Thursday, 23 June 2005

Evolution. Is There Anything It Can't Do?

So asks Doug over at Carl Zimmer's The Loom. Well, not so much ask, but rants on that very theme.
Isn't it amazing how everything seems to provide evidence for evolution? The brain shrinks in some form of pygmy homo erectus. Thats evolution! Ancient genes survive millions of years unchanged. That's evolution?! Women have orgasms. That's evolution! Although not all women have orgasms and they still manage to reproduce hmm luckily with the right spin...That's evolution! We live in a civil society with people working for cooperative goals. That's evolution! Unfortunately some people murder and rape. Just an unfortunate side-effect, but that's evolution.

What gets Doug is that there seems to be some sort of circuler reasoning going on here. Evolution explains everything and everything confirms evolution. Mr Zimmer takes this idea and runs with it explaining very clearly how this isn't quite the case, but that it's odd that evolutions success at explaining a great many things is being held against it. He concludes:
If a scientific theory can explain an aspect of the natural world, withstand scrutiny, and lead to important new insights into how the world works, we really shouldn't hold its success against it. No one's asking for evolution hymns—certainly no more than they're asking for gravity hymns or hymns to the periodic table of the elements.

But go and read the whole thing Zimmer explains it all with quite beautiful clarity.

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