In that 1982 paper, Penny responded to Sir Karl Popper’s occasional criticisms of evolution, such as that it is not falsifiable and is a metaphysical research program. Penny responded with the classic random-design-as-null-hypothesis argument which dates back to the eighteenth century when it was introduced by Daniel Bernoulli, and elaborated by Immanuel Kant and Pierre Laplace.
That’s quite a trio and the argument, though it is deeply theological (simply put, it claims God would not create patterns in nature), soon became standard fare in science. And the argument had the virtue of sounding scientific when carefully restated. As Penny declared:
Clearly we can reject any idea that the trees from the different sequences are independent.
Independent? What does that mean? This is a subtle, but deeply metaphysical interpretation of the evidence (See Science’s Blind Spot for more details). It is used as a consistent and powerful proof in the evolution literature, and it is not scientific. Ironically, in attempting to rebut Popper’s observation that evolution is not falsifiable and metaphysical, Penny instead confirmed these very points. Religion drives science and it matters.