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Quotable Quotes archive

Darwinian explanations are too flexible to be useful (Skell)

Further, Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive—except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed—except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.

Update, 26 November 2010: sadly, Dr Skell died in November 2010; see this obituary that explains some of his major contributions to chemistry, which led to his election to the National Academy of Sciences, and his dissent from evolutionary dogma. he was known as the ‘father of carbene chemistry’; Skell, P.S. and Woodworth, R.C., Structure of Carbene CH2, J. American Chemical Society 78(17):4496–4497, 1956 | doi:10.1021/ja01598a087.


  1. Philip Skell, ‘Why Do We Invoke Darwin? Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology’, The Scientist 19(16):10, 29 August 2005. The whole article can be read here. There is a similar article at: Philip S. Skell, The Dangers Of Overselling Evolution: Focusing on Darwin and his theory doesn’t further scientific progress, Forbes magazine, 23 February 2009.

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