The Predictive Power of Evolution
I have been reading the first chapter of Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish recently and it really struck me again how strong, persuasive nay indomitable, the predictive powers of evolution are. The simple idea that a paleontologist can think that the first fish fossils were found at time A and the first limbed land animal fossils were found at time C, and so to find the transitional fossils for animals in between fish and limbed land animals should be found at time B (in this case, the late Devonian period). But this is already dependent upon the prediction that the fish should transform over time to limbed land animals.
Not only this, but the prediction was that such fossils be found in sedimentary rock at river deltas much like the present day Amazon. The time, place and type of fossil are entirely predicted by the evolutionary fossil. So after searching several such places, what do they find? Tiktaalik, the transitional fossil that they predicted they would find.
Now, to evolutionists (I don’t like that term because it implies one can just choose to believe in evolution like choosing to be a Democrat or Republican), this is all horrendously obvious. But the power, as a theory, of predictive capabilities comes when comparing it to alternative theories. Any young earth, intelligent design type theory has NO predictive power. ABSOLUTELY NONE. And this is because they are incredibly ad hoc.
Another startling aspect of evolution which coheres perfectly is the anatomical blueprint set out by organisms. We can predict what we might find further back in the evolutionary lines based on present anatomy and, if possible, earlier anatomy. Take the hands and arms, for example. See the attached pictures. It is not as if, suddenly, an animal goes from 2 fingers to eight, or vice versa. Everything is connected in a transitional process, and everything uses the same basic plan. Tiktaalik (or an earlier unknown version) started the move towards the wrist, and fingers. From this branch we can map out how hands and arms and even hooves evolved. And we can predict missing gaps. The whole map makes sense.
What can we predict, anatomically, on a young earth / ID thesis? Well, absolutely nothing. In fact, given the notion of an intelligent designer, we might predict even better design than the animals which exist or have existed. Evolution often only guarantees adequate design to allow the organism to survive and reproduce. There are aspects of every animal, including humans, which could be better designed.
So because evolution makes sense from start to finish and fits in with ALL disciplines of science, it has incredible predictive powers. It amazes me that people can even begin to doubt it.