Did Darwin make faulty predictions on evolution?

David Klinghoffer has been interviewing Intelligent Design (ID) proponent and Discovery Institute fellow, Cornelius Hunter. They discuss Hunter’s new website, Darwin’s Predictions. The idea of the website is to illustrate how some of Darwin’s predictions have turned up false.

Before we get into the interview, let’s review a few of Darwin’s predictions and see how they fared:

As can be clearly seen by these overarching predictions, Darwin got a lot right.  In fact, he got enough right that any subsequent theory needs to take into account his basic premises.  Unfortunately, many ID proponents choose to ignore these proven ideas in favor of the smaller, more complex details that have yet to be proven.  Details which have not been worked out yet or might not ever be due to the constantly changing earth.  That is exactly what Hunter is doing with his website.  He is actually exploiting the process of science, which involves bad predictions and failed ideas, to illustrate his point.  Therefore, not much stock should be put into these so-called failed predictions.

So, Hunter’s premise is flawed, but let’s go ahead and get into a few examples of what Hunter is calling Darwin’s failed predictions.  One example is where Hunter describes the similarity of the squid eye and the mammalian eye as being a failed Darwin prediction:

dramatic similarities are sometimes found in otherwise distant species. The eye of the squid and the human, for example, are incredibly similar. Such design convergence is rampant in biology, in spite of the evolutionary expectation.

In such a situation, evolutionary theory predicts that they have common ancestor with genes necessary for basic eye development and the final shape will be a result of subsequent modifications.  This doesn’t seem like a failed prediction to me.

Anyway, are the eyes of squid and mammals really that similar?  So similar that they preclude an evolutionary origin?  On the surface, they do seem very similar, but when you delve deeper, the differences become clear and obvious. The most obvious is that the mammalian eyes have the light sensing layers of the retinal inverted compared to the squid eye.  Furthermore, the two eyes develop completely differently with the squid eye arising from a series of invaginations, while the mammalian eye forms from cell signaling.  Besides, how else are you going to make an effective eye?

Another example that Hunter gives of Darwin’s failed prediction comes from the relatedness of very conserved genes:

the finding of long stretches of identical DNA in distant species is a good one. Evolutionists have worked hard to figure out how this could be

Did I miss something? When did conserved stretches of DNA falsify evolution? Of course Hunter is really talking about how they are too conserved to be explained by evolutionary theory.  Since this is the exception rather than the rule, I don’t see how this is a failed prediction.

His next example:

Then there is the evolution of contradictory behavior patterns, such as altruism. Evolution has undergone a big makeover in the past fifty years in trying to explain such behaviors.

Altruism is pretty straight forward.  A social group of organisms helping each other out will survive longer than those that don’t.  Plus, there is also the punishment of those that don’t play by the societies rules.  You can even see altruism in one of the simplest of organisms, Dictyostelium. Some of these amoeba actually kill themselves so that others will be able to live.

These examples that Hunter provided are not very convincing.  None of them really falsify evolutionary theory.  They do show how some ideas of evolution were wrong, but they don’t come anywhere near falsifying the theory.

Since I have been on a roll of calling out the Discovery Institute for its hypocrisy, I might as well end up with another example. At one point, Klinghoffer says:

Darwinists are compelled to mold their interpretations of data to match the preconceived theory.

This comes from the same group that says that once wrote:

Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

Besides, not all evolutionists are atheists. Far from it.  Ever heard of Ken Miller?

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6 Responses

  1. Well, he’s just posted about that.

    He seems to feel that the only possibilities as to why we all consider ID to be religious is one of the following (quoting):
    A. The theory incorporates religious premises.
    B. Proponents of the theory are religious people.
    C. The theory mandates certain types of solutions.
    D. The theory allows for all types of solution.

    And then, if ID is religious for one of those reasons, well, which aren’t true of evolution? *sigh*

    He’s seems to be one of those people who’s read a fair bit about philosophy and science but misunderstood all of it.

  2. In some sense, Darwin did make incorrect predictions. Back then they didn’t know about Mendelian genetics, and hence proposed something else called “pangenesis”, basically the idea that blood contains little things called “gemmules” that pass on inherited traits and collect in the reproductive organs. It is the self-correcting nature of science that allowed modern evolutionary synthesis to develop upon the (re)discovery of Mendelian genetics.

  3. Joel,
    I will have to take a look, but I can tell from your description that there will be plenty of strawman arguments. I agree with you about his view on science. Frankly, I believe it is impossible to have an accurate view of science and be part of the Discovery Institute.

  4. Rob,
    While, I agree with you, their post wasn’t really focused on Darwin’s predictions. Cornelius Hunter took more current ideas of evolutionary thinking and shoe horned them into something Darwin would have predicted.

    That is really interesting about “pangenesis” and the “gemmules.” I will have to look into that. It is sometimes pretty funny to look at old scientific ideas . Likewise, I see in my own field ideas that just ten years ago seem almost funny in how wrong they were.

  5. Even IF Darwin had made an incorrect or faulty prediction at least once, . . that wouldn’t change the fact that he got the most important details right.

  6. Most of the predictions of evolution were found to be false. And in those “predictions” you list as if evolution predicted something else if a prediction was wrong it was actually tentatively adjusted after the fact. Evolution never predicts anything it just continues to describe everything that’s found through investigation. Then next time these descriptions held up as predictions fail it gets tentatively adjusted again repeating the cycle. Amazing the straw men evolutionists will come up with to try and defect your obviously flawed “theory.”

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