Henry Schaefer's misunderstanding
Henry Schaefer"My goal is to understand a little corner of God's plan."
"The most important discovery of my life was my discovery of Jesus Christ."Henry SchaeferPublic lectures at Leadership U, Guest column in the Journal Constitution
Christian fundamentalists cite Henry Schaefer (example), a respected University of Georgia chemist and a Discovery Institute fellow. He claims that biological evolution makes few useful predictions:"Over the past 150 years evolutionary theorists have made countless predictions about fossil specimens to be observed in the future. Unfortunately for these seers, many new fossils have been discovered, but the interesting ones almost always seem to be contrary to the ‘best’ predictions."This statement wouldn't survive scientific peer review, but is cited authoritatively by fundamentalists. Like geologists and criminal investigators evolutionary biologists predict previously unknown details of past events. The biological literature shows that evolution does make useful predictions. No useful (well cited) article makes predictions of the sort suggested by Schaefer. Schaefer's perceptions of evolution, like Linus Pauling's perceptions of vitamin C, disregard critical evidence.
Evolution is a probabilistic and historical theory encompassing vast numbers of variables. Comparison to deterministic theories involving far fewer variables can easily mislead.
"I am at the same university as Schaefer, and we have the honor of having a world class evolutionary biology program. However, despite Schaefer’s apparent interest in evolution, given his relationship with the anti-evolution movement, I have never seen him at any of our evolutionary biology seminars, which involve major scientists of the discipline. In actually, he is nothing but a devoutly religious and conservative chemistry professor who has no professional experience in evolutionary biology and, as far as I can tell, takes absolutely no advantage of the resources the campus has in the discipline. His objections to evolution are nothing but religious motivated incredulity."Schaefer's Georgia colleague, Russell Carlson