Re: Evolution Statement

From: gordon brown (gbrown@euclid.colorado.edu)
Date: Sun Dec 09 2001 - 20:53:14 EST

  • Next message: Moorad Alexanian: "RE: Evolution Statement (corrected)"

    On Thu, 6 Dec 2001, Dick Fischer wrote:

    > Here is the opening statement on the web site:
    >
    >
    > "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
    > paleontology.
    >

    If this statement is intended to imply that there is only one meaning of
    the word theory that is used in science, I question it. Didn't scientists
    half a century ago refer to the big bang theory and steady state theory as
    competing theories? Only later did the big bang theory acquire the status
    of being considered to be confirmed and established, while the steady
    state theory has been discarded by most but is still referred to as a
    theory. Perhaps the term evolutionary theory would be more successful in
    conveying the concept in the definition quoted above than theory of
    evolution because of the popular perception of what the latter phrase
    means.

    Gordon Brown
    Department of Mathematics
    University of Colorado
    Boulder, CO 80309-0395



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