Just How Useful is Evolution Anyway?
The late Theodosius Dobzhansky remains well-known for a particularly catchy article title that he penned in the 1970s. In fact, the title of his article contains an idea that is accepted and maintained by a large portion of the modern scientific community—“Nothing in Biology Makes Any Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” (1973). This idea—that without a “proper” understanding of evolution one cannot understand, much less contribute to, biological studies—has taken a firm hold of many professors and science teaching professionals. Professor Michael Dini of the Department of Biological Sciences at Texas Tech University stated: “The central, unifying principle of biology is the theory of evolution, which includes both micro- and macro-evolution, and which extends to ALL species. Someone who ignores the most important theory in biology cannot expect to properly practice in a field that is now so heavily based on biology” (n.d., emp. in orig.).
Is it true that a proper understanding of evolution is a prerequisite for any person who wishes “to properly practice” in some field of biology? The eminent evolutionist and outspoken Darwinist, Richard Dawkins, offered some interesting thoughts along these lines. In a discussion of one particular group of scientists, Dawkins stated:
They have decided, perhaps rightly, that they can do taxonomy better if they forget about evolution, and especially if they never use the concept of the ancestor in thinking about taxonomy. In the same way, a student of, say, nerve cells, might decide that he is not aided by thinking about evolution. The nerve specialist agrees that his nerve cells are the products of evolution, but he does not need to use this fact in his research. He needs to know a lot about physics and chemistry, but he believes that Darwinism is irrelevant to his day-to-day research on nerve impulses. That is a defensible position.... A physicist certainly doesn’t need Darwinism in order to do physics (1996, p. 283, emp. added).
Therefore, according to Dawkins, it is very possible for a person to engage in productive cell research (an extremely important branch of biology) without using evolutionary ideas in any of his procedures. In fact, evolution could defensibly be “irrelevant to his day-to-day research.” Please notice, however, that Dawkins makes sure to include the idea that the researcher believes that the cells are the “products of evolution.”
But let’s take Dawkins’ thoughts a step further. Could it be that the researcher would not have to believe that the cells are the product of evolution? Would that belief affect his “day-to-day research”? Dawkins must answer, “No.” Then, according to Dawkins’ line of thinking, it could be the case that a person who does not believe in evolution could be just as (or more) successful in the biological sciences than one who does believe in evolution.
It should not be surprising, then, to hear statements like the one made by Thomas Geelan. Geelan is a teacher of Advanced Placement Biology in Buffalo, New York. His course is titled, “An Interdisciplinary Course in Evolution.” In the abstract that describes the class, the first line states: “Evolution is the central organizing theme in all biology, yet few biology courses are taught that way” (n.d., emp. added). In the introduction to the class, a similar statement is made: “Evolution is the central organizing theme in all biology, but it is ironic that most biology curricula are pitifully deficient in their treatment of it” (emp. added).
What is the primary reason for this deficiency in “most” biology courses? The answer simply is that evolution is of no practical value in day-to-day research. In fact, evolution can be considered an irrelevant idea that has no bearing on the outcome of any scientific experiment. The cell researcher does not need it. The taxonomist not only does not need it, but it gets in his way so much that he is better off if he does not consider it. The physicist does not need it. In truth, not only is evolution a false idea, but it is light years away from being the central tenet of biology. It is a counterproductive, anti-knowledge theory that at the least is useless, and is many times actually destructive. Dobzhansky’s title might be better worded, “Nothing in Biology Makes Any Sense in Light of Evolution.”
Dawkins, Richard (1996), The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W.W. Norton).
Dini, Michael (no date), “Letters of Recommendation,” [On-line], URL: http://www2.tltc.ttu.edu/dini/Personal/letters.htm.
Dobzhansky, Theodosius (1973), “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution. “The American Biology Teacher, March, [On-line], URL: http://www.evolutionary.tripod.com/dobzhansky_abt_35_125-29.html.
Geelan, Thomas (no date), “An Interdisciplinary Course in Evolution,” [On-line], URL: http://www.accessexcellence.org/AE/AEC/AEF/1996/geelan_evolution.html.