Some may say that Evolution is just a theory
— To me, it is a scientific theory —
And the distinction is significant!
© 2005 - 2009, R. W.C. Stevens
In my understanding, evolution is not just a theory. It is a scientific theory. This means that it incorporates most of the existing relevant data in a meaningful and significant way. Although, as a theory, it is–, it has been–, and it will continue to be–subjected to questioning, it is the best answer so far. Those who have the appropriate scientific skills have taken the time to review and consider the available evidence, and are generally in agreement that not only is there insufficient data to refute the current conclusion, but that there is sufficient data to support the current conclusion, and that that conclusion is sensible.
Being a scientific theory, it may change, to better fit the understanding of new data, but as it stands now it incorporates and explains virtually all of the long–standing reliable data. Being a scientific theory, there are probably people actively challenging the existing data. However this is not because they doubt the theory in general, but rather it is because they want to understand the finer intricacies of it. When new suspicions are developed, whether they be from reasoning, from new experimentation, or from re–evaluation of old experimental data, they will not be accepted until careful thought is put into their reliability. This may mean additional testing which proves the repeatability of the data, it may mean new experimentation with the aim of verifying or contradicting the conclusions, but it will certainly mean the suspicions will not be accepted into the theory until they have been questioned and found to be without significant contradiction. Being a scientific theory ‘evolution’ has been subjected to free and open questioning, and found to be reasonably verifiable and consistent.
Although a scientific theory may be seen as being questioned — and one may be sure that it has been questioned — one may also be sure that it will continue to be questioned. This questioning does not make it weak, it makes it strong. The questioning may continually lead to a persistent series of discrepancies, as new data is interpreted and the theory refined to produce a better understanding, but the refinement of the answer can only make the overall theory more accurate. Consider how Einstein, with his theories of relativity, proved Newton wrong. F=ma is considered no longer to be true — and yet F=ma is still used, instead of relativistic formulae, where speeds and accelerations are low. It is used, knowing it is not the truth. Why? It is close to the truth. Early development of the theories of motion came up with formulae that were only marginally inaccurate. Relativity refined the theory, making it more accurate for those who needed the finer precision, without throwing the whole world of mechanics into disarray. Scientific theories, even when inaccurate, are rarely wrong to a significant degree, for general usage.
Uncertainties in data, and discrepancies between data and the predictions of theory, are commonly found in scientific results. This can not be immediately taken as proof that the theory is unproven and wrong. It more likely means that the measurements being taken are of sufficient resolution that they are finding the results of small discrepancies in uncontrolled variables. Such precision should only lead to confidence that, in a general nature, the data is correct. Nevertheless, in some cases the discrepancies between data and the predictions of theory may indicate the theory is imperfect, and further examination will likely lead to a nuanced change of the theory. Only rarely is an accepted theory proven dramatically wrong, and so completely revised.
By contrast, in my mind, an unscientific theory is one which has only hearsay to support it; one which is a ‘conclusion’ based on information that can not or may not be questioned; an assumption handed down over the ages because it is good for the people, etc. This is not to say that it is wrong to direct a populace into a course of action based on fear and blind obedience. Such methods may be the easiest way to get them to do what is right, because it saves having to educate them to a level at which they can question, and find consistent, the conclusions accumulated over many generations. Nevertheless, there must be at least a few minds educated to the details of the current theory if there is to be continued refinement of that theory as its refinement is supported throughout the next generations.
Two related species (and for that matter, all species in general), evolved from a common predecessor. The various species have simply responded to evolutionary pressures in different ways. The responses have been different for one or more of the following reasons:
Nevertheless, the ‘before’ species was likely as well adapted to its environment as the current species are adapted to their present environments — although the current environments are in a more hostile world, it being fraught with more virulent pathogens, more highly evolved predators, etc.
The modern human, to be considered viable under the preceding paragraph, may have to be taken as a society and as such must include all the regular medical interventions needed to tend to the things that would be otherwise editing our gene pool:
Also to be included in the human system are food cooking systems (for disease control that our stomach acids can not do and for pre-digestion that our teeth can not do, [Just where does a non-societal human conjure a cooking pot from?]), and various distributions systems (food, clothing, building materials, etc.), etc., for without these many of us would be very short lived. [Whether or not all this intervention is good is an interesting off-topic matter which could over-fill an e-mail box.]
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