Subject: Evolution; fact and theory Many people have pointed out that evolution is a fact

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From: (L.A. Moran) Newsgroups:,alt.atheism Subject: Evolution; fact and theory Many people have pointed out that evolution is a fact but Allen Olson says, "I doubt that you will find many scientists that agree with your loose usage of the term "fact." The theory of evolution is an explanation of facts. So far as the evidence shows, the theory of evolution is the best explanation of the facts scientists have been able to find. In the same way, Quantum Mechanics is the best explanation of the facts concerning elementary particles and energy, etc. Gravity is a fact for which a good explanation has not yet been found. In no way is evolution a "fact," but maybe my point would be better suited for talk.philosopy." There are a great many knowledgeable scientists who agree that evolution is a fact. I have not been able to find a single expert on evolutionary biology who claims otherwise when referring to the existence of evolution. Stephen J. Gould explains it like this, "Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are two different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts...Moreover, 'fact' doesn't mean 'absolute certainty'; there ain't no such animal in an exciting and complex world...In science 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent'. Evolutionists have been clear about this distinction from the beginning, if only because we have always acknowledged how far we are from completely understanding the mechanisms (theory) by which evolution (fact) occurred." Stephen J. Gould, Evolution As Fact and Theory, DISCOVER. May 1981 One of the best introductory books on evolution is that by Douglas J. Futuyma and he makes the following comment, "The theory of evolution is a body of interconnected statements about natural selection and the other processes that are thought to cause evolution, just as the atomic theory of chemistry and Newtonian theory of mechanics are bodies of statements that describe causes of chemical and mechanical phenomena. In contrast, the statement that organisms have descended with modifications from commmon ancestors - the historical reality of evolution - is not a theory. It is a fact, as fully as the fact of the earth's revolution about the sun. Like the heliocentric solar system, evolution began as a hypothesis, and achieved 'facthood' as the evidence in its favor became so strong that no knowledgeable and unbiased person could deny its reality." Douglas J. Futuyma, EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY 2nd ed., 1989, Sinauer Associates, p.15 The same idea can be found in most introductory biology textbooks. For example, "Today, nearly all biologists acknowledge that evolution is a fact. The term THEORY is no longer appropriate except when referring to the various models that attempt to explain HOW life evolves... It is important to understand that the current questions about how life evolves in no way implies any disagreement over the fact of evolution." Neil A. Campbell, BIOLOGY 2nd ed., 1990, Benjamin/Cummings, p.434 In summary, it is quite appropriate to say that evolution is a FACT but that there are various THEORIES or HYPOTHESES to explain the MECHANSIM of evolution. Creationists tend to focus their attention on the THEORY of evolution and ignore the FACT of evolution. -Larry Moran Dept. of Biochemistry


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