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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

So You Think Evolution Is Just A Theory?

Many people have been told that evolution is just a theory, and that it is, at most, a hypothesis, or even a guess.

A scientific theory, however, is different from the theory the general public is familiar with. Many of us equates theory with hypothesis, which is erroneous. To a scientist, a theory is an explanation of a phenomenon. A scientific law, on the other hand, is a description of a phenomenon, and can be proven by a mathematical equation.

To illustrate: Newton’s law of gravity describes how gravity works, which basically means that things fall down if you let go of them. His theory of gravity, on the other hand, is an attempt to explain why this happens (although modern scientists accept Einstein’s Theory of Relativity as a better explanation of gravity). Newton’s and Einstein’s theories will always remain theories, because they are explanations, and different from a law, which describes things. 

A scientific theory therefore does not graduate into a scientific law, as many misinformed people seem to believe. A scientific theory meets these three requirements: it should be supported by evidence, is testable and falsifiable, and can be used to make predictions.
It is common to hear people say, “Oh, it’s just a theory. I’ll believe it if it becomes into a law.” They think that a scientific theory, if backed by further evidence, “graduates” into a law. This is not the case. To reiterate, a scientific theory does not become a law. It never does.

(Read: 10 Scientific Laws And Theories You Should Know About.)

Moreover, a theory should not be confused with hypothesis. A hypothesis is an educated guess made by scientists as an attempt to explain the cause of an event or phenomenon. They then rigorously test this hypothesis through experiment and observation, and if enough evidence is found to support it, and it repeatedly passes various tests it is subjected to, then it graduates into a theory. The theory of evolution, in more than a hundred and fifty years of study, experimentation, and observation, passes these tests with flying colors. It has never failed any crucial test. It has never been seriously challenged, only refined, and an overwhelming amount of evidence has been found that supports it. Evolution, in fact, is the basis for biology, without which biology and medicine wouldn’t make sense.
Someone who dismisses evolution as just a theory probably is just confused, and is unaware of what a scientific theory means. But if this someone is a figure of authority, like a pastor, or a teacher, they probably mean to confuse you, or even mislead you, and are letting their beliefs and prejudices cloud their judgment.

Many Christians (and other religionists) think that evolution is anti-God. This is not true. The Catholic Church, in fact, accepts evolution as a valid scientific inquiry.
Read this quote from Pope John Paul II's address to the Pontifical Academy of Science (1996), in which he reaffirms the Church's position regarding evolution:
In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points.... Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.
Pope Benedict, in fact, calls the conflict between "creationism" and evolution absurd:
Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called "creationism" and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favour of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance.

As the eminent evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins puts it,Today the theory of evolution is about as much open to doubt as the theory that the earth goes round the sun.

Unfortunately, most of those who deny evolution have already made up their minds, not because of some scientific reasons, but because their faith would not let them have the idea of a universe not put in order by some Creator.

“The way to see by Faith is to shut the eye of Reason.”

--Benjamin Franklin

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