How Has Evolution Changed Science?

Doubtless, Evolution/Uniformitarianism have had great impacts on society at large, but in what specific ways have they changed the way that science is performed, viewed, and interpreted in general (for better or worse)?

JES, could you define what you mean by “Uniformitarianism”. I rarely come across that term in chemistry or biochemistry.

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I agree @J.E.S, what do you mean by this?

Also I’m not sure exactly where you are going with the question. As a starting point, I would say:

  1. On a conceptual level, evolution made biology make sense for the first time, by binding together a wide range of disparate facts that made no sense otherwise.
  2. On a mathematical level, it is the only theory that explains the patterns we see in DNA.
  3. On a practical level, it is necessary for understanding cancer: .

Hope that helps.

Evolution/Uniformitarianism is what I typically say these days instead of simply saying “Evolution” as the creationist umbrella term. Evolution/Uniformitarianism is also faster to type than “Evolution and millions of years,” which is what AiG typically says. So, by Uniformitarianism, I pretty much mean “millions of years” and everything that comes with it. For good measure, here is the definition I have in the CE-DEBATE glossary:

  1. Uniformitarianism-The theory that the earth’s geological features have been shaped by natural processes still observed today over eons and eons of time, see “Catastrophism”

@Swamidass, to approach the discussion from a different angle, what do you all think of this article from Scientific American:
I would be interested in hearing people’s thoughts on those concepts…

In geological science, we’ve been informed about how and when to build in potential seismologically active areas. Except for St. Louis, which will likely be flattened because governments tend not to properly manage things in 100+ year timescales.

Studying the past history of the planet also informs us about what sorts of temperature and climate variation we might expect to see with current changes in atmospheric CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases.

Could we say that modern chemistry and physics have a ‘uniformitarian’ basis? For example, a carbon isotope 12 atom today is presumed to have the same mass and chemical properties of a carbon isotope 12 atom from a billion years ago. The basic chemical principles found today appear to have been consistent with observations of reactions that happened long ago. Similarly, in physics, the electronic transition states between atomic orbitals measured today appear the same as those measured in stellar corona and interstellar gases from objects billions of light years away.


I’m really confused by this statement. We are talking about geology now?

Also, don’t modern geologists affirm that catastrophes (which are not uniform processes) affect geology too? For example the meteor impact 65 mya that killed the dinosaurs was hardly still observed today.

It sounds like you are really just saying flood geology vs. non-flood geology, young earth vs. old earth. Is that what you mean to say?

Darwin was an influential thinker. Not all his influences were from the best. His contribution to science, however, was to give a convincing framework to understand biology. Nonetheless, he never had a solid mechanism nor did he have a mathematical theory to support evolution. That came later. While Darwin is an icon, I’m not sure how much modern evolutionary theory relies on his views.

Many people point to issues they have with Darwin’s personal views (e.g. atheism), however, he could have been right about evolution and wrong about God.


Well, there is a reason why there is a network of sky-gazing devices that is trying to find and track solar system objects that transverse Earth’s orbit. That’s because scientists don’t think an Earth-impacting meteor will spontaneously (divinely?) blurp into existence above the Earth but instead will come from a pre-existing rock that happens to cross our paths.