The theory of evolution (TOE) makes no quantitative predictions. All comparisons of the strength of confirmation of the TOE with, say, quantum mechanics are completely out of place. Quantum mechanics is a highly precise branch of physics, and while the TOE does use math in things like game-theoretic models of evolution and stable equilibriums or in sequence comparisons, in general it is pretty easy on precise numerical predictions.

Second, the TOE is primarily an historical science. Therefore, it can only make “retrodictions,” i.e., it can be shown to be consistent with past events. It does not predict the way in which a species will evolve. With respect to the future it can only say that, when faced with unfavorable circumstances, a species will either evolve or die out which is not a prediction but a tautology that can be understood without any appeal to our theory.

Third, it is true that the TOE predicts that organisms will be adapted to their environment. But it says nothing about how they will be adapted or what features the organisms will or must have; it does not even say that there will exist the particular organisms under investigation. Nor is it qualified to predict changes in the environment.

Fourth, the predictions of the TOE, such as they are (e.g., that fossils are stratified in a particular way) are extremely general. For example, Stenger writes:

Darwin specifically predicted that recognizable human ancestors would be found in Africa. Many now have been.

Evolutionary theory predicted that the use of antiviral or antibacterial agents would result in the emergence of resistant strains. This principle is, of course, a mainstay in contemporary medicine.

Paleontologists correctly predicted that species showing the evolution from fish to amphibian would be found in Devonian strata. (God: The Failed Hypothesis, 50)

The trouble is that the TOE did not predict the shape of the fossils of the human ancestors or of what material they consisted.

It did not predict what kind of changes would occur in bacteria as a result of widespread use of antibiotics. (Wouldn’t that be useful to medical researchers! They would be able to create drugs to attack disease-causing germs long before they evolved into resistant strains.) I, too, could have made the same prediction: bacteria will either evolve or perish.

And as for transitional forms, some words from Behe will suffice to drive the point home:

Anatomy is, quite simply, irrelevant to the question of whether evolution could take place on the molecular level. So is the fossil record.

It no longer matters whether there are huge gaps in the fossil record or whether the record is as continuous as that of U.S. presidents. And if there are gaps, it does not matter whether they can be explained plausibly.

The fossil record has nothing to tell us about whether the interactions of 11-cis-retinal with rhodopsin, transducin, and phosphodiesterase could have developed step-by-step. (Darwin’s Black Box, 22)

I think that we should all agree that the fossil record is not a good piece of evidence either for intelligent design or against it.

It seems that the TOE fares quite poorly with respect to predictive power.


6 Comments

AiGBusted · September 22, 2007 at 12:09 am

The fossil record is excellent evidence for evolution. Your quote from Behe is discussing the fact that the fossil record preserves nothing molecular. I have yet to meet any creationist who can explain the order of the fossil record, if you can let me know.

Dmitry Chernikov · September 22, 2007 at 12:26 pm

The fossil record does not show a progression from less to more complex organisms, as seen from the point of view of biochemistry or even gross anatomy.

Therefore, it is consistent with any evolutionary process whatsoever, e.g., both from fish to amphibians and vice versa, both from reptiles to birds and vice versa, etc.

Trent · January 11, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Dmitry: that is a valid objection “to the ladder of progress” misconception, but not to Darwinian evolution, which you seem to have misunderstood.

Dmitry Chernikov · January 11, 2008 at 2:34 pm

“Progress” implies valuation, and I am not making any metaphysical value judgments in my comment. I deal solely with complexity. Presumably, any Darwinist will agree that the organisms’ forms evolve from the less to the more compex. My argument is simply that the fossil record does not demostrate that aspect of evolution.

SashaDrago · December 12, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Dmitry, I believe you are again making the wrong assumptions: Darwinian evolution is not about progress or even complexity per se. Is about fitness for survival and reproduction. To give an example, in the event of a total nuclear war, mankind might not survive, whereas roaches probably will, not because of any progressive feature or their complexity, but because of their superior resiliency to radiation, while most people would be killed (immediately or later), or sterilized.

Dmitry Chernikov · December 12, 2008 at 4:20 pm

You are right that Darwinian evolution is fundamentally not about progress or even complexity but about fitness for survival and reproduction. Yet it so happened that organisms which have so far been shown to be “fit” are also precisely specified and fantastically complex. This conjunction is by itself a highly surprising fact.

In other words, it is one of Darwinism’s claims that organisms have changed or evolved from very primitive original lifeforms that somehow came into existence billions of years ago into super-complex human beings by means of random variation and natural selection which work by eliminating unfit organisms and biological structures. The mechanism of Darwinian evolution, namely, blind trial-and-error, is said to have resulted in a tremendous increase in biological complexity. ID begs to differ. It advances a claim that unaided nature is incapable of effecting this increase but must by necessity have been assisted by an intelligence.

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