Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The State of Evolutionary Theory

In response to Steve, who wrote in response to an article in The Daily Bell entitled, "Increasingly, Evolution Has No Proof":

"The authors of this piece need to not only read about the theory of punctuated equilibrium that addresses the main issues raised but also be aware that 'proof' is only relevant in mathematics and jurisprudence, not science."

I wrote:
"Punctuated equilibrium" theorizes that evolution took place in the "gaps", that is, the gaps in the fossil record.  According to the theory, that's why we don't see all the intermediate forms that Darwin predicted we'd find if his theory was correct.  All that macro-evolution took place in between depositional episodes!
This is pretty pat, I think.  It also turns the idea of slow, gradual uniformitarianism on its head for the sake of saving evolutionary theory.  In other words, they used to say, "evolution happens so slowly you can't see it", now they're saying, "it happened so fast we missed it".
Combine this with Stephen Jay Gould's "hopeful monster" idea--which postulates that every once in a while something really outlandish is bred, with a very very small, vanishingly small, percentage of these aberrations proving viable and granting evolutionary advantage to the next generation--and you have a theory that's grasping at straws.  Gould's theory was constructed to overcome the problem of irreducible complexity; that is, in living systems, everything has to be fully formed and functional for the organism to be viable.  Intermediate forms just won't cut it.
When I consider just how much of the scientific edifice is built upon the idea of evolution, and how much that idea has been extrapolated out of the scientific realm and into the realms of sociology, politics, economics, et al, I'm simply amazed.  It appears that the idea is so attractive to many that they're willing to overlook its many flaws simply because they're enamored with it.