What would disprove evolution?


This is an interesting question. Jerry Coyne gives a list of seven pieces of evidence that, if replicated and confirmed, he would find persuasive.

  • Fossils in the wrong place.
  • Adaptations in one species good only for a second species.
  • A general lack of genetic variation in species.
  • Adaptations that could not have evolved by a step-by-step process of ever-increasing fitness.
  • The observation that most adaptations of individuals are inimical for individuals or their genes but good for populations/species.
  • Evolved “true” altruistic behavior among non-relatives in non-social animals.
  • Complete discordance between phylogenies based on morphology/fossils and on DNA.

These are just the headings. In his post he elaborates on what they mean.

Of course, when we look at the history of science, we see that theories are never disproved in isolation, leaving a lacuna. It is always the case that a theory is rejected because of the presence of a stronger competitor. So even if there is evidence for any of the above, this by itself will not be sufficient to reject evolution if there isn’t another and better theory waiting in the wings, ready to take its place.

Comments

  1. left0ver1under says

    The religious are actively trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater. When evidence shows an incompleteness in evolutionary theory, the religious want the entirety of evolution discarded instead of changing the theory to fit the evidence. But that’s to be expected from people who’s notions (they don’t deserve to be called theories) claim the world is “designed” and religion can’t be challenged.

    I am definitely not an expert in the fields like biology or evolution, but I’d say the list of disproofs of evolution could also include:

    – Life forms that don’t contain any CG/TA pairs. Everything containing cells does.

    – High level multicells animals that don’t contain physiology common to most species (e.g. no heart, limbs containing more than three bones, or land animals that don’t have spinal columns). Yes, the barbourula kalimantanensis may have no lungs, but it still breathes, so it’s not a counterexample.

  2. wholething says

    Several years ago on talk.origins, it was stated that the evidence for evolution was so strong that finding human remains in the Cretaceous would be evidence for time travel.

  3. says

    Several years ago on talk.origins, it was stated that the evidence for evolution was so strong that finding human remains in the Cretaceous would be evidence for time travel.

    That’s totally awesome! I LOL’d!

  4. wholething says

    There is nothing in the Theory of Evolution that says life could not have arisen more than once and each followed separate evolutionary paths. It is simply that the only lifeforms we recognize are DNA/RNA based. So finding types of life you mention would not disprove evolution.

  5. lpetrich says

    There’s a problem with such arguments. Usually, they seem to assume that evolution vs. non-evolutionary origins is either-or, when they need not be. Furthermore, given the numerous lines of evidence for evolution, non-evolutionary mechanisms would have to create a sort of pseudo-evolution. Like

    *Poof!* Hyracotherium. *Poof!* Mesohippus. *Poof!* Merychippus. *Poof!* Equus.

    One can think of several non-theological non-evolutionary sorts of origin of species:

    * Spontaneous generation

    * Time travelers sending species members into the past

    * Genetic engineers creating organisms from scratch

    Genetic engineers modifying existing organisms may or may not qualify, but it seems more on the evolution side to me.

  6. lpetrich says

    Evolution is often conflated with natural selection, but there are plenty of non-Darwinian mechanisms that have been proposed, and these mechanisms are not mutually exclusive. Just as evolution vs. non-evolutionary mechanisms are not mutually exclusive.

  7. 'Tis Himself says

    So even if there is evidence for any of the above, this by itself will not be sufficient to reject evolution if there isn’t another and better theory waiting in the wings, ready to take its place.

    This is a major problem with ID/Creationism. Not only do the creationists have to show that evolution doesn’t explain certain evidence but their theory does and also explains everything that evolution explains.

    The creationists spend a lot of time and effort in trying to tear down evolution. They spend very little time supporting their pet theory. Unfortunately for them GODDIDIT doesn’t explain anything because “and then a miracle happened” can be brought out to cover any problems with the data.

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