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It's possible that this is offtopic here; if so, please let me know.

I'm wondering what technologies exist that rely on evolution being a correct model; I'd like to be able to offer examples of that to people who find it to be "just a theory". As an example, I can point out lots of technologies for which our models of electromagnetism have to be correct to an immense accuracy for them to work - computers, any electrical wiring, electrical motors, light bulbs, electrical ovens, etc. etc.

The best I could find as examples of technologies that require our models of evolution to be fundamentally correct are things like pharmaceutics that work against germs that have developed a resistance against other pharmaceutics.

What are some good examples of technologies that require our models of evolution to be fundamentally correct for those technologies to work?

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is probably too open-ended and discussion-based to make a good SE Q&A, but I'll reserve my close hammer for now. "All of molecular and cellular biology and almost all modern medicine" would be a start of an answer. Ultimately, though, I think this is probably a poor strategy for argument: people who have decided to believe evolution is false have not done so based on fact, so additional facts are unlikely to persuade them. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Apr 12 '20 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause I realize that it's probably a bit wide of a question, thought I'd give it a shot anyway; maybe "all of molecular and cellular biology" could be narrowed done to a handful of striking examples? As for whether it's a good strategy for argument, I'm optimistic it helps. Many people have been argued out of all kinds of denialisms and cherished irrationalities, and even people who don't rule out creationism come in flavors of being less convinced than card-carrying religious fundamentalists. I've found it's relatively effective to have something concrete, specific to talk about. $\endgroup$ – G. Bach Apr 13 '20 at 0:45
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    $\begingroup$ Not a technology, but a biotechnological product. The enzymes required to fermentate milk and make yoghurt will ( and gonna ) mutate. So, you can genetically modify and setup bacterial lines with a fixed sequence that ensure the production of enough and functional enzymes. Also, the creation of clonning vectors is a technique developed with evolution in mind. Sometimes you want evolution, and sometimes you dont need it. $\endgroup$ – Adonis Cedeño Apr 13 '20 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ Vaccines, and nearly anything else based on epidemiology. Most of modern agriculture is based on artificially selected organisms. If evolution did not work, hens would only lay a few eggs a year and an ear of corn would still be as small as a head of wheat, and tomatoes would still be the size of grapes. basically all forms of animal testing, including much of genetics, rely on common ancestry. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 13 '20 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ This site does not exist to supply people with debating material on evolution. If you cannot marshal the arguments yourself you are never going to convince anyone else. Certainly not in this case where you are using a false premise because you don't understand that evolution is an explanation of something that happened with no predictive power, unlike the laws of physics, for example. In any case you are reckoning with people who will not be convinced by rational argument because their position is based on irrational religious beliefs. Don't waste your time. $\endgroup$ – David Apr 14 '20 at 8:20
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This is an excellent Idea which is actually a tool used in everyday Molecular biology if you look at it with the right perspective.

Evolution, if broken down into its basic components has been with us and created many technologies to date. This is probably not all encompassing, but lets look at diversity and selection which are principal components of Darwin's fundamental theory. Darwin distinguished between 'Natural Selection' and 'artificial selection'. That's a great place to start. Artificial selection is a means people have used for millenia to get desirable traits for products. Beef (well all of our meat), wheat, textiles from wool and cotton, pets, fruit and vegetables are all the product of selection where the farmer/flock owner will save individuals with desirable traits and breed them for the next crop. This is one of the principle evidence for Darwin's work: He extended the case of Artificial Selection to understand how it works in the natural world.

In more more recent decades we have come to use Artificial selection with genes and pieces of DNA, changing them, adding them. Molecular biology uses a selection technique where genetic changes of interest are accompanied by a resistance to an antibiotic. Now we are changing how well the genes work and using them to say make better insulin for diabetics.

Artificial Selection can look very much like Natural Selection since the definition of 'Artificial' is simply that people did it; by definition there never will be a technology that comes completely from Natural Selection.

There have been more sophisticated versions of Artificial selection where artificial selection have used diverse genetic backgrounds to find individuals with amazing abilities. One of my favorites is an experiment where they simply were looking for yeast cells that floated. They created an environment where the floaters were carried on for further experiments for i think it was about a month. In the end they found some yeast that tend to stick together and form colonies - a trait that was on the edge of multicellular life.

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Evolution is not the type of theory that is mainly directed towards technological applications, as opposed to many physical theories. It is a principle to understand living systems, from the simplest to the most complex. So it mainly gives understanding, not 'solutions' to particular problems.

That being said, evolutionary principles can be applied to many 'practical' problems.

For one, all of the technologies that rely on sequence alignment and phylogenetic inference use models of substitution based on evolutionary principles, in which you have hypotheses based on the probability that some evolutionary changes occur (these changes can be at the nucleotide level or at the organismal level), and then you infer which hypotheses are the most plausible given the evolutionary and ecological context of the problem. A 'practical' side of this, for instance, would be to infer the evolutionary trajectory of the COVID-19 epidemic, or the study of the geographic spread of the virus given the sequences of the virus at different locations/time. A lot of modern molecular biology is based on a comparison of sequences.

Another 'application' is that of designing enzymes or other molecules, that have a desired function or feature. In fact, a recent Nobel prize was awarded to Frances Arnold for harnessing the power of evolution in her research on molecular design.

Some other applications besides the ones people have mentioned in the comments above are medical applications. It is well known that cancer lineages evolve, so the principles from evolution can be used to better treat cancer progression, for instance by adjusting the evolutionary outcomes of a particular treatment (you can read a fascinating example here). In fact, the understanding of cancer itself, besides therapeutic interventions, has used evolutionary principles for some years now (see a nice example of evolutionary dynamics in metastases here).

I also want to mention an important example from microbiology. It is a pressing issue of public health the fact that no novel antibiotics have been developed in the last few years, and that the existing ones are less and less effective given to the evolution of antibiotic resistance. What if we could make "evolution-proof" antibiotics? That's a fascinating question that some people are starting to explore, for instance by combining classical antibiotic treatments with phage therapy or molecules different than the traditional antibiotics (a cool paper here).

Finally, I want to mention that these applications of evolutionary principles do not "rely" on evolution being "fundamentally correct". Evolution is a process for which we have a lot of evidence, so at this point (and for a long time) evolution is an uncontroversial fact to the scientific community. This is similar, for instance, to the fact that we have lots of evidence for the phenomenon of gravity; so what scientists are doing at the moment is figuring out the mechanisms by which evolutionary processes occur (just as physicists are looking for gravitons). Another addendum is that evolution seems to be an open-ended process. This means that many of the mechanisms we can find in evolution will be, to a high degree, statistical in nature, because there are just so many possibilities that we cannot account for all possible outcomes. This is a fundamental difference to many theories in, say, physics, where there are clear "solutions" to a problem (in the form of an equation, for instance). I say this because people keep coming up with examples that "disprove" evolution, but they just don't consider that evolution is a statistical process, which allows for "outliers". In fact, the outliers are quite informative for evolutionary theory, not at all undesirable (consider for instance the origins of life, or the emergence of consciousness, these are unique 'events' for which we have no mechanism to explain why did they emerge).

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    $\begingroup$ These are all interesting examples, thank you for that. While I don't think they fit what I'm looking for, your last paragraph does a great job at explaining why what I'm looking for might not be easy to come by, or exist at all; especially the statistical nature of evolution probably prevents this. $\endgroup$ – G. Bach Apr 13 '20 at 23:15
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Two types of technologies come to mind. The first involves techniques that improve the traits of strains used in biotechnology. For example if you are using genetically modified yeast in wine making or for making a commodity chemical and want to improve quality or production rate of that compound you can generate yeast mutants that meet your goals. One easy way to do this is to subject the yeast to UV radiation and look for good mutants. Someone who has no understanding of genetics and molecular biology would not understand why subjecting yeast to harmful radiation will help make them better. The reason is that UV radiation creates DNA damage and innacurate repair of that damage leads to diversity in traits, which may enhance or worsen the trait you are after.

One could say "you don't really depend on evolution for that to work because if you try it once and it works then it will work for another trait". But why should we believe that because mutagenizing yeast with UV radiation helped make wine better it will help make more acetic acid? The reason is because the mechanism is the same. And how do we know that we aren't just wasting our time and some traits can't be improved. The reason is because all the diverse life around us developed from a common ancestor through the same principles.

The other technology is ancestry analysis through genome sequencing. We know that we don't need to look at all the billions of DNA bases that make up our DNA to see if we are related to someone or some group. We only need to look at a smaller subset like single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). And using this information we can track the migration of human populations over long periods of time. Again looking at DNA sequencing data could be doubted as just a coincidence or that other explanations or possible. Maybe contrary what the genomics data tells us, population A didn't migrate from population B, but it arose at the same time? But the theory of evolution assures us that our conclusions are the most reasonable.

I should also add that if evolution wasn't true then both of these technologies would be nonexistent and we might not even have any alternatives to answer the questions that these technologies are employed for. If organisms don't adapt how can we make yeast produce more ethanol without dying to it? If humans don't have common ancestors why does random variation exist even among our progeny and how do we explain archaeological data?

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