Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Do You Believe in Evolution by Natural Selection?

I'm often asked asked the question: "Do you believe in Evolution by Natural Selection?" - I usually respond by saying... "No, belief is the wrong word. Rather, I accept evolution based on the overwhelming evidence".

The reason I don't like the word belief; is that it suggests I am holding my position purely based on a belief, without any concrete foundation with which to back it up. I usually manage to shorten the conversation by saying "I accept Evolution by Natural Selection based on the evidence", rather than "I believe". Indeed, when a creationist asks - "Do you believe in evolution" ...A religious connotation is almost always implied in the word belief. They assume it as a position of faith and thus, held as a religious position.

But for many creationists that is not enough and they will push the conversation further by saying "it's just a theory". The implication here is that theory just means guess, hunch, idea, speculation and other synonyms of this sort.

"Just a theory" is a total misunderstanding of what theory means in its scientific definition. Theory in scientific terms does not mean guess or hunch as it does in everyday usage.

A scientific theory is a higher level concept than fact. In other words it is higher in the hierarchy of conceptual definitions. A scientific theory is the framework which binds non-contradictory facts together, into an integrated whole or unit. A scientific theory is the 'umbrella' under which the facts sit. The more facts you have within a scientific theory, the stronger that theory becomes.

The faulty logic in assuming (sometimes for politically dishonest reasons) that a scientific theory is nothing better than a guess or hunch, is based on an erroneous premise. It presumes that scientific theories are waiting to become scientific facts, when more data in the form of facts arrive. But a scientific theory never becomes a scientific fact. A scientific theory is always classed as tentative...

For example, Einstein's Theory of Relativity will never become the Fact of Relativity. The reason that we always class scientific theories as tentative is because of the humility of the scientific method. The assumption in science is that science and scientists should not be arrogant and therefore one should never assume that a theory cannot ever be overthrown for a better theory.

But, what would it take to overthrow the Theory of Evolution by natural Selection... It would take an absolutely gargantuan discovery or set of discoveries and it would need to be so, because Evolution by Natural Selection is supported by tons and tons of evidence which has grown rapidly since Darwin's day and is growing further every single day.

Intelligent Design, is not a theory that even comes close to overthrowing Evolution by Natural Selection. Indeed, it is not a scientific position but a religious one.

The Intelligent Design advocates tactic is not to produce any science that could potentially overthrow Evolution by Natural Selection. Rather, they "debate the controversy" as they like to call it.

The fact is that although scientists do debate certain aspects of the Evolutionary Theory, what they are not debating is whether Evolution happens or not. There is no such debate. This is a straw man set up by Intelligent Design advocates.

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