Darwin's Tree of Common Descent is Useless to Applied Science

That’s all very interesting, but you have have missed my point: How is the explanation of common descent practically useful to science? Don’t lose sleep trying to think of such a use, because none exist. Do you understand the difference between an evolutionary explanation and a practical scientific use?

What are you talking about? What does ‘practical scientific use’ mean? Apparently I don’t understand the difference. Examples would be great.

Sorry, but you are still missing the point: Mere explanations for natural history do not amount to a practical use; explanations are just theories - ie, talk. For example, the explanation of how whale (supposedly) evolved is as useless as a fairy tale. Applied science relies on facts, not useless stories about what might have happened in the deep past. Moreover, evolutionary explanations for natural history are almost always untestable, making them doubly useless.

I’m not arguing about what’s “important to biologists” - I’m arguing about what’s practically useful to biologists.

Applied science relies on facts. Curiosity is not facts.

No, I’m not - not even close (nice straw man, btw).
Are you saying Darwin’s tree of common descent is knowledge?

Is Darwin’s tree of common descent a fact?

It’s painfully obvious by now that you are having a great deal of trouble telling the difference between an evolutionary explanation and a practical scientific use.

How is the theory of common descent used to improve the body’s immune system?
How is the theory of common descent used to improve the efficacy of tissue transplants?
How is the theory of common descent used to improve the efficacy of bone-marrow transplants?

@Edgar, I appreciate your thoughts here! Thanks for them.

I think @sfmatheson and @pevaquark would be great at this, but here are some stabs.


As a side note, we had virtually no ‘transitional forms’ for whales about twenty years ago and now arkloads of them today. If the idea was not true, why should we find any of them? Hint: we shouldn’t have found any if the event didn’t really happen. An interesting question then would be what kinds of molecular changes are required to make such a change? Here’s one paper outlining such:

So one way that it is actually useful is it helps us to reject actual bad hypothesis, I.e. that some deity spontaneously created whales tend of millions of years ago. It also provides for an extremely useful example for ‘how can we determine what’s true in today’s day and age with conflicting narratives.’ More to come…

Does Biology Make Sense Without Darwin? - Dr. David Menton

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I tried. False dichotomies (evolution somehow means all that there is- there can be no god) after quote mines (can anti-science Christians help themselves?) after nonsequiters (ie. ‘I taught medical classes without evolution and nobody ever asked me to do it’s useless’).

Do you or anybody have anything to add on the actual fossil record?


Again, why do you lack curiosity where natural history is concerned? Don’t you want to know these things?

You’re trying to change the subject - no doubt because you can’t think of a practical scientific use for Darwin’s tree of common descent.

You’re a scientist and you don’t the difference between theoretical science and applied science? Wow. But why should that surprise me? I seem to be the only person on this thread who does know the difference.

I’m not arguing whether whale evolution is true or not; I’m arguing that, even if it is true, it’s useless information - the theory/fact of common descent offers no practical use to science.

Personally, I can’t see the point of such an inquiry - the evolution of whales cannot even be verified as a fact. You may as discuss the molecular changes involved in making the Tooth Fairy invisible.

How would that prove scientifically useful? Maybe it will help cure cancer!

There is something inherently weak about arguing for ones expertise instead arguing your points directly. Peva actually is a scientist but you don’t see him pressing you for agreement on that account. If you actually have any expertise why don’t you demonstrate it by addressing the points that have been made to you frankly and flexibly?


Moved your questions related to the uselessness of all theoretical science over here.

During the Nixon administration, Congress passed a bill to concentrate spending on promising cancer cures rather than basic research. Theoretical scientists said that was a mistake, since most major breakthroughs have taken place from knowledge gained by basic research, and a promising cure can absorb millions only to reveal that the process can’t be improved, or the drug has serious side effects.

Thomas Edison wasted huge amounts of time because he knew nothing about the theory behind his inventions. While working on the light bulb, he accidentally invented a diode, but since he used DC current, he saw no reason to be able to change AC to DC.


I think you are confusing categories of scientific investigation. Theoretical science is a category, as is experimental science, and they are indeed different. Papers in these two categories are sometimes published in different specialized journals. But “practical” or applied science is distinguished generally from basic science. The major difference here is that basic science does not begin with an application in mind, while applied research does. Both theoretical and experimental science can have profound practical applications, and so can basic science. All of this is well recognized by the scientific community, and has been formulated by NIH, especially in its grant review policies. (note: before retirement, I was Associate Director of the Center for Scientific Review at NIH, so this is not simply my opinion).


So what is your evidence to support your claim? What field of biology do you work in?

In the areas I’ve worked in, common descent is often highly useful. We’ve used it to show that recombination in humans is very non-uniform (a fact that has been immensely useful in genome-wide association studies), and in detecting parts of the human genome that have been under recent positive selection. Others here have used it to help identify functional noncoding parts of the genome, something that is crucial for understanding human biology.


Thanks, but I’m already familiar with Dobzhansky and this essay … which contains some real oddities:

  • The title: What Dobzhansky means by “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” is, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of Darwin’s tree of common descent”. I have no idea how he came to this conclusion - as far as I can see, no aspect of animal or plant breeding, no drugs or vaccines, no medical treatments or procedures depend in the slightest on Darwin’s tree of common descent. In fact, it appears that not one practical application of biology that depends on Darwin’s tree of common descent.

  • Dobzhansky then claims that human embryos have “unmistakable gill slits” which are a remnant of “remote ancestors”.

  • Dobzhansky supposes to know how God would go about the creation of life, claiming that only a “blind”, unguided process of evolution can explain the history and diversity of life on earth. Yes, according to Dobshanzsky, it seems that God was apparently so disinterested in life on earth that He delegated its development to a process of blind evolution. Is he suggesting man - whom Scripture says was made in the image of God - is the result of a process of blind, mindless evolution? I hope not, as that is absurd.

  • Last but not least, Dobzhansky expresses his immense admiration for the notorious Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin, whom the Catholic Church all but excommunicated and who did a very impression of a New Age nutter.

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I strongly object to the title of this thread, as it does not represent my point of view.

I do not believe that theoretical science is useless. I have never stated that theorectical science is useless to society - I don’t even know what that means!
And I do not believe that that evolution is useless - far from it, in fact - evolution is immensely useful to applied science.

What I did say was that DARWIN’S TREE OF COMMON DESCENT is useless to applied science - big difference.

Well, that’s the problem - I can’t find any evidence that Darwin’s tree of common descent has a practical scientific use.

I don’t work in any field of biology.

And these things have resulted in what practical uses in applied biology?

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