Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Darwin Just Made It Up

Another gem from the annals of religious stupidity:

“The theory of evolution is a theory, and essentially the theory of evolution is not science — Darwin made it up,” state Sen. Ben Waide (R) said. “My objection is they should ensure whatever scientific material is being put forth as a standard should at least stand up to scientific method. Under the most rudimentary, basic scientific examination, the theory of evolution has never stood up to scientific scrutiny.”

This comes from a Huffington Post article  (via: WEIT) which quotes Kentucky republican Sen. Ben Waide protesting the inclusion of evolution in science classes.

Darwin this... Darwin that.... Isn't it revealing that it is religious fundamentalists who claim that the theory of evolution will stand or fall based on what Darwin said?

Scientists have never held that view. Even if Darwin had just made everything up in his book, it still wouldn't matter today as far as our current understanding of how evolution works, since he would have been found out long back. And that has precisely what has happened. His theories have been subjected to the filter of evidence. Some like common descent and natural selection have been supported by mountains of evidence. Others, like his ideas about the origin and maintenance of variation in populations and inheritance have been found wanting and have been rejected.

So, although Darwin contributed mightily to our understanding of life and evolution, he was not some solitary preacher whose words were being uncritically lapped up by his followers. There was active debate about evolution going on during his time and Alfred Wallace had independently proposed a theory of evolution similar to Darwin's.  All his theories did not gain immediate acceptance. Common descent did, but natural selection as a viable mechanism of evolution had to wait more than half a century for a marriage with population genetics. There is also plenty of new evidence from different fields of biology and geology that has accumulated since then. The fossil record has improved, genomic comparisons show relationships between organisms, bio-geographic distribution and so on. His and others ideas are being continually tested and our understanding of evolution is being refined. Evolutionary biologists don't depend exclusively on what Darwin said or wrote.

Religious fundamentalists are wedded to the idea of a revealed infallible truth broadcasted by a prophet. Hence their obsession with Darwin.

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