Is Darwinian Evolution "Indispensable" to Biology? - Evolution News & Views

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Is Darwinian Evolution "Indispensable" to Biology?

Larry Moran has an amusing post on evolution as one of the new core concepts in biochemistry and molecular biology. If you have to periodically proclaim to the world the indispensability of your scientific discipline, then your scientific discipline isn't indispensable. 

From the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, with my commentary:

The Central Importance of the Theory of Evolution to All Biological Sciences 

As it is for all biological sciences, evolution is a foundational concept in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Evolution is irrelevant to biochemistry and molecular biology. Biochemistry and molecular biology are, of course, quite important in developing an understanding of evolutionary history. Our understanding of evolutionary history is dependent (to a large degree) on biochemistry and molecular biology. To assert the reverse dependence is to reason in a circle. 

An understanding of the shared evolutionary history of all living systems on our planet is thus critical for any student of these disciplines.

See above. Biochemistry and molecular biology are a large part of the evidence for evolution. Therefore, evolution can't be a large part of the evidence for biochemistry and molecular biology. 

Evolutionary theory guides experimental efforts across biochemistry and molecular biology.

Nonsense. Evolutionary inferences, whether good stories or bad, are irrelevant to research in biochemistry and molecular biology. Much if not most research in biochemistry and molecular biology is conducted in medical schools, which don't teach evolutionary biology and don't have departments of evolutionary biology.

This ranges from the comparison of related enzymes from different species by the identification of key active site residues...

Biochemistry and molecular biology might be used to infer common evolutionary ancestry (common design is also a reasonable inference). Inference to evolutionary ancestry based on biochemistry and molecular biology can't then contribute to research in biochemistry and molecular biology, because, as noted above, that would be to reason in a circle. 

... to the use of interspecies comparisons in the determination of gene functions...


to the search for genes responsible for genetic diseases using phylogenetic approaches to the study of the regulatory mechanisms that guide development.

Diseases have proximate and evolutionary causes. Biochemists and molecular biologists study proximate causes. Evolutionary biologists make up evolutionary stories based on research on the proximate causes. The contribution is one-directional.

Our attempts to understand human molecules and processes are enhanced immeasurably by our understanding of their counterparts in other organisms.

Similarity between humans and other organisms is established by biochemistry, molecular biology, physiology, anatomy, etc. Based on similarities, evolutionary inferences are conjured by evolutionary biologists. If biochemists etc. claimed that evolutionary stories were essential to their work, they would be... reasoning in a circle. But of course they don't actually claim that. They just pay homage to evolution, to keep Darwinists off their back. 

Our efforts to address a new human pathogen -- viral, bacterial, or eukaryotic -- are enhanced immeasurably by previous studies of viruses or organisms related to the pathogen.

"Related" is determined by biochemistry and molecular biology. Evolutionary stories about relatedness are derived from biochemical and molecular similarities. Therefore, evolution is informed by, but does not inform, biochemistry and molecular biology.

The salient commentary on these witless paeans to evolution was given by leading molecular biologist and NAS member Philip Skell:

[T]he modern form of Darwin's theory has been raised to its present high status because it's said to be the cornerstone of modern experimental biology. But is that correct? "While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky's dictum that 'nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,' most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas," A.S. Wilkins, editor of the journal BioEssays, wrote in 2000. "Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one."

I would tend to agree. Certainly, my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution. Nor did Alexander Fleming's discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin. I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin's theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No. 

I also examined the outstanding biodiscoveries of the past century: the discovery of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; the development of new surgeries; and others. I even queried biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin's theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.

The absurd circular claims of evolution's indispensability to the biological disciplines -- the very sciences on which evolutionary biology feeds -- is just more evidence that Darwinism's narrative gloss is wearing so thin that evolution needs a telethon every now and then to make it even seem relevant.