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Scientific Consensus? You’ve Got to Be Kidding, Right?


We are often told that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” The statement was first made in 1973 by neo-Darwinist Theodosius Dobzhansky. (Neo-Darwinism is the view that evolution is due to the natural selection of variations that originate as gene mutations.) Dobzhansky’s statement is false. Nevertheless, it has become the majority opinion (“consensus”) of the scientific establishment. Sometimes, it is carried to absurd extremes.

For example, in a blog post last week defending that reliability of “scientific consensus,” theoretical astrophysicist Ethan Siegel wrote:

[E]volution was the consensus position that led to the discovery of genetics…

What a hoot! The truth is that Gregor Mendel discovered genetics with no help from evolution. Mendel published his theory about the same time that Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, but Mendel did not accept Darwin’s theory, and Darwin’s followers ignored Mendel’s theory for decades.

Here’s an excerpt from a chapter titled “You’d Think Darwin Invented the Internet” in Jonathan Wells’s book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design:

Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel found Darwin’s theory unpersuasive. The data he collected led him to conclude that heredity involves the transmission of stable factors that determine an organism’s traits. Although the factors can be mixed and matched during reproduction, they remain discrete and unchanging from one generation to the next. Darwin’s view of heredity was quite different. He believed that every cell in an organism produces “gemmules” that transmit characteristics to the next generation in a blending process he called “pangenesis.” The advantage of Darwin’s view was that gemmules could be changed by external conditions, or by use and disuse, and thus account for evolutionary change. The disadvantage of Darwin’s view was that it was false.

Mendel’s theory of stable factors contradicted Darwin’s theory of changeable gemmules. Thus, although Mendel’s work was published in 1866, Darwinists totally ignored it for more than three decades. William Bateson, one of the scientists who “rediscovered” Mendelian genetics at the turn of the century, wrote that the cause for this lack of interest was “unquestionably to be found in that neglect of the experimental study of the problem of Species which supervened on the general acceptance of the Darwinian doctrines… The question, it was imagined, had been answered and the debate ended.”

Even after 1900, Darwinists had little use for Mendel’s theory. By the 1930s, however, the evidence had corroborated Mendelian genetics. Darwinists abandoned pangenesis and subsumed Mendelism in a “neo-Darwinian synthesis” that still dominates evolutionary biology.

In 1999, Darwinist Bruce Alberts claimed that Darwinism is “at the core of genetics.” Yet Mendel had no need for Darwin’s hypothesis. How can Darwinism, which contributed nothing to the origin of genetics and resisted it for half a century, now be at its core? It is Darwinism that needs genetics, not genetics that needs Darwinism.

Of course, the “scientific consensus” now holds that Darwinian evolution is true, and the main point of Siegel’s blog post is to argue for the trustworthiness of the “scientific consensus.” But Siegel makes it clear that most people don’t count as scientists:

In order to become and remain a scientist, you need a four-year degree with a major in your chosen scientific field, a four-to-six-year (on average) PhD degree, where you specialized in a particular sub-field of your science and demonstrated yourself capable of making original contributions, and continued to remain active in the field, staying abreast and even participating in many of the latest discoveries.

The skills you develop as a scientist are unique to scientists, and the ability to interpret results in the context of your sub-field and what’s known about it is unique to scientists within that sub-field.

And finally — and this is the most important part — in order to obtain an accurate, nuanced, complete picture of a particular problem or set of problems, you need this incredible set of scientific knowledge and experience that is (in most cases) non-transferrable from one discipline to another.

Whoa! By these criteria, Siegel should stick to his own specialty, theoretical astrophysics. He should leave biology to biologists, such as Jonathan Wells (PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California at Berkeley).

But here’s the catch: Jonathan Wells is not part of the “scientific consensus” in biology, because he doesn’t accept Darwinian evolution. Of course, Gregor Mendel was not part of the “scientific consensus” in his day. In fact, not even Charles Darwin became part of the “scientific consensus” until his theory was propped up by Mendelian genetics almost half a century later.

So what are we to make of the “scientific consensus” about evolution? Probably no one can say it better than David Berlinski, who wrote in The Devil’s Delusion:

Within the English-speaking world, Darwin’s theory of evolution remains the only scientific theory to be widely championed by the scientific community and widely disbelieved by everyone else. No matter the effort made by biologists, the thing continues to elicit the same reaction it has always elicited: You’ve got to be kidding, right?

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