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“. . . if truth be told, evolution hasn’t yielded many practical or commercial benefits.” — leading evolutionary biologist

by Richard Peachey

Leading evolutionist and atheist Jerry Coyne has acknowledged that evolution doesn't have a lot of practical value.

In a review of David P. Mindell's The Evolving World: Evolution in Everyday Life, Coyne writes:

"Mindell's defence of evolution ends with two odd chapters: one on 'evolutionary metaphor in human culture', the other on 'the role of evolution in court and classroom'. There are broad parallels between biological evolution and the evolution of languages and religions, but little more. And his legal examples, notably forensic DNA and forensic entomology, have little to do with evolution, while speculation about the evolutionary basis of ethics is a notorious intellectual quagmire.

   "As a brief for the practical value of evolution, The Evolving World gets a mixed verdict. It is embellished with good examples, and anybody who has not been exposed to the role of evolution in human affairs will undoubtedly derive some benefit. But there are problems too. In his desire to show how useful evolution is, Mindell strives desperately to herd every stray area of biology, even those barely related to evolution [a noteworthy remark! ], into the darwinian fold. The 'fruits of biodiversity' could yield useful compounds whether they were evolved or created. If our 'evolved capacity for learning and planning' helps us solve conservation problems, it also produces art and psychotherapy. Perhaps our public-health practices 'are dictated by the principles of evolutionary population genetics', but the Romans built their aqueducts for supplying fresh water without the benefit of reading R. A. Fisher, J. B. S. Haldane and Sewall Wright.

"To some extent these excesses are not Mindell's fault, for, if truth be told, evolution hasn't yielded many practical or commercial benefits. Yes, bacteria evolve drug resistance, and yes, we must take countermeasures, but beyond that there is not much to say. Evolution cannot help us predict what new vaccines to manufacture because microbes evolve unpredictably. But hasn't evolution helped guide animal and plant breeding? Not very much. Most improvements in crop plants and animals occurred long before we knew anything about evolution, and came about by people following the genetic principle of 'like begets like'. Even now, as its practitioners admit, the field of quantitative genetics has been of little value in helping improve varieties. Future advances will almost certainly come from transgenics, which is not based on evolution at all. . . .

"One reason why Mindell might fail to sell Darwin to the critics is that his examples all involve microevolution, which most modern creationists (including advocates of intelligent design) accept. It is macroevolution — the evolutionary transitions between very different kinds of organisms — that creationists claim does not occur. . . .

"In the end, the true value of evolutionary biology is not practical but explanatory. It answers, in the most exquisitely simple and parsimonious way, the age-old question: 'How did we get here?' It gives us our family history writ large, connecting us with every other species, living or extinct, on Earth. It shows how everything from frogs to fleas got here via a few easily grasped biological processes. And that, after all, is quite an accomplishment." [Jerry A. Coyne, "Selling Darwin: Does it matter whether evolution has any commercial applications?" Nature, Vol. 442, pp. 983f., Aug 31, 2006. Bold print indicates emphasis added.]

My comment: For evolution to have value as an explanation, it would have to be true. But that is greatly disputed, as can be seen in many articles on this website. Coyne has admitted, though, that evolution has very little "practical or commercial" value. But the supposed benefit of evolution (as an "explanation") is heavily overshadowed by the strong negative impact Darwinism has exerted on our culture, as seen, for example, in our summary article, "How Darwinism Contributed to Modern Views on Abortion, Infanticide, and Euthanasia."