Darwin Was Wrong

Darwin Was Wrong February 20, 2009
Having had a chance to reflect somewhat on the (obviously sensationalist) headline from the cover of a recent issue of New Scientist, I think that it does more good than harm. Let me explain why.

First, this cover helpfully (if potentially misleadingly) illustrates that Darwin’s theory is not being shielded from criticism by an atheistic scientific conspiracy. One can criticize the details of the theory. All one has to do is provide evidence via scientific research.

This leads nicely to the second helpful point about this issue. What Darwin was “wrong” about was the tree of life, which does for the most part accurately reflect the evolutionary paths of large organisms, which was what Darwin was interested in. But it turns out that single-celled organisms (the majority of living things both historically and at present) are related more like a tangled thicket, with viruses copying genetic material horizontally between organisms. And so Darwin wasn’t wrong about evolution in general, but about the general applicability of one particular diagram (which he labelled in his notebook with the humble words “I think”) to an area (genetics) that was not yet known in Darwin’s time, and which on the whole fit well with his theory and its predictions.

But the most noteworthy detail, of course, is that “Darwin was wrong” about something, and in a specific way, that the “Intelligent Design theorists” did not foresee. And that nicely illustrates the difference between the scientific research that makes headline news in science magazines, and the ID crowd, who stubbornly refuse to do scientific research. Because they are not interested in investigating whether Darwin was right or wrong as a scientific question. They are interested in promoting their viewpoint in a way that bypasses the only tools that can ever determine whether Darwin, or any other scientist, was right or wrong about some matter of science. And so this headline, and the fact that it has nothing to do with Intelligent Design, speaks loudly and clearly about the difference between science and pseudoscience, and illustrates plainly why ID falls into the latter category.
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