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National Academy Scientist Says Darwin's Theory of Evolution is Being Oversold

A robust debate about Darwinian evolution has been taking place over at Forbes.com recently. The venerable techonomy site published over 20 articles in honor of Darwin's birthday, four of which were from ID proponents. As usual, having any articles skeptical of Darwinism is a bridge too far for some, namely Darwin defender Jerry Coyne who attacked not just the authors, but Forbes itself for the temerity to discuss such views publicly.

No less than a member of the National Academy has responded. Forbes.com has just posted a piece by Philip S. Skell, The Dangers Of Overselling Evolution. Skell argues that ...

Darwinian evolution is being pushed as a theory of everything. According to Skell it is being oversold to the public as the foundation of all modern scientific breakthroughs without any basis in reality.

Writes Skell:

To conflate contemporary scientific studies of existing organisms with those of the paleontologists serves mainly to misguide the public and teachers of the young. An examination of the papers in the National Academy of Sciences' premiere journal, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), as well as many other journals and the Nobel awards for biological discoveries, supports the crucial distinction I am making.

Examining the major advances in biological knowledge, one fails to find any real connection between biological history and the experimental designs that have produced today's cornucopia of knowledge of how the great variety of living organisms perform their functions. It is our knowledge of how these organisms actually operate, not speculations about how they may have arisen millions of years ago, that is essential to doctors, veterinarians, farmers and other practitioners of biological science.

It is widely accepted that the growth of science and technology in the West, which accounts for the remarkable advances we enjoy today in medicine, agriculture, travel, communications, etc., coincided with the separation, several centuries ago, of the experimental sciences from the dominance of the other important fields of philosophy, metaphysics, theology and history.

Yet many popularizers of Darwin's theory now claim that without the study of ancient biological history, our students will not be prepared to engage in the great variety of modern experimental activities expected of them. The public should view with profound alarm this unnecessary and misguided reintroduction of speculative historical, philosophical and religious ideas into the realms of experimental science.

It is more crucial to consider history in the fields of astrophysics and geology than in biology. For example, the electromagnetic radiations arriving at our detectors inform us of the ongoing events that occurred billions of years ago in distant parts of our universe that have been traveling for all this time to reach us. And the rock formations of concern to geologists have resided largely undisturbed since their formations.

But fossils fail to inform us of the nature of our ancient antecedents--because they have been transformed into stones that give us only a minuscule, often misleading impression of their former essences and thus are largely irrelevant to modern biology's experimentations with living organisms.

For instance, we cannot rely upon ruminations about the fossil record to lead us to a prediction of the evolution of the ambient flu virus so that we can prepare the vaccine today for next year's more virulent strain. That would be like depending upon our knowledge of ancient Hittite economics to understand 21st-century economics.

Read the entire essay here.

If you're interested in more about what Dr. Skell thinks about Darwinian evolution, and about how he came to be a Darwin skeptic you can listen to three short but informative interviews with him at ID The Future.

  • Interview with National Academy of Sciences Member Philip Skell, Part One
    In this ID the Future podcast, Casey Luskin interviews Philip S. Skell, Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University and member of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Skell discusses his research, which has included work on reactive intermediates in chemistry, free-atom reactions, and reactions of free carbonium ions.
  • Interview with National Academy of Sciences Member Philip Skell, Part Two
    On this episode of ID the Future, National Academy of Sciences member Phillip Skell shares his story of becoming a Darwin-skeptic with Casey Luskin, explaining how his experience in antibiotic research and the questions he posed to his colleagues inspired his 2005 article in The Scientist, "Why Do We Invoke Darwin?: Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology."
  • Interview with National Academy of Sciences Member Philip Skell, Part Three
    On this episode of ID the Future, Casey Luskin interviews National Academy of Sciences member Phillip Skell on his advice for young scientists who may be Darwin-skeptics. Dr. Skell has been outspoken in his stand for academic freedom and against intolerance.