Falsifiability claims can be too hard in the sense that the finding in question is not likely to be discovered. Darwin made this move when he explained that his theory “would absolutely break down” if it could be demonstrated that “any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications.” Not surprisingly Darwin concluded that he could find out no such case. What he didn’t tell the reader is that his falsification criteria was impossible.
On the other hand, falsifiability claims can be too easy in the sense that if the finding in question is discovered it can easily be accommodated by adjusting the theory. Evolution is constantly under revision due to the steady stream of unexpected scientific findings. When the evolutionist told me that evolution would absolutely break down if functionally unconstrained DNA was found to be conserved in distant species, I thought it was too hard. Given what we knew at the time, it seemed such a finding was unlikely. But then when it was discovered, the falsification criterion was revealed to be too easy. The discovery of so-called ultra conserved elements (UCEs) certainly was unexpected. As one evolutionist put it, “I about fell off my chair.” But of course, as with all the other unexpected findings, UCEs could do no real damage to evolutionary belief.
The seemingly infinite resiliency and elasticity of evolution is an indicator that there is more than mere science at play. Commentators have noticed this peculiar property of evolution for many years now. Philosopher Arthur Caplan once summarized these concerns as follows:
1. Evolution is rarely sullied by any specific predictions or retrodictions.
2. Evolution seems to possess a disquieting amount of elasticity. Anything and everything in the empirical biological world seems to be compatible with evolutionary explanations. Refuting evidence or crucial experiments that could realistically jeopardize an evolutionary account seem extremely few and far between.
3. Evolutionists seem willing to assume and postulate mechanisms, variables and conditions almost willy-nilly in their attempts to explain evolutionary changes. In evolutionary explanations the theorist simply assumes everything he needs to make the explanation work.
4. Evolution does not measure up to theories from other domains of scientific inquiry. Evolution is significantly poorer in its capacity for empirical refutation, falsifiability and testability.
Caplan noted that philosophers such as Michael Ruse had attempted to defend evolution against such charges. Caplan was not impressed with such attempts and concluded that perhaps we need to go easy on how we criticize theories such as evolution. Perhaps evolution is a different kind of theory, and needs to be treated as such.
Yes, evolution is a different kind of theory. Evolution is a religious theory. I once debated Ruse, but it was more of a discussion than a debate. I explained the metaphysics of evolution and Ruse explained the metaphysics of evolution. My point was that evolution is metaphysical and therefore a different kind of theory. Ruse point was that evolution is metaphysical and therefore true. He made the powerful point that without evolution we would be left with the foolish idea that god made this gritty and evil world.
There is no escaping the religion of evolution. Without it atheists would have to face the specter there is a God. And theists would have to face the specter there is the wrong kind of God. Better to believe the world spontaneously arose all by itself. Religion drives science, and it matters.