Skip to comments.Darwin's (Failed) Predictions: An Interview with Cornelius Hunter, Part I
Posted on 06/15/2009 8:26:42 AM PDT by GodGunsGuts
Darwin's (Failed) Predictions: An Interview with Cornelius Hunter, Part I
The testability of scientific ideas by making predictions about reality is a favorite theme with Darwinists and the atheists who love them. In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins endorses a new atheist Ten Commandments, whose seventh commandment reads: Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be read to discard even a cherished belief it if does not conform to them. Incidentally, that would replace the old seventh commandment, Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Dawkins hails evolutions strong prediction that if a single fossil turned up in the wrong geological stratrum, the theory would be blown out of the water. He contrasts this with the Bibles record of predictions. In another New Atheist tract, God: The Failed Hypothesis, physicist Victor Stenger writes, We have no risky prediction in the scriptures that has come true.
So with Darwinian activists, quite a lot hangs on predictions and testability. Intelligent design advocates argue that their idea is empirically testable, and Stephen Meyer lists a variety of applicable tests in his new book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. The heart of Dawkins argument for atheism is a critique of the design hypothesis. If its true that ID can be successfully tested by making predictions about empirical reality, what of Darwinian theory? Is it enough to say, as J.B. Haldane quipped, that Darwinism would be falsified if fossil rabbits were discovered in the Cambrian strata?
Molecular biophysicist and Discovery Institute fellow Cornelius Hunter puts Darwin to the test in a new website that is really a free, easily printed book in itself: Darwins Predictions. His argument? Darwinian evolution indeed makes predictions which, however, routinely fail. This requires evolutionary scientists to come up with increasingly baroque additions to and speculations upon their theory to make the data fit with the theory. It all becomes increasingly, suspiciously complicated. For example, Darwinism has a very hard time explaining altruism. Selflessness, especially toward those outside ones family, is not what youd expect from the evolutionary scenario. Darwinists strain to come up with explanations, resulting in many serendipitous just-so stories that are less and less tethered to scientific fact.
ENV interviewed Dr. Hunter about Darwinisms confounded expectations, which Hunter illustrates in areas including DNA coding, molecular processes, the genomes of similar and distant species, mechanisms of biological change, animal and human behavior, and more.
ENV: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, Dr. Hunter. And congratulations, Darwins Predictions is a very readable, very accessible, and provocative piece of writing. Devastating, I would think. First of all, your subject seems like such an obvious one. Have Darwinisms failed predictions not been covered before? Were you the first to notice the pattern? How did the idea come to you?
CH: Well, believe it or not, evolutionists are not very meticulous when it comes to tallying their failures. In fact, quite the opposite, evolutionists are positively triumphant, saying that evolution is as much a fact as is gravity. So you can see that false predictions just dont seem very relevant to evolutionists. Who cares? The theory is a fact.
ENV: Would you give us a little historical background on testing by prediction? It goes back famously to Karl Popper, but how did the idea enter the canon of scientific thinking?
CH: Yes, Popper tried to establish criteria for what constitutes legitimate science the demarcation problem but simply as a matter of practicing science, the idea of testing predictions was around long before Popper. The problem is, however, you cannot just use predictions alone to evaluate scientific theories. Many different theory-evaluation methods have been proposed, and there is no winner. There is no cookbook approach to deciding if a theory should be discarded. So theory evaluation for theories in the gray area can be difficult. But a great many of the theories developed by scientists are not anywhere close to the gray area. Most fall by the wayside because they are obviously not good theories, and they do not require complex philosophical thought to evaluate. Evolution falls into this category. I dont say that evolution is false simply because statements about truth value carry a much greater burden. What is obvious, though, is that evolution is not a good scientific theory.
ENV: Does evolutionary theory make any successful predictions that are meaningful and interesting?
CH: Well, I like the way you phrase the question. Evolution certainly does make successful predictions, but meaningful and interesting ones are difficult to locate. For instance, evolution predicts many similarities in species that are close together in the evolutionary tree, and few similarities in species that are far apart in the evolutionary tree. And we find such evidence in biology. But we routinely find significant contradictions as well. So the prediction becomes a soft prediction rather than a hard prediction. The prediction predicts the pattern where the pattern is found, but not where the pattern is not found. So the prediction is really not very meaningful or interesting.
ENV: You compare the state of evolutionary thinking to geocentrism, the idea that the sun and planets go around the earth. To explain the way planets sometimes traveled one way then another in the sky, contrary to what a geocentric model would predict, astronomers invented fictional epicycles to make sense of their unexpected observations. Would you give us a simple example of a Darwinian epicycle?
CH: This is where things get interesting, I think. In order to fix a false prediction the theory needs to be adjusted so that it no longer makes the false prediction. So for geocentrism the false predictions were corrected by having the planets and other objects travel in very complicated patterns, involving epicycles. In fact, using epicycles the model became very accurate, and before Kepler and Newton there was no physical reason to think that objects in the sky could not move in such patterns. But the model became highly complex it is a great illustration of the tradeoff that often occurs between the complexity and the accuracy of a scientific theory.
You can always maintain accuracy by adding more complexity to the explanation, but then the question arises: is the explanation a description of the way nature really works, or just a description of the observables? This is a key distinction in the philosophy of science, and geocentrism is a good example of a theory with very high accuracy that was merely describing the observables, rather than nature itself.
What I think is actually more interesting than evolutions false predictions are the reactions to those false predictions, and the incredibly complex additions to the theory that were required. Like geocentrism, evolution has a large number of epicycles. For instance, 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. Evolutionists explain convergences as arising from similar environmental pressures.
But it has always been absolutely fundamental to the theory of evolution that biological variation be blind, not responsive, to environmental pressures. Natural selection works according to the environmental pressures, but selection only works on preexisting designs. The idea that the incredibly similar complexity of the eye just happened to arise twice independently in very different environments is an excellent example of an epicycle.
Tomorrow: Part II of ENV's interview with Cornelius Hunter!
There's an idea the beltway will be happy to help you destroy.
You know ID would get somewhere if it spent more time proving their hypothesis rather than attacking an old theory.
This article may have been relevant 150 years ago.
Thanks for the ping!
“So you can see that false predictions just dont seem very relevant to evolutionists.”
So we should never watch the weather channel either since the prediction center can’t be 100% right.
Cornelius Hunter’s talk at Cornell
As I noted a week ago, Disco Institute fellow and adjunct professor at evangelical Biola University, Cornelius Hunter, gave a talk and participated in a panel discussion last night. Both the panel and the discussion were well attended, and I thought fair and respectful as well.
Honestly, I found the lecture talk to be rather uninteresting though. Hunter spent much of the time discussing the history of theological views in natural philosophy since the late 17th century, and explicity spoke of God as the Designer (points for honesty). In his presentation, Hunter presented two slides representing some of his primary evidences of “flaws” in evolutionary theory, including the inadequacy of arguments from homology, specifically descrepancies between pentadactyl limb structure in vertebrates and the dissimilarity of the genes responsible for these morphological changes; and the complexity of transducin signaling in photon receptors of the eye. The rest of his talk was largely quote after quote from prominent natural philosophers through history, highlighting the metaphysical underpinnings leading up to Darwin’s theory.
The panel discussion was much more fun. Hunter opened things up, finally revealing his “problems” with the evidence for evolution, and using an argument that amounts to the “God of the Gaps.” As the “evolutionists” commented later on, Hunter was often true “to a point,” misrepresenting or mistaking the actual science.
Following Hunter’s opening, two Cornell faculty members presented their prepared statements as well. First, Richard Harrison (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department chair, long-time instructor of Cornell’s Intro To Biology For Majors course, and editor of the journal Evolution) gave a summary of the broad body of evidence for evolution, which sounded like the highlight reel from your average Biology or Evolution textbook. Interestingly, when it came time for Hunter’s rebuttal, he didn’t even tough Harrison’s comments - they were simply so well-said and robust, it would seem.
Then finally, Kern Reeve (Associate Professor of Neurobiology & Behavior, and expert in evolution of cooperation and conflict in animal societies), in his prepared statement, gave the philosopher’s criticism of Intelligent Design. Reeve elaborated extensively on the ability of evolutionary theory to make testable predictions in the natural world, explained that the possibility of verification or refutation is what makes a theory scientific, and pointed out that Intelligent Design does not meet this criteria of science. This is where things got fun. Reeve continued to press Hunter in rebuttal time to provide a testable prediction and define a criteria for Design, which Hunter dodged with a lame appeal to the weakness of demarcation arguments. The crowd laughed, Hunter lost his rhythm, and the vacuousness of Intelligent Design was exposed.
Towards the end, when the discussion’s moderator opened things up for questions from the audience, several “evolutionists” had fun with other criticisms, whether with molecular phylogenetics, definitions of facts vs. theories, and a playful reference to ID’s “Big Tent” covering OEC and YEC (for the record, Hunter was an OEC-er). Meanwhile, one ID supporter - I didn’t hear it clearly, but I think he said that ID can make predictions, and gave one such prediction: that the “evolutionists” would exaggerate the significance of vestigial organs. Some prediction. Also, the same IDer prefaced his comment by conceding that Harrison and Reeve seemed to have gotten the better of Cornelius Hunter, so it’s not much me saying it apparently.
All in all, I think it was a very fair discussion - with respect and (almost) equal time for both sides, and factual inaccuracies and intellectual dishonesty being exposed in Design’s talking points. Fun!
Ping for later
OMG.....yet another ID guy blathering on about how ID is a valid theory in the science world.
Complete with the same ole claim of predictability and empirical testabililty.
“D”...of course, meaing “God”....without, of course, SAYING “God” to keep the appearance that IDers are not talking about “God” and the “Creation”.
Dead wrong. There are many, many biblical predictions that came true.
Here is one:
Matthew 24 Jesus Foretells Destruction of the Temple 1(A) Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2But he answered them, "You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you,(B) there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down."
In 70 A.D., the Roman emporer Titus and his legions destroyed the temple and sacked Jerusalum. Roman soldiers toppled all the stones of the temple hunting for gold that may have melted into the crevices due to fire that they had set.
There are over 350 specific old-testament predictions about the messiah that were fulfilled by the life of Jesus. Several books enumerate them if you would care to read them "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" by Josh McDowell is one but I'm sure there are newer ones too.
Given such a list it wouldn't be all that difficult for an aspiring Messiah, of which there were many, to go around attempting to fulfill them would it? Just sayin'....
Problem is that the predicted crucifixion and resurrection from the dead would put a serious crimp into your premise.
Gettin’ yourself crucified probably wasn’t much of a chore. The Resurrection thingie...well, ya gotta do it, or make folks believe that ya did.
[[Given such a list it wouldn’t be all that difficult for an aspiring Messiah, of which there were many, to go around attempting to fulfill them would it? Just sayin’.... ]]
FALSE Messiah’s could NOT fulfill the prophesies where Christ performed miracles that only God could do- almost all of hte miracles had very specific jewish implications such that the Jews could NOT deny that Christ was idneed the messiah after witnessing htese very specific Jewish heavt miracles- but unfortunately their blindness- and hte blindenss of many many folks to follow, made it impossible for htem to admit He was indeed tyhe Christ- Seems some on htis thread are continuing hte trend to Deny Christ was who He said He was, and wish to trivialize everythign Christ accomplished by denying He did true miracles of God.
Mogollon: “There are over 350 specific old-testament predictions about the messiah that were fulfilled by the life of Jesus.”
gundog: “Given such a list it wouldn’t be all that difficult for an aspiring Messiah, of which there were many, to go around attempting to fulfill them would it? Just sayin’....”
The Impossible Faith Or, How Not to Start an Ancient Religion
Just sayin’.... :)
[[Dead wrong. There are many, many biblical predictions that came true. ]]
Indeed there were a great many- There were over 2000 prophesies that came 100% true, and many that were prophesied of Christ Himself- prophesies that could NOT have been simply guesses- naming names aboiut countries and powers that were not even formed yet- Those who attempt to deny the bible’s prophetic nature are simply peopel who htrow hteir hands over their eyes and declare “Didn’t happen” inspite of hte overwhelming evidneces that it DID happen- as such- these folks really aren’t interested in engaging in any sort of intellectually honest discussions on the matter
Comparing Darwin’s hypothetically failed predictions to the Creationist’s failures in front of unbiased judges can be very informative.