Let us suppose, Gentle Reader, that tomorrow morning, someone manages to somehow prove the theory of evolution by natural selection to be false, beyond any possible doubt. I have no idea how they'd do it, so this is, of course, hypothetical, (not to mention fantastical) but let's assume they will. What would the results be?
The Creationist/Intelligent Design Angle
Or "Inelegant Design," as I prefer to call it, given the number of bodge-ups and out-right cock-ups which the so-called perfect creator apparently managed to include in its, her or his extremely imperfect design.
Sorry, creationists, but it would not (to anyone who thought it through properly) automatically lead to the conclusion that a designer must have created life. That would be a silly as saying that because you've proved Abraham Lincoln wasn't poisoned, then he must have been run over by a train.
Sadly, though, it probably would feed very well into the ID movement's stated purpose of undermining public confidence in what they term "scientific materialism." Mostly because the leaders of that movement have spent a huge amount of effort, time and money, convincing their followers that there can only ever be two horses in the race. That Abe Lincoln was, in fact, run over by the three-thirty express—because we all know he wasn't poisoned, right? Quite how badly this would affect the religio-political environment, I wouldn't even venture to guess, but to expect it to have no such result would be, I suspect, naïve in the extreme.
The Science Angle
Now, I'm not a biologist. That said, I can probably make some very general predictions as to what the reaction in biological-science circles would be, once the dust had cleared and the initial shock-waves had calmed.
There are one helluva lot of experimental and observational results which look exactly like evolution by natural selection. If, as we now know, they aren't examples of that, then what the hell are they? How, for example, do antibiotic-resistant strains of various bacteria, erm… "evolve," if they aren't, in fact, evolving? Why is there such a clear and consistent chain of fossil-evidence? Why do human beings share so many similarities, both visible and at the level of DNA, with chimpanzees? Indeed, at the level of DNA, why do we have such startling similarities to mayflies, salmon and potatoes? If you want more immediately practical examples, why and how has medical research which has been based on the "wrong" theory, still managed to produce such useful results?
All that data would still be there; would still need evaluating in the light of whatever the Amazing Evolution-Debunking Evidence was. Some of it, especially that which directly affects medical research, would need very urgent re-examination—not because treatments based on it would suddenly be dangerous (they have, after all, been extremely harshly tested), but because, (a) we would not want to be basing future medicines on a bad theory (after all, maybe we just got extraordinarily lucky until now) and (b) the fact that it has been very harshly tested means it's probably the best place to start when trying to work out what the hell's going on in light of our newfound ignorance of underlying principles.
This is the thing with science (or, indeed, with any sceptical, evidence-based inquiry); though it might initially create turmoil, confusion, scares and alarums; eventually, even a result which flies in the face of all current theories is good. Because the aim isn't, as many anti-evolutionists would have us believe, to uphold any theory no matter what. The aim is to arrive at as correct a theory as possible.
Far from destroying the "scientific materialist worldview," our hypothetical piece of evidence could actually (the religio-political fall-out allowing) make ex-evolutionary biology the most popular area of research, well… ever. A suddenly wide-open field, complete with years' and years' worth of well-attested experimental and observational data? Christ, that would be a gold-mine for any student looking to make ground-breaking contributions.
My Personal Angle
It seems to be an assumption, amongst creationists (or at least those who debate on the internet) that my atheistic, humanistic worldview would come crashing down around my ears, if only they could disabuse me of my "faith" in evolution. (And that assumption is what prompted this little essay, by the way.) I could go on for several thousand words expounding on how evidence-based belief isn't "faith" by any usual definition, but I won't. I've done it ad nauseam in comments-based debates, and not only does repeating it get boring as hell, but it never seems to actually sink in, either. So, instead, allow me to tell you how the theory being blown completely out of the water would affect me.
I work in neither science nor medicine, so it wouldn't affect my professional life.
Love, loss, suffering, joy, empathy, altruism, would not suddenly disappear. They are observed facts, regardless of what theory we use to try to explain their existence. Regardless, in fact, of whether we even have a theory by which we might try to do so.
I would still want to try to help those who are suffering, and to point out and hopefully do something about the malicious and the harmful.
A rose would smell as sweet, were it not evolved,
And a hurtful word still, thorn-like, sting.
And we'd still have the common cold,
And butterflies would still take wing.
And I would still not believe that a creator-god exists. Because I still haven't seen any evidence in support of its existence. And because Lincoln, as you may know, was shot.
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