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Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Wolfgang Pauli on the Empirical Problems with Neo-Darwinism

Casey Luskin

Physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1945, was a staunch critic of neo-Darwinism. Here’s an article of an interest, “Pauli’s ideas on mind and matter in the context of contemporary science,” that documents his prescient criticisms. For example:

“As a physicist, I should like to critically object that this model has not been supported by an affirmative estimate of probabilities so far. Such an estimate of the theoretical time scale of evolution as implied by the model should be compared with the empirical time scale. One would need to show that, according to the assumed model, the probability of de facto existing purposeful features to evolve was sufficiently high on the empirically known time scale. Such an estimate has nowhere been attempted though.” (p. 27)

“In discussions with biologists I met large difficulties when they apply the concept of ‘natural selection’ in a rather wide field, without being able to estimate the probability of the occurrence in a empirically given time of just those events, which have been important for the biological evolution. Treating the empirical time scale of the evolution theoretically as infinity they have then an easy game, apparently to avoid the concept of purposesiveness. While they pretend to stay in this way completely ‘scientific’ and ‘rational,’ they become actually very irrational, particularly because they use the word ‘chance’, not any longer combined with estimations of a mathematically defined probability, in its application to very rare single events more or less synonymous with the old word ‘miracle.'” (pp. 27-28)

Pauli died in 1958 — but he was far ahead of his time in seeing the fundamental scientific problems with neo-Darwinism.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



A Universe from NothinglandscapeLawrence Kraussmultiversenatural selectionNeo-DarwinismscienceWolfgang Pauli