Sunday, July 22, 2007


In the Balance

Here is a nice quote from the philosopher of science, David L. Hull, as to why creationist carping about the alleged lack of evidence for evolution, particularly direct observation of speciation, is mere misdirection. This comes from Hull's book, Darwin and His Critics: The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community (1973), p. 50-51:

Scientific theories are accepted long before anything like direct proof is provided. For example, when Copernicus enunciated his heliocentric system, scientists immediately selected the observation of stellar parallax as the most significant test of the theory. None was observed until the 1830s -- long after all reasonable men had accepted the heliocentric system. Similarly, not until recently has anything like the observation of a new species of multicellular organisms been observed. ... Yet, few reasonable men withheld consent to the theory that species have evolved and that natural selection is the chief (if not the only) mechanism involved.

For example, even in Darwin's own day, F.J. Pictet contended in his review of the Origin of Species (1860) that he would not accept Darwin's deductions until he saw for himself the evolution of a new organ. By 1864, Pictet had been converted and in 1866 published a paper in support of evolutionary theory. Needless to say, the direct proof he required had not been supplied. Instead, he had been convinced by the numerous indirect proofs of evolutionary theory. On this score special creation and evolution by natural selection were on different footings. No one had seen a new species evolve anymore than they had seen one specially created, but unlike the special creationists, Darwin had presented a mechanism for evolution. Certain implications of his theory could be checked and his theory as a whole gradually confirmed or disconfirmed without the direct observation of species evolving. Special creation was little more than a bald assertion. Whether as a natural event lacking any scientific explanation or as a supernatural event, special creation could be checked only by direct observation.

One note should be made: although Hull compares the state of Darwin's theory against that of special creation, that contrast has none of the aspects of the reliance on a "contrived dualism" by Intelligent Design advocates that Judge Jones rightly excoriated in his decision in Kitzmiller. There is no suggestion by Hull that the failure of evidence for creationism was or is somehow evidence in favor of evolution. Nor is creationism's failure to provide evidence even held up as counting against its truth. The only weight that failure is given is that which tips the scales against creation ever being on the same scientific footing as evolutionary theory.


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