with the single-cell the multiple-cell falsification proof, which would unequivocally refute common descent, it was dismissed as virtually impossible to prove.

You are consistently misrepresenting what I am writing. I did not say it was virtually impossible to prove -- I said "it is virtually impossible to prove something is impossible, because someone can always say "Maybe we just don't know how yet!" I provided you with an example. You didn't respond. Ungtss 16:23, 27 June 2007 (EDT)

Why summarily dismiss perfectly valid proofs? Ungst answers this question with two statements. First, It's important to note that I put evolutionism and creationism in the same category -- hypotheses that are not yet falsifiable. Second, I agree with you that creationism can make no falsifiable predictions Given that creationism is not falsifiable, it removes itself from the realm of science. The only way left for creationism to compete with evolution is to try to also remove common descent from the realm of science by claiming there are no valid falsification arguments for evolution.

You are stating, without showing, that your "proofs" are perfectly valid. I am telling you they are not valid, because they do not meet the criteria of falsificationism. I have explained why above. You are ignoring my arguments. Ungtss 16:23, 27 June 2007 (EDT)

p.s. Which came first the egg or the sperm?

This doesn't answer the question. Parthenogenic species have the capacity to produce both sexually and asexually. The question of how they developed the capacity for sexual reproduction remains unanswered. Ungtss 16:23, 27 June 2007 (EDT)

As demonstrated, there are multiple valid potential falsification proofs for common descent. Quod erat demonstrandum PerpetualAngst 10:00, 27 Jun 2007 (PDT)

Not yet. But a valiant effort. Ungtss 16:23, 27 June 2007 (EDT)

Religion bending to science

Note that falsifiability is itself not a universally accepted criterion for a valid hypothesis.[1]

Setting that aside, allow me to make a different point by using an example from your own wiki:

"'Joe beats his children because his father beat him' is unfalsifiable, because we cannot perform a test in which Joe was not beaten by his father, and see if Joe still beats his children."

The above is true enough, but only in respect to Joe. What we can do, and have done, is observe randomly sampled families and draw the logical inference that parents who were beaten as children are more likely to beat their own children. So what might not be falsifiable on an individual level, may indeed be so on a broader level.

As to the question at hand, I would only note that religion conceded the point of natural selection to science, such as it has, only after it was left with no other choice. Indeed, scientific advancement can be marked by noting the religious concessions to discoveries which have refuted its claims. In effect, religion is continuously "evolving" to maintain its privileged position in society -- it cannot hope to maintain that position while standing by its previous claims which are now openly mocked by society. Before secularism, there was no need to concede, as religion held all the power and could simply burn the books and, if need be, the bodies of scientists who threatened that societal pride of place.

We are getting nearer every day to a time when religion will be left standing on its tip-toes on the last piece of disputed ground -- its "ace in the hole," if you will -- when the entirety of its ancient texts and dogmas will have been necessarily abandoned. I believe Ungtss has already hit upon that last and most important scrap: there really is no way to satisfactorily falsify something like common descent or the big bang. Of course, logical inference has already been reached to such a degree that those things are considered working theories, but there will always be enough wiggle room there for religion to have a voice. It might want to begin cultivating that ground aggressively right now, while it still can, as the rest of it will soon be on the historical ash heap.

The good news for freethinkers is that religion will forever be squirming under the glaring light of science, without so much as a scrap of evidence to justify its use of words like "law," "theory," or even "hypothesis" to describe its supernatural explanations for natural but unexplainable phenomena. Bicycle 20:45, 13 March 2008 (EDT)

Your example about Joe is interesting, but I don't see how it meaningfully applies to evolution.
As for the rest of your post...
"...religion conceded the point of natural selection to science, such as it has, only after it was left with no other choice.": On the contrary, natural selection was first described by a creationist. So there's been no "concession" there.
"...scientific advancement can be marked by noting the religious concessions to discoveries which have refuted its claims.": I'd love to know what you are talking about here. Most early scientific advancement was done within Christianity. And I know of nothing since that fits your description. The only things that "science" has "discovered" that some religious groups have conceded to are things like evolution, which is not a discovery but a explanation of how we came to be.
"In effect, religion is continuously "evolving" to maintain its privileged position in society ...": Biblical Christianity is not "evolving". It stays true to the Bible, which doesn't change.
"...it cannot hope to maintain that position while standing by its previous claims which are now openly mocked by society": The sections of Christianity that are falling by the wayside are the sections that have compromised with the atheistic worldview. The sections standing firm against that are growing. And Christianity has been mocked for centuries, yet it is still here and arguably as strong as ever.
"Before secularism, there was no need to concede, as religion held all the power and could simply burn the books and, if need be, the bodies of scientists who threatened that societal pride of place.": Yet there was very little of that going on, particularly with the Church encouraging and facilitating science.
"The good news for freethinkers is that religion will forever be squirming under the glaring light of science, without so much as a scrap of evidence to justify its use of words like "law," "theory," or even "hypothesis" to describe its supernatural explanations for natural but unexplainable phenomena": You wish! Christianity has nothing to fear from true science, only from atheistic views such as evolution promoted under the guise of being science. And creationists have just as much evidence as evolutionists: the difference is in how that evidence is interpreted. Creationists are free to see whether supernatural design or natural forces formed something. Atheists, if they are to remain atheists, are not free (so much for "freethinkers"!) to consider the first possibility, unnecessarily restricting themselves to the second, and thereby closing their minds to even considering a possible explanation.
Philip J. Rayment 06:47, 14 March 2008 (EDT)
"Your example about Joe is interesting, but I don't see how it meaningfully applies to evolution."
I alluded to the relationship, but was perhaps unclear. Just as we can use the example of Joe (with its unfalsifiable but reasonable assumption that he was beaten as a child) to draw a logical inference that applies to the broader question of child abuse, so to can we use the unfalsifiable but reasonable concept of common descent in the broader picture of evolutionary theory.
"...natural selection was first described by a creationist."
The kernel of the idea goes back at least as far as ancient Greece. What the overwhelming majority of people are referring to when they say "natural selection" are the ideas as formulated by Darwin. If you prefer some other name, you're welcome to it, but we'll be speaking a different language and on different terms. If you want to argue Darwin's religious beliefs, that's a whole other kettle of fish, but I hope we can agree that to call him a "creationist" would be quite a stretch, whatever his views on "first cause" may have been.
"Most early scientific advancement was done within Christianity."
This always makes me laugh. We will never know what people who lived their lives under religious oppression and intolerance actually believed. To be sure, geniuses and artists have always used religion as their outlet, but what choice did they have? Little to none, depending on the times and climes. History is replete with examples of "radical" new ideas being squelched by religion. Please don't insult me with your feigned incredulity on that matter. Also, when you say "some religious groups," I know that you're hiding a "not my sect" card for later. Please don't play that one, OK?
"[Biblical Christianity] stays true to the Bible, which doesn't change."
Horse hockey. Christians have abandoned innumerable "customs" of the past. Shall I name a few? I'd rather avoid opening my Bible for quotations, it always depresses me to read about the cruel slaughter and human depravity that it mandates.
"The sections of Christianity that are falling by the wayside are the sections that have compromised with the atheistic worldview."
There is no such thing as an atheistic worldview. I say this as a person who agrees with this wiki's understanding that the definition of "atheism" is what some atheists like to call "strong atheism." That is to say, it is more than a mere disbelief in deities, it is unbelief, which is a somewhat stronger statement. Regardless, there is no common "worldview" among atheists, any more than there is one among people who profess a strong belief that there is no such person as Santa Claus -- one of the few beliefs that I'm sure you and I both share. Common unbelief does not constitute a worldview; common belief, however, may (or may not), depending how deeply entrenched that belief has become. Islamism would be an example of a common belief taken to such an extreme that it has become the predominant worldview in some cultures. There have been similarly fanatical Christian cultures, but the world is fortunate enough to have had several centuries longer to temper Christianity than Islam. Theists like to claim that atheists have a common worldview in order to make debate more convenient, but I'm sure you will agree that this is unfair (not to mention intellectually lazy), just as it would be unfair of me to presume that all Catholics and Protestants share the same worldview just because they all happen to be Christian.
"The sections standing firm against that are growing. And Christianity has been mocked for centuries, yet it is still here and arguably as strong as ever.""
Growing by what measure? New church construction has followed a downward trend for many generations now, while the total American population has been rising fast. The various Christian denominations may be unifying as a voice against atheism, in a desperate (and rare) act of solidarity, but that's the most you can claim in regards to Christianity "growing." (I've seen no evidence of this solidarity occurring, but I'll throw you that bone.) As to being mocked for centuries, that is indeed true from without, but not from within. Not until it was safe to do so without being slaughtered by the self-appointed defenders of God's reputation.
"...there was very little [burning of books and people] going on, particularly with the Church encouraging and facilitating science."
Again with the comedy. Except this time it's not so funny, because you've mingled it with the disgusting, unthinkable, unforgivable, yet typical Christian behavior of downplaying centuries of documented, well-established, universally-accepted history. Oceans of blood stain the robes of your religion. Its denial of this is not unlike Holocaust-denial, and is equally offensive and infuriating.
"Christianity has nothing to fear from true science, only from atheistic views such as evolution promoted under the guise of being science."
Does Christianity not fear being made fools of for believing in a 6,000 year old universe? Oh that's right, most Christians conceded that one long ago. Only a few fringe sects still feel no shame in preaching that nonsense. I know I asked you not to play your "get out of jail" card, but if you wish to distance yourself from the kook fringe, this would be a good place to do it. I guess I can't begrudge you that.
"...creationists have just as much evidence as evolutionists..."
OK, shoot. I'm listening. Show me your evidence that a supernatural deity named Yahweh created the universe.
"...the difference is in how that evidence is interpreted."
Exactly. And whereas evolutionary theory at least attempts to draw logical inferences for things like common descent, the creationist "interpretation" is to posit fanciful mythologies that any child can see through.
"Creationists are free to see whether supernatural design or natural forces formed something."
How convenient! With such freedom, creationists can explain away any problem! When in doubt, "God did it!" That method is certainly much less stressful than trying to piece together the admittedly maddening puzzle using science as a guide. Unfortunately for creationists, it's also much less plausible.
"Atheists, if they are to remain atheists, are not free (so much for "freethinkers"!) to consider the first possibility, unnecessarily restricting themselves to the second, and thereby closing their minds to even considering a possible explanation."
Something tells me that the word "freethinker" bothers you; I would be quite pleased if that were the case. The word should bother you, as it is a clear rejection of the stifling religious environment that trapped the human mind for centuries. That doesn't make it synonymous with "atheist," however, although the two words are at least cousins, in that freethought will necessarily lead to agnosticism (but not atheism). You are correct that atheists have closed the door on deities, and that if one were to suddenly appear to an atheist, s/he would be forced to reconsider their position. Likewise, if a believer were to be shown similarly irrefutable proof that there were no deities, they would have some 'splaining to do. I don't think either side has anything to worry about.
Anyway, thanks for not stifling me (it happens a LOT, I assure you). I've enjoyed the discussion so far. :-) Bicycle 14:17, 14 March 2008 (EDT)
"...we use the unfalsifiable but reasonable concept of common descent in the broader picture of evolutionary theory.": Sorry, but that's no clearer. In the example of Joe we can run actual test to find out whether the claims are true in a general sense, then apply them to Joe. How is similarly done with evolution?
"What the overwhelming majority of people are referring to when they say "natural selection" are the ideas as formulated by Darwin.": But that's the point. The idea of natural selection "formulated by Darwin" was not formulated by him, but adopted by him. It was explained by a creationist just before Darwin, and Darwin seems to have got it from the creationist (Darwin had a copy of the creationist's book explaining it.)
"We will never know what people who lived their lives under religious oppression and intolerance actually believed.": I'm not talking about people who lived their lives under religious oppression and intolerance, whoever they might be. I'm talking about the leading lights of the scientific revolution. We know what they believed, because they wrote about it.
"Please don't insult me with your feigned incredulity on that matter.": Please don't insult me with bigoted nonsense.
"Also, when you say "some religious groups," I know that you're hiding a "not my sect" card for later. Please don't play that one, OK?": Please don't play the game of lumping all theistic religions in as one, whilst holding atheistic religions in a separate category as somehow special. If you are going to make accusations, specify who you are making them against. Don't just refer to "religions" as though they are all the same, the various religions are very different.
"Horse hockey. Christians have abandoned innumerable "customs" of the past. Shall I name a few?": Yes. But don't include people who ignore the plain teaching of the Bible, such rejecting six-day creation, and don't treat biblical laws applicable to Old Testament Jews as applicable now, as so many bibliosceptics do so often.
"There is no such thing as an atheistic worldview.": Can I now say "horse hockey"? There, I guess that proves it. Granted there is not a single atheistic worldview, just as there is not a single Christian worldview. But that's about all I'll grant.
"Common unbelief does not constitute a worldview; common belief, however, may ...": Atheism is a belief in no God. Calling it an unbelief is inaccurate.
"Theists like to claim that atheists have a common worldview in order to make debate more convenient, but I'm sure you will agree that this is unfair (not to mention intellectually lazy)...": It's not unfair at all, and certainly not as unfair as lumping all religions in together. Certainly, as I said above, there are variations on the worldview, but there's also common elements, and there's nothing wrong with addressing those common elements in common.
"...it would be unfair of me to presume that all Catholics and Protestants share the same worldview just because they all happen to be Christian.": Yet here you are, not just lumping Catholics and Protestants together, but religions in general!
"Growing by what measure?": Numbers of attendees at churches.
"New church construction has followed a downward trend for many generations now, while the total American population has been rising fast.": There is a trend (here in Australia at least) to hire existing premises rather than build new. Also, the number of churches being built ignores what I actually said, that some sections are falling by the wayside and some sections are growing. Isn't it fairly obvious that the sections that are falling away would thus be making church buildings available for the growing section to make use of? Furthermore, I wasn't talking about just America. There is more to the world than just America, you know.
"Again with the comedy. Except this time it's not so funny, because you've mingled it with the disgusting, unthinkable, unforgivable, yet typical Christian behavior of downplaying centuries of documented, well-established, universally-accepted history.": Really? I don't think so. Sociologist and agnostic (apparently) Rodney Stark wrote:
...for more than three centuries [the claim of inevitable and bitter warfare between religion and science] has been the primary polemical device used in the atheist attack on faith. From Thomas Hobbes through Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins, false claims about religion and science have been used as weapons in the battle to “free” the human mind from the “fetters of faith”.[2]
"Oceans of blood stain the robes of your religion.": Nowhere near as much as stain the religion of atheism.[3]
"Its denial of this is not unlike Holocaust-denial, and is equally offensive and infuriating.": It appears that you are the one in denial.
"Does Christianity not fear being made fools of for believing in a 6,000 year old universe?": We can't be "made" fools for believing the truth.
"Only a few fringe sects still feel no shame in preaching that nonsense.": It has wide support among a number of Christian denominations, definitely including major (i.e. non-fringe) ones. And it is you who is spouting nonsense. A 6,000 year old Earth is not nonsense.
"...if you wish to distance yourself from the kook fringe, this would be a good place to do it.": I believe in a 6,000-year-old Earth and I'm no kook.
"Show me your evidence that a supernatural deity named Yahweh created the universe.": I didn't make myself clear. When I said that creationists have just as much evidence as the evolutionists, what I meant was that we have the same evidence. You are familiar with the evidence the evolutionists use? That's the evidence I'm talking about. Just different explanations for the evidence.
"...whereas evolutionary theory at least attempts to draw logical inferences for things like common descent...": Based on their naturalistic presumptions.
"...the creationist "interpretation" is to posit fanciful mythologies that any child can see through.": Really? Then perhaps you could explain why so many evolutionists have become creationists because of the evidence. The point is, your allegation is merely an assertion based on your ideology. It has no basis in fact.
"How convenient! With such freedom, creationists can explain away any problem! When in doubt, "God did it!"": That is not what I said, and not what I meant. I'd appreciate you not constructing straw-man argument to demolish.
"Something tells me that the word "freethinker" bothers you...": It connotes an air of superiority which is unjustified.
"...the stifling religious environment that trapped the human mind for centuries...": That "stifling environment" that gave rise to science? Try again.
Philip J. Rayment 02:57, 15 March 2008 (EDT)

Evolution Is False

For the sake of argument, assume that all the theories contained by evolution are false. What now? PerpetualAngst 17:36, 25 Jun 2007 (PDT)

Your hypo is too theoretical to be useful. Nobody's arguing that it is "totally false." Evolution contains a lot of theories that are obviously true. Variation and natural selection is demonstrable and obvious. If every theory contained by evolution were false, we'd have to reexamine everything we know about life. But nobody's arguing that "everything contained by evolution is false." Creationists are arguing that some of the things are true, some things are false, and some things are unfalsifiable. "Evolution" is too broad a label. We need to be more precise in our analysis. The key question to me is, "What if common ancestry is false?" Ungtss 20:55, 25 June 2007 (EDT)

The entire article is about how evolution could be proved wrong (which it can't), however the argument is never turned around. Creationism is not falsifiable. If you are to debate a subject, you must give BOTH sides of the argument. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by DrCody (talk)

No, this article is not about how evolution can be proved wrong; it's about how it can't be proved wrong (as you agree), i.e. how it is unfalsifiable.
And you are incorrect to claim that the argument is never turned around. On the contrary, the argument is usually how creation is unfalsifiable, but rarely is that argument turned around to see if evolution itself is also unfalsifiable.
I agree that the creation model itself is also unfalsifiable in principle (although specific claims about it are falsifiable). So creation and evolution are therefore both in the same boat. Agreed?
Philip J. Rayment 23:38, 30 June 2007 (EDT)

What is science?

Falsifiablity is only one criteria for scientific discovery.

http://www.csicop.org/intelligentdesignwatch/science.html http://www.aapt.org/Policy/whatissci.cfm http://catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0025.html http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/refpages/RefArticle.aspx?refid=761557105

Wismike

Falsifiability is necessary but not sufficient for a particular proposition to be scientific. The point of this article is that the controversial aspects of evolution are not falsifiable. The fact that aspects of creationism are also not falsifiable (which is not in dispute) does not change the fact that evolution is not falsifiable, and is therefore not scientific. Ungtss 10:14, 3 August 2007 (EDT)

Edit summary

Rewrote definition of falsifiability as the corrent definition is incorrect; falsifiability is NOT a complete test of the scientific validity of a concept in and of itself, and not strictly necessary for a proposition to be considered scientific except in the philosophy of science of certain non-bayensians.

Updated definitions of evolution to reflect current trends in biological research.

Elaborated on possible tests of evolution

Provided context for quotes from evolutionists.

Xyrophile 17:21, 5 June 2008 (EDT)

I like some of your wording changes, but other of your changes are more problematic. For example, you say "However, natural selection as the sole driving force of evolution is an outdated concept ...", as though the previous paragraph said that natural selection was the sole factor. But it didn't. It said "if "evolution" means the proposition that all life descended ... by variation and natural selection alone" (my emphasis). So your "rebuttal" of the previous paragraph is not a rebuttal at all. And it merely points out that particular models of evolution make some testable predictions, ignoring that the whole point is that evolution is so flexible that evolution itself is not thereby challenged, just the particular models.
Also, you "counter" the quote from Whitten with a later quote, but the later quote really confirms the earlier quote, that no experiment can challenge the theory of evolution, i.e., it's not testable.
Philip J. Rayment 23:10, 5 June 2008 (EDT)
I have serious problems with the added possible falsifications of evolution, as follows:
  • Just because someone proposes some possible falsification doesn't mean that it really would falsify it. The article already has examples of proposed falsifications which were found (such as magnets and wheels), but the hypothesis survived anyway: that is, evolutionists did not consider it falsified by the supposed falsifications! So would these fare any better? See my last paragraph, below.
  • Earlier in the article it says that "A scientific theory seeks to explain a process and thereby make predictions. The falsifiability of a theory is established if it is possible to test these predictions." But do these proposed falsifications really propose testable predictions"? They seem to be more in the category of "if we happen to find" rather than real testable predictions. Also, testable predictions need to distinguish between the hypothesis and competing ideas. Creationism accepts that mutations accumulate, we already know that they accumulate, so proposing that the discovery that they can't accumulate as a testable prediction of evolution is nothing but hand-waving.
  • How would direct observation of the creation of life falsify evolution? That some being is found to be capable of creating life doesn't mean that evolution can't (also) occur.
  • The one about chimeras seems very contrived. What is a platypus, for example, if not a chimera? Okay, it's perhaps not a "true" chimera, but that's the contrived part. The point really is that creatures from different lines that have similar features are actually quite common, but are "explained" as "convergent evolution". But again, this has failed to falsify evolution (because it truly is not falsifiable).
  • The last one, about dissimilar DNA, is too vague. How dissimilar is dissimilar? Human and ape DNA is dissimilar, and too dissimilar to be explained by evolution. But again, this has failed to falsify it.
I've heard various proposals on how evolution could be falsified, but none so far seem convincing to me. I therefore think that the only proposed falsifications that should be included in the article are those made by professional or widely-accepted evolutionists. The first three are from TalkOrigins, so they can stand (pointing out their flaws), but the fourth, unsourced, I will remove.
Philip J. Rayment 23:33, 5 June 2008 (EDT)

Hi Philip, I'll try to address your concerns as best I can here:

I think a great deal of the problem is a lack of distinction between three concepts: evolution, natural selection and common origin. While all three support each other, they're separate concepts that are all being lumped together and referred to as evolution.

The Merriam Webster's applicable definition of evolution is as follows (the other definitions are unrelated to biology):

4 a: the historical development of a biological group (as a race or species) : phylogeny b: a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in successive generations; also : the process described by this theory

Essentially, this is in line with the first definition of evolution, and essentially regarded as fact by most scientists.

Natural selection is a proposed mechanism by which evolution may occur. I'm pretty sure you're more than familiar with it, so I won't bother detailing it, but the important distinction is that disproving natural selection does not mean disproving evolution. The other important point on natural selection is that modern evolutionary theory has itself evolved and only considers natural selection one of many forces driving evolution. For instance, the discovery of horizontal gene transfer revealed that DNA can actually be exchanged between different organisms coming into contact with each other. There are a host of factors at play beyond natural selection and variation by mutation, so this aspect of the definition is somewhat misleading.

The theory of common descent of course is the theory that all living organisms descend from a common ancestor, which is the point the second definition speaks to. It's important to realize that this is not the same thing as the most primitive form of life or the first living organism. In fact, research supports the theory that our common ancestor was not a "protocell" or even a single celled being, but a primitive multicellular organism: [4] However, common descent is not necessary for evolution to hold, and the opposite is true as well; it's hypothetically possible for the descendants of a single ancestor to be wildly different for reasons unrelated to evolution. After all, if you're a creationist, you must believe in the possibility of divine intervention. Transformationism is the idea that organisms can evolve, but have evolved from multiple ancestors instead of a common one.

  • The test of falsifiability is simply whether a theory could POTENTIALLY be falsified based on a test of its predictions. If it IS falsified, the next step is to adjust the theory to account for the discrepancies. Theories are not static, unchanging things, but working models that are adjusted to account for observation. That being said, the argument about wheels and magnets is essentially an older version of the doctrine of intelligent design; namely that the discovery of biological structures with no possible evolutionary path would invalidate evolution. The discovery of wheels and magnets in nature has nothing to do with evolution unless we're talking about wheels and magnets in biological structures, and even then, only if no reason could be found that a less evolved structure could be advantageous. The existence of wheels and magnets alone, even in a biological structure would NOT be a test of evolution. Unfortunately the current treatment of Haldane's quote lacks the context to make this distinction.
  • All the proposed tests are logically possible, but not necessarily logistically. This isn't a strike against the theory though because falsifiability only requires that the theory be CAPABLE of being tested, not necessarily testable with our current technology. Testing the theory of relativity requires either the technology to accelerate matter to fantastic speeds and incredibly accurate clocks. Had we not invented particle accelerators or atomic clocks, it's likely we still would not have tested Einstein's theories. That being said, the lack of this technology would not have affected the falsifiability of relativity. Testable predictions do NOT need to distinguish between the hypothesis and competing ideas. The example of gravity in this article is a perfect example of this. The theory of gravitation predicts the rate at which an apple will fall from a tree (possibly injuring any physicists sitting beneath it) and because this can be tested the theory is falsifiable. However, it does not rule out the possibility that said apple falls to the ground for reason other than gravity. The discovery that mutations can't accumulate is actually would falsify evolution wholesale, and so it's a legitimate test, just as testing whether apples don't fall. The fact that the results of the test do not falsify the theory is irrelevant. If the question is whether the overarching theory of evolution can potentially be falsified, testing whether mutations can accumulate within a species is a valid test, not just hand waving.
  • The platypus is a monotreme like the echidnas (which also lay eggs.) While its bill superficially resembles that of a bird, it's actually an elongated pliable snout with covered in sensitive skin. Its spines are poisonous, but the venom is chemically unlike that of snakes and reptiles, or any other animal for that matter. A true chimera would incorporate elements that were structurally, not just superficially, identical. Similarity is not enough to qualify as a chimera, and not all chimeras would falsify evolution. The lineage of monotremes diverges from that of other mammals from a point far in prehistory when mammals first began to evolve from reptiles, explaining why they share characteristics with them (i.e. laying eggs.) The discovery of a chimera composed of elements from organisms whose phylogeny is widely divergent would thereby disprove evolution.
  • Direct observation: If we observed new organisms being created that did not inherit characteristics of their progenitors, clearly evolution would be disproven.
  • Dissimilar DNA: if an organism was shown to be less similar to a phylogenetically close organism than a phylogenetically distant one, evolution would be disproved. Example: if humans were found to be more similar genetically to chickens than apes.

If you read Whitten's quote carefully, you'll not he speaks about challenging "the robustness of a prevailing worldview like evolution" and not about evolution per se. The article is about the institutional bias against challenging established viewpoints. In his original quote, you note that he states "they may happen to stumble across facts which would seem to conflict with its predictions." If it's even possible to test these predictions, clearly evolution is falsifiable! Xyrophile 08:56, 7 June 2008 (EDT)

A lack of clear definition is certainly a problem, and I agree that natural selection is distinct from evolution (although many evolutionists conflate the two), but common ancestry is a key part of the definition of evolution. Without it, you don't have evolution, but something else, such as creation. On the other hand, this is one of the problems with evolution: The term is so flexible that it can cover almost everything, whether that be descent from a single common ancestor or descent from multiple common ancestors, descent with modification or merely a change in allele frequencies. The term is so flexible that everything (except creation) comes under the umbrella. Thus you can potentially falsify key parts of evolution, such as descent form a common ancestor, and you still haven't falsified evolution, because it can mean something else quite different! In other words, the concept cannot even be nailed down enough to be able to falsify it.
As for "research" supporting a theory of a multicellular organism, the paper you linked to seems to be very short on actual research! Rather, it is wild imagination, a just-so story.
The wheels and magnets are in biological structures. The rest of that paragraph of yours basically tried to explain away the fact that a proposed falsification of evolution was put to the test, evolution failed, but evolution was not thereby falsified! So if falsification tests manage to falsify, but the theory stands anyway, why should we believe that any other proposed falsifications would actually have the potential to falsify evolution? I've had several people put to me that finding dinosaur fossils in recent strata would falsify it, but I have absolutely no doubt that if such were found (and something equivalent has been found), evolution would not be falsified, because it would be quite easy to simply say that they didn't die out 65 million years ago after all, without discarding evolution itself.
You make an interesting point about the difference between logically-possible and logistically-possible falsifications. I'm not disagreeing, but wonder where that leads. Does that mean that 6-day creation 6,000 years ago is falsifiable because, logically though not logistically, we could one day invent a time machine and go back and observe it happening (or not happening)? Or does the falsifiability of creation depend on current thinking about the theoretical possibility of time travel (which has wavered between it not being possible to it being theoretically possible)?
I understand what you are getting at with potential falsifiability and accumulation of mutations, but let me put an absurd example to you so that I can see how you explain it. Creation (the alternative to evolution that so many say is unscientific because it's not falsifiable) predicts that we exist. Because we can test if we exist, creation is therefore falsifiable. I could probably think of a slightly less absurd example, but hopefully that makes the point.
I understand why the platypus is not a true chimera, but the point of the chimera example is that evolution supposedly cannot explain it. Neither can it adequately explain many other similarities not due to common descent, but evolution is not thereby falsified, because someone can always invent some explanation, no matter how fanciful. Also, the chimera example says "chimeras ... unable be explained by lateral gene transfer or symbiosis". Is such a thing possible? That is, is it possible to have chimeras unable to be explained in an evolutionary context? I doubt it, and that's part of the example being contrived. If they occurred, evolutionists would come up with some explanation. That's the point: it's so flexible it can explain anything. So the argument amounts to saying, "Evolution would be falsified if there something was discovered that couldn't be explained by evolution". Duh!
Your "explanation" of the direct observation of creation does not explain why evolution would be falsified.
And the dissimilar DNA argument is just as silly. It basically says that if two organisms were found to be more similar than expected according to the evolutionary family tree (i.e. common descent), then evolution would be wrong. But this has been found numerous times. All that happens is that the family tree is rearranged (you said yourself that the "next step is to adjust the theory to account for the discrepancies") rather than evolution being discarded.
Philip J. Rayment 10:25, 7 June 2008 (EDT)
"(although many evolutionists conflate the two)," - not to mention many creationists. Wandering 10:31, 7 June 2008 (EDT)
Amateur creationists, perhaps, but not the leading ones such as those with Creation Ministries International, the Institution for Creation Research, etc. Philip J. Rayment 10:37, 7 June 2008 (EDT)
So do you assert that the leading evolutionists make this mistake as well? If so, do you care to name a few examples? Wandering 10:42, 7 June 2008 (EDT)
Essentially, yes. I can't recall any particular ones at the moment, other than what's mentioned in this article (search for "As does CMI", and read that and the next paragraph). Philip J. Rayment 11:04, 7 June 2008 (EDT)
Er, the only person named there is Darwin, who is hardly representative of current evolutionary science. Wandering 11:12, 7 June 2008 (EDT)
Yes, he's the only one named, but they also refer to the promotion of the peppered moth example of natural selection being used by evolutionists as evidence of evolution. Philip J. Rayment 11:31, 7 June 2008 (EDT)

- The concept CAN be nailed down enough to falsify it, because every one of the definitions is falsifiable! If evolution is a change in allele frequencies within a population over time, observation of a mechanism that prevents the hereditary passing down of genetic information would falsify evolution. This alone makes ALL of evolution falsifiable, because ALL of evolution would be falsified were this the case.

I'm not arguing that I necessarily agree with everything in the paper, but it serves to support the point that common ancestry does not necessarily descent from a single protocell; it simply means descent from a single gene pool.

The discovery of wheels, magnets, or even nuclear reactors would not disprove evolution unless no evolutionary path could possibly account for them. That being said, this is a really weak falsification, because it presupposes that we never will discover such a path in the future. It's an argument fundamentally based on ignorance, and it's part of the reason ID is so derided.

The arguments about strata are weak too, because there are a host of processes that could account for the distribution of anomalous fossils, one of which is a simple misunderstanding of when species went extinct.

6-day creation 6,000 years ago is eminently falsifiable; the discovery of anything over 6000 years old logically falsifies this. The reason creationism is unfalsifiable is because it relies on supernatural causes.

Creationism does predict (correctly!) that we exist, but presupposes the existance of God, which is not even hypothetically falsifiable.

To qualify as a true chimera to a degree sufficient to disprove evolution, an organism would have to incorporate elements of multiple organisms that are widely separated phylogenetically. This means completely identical; it's perfectly normal for two organisms facing the same pressures to develop the same adaptations. It would falsify evolution to come across a centaur and discover its genome was composed of sections of human DNA and horse DNA, because both evolutionary lines diverged. However, finding a centaur with a unique genome would not falsify evolution.

Evolutionary would be falsified in my example of direct evolution because evolution predicts that organisms inherit characteristics or their progenitors. If two blondes had a brown haired child together, evolution would be disproven, as no possible combination of genes from two blonde haired persons combine to form a genotype for brown hair (this is of course discounting mutation) Essentially, the argument is that if direct observation contradicted evolution's model of heredity (currently the mendellian genetic model) evolution would be disproven.

The phylogenetic tree predates evolutionary theory actually. It's primarily based on morphology (observation of similar characteristics.) The reason that it's important to evolutionary theory is that evolution predicts this sort of heirarchy, predicts that it's because of common descent, and predicts that the distance on this tree will be reflected on the genetic tree of life. While rearrangments have occured, and continue to occur, these are generally due to errors in taxonomy. However, testing the genetic distance between organisms we are reasonably certain are correctly classified and comparing it to the phylogenetic distance allows us to test evolution's prediction that genetics will reflect phylogeny.

While the current theory of evolution could be falsified by any of these observations, such a falsification wouldn't mean evolution would be discarded, with the exception of an observation that refutes the most basic definition of change in a population over time. Instead, the current theory would be modified to account for the new observation, synthesising a new theory of evolution. This new synthesis would still retain the aspects of the previous one that were not affected by the implications of the observation. Xyrophile 11:44, 7 June 2008 (EDT)

"The concept CAN be nailed down enough to falsify it, because every one of the definitions is falsifiable!": Including definitions (versions) that we've yet to propose? Of course not. As you said, "While the current theory of evolution could be falsified by any of these observations, such a falsification wouldn't mean evolution would be discarded...Instead, the current theory would be modified to account for the new observation, synthesising a new theory of evolution.". And that's precisely the point: Evolution would not be discarded, because it would not be considered falsified. All that would be falsified are specific versions of the idea, not the idea itself. Even if all past and current versions are falsified, evolutionists will just invent a new version. Hence falsification is illusory. You've admitted it yourself! As for your exception, again, you are basically saying that the only thing that could possibly falsify it is something that we already know not to be the case. You failed, by the way, to directly answer my point about creation being falsifiable because we exist (more on that below), as well as my question about it being falsifiable by time travel.
"The discovery of wheels, magnets, or even nuclear reactors would not disprove evolution unless no evolutionary path could possibly account for them.": Again, my point is that a proposed falsification of evolution was put to the test, evolution failed, but the failure is rationalised away. So why couldn't any future failures be rationalised away? You've already admitted that they would be ("...the current theory would be modified to account for the new observation, synthesising a new theory of evolution.").
"...this is a really weak falsification, because it presupposes that we never will discover such a path in the future.": Again, my point: nothing can falsify evolution, because there's always the rationalisation that an evolutionary mechanism will be found. And it could be too, given how flexible the idea is.
"6-day creation 6,000 years ago is eminently falsifiable;...": Thank you for agreeing that young-Earth creationism is falsifiable, and therefore should not be classified as inherently unscientific.
"...the discovery of anything over 6000 years old logically falsifies this.": Assuming the dates are correct, but that's a separate issue.
"The reason creationism is unfalsifiable is because it relies on supernatural causes.": Huh? What has the cause got to do with its falsifiability? Falsifiability is, according to you, based on being able to test predictions made by the theory, not according to its causes.
"Creationism does predict (correctly!) that we exist, but presupposes the existance of God, which is not even hypothetically falsifiable.": Again, what does the cause, or presupposition, have to do with its falsifiability? Nothing. So if it makes a testable and correct prediction, it should be accepted as a valid scientific theory, shouldn't it?
"To qualify as a true chimera to a degree sufficient to disprove evolution...": But would it disprove evolution? Again, "... the current theory would be modified to account for the new observation, synthesising a new theory of evolution".
"...it's perfectly normal for two organisms facing the same pressures to develop the same adaptations": Sorry, but that's begging the question. You are presuming that evolution is capable of doing this in order to argue that evolution can do this. Have you (or any scientist) ever observed two organisms develop the same adaptations? No.
"If two blondes had a brown haired child together, evolution would be disproven, as no possible combination of genes from two blonde haired persons combine to form a genotype for brown hair (this is of course discounting mutation)...": Huh? Why "discount mutations"? Mutations are an integral part of evolution. You are basically saying that evolution can't explain it without invoking a key feature of evolution! Duh! That's the point, evolutionists could simply invoke mutations! You don't even have to go as far as "...current theory would be modified to account for the new observation, synthesising a new theory of evolution".
"While rearrangments have occured, and continue to occur, these are generally due to errors in taxonomy.": Isn't that what I said to you? You put in the article, "Phylogenetically close organisms that are less genetically similar than they are to phylogenetically distant organisms". I replied that they would simply rearrange the tree. You now say that rearrangements are due to error. Of course it would be called "error"! The point is, such things would not disprove evolution, but just cause someone to say "we got that part of the tree wrong (i.e. an "error"), so we will rearrange it".
"While the current theory of evolution could be falsified by any of these observations, such a falsification wouldn't mean evolution would be discarded...": Thank you. That's the whole point of all this. Unless you are trying to say that evolution would continue to be accepted in full knowledge that is had been falsified, what you are essentially doing is agreeing that any falsifications of particular aspects or versions would not (because they could not) falsify evolution itself!! Hence evolution itself is inherently unfalsifiable. If you agree with this, why do you keep disputing it? Is it due to being so philosophically opposed to the only real alternative, special creation, that you have to cling to evolution no matter what? That's the view of many, including, for example, Sir Arthur Keith, who said, "Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe it only because the only alternative is special creation which is unthinkable.", or D.M.S. Watson who said, "Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists, not because it has been observed to occur or can be proved by logical coherent evidence, but because the only alternative -- special creation -- is clearly incredible"
Philip J. Rayment 01:43, 8 June 2008 (EDT)


Including definitions (versions) that we've yet to propose? Of course not.

This is a straw man argument; you're saying the theory of evolution can't be falsified because we can't falsify formulations of the theory that nobody has thought of yet. No theory could ever be falsifiable by this definition!

And that's precisely the point: Evolution would not be discarded, because it would not be considered falsified. All that would be falsified are specific versions of the idea, not the idea itself.

Why on earth would falsifying a theory mean we discard it entirely? Until the discovery of the electron 1897, atomic theory held that atoms were indivisible, the smallest possible form of matter. When the discovery of the electron falsified this, the theory was adjusted to reflect this new information. However, the concept of the atom was not abandoned, simply an untrue proposition about its properties.

Even if all past and current versions are falsified, evolutionists will just invent a new version. Hence falsification is illusory.

You're making a critical error here; theories are not static things. Scientists will continue refining the theory of evolution unless it reaches a dead end.

You've admitted it yourself! As for your exception, again, you are basically saying that the only thing that could possibly falsify it is something that we already know not to be the case.

But this is still a valid grounds to establish falsifiability. The test of falsifiability isn't whether a theory can be falsified in light of other things we know, or even if it can be falsified with a plausible test. To establish falsifiability, we only need establish that a hypothetical test or observation exists in the realm of logical possibility that would disprove the particular formulation of the theory we're evaluating, not logistical possibility.

Again, my point is that a proposed falsification of evolution was put to the test, evolution failed, but the failure is rationalized away. So why couldn't any future failures be rationalized away? You've already admitted that they would be

A theory's falsification does not mean the theory is to be discarded unless the theory can't be modified to account for the results. Science is based on the concept of empirical knowledge. The theories we consider true today stand on the shoulders of those disproven in the past. See the example of the atom above.

Again, my point: nothing can falsify evolution, because there's always the rationalization that an evolutionary mechanism will be found. And it could be too, given how flexible the idea is.

This doesn't make sense. You appear to have misunderstood what falsification is. Older syntheses of the theory of evolution have been falsified already, and the current synthesis is as falsifiable as they were.

"6-day creation 6,000 years ago is eminently falsifiable;...": Thank you for agreeing that young-Earth creationism is falsifiable, and therefore should not be classified as inherently unscientific. "...the discovery of anything over 6000 years old logically falsifies this.": Assuming the dates are correct, but that's a separate issue. "The reason creationism is unfalsifiable is because it relies on supernatural causes.": Huh? What has the cause got to do with its falsifiability? Falsifiability is, according to you, based on being able to test predictions made by the theory, not according to its causes.

The theory that the earth was created by some natural process over 6 days 6000 years ago is falsifiable. It's falsifiable because of the dates; they are the proposition that can be tested. The theory that the earth was created by an omnipotent being such as God is unfalsifiable, because it allows the possibility that said being changed the properties of things to the point that measurement is meaningless. Tools like radiocarbon dating work because we understand the decay of matter as a predictable, natural process. If we add an omnipotent being to a theory in any field, the result of ANY test or measurement becomes inconclusive because said being could manipulate the results in ways that were impossible to detect. For that matter, why are you bothering to argue that creationism is falsifiable if you think falsifiability is illusory?


"Creationism does predict (correctly!) that we exist, but presupposes the existence of God, which is not even hypothetically falsifiable.": Again, what does the cause, or presupposition, have to do with its falsifiability? Nothing. So if it makes a testable and correct prediction, it should be accepted as a valid scientific theory, shouldn't it?

No. The presuppositions in a theory are part of the theory itself. If I formulate the theory that "The sky is blue because God decreed it so," does going outside and observing a blue sky prove the existence of God? The theory hinges on the existence of God, so it could be rewritten as "God exists, and decreed the sky to be blue." This theory makes the prediction that the sky is blue, which is correct, but its still not falsifiable because no possible observation exists that could disprove the existence of a God who does not wish to be found. I think you can see pretty clearly how this analog maps to creationism, or any other theory involving God.

"To qualify as a true chimera to a degree sufficient to disprove evolution...": But would it disprove evolution? Again, "... the current theory would be modified to account for the new observation, synthesizing a new theory of evolution".

I suppose the correct wording here is "to a degree sufficient to falsify the current theory."

"...it's perfectly normal for two organisms facing the same pressures to develop the same adaptations": Sorry, but that's begging the question. You are presuming that evolution is capable of doing this in order to argue that evolution can do this. Have you (or any scientist) ever observed two organisms develop the same adaptations? No.

Species of spiders, snakes and shellfish all have developed poison to defend themselves from predators and assist them in hunting prey, but all of them have developed this ability independently of each other.


"If two blondes had a brown haired child together, evolution would be disproven, as no possible combination of genes from two blonde haired persons combine to form a genotype for brown hair (this is of course discounting mutation)...": Huh? Why "discount mutations"? Mutations are an integral part of evolution. You are basically saying that evolution can't explain it without invoking a key feature of evolution! Duh! That's the point, evolutionists could simply invoke mutations! You don't even have to go as far as "...current theory would be modified to account for the new observation, synthesizing a new theory of evolution".

Sorry, this one actually was incorrect; I brought up the blondes and brown haired child by accident, having confused it with blue and brown eyes, a classic example taught in genetics classes. Essentially, eye colour is regulated by not one, but two alleles on the locus. To have blue eyes, both must be the allele for blue eyes; if one or the other is not, a different eye colour is produced. We each carry one of these genes from each of our parents. If both of your parents were blue eyed, then all four alleles in the pool of possible alleles to pass down to you specify blue eyes. Logically then, you must also have blue eyes, because there's no combination of alleles that could be passed to you without causing blue eyes. If you were born with brown eyes, one of three things must have happened. Either some sort of mutation must have happened to alter your genotype during or after the combination of those genes, you must have received genetic information from a source other than your parents such as lateral gene transfer or your eye colour must not be a hereditary characteristic. If the latter is the case, evolution would be falsified. Numerous tests exist to detect mutation, and lateral gene transfer is also testable, so it's possible to test which of these causes is responsable.

"While rearrangements have occurred, and continue to occur, these are generally due to errors in taxonomy.": Isn't that what I said to you? You put in the article, "Phylogenetically close organisms that are less genetically similar than they are to phylogenetically distant organisms". I replied that they would simply rearrange the tree. You now say that rearrangements are due to error. Of course it would be called "error"! The point is, such things would not disprove evolution, but just cause someone to say "we got that part of the tree wrong (i.e. an "error"), so we will rearrange it".

The rearrangements in the phylogenetic tree I'm talking about are rearrangements among close cousins, not massive changes like saying birds are descended from apes. If we found genetic evidence of this, evolution would be falsified.

"While the current theory of evolution could be falsified by any of these observations, such a falsification wouldn't mean evolution would be discarded...": Thank you. That's the whole point of all this. Unless you are trying to say that evolution would continue to be accepted in full knowledge that is had been falsified, what you are essentially doing is agreeing that any falsifications of particular aspects or versions would not (because they could not) falsify evolution itself!! Hence evolution itself is inherently unfalsifiable. If you agree with this, why do you keep disputing it?

You've misunderstood the consequences of falsification in science. The basic concept of evolution would only be discarded if the process of formulation/falsification/adjustment/reformu lation reached a dead end in which no possible adjustment of the theory could account for the observations we've made, or a competing theory was developed that better explained those observations. However, the theory could still be falsifiable at every step along the way; indeed it must be for the cycle to continue. This is true for ALL science, not just evolution.


Is it due to being so philosophically opposed to the only real alternative, special creation, that you have to cling to evolution no matter what? That's the view of many, including, for example, Sir Arthur Keith, who said, "Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe it only because the only alternative is special creation which is unthinkable.",

Can you find a source for this quote other than a creationist website? Do you know of anywhere it's possible to aquire the edition of the Origin of the Species he supposedly stated it in? The guys at talk.origins tried and failed: [ http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/quotes/mine/part1-4.html#quote81]

or D.M.S. Watson who said, "Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists, not because it has been observed to occur or can be proved by logical coherent evidence, but because the only alternative -- special creation -- is clearly incredible"

An exhaustively researched explanation of this quote is available at [5]. Taken in the proper context, Watson does not state that the evidence isn't there to support evolution, he simply states that the only competing theories are evolution and creation, and that zoologists thus support evolution by the process of elimination, due to the numerous problems with creationism as a scientific paradigm.

I would argue instead that it's you who is arguing on ideological grounds. You've tried to argue simultaneously that evolution is unfalsifiable and falsified. You vigorously defend the falsifiability of creationism while claiming that falsifiability is an illusion. Finally, you've cherry picked quotes and statistics out of context to support your argument. Are you so philosophically attached to creationism that you're willing to contradict yourself, or are your arguments are founded on a misunderstanding of the philosophy of science? Please don't take this as an insult; for the most part you've made intelligent, logically consistent arguments and presented them with the grace befitting a gentleman, but you seem content to fiddle with the definition of science to fit creationism under its umbrella. I bear no grudge against those who honestly believe in young earth creationism, but it's a religious belief, not a scientific one. That doesn't discount the possibility that its true, but to attempt to define it as science makes a mockery of the scientific method. Xyrophile 10:48, 12 June 2008 (EDT)

I have just seen this discussion and read it with a great deal of interest... is it possible for Philip Rayment to respond to Xyrophile? Both participants have demonstrated themselves to be respectful and coherent debaters and I think it's important that the discussion continue, since this matter is so important. Sam99foster 09:53, 14 September 2008 (EDT)

This sentence seems off

I don't think the sentence is necessarily wrong, but it seems to have some sort of a issue, like a word or two isn't quite right. I'm looking at the bold sentence.

In 1949[1], J.B.S. Haldane proposed that evolution could be falsified if "various mechanisms, such as the wheel and magnet, which would be useless till fairly perfect" were found in nature. This is substantially the same as the argument for intelligent design below. Creationists typically attempt to falsify evolution on these grounds by pointing out that wheels and magnets have been found in nature, although none have been found in biological organisms to date without a logically possible path of evolution.

It seems to say something along the lines of "Creationists attempt to falsify evolution on these grounds by pointing out that wheels and magnets found in organisms could have evolved." I think the sentence is supposed to say that Haldane's test is invalid because we have found animals with complicated mechanisms, but evolution accounts for them, meaning Haldane's test didn't falsify evolution. I'm a bit confused. If I knew how to fix the sentence I would change it myself, but I want more opinions on this. Maybe it's fine as it is, and I'm misunderstanding it. (In that case maybe there should be a rewrite for clarity's sake.) ChrisGT90 23:22, 2 June 2010 (EDT)