25 Replies to “Design Disquisitions: Quote of the Month-Cornelius Hunter on the Unfalsifiability of Evolution

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    Difficult to falsify is not the same as unfalsifiable.

    The discovery of the fossilized remains of a modern rabbit in Pre-Cambrian rocks would certainly give pause for thought even if, on its own, it might not be sufficient to discredit the theory.

    Being an evolutionist means there is no bad news.

    Darwin, well aware his theory required a mechanism of inheritance, proposed microscopic particles called gemmules as part of his theory of pangenesis. Francis Galton conducted a series of blood transfusion experiments on differently pigmented rabbits to test the theory. He found no evidence to support pangenesis. Darwin’s theory of evolution languished until Mendel’s work on inheritance was discovered.

    If new species appear abruptly in the fossil record, that just means evolution operates in spurts

    As Darwin predicted in Origin:

    and lastly, although each species must have passed through numerous transitional stages, it is probable that the periods, during which each underwent modification, though many and long as measured by years, have been short in comparison with the periods during which each remained in an unchanged condition.

    And if the resolution of the geological record is so coarse-grained that the culmination of a development period of ten million years counts as a sudden appearance then where is the problem?

    If species then persist for eons with little modification, that just means evolution takes long breaks.

    See above.

    If clever mechanisms are discovered in biology, that just means evolution is smarter than we imagined.

    There are “clever mechanisms” we know of now in biology whose detailed evolutionary history is still unknown. That doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t one. And, as always, anyone who believes they have a better explanation is encouraged to bring it forward.

    If strikingly similar designs are found in distant species, that just means evolution repeats itself. If significant differences are found in allied species, that just means evolution sometimes introduces new designs rapidly.

    How is this a problem exactly?

    If no likely mechanism can be found for the large-scale change evolution requires, that just means evolution is mysterious.

    It is still mysterious in some ways. That’s why it’s still a thriving field of research And there are mechanisms. Wells and others may have pooh-poohed them but if they weren’t observed then the theory would be in big trouble and we all know you would be shouting it from the rooftops.

    If adaptation responds to environmental signals, that just means evolution has more foresight than was thought.

    If you think that is what evolution is about then you don’t understand it. Adaptation, in this context, is the process by which species, through random but nonetheless fortuitous mutations, finds themselves better fitted to survive and reproduce in a given environment than their competitors. No foresight is involved or required.

    If major predictions of evolution are found to be false, that just means evolution is more complex than we thought.

    Or the theory needs to undergo modification if it is to survive and flourish in a changing data environment. That is part of the normal process of science.

    What major failure prediction failures did you have in mind?

  2. 2
    Granville Sewell says:

    Joseph LeConte, in his book “Evolution” acknowledges that
    evolution is an “axiom,” ie, is unfalsifiable:

    https://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/03/evolution_is_an/

  3. 3
    rvb8 says:

    I think evolution is ripe for falsifying, it’s just that every science associated with this theory rigorously upholds and supports it. Areas such as biogeography show how like species are related, how distribution is evolutionarily predictable. The new area of study, molecular biology, strongly supports evolution to the point where we know why great apes have 48 pairs of chromosomes, and we have a mere 46 (One of those chromosomes was shown to have rejoined somewhere in our past.) Fossils, a wealth of evidence and always growing.

    This latter also keeps a thriving industry of creationists desperately trying to explain away the latest transitional discoveries. Any fossil found in the wrong layers would give pause.

    On going rigorous experimentation shows the predictive nature of evolution as shown by Lenski and many others.

    Hunter, like Wells, Axe, and Dembski before, can only dumbly quibble from the edges, contributing quickly forgettable titles, and weird acronyms; that is not science.

  4. 4
    aarceng says:

    @Seversky, does it have to be a rabbit? What if we found a Precambrian mouse, or a frog? If it could be something other than a rabbit what is the criteria for deciding if it is a suitable substitute?

  5. 5
    aarceng says:

    @rvb8, what did Lenski predict? Certainly not Cit+.

    btw, great apes have 24 pairs of chromosomes, 48 in total; humans have 23 pairs. I’m sure that’s what you meant to say.

  6. 6
    Origenes says:

    RVB8: The new area of study, molecular biology, strongly supports evolution …

    How does the prevertebrate-vertebrate information jump support evolution? How exactly does the generation of 1.7 million bits of unique new human-conserved functional information support evolution?
    No Darwinian has been able to come up with an explanation, but if you can do better, RVB8, then please explain it here.

  7. 7
    Origenes says:

    Materialistic evolution has been falsified on all levels. It doesn’t make sense at all.

    To name but a few:

    – Evolution cannot explain its starting point — OOL
    – It has no mechanism — natural selection is not-creative.
    – Organisms don’t exist — there are just fermions and bosons.
    – There is no reason at all for the continued existence of the conglomerations of fermons and bosons which present us with the illusion of organisms.
    – There is no will to survive because there are no organisms.
    – The fossil record is riddled with gaps.
    – The molecular ‘history’ contains astounding information jumps.
    – Explanations from the level of DNA cannot explain form and (more general) unity at higher levels.
    – Rationality, freedom and personhood cannot, in principle, be explained from the level of blind particles bumping into each other.
    – ….

    In short, materialistic evolution does not make sense at all. Everything about it is utterly wrong.

    Maybe that’s the strength of the theory.

  8. 8

    Origenes @ 7: Well done.

    rvb8 and the other zealously committed (religious?) a/mats continue to engage in wishful thinking rather than empirical science. Just sprinkle a little fairy dust in the air and evolution magically happens. Comical.

  9. 9
    LocalMinimum says:

    Seversky:
    The discovery of the fossilized remains of a modern rabbit in Pre-Cambrian rocks would certainly give pause for thought even if, on its own, it might not be sufficient to discredit the theory.

    You claim it’s falsifiable, then offer a very specific example of something that still fails your criteria. “If there should be a teacup in orbit about the Earth, that still wouldn’t disprove my theory. But it would give one pause”. Surely. I guess we just have to take your word on this?

    Seversky:
    It is still mysterious in some ways. That’s why it’s still a thriving field of research And there are mechanisms. Wells and others may have pooh-poohed them but if they weren’t observed then the theory would be in big trouble and we all know you would be shouting it from the rooftops.

    Mechanisms? Well, surely, there are mechanisms aplenty in biology that produce variation. Windows has a registry that can grow to gigabytes and it’s pretty much parameterizations for variation in instances of programs; yet I’m pretty sure there was a dude or a lady behind every little piece of it. What you have to show is that you have a set that precedes biological function that can sufficiently account for the biological function in whole. Trying to discern the build history of a piece of software from the output is….methodologically unsound.

  10. 10
    J-Mac says:

    Scientists believe what they want to believe and that is fine with me as long as they do not abuse the public trust… If other people begin to believe something because some scientists have decided to spread their beliefs in order to deceive other people who have no scientific knowledge, that is a criminal case because there is an intent…

    Unfortunately, bankers get away with it so do the shit-pushing scientist, which includes Darwinists… This pisses me off and makes me reconsider who is in charge of this crazy world…

  11. 11
    rvb8 says:

    aarceng @5,

    yes, thank you. That is what I meant to say.

    J-Mac,

    people ‘believe’ all manner of nonsenses, and genrally, most of the time, it is the scientists that correct these fetishes.

    Do these scientists err? Many times, and yet their contribution to our understanding of the world and universe leaves the pastors, priests, shamans, and even Platos, in their wake; this is simply a fact. Our past was dark and dirty, our present is unpleasant but clearer, our future bright, or not.

    In any case, at least we won’t be propitiating some weird sun god to get there. Or any other god hopefully.

  12. 12
    Seversky says:

    Granville Sewell @ 2

    Joseph LeConte, in his book “Evolution” acknowledges that
    evolution is an “axiom,” ie, is unfalsifiable:

    https://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/03/evolution_is_an/

    On the other hand, a rather more recent philosopher of science Karl Popper, having previously expressed reservations about evolution as a scientific theory, wrote:

    It does appear that some people think that I denied scientific character to the historical sciences, such as palaeontology, or the history of the evolution of life on Earth. This is a mistake, and I here wish to affirm that these and other historical sciences have in my opinion scientific character; their hypotheses can in many cases be tested. [Popper, 1981, p. 611]

    The fact that the theory of natural selection is difficult to test has led some people, anti-Darwinists and even some great Darwinists, to claim that it is a tautology. . . . I mention this problem because I too belong among the culprits. Influenced by what these authorities say, I have in the past described the theory as “almost tautological,” and I have tried to explain how the theory of natural selection could be untestable (as is a tautology) and yet of great scientific interest. My solution was that the doctrine of natural selection is a most successful metaphysical research programme. . . . [Popper, 1978, p. 344]

    I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation. . . . [p. 345]

    The theory of natural selection may be so formulated that it is far from tautological. In this case it is not only testable, but it turns out to be not strictly universally true. There seem to be exceptions, as with so many biological theories; and considering the random character of the variations on which natural selection operates, the occurrence of exceptions is not surprising. [p. 346]

  13. 13
    Seversky says:

    aarceng @ 4

    @Seversky, does it have to be a rabbit? What if we found a Precambrian mouse, or a frog? If it could be something other than a rabbit what is the criteria for deciding if it is a suitable substitute?

    No, it doesn’t have to be a rabbit. We can imagine the fossilized skeletal remains of a modern human – homo sapiens – being discovered in Pre-Cambrian rocks, hundreds of millions of years before the appearance of even the earliest pre-hominids from which modern humans are plausibly descended. How could it be explained?

    The question is really about whether we accept naïve falsificationism as a sufficient test of a theory. Is a single anomaly sufficient to discredit one which is still well-supported by other evidence?

  14. 14
    Seversky says:

    Origenes @ 7

    Materialistic evolution has been falsified on all levels. It doesn’t make sense at all.

    To name but a few:

    – Evolution cannot explain its starting point — OOL

    It never claimed to be an OOL explanation so no failure there.

    – It has no mechanism — natural selection is not-creative

    Natural selection can “create” a population of dark-colored moths from light-colored originals or bacteria that can eat the waste products of nylon manufacture that did not exist before.

    – Organisms don’t exist — there are just fermions and bosons.

    Fallacy of causal reductionism.

    – There is no reason at all for the continued existence of the conglomerations of fermons and bosons which present us with the illusion of organisms

    Depends on what you mean by “continued existence”. In terms of geological time we are very short-lived “conglomerations” indeed. What sort of a reason is needed other than natural laws?

    – There is no will to survive because there are no organisms.

    There is clearly a will to survive in humans and some other animals but it is not needed for evolution to happen. Lenski’s bacteria have no observable will to survive in a citrate-rich environment but some do regardless.

    – The fossil record is riddled with gaps.

    Yes, it is. Doesn’t mean there is a Creator/Intelligent Designer hiding in them.

    – The molecular ‘history’ contains astounding information jumps.

    Just another “gaps” argument.

    – Explanations from the level of DNA cannot explain form and (more general) unity at higher levels.

    We don’t have such an explanation yet. That’s not the same as there can’t be one. We don’t know that at all.

    – Rationality, freedom and personhood cannot, in principle, be explained from the level of blind particles bumping into each other.

    Fallacy of causal reductionism again.

    In short, materialistic evolution does not make sense at all. Everything about it is utterly wrong.

    Materialistic evolution is certainly far from perfect but it makes way more sense and is a better fit to the data than any of the alternatives.

  15. 15
    Seversky says:

    LocalMinimum @ 9

    You claim it’s falsifiable, then offer a very specific example of something that still fails your criteria. “If there should be a teacup in orbit about the Earth, that still wouldn’t disprove my theory. But it would give one pause”. Surely. I guess we just have to take your word on this?

    No, you don’t have to take my word for anything at all. But you could check out “naïve falsificationism” and see if you think a single anomalous observation is sufficient to overturn an otherwise well-founded theory.

    Mechanisms? Well, surely, there are mechanisms aplenty in biology that produce variation. Windows has a registry that can grow to gigabytes and it’s pretty much parameterizations for variation in instances of programs; yet I’m pretty sure there was a dude or a lady behind every little piece of it. What you have to show is that you have a set that precedes biological function that can sufficiently account for the biological function in whole. Trying to discern the build history of a piece of software from the output is….methodologically unsound.

    Computers or indeed any human technology are a poor analogy for evolution. Adaptive evolution could not happen without random mutations yet random changes that have unpredictable effects are, for the most part, the last thing software and hardware designers want popping up in their designs.

  16. 16
    LocalMinimum says:

    Seversky:

    No, you don’t have to take my word for anything at all. But you could check out “naïve falsificationism” and see if you think a single anomalous observation is sufficient to overturn an otherwise well-founded theory.

    Well, you stated that it was falsifiable, then you disqualified the one example you gave. It really sets up this imprecise, feeling filled consideration of the idea. “I’ll give up on it once I’m no longer comfortable with it and/or no longer desire it”, is how it seems. I mean, evolution is pretty much built on failed predictions. Vestigial organs, per the original sense, i.e. “junk organs”, was a pretty massive prediction; but its failure isn’t even discounted, it’s practically ignored. We are in the process of overturning “junk DNA”; yet, even while evolutionists fight for every last inch of progress against it, they are already poised to eject it. The fossil record is what we always go back to, which is itself built on hypotheses based on choice correlations which are made under the assumption of evolution being an operational thing. There is no forward mathematical model driving the need for this thing to happen, only empirical models assuming it has.

    Seversky:

    Computers or indeed any human technology are a poor analogy for evolution. Adaptive evolution could not happen without random mutations yet random changes that have unpredictable effects are, for the most part, the last thing software and hardware designers want popping up in their designs.

    Computers are an excellent analogy for biology. Biology is, in essence, a self 3D printing polymer program. I don’t know what you mean precisely by “adaptive evolution”, but the variation we see is clearly, at least in part, not simply “random mutation”, but parameterizations and even feedback mechanisms. Is this not a primary element of the emerging field of epigenetics? While random mutation is certainly an issue, entropy is an unavoidable aspect of chemistry, and biology seems very robustly built against it. Who’s to say, until we know better, at least, that mutation isn’t employed in a designed variation mechanism that makes use of “fall through” functionality; i.e. the mechanism is “stacked” such that specific errors in copying simply open another feature? While we still don’t know yet much of how variation actually works, to insist that chemical noise is the means of the origin of these mechanisms is simply begging the question.

  17. 17
    rvb8 says:

    Vestigal organs,(whale hips??? junk DNA (experiments on fruit flys, and mice determine large sections of DNA can be removed with the animal not harmed), are very good evidences for evolution. As are many other science fields. And computers are a poor analogy for evolution.

    Why? Well, we have redundent parts that we don’t need, tonsils, we do well without a gallbladder, appendix etc. Take out some designed wiring, chips, batteries,or other computer hardware, and see how well your laptop functions.Human design is easy to detect, we tend to build things functional and economic. Whoever knocked the human body together was a cowboy.

    Random mutations give the animal an opportunity, if the mutation is advantageous; darker pigmentation in the polluted environment of the Peppered moth for example.

    And that is also the beauty of evolution, it is such a simple idea that the likes of T.H. Huxley were left wondering why they never thought of it. Of course Darwin did not originate evolution, many others for thousands of years had noted the inter-related nature of life; Darwin merely codified it, gave it parameters and a mechanism, and explained it to the world. ID, has done none of these things.

    And whereas evolution remains robust, and the evidence supporting it continues to grow, ID has hit a dry patch.

  18. 18

    Evolution “remains robust” only to those already committed to the a/mat philosophical worldview. It’s best days are long gone. Finished.

    By the way, still no penny drop here.

  19. 19
    Origenes says:

    Seversky @ 14

    Sev:

    O: Evolution cannot explain its starting point — OOL

    It never claimed to be an OOL explanation so no failure there.

    Okay, evolution offers no explanation of life, and, as such, it is not about the “origin of species.”

    Sev:

    O: It has no mechanism — natural selection is not-creative.

    Natural selection can “create” a population of dark-colored moths from light-colored originals or bacteria that can eat the waste products of nylon manufacture that did not exist before.

    No, selection elimination does no such thing. Elimination only acts on what already exists.

    Sev:

    O: Organisms don’t exist — there are just fermions and bosons.

    Fallacy of causal reductionism.

    Materialism is the embracement of the fallacy of causal reductionism.
    Materialism is the claim that true unitary existence is only to be found at the micro-level. Materialism is the claim that all of reality consists of impersonal indivisible fundamental elements —fermions and bosons— which are the source of all true causation. Materialism wants to inform us that a thing at the macro-level which presents itself as one indivisible thing in fact is not. ‘All oneness at the macro-level is an illusion’ is the ‘great insight’ of materialism.

    Sev:

    O: There is no reason at all for the continued existence of the conglomerations of fermons and bosons which present us with the illusion of organisms.

    Depends on what you mean by “continued existence”. In terms of geological time we are very short-lived “conglomerations” indeed. What sort of a reason is needed other than natural laws?

    S.L.Tallbot: “The mystery in all this does not lie primarily in isolated “mechanisms” of interaction; the question, rather, is why things don’t fall completely apart — as they do, in fact, at the moment of death. What power holds off that moment — precisely for a lifetime, and not a moment longer?”

    Sev:

    O: There is no will to survive because there are no organisms.

    There is clearly a will to survive in humans and some other animals …

    Fine, but this will to survive cannot be explained from the level of fermions and bosons.

    Sev:

    O: The fossil record is riddled with gaps.

    Yes, it is. Doesn’t mean there is a Creator/Intelligent Designer hiding in them.

    If the gaps are real, and they are real, then that is exactly what it means.

    Sev:

    O: The molecular ‘history’ contains astounding information jumps.

    Just another “gaps” argument.

    Indeed.

    Sev:

    O: Explanations from the level of DNA cannot explain form and (more general) unity at higher levels.

    We don’t have such an explanation yet. That’s not the same as there can’t be one. We don’t know that at all.

    It is a matter of principle. One cannot explain the coherency of a story from the level of letters. Letters simply don’t write stories. Not only is the case that we don’t have such an explanation “yet” — it simply cannot be done.

    Sev:

    O: Rationality, freedom and personhood cannot, in principle, be explained from the level of blind particles bumping into each other.

    Fallacy of causal reductionism again.

    Again, materialism is the claim that true unitary existence is only to be found at the micro-level. Materialism is the claim that all of reality consists of impersonal indivisible fundamental elements —fermions and bosons— which are the source of all true causation.
    These fermions and bosons don’t have what it takes to produce rationality, freedom and personhood.

    Sev:

    O: In short, materialistic evolution does not make sense at all. Everything about it is utterly wrong.

    Materialistic evolution is certainly far from perfect but it makes way more sense and is a better fit to the data than any of the alternatives.

    You must be mistaken, because, according to materialism, there cannot be such a thing as a theory about things that makes sense. Alexander Rosenberg:

    What we need is a clump of matter … that by the very arrangement of its synapses points at, indicates, singles out, picks out, identifies (and here we just start piling up more and more synonyms for “being about”) another clump of matter outside the brain. But there is no such physical stuff.
    Physics has ruled out the existence of clumps of matter of the required sort. There are just fermions and bosons and combinations of them. None of that stuff is just, all by itself, about any other stuff. There is nothing in the whole universe—including, of course, all the neurons in your brain—that just by its nature or composition can do this job of being about some other clump of matter. So, when consciousness assures us that we have thoughts about stuff, it has to be wrong.
    [Rosenberg, ‘The Atheist’s Guide To Reality’, Ch. 10]

  20. 20

    Origenes @ 19: Excellent work. The following is a simple but brilliant observation. Darwin even got the title wrong!

    “Okay, evolution offers no explanation of life, and, as such, it is not about the ‘origin of species.’”

  21. 21
    Axel says:

    @ your no 6, Origenes :

    Silence came the stern reply from rvb8 !

  22. 22
    Axel says:

    @ your no 16, Seversky.

    ‘We don’t have such an explanation yet. That’s not the same as there can’t be one. We don’t know that at all.’ – Sevvy.

    LOL material of the first water, Sev !

    Seversky, we didn’t know until comparatively recently that the moon isn’t made of green cheese. Nobody could deny the possibility..

    Indeed, an Australian traveling salesman once claimed that to me in all seriousness. Though the Aussies tell their jokes in a very dead-pan manner. Are you Australian ?

  23. 23
    LocalMinimum says:

    RVB8:

    Whale hips are clearly not junk organs. With respect to the fruit fly genome, again, we don’t know what’s in use for a particular instance and what is used for variation. Removing the genetic variation potential of a creature could still allow for a limited phenotypical set to continue. Again, working with software, there are many conditionally useful (but still quite useful) pieces and sections you can remove in a piece of code and get away with it. In any case, we don’t know what that large section does, so claiming it as junk is an appeal to ignorance.

    You folks keep insisting software is a bad analogy, as if the naked assertion repeated enough will somehow produce a fact. Can you actually explain why?

    All the parts you list are, again, useful organs. They just happen not to be directly necessary for staying alive. There are plenty of things I can remove from a computer and have it still function. If I remove all but one bank of memory, it will still operate. USB ports, serial ports, parallel ports, fans (leave one and keep the air conditioning up), DVD drives (which could even be considered a proper junk organ!), the case, the CMOS assuming I’m in a hardware configuration compatible with the default BIOS settings, the video card, the math coprocessor, etc., etc. I could even remove the hard drive if I had a DVD drive with a boot disk (my childhood computer only had a 5.25″ floppy, no hard drive).

  24. 24

    Origenes @ 19: Brilliant. Especially the Rosenberg quote (which is worth repeating below):

    “What we need is a clump of matter … that by the very arrangement of its synapses points at, indicates, singles out, picks out, identifies (and here we just start piling up more and more synonyms for “being about”) another clump of matter outside the brain. But there is no such physical stuff.
    Physics has ruled out the existence of clumps of matter of the required sort. There are just fermions and bosons and combinations of them. None of that stuff is just, all by itself, about any other stuff. There is nothing in the whole universe—including, of course, all the neurons in your brain—that just by its nature or composition can do this job of being about some other clump of matter. So, when consciousness assures us that we have thoughts about stuff, it has to be wrong.” — Alexander Rosenberg, ‘The Atheist’s Guide To Reality’, Ch. 10

    Atheism has absolutely nothing to offer…except maybe despair and hopelessness.

  25. 25
    Origenes says:

    TWSYF: Atheism has absolutely nothing to offer…except maybe despair and hopelessness.

    Exactly!

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