Yes, that makes sense. I definitely see what he’s saying there. I think that, however, patterns usually arise in nature. Science has the ability to predict certain things about what might happen in the future. So, if we take evolutionary theory as science, we could say that the patterns that we see in the past are likely to repeat themselves in the future. In that way, evolution could help in other medical fields.
It is a very new field, having only been around (being seriously considered, that is) for just over 200 years. It makes sense that we wouldn’t have much to offer to anything yet. The way I see it, science can start as one of two things: it can start practically or theoretically. Mathematics, for example, started practically. People measured plots of land and found the area of them so they could ensure fair payment for the land, and other such every day uses. Now, we are still applying mathematics, but there is also an overwhelming amount of research into theoretical mathematics as well. Even things in millions of dimensions are being studied; this is not for practicality, but for the excitement of discovery. There are other things that start theoretically, being pursued at first only for the sake of discovery. These things, once we know enough about them, have the possibility of later being able to contribute to the real world.
Evolution, I think, started theoretically. Sure, it attempts to study the way things are, but really what we are doing is studying the way things seem to be now and extrapolating that backwards in time so that we can try to figure out the history of life. This, since it is not being applied (much) currently, is theoretical. When an idea is theoretical and hasn’t contributed much if any at all, there will certainly be controversy over it. After all, we haven’t seen it in action. However, I believe that evolution will expand to such a point where we will know enough about it to see what might happen with future events so that we can better understand the way things are now.
I don’t quite agree with Dr Skell when he says that “Evolution actually hinders medical discovery”. However, I might if we changed that statement a little bit to say “Making certain assumptions about evolution actually hinders medical discovery”. You pointed out the vestigial organ issue. We don’t yet know enough about evolution to safely assume that something we don’t know much about doesn’t have a use. That, I believe, is arrogance on the part of the scientific community. If we are attempting to be intellectually honest, we should assume that everything has a purpose, and then try to find what that purpose is. If, after comprehensive investigation, we don’t find any obvious functions, we could be forgiven for assuming that the object in question has no purpose. Though, it would be better to say it has no known purpose.
So yes, currently I think we should primarily stick to what we know about the way things are now. Later, we might be able to apply the patterns we see in history, but we just might not be ready for that yet. Also, we should make arrogant assumptions about things we don’t know. That is counter-intuitive to the entire scientific mindset, and it completely breaks down room for discovery in those areas.