Fallacy Friday!

Today's Logical Fallacy is...Shifting the Burden of Proof!

(related to “appeal to ignorance”) This fallacy occurs when the burden of proof is placed on the wrong side of an argument. In a logical...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Common Creationist Complaint: Where are the scientific breakthroughs due to evolution?

Common Complaint: Where are the scientific breakthroughs due to evolution? Dr. Marc Kirschner, chair of the Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, stated: “In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.” Dr Skell wrote, “It is our knowledge of how these organisms actually operate, not speculations about how they may have arisen millions of years ago, that is essential to doctors, veterinarians, farmers … .” Evolution actually hinders medical discovery. Then why do schools and universities teach evolution so dogmatically, stealing time from experimental biology that so benefits humankind? [1]

Answer: Not only is evolution itself a huge breakthrough, but there are lots of current scientific breakthroughs occurring due to evolution – even in the field of evolution. We use evolutionary principles in computer programming, genetics, antibiotics, agriculture, wildlife management, neuroscience, psychology, sociology... In 1970, Normal Borlaugh won the Nobel Peace Prize because his understanding of evolution and genetics allowed him to produce crops that fed millions of people.

The Kirschner quote is taken completely out of context. If you actually read the article, you would see that his complaint is that a lot of biology has been going on independent of evolution and that if we took evolution into account, it would go farther. Kischner’s an evolutionary biologist. He supports using evolutionary principles in medicine. He’s saying we need to do more, and the resistance of creationists like Skell are preventing medical advancements.
Speaking of Skell... We explained why quoting Skell is a bad idea in a previous post: he's a chemist who works for an anti-evolution organization making unfounded claims about a field that he doesn't even study (he's very popular with anti-evolution crowds). It is a complete lie that evolution hinders medical discovery. I've never heard a more ridiculous claim. If you've ever heard your doctor say, “Take all your antibiotics,” it is because of what doctors know about evolution. If you don’t take all of them, then there will be remaining bacteria that are resistant to that antibiotic. They will grow, you will get another infection, and this time, those antibiotics will not be as effective. This is why penicillin is no longer a “miracle drug.” We've over-used it, and the bacteria are resistant. This is a major concern in disease control; many bacterial infections are adapting to our drugs. Evolution is occurring right now, and doctors are fighting to keep up with it. It is vital for doctors to understand how evolution occurs if we want to survive.

Not only is it important in fighting diseases, but it's also important to understand the evolutionary history of an organism in order to understand why it behaves a particular way. If an organism evolved where it needed close contact with its mother for the first year of its life, and we didn't know that, then when we have a specimen suffering biochemically due to hormone disruption, we may not know that the cause is because it is separated from its mother. These are important things to consider, and evolutionary biology is vital to understanding them.
And finally, evolutionary biology *is* a type of experimental biology. Evolution is the foundation of all biology, and nothing in biology makes sense without it.

[1] 15 Questions for Evolutionists. Evolution: the naturalistic origin of life and its diversity (The General Theory of Evolution, as defined by the prominent past evolutionist Kerkut; see introduction to Origin of life.) by Don Batten

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