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Evolution: Science or Pseudoscience?

This article is meant to be a teaser to tease us on one of the most fundamental questions of life itself: the question of origins. Man, since antiquity, has asked these basic questions: “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “How am I here?” and “Where am I going?”. The question “How am I here?” is the question about origins. Humans have, time and again wondered about their own existence and the existence of the universe. We have asked: “How did this immense universe with all its complexity come into existence?” “How did life come into being and has come to exist in such a wide variety?” “What is man, a glorified ape or a special creature?” “Is the universe and all life a product of blind chance or is it the work of a creator i.e. a God?”

There are basically two viewpoints on this issue of origins.
The first one holds that the universe and all life is the work of an ‘outside agency’, a designer, who by his power and creativity has brought all things into being. This designer is called ‘God’ and this view is called ‘Creation’ and sometimes ‘Special Creation’.

The second viewpoint holds that all existence is the result of purely naturalistic forces (processes) with no divine intervention whatsoever. Time and chance and energy have fathered this universe and all life into existence. According to this view, after primitive life came into existence, gradual changes with increased complexity took place, transforming one kind of life form into another more complex and ‘advanced’ life form all the way up to Man (Homo sapiens). This viewpoint is called ‘Evolution’.

Ever since Darwin published his book, “The origin of species” in 1895, the theory of evolution has been the dominant view in the scientific and non-scientific circles (although there are a growing number of people including scientists who are beginning to think otherwise). Evolution is taught as a proven fact of science in schools, colleges and universities the world over. Even popular literature and science fiction writings and movies present evolution as a scientific fact!

But is evolutionary thought scientific in the true sense of the word leave alone it being a ‘SCIENTIFIC FACT’? The explicit purpose of this article is to briefly look at the idea of evolution in the light of true science. It is my intention to spur the reader, the professional man of science and also the amateur, to open inquiry very much in line with the spirit of true science.

1. TRUE SCIENCE AND EVOLUTION:

The word ‘science’ comes from the Latin word scientia meaning ‘knowledge’. This knowledge in not philosophical speculation, nor is it a blind leap in the dark, but is factual in nature. All true science ought to be a body of factual information (data) that is true to the spirit of scientific enquiry and the scientific method. The scientific method involves observation, measurement and experimentation. Experimentation in turn implies testability and repeatability. This means that for anything to be true science and so to be truly scientific, it ought to be confirmed empirically.
 
  Has anyone observed evolution actually taking place? Even if evolution is taking place, it is supposed to be such a slow process that it cannot be observed in the lifetime of a human experimenter and so falls outside the realm of empirical science. Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the world’s most famous and leading evolutionist says this: “The applicability of the experimental method to the study of such unique historical processes is severely restricted before all else by the time intervals involved, which far exceed the life time of any human experimenter”. Furthermore, in contrast to the scientific method, which not only demands observation but also experimentation, testability and repeatability, evolution cannot be tested and repeated in a lab for the very simple reason that history cannot be repeated!

Even if the universe originated in a bib bang and all life evolved from non-life, we can’t really test it out for we can’t repeat these past events. Let us, once again see what Dobzhansky has to say: “The evolutionary happenings are unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible”. Evolution therefore, cannot be observed nor can it be repeated and tested. It therefore lies OUTSIDE the realm of true science, which is very much empirical in nature.

2. POPPER AND THE PRINCIPLE OF FALSIFIABILITY:
Karl Popper, the great philosopher of science has indisputably made an outstanding (even shocking!) contribution to science and the scientific method by introducing the principle of falsifiability. He proposed that in order to be scientific, a hypothesis or a theory ought to be open to falsification, and indeed should be falsifiable! Popper believed that a theory that seemingly explains everything actually explains nothing! For a theory to be potent and possess genuine power for explanation, it must make risky predictions. Philip Johnson, the author of the book “Darwin on Trail” captures Popper’s thought in the following way: “Success in prediction is impressive only to the extent that failure was a real possibility”. Science progresses not by looking for confirming ‘evidences’ but by being ruthless towards itself for the sake of scientific truth.

Some leading biologists have pointed out that because the theory of evolution cannot be refuted (disproved or falsified), it can neither be proved. Paul Ehrlich and L. C. Birch say this: “ Our theory of evolution has become…. one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. It is thus ‘outside of empirical science’, but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it…(Evolutionary ideas) have become a part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as a part of our training”.

Furthermore, the evolutionary theory seems to ‘explain’ everything!

Peter Medawar writes: “There are philosophical and methodological objections to the evolutionary theory…. It is too difficult to imagine or envisage an evolutionary episode which could not be explained by the formulae of neo-Darwinism”. In other words, every conceivable thing can be ‘explained’ by the theory of evolution; the long neck of the giraffe and the short neck of the hippopotamus, both can be ‘explained’ by natural selection. A theory that incorporates everything really explains nothing! It is tautologus. Those who survive are the fittest because the fittest are the very ones that survive!

Is the theory of evolution open to falsification? Can the theory of evolution be falsified? Falsification doubtlessly implies rigorous empirical testing and repeated testing. Can the phenomenon of evolution be subjected to empirical testing and so to the principle of falsifiability? P
hilip Johnson puts it like this: “Scientific methodology exists wherever theories are subjected to rigorous empirical testing, and it is absent wherever the practice is to protect a theory rather than to test it”. Popper said it like this: “The wrong view of science betrays itself in the craving to be right”.

True science is not about a ‘craving to be right’ at the cost of truth, the scientific method and the spirit of science. It is also not about protecting a theory in an unfair way for any reason whatsoever. The real issue in true science is to possess an untamed passion for adventure and truth; to know the truth about physical reality around us and to wisely harness it for Man’s good.

3. EVOLUTION AND THE TRUE FACTS OF SCIENCE:

The two universal facts of science (and so they are called ‘laws’) are the first and the second laws of Thermodynamics. The first law is also called the law of conservation of mass and energy, and states that matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed but are conserved (in one form or another). One kind of matter gets converted into another kind, one kind of energy gets converted into another kind, and even matter-energy inter conversions are possible, but nothing new comes into being. The total amount of mass and energy in the universe remains constant. The verdict of the first law of Thermodynamics then is very clear: that changes in the universe are not organizationally progressive i.e. evolutionary, but conservative.

The second law, also called the law of increasing entropy (the word entropy comes from the Greek language and means ‘in-turning’) states that there is a tendency in all observed systems to go from a state of order to a state of disorder with time, reflecting dissipation of energy available for future transformations. Entropy is a measure of the ‘lost usefulness’ of a system. This law like the first one is also universal. Issac Asimov had to say this about it: “ As far as we know, all changes are in the direction of increasing disorder, of increasing randomness, of running down”. Jeremy Rifkin, an evolutionist and sociologist writes in his book ‘Entropy: A New World View’: “We believe that evolution somehow magically creates greater overall value and order on earth. Now that the environment we live in is becoming so dissipated and disordered that it is apparent to the naked eye. We are beginning for the first time to have second thoughts about our views on evolutionary progress…Evolution means creation of larger and larger islands of order at the expanse of even greater seas of disorder in the world. There is not a single biologist or physicist who can deny this central truth. Yet, who is willing to stand up in a classroom or before a public forum and admit it?”

The verdict of the second law of thermodynamics is as explicit as that of the first one i.e. that changes in the universe are not progressive and increasingly ordered i.e. evolutionary, but are actually ‘de-volutionary’, with increasing disorder and disorganization. This phenomenon is also evident in our daily lives where things left to themselves become increasingly disorganized rather than organized. The thought and prediction of the evolutionary theory are clearly in opposition to these, the two most time-tested and universal LAWS of true science.

Let me sum up. The phenomenon of evolution cannot be directly observed nor can it be repeated and verified experimentally. It can therefore be concluded that it lies outside the realm of true science and does not stand up to the requirements of the scientific method. Furthermore, the theory of evolution is tautological in nature and cannot be scientifically refuted, and so cannot be proved either. And then, evolution contradicts the two most universal laws of science. Is evolution then true science or a pseudoscience?

Contributing Writer:  Deepak Ransom is a linguist with the International Language Institute, Allahabad d_ransom@rediffmail.com


 

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