How the Stuff Happens Law Can Be Scientific
The most vacuous scientific explanation of all meets the standard requirements of science.
We often describe Darwinian evolution as equivalent to the “Stuff Happens Law” (SHL). There is no such law, of course; in actuality, it is an anti-law “law.” The worst explanation scientists can give for a phenomenon is to just shrug, throw up their hands, and say, “stuff happens.” Scientists want reasons for phenomena. They want to identify causes for things. Stochastic variables can play a part in causation, such as in statistical thermodynamics, but the consilience of causes should amount to an explanation that provides understanding of how things work. Saying “stuff happens” amounts to a capitulation, a lazy way of saying, “I have no idea.”
Now, what if a Darwinian tried the comeback argument that “stuff happens” is a scientific theory? In a humorous bit of playful sophistry, we can show that the Stuff Happens Law satisfies all of the requirements for scientific theories. Look:
Why the Stuff Happens Law Is Scientific
- It is reductive: All events can be reduced to this law.
- It makes predictions: Stuff will happen.
- It is universal: Stuff always happens.
- It is normative, not just descriptive: Given matter in motion, stuff must happen.
- It is falsifiable: If nothing happens, the law has been disproved.
- It is practical: If something happens, you know you will find stuff around.
- Corollaries can be derived from it:
- Stuff happens at the worst possible time
- Bad stuff happens to good people
- Murphy’s Law: Whatever can go wrong, will.
More Vindication for the SHL
Another set of criteria was proposed by Michael Ruse in 1982 at the trial McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, which concerned the teaching of creationism. Ruse later repented of offering this simplistic list after being roundly criticized by other philosophers of science. Larry Laudan, for example, insisted there are no demarcation criteria for science that any philosopher would agree on (see Casey Luskin’s account of Ruse’s change of heart at Evolution News). And yet some of these same fake criteria were used by Robert Pennock at the Dover trial in 2005 to exclude intelligent design (ID) from science. Ruse’s five questionable criteria are listed below, to see whether the Stuff Happens Law satisfies them. Ruse had said of science:
- (1) It is guided by natural law. SHL: Since the definition of a “natural law” is a vexed question in philosophy of science, and since most Darwinians believe “natural selection” is a law of biology, it can be argued that “stuff happens” is guided by natural law.
- (2) It has to be explanatory by reference to natural law. SHL is a law and explains by reference to itself.
- (3) It is testable against the empirical world. Anyone can test the SHL by getting stuff and watching what happens.
- (4) Its conclusions are tentative, i.e., are not necessarily the final word. A Darwinist is free to believe that stuff might not happen.
- (5) It is falsifiable. If nothing happens, the law has been disproved.
We see, therefore, that a scientist could defend the Stuff Happens Law as scientific, and would be absolutely right. Whether such a vacuous “law” is useful, or provides any understanding of the world, is a different question.
Darwinism and the SHL
What remains is to see if Darwinism is congruent with the Stuff Happens Law. Neo-Darwinism’s mechanism for generating all the complexity in biology consists of (1) mutation and (2) natural selection. Mutations are clearly expressions of the SHL. They are random and unpredictable; a cosmic ray could hit a gene at any time and alter it. (2) Natural selection is equivalent to the SHL, because it has no foresight, no direction, and no intention. It’s really not a mechanism at all, but a post-hoc rationalization. Whatever happens, “it evolved” by natural selection. Here are some of the phenomena “explained” by natural selection:
The Story of Evolution
Evolution explains more complexity, and more simplicity. It explains why flight arose in some birds, but was lost in others. With evolution, organs and genomes can become more complicated, or more streamlined. Eyes emerge through evolution, but eyes are also lost by evolution. Evolution makes the cheetah fast but the sloth slow. By evolution, dinosaurs grow to skyscraper size, and hummingbirds grow tiny. With evolution, peacocks grow more flashy and crows more black, giraffes tall and snakes long. Evolution makes roundworms round, and flatworms flat. Evolution explains predator and prey, loner and herder, light and dark, high and low, fast and slow, profligacy and stinginess, terrorism and altruism, religion and atheism, virtue and selfishness, psychosis and reason, extinction and fecundity, war and peace. Evolution explains everything.
Darwinian evolution is congruent with the SHL. Since the SHL is “scientific,” so is Darwinism. Appealing to the SHL, therefore, is the only way Darwin’s just-so storytelling empire can be defended as scientific.