20 February 2007

I Hear You Are Getting Into Zen And You Have A Buddhist Friend...

Evolution is only a theory. It is not a fact or a scientific law.

Many people learned in school that a theory falls in the middle of a hierarchy of certainty - above a mere hypothesis but below a law. Scientists do not use the terms that way, however. A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses. No amount of validation changes a theory into a law, which is a descriptive generalisation about nature. So when scientists talk about the theory of evolution or the atomic theory or the theory of relativity, for that matter, they are not expressing reservations about its truth.

In addition to the theory of evolution, meaning the idea of descent with modification, one may also speak of the fact of evolution. A fact could be defined as an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as true. The fossil record and abundant other evidence testify that organisms have evolved through time. Although no one observed those transformations, the indirect evidence is clear, unambiguous and compelling.

All sciences frequently rely on indirect evidence. Physicists cannot see subatomic particles directly, for instance, so they verify their existence by watching for telltale tracks that the particles leave in cloud chambers. The absence of direct observation does not make physicists' conclusions less certain.

4 Comments:

Blogger morbid misanthrope said...

What did the Buddhist say to the hotdog vendor?

Make me one with everything.

19:58  
Blogger BD said...

I know I shouldn't laugh...

20:04  
Blogger just thinking said...

Conversely, the absence of direct observation means that the conclusions can never be more certain.

Further, perceived truth does not necessarily make something real.

22:42  
Blogger Dan said...

Truthes must be real. But certainty doesn't need to be concluded.

I wonder if this is more of your slightly sarcastic?

16:41  

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