Re: Where's the Evolution?

Kevin O'Brien (
Mon, 5 Apr 1999 16:31:57 -0600

>> OK, let me make a statement that you may think is outrageous at first. :)
>> Evolution is both theory and fact.
>A theory by definition is something that is not known to be a fact.

Incorrect; in science a theory is an explanation for how and why a natural
phenomenon works. The phenomenon itself is a fact; any current theory may
be wrong, but as long as the phenomenon is real, there must be an
explanation for it.

Evolution is the phenomenon that needs to be explained; as such it is a
fact. Natural selection, punctuated equilibrium, etc., are the various
theories proposed to explain it; these theories are collectively called
evolution as well.

>one thing is both a fact and a theory is silly.

Only because you do not know how science works, my friend.

>The late Carl Sagan often
>said that Evolution is a fact, not a theory. I suspect that many
>Evolutionists think such honest expression of their beliefs sounds a little
>too religious.

He meant that it wasn't a theory as you mean theory. In other places he has
stated that it is both a fact and a theory.

>> My favorite example is the theory of plasticity as
>> opposed to the fact of plasticity. It is a fact that metals display
>> plastic behavior. Many theories have been proposed to try to
>> explain this fact.
>In regards to Evolution, what part is the "fact"? That all modern life
>developed naturally from a common ancestor?

Yes; fossil, morphological, embryonic and gene/protein sequence evidence
establish that.

>Or, that alleles change in frequency with time?

Yes; that's why all modern life developed from a common ancestor.

>Most any Evolutionist asserts that both of these are
>facts. Now, what's the theory? That all modern life developed naturally
>from a common ancestor?

No; there are a number of "macroevolutionary" mechanisms proposed to explain
this fact, but in and of itself this statement is not an explanation, only a

>Or, that alleles change in frequency with time?

No; that again is a description. The main theory that explains how this
happenes is the modern synthesis of Darwinism and genetics, in which
mutations, genetic drift, selective pressures, etc., change the allele
frequency and natural selection filters the changes to weed out those that
are unfit.

>It's too bad you used plastic metals for your explanation of something
>both a fact and a theory at the same time instead of Evolution.

Non sequitur; your statement is uncoordinated.

>In regards to your plastic metals, you say "plasticity" is both a theory
>a fact. In your analogy, "plasticity" is a fact, not a theory. A theory
>why metal has plastic properties is not itself plasticity.

Yes it is; it proposes a mechanism by which the phenomenon we call
plasticity works.

>> BTW, don't be too influenced by Cummins :).
>Thank you for the compliment.
>> The "ability of things
>> to evolve naturally, step by step, from simple to complex" is not,
>> actually, a prediction of evolution. Believe it or not, it is
>> still a point of controversy as to whether evolution (the actual
>> process as opposed to a theory) results in a *general* trend
>> toward increasing complexity.
>Doesn't the fact/theory of ameba-to-man....

It's spelled "amoeba"; this is neither a fact nor a theory, because we know
men did not evolve from amoebae. Amoebae themselves are modern animals that
evolved from a more primitive ancestor. Man and amoeba share a common
ancestor, but this organism was as different from the amoeba as it was from

>...(this definition of evolution is the one that is relevant)....

It isn't even a real definition, so it is not relevant.

>...predict that there is an ability of nature to
>increase complexity step by step?

No, because the appearence of complexity is simple an artifact produced by
diversification, which is all that evolution does. By chance some organisms
will be more complex than others, but evolutionary change can also include a
decrease in complexity, cyclical change, pendulum change, etc.

>It's interesting that you can address the fact vs. the theory of evolution
>without identifying what you consider (and what the evolutionist community
>considers) the fact to be and what you consider the theory to be.

If you read the scientific literature you would know that for yourself.

Kevin L. O'Brien