Why investigate evolution’s false predictions?

Charles Darwin presented his theory of evolution in 1859. In the century and half since then our knowledge of the life sciences has increased dramatically. We now know orders of magnitude more than Darwin and his peers knew about biology. And we can compare what science has discovered with what Darwin’s theory expects.

It is not controversial that a great many predictions made by Darwin’s theory of evolution have been found to be false. There is less consensus, however, on how to interpret these falsifications. In logic, when a hypothesis predicts or entails an observation that is discovered to be false, then the hypothesis is concluded to be false. Not so in science.

When a scientific theory makes a prediction that is discovered to be false, then sometimes the theory is simply modified to accommodate the new finding. Broad, umbrella theories, such as evolution, are particularly amenable to adjustments. Evolution states that naturalistic mechanisms are sufficient to explain the origin of species. This is a very broad statement capable of generating a wide variety of specific explanations about how evolution actually occurred. In fact evolutionists often disagree about these details. So if one explanation, dealing with a particular aspect of evolution, makes false predictions, there often are alternative explanations available to explain that particular aspect of evolution. Obviously the theory of evolution itself is not harmed simply because one particular sub-hypothesis is shown to be wrong.

Failed expectations are not necessarily a problem for a theory. (Lakatos) In fact evolutionists argue that false predictions made by the theory of evolution are not problems, but rather are signs of scientific progress. With each new finding, evolutionists say, we learn more about how evolution occurred. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to review a theory’s false predictions. A theorys track record can be highly informative. The history of false predictions generated by a theory tells us about its strengths and weaknesses, and how and why the theory is believed to be true. In the case of evolutionary theory, its many false predictions reveal that the theory is not motivated by the science and that the textbook claim that evolution is a fact does not come merely from empirical evidence (see Conclusions). Therefore the objective of this paper is to collect and record, in one place, a sample of the false predictions generated by evolutionary theory.

The predictions examined in this paper were selected according to several criteria. They cover a wide spectrum of evolutionary theory and are fundamental to the theory, reflecting major tenets of evolutionary thought. They were widely held by the consensus rather than reflecting one viewpoint of several competing viewpoints. Each prediction was a natural and fundamental expectation of the theory of evolution, and constituted mainstream evolutionary science. Furthermore, the selected predictions are not vague but rather are specific and can be objectively evaluated. They have been tested and evaluated and the outcome is not controversial or in question. And finally the predictions have implications for evolution’s capacity to explain phenomena, as discussed in the conclusions.

This paper does not maintain that the predictions presented are the only fundamental predictions of evolution, or that evolution does not have successful predictions. Those are well documented in the literature. Nor does this paper maintain that the predictions presented, though false, have not served to produce productive research. Also, this paper does not maintain that these false predictions cannot be remedied or reversed by future scientific findings.


Lakatos, Imre. 1970. “History of science and Its rational reconstructions.” Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1970:91-136.