Monday, 30 May 2011

Only a theory

Opponents of the Theory of Evolution use the word 'theory' as an insult.  Of course in common parlance, we have to accept that there seems to be some uncertainty about things that are 'only a theory'.

However, the scientific equivalent of this terminology is the word 'hypothesis'.  This is when someone has an idea but has not yet gathered enough evidence to show that it is true.  In the case of evolution the evidence is completely overwhelming and every day more evidence is gathered, whatever the opponents might think, or feel, or like to believe.

Just imagine an evolutionary tree with gaps between fossils.  When you find a fossil that fills a gap, it could be said to double the number of gaps.  Whenever you find the fossil of a cousin (thereby not filling a gap) opponents of evolution use it as evidence against evolution when it is, in fact, irrelevant to that particular branch of evolution (albeit interesting and informative).

There are many scientific theories that are accepted as fact by the general public.  For example, very few people still believe in a flat earth.  But it is 'only a theory'.  Most of us accept now that the Earth orbits the sun once a year.  But the heliocentric theory is 'only a theory'.  And the theory of gravitation is quite attractive too.  But yes - 'it is only a theory'.

If anyone asks you whether evolution is a theory or a fact the answer is simple.

Yes. Both!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If somebody should never even mention the words 'hypothesis' or 'theory' it's precisely the religious. How ironic!