We’ve written about evolution before, yet continually encounter misunderstanding and misrepresentations of the theory — frequently hearing comments such as “overwhelming evidence exists” or the “evidence is all around us” without any supporting proof given. Most likely, many people writing letters lack understanding of the scientific method, and if they do, never apply it to the “science” of evolution. Is evolution scientific? We’ve seen lots of letters to the editor similar to the following:
Phares Gilchrist’s May 19 letter claiming bias on the part of The Register-Guard relative to information on evolution seems to fit the current pattern: If information does not support your beliefs, chastise the source rather than examine the information.
The fact is that intelligent design is not a valid scientific explanation for the evolution of life forms any more than is biblical creation. Intelligent design is simply impossible to prove or disprove. The amazing complexity and intricacy of life and its processes are, by themselves, not evidence of a creator or intelligent design.
The underlying principles of evolution not only have explanatory value but also predictive value. Predictive value means that you can develop hypotheses that can be tested with objective information by you and others. (Intelligent design lacks merit letter to editor, Register-Guard May 28, 2005)
Where is this objective information? What is the scientific method, and does evolution follow it? Basically, the scientific method involves making observations, then predictions, and then experiments to prove or disprove the hypothesis.
A scientific method or process is considered fundamental to the scientific investigation and acquisition of new knowledge based upon physical evidence. Scientists use observations, hypotheses and deductions to propose explanations for natural phenomena in the form of theories. Predictions from these theories are tested by experiment. If a prediction turns out to be correct, the theory survives. Any theory which is cogent enough to make predictions can then be tested reproducibly in this way. The method is commonly taken as the underlying logic of scientific practice. A scientific method is essentially an extremely cautious means of building a supportable, evidenced understanding of our natural world.
The letter writer states the hypothesis of evolution can be tested with objective information. Really? Evolution (like all science) is built from the base by various other ideas. If that base is wrong, the rest of the theory doesn’t matter. At the base of evolution are (at least) three foundational principles.
- Matter comes from nothing.
- Non-living material can spontaneously become alive.
- Species can change from one to another.
- Explosions produce order.
These are valid scientific hypothesis — Darwin made a scientific hypothesis which should be proved or disproved by experimental evidence. According to the scientific method, we should have repeatable experiments to prove such things are true. Where is it?
If you have no repeatable experiments for these ideas, they’re not science. Interesting ideas perhaps, but not science. Debatable? Sure. But not science. Evolution builds upon these ideas (and others) a priori simply because the theory requires it. But where is the evidence? Have any of these ever been observed? And since they don’t obey scientific laws we accept in all other areas of science, why accept them as the foundation of evolutionary theory? That’s unscientific.
So why do scientists abandon their own method? Perhaps because some desire to explain away God they grasp for anything no matter how ridiculous. They appear to be on the quest for scientific knowledge, all along abandoning rational conclusions coming from that knowledge. To claim to be on the quest for knowledge, while refusing to consider an entire body of ideas is scientific fraud.
So evolution is unscientific (by definition). It may be interesting, but not science. But this abandonment of certain conclusions you don’t like affects other groups as well. So-called “free-thinkers” really aren’t. Their own definition of freethinker is:
A person who forms opinions about religion in the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. … To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid.
Thus, the freethinker really isn’t, because an entire group of thought is off-limits. That isn’t so free, is it? It’s a common problem among scientists and philosophers who place areas of ideas “off-limits” and not consider them, all the while claiming to be independent and free (The myth of “academic freedom” in higher education also stumbles into this problem).
The problem is bias. Everyone has bias of some sort; true objectivity is a myth. The goal must be to put aside preconceived ideas and (as objectively as possible) consider the evidence on merits alone. Once a scientist (or anyone else) considers facts through a preconceived filter, the true quest for knowledge stops. The mistake becomes assuming your hypothesis is true, and looking at all evidence in that light (confirmation bias). When that occurs, it fails to be science.
Finally, two thoughts directed at the two extremes of the evolutionary debate. First, many religious people make comments like “Darwin was satan” or other nonsense. But Darwin’s religious views are irrelevant. He made a hypothesis as science requires. The fact it lacks proof is the issue, not Darwin’s religious status.
And for the evolutionist (I hope you’ve read this far), please avoid sending me ad hominem attacks or red herring arguments about Bible errors, the church or perhaps some evidence that “proves” evolution. If you don’t have proof for matter coming from nothing, or non-living material suddenly becoming alive (the first steps in the evolutionary process), you need to deal with those issues first, on a scientific basis. No reason exists to discuss other points of the theory when it’s built on an unscientific foundation.