Is Evolution Criticism Anti Science?

by Cornelius Hunter

There is no question that science has made tremendous progress over the centuries, but what exactly does that tell us about science? For some, science’s seemingly inexorable march of progress means that scientific theories are either true or headed in that direction. Scientific ideas, particularly if they are successful, must be revealing something about how the world works. Perhaps they are not exactly correct, but future research will iron out the rough spots. Sure science has had plenty of failed upstarts, but the scientific method provides a feedback loop that rapidly and ruthlessly eliminates those ideas that don’t match up to reality. Scientific theories that are mature, on the other hand, have endured this testing and are well on their way to taking their place as an accurate description of nature. This assessment of science, or at least portions of it, are sometimes referred to as scientific realism, for science is viewed as describing reality. Today, scientific realism plays an important role in evolutionary apologetics but the argument is problematic.

If you question evolution you will, at some point, be told that you are opposing science. Anyone who doubts such a mature, well-established theory must be anti science, whether he knows it or not. Has not the success of science proven the naturalistic approach? As Sean Carroll (the cosmologist, not the geneticist) explains:

Most modern cosmologists are convinced that conventional scientific progress will ultimately result in a self-contained understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe, without the need to invoke God or any other supernatural involvement.

But such raw realism relies on a whiggish understanding of the history of science. Scientific progress, while undeniable, has been accompanied by massive failure. And how to distinguish between the two is not always obvious. Theories that are thought to represent reality often turn out to be miserable failures. And very successful scientific theories are routinely later taken to be a false representation of reality. They were not slightly modified but dropped altogether. But in their day such theories were held with great confidence.

And so it is not terribly surprising that, as a recent paper explains, most published research findings are false. Like the weather forecast, what science tells us is often not true…

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