Field of Science

B:III evidence for evolution (which is just a theory)

ResearchBlogging.orgHaving trouble with your eyes? Well, then, let me have a look at it, because I have read stuff about eyes. I'll be prescribing glasses. Contact lenses don't work, because I don't understand how they can be made, so don't wear those. Got worms in your eyeball? Let me get a knife...

Sounds preposterous? Well, not when it concerns evolution, apparently. In Archives of Ophthalmology an ophthalmologist from Florida, William Smiddy, thinks he has the expertise to do to evolutionary theory pretty much what I did above to ophthalmology.

Here's an outline of his letter:
  1. Darwin quote-mining.
  2. Probabilities, neglecting selection, assuming the eye is an accident.
  3. "Consider that the eye..." is really complex.
  4. "And where did X come from?" (Here, X = the chiasm.)
  5. Haeckel's drawings.
  6. An analysis of rhodopsin molecule’s homology
  7. The fruit fly is still a fruit fly.
  8. More Darwin quote-mining.
I'm not sure what he means by an analysis of rhodopsin homology; space didn't permit him to discuss points 5-7. But apart from that it's all very familiar creationist diatribe. It's nonsense.

From the first paragraph:
It is appropriate to commemorate the Darwin anniversary; his life’s work merits recognition regardless of one’s ideology, and an ophthalmology theme makes for interesting copy. However, lost in the platitudes is the fact that evolution is still but a theory, not an experimentally verifiable fact. There is no more than B:III evidence for the theory of evolution (ie, there have been no clinical trials, randomized or not, confirming the theory; rather, respected authorities have concluded its parts and, at best, there are case-control series that have been extrapolated to its conclusion) despite pervasive, frequent, and dogmatic proclamations to the contrary.
I didn't know what B:III evidence means, but I found out it is standard used in the medical literature for evaluating evidence:

Strength of Recommendation Taxonomy (SORT): A Patient-Centered Approach to Grading Evidence in the Medical Literature in American Family Physician
  • A-level recommendation is based on consistent and good-quality patient-oriented evidence
  • B-level recommendation is based on inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence
  • C-level recommendation is based on consensus, usual practice, opinion, disease-oriented evidence, or case series for studies of diagnosis, treatment, prevention, or screening
Level 3 (lacking direct) Evidence - representing reports that are not based on scientific analysis of patient-oriented outcomes. Examples include case series, case reports, expert opinion, and conclusions extrapolated indirectly from scientific studies.

Here's your evidence:

E. coli and green algae, Croatian lizards, transitional fossils, HIV, biogeography, embryology, ...

That should make it level A:1, thank you very much. And there's lots more where that came from (i.e. evolutionary biologists, not ophthalmologists).

William E. Smiddy (2009). Evolution: Theory, Not Fact ARCH OPHTHALMOL, 127 (11), 1552-1553

Ebell MH, Siwek J, Weiss BD, Woolf SH, Susman J, Ewigman B, & Bowman M (2004). Strength of recommendation taxonomy (SORT): a patient-centered approach to grading evidence in the medical literature. American family physician, 69 (3), 548-56 PMID: 14971837


  1. I want to read the guy's proposal for a randomized clinical trial to confirm evolution. That should be rich...

  2. Wow.

    At least the journal published a response (, though the response is way more polite than the letter deserves.

  3. I find it amazing that this journal would deal with evolution at all, but yes, at least Fishman got a response in.

  4. That's just insane. And insanely irritating...

  5. @Scientizzle: Better yet, how about a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial of intelligent design?

    Or maybe that experiment is already under way, and we're just living in a universe that is in the "placebo" group....

  6. *rubs eyes*
    "There is no more than B:III evidence for the theory of evolution (ie, there have been no clinical trials, randomized or not..."

    there have been no clinical trials

    *speechless* *headdesk*

  7. Re: *headdesk*

    Glad to see someone enjoyed that idea as much as I.


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