Section 4: The Book of Nature – Darwin’s Predictions
Here is an imaginary conversation between Charles Darwin and an opponent of his ideas. (Charles Darwin’s answers are inferred from ideas he implied in his books.)
Darwin: “I believe humans are related to apes.”
Opponent: “how can your theory be scientific? you can’t test it.”
Darwin: “I can only do so in a limited way myself. But I can make predictions about what future scientific findings about humans and apes will reveal based on my theory. If I am right, the science will bear me out. If future study shows that these predictions did not come true, then it will cast severe doubt on my theory, as it stands. So these predictions offer a way of testing my theory.”
Opponent: “So what about the missing links? If your theory was true wouldn’t there be fossils that were half-ape, half-human?”
Darwin: “yes, but fossil-finding is in its infancy. Remember also that fossils occur only by rare chance, and some intermediate forms may only have existed briefly. however, here is one of the predictions of my theory that can be tested: in the future I would expect we will uncover many new intermediate fossils.”
Are there any fossil links between apes and humans?
Darwin had no fossil evidence for his theories. By the time he published The origin of Species in 1859 and even The Descent of Man, 12 years later, only the skullcap of a prehistoric human-like being, a Neanderthal, had been found, and its significance was not appreciated. In 1886 more Neanderthal bones were found and in 1895 Dubois brought back from Indonesia fossils of a human-type creature that we now call homo erectus.
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