…is not series

So what’s the “Theory of Evolution”?

Charles_Darwin

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)

 

 

 

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Evolution is not a theory.

human_evolution

Evolution is not a theory.

Evolution is “descent with modification”; it is an observable fact.

Darwin did not “invent” the concept of evolution, it has been present in both Western and Eastern thought for at least 2500 years.

The primary alternative to belief in evolution prior to its establishment as a fact was Essentialism (or “Special Creation”) – the belief that all organisms contain an immutable “essence” granted them by a creator.

A classic example of observable evolution in a biological system is the phenomenon of multi-drug resistant bacteria (“super bugs”) such as Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph).

Another example of observable evolution in a biological system is selective breeding – evolution driven by artificial selection.

Facts and theories differ in science in that the latter are explanations for the former.

Darwin and Wallace’s “Theory of Natural Selection” explains the fact of evolution by elucidating a mechanism for evolutionary change in biological systems.

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed an alternative theory as an explanation for the fact of evolution; it was published in 1809 – 50 years before Darwin’s “On The Origin of Species”.

One way of testing the accuracy of a theory is by comparing its predictions to observable facts. Almost every observable fact from palaeontology, physiology, embryology, biochemistry and genetics matches up with the Theory of Natural Selection; those that do not are explainable as different forms of evolution (e.g., “genetic drift”).

The fact of evolution and the robustness of the Theory of Natural Selection do not disprove the existence of a creator; they just render it unnecessary.

Evolution is not unique to biological systems – it also occurs in language, culture and all anthropogenic technologies.

Science is not a body of knowledge.

artgel

Both detractors and ill-informed advocates of science often make the same mistake. The mistake is to treat “Science” as a body of knowledge. Science is not a body of knowledge. Science is a method of investigating phenomena.

A scientist is not someone who knows everything. A scientist is someone who is openly ignorant of almost everything.

When a scientist encounters a question to which she doesn’t know the answer, he’s not upset by his own ignorance; she’s stimulated by it.  She doesn’t make up an answer; he goes looking for one.

When a scientific mind encounters something that has yet to be thoroughly investigated scientifically, it doesn’t sneer and think, “That’s not Science! What a load of superstitious mumbo jumbo!” It thinks, “That’s something to investigate!”

A scientist doesn’t “believe” in science, because science is not a body of knowledge. A scientist believes that the scientific method is the most rigorous approach to answering a question.

A scientist does not consider a phenomenon without a scientific explanation to be “false”; he considers it to be a phenomenon currently without a scientific explanation.

When a question is answered scientifically, it does not “become” science, because science is not a “thing”, it is a methodology.

Just because there isn’t a scientific answer to a question (yet) doesn’t mean that it’s unscientific to ask the question.

Nothing is “outside the scope of science,” because science is not a body of knowledge. If it exists, it can be investigated scientifically……we just might not know how to, yet.