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


Hey Edgar, I haven’t been following this thread as much as your previous one. Just curious if you think it has been helpful to argue with professional biologists over the practical import of common ancestry when they are the ones with the thorough grasp of their field of study. I think I might be taken aback if someone argued for the irrelevance of a claim I thought was foundational to my specialty of medicine if they lacked the same expertise. But that said, I’m glad you’re still around for lively discussions. :wink:

Does Genetics Science support this Progressive Creation model?

Your point is completely valid, but I am all too aware that I am the bumbling amateur here. In fact, I think I would easily win two categories on the BioLogos forum - 1. Least Knowledgable; 2. Least Intelligent.
However, is my argument rendered invalid simply because I’m not an expert in the field? As yet, despite several challenges, it seems that no one has proven my argument wrong - that is to say, no one has demonstrated an established* practical use for Darwin’s tree in applied biology.
(* I must respect glipsnort’s claim that he has found the D-tree practically useful in his research, but it’s my understanding such a use hasn’t yet been incorporated into any established form of applied biology.)

In response to your query, my argument may actually be helpful, because I think this thread demonstrates a curious phenomenon amongst scientists that I noticed years ago, which may be symptomatic of a fundamental flaw in their approach to biology:

Modern biology is thoroughly dominated by Darwin’s tree of common descent - every explanation of every observation seems to be viewed through this lens. This may or may not be problematic; nevertheless it has produced a very odd intellectual effect: Theories and explanations based on Darwin’s tree are equated with understanding, knowledge, learning and fact. Hence, scientists believe that Darwin’s tree is absolutely essential to all forms of biology and is therefore eminently “useful”.

But it’s my experience that:
When a biologist says, “Darwin’s tree is useful for learning more about biology”, what he really means is, “Darwin’s tree is useful for theorising about biology.”
When a biologist says, “Darwin’s tree is the unifying concept of all biology”, what he really means is, “Darwin’s tree is the unifying concept of macroevolutionary theory.”
When a biologist says, “Our knowledge of the history of life on earth rests on the knowledge of Darwin’s tree”, what he really means is, “The evolutionary theory of how the history of life on earth proceeded rests on the theory of Darwin’s tree.”

This logic-bending love affair with the D-tree is all too evident in this thread - so far, every “practical use” of Darwin’s tree that has been proffered is either:

  1. An explanation of observations based on the D-tree … ie, a theory, not a practical use; or
  2. A practical use of applied biology indeed, but one that is not in any way dependant on the D-tree of common descent.

I find it quite bizarre and a little disquieting that so many formidably-intelligent, formidably-educated, formidably-knowledgeable people can’t seem to differentiate between a theory and a practical, useful application of a theory.

Sure, I know what you mean. Incidentally, are you implying that Darwin’s tree of common descent is foundational to the medical profession?


Okay Mr. Phil; since you are certain of this, would you be so kind as you explain how Darwin’s tree of common descent has proven practically useful in the field of heart surgery?


No, I was speaking about any concept I thought foundational. This actually happens when patients challenge standard practice because of what they read online that makes them an expert and contradicts all current research.

(Randy) #86

@Edgar as Christians we all agree that the Bible’s interpretation of who made us and how we got here, and why, is very important. How much does that affect how we actually do our work, raise families, and interact? An interesting parallel.

(Christy Hemphill) #87

I can assure you that you would not win this award. (And I have 39 days of read time to back this up. :wink: ) Plenty of learners and sub-geniuses here, you are in good company.


Sex is a good mechanism for that. Praise God for sex! He invented it.

(Mark D.) #89

Best. Christian. Site. Ever.


This is fascinating. Why would not accepting the common origin of mouse and human immune systems potentially result in lethally irradiating the patient?


… and we can safely assume that the term “evolutionary development” here refers to microevolution - ie, facts relating to the here and now - and has nothing to do with the dim, distant past according to the theory of Darwin’s tree.

Also note the words, “MAY have utility”.


Thank you very much for going to the trouble of providing this information. I appreciate it. It’s all rather fascinating.

Steve, with all due respect, I don’t think it’s a good idea to involve other species when you’re trying to understand the human genome. Relying on the theory of common descent introduces too many uncertainties into,the equation: We aren’t sure by what means God caused the evolution of life - unknown supernatural factors may well have been involved in the process; and the Fall could have affected the DNA of creatures in ways that we will never know. So here’s my advice: Forget about involving non-human creatures and get Darwin’s tree out of your head - pretend you’d never heard of it. These measures will simplify your research and reduce uncertainties.

In this case, you’ve used the theory that humans and chimps share a common ancestor. Well, because we are unsure if this true, this assumption immediately introduces a massive uncertainty. Based on this massive uncertainty you seem to have added another uncertainty - that an aspect of chimp DNA is in some way the original state of some aspect of human DNA. If so - no, no, no; I seriously advise against using this approach; best to chuck that theory right out the window and start again, I think. As with the previous case, when dealing with human DNA, forget about comparing it to that of chimps or any other non-human creature, coz that’s just muddying the waters and isn’t going to produce beneficial results.

Remember Edgar’s axiom: Nothing in Applied Biology Makes Sense in the Light of Darwin’s Tree.

And don’t worry, Steve; I’m not going to charge the Broad Institute for this advice - it’s completely free! (… although I will accept a coffee when I visit your laboratory.)


I started another thread for this topic, “Does Genetic Science Support this Pogressive Creation Model” - see the link at post 80 above.

Genesis 2:7 says Adam was created from inanimate matter, so there was no sex involved in his case.
Do we know for certain that God used a contiguous process of sexual reproduction to produce the history of life?


Yes, I know what you mean: I had a huge argument with a dentist once over a very serious problem I was having with my teeth. My argument was based on something I’d read online, which seemed to account for the symptoms. His pride was offended, but In the end he admitted that my explanation could indeed be correct. In fact, I even managed to convince him that the only solution was to remove all my teeth - which he did!

(Phil) #95

I admire your persistence and passion! But what if you were wrong?:wink:

(Haywood Clark) #96

Wow. From where did you conjure up the qualifier “potentially,” Edgar?


This is fascinating. Why would not accepting the common origin of mouse and human immune systems result in lethally irradiating the patient?

(Haywood Clark) #98

You’re still missing my point. By a mile. Try reading what I wrote instead of you hoped I was writing. Learning about BMT just might help, as would ending your conflation of basic with theoretical science.

(Dennis Venema) #99

The common ancestry of humans and chimpanzees is so well supported that it would be wildly inappropriate to not use it in order to better understand the human genome. Ignoring this information would increase uncertainties and needlessly complicate the work that @glipsnort is doing.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #100

Yeah, you know, I think read somewhere that this fact is at nearly the same level of certainty as, like, heliocentricity! :grin: :innocent:

(Mark D.) #101

Do you mean the new or old heliocentricity model?