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Agnostic philosopher David Stove on the unfalsifiability of Darwinism

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Stove (1927-1994) is not nearly as cute as the irrefutable rabbit in the Cambrian, but he has a better way with words:

If you discovered tomorrow a new and most un-Darwinian-looking species of animals, in which every adult pair produced on average a hundred offspring, but the father always killed all of them very young, except one which was chosen by some random process, it would take an armor-plated neo-Darwinian no more than two minutes to “prove” that this reproductive strategy, despite its superficially inadvisability, is actually the optimum one for that species. And what is more impressive still, he will be able to do the same thing again later, if it turns out that the species had been misdescribed at first, and that in fact the father always lets three of his hundred offspring live. In neo-Darwinianism’s house there are many mansions: so many, indeed, that if a certain awkward fact will not fit into one mansion, there is sure to be another one into which it will fit to admiration.

Against the Idols of the Age, David Stove, p. 244

From the publisher:

Little known outside his native Australia, David Stove was one of the most illuminating and brilliant philosophical essayists of the postwar era. A fearless attacker of intellectual and cultural orthodoxies, Stove left powerful critiques of scientific irrationalism, Darwinian theories of human behavior, and philosophical idealism. Stove’s writing is both rigorous and immensely readable. It is, in the words of Roger Kimball, “an invigorating blend of analytic lucidity, mordant humor, and an amount of common sense too great to be called ‘common.'”

At Access Research Network, Denyse O’Leary published a multi-part review of Stove’s Darwinian Fairytales,, a book that is also unjustly neglected.

6 Replies to “Agnostic philosopher David Stove on the unfalsifiability of Darwinism

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    Ian Thompson says:

    I also remember & refer to the wonderful discussion of “Stove’s Discovery of the Worst Argument in the World” at http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/worst.html .

    Rebutting the familiar refrain in poor philosophy that ‘because we have eyes, we cannot see’ !

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    bornagain77 says:

    I think William J Murray nailed unfalsifiability of Darwinism here.

    Who would have thought that it would be biologists that came up with the first Theory of Everything?
    Biological divergence? Evolution. Biological convergence? Evolution. Gradual variation? Evolution. Sudden variation? Evolution. Stasis? Evolution. Junk DNA? Evolution. No Junk DNA? Evolution. Tree of life? Evolution. No tree of life? Evolution. Common genes? Evolution. Orfan genes? evolution. Cell with little more than a jelly-like protoplasm? Evolution. Cell filled with countless, highly-specified nano-machines directed by a software code? Evolution. More hardy, more procreative organisms? Evolution. Less hardy, less procreative organisms? Evolution.
    – Evolution explains everything. –
    William J Murray

    Of course, I’m hardly one to let something like this go with just one on the mark quote. Thus, a few notes:

    Here is how neo-Darwinian evolution avoids falsification from ‘anomalous’ genetic evidence:

    A Primer on the Tree of Life – Casey Luskin – 2009
    Excerpt: The truth is that common ancestry is merely an assumption that governs interpretation of the data, not an undeniable conclusion, and whenever data contradicts expectations of common descent, evolutionists resort to a variety of different ad hoc rationalizations to save common descent from being falsified.

    How to Play the Gene Evolution Game – Casey Luskin – Feb. 2010

    Common Ancestry: Wikipedia vs. the Data – Casey Luskin – October 5, 2012
    Excerpt: In fact, the largest category of genes here is eukaryotic (cells with a nucleus) genes that have no homolog among prokaryotes (cells without a nucleus) — they don’t even have any possible candidate ancestors to explain where these genes came from, much less a consistent pattern of similarity pointing to one particular ancestor. All this is the opposite of “a direct correlation with common descent.”,,,
    ,,, if two phylogenetic trees aren’t congruent, the problem isn’t that common descent is wrong, but rather the conflict is simply evidence of HGT.,,,

    Here are articles that clearly illustrate that the protein evidence, no matter how crushing to Darwinian evolution, is always crammed into the Darwinian framework by Evolutionists:

    The Hierarchy of Evolutionary Apologetics: Protein Evolution Case Study – Cornelius Hunter – January 2011

    From this heads I win, tails you lose, Darwinian method of practicing science of comparing protein sequences:

    Far from Random, Evolution Follows a Predictable Genetic Pattern – (Oct. 25, 2012)
    Excerpt: The researchers carried out a survey of DNA sequences from 29 distantly related insect species, the largest sample of organisms yet examined for a single,, trait.
    Fourteen of these species have,, a nearly identical characteristic,, — they feed on plants that produce cardenolides, a class of steroid-like cardiotoxins that are a natural defense for plants such as milkweed and dogbane.,,, these diverse insects — which include beetles, butterflies and aphids — experienced changes to a key protein called sodium-potassium adenosine triphosphatase, or the sodium-potassium pump, which regulates a cell’s crucial sodium-to-potassium ratio.
    “The finding of, (the same protein), in not two, but numerous herbivorous insects increases the significance of the study because such frequent parallelism is extremely unlikely to have happened simply by chance,” said Zhang,

    Here is how neo-Darwinian evolution avoids falsification from the fossil record;

    “What Would Disprove Evolution?” – July 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Fossils are found in the “wrong place” all the time (either too early, or too late). Paleontological theory, however, allows for such devices as “ghost lineages” to repair the damage; see ENV’s coverage here and here. (links on the site)
    Again, discordance between molecular and anatomical phylogenies is commonplace in systematics; see here.(link on the site)
    But we expect Coyne is able to handle these anomalies via his shock-absorbing adjective “complete,” which allows an indefinitely large range of possibilities, short of “complete” discordance (whatever that means).

    Seeing Ghosts in the Bushes (Part 2): How Is Common Descent Tested? – Paul Nelson – Feb. 2010
    Excerpt: Fig. 6. Multiple possible ad hoc or auxiliary hypotheses are available to explain lack of congruence between the fossil record and cladistic predictions. These may be employed singly or in combination. Common descent (CD) is thus protected from observational challenge.

    Here is how evolutionists avoid falsification from the biogeographical data of finding numerous and highly similar species in widely separated locations:

    The Case of the Mysterious Hoatzin: Biogeography Fails Neo-Darwinism Again – Casey Luskin – November 5, 2011
    Excerpt: If two similar species separated by thousands of kilometers across oceans cannot challenge common descent, what biogeographical data can? The way evolutionists treat it, there is virtually no biogeographical data that can challenge common descent even in principle. If that’s the case, then how can biogeography be said to support common descent in the first place?

    Many Darwinists have tried to protect Darwinism from being falsified by the recent ENCODE findings of widespread functionality for ‘junk’ DNA by claiming that Darwinism predicted this finding all along:

    Data Peeking, an Indispensable Implement in the Darwinian Toolbox – Stephen A. Batzer
    – Nov. 19, 2012
    Excerpt: This is called “Data Peeking,” and it is also called “Bad Faith.” It works this way:
    1. Gather data and/or run an experiment.
    2. Determine the results.
    3. Think up an explanation (perhaps a just so story, or maybe a worthwhile explanation).
    4. Label your explanation a theory.
    5. Unveil the data in public, proclaiming, “Just as my theory predicts…”
    The key (to making this work) is the order of presentation. You offer the results to others after you run the experiments. When discussing, you give the just-so-story first, then the data, and then grandly proclaim that the results are just as you predicted.

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    bornagain77 says:

    Let’s not forget another time honored tradition for Darwinists in which to protect neo-Darwinism from falsificatio; the fraudulent practice of literature bluffing;

    “A Masterful Feat of Courtroom Deception”: Immunologist Donald Ewert on Dover Trial – audio

    Assessing the NCSE’s Citation Bluffs on the Evolution of New Genetic Information – Feb. 2010

    Calling Nick Matzke’s Bluff (Cambrian Explosion) – June 21, 2013

    Calling Nick Matzke’s literature bluff on molecular machines – DonaldM UD blogger – April 2013
    Excerpt: So now, 10 years later in 2006 Matzke and Pallen come along with this review article. The interesting thing about this article is that, despite all the hand waving claims about all these dozens if not hundreds of peer reviewed research studies showing how evolution built a flagellum, Matzke and Pallen didn’t have a single such reference in their bibliography. Nor did they reference any such study in the article. Rather, the article went into great lengths to explain how a researcher might go about conducting a study to show how evolution could have produced the system. Well, if all those articles and studies were already there, why not just point them all out? In shorty, the entire article was a tacit admission that Behe had been right all along.
    Fast forward to now and Andre’s question directed to Matzke. We’re now some 17 years after Behe’s book came out where he made that famous claim. And, no surprise, there still is not a single peer reviewed research study that provides the Darwinian explanation for a bacterial flagellum (or any of the other irreducibly complex biological systems Behe mentioned in the book). We’re almost 7 years after the Matzke & Pallen article. So where are all these research studies? There’s been ample time for someone to do something in this regard.
    Matzke will not answer the question because there is no answer he can give…no peer reviewed research study he can reference, other than the usual literature bluffing he’s done in the past.

    More detailed instances of Darwinism avoiding falsification from the empirical data, by ad hoc models (rationalizations), are found on this following site:

    Darwin’s Predictions – Cornelius Hunter PhD.

    In fact there is no demarcation criteria for Darwinism so as to delineate as a true science and not a pseudo science:

    “nobody to date has yet found a demarcation criterion according to which Darwin can be described as scientific”
    – Imre Lakatos (November 9, 1922 – February 2, 1974) a philosopher of mathematics and science, quote as stated in 1973 LSE Scientific Method Lecture

    Oxford University Seeks Mathemagician — May 5th, 2011 by Douglas Axe
    Excerpt: Grand theories in physics are usually expressed in mathematics. Newton’s mechanics and Einstein’s theory of special relativity are essentially equations. Words are needed only to interpret the terms. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has obstinately remained in words since 1859. …

    Verse and music;

    1 Thessalonians 5:21
    But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;

    Sarah McLachlan – Answer –

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    Optimus says:

    Thanks, News! Sounds like a good read…

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    Mung says:

    It is. But be warned, Stove is addictive.

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