Is Evolutionary Biology a "Soft" Science?

Evolutionary biology is low in science pecking order, so is Abiogenesis. It’s fair to compare theories of electromagnetism with that of Abiogenesis and Eukaryotic evolution.

EDIT : added word “low”

Are you about to trot out your Coyne quotemine?

1 Like

Quotemine? Ok, I’ll pass your objection on, but what Coyne said is accurate. Compare theories of Eukaryotic evolution to geometric optics. You’ll see the level of uncertainty is widely divergent, and claims of eukaryotic evolution don’t have experiments to validate them like geometric optics.

Who will you pass them on to? Surely the Coyne quote isn’t something you’re using in your instructional materials, is it?

This is your failure to understand how science works. experiments aren’t the only way to validate hypotheses. Observation and inference is how it really works. Experiments are just a way to make particular observations more easily. You are ill-equipped to critique, much less teach, biology.


Scan papers in pubmed on cancer. Very few lack experiments. Without a repeatable result all you have is opinion. You can demarcate non experimental science as science but that is why it is considered less reliable.

Evolutionary biology has proposed mechanisms yet none can even be modeled to do what biologists claim they do. String theory has mathematical models and is criticized because those models are not tested.

You have shown your lack of understanding of science repeatedly. Another iteration adds nothing.


As does your opinion that everyone that disagrees with you lacks understanding.

Bill, that’s not my opinion. My opinion is that you lack understanding. That doesn’t extend to everyone. Don’t believe me? Ask any scientist.


And yet cancer research has plenty of irreproducible results and is considered less reliable than a field like astronomy, which has no experiments.


I have John and many do not agree with you.

Name one.

Dr Harold Smith
Dr Peter Rowe
Dr Cedric Garland
About everyone I know agrees that evolutionary biology is soft science.

Every science has irreproducible results. Cancer also has many reproducible results. The issue is what you claim when you get irreproducible results that demarcates whether you are making a scientific claim or an ideological one.

Do you really think cancer research is considered more reliable than, say, planetary astronomy?


Honestly I don’t know and have no data here. The cancer research I have done around vitamin d had reliable experimental data with lots of confirming papers. Other areas I am not sure.

Then why were you making broad claims about the reliability of experimental and non-experimental science?


I am making the claim that evolutionary biologies grand claims are not based on experimental science and should be stated as such.

Don’t you think there is a difference between a historical inference and a tested mechanism such as electromagnetism?

This article by biophysicist Cornelius Hunter discusses a book by respected biomedical Engineer Rob Stadler who argues Evolutionary Biology is low confidence science. By way of extension, abiogenesis is probably even lower confidence science:

At least half of evolutionary biologists and ecologists fudge results, survey finds

A team of scientists led by Hannah Fraser from the University of Melbourne surveyed 494 ecologists and 313 evolutionary biologists and asked them about questionable research practices. Research approaches that groom raw data to make it look more appealing – that is, closer to the results predicted – has been identified as a primary cause of psychology’s replication crises.

Fraser and colleagues targeted three questionable practices. The first of these was p-hacking , the use of data mining to uncover apparent (or real) correlations that were not included in the original hypothesis. A consequence of p-hacking, wrote researchers from the Australian National University in 2015, is that “nonsignificant results become significant”.

The team also asked about cherry-picking – selecting results that are statistically significant while ignoring others – and a practice known as HARKing, which involves formulating a hypothesis after, instead of before, results are in.

The results, posted on preprint site Open Science Framework (OSF), are disturbing. Across both ecologists and evolutionary biologists, a whopping 64% confessed to cherry-picking. Some 42% indulged in p-hacking, mainly by collecting more data after the results were in. And 51% admitted to reporting unexpected results in ways that made it appear they had predicted them from the start.

Here’s your claim:

You have been claiming that non-experimental science is less reliable than experimental science. I’m asking you why you’re making that claim if you don’t in fact know whether specific non-experimental sciences are less reliable than specific experimental sciences.

Sure. I think there’s also a difference between experimental inferences in a field like cancer biology (or much worse, nutritional epidemiology) and something like electromagnetism. There are lots of differences, for lots of reasons. I also think that experimental vs. non-experimental has very little to do with the reliability of evolutionary biology, and that the broad conclusions of evolutionary biology are extremely well supported.

1 Like