“Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” – Theodosius Dobzhansky
Dobzhansky’s sentiment, or something like it, gets invoked frequently in these debates. It’s the sort of sentence that sounds good but its meaning is very hard to pin down. For starters, what does Dobzhansky mean by “nothing”? Is it that you need evolution to explain, say, the circulatory system? Did On the Origins of the Species reveal something we didn’t previously know or understand? What about the fact that the basic mechanisms of the circulatory system were discovered centuries before Darwin was even born? More generally, many fields of biology developed completely independent of the theory of evolution. Human anatomy, cell biology, and molecular biology all advanced without much input from Darwin’s insights.
Evolution simply does not play the same role in biology as Newtonian Mechanics does in physics. Newtonian mechanics really is “the foundation” in physics. Pretty much everything we’ve done since the mid-1600’s is based in whole or on part on Newton’s work. You can’t teach even basic physics without Newton. You cannot do physics research without understanding Newton. My PhD thesis on space plasmas had Newton’s 2nd law in Chapter 2. Biology is nothing like that. To reiterate for the umpteenth time…you don’t need evolution to practice medicine! Biology as a science is balkanized, and the various fields developed independently rather than sequentially. Evolution is not the “foundation” of biology.
The tragic irony here is that scientists who suggest otherwise are committing the cardinal sin of describing the world as they want it to be rather than how it is.