So what’s the “Theory of Evolution”?
As covered in my previous post, evolution is an observable fact. So what’s the “Theory of Evolution” then?
“Theory of Evolution” is essentially just another name for the “Theory of Natural Selection”.
Like evolution, gravity is an observable fact. In normal conditions we don’t find ourselves floating away from the ground; we find ourselves sticking to it. If we’re unlucky we find the ground rushing towards us very fast. Gravity is not a theory.
The “Theory of Gravity” is a theory that explains how and why gravity operates. More correctly, it’s the “Theory of General Relativity” that explains the how and why of gravitation. The “Law of Universal Gravitation” describes the observable facts of gravity.
What’s in a name? Why do some people like to say “Theory of Gravity” or “Theory of Evolution”? I don’t know; maybe it’s because they’re simpler than “Theory of General Relativity” and “Theory of Natural Selection”, both of which might sound more technical or ambiguous.
What’s the difference between the modern “Theory of Evolution” and Darwin’s (and Wallace’s) “Theory of Natural Selection”? Not a lot, really – some might say “Theory of Evolution” encompasses what’s known as the “Modern Synthesis” or “Neo-Darwinian Synthesis”.
The Modern Synthesis brings together evidence from all the fields of biology including population genetics, which didn’t exist when Darwin formulated his theory (he wasn’t even aware of Mendel’s early genetic research when he published). Critically, the Modern Synthesis demonstrates that all the evidence from these diverse fields corroborates the Theory of Natural Selection.
The modern theory is therefore the same as the original (Darwinian) theory – it’s still the Theory of Natural Selection (a rose by any other name…).
Calling the Theory of Natural Selection the “Theory of Evolution” is like calling the Theory of General Relativity the “Theory of Gravity” – it’s a simplification or a colloquialism.
Don’t get confused – evolution is not a theory.
“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” – Theodosius Dobzhansky (Eminent geneticist, evolutionary biologist and co-formulator of the Modern Synthesis)