Good and bad conclusions from theory of evolution

Anyone that know something about reception of science in human society, probably agree that many conclusions are drawn from it, from good too bad, from sound to bizarre or totally wrong. As nonspecialist in theory of evolution, which didn’t in last year have a time to read something solid about it, I want to ask which are such good and bad thought that spring from evolution theory?

I know that here are person that have deep knowledge about this topic, I hope that they be willing of spend some time writing their thought down.

The theory of evolution, like every scientific theory, is ethically neutral. Its truth or otherwise is one issue; what people do with it is a different matter altogether.

Just because people use nuclear physics to create weapons of mass destruction, that doesn’t falsify nuclear physics.

Just because people use the Internet to distribute pornography and misinformation, to spy on people and to sell advertising, that doesn’t mean that the Internet doesn’t exist.

Similarly, just because people use evolution to justify eugenics, voluntary human extinction, and lowering our standards of behaviour to that of the animals, that doesn’t mean that evolution doesn’t happen.


8 posts were split to a new topic: How many theories of evolution are there?

One false belief that developed from the theory of evolution by some is that the newer the species the more fit it is or the more evolved it is. People often refer to some clades, such as lycopods, and they believe that means it’s less evolved. Being more basal to older forms does not mean it’s less evolved. Primitive forms is often viewed as lesser without reason. As a byproduct, some uninformed racists who believes older humans and proto humans were darker skinned starts to believe that white skin is newer and therefore white people are more evolved. These same idiots also tend to believe chimpanzees are dark skinned and then they try to associate African Americans as being subspecies and all kinds of other bizarre racist ideas. I think these kinds of ideas are what helped pushed the whole eugenics concepts resulting in the government trying to stop certain “ blood lines” and ect… most people now days knows all of that is completely garbage but I still come across a few a year who starts bringing up random crap like that and so I wonder how many believe it to some


Suppose we ask instead…

Good and Bad conclusions from the sun?

The sun is ethically neutral?

There are multiple suns?


There is only one sun, many stars, but only one sun. And is all good - don’t know WHAT this ethical neutrality has to do with it.

Yeah I suppose there are people who imagine a sun god. Maybe some imagine it to be a malign demon LOL or a pernicious ideology or something that will soon explode and burn up the earth… but most of us sane people out here would have no idea what you are talking about with such claims.

So excluding the fringe who come up with all sorts of nutty stuff: The theory of evolution is a scientific theory which is the foundation of theoretical biology and thus a solid part of our scientific knowledge. Which means it plays a huge part in our medical technology. It’s all good.

But I suspect none of this is what the OP is really asking about. Are there good and bad conclusions we can draw from this theory? Of course. Doesn’t mean they are correct. Social Darwinism and “survival of the fittest” is among the worst conclusion that have been drawn from it and the acceptance of these things has clearly waned considerably, more a footnote of history than how things are understood anymore. For me the theory of evolution is a crucial part of why I can take Christianity seriously, and thus for me anyway that seems a good thing.

These days I see more and more thinking aligned behind the realization that cooperation is the most successful survival strategy. With this, I see God looking down upon what He has created and saying, “It is good.” It came up recently as I was watching a favorite anime “Parasyte the Maxim” where the smartest of the aliens invading earth realized that this cooperative advantage of the human species made its own species rather pathetic by comparison.

A post was merged into an existing topic: How many theories of evolution are there?

Cambrian organisms can be legitimately termed “less evolved” (in the sense of “have had less time to evolve”) than current ones. What annoys me is people thinking/claiming that some current group in “less evolved/advanced” than some other current group, like Busycon perversum and Elephas maximus. Yes, the class Gastropoda is older than the class Mammalia, but there cannot be any difference in how long it has been since one had a common ancestor with the other. There are some groups that have changed very little in quite a long time; like Gingkos, murchisonellids, many protobranchs, coelocanths, chimeras, and monoplacophorans, but that does not mean that the modern ones are primitive, just that they haven’t changed as much morphologically.


You totally miss my point. What this have to do with my question “As nonspecialist in theory of evolution, which didn’t in last year have a time to read something solid about it, I want to ask which are such good and bad thought that spring from evolution theory?”?

Thinking like that missing my point.

I don’t understand. In your post you first write like since is ethically neutral, latter you write that “It’s all good”. Can you make your thought more clear?

It seems that I need to state my problem again. I once study quantum mechanics (more precisely non-relativistic quantum mechanics) and I know that many wide spread ideas about it are unjustified conclusions based more on wild imagination than careful calculations of quantum states and spectrum of hamiltionians. Many are just plainly wrong in the light of it.

I can’t believe that evolution theory doesn’t suffer in similar way, so I want to know which such conclusions, that I may hear are good or bad? One way to know it is to study evolution theory itself, but I since I don’t work as biologist, I have other things that I need to study in depth. Like managing dependency in software systems, which I need to know, but have almost zero knowledge.

Also sociological reception of Darwinian evolution theory is quite different from quantum mechanics, since questioning of quantum mechanics in physicist community was always allowed and you can even said that in last decades is quite fashionable. This is long story, much to long to even scratch a surface of it in the post.

In contrast, as this thread show, even asking about bad conclusions from evolution theory make some people writing “Evolution theory is true, bad conclusions don’t overthrow it.”, which is beside my point. But again, for me it is just sociological phenomena, quite alien to my with my physic background.

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So are you asking what parts of evolutionary theory have proven accurate vs. those that have been shown inaccurate or wrong? The words “good” and “bad” have moral connotations which is why people took it in that direction instead.

There are many parts of the history of evolutionary thought that are now known to be wrong … such as Lamarkianism. But I’ll wait to see if that’s what you have in mind.

Hello Kamil,

You wrote:

“to study evolution theory itself, but I since I don’t work as biologist”

Could you please clarify: do you mean that you, like @jammycakes, @Sy_Garte, and myself, restrict your meaning of “evolution theory itself” to the field of “biology” (& other natural sciences), and thus to the “body of knowledge” held by biologists (& other natural scientists)? I’m trying to discover in what ways these “conclusions from evolutionary theory” could be considered as “good and bad” by you, or what you mean by that.

In other words, contemporary subfields and uses of “evolution theory” like those in “evolutionary ethics” or “evolutionary religious studies”, are not of interest, relevance or perhaps even visibility to you, respectfully, as a physicist. You’re just interested in hearing from biologists on this topic, and not from ethicists or religious studies scholars, or sociologists or psychologists. Is this your position? Thanks for clarifying.

I will try to clarify my question more. My understanding of evolution theory is as any other men on the street (if they allowed to walk on the street, Covid-19 again), so you can call it “popular knowledge”. I want to know which part of this popular knowledge have solid ground in science, which is just “fantasy writing”.

Maybe I should use “right conclusion” and “wrong conclusion” instead of “good” and “bad”? but it is hard to me to find proper world in English, since all this worlds have rich meanings to itself and I’m not native English speaker.

About sentence that you quote. I just mean that I probably can take some academic text about theory of evolution written for biologist, read it few times and understand enough to understand what popular opinion about is close to truth true and which is certainly false. Again, I’m not biologist, but I hope that my general background in science allow me to understand such academic works enough to satisfy my curiosity. I don’t need to understand it in depth that is required for biologist. But my time just don’t allowed me to read biological text few times in the row.

I’m normal person. Outside physics, mathematics and small parts of mathematics I know about other field of research only that, what circulate in wide public space. From experience I know that even goods popular texts about physics can from time to time by quite off, when bad can be very bad. But since I’m not biologist I ignorant about which popular texts are solid and which are not.

I only aware of them, if they are appear in the public space. And you are right, I’m not interested in them, at least now.

I read quite a few BioLogos texts, but from my experience they are rarely about evolution theory per se, rather about evolution in the context of other issues.

Putting my thoughts into English is not easy task, so I can only hope, that this text is clearer that previous one.

Thanks for clarifying. That helps.

If I understood you correctly, you come from a background of physics; you have knowledge of quantum mechanics and you know that many wrong and wild ideas have sprung up around qm and so you are wondering if something similar has happened with evolution - and if so, can the ideas with good evidence be sorted out from ideas now known to be false?

My own beginning response to this will be that scientists investigate many, many ideas - probably most of which become dead ends or have to be modified to make sense of the data. Our textbooks generally only include the success stories that have survived the test of some time. But yes - there are probably many specific evolutionary ideas that turned out to be wrong, either completely or perhaps wrong in some details. And ideas spun out at the popular level (among writers, lay people, and popularizers more than scientists) can be pretty wild too, and will often to partially or totally wrong. I bet others here could give lots of examples.

I wonder if @KZiemian could have in mind misconceptions such as the classic confusion between what gets called micro vs macro evolution?

@KZiemian some people without much understanding believe that very small changes in organisms is possible, such as between the finches Darwin studied. They don’t believe large changes where one kind such as a bear could ever become another like a dog or cat. But this mistakes the sort of evolution which requires many generations and much time for the kind of evolution which can happen in a single generation. Is this what you had in mind?

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I also have a physics background, though I guess not quite as narrowly since I have both a masters in physics and an MDiv from theological seminary. The latter includes an exploration of psychology and philosophy as well as Biblical studies and church history.

As for a comparison of misconceptions from both quantum physics and evolution I would say there are examples in both where people have jumped to unwarranted conclusions…

QM: People have not understood that when physicists speak of observation they are talking about the readings on measuring devices and consciousness has nothing to do with it. Thus they have jumped to the idea that QM supports the solipsist notion that reality depends on human consciousness. This is simply not correct. The effect still happens even if nobody looks at what the measuring device says – thus we know for a fact that it comes from the measuring device and not from human consciousness.

Evolution: At first glance it looks like evolution is just about the competition of individuals for survival and thus they summarize evolution as “survival of the fittest,” and they go on to the erroneous conclusion that by protecting the weaker members of society we are obstructing evolution. This fails to understand that the most successful survival strategy of all is that of cooperation, and the real driving force of evolution is not natural selection but variation (the former is only a filter after all). The greatest leaps in evolutionary development come from cooperative organization and when a community protects its weaker members, instead of halting evolution it accelerates by enabling greater variation in the community and thus the development of specialized roles for individuals in the community. This played crucial roles in the development of multicellular organisms, before that in the development of the eukaryotic cells, and some like myself think it also played an important role in the process of abiogenesis (pre-biotic evolution).

It appears that the fairly obvious distinction between philosophical naturalism and methodological naturalism has not been applied or even referred to in this thread, with some getting upset about the use of undifferentiated naturalism when that basic contrast would have soothed, had it been recognized. So ‘good’ science speaks to methodological naturalism while ‘bad’ interpretations of good science (such as eugenics) may be more sociological and influenced by philosophical naturalism.

Bad e.g. Bears cannot evolve in to dogs or cats. No evolutionist believes that now (Darwin did), never mind anti-evolutionist. I realise you were being analogical, but no analogy can work using concurrent genera or families. Anti-evolutionists cannot believe that dogs and cats had a common ancestor or that bears and dogs had a much closer one.

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