What Didn't Darwin Know?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Quite a bit, it turns out.  The leaps in knowledge of cellular biology and genetics over the last 150 years would boggle Charles Darwin’s mind.  Some argue that if he were alive today, he would abandon the very theory named after him because of all the contrary evidence that now stands against it.

In any case, please follow this hyperlink to a video which features two scientists and a medical doctor who explain how they came to be skeptical of Darwinism.  They explain in very clear terms the challenges facing Darwinian evolution based on what scientists know today that Darwin never knew.

It’s well worth your time.

13 thoughts on “What Didn't Darwin Know?”

  1. Why is is that you accept the almost absolute scientific consensus that the earth is 4.5b years old, and the universe is 14b years old, while you most probably(?) don’t understand the detailed evidence/calculations for these two numbers, but you reject the same almost absolute consensus on the topic of evolution?

  2. The evidence for the age of the universe/earth is derived from the sciences of physics and astronomy, primarily. These sciences are based on well-tested theories and repeated experimental observation. We have far more understanding of the laws of physics than we do of how biological organisms operate. We are truly in the infancy of understanding miniature biological systems.

    The theory of Darwinian evolution to explain the origin of species is based on historical evidence (it claims to explain the origins of biological organisms) which cannot, in practice, be subjected to the same kinds of experimental confirmation that the age of the universe can. The evidence for evolution, then, is buried in history. We find bits and pieces of evidence, and then we must formulate a grand theory to explain all these bits and pieces. I am very familiar with the evidence for evolution, and I find the grand theory to be severely lacking for a number of reasons. Please read this post written by Dr Philip Skell to get more perspective on evolution as a historical rather than experimental science.

    Bottom line: I believe the science behind dating the universe to be far more mature, robust, and experimentally verified than the science behind Darwinian evolution.

  3. Evolution can indeed be experimentally confirmed today – every* university biology department conducts experiments on evolution, commonly using fruit flies as the subject. Suggesting that the evidence for evolution is buried in history is false. The evidence for evolution is not only historical (i.e. fossils).

    The evidence for evolution comes primarily from four sources:
    – the fossil record
    – the chemical and anatomical similarities of related life forms
    – the geographic distribution of related species
    – the recorded genetic changes in living organisms over many generations

    A famous experiment demonstrating evolution is the Long Term Evolution Experiment (LTEE). See these links.



  4. Boz,
    I know you are an intelligent guy, so I’m surprised you are using fruit flies as an example of evolution. Darwin’s thesis was the “origin of species,” not the “mutation of already-existing species.” What I have read about the fruit fly experiments is that no new species have developed. When mutations are introduced, the fruit flies either die, become crippled, or stay roughly the same.

    Obviously species are adapting to their environment and we have ample experimental evidence of that phenomenon, but Darwin’s book went on to try and explain how fish evolved into mammals, how all of the wide diversity of life originated from a few simple lifeforms. The evidence for this is historical in nature and limited. We do not see this happening today in our labs. Why? Because these processes take millions of years to occur, therefore Darwin’s theory must be proven by historical evidence.

    I assume you know these arguments, so I’m surprised you are citing evidence of microevolution when I was speaking of macroevolution. Microevolution is hardly controversial, but rather its extraction out to macroevolution.

    If you haven’t read The Edge of Evolution, I would highly recommend it. Michael Behe examines hard evidence for the ability of living populations to evolve through natural selection and mutation. He chooses organisms that have very short life spans and huge populations, conditions that are optimum for evolution.

  5. Boz,
    I read your link about the e coli experiments. Behe talks about these experiments in his book. I really don’t see how these experiments help the case for Darwin at all. The changes that occur in the e coli make the case much worse for the evolution of complex organisms with long lifespans and small populations.

    Quote from Behe on his book:

    What do you believe Darwinian evolutionary processes can actually do?
    The Edge of Evolution asks the sober question, what is it reasonable to think Darwinian evolutionary processes can actually do? Unprecedented genetic data on humans and our microbial parasites (malaria, HIV, E. coli) now allow us to answer that question with some precision. The astonishing result is that, even under intense selective pressure, and given an astronomical number of opportunities, random mutation and natural selection yield only trivial, mostly degenerating changes. The bottom line: the major events that produced life on earth were not driven by random mutations.

  6. “Some argue that if he were alive today, he would abandon the very theory named after him because of all the contrary evidence that now stands against it.”


    His idea of natural selection has been proved many times. Cellular biology and genetics serve to understand better the mechanisms of evolution, natural selection being just one of them.

    Evidence for Natural Selection

  7. Pablo,
    Darwin’s book was about the origin of species. I think he would be very disappointed in the lack of evidence we have demonstrating that natural selection can actually generate brand new species.


  8. Well said Bill.

    It is interesting how natural selection, even if it were proven true, does not answer the question as to the Origin of Species. All natural selection says is that the current something came from something else. It never answers the question as to where the something else actually came from. You basically end up with an infinite regress of causes (the somethings) which is an impossibility. Darwin’s Origin never really gives the Origin. Kind of funny.


  9. Since you asked, I have read the entire book. And it just so happens to be an attempt at explaining mechanisms that cause new species to originate. Funny that he would name the book that title and then actually write about it inside the book. Darwin was a strange guy…

  10. Brother Platt, I don’t think Darwin would be disappointed. His book has done more damage to the family of man than he could ever have guessed. Darwin knew his theory was on shaky ground to start with. However, after the book gained worldwide fame, he defended it to his dying breath. Personally, I think he was astonished at the acceptance of Origin of Species. His fear of rejection kept him from publishing the book for many years. He knew its flaws.

  11. I have read most of the book. It would take real dedication to read the whole thing. The book is boring but I believe all people should read it. It is one of the most influential books ever written but almost no one has read it! Not even biologists! So please read it!

    More importantly, read it with a questioning attitude.
    Research his proposals. You will find that he made several mistakes.
    Holy cow! He didn’t even know what a gene was! Personally,

    I think his biggest mistake was the idea that life’s experiences could be passed on to the next generation. Today, we know the only thing passed on from one generation to another happens with genes, which he didn’t know about.

  12. Darwin would be delighted by the many examples of observed speciation, and would be fascinated by the discovery of genetics.

    And rather than causing damage, knowledge of evolution has enabled the development of medicines that have saved millions of live. It is the bedrock of modern biology.

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