What would disprove evolution?

Evolution: A scientific theory that is merely a theory, at least according to a worrying amount of people.

I haven’t touched this topic so far because I’m a biologist and this is basic knowledge for me. After learning the theory and all the supporting facts there was no room left in my mind for doubt.

But I do realize there is a huge conflict out there, especially with creationists. So I decided to add my voice to those supporting evolution. In case you’re interested for some evidence that if found could disprove evolution read on (re-blogged from this wonderful post):

…In my general talk on the evidence for evolution, I give a list of seven observations that, if repeated and confirmed, would disprove parts of the theory of evolution described above. This shows that it is a scientific theory in the Popperian sense of being falsifiable. Here are some of those conceivable observations:

  • Fossils in the wrong place (e.g., mammals in the Devonian). If the fossil record were all out of order like this (a single anomalous fossil might not overturn everything, of course, since it could be in the wrong place for other reasons), we’d have to seriously question the occurrence of evolution.
  • Adaptations in one species good only for a second species. There are plenty of adaptations in species that are good for other species, but also help members of the first species: these are the basis of mutualisms. (Cleaner fish, for example, remove parasites and dead tissue from other marine fish, but thereby gain a meal.) But we don’t expect to see—and don’t see—adaptations in one species that evolved solely for the benefit of another species.
  • A general lack of genetic variation in species. Evolution depends on genetic variation. If most species had none, they couldn’t evolve. However, the universal efficacy of artificial selection (I’m aware of only three lab experiments that failed to show a response to such breeding experiments), shows that genetic variation is ubiquitous in nearly all species.
  • Adaptations that could not have evolved by a step-by-step process of ever-increasing fitness. This is of course the contention of advocates of Intelligent Design like Michael Behe. But adaptations like the flagellum, which Behe and other IDers cite as features that couldn’t have arisen by a step-by-step process of increasing adaptation, have been shown to plausibly arise by just that process. We don’t need to completely reconstruct the evolution of things like flagella, but simply show that their evolution by a stepwise adaptive process was plausible.
  • The observation that most adaptations of individuals are inimical for individuals or their genes but good for populations/species. Such adaptations aren’t expected to evolve often because they would require the inefficient process of group or species selection rather than genic, individual, or kin selection. And indeed, we see very few features of organisms that seem inimical to organisms or their genes but useful for the population or species. One possible exception is sexual reproduction.
  • Evolved “true” altruistic behavior among non-relatives in non-social animals. What I mean by “true” altruistic behavior is the observation of an individual sacrificing its reproductive output for the benefit of individuals to which it is either unrelated or from whom it does not expect to receive return benefits. In this “true” altruism your genes give benefits to others and get nothing back, and this shouldn’t evolve under natural selection. And, indeed, we don’t see such altruism in nature. There are reports that vampire bats regurgitate blood to other individuals in the colony to whom they’re unrelated, but those need confirmation, and there may also be reciprocal altruism, so that individuals regurgitate blood to those from whom, one day, they expect a return meal. Such cooperation can evolve by normal natural selection.
  • Complete discordance between phylogenies based on morphology/fossils and on DNA. While individual genes can show discordance by lateral transfer—rotifers, for example, have incorporated into their genome from DNA from very unrelated organisms, and this is also common for bacteria. But lateral transfer of genes, as opposed to their direct descent from parent to offspring, is relatively uncommon. So, for example, if we sequenced the genome of a blue whale and found that on the whole the species was more closely related to fish than to mammals, we’d have a serious problem for the theory of evolution.

    We don’t see any of these anomalies, and so the theory of evolution is on solid ground. As I say in my book, “Despite a million chances to be wrong, evolution always comes up right. That’s as close to a scientific truth as we can get…”
  • This is only part of the post. For more scientific information on evolution and stimulating discussions you can visit the blog: Why evolution is true.


    One thought on “What would disprove evolution?

    1. […] What would disprove evolution? (fireflydk.wordpress.com) […]

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