Evolution Is A Scientific Theory

This is kind of a pet topic of mine. I have no problem with people practicing their religions, and I’m religious myself. I even have some pretty out there views on some things. However, the lack of scientific literacy in my country is astounding to me.

Evolution is real. It is a scientific theory. This means it has been tested in ways as rigorous as we can devise, we have observed the process, found supporting evidence, and not found contradicting evidence. This means, unless we make some new discovery that throws a gear in the works, evolution is a good explanation for how complicated life arose from simple life. Such a new discovery is likely to only cause us to refine our view of evolution though. Basically, that evolution happens is a fact. How it happens is currently the domain of theory.

For an example, consider gravity. It is also a theory. For a long time, we used Newton’s laws of gravity to model it. We still use these laws in most circumstances, since they get the job done. However, we also discovered that at very high speeds, gravity does some funky, unexpected things. This is where Einstein’s theory of general relativity comes in. It is a more specific theory of gravity, but it served to refine our knowledge of how gravity works, not invalidate Newton’s work.

This is what will likely happen when the next great discovery on evolution is made. It will refine our knowledge and make it more specific, rather than invalidate what we already know.

In any case, I think if anyone told you gravity is just a theory, you’d probably laugh at them. I hope you would anyway. It is a theory, but it’s quite an important part of our knowledge.

If someone tells you something is just a theory as a way of dismissing it, it’s because they don’t understand that scientific theories have lots of testing and observation go into them before they are called theories. They don’t just think something up and call it a theory. When they’ve just thought it up and are getting ready to test it, it’s a hypothesis. Don’t let the way words are used casually detract from their meaning when they are used in a scientific context. Understand that in science, words are used very precisely, to be sure everyone is on the same page.

Additional resources:

Evolution: Fact and Theory
Scientific Evidence Supporting Evolution Continues To Grow
Evolution Is a Fact and a Theory

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  • Frank Herbert

    April 27th, 2010

    How exactly have we observed evolution take place?

  • Cody

    April 27th, 2010

    Frank, Human beings have evolved in several ways over the last 200 years. Examples include the age in which we become sexually mature. The average height of European decedents has increased compared to their ancestors. Some people believe evolution only refers to dramatic changes, quite the contrary is true. Evolution is the SLOW adaptation of beneficial traits. Technically the traits do not have to be beneficial, however if a trait reduces the chance for reproduction the likelihood it will be passed on and exist in future generations is much lower.

  • floslib

    April 27th, 2010

    Hey, Frank and Cody, thanks for stopping by and reading.

    Frank, here you go:
    It’s the first misconception on the list.

    If you’d prefer examples, check this out:
    Check out section 5 for where examples begin.

  • Rich

    April 30th, 2010

    True story. At the coffee shop a few weeks back I was seated at a table next to a group of three women discussing strategies surrounding young earth and intelligent design as an agenda. I was startled to overhear one of them say, “well, you know, evolution is just a theory anyway.” I concur that the misuse of the word theory as if someone simply thought something up off the top of their head is a major impediment to intelligent discourse on the topic.

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