Scientific Pretensions of Evolutionary Theory

By editor - 3.5 2024

There is a difference between evolution and the theory of evolution. It’s the same difference as that between planetary motion and Newton’s theory of planetary motion. This distinction appears as that between facts and truths. They are not the same thing. Evolution is a fact, but the theory of evolution can be true or false. Likewise, planetary motion is a fact, but Newton’s theory of planetary motion can be true or false. So, the factual existence of evolution doesn’t guarantee the truth of the theory of evolution. We can determine the facts of evolution by observations, such as fossil records. But that doesn’t mean the theory of evolution is true. Most people don’t get the distinction between fact and truth. So, they equate the facts of evolution with the truth of the theory of evolution. They are not the same.

So, given that evolution is a fact, what makes a theory of evolution true? A theory is necessarily defined by two characteristics—explanation and prediction. A theory that explains but cannot predict, or a theory that predicts but cannot explain, is not a theory. This post discusses these issues.

Table of Contents 

1 Peg and Hole Methodology
2 Indeterminism in Newton’s Physics
3 Indeterminism in Evolutionary Theory
4 The Problem of Evolutionary Discontinuity
5 Summarizing the Problems
6 Modern Biology is Not a Unique Science
7 Evolutionary Theory is Pseudoscience
8 Alternatives to Current Evolution

Peg and Hole Methodology

Evolutionary theory can be simply stated as the model in which there is a hole called the “environment” into which a species adapts like a peg. Basically, some pegs have to fit into some holes. If the pegs don’t conform to the holes, then one of two things can happen: (a) the hole changes to conform to the shape of the peg, and (b) the peg changes to conform to the shape of the whole. That is adaptation.

However, we don’t know which of these two will happen, which is indeterminism. The peg can change the shape of the hole, or the hole can change the shape of the peg. The practical application of this in the context of evolution is that a change in the species can change the environment, or a change in an environment can change the species. The results in these two cases will be identical, which means that you cannot tell whether the change in species changed the environment or vice versa.

Indeterminism results from this inability—it is the inability to explain the outcomes post facto. Which means that if we observe some fossils, were they caused by a change in species, or a change in the environment? Since both causes result in the same outcome, therefore, there is no necessity in causation. You can still say that since either of these changes could have caused it, therefore, both causes are sufficient. A cause that is sufficient but not necessary is not the true cause. It is just a potential cause, but something has to activate one of the potentials into a true cause. If we cannot explain that potential, then it is as good as saying that there are just potentials but no reality.

Indeterminism in Newton’s Physics

This problem of indeterminism, which results from the absence of necessity, was first highlighted by David Hume. But, of course, he was ignored. The problem then reappeared in Newton’s mechanics.

For instance, when two particles collide, they can merge or split. You can imagine a car crashing into a truck. How a car splits into pieces is unpredictable—the total weight, speed, and all other properties collectively cannot determine how the car crash will split the car into pieces. Then, you can also have a truck crash into a car, which would constitute an alternative explanation of the same outcome.

Since the crash can be caused either by a car ramming a truck or a truck ramming a car, therefore, there is no fixed explanation. Similarly, the outcome of that crash—i.e., how the car splits into pieces—is also unpredictable in mechanics. Thereby, there is no fixed explanation and there is no fixed prediction.

David Hume’s argument on necessity simplified the problem by saying that two fixed particles are colliding, which is like saying that a specific car crashes into a specific truck. Since we cannot predict the outcome of the crash, therefore, there is no predictive certainty and hence indeterminism. However, that is not the only type of uncertainty. It is also possible that the car crashes into a different truck, producing the same outcome. That would also deprive us of explanatory certainty.

The classical mechanical counterpart of this problem would be to substitute one of the colliding particles with another identical particle—i.e., that has the same mass, energy, momentum, angular momentum, etc. Even if the outcome is the same, you still have uncertainty: You don’t know which particles caused the outcome. That uncertainty is however an explanatory rather than predictive uncertainty.

When we put these two types of uncertainties together, then we find that Newton’s mechanics is both predictively and explanatorily uncertain. That uncertainty doesn’t impact celestial mechanics because planets are not colliding. So, you create the semblance of a deterministic theory, by choosing a specific type of phenomenon where its problems are not exposed. Similarly, when we apply Newton’s mechanics to the terrestrial mechanics, we choose those phenomena where objects don’t merge and split. For instance, when a bat hits a ball, the bat and ball do not merge and split. Also, you assume that there is always one bat and one ball. If players use a different bat or a different ball, to score the same number of runs, then the explanation of runs would be indeterministic as the bat and ball are not fixed.

In short, the most deterministic theory in physics is indeterministic. It actually has no predictive or explanatory power, and it is hence not a theory. And yet, you can create the illusion of a theory by limiting its application to non-colliding planets, or a colliding bat and ball that do not split or merge.

Indeterminism in Evolutionary Theory

The same indeterminism exists even in evolutionary theory. Species and their environment are not like non-colliding planets; they are also not like a bat and ball that do not split or merge on their collision. They are like a truck and car that collide and the result is completely unpredictable. Even which species will be changed by interaction to which part of the environment is inexplicable because different factors in the environment can produce the same outcomes. That is like a car colliding with a different truck.

Evolutionary theory is as indeterministic as Newton’s mechanics. But the indeterminism in Newton’s mechanics is hidden in celestial mechanics because planets don’t collide, and it is hidden in terrestrial mechanics if we apply its principles to those collisions that don’t merge or split the particles. Since these two principles don’t apply to biological systems, therefore, all the weaknesses of Newton’s mechanics must be visible. And that visibility entails that there is neither predictive nor explanatory power.

In simple words, given the situation today, there is no amount of computational power that can predict the future species, because it is entirely contingent on what happens on a collision of particles in a species with the particles in the environment, and the outcomes are never predictable. If we cannot predict the outcome of a single collision, then the split or merged particles resulting from that collision will produce even more uncertainty because they can now collide with different particles in different species or in different parts of the environment. The result is that the uncertainty must explode with passing time. That explosion means that the more you go into the future, the less you can predict. You have much better chances of predicting exactly what will happen tomorrow, and those chances keep declining exponentially with passing time. That destroys any hope of any kind of prediction.

Similarly, given the fossil data post facto, there is no amount of computational power that can explain what happened in the past, which then led to the current situation of species distribution.

The problem of predicting the future or explaining the past is not about the limits of computational power. It is not about the enormous number of equations that may be involved in this computation. It is not about the fact that we might not be able to collect all the data to make that computation. The issue is that even if we had infinite computational power, that could compute infinite equations, fueled by all the possible data, it would still be impossible to make a prediction of the future or explain the past.

The issue is that the theories are mathematically indeterministic. And the evolutionary theory is as indeterministic as Newton’s mechanics. Therefore, we don’t need to use a single fact from biology to explain why evolutionary theory is not a scientific theory. We can know that from physics itself.

The reason this equivalence between Newton’s mechanics and evolutionary theory is not obvious to most people is that Newton’s mechanics is applied to celestial and terrestrial mechanics in a way that hides its problems: Either the bodies don’t collide, or they don’t split and merge in a collision. If we take that assumption away, then all the flaws of Newton’s mechanics exist in evolutionary theory.

The Problem of Evolutionary Discontinuity

The situation gets even worse as we add constraints to a biological system. For example, if we say that an ecosystem of species is a closed system, then such closed systems can only exist in mutually orthogonal normal modes. You can imagine a drum. Depending on where the drum is hit on the surface, it will always produce a specific sound, which is the sound of the drum as a whole. We cannot have individual parts of the drum vibrate in different ways individually—because the parts of the drum are tightly interconnected. The drum can only shift from one vibrational state to another, which are called the normal modes of the drum. This means that if a biological system is a closed ecosystem, then no individual species can evolve individually. Either the entire ecosystem evolves from one state to another, or the ecosystem will be in a fixed state. That collective ecosystem change requires an external event, quite like someone hitting the surface of the drum—to change the entire ecosystem at once. Thereby, incremental mutations that incrementally lead to bigger changes are impossible in a closed system.

Then, if we say that the biological system is not completely closed, but somewhat porous, then all the changes in the ecosystem will dissipate over time such that even if a species evolved to a new state in the ecosystem, that change will dissipate outward returning the ecosystem to its original state. Thereby, one should see a species X evolve to Y and then evolve back to X. That will make evolution reversible.

The problems get worse when we replace classical mechanics with quantum mechanics. Now, there is an ecosystem, which can be represented through many orthogonal bases quite like the orthogonal normal modes of classical mechanics. The difference is simply that all the components of the basis—i.e., the species of the ecosystem—are not simultaneously observable. So, you see species manifest one after another and even as the other species are invisible, they are still playing a role in the ecosystem.

These missing species are just like people in a team who have gone on vacation. The team operates sub-optimally without all its team members, but each member does things that they are designated to do as if all the team members are present. So, you get a fossil record at one time—like a team photo with some team members on vacation—and you think that it is the true ecosystem, but it is not. Then you take the next fossil record with a different set of team members on vacation, and you get a completely different picture. You think that the team is evolving when it is people going on vacations.

Then, the problem gets even more complicated if a quantum system shifts from one basis to another, which is achieved in a slit experiment by changing the number of slits—i.e., something outside the ecosystem. You take one fossil record, and you get a set of species {X}. And you take another fossil record, and you get a completely different set of species {Y}, and you think that the ecosystem is evolving. But it is the same ecosystem, which has jumped from one species-set to another due to an external change. If we combine the basis change with the occasional visibility of the basis components, then the situation is akin to people in a team reorganizing themselves frequently—i.e., doing different jobs—along with some team members going on vacations. Now, the periodic snapshots of the team are even more misleading because the team members are evolving to play different roles and going on vacations.

As you can tell, we don’t need any biology to understand these problems. We just need to know a little bit about physics and the mathematics that underlies that physics. It is not even rigorous physics and mathematics; just the high-level descriptions of (a) closed systems interacting with other systems like a hand hitting a drum, (b) semi-porous systems that dissipate changes outwardly like a loosely tied drum, and (c) quantum systems that shift from one basis to another, and (d) components of those bases are observed occasionally.

All these problems make the proposition of evolutionary explanation much harder. A small external intervention like a hand hitting a drum can change the entire ecosystem, with all the species evolving suddenly and collectively, not incrementally through random mutation and adaptation. Then, evolutionary changes can become reversible if the system is semi-porous or dissipative. Then, fossil records are simply snapshots of a team with some members missing, so you cannot say that species are evolving even though some members appear and disappear from the fossil record. Then, the entire ecosystem can jump from one set of species to another, and while you are drawing a diagram of continuity in evolution, all you see is discontinuity which you can never explain correctly.

Summarizing the Problems

Even if we just extend the classical mechanical model of nature to biological systems, there is still no prediction and explanation, although there is continuity, which means that there is an incremental succession of states. That succession of states can translate into continuous changes in fossil records, which we can collect, although we can never explain that succession using a formal theory because the classical physical explanatory model is indeterministic in both predictions and explanations.

Then, if we say that the ecosystem is closed, semi-porous, or quantum mechanical, then new problems of discontinuity arise, in which changes are sudden and inexplicable, and the problem of determinism still exists. That means, you collect fossil records, and you will see numerous discontinuities. However, you can never explain what is causing that discontinuity because you are always thinking that species cannot appear and disappear, that if some change in species has occurred then it will not be reversed, and that all changes in species are incremental and slow rather than sudden, disruptive, and pervasive.

The persistent fact about evolutionary fossil records is discontinuity. However, this discontinuity is generally rubbished in modern biology as missing intermediate fossil records. The evolutionist says: If only we had all the fossil records, then we will know that the evolution is not discontinuous. But that is something the evolutionist can never achieve—isn’t it? There will never be enough fossil evidence to certify incremental observation, in order for the continuity to be established and discontinuity to be ruled out. The limits of fossil collection themselves play into the hands of the evolutionist who insists on continuity, rules out discontinuity as an aberration caused by inadequate fossil records, to be overcome by the discovery of fossils in the future. That future, as we know quite well, will never arrive.

On the contrary, there exists clear evidence of discontinuous changes such as in the Cambrian Explosion, and these discontinuities are not the only ones. Faced with such problems, biologists offer excuses: “Well, discontinuous changes don’t undermine the fundamental thesis of evolution, namely, that we evolved from a common ancestor”. That is as lame as saying that all shirts, pants, blouses, and skirts evolved from primordial deerskin. Or, that all the books in all the libraries of the world evolved from a common book. Just because they appear one after another doesn’t mean they incrementally evolved from the previous thing. Making that assertion needs proof for continuity, which as we saw above, isn’t there. In fact, all the data we have is highly discontinuous. Furthermore, even if you insist that they have evolved through continuous and incremental changes, you still need to present a causal model of that change, and then employ it to predict future evolutions. Until you can predict and explain—without mathematical indeterminism in the theory—you don’t have a theory of evolution.

Modern Biology is Not a Unique Science

Biology can differ from physics in facts, but it cannot differ from physics in truths. This is not my claim but the claim of biologists themselves, because they reduce all biology to chemistry, all chemistry is then reduced to quantum mechanics. The truths of biology and physics now involve the same fundamental principles of space, time, causation, and change, which have to be complete in their predictions and explanations, and they have to be proven to be necessary and sufficient. Similarly, such theories have to employ a model of discontinuous change if we treat the universe quantum mechanically, or continuity if we think that quantum discontinuity reduces to classical continuity.

If someone believes that quantum discontinuities reduce to classical continuity, then we already know that classical mechanics is indeterministic, which means that we will never get a theory of evolution by such reduction. As we have seen, all such theories appear to be predictively complete only in so far as objects do not collide, or if the object collision doesn’t cause object merger or splitting.

If instead someone wishes to treat the universe quantum mechanically, then they better find a complete model of predictions and explanations, which is also necessary and sufficient, in quantum mechanics—before they talk about the theory of the evolution of species. All problems of evolutionary theory are now reduced to the problems of quantum mechanics. However, since we know that these problems are unresolvable in current paradigms of physics (over a century of effort has failed to produce a solution), therefore, there is simply no hope for a theory of evolution unless physics is revised drastically and based on alternative ideas of space, time, causation, and change.

Evolutionary Theory is Pseudoscience

The hypocrisy in biology is overlooking all these issues: (a) insist that change is continuous when we know that continuous change is indeterministic, (b) blame discontinuity on missing fossil records which can never be overcome because every discontinuity will beg even more fossil records, (c) claim that there is a common ancestor when there are hundreds of other visible changes—e.g., in dresses and books—that are successive and yet not evolutionary, and (d) not see the equivalence between the theories of change in biology and in physics, disregarding the deep issues in fundamental physics that hinder any resolution of the problems in evolutionary biology.

This hypocrisy makes the evolutionary theory a pseudoscience because there is no predictive and explanatory power to account for continuous or discrete changes. Moreover, this pseudoscientific idea is also dogmatic because there is no willingness to look at non-evolutionary models of progressive and yet discrete changes (e.g., in fashion or in books) that stare us in the face everywhere.

Evolutionary theory is not a scientific theory, but a dogma in which the materialist hopes to explain life-forms based on physical particles and forces. We can fault the dogma, but I’m not going to do that. I will rather send the evolutionist to the physics department, to figure out the problems of indeterminism and discontinuous changes in physics! Don’t blame me for doing that, because you—the evolutionist—opened the can of worms by saying that life is nothing more than particles and forces, governed by mathematical laws in space and time. Now that you have asserted those claims so vehemently, please figure out the underlying problems of physics before you say another word.

If you cannot do that, then you have acknowledged yourself to be pseudoscience because all the definitional traits of pseudoscience apply to you: You have a theory that (a) makes no predictions or provides no explanations, (b) it is neither necessary nor sufficient, (c) the causal mechanisms it relies on are deeply flawed, and (d) commonsensical observations about non-evolutionary models of change are disregarded. If instead evolutionary theory is a scientific theory, then everything else that makes no prediction or explanation, that is not necessary or sufficient, that is flawed in its causal models of change, and is contrary to commonsense change, must also be a scientific theory.

Note the irony. I’m not using extraneous standards to judge evolutionary theory. I’m using precisely those standards that evolutionists brag about, applying them back to evolutionists to show that they are not following any of the standards that they brag about.

Any honest self-reflective application of principles of science will reveal that evolutionary theory is not science. It is a lot of data collection, followed by a lot of unsubstantiated claims which contradict the facts, but those contradictions are attributed to missing facts. That doesn’t mean that facts don’t suggest a change in a succession of species over time; it does. But it also doesn’t mean that one species is evolving into another. Evolution is real, but evolutionary theory is not. The evolutionary records are facts; however, the evolutionary theory is not true.

Alternatives to Current Evolution

We can say that evolution is occurring, but the current evolutionary theory does not explain that evolution. More precisely, the facts of fossil records do not imply the evolution of species—i.e., one species evolving into another, which is also called descent with modification. The facts only tell us that species appear one after another, quite like new books appear successively although they are not produced from previous books through copy and modification. Likewise, new dresses are not produced from previous dresses by copy and modification.

How that happens, is a separate topic, which I will not get into this post. But if you are interested, then the book Signs of Life discusses the above issues, apart from other arguments against evolutionary theory (drawn from computational theory, game theory, and complex system dynamics), and presents a non-evolutionary theory of evolution in which species appear like successive dresses or books.

Like the problems I outlined above, this alternative model of evolution requires a change in the theoretical landscape in terms of the understanding of space, time, causation, and change, to recover necessity and sufficiency, predictive and explanatory completeness, and destroy mathematical indeterminism. But as you can tell, this is also a need for physics, because biology is not a unique science anyway.