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Evolution can't be falsified

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Claim

Any fact can be fit into the theory of evolution. Therefore, evolution is not falsifiable and is not a proper scientific theory.

Source

What would falsify evolution?

  1. Several methods of determining phylogenies (ie: Cladistics) are capable of contradicting the existence of evolutionary trees. They could provide counter-evidence for common descent, but they don't. For example, if species taken to be closely related (e.g. chimpanzees and humans) had been shown to have radically different DNA sequences, this would have falsified evolution.
  2. The genetic code (the mapping of DNA to amino acids) could conceivably be different between different groups of organisms. If this happened frequently, it would cause severe problems for the theory of common descent. Instead, only minor differences in the genetic code are found, and they tend to occur in ways that strengthen the evolutionary tree.
  3. If there were no significant differences in the fauna at different times, or different geographical locations which have been separated for a very long time from other locations (e.g. Australia), this would be a clear falsification.
  4. The discovery of fossils in rock from the wrong time period (e.g. the discovery of a rabbit skeleton in Cambrian shales) would falsify evolution.
  5. If geology or cosmology had shown the earth to be young (i.e. the 6,000 to 15,000 year time span claimed by young earthers) this would not allow any time for evolution.
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Other responses

  1. Since creationism consists almost entirely of (unsubstantiated) claims that evolution has been falsified, a possible response to this claim would be, "Make up your mind: Is evolution unfalsifiable, or has it already been falsified? Can't have it both ways."
  2. The theory of evolution deals with a much more complex system than other scientific theories. There are nearly unlimited amount of parameters which are mostly unknown and in addition these parameters are often related in a complicated way. Thus it is not so easy to derive exact predictions from evolutionary theory as it is e.g. in Newtons celestial mechanics. However, many examples prove that it is possible to make falsifiable predictions and therefore the theory of evolution qualifies clearly as a scientific theory.
  3. Not that this is a refutation, but the exact same statement could be made against Creationism.
  4. The claim simply isn't true. Not all facts would fit with evolution and therefore if such facts emerge, evolution would be falsified. It is simply the case that there have not been any facts that have falsified evolution.
  5. It is true that scientists do not discard a well-supported theory as soon as one piece of apparently contradictory evidence appears. They first try to see if there is any possible way that the evidence could be reconciled to the theory. This is a reasonable practice, but does increase the difficulty of falsifying any scientific theory. However, it does not make falsification impossible, as not every piece of evidence could be accommodated in such a way.
  6. Evolution is falsifiable; it is simply not false.
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Fallacies contained in this claim

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Related claims

See Also

Why is Creationism not a Scientific Theory?

Acknowledgments

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