Near future ‘probable’ discoveries.

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Discussion by: sseldogeno

Even though the evidence already exists, what ‘possible’ discovery (in paleontology, in molecular biology, etc.) in the near future could be so colossal, so powerful, and practically impossible to contradict, that would convince the most skeptic person about the validity of the theory of evolution? How probable is that a discovery like this will happen? Thank you for your comments.

40 COMMENTS

  1. Most people do not force their ideas to conform to the evidence of reality, so i doubt that any discovery in the future would have an impact at a scale where everyone would just accept it as a part of reality.

    Like any good scientific theory or law, evolution already explains all the known facts in a consistent and convincing manner. So i think root of the problem lies more along the lines of education (more specifically scientific literacy), than it does with any scientific discovery.

  2. I think it is an impossible possibility. It would require that all the worlds gods shows themselves and speak to their followers.

    Evolution is a body of knowledge and discoveries that cannot be perceived as a single event or observation.

    Edit: Which got me thinking. How can you summarize evolution in a single sentence?

  3. If someone doesn’t believe in evolution as at now_despite being well-informed on the topic_chances are little any improbable event will convince such person otherwise. Theory word here is well-informed.

  4. How probable is that a discovery like this will happen?

    it won’t

    this question comes up a lot and it’s just not possible to convince someone who choses not to become educated. The evidence for evolution is a mountain. there is not one aspect that is conclusive, any single aspect could be dismissed as inconclusive if it existed on its own but the evidence is completely damning. The people who reject evolution demand the equivelent of a murderer being convicted only if a videotape of the whole procedure shows up featuring the defendant’s commentry.

    many more discoveries will be made. none of these are required to convince anyone (I avoid skeptic, I don’t think this is the correct term) who has made their mind up. The only thing that can change this is improved education, brought about by keeping religion out of science, and improving parenting so that natural curiosity is not stiffled

  5. This is a seriously daft question.

    What discovery in whatever would be so massive to finally convince people that the earth is round?
    The very question is a “teach the controversy” argument.

    • In reply to #6 by Mickey Droy:

      This is a seriously daft question.

      What discovery in whatever would be so massive to finally convince people that the earth is round?
      The very question is a “teach the controversy” argument.

      Even the fundies, and the xians, and the rest of the religious world accept that the Earth is round. That acceptance finally came from several voyages, massive discoveries if you will, by people like Drake and Magellan (his surviving crew, anyway) that demonstrated the Earth was obviously not flat.

      The church at the time saw no reason to fight this. It did not really contradict dogma, and it opened up millions more people to conversion, slavery, and exploitation, so they welcomed the discoveries, and riches, and increased power base that devolved.

      The long before Greek determinations that not only was it round, but that it’s size could be calculated had fallen on deaf ears, probably because within the close constraints of the Aegean it really did not matter what shape it was, nor was there a huge body of opinion to the contrary. In later years, when people like Luther realised that scientific investigation would be their ultimate undoing, the work of the Greeks was buried until the voyages of discovery became undeniable.

      This evidence in so direct a direct manner will likely elude evolution, a fact that does run contrary to dogma, and can only erode the power of the church. Luther was right in this.

  6. that would convince the most skeptic person about the validity of the theory of evolution?

    Sceptical scientists are already convinced.

    It is unlikely that pseudo-skeptic denialists will ever be convinced by any evidence.

    UNLESS – the neuroscientists invent a brain cleansing device!

    Even then, the politicians would probably misuse it!

  7. It will be impossible for this to happen. I saw a documentary where Professor Dawkins was “debating” a creationist. She said something along the lines: “if you showed me proof that evolution was real then I would gladly accept it as a valid theory, show me the “species” that connects monkeys to humans [i.e., their common ancestor]“. Dawkins replied to her that if he showed her the “missing link” then her question would be “then where is the link between that one and the next one?, and so on”. The biggest evidence of evolution is DNA if you can’t accept that as proof, there isn’t going to be any bigger discovery than that.

    • In reply to #11 by luivis7:

      I saw a documentary where Professor Dawkins was “debating” a creationist…

      Ah yes, the infamous Wendy Wright interview. Prof. Dawkins gave her a shout out as his most frustrating exchange with a creationist, ever. (Ref/ Reddit AMA).

      I can understand his frustration. Under the hypocritical guise of fair evaluation, she held evolution to a continuously impossible standard of proof while supporting creationism on the basis of the bible saying so. I could never watch the full hour; the cringe factor kicks in early when Prof. Dawkins meets Ms. Wright in a general open office area and asks where they will conduct the interview. She takes two steps sideways and says “well, how’s this?”

  8. As others have said, people who value faith more than evidence have placed themselves in a mental vault. I think removing the fears of their perceived losses (family, culture, status) can be, however, an effective sideways strategy. By being active and prosperous in one’s community atheists by their works can show others that family, culture, and status remain attainable without gods.

    That’s my .02

    Mike

  9. The evidence for evolution is already so over whelming that it is obvious that no evidence of any kind will change the mind of many Creationist.

    Remember, Evolution is a fact like things fall towards the centre of the Earth, and The theory of Natural Selection is our current best theory to explain this fact.Denying evolution is like denying things fall. Denying Natural Selection is like denying Newtons laws of gravity.

  10. would convince the most skeptic person about the validity of the theory of evolution?

    I think the choice of using the word “skeptic” is not the best. Perhaps the most “uneducated denialist” might have been better.

    “onegodless” clever

  11. Evolution has been verified 1000s of times already. If people are not convinced now then their reasoning processes are seriously compromised. No new information is likely to alter that (and what planet do they live on, anyway?).

  12. Concur with the rest of the sentiments. Like an alcoholic, there is no salvation for a believer unless the person wants to change.

    My aging brain has a recollection that a small strand of DNA that is common to every living thing on the planet has been isolated, with the speculation being that this is the common ancestor to us all. The “Eve Gene”. Sadly, at my age, I can’t trust my recollections. Has anyone else heard a reference to this.

    When I get a visit from the religious at the front door, I ask them lots questions about their body like, “Why do god create wisdom teeth which in times past were very painful and potentially lethal? Or is it because our ancestors had a longer protruding jaw where the wisdom teeth ground away at the vegetation.” It doesn’t do any good, but I hope that for a split second, one of them (because there is always two) with pause to doubt.

  13. People of faith are generally not interested in Paleontology, Biology or evidence in general. You cannot use evidence to counter a faith based belief. You really have to go the question of faith itself and try get people to start raising basic questions about their own faith before there is any chance they will be open to evidence. Faith by definition is “pretending to know something you don’t know” (Peter Boghossian, “A Manual For Creating Atheists”) and has nothing much to do with evidence.

  14. Is a bit of topic but have just been reading “Caught in The Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind” which is about Preachers and other religious professionals who lose their faith. Once case was about a young man who had been working towards becoming a preacher for some years and decided to write his spiritual autobiography. He wrote one page, reread it and thought “This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen!”. Full of cliches, fluff and imaginative, overly romantic thinking etc”. Gave me a good laugh but also got me thinking that getting people to write about their faith is probably a good way to start opening them up to evidence and other such trivial matters.

  15. There are no future discoveries that will sway an idiot away from their adopted stance. I say this because the current and past discoveries are nothing short of slam dunk evidence. When it became apparent that molecular biology was, in fact, absolutely correct, evolution was on trial. See, if molecular biology contradicted evolution, then one would be WRONG….

    (See, Mr. and Mrs. Creationist, that is the way logic works…. contradictory statements cannot BOTH be correct….)

    Anyway, the molecular evidence did not contradict the evolutionary evidence, but rather, enriched and reinforced it. If that revolution did not pull folks away from their stance, then nothing in the future will.

    BTW, i was thinking of telomeres and telomerase when i read the title of this OP, after reading the text of the OP, i do not think it is germaine, but i mention it because i am teaching it today and because I think that a future breakthrough in use of telomerase would be fascinating.

  16. Satan is the great deceiver, and will stop at nothing to try and convince people to abandon their faith. Since we already know, a priori that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, anything that contradicts what the Bible says (or what we have been told it says, same thing) must therefore be an illusion sent by Satan to deceive us. Even if Jesus Christ himself returned to the Earth in a blaze of glory, surrounded by all the heavenly hosts, solely for the purpose of announcing that the Earth really is billions of years old and that all life — including man — evolved from lower forms of life, it would still somehow be a trick since it would contradict what we know to be true.


    Having said that (with tongue firmly implanted in cheek), I take offense at your labeling of people who refuse to accept the fact of evolution as “skeptics.” Blindly believing in a bunch of religious nonsense despite all the evidence to the contrary doesn’t make you a “skeptic” toward the things that contradict your blind faith. Creationists, Anti-Vaxers, Flat Earthers, Holocaust Deniers, etc., aren’t “skeptics.” They are just nutters, plain and simple.

  17. Hi sseldogeno,

    The core of your question is:

    … what … discovery … could be … so powerful and … impossible to contradict that [it] would convince the most skeptical person?

    It seems to me that you may have misunderstood the word skeptic. A skeptic is someone with a tendency to disbelieve or doubt the validity or substance of reported situations, people, events and so on. A skeptic is therefore someone who questions widely accepted beliefs not based on verifiable facts – especially dogma and doctrines.

    Therefore, there is no reason to believe that the level of a person’s scepticism is a barrier to changing their minds. To be a skeptic simply means to have questions. If answering those questions reveals that what the skeptic previously believed was false, the skeptic changes their mind.

    The way you phrase your question suggests that when you say “skeptic” you mean “dogmatic”.

    A dogmatic person holds an opinion, just like a skeptic. The difference is that a dogmatic person will present their belief, very often (but not always) forcefully and arrogantly, as if their opinion is unquestionable. The way they present their beliefs tells us something important about them; it tells us that they believe without evidence and, it has been proved countless times, will continue to hold their opinion even in the face of evidence that obviously falsifies their belief. One such person I saw interviewed said that even if SETI made contact with another intelligent species in the Universe it would not change their Christian beliefs.

    There are two things we can usually tell about a dogmatic person: They are so insecure that they fear changing their minds, even over something trivial. They are experts at self-delusion (a learned trait) because this is the best way to be able to ignore facts.

    The answer to your question is therefore three-fold:

    • A true skeptic will review their opinion and beliefs based on the evidence – whether that evidence seems impossible to contradict or not. Most often they will state that they hold an opinion, for all practical purposes, as settled. But a true skeptic will keep an open mind, and will always be ready to change their minds if new evidence arrives.

    • Most of us fall between being true skeptics and dogmatic. We may want to be skeptics but, sometimes, it’s just easier to accept some things as true than to be constantly scrutinising every titbit of information. I am not a Psychologist but, it seems to me, based on the evidence that I have seen, this is due to two reasons; Our minds are wired to react (run away from the Lion) far more than they are wired for contemplation. Our lives tend to reinforce our instincts and intuitions, making us lazy at critical thinking. Also: Critical thinking is a learned set of skills (of which being sceptical is only one part) and many of us have failed to learn them as well as we might.

    • Dogmatic people may not be completely at fault for their own position. We know that although skepticism and other forms of critical thinking are innate, they require training to be fully effective. Many dogmatic people come from backgrounds where their education was undermined by older generations of dogmatists. Such people will have great difficulty even understanding the strength and validity of any evidence that contradicts their beliefs, no matter how powerful or impossible to contradict it may seem to the rest of us, let alone changing their minds.

    Peace.

  18. Even though the evidence already exists, what ‘possible’ discovery (in paleontology, in molecular biology, etc.) in the near future could be so colossal, so powerful, and practically impossible to contradict, that would convince the most skeptic person about the validity of the theory of evolution? How probable is that a discovery like this will happen?

    Something so ‘powerful’ that the theory would cease to be a theory, and will become a fact. After all, it is called The Theory of evolution for a reason?

    • In reply to #25 by rizvoid:

      Something so ‘powerful’ that the theory would cease to be a theory, and will become a fact. After all, it is called The Theory of evolution for a reason?

      Scientific theories do not become fact. They are ideas, or hypotheses, that are then tested against relevant real world data to attempt to disprove them. At no point are they considered fact, just stronger and more powerful theories. It’s only a theory that the sun is centre of our solar system. It’s only a theory that if you throw something up in the air, it will fall down again. These may be ‘only’ theories, but they are well substantiated ones.

      • In reply to #26 by LinguisticApe:

        . It’s only a theory that the sun is centre of our solar system. It’s only a theory that if you throw something up in the air, it will fall down again. These may be ‘only’ theories, but they are well substantiated ones.

        No these are facts based on observation. A scientific law or ‘fact’ is an observation of how nature works. The sun is at the center of our solar system because we observe it and we’ve never observed anyone throwing a rock up in the air and it never coming down. But, this doesn’t explain why this happens. It could be faeries. Newton described it as a force between masses and it became a theory as it attempted to describe WHY it happened. This was improved upon by Einstein.

        Therefore, a scientific law is based on observation and a statement about some part of our universe. A scientific theory is a coherent, well-substantiated explanation of why it works that way. Using your example, laws of gravitation explain how objects will move in a gravitational field and a theory will explain why they behave that way. Back to evolution. That evolution happens is a fact. How evolution happens is a theory. The Theory of Evolution can never become a law or a fact by definition.

  19. Scientific theories do not become fact. They are ideas, or hypotheses, that are then tested against relevant real world data to attempt >to disprove them. At no point are they considered fact, just stronger and more powerful theories. It’s only a theory that the sun is >centre of our solar system. It’s only a theory that if you throw something up in the air, it will fall down again. These may be ‘only’ >theories, but they are well substantiated ones.

    Can’t argue with that.

    When The Theory of Evolution will have become as well substantiated as the theory that the sun is centre of the solar system, then people will have no choice but to believe in it.

    Just for the record, I am a believer. I just don’t think the theory of evolution in any way proves or disproves the existence of God, or says anything about how the universe came into being. At best, the theory of evolution contradicts the Judeo-Christian view of God. Even strict Islamic countries like Pakistan have no problems with this theory, which is why it is taught in every school there.

    • In reply to #28 by rizvoid:
      >

      When The Theory of Evolution will have become as well substantiated as the theory that the sun is centre of the solar system, then people will have no choice but to believe in it.

      It does not seem to work like that. The theory that life evolves by means of variation and natural selection, achieved that level of scientific evidence and confidence at least 100 years ago. There will always be some in denial – as is shown by the continued presence of Flat-Earthists.

  20. The only thing I can imagine more powerful than the evidence given by genetics would be to find a proof for life elsewhere in the univverse, ideal case would be intelligent life. But that’s not the problem. People who do not want to believe in (speciffic) scientiffic arguments because it would collide with their religious belief rational arguments are no longer of matter. Religiosity is not only to believe nonsense but to deny actively the truth given by scientiffic explanation. The only thing you can do in such a situation is end the conversation. It’s aimless.

  21. The only thing I can imagine more powerful than the evidence given by genetics would be to find a proof for life elsewhere in the univverse, ideal case would be intelligent life. But that’s not the problem. People who do not want to believe in (speciffic) scientiffic arguments because it would collide with their religious belief rational arguments are no longer of matter. Religiosity is not only to believe nonsense but to deny actively the truth given by scientiffic explanation. The only thing you can do in such a situation is end the conversation. It’s aimless.

    • In reply to #30 by Joseph Wolsing:

      The only thing I can imagine more powerful than the evidence given by genetics would be to find a proof for life elsewhere in the univverse, ideal case would be intelligent life.

      Finally a somewhat positive answer.

      I understand why everyone is saying it won’t happen, there is more than enough evidence for evolution and the main issue is an emotional attachment to faith-thinking. However to say that they won’t be any more groundbreaking discoveries involving evolution has a pinch of dogmatism to it itself.

      As Sheepdog touched on earlier, the Greeks discovered, or calculated, that the earth was round long before it was widely accepted, because people had no need to accept it. It wasn’t until the shape of the earth had any meaningful effect on our lives that people were forced to accept it.

      There may well come a time where some discovery such as life elsewhere in the universe, or some other circumstance, forces people to face up to the fact of evolution. It may not be a groundbreaking scientific discovery, or one that will change the face of scientific knowledge all that much in itself, but one with greater anthropocentric effects, perhaps with social or economical ramifications.

      It could be some kind of anti-vaccine caused pandemic that forces people to confront the reality of evolution in microorganisms, or some kind of hybrid animal (human-chimpazee?), or given long enough to thoroughly document it, a case of speciation in a mammalian species so incontrovertible that even the most “skeptical” will be forced to doubt their dogma. After all one of the biggest barriers to “proving” evolution to those who don’t want to accept it is time, our short time on this world that simply isn’t long enough to witness evolution on a larger scale. Time will “prove” evolution eventually, even if it takes us a hundred thousand years for us to compile a running commentary of the evolution of various species.

      • In reply to #31 by Seraphor:

        The only thing I can imagine more powerful than the evidence given by genetics would be to find a proof for life elsewhere in the univverse, ideal case would be intelligent life.

        Finally a somewhat positive answer.

        Sorry to disappoint, but some faith-head groups are already claiming that their god could have created alien beings elsewhere.

        I understand why everyone is saying it won’t happen, there is more than enough evidence for evolution and the main issue is an emotional attachment to faith-thinking. However to say that they won’t be any more groundbreaking discoveries involving evolution has a pinch of dogmatism to it itself.

        I think it was that the evolution deniers will be no more impressed with new ground-breaking discoveries, than they were with earlier ones.
        They neither know, want to know, nor care, about ground-breaking scientific discoveries which have not originated in the god-delusions in their heads.

        • In reply to #34 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #31 by Seraphor:

          The only thing I can imagine more powerful than the evidence given by genetics would be to find a proof for life elsewhere in the univverse, ideal case would be intelligent life.

          Finally a somewhat positive answer.

          Sorry to disappoint, but some faith-head groups ar…

          As I said, it’s not going to be purely scientific discoveries, we have enough of those as it is. It’ll be discoveries that impact on peoples lives, where whether they accept evolution or not makes some sort of difference. Perhaps my examples weren’t the most suitable, but then that’s the problem, they haven’t been discovered yet.

          I’m not saying it will happen, I’m just leaving the door open for it. If that doesn’t happen, then perhaps it’ll be undeniable in a few thousand years when we’ve used technology to document significant speciation in mammals in realtime.

  22. Every year we have new variants on old diseases, evolution in action or the work of Satan? Your question pre supposes that the proof or break through was understandable to all. There are people who happily use sat nav and still deny Relativity. Fait isn’t determined by facts or reality – fundamentalists in the States believe the world is 6000 years old even though we have evidence that humans were building cities before that so ignoring the dinosaurs is even easier! The only way to eradicate blind faith is good education but since the faithful also determine what their children learn and sow confusion among the rest of the population no discovery could do what you ask.

    But to be fair the only way I could be persuaded to believe in God would be a personal visit in which case would either doubt my own sanity or fall back on my faith that there is life out there – and it lies about how clever it is just like us!

  23. Honestly the best is going to be once we can make accurate predictions about proteins and their function based on DNA sequence, because once that happens we will be able to reconstruct virtual emulations of every single species we have DNA for and thus we will be able to make accurate images and working digital models of early humans and early now extinct species to show how they looked and what they did and even estimate their body chemistry going all the way back to the very first species. Then we will be able to make visual models of every once lived species even with just trace DNA evidence sealing any doubt as to the evolutionary origins of modern Species.

    The other possibility is that the reasearch that Lawrence Kraus explains in his book a universe from nothing, the same research that is happening in particle accelerators today leads to human beings ability to actually instigate the creation of entire universe using controlled quantum fluctuations. This may sound very far out but it is not outside of the scope of possibility, and providing that we do create this technology it will take away the last thing any god has to offer putting human beings and science in a place held dearly to any creationist. Removing any possible gap for a god to hide in.

  24. Can’t help but think that if sseldogeno changed the word “evolution?” to “Climate change?” the same debate would ensue.
    In that case, however, the answer would be that when the second last human being died the last might be convinced.
    As to the probability of the discovery, why should humanity be different to all the species that have gone before? I would say give it time and the odds will increase

  25. Thank you all for the answers you provided and for your time to reply. You helped me in my quest.
    It is really surprising how much one can learn by only submitting a simple question in this beautiful forum and let it go.
    Thank you again.

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