I was looking at your website and I thought that you had an interesting
point to make about Intelligent Design not being falsifiable. Isn’t the
same true for macro-evolution? There is no experiment or data that
evolution proponents can even conceive of that they will accept to
disprove evolution. In that sense, macro-evolution is not a scientific
theory either. You can argue that both ID and Evolution are worldviews.
About the falsifiability of evolution, that is an interesting and somewhat
nuanced question. There is a grain (but just a grain) of truth to the
claim that evolution is unfalsifiable. What I mean is that there is no
“experiment” we can do to falsify that evolution on a large scale can
occur. In this limited sense evolution is unfalsifiable because it is
about what has already happened, most of it in the extremely distant
past. Although that is true, it is certainly possible to imagine data we
could discover which would falsify the premises of evolution.
For example, if the present-day version of neo-Darwinism is true, then
it is necessary that species which are close to one another on the
evolutionary “tree” must be similar to one another in the make-up of their
genome. For example, if it turned out that lions and tigers had massively
different DNA in their chromosomes, that would be dramatic evidence
disproving evolution. So, yes, I believe that evolution is falsifiable.
What makes it interesting is that Darwin’s original theory of evolution,
published in 1857 was a borderline case. Because we did not then know
about genetics, there was no experiment which could be done at that time
or even conceived which would have falsified evolution. Nevertheless,
with the advent of our understanding of the nature of heredity, evolution
is now falsifiable.
Whether or not evolution in the big sense can be falsified or not by the
fossil record is debatable. If missing links in the fossil record remain
missing, does that prove that evolution did not occur? Tough question.
It is worth noting that many Christians have claimed that the fossil
record does indeed falsify the claims of evolution. Here we have the
critics of evolution telling us that evolution does pass at least one test
for being scientific! Some critics of evolution say it is
falsifiable–indeed that it is falsified by the fossil record.
In conclusion, I believe that ID and evolution are not in the same
category. Intelligent design does not lend itself either to experimental
confirmation or falsification. Because the theory of evolution is
primarily about the distant past, falsification is a bit problematic, but
I believe that in the final analysis, evolution is falsifiable, both from
the DNA and the fossil evidence.
By the way, I agree with you that evolution does have some big problems in
explaining change on a grand scale and in explaining the fossil record.
You might want to get a copy of my book Is There a God? (www.ipibooks.com)
in which I discuss evolution a bit.
John Oakes, PhD