Looks like a good statement about how science works and evolutionary theory's
place in science. For accuracy, the part that says "Biologists accept as
fact" should probably say "Almost all biologists accept as fact". Other than
that, I don't see anything I'd change.
Dr. Allan H. Harvey, Boulder, Colorado | SteamDoc@aol.com
"Any opinions expressed here are mine, and should not be
attributed to my employer, my wife, or my cats"
In a message dated 12/6/01 12:26:01 PM Mountain Standard Time,
> Can we improve on this?
> "When biologists refer to the theory of evolution, they use the word
> "theory" as it is used throughout science. It does not mean a mere
> speculation or an unsupported hypothesis. Rather, as The Oxford English
> Dictionary puts it, "a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by
> observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for
> the known facts; a statement of the general laws, principles, or causes of
> something known or observed" (our italics). The complex body of principles
> that explain evolutionary change is a theory in the same sense as "quantum
> theory" in physics or "atomic theory" in chemistry: it has been developed
> from evidence, tested, and refined, and it accounts for literally thousands
> of observations made throughout the entirety of biological science and
> Like all scientific theories, the theory of evolution is a current best
> explanation. It has withstood innumerable tests and attempts to disprove
> it, but it is still being refined, modified in the light of new knowledge,
> and extended to account for newly discovered phenomena. The theory of
> genetics has had such a history, progressing from Mendel's simple early
> principles to the complex body of molecular principles that constitute
> today's theory of inheritance, and it is constantly being refined and
> modified, even though its core principles have remained valid for a
> century. So it is with the theory of evolution.
> Is evolution also a fact? All but the most trivial facts begin as untested
> hypotheses—such as the hypothesis that the earth revolves around the sun.
> They acquire "facthood" as more and more evidence accrues in their favor,
> and as they withstand attempts to refute them. The evidence and attempt at
> refutation may take many forms besides simple observations; indeed, the
> most powerful evidence is not mere observations, but conformity to
> predictions that the hypothesis makes about what we should see if the
> hypothesis is true or false. We do not observe the earth making a circuit
> around the sun; we accept this hypothesis because of the numerous, verified
> astronomical observations—and more recently observations from
> spacecraft—that conform to the predictions of the hypothesis. So
> Copernicus's hypothesis is now a fact—a statement supported by so much
> evidence that we use it as if it were true.
> Biologists accept as fact that all organisms, living and extinct, have
> descended, with innumerable changes, from one or at most a few original
> forms of life. For Darwin in 1859, this was a hypothesis, for which he
> provided abundant evidence from comparative anatomy, embryology, behavior,
> agriculture, paleontology, and the geographic distributions of organisms.
> Since that time, all of the many thousands of observations in each of these
> areas have supported Darwin's core hypothesis. To these observations has
> been added copious evidence that Darwin could hardly have dreamed of,
> especially from paleontology and molecular biology. A century's
> accumulation of such evidence establishes descent, with modification, from
> common ancestors as a fact of science. How we explain this fact—what the
> principles and causes of it may be—is the theory of evolutionary process,
> parts of which are subject to various amounts of scientific debate,
> modification, and extension.
> To claim evolution as a fact is to confront controversy, for probably no
> claim in all of science evokes as much emotional opposition as biological
> evolution. Nonetheless, no scientific hypothesis other than common descent
> with modification can account for and make predictions about the unity,
> diversity, and properties of living organisms. No other hypothesis of the
> origin of biological diversity is supported by such overwhelming evidence,
> and no competing hypothesis spawns such richness of scientific study and
> has as many implications for the biological sciences and their applications
> to societal needs."
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Dec 06 2001 - 21:34:47 EST