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

Yes, but YEC would say that they recognize that type of evolution :).

@Edgar I think that @glipsnort can give more ideas, but it saves tons of time to aim at the right types of vaccines rather than, like Edison, randomly avoiding theory. Thus, it would save millions, if not billions, of dollars in his work with malaria, etc–something I’m grateful to God for, having grown up in subs Saharan Africa and seen many, many people die of that disease (which has no vaccine yet. In fact, I had it and one missionary’s son had irreversible brain damage from it). Thanks again for your good questions.


I think that having an accurate and true picture of reality will eventually prove to be practically useful, even if it is not immediately apparent how.

In 16th century Europe it might have been hard for anyone to see what practical value could ever come from Galileo proving the heliocentric model of the solar system. How could a chiefly agrarian society benefit from the knowledge that the Earth goes around the sun (and not vice versa)?

But some time later, Newton used this model to discover gravity. He even said that (if he were given a cannon with enough power) he could shoot a cannonball into orbit and it would circle the Earth perpetually. Again, at the time Newton was saying all this, it would have been hard for the average person to see how humanity might make use of this knowledge. But Newton’s cannon precisely describes how we keep satellites in orbit.

Be patient. Seek truth for its own sake, not for practical benefits. And who knows? Maybe all of humanity will benefit from this knowledge in ways that we can’t even yet imagine.


I guess you didn’t read my whole post.

Who said they would? What I wrote is clear enough. It wasn’t about whether anyone would be “disadvantaged.”


@edgar, one area I would find a disadvantage is if I were teaching comparative anatomy (perhaps as a vet, but more likely in cell and molecular biology or genetics, where I first became most convinced of evolution). Trying to teach students that each of the similarities just happened, and that the RNA of mitochondria and other genetic patterns don’t represent symbiotic relationship or explain away pseudogenes, etc–I’d get into a lot of hairy messes trying to explain that each of these similarities came just because God decided to use a similar building block, or made these up. Students would look at me in askance.

In medicine, we work with one human structure, and while there are signs of vestigial organs, run-of-the-mill medicine (primary care, cardiology, etc) doesn’t really require that we know where things come from. But when you get into nitty gritty–it’s worth knowing.


Indeed, truth does matter, but Darwin’s tree of common descent cannot be confirmed as truth - because a creator God is responsible for the history of life on earth. A purely materialistic explanation of this history - such as the theory of evolution - may be very far from the truth.

You don’t have evidence that Yahweh created everything so don’t make statements like that and treat it as a fact. What you consider absurd or not is irrelevant, only the evidence matters and the evidence shows clearly that no god, especially not Yahweh, was needed for anything in the universe to happen.

You sound like a YEC since you keep saying that Darwin’s tree of life is a “belief”. Common decent has been proven with evidence, it is not a belief. We do not follow it because we have “faith” in it.

There are many scientific facts that do not have a practical application, this is true of physics, chemistry, biological sciences, geology,etc. All science has facts that form greater scientific theories and all scientific theories are linked although the strength of the link between each varies based on content.

You seem to be driving at the old micro-evolution vs macro evolution chestnut. You are attempting to say that all the practical applications that we do get from evolution such as knowledge of antibiotic resistance (medicine), artificial selection and pest resistance (agriculture) and evolutionary computing (computer programming) come from “micro-evolution” and that we can thus disregard that nasty macro evolution since it is not useful.

However you disregard the fact that micro evolution leads to macro evolution which has been demonstrated and proven already. Common descent is a particular concept in evolution and it is based on lots of evidence so it deserves to be there. You can’t believe in all of the “micro-evolution” concepts and disregard common descent since they are both based on evidence and they are directly and closely linked, you can’t nitpick what you want to believe and remove what you don’t like. Even if common descent has no practical application you can’t use “micro-evolution” concepts while saying that common descent is false since they are both part of the same scientific theory and are linked, to nitpick like that is moronic. This applies to other sciences as well, you can’t just believe in the bits that have applications and disregard the bits that do not since you don’t like them.

In addition you need to understand that science discovered today may have applications in the future even if it has no application today, this has happened many times in history such as when astronomers discovered the orbits of Mercury and Venus which had no practical use when they were discovered in the early part of the 20th Century but found an application decades later when GPS was being developed, in fact GPS used many previously impractical scientific concepts.

That being said, common descent does have some practical applications. Understanding common descent and the relationship between organisms allow for detection of gaps in theories from specific biological sciences since evolution links all biological sciences, this allows for the detection of new productive areas of research.

Furthermore, phylogenetic analysis, which uses the evolutionary principle of common descent and is not part of “micro-evolution”, has proven its usefulness such as:

Actually, this is a Christian discussion forum. People are allowed to make statements about basic Christian doctrine like “God created the world” as if they are fact. It’s the debated stuff that we argue about, like whether God created the world 6,000 years ago or whether he used the evolutionary process. From the official discussion guidelines:

“Also, since this is a Christian discussion forum, we expect that basic Christian presuppositions like “God is good” and “the Bible is true” will not be constantly challenged by those who do not share those presuppositions. People of all beliefs are welcome to discuss evolutionary creationism here, but this is not the right place for debates on God’s existence or the general merits of the Christian faith.” FAQ/Guidelines

(Also, I fixed the formatting of your quote since it was not displaying correctly.)


Bone marrow transplantation.

If one didn’t accept the common origin of the mouse and human immune systems, one would be committing murder when one lethally irradiated the patient, an essential part of the treatment.

Where are they? Can you show me a single such YEC biologist?

It has been supported by evidence, if that matters to you:


Empirical biology is observed biology. Evolution is of practical use for explaining the observed nested hierarchies of morphology and genetics.

Do you still lack curiosity to the point that you aren’t interested in natural history?

I’m sure it does, but how does believing humans and chimps share a common ancestor (ie, Darwin’s tree of common descent) contribute to this process?

There are certain facts from genetic science that are used as evidence that humans and chimps share a common ancestor. So, there are two separate items here:

  1. A body of scientific facts (ie, genomic observations) and
  2. A conclusion (ie, common ancestry of humans and chimps) based on those facts.

I would bet my bottom dollar that what makes producing the right vaccines more efficient is Item 1, the facts; NOT Item 2, the conclusion based on those facts. In other words, in the case of these vaccines, it is the facts that make the difference - on the other hand, believing in common ancestry of humans and chimps is completely irrelevant and makes no difference at all ; it’s useless.

I would also wager that if Steve were a YEC biologist - and therefore didn’t resort to any theory of human/chimps common ancestry or any theory based on Darwin’s tree - he would achieve the same scientific results he’s achieving now (Just don’t ask me to prove it!)

I’m with you 110% on that one.

1 Like

You may well be right … but I seriously doubt it. Applied biology relies on facts and what materially exists here and now, not stories about non-extant beings that might have roamed the planet millions of years ago.

I did read your entire post. Sorry if I misunderstood it. When you mentioned “common descent” and “the whole tree of life”, I assumed you meant humans evolving from a hominid, in which case you’re referring to a theory that is completely irrelevant to applied biology.

Whether they’re biology or vet or medical students, they don’t need to know how those similarities came to be or how they (allegedly) evolved over millions of years - it’s irrelevant to their future professions. So what’s the point of cluttering up their minds with useless stuff? Any form of applied biology depends on what’s here and now, not pointless stories about what might have happened eons ago. Teaching students about anything related to Darwin’s tree of common descent is a fruitless waste of time and effort (and probably money). The D-tree is the great “white elephant” of science.

Exactly! And it’s my contention that neither do biologists. They are matters of curiosity, for sure, but so is the true colour of Cindy Lauper’s hair. Darwin’s tree of common descent is as useless to applied biology as it is to medicine.

What I find amazing - and I come across this time after time - is that so many biologists/scientists think that an evolutionary explanation of an observation is a practical use. They actually think coming up with an explanation of how feathers or whales or humans evolved is important and useful.
It’s as though they’ve been taught since Biology 101 that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of Darwin’s tree of common descent”, and they’ve never thought to question it; never coming the realization that Darwin’s tree is actually completely irrelevant and useless in the real world. It’s a truly bizarre state of affairs.

No, you only THINK it’s worth knowing - sweep away all the hype and you’ll discover it’s actually worthless in any practical sense.

Besides that, it that may not even be the truth. (In fact, it may be scientifically worthless because it isn’t the truth - but that’s another story.)

1 Like

Maybe this thread is starting to run its course at it seems you know that you’re right and nobody, not even people who actually work in the relevant scientific fields realize. We’ll have to see where it goes.

You tell me: https://scholar.google.com/citations?hl=en&user=adkFG2EAAAAJ&view_op=list_works&sortby=pubdate

In other news, there are specific things that we’ve sought out to find and understand if CD is true. And you can find those things - like intermediates of the bacterial flagellum or many transitional forms in tetrapods, whales, etc. Nobody would be looking for such or trying to understand where new genes comes from or what kinds of events happen in chromosomes. You shouldn’t be able to find any patterns. However, you could always have the case where God just made things to look exactly as we should expect if evolution and common descent are true.

An interesting case might be with baby Fae who the doctor chose a Baboon heart over a chimp to try for a transplant because he didn’t believe in evolution:


I asked Steve Schaffner in an earlier post to tell me which drug, vaccine, cure, treatment or medical procedure wouldn’t exist today if no one believed in Darwin’s tree of common descent, but got no reply. I asked Phil (the moderator) exactly the same question - no reply.

Does this mean they couldn’t think of any drug, vaccine, cure, treatment or medical procedure that depends on believing in Darwin’s tree of common descent? Maybe.

It hasn’t been around long enough to have contributed to existing therapies. But it is very much working in applied biomedical research, e.g. here, here, here, here.

This is a different question than you have previously posed. You were asking whether common descent was useful. Here you’re asking whether it is indispensable. Probably not. Since common descent doesn’t directly inform us about mechanisms, it’s merely one way to learn about the biology of health and disease. That doesn’t mean it isn’t useful – I could still do my job if I cut my left hand off, but I do find it useful having two hands.


I gave you several examples of how we have found common descent useful for practical purposes. You displayed remarkably little interest in them for someone who claims to be looking for evidence of the usefulness of common descent.


Cool. You willing to wager, say, a thousand dollars?

I think that some of my scientific results could not have been achieved without assuming common descent – in one case it couldn’t have been achieved with the information available at the time, and in other cases it still couldn’t be achieved. You think otherwise. One of us knows more about my work than the other. Which of us would that be?


The question of usefulness is interesting, and there is a lot a knowledge that is foundational but not evident in the final product. One example that comes to mind is cardiac surgery for congenital defects. The procedures developed to a large extent require knowledge of how the defects formed, which is usually a throw back to an earlier embryological stage, which is related ultimately to how the heart evolved. Could it be done with no understanding of the nature of the defect? probably. Has that understanding helped in developing successful repairs? Certainly.


You’re missing the point - I’m not arguing whether macroevolution is true or not - I’m arguing that it’s useless to applied science. As far as applied science is concerned, there is no link between micro and macroevolution, because only microevolution is useful. Macroevolution - Darwin tree of life - is useless.

You are talking about theory - “allow for detection of gaps in theories”. A theory or refining a theory is not a practical use; it’s just talk. You can theorise until the cows come home about how feathers or even humans evolved, for example, but of what use is it to applied biology? Is it going to help eradicate bird flu or cure cancer or somehing?

Research can produce a practical use, but a lot of research produces nothing of use.

Which drug would not exist if no one was aware of the concept of Darwin’s tree of common descent?

All these things operate at the level of microevolution, therefore none of it depends on Darwin’s tree of common descent.

An extant organism can be identified by comparing its DNA to an alleged extinct ancestor whose DNA is unavailable? That can’t be right. I suspect that what “the tree of life” means here is an existing nested hierarchy, the DNA of which is known (much the same as the DNA of many dogs can be linked to that the wolf or the DNA of all E. coli is linked) - in which case, we’re talking about microevolution and therefore Darwin’s tree of common descent is irrelevant.

But I’ll have to read up on it.

This depends on what the author means by a “common ancestor” - a wolf is the common ancestor of many dogs. So this is may be (is probably) referring to microevolution, in which case, it has nothing to do with Darwin’s tree.

Does identifying protein folds amount to a practical use, or is it just on observation that supports a theory?

Please explain.

Irrelevant to the thread.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.