Evolution: Fact or Theory?

Is “Evolution” a “Theory” or “Fact,” or Is This Just a Trivial Game of Semantics? (Part 1)
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The THEORY in technical use is a more or less verified or established explanation accounting for known facts or phenomena: A hypothesis is a conjecture put forth as a possible explanation of phenomena or relations, which serve as a basis of argument or experimentation to reach the truth: This idea is only a hypothesis. An old joke about the response to revolutionary new scientific theories states that there are three phases on the road to acceptance: The theory is not true; 2.

The theory is true, but it is unimportant; 3. The theory is true, and it is important — but we knew it all along. From this perspective either the new theory must be rejected, or else the old theory abandoned. Finally, even within the context of evolutionary biology, theory can mean a new idea that does not yet have widespread verification or universal acceptance. The answer is yes, but they are not entitled to claim that such a hard definition is the exclusively acceptable usage of theory both for scientists and non-scientists.

Evolution as “Both Theory and Fact”? A Philosopher Blows Away the Often-Heard Darwinian Claim

Similarly, an opinion article recently condescended: It is based on the evolutionary premise of an ancestral descendant sequence of genes, populations, or species. Individuals that evolve are linked together through historical and genealogical ties. Evolutionary trees are hypotheses that are inferred through the practice of phylogenetic theory.

They depict relations among individuals that can speciate and diverge from one another. The evolutionary process of speciation creates groups that are linked by a common ancestor and all its descendants. Species inherit traits, which are then passed on to descendants. Evolutionary biologists use systematic methods and test phylogenetic theory to observe and explain changes in and among species over time.

These methods include the collection, measurement, observation, and mapping of traits onto evolutionary trees.

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Phylogenetic theory is used to test the independent distributions of traits and their various forms to provide explanations of observed patterns in relation to their evolutionary history and biology. The following sections provide specific quotable references from evolutionary biologists and philosophers of science demonstrating some of the different perspectives on evolution as fact and theory. Other commentators — focusing on the changes in species over generations and in some cases common ancestry — have stressed, in order to emphasize the weight of supporting evidence, that evolution is a fact, arguing that the use of the term "theory" is not useful:.

Evolutionary biologist Kirk J. Fitzhugh [39] writes that scientists must be cautious to "carefully and correctly" describe the nature of scientific investigation at a time when evolutionary biology is under attack from creationists and proponents of intelligent design. Fitzhugh writes that while facts are states of being in nature, theories represent efforts to connect those states of being by causal relationships:. Theories are concepts stating cause—effect relations. Regardless of one's certainty as to the utility of a theory to provide understanding, it would be epistemically incorrect to assert any theory as also being a fact, given that theories are not objects to be discerned by their state of being.

Fitzhugh recognizes that the "theory" versus "fact" debate is one of semantics.

He nevertheless contends that referring to evolution as a "fact" is technically incorrect and distracts from the primary "goal of science, which is to continually acquire causal understanding through the critical evaluation of our theories and hypotheses. Robertson writing for National Science Teachers Association writes, "I have heard too many scientists claim that evolution is a fact, often in retort to the claim that it is just a theory.

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Rather than claiming so, I think scientists would be better served to agree that evolution is a theory and then proceed to explain what a theory is -- a coherent explanation that undergoes constant testing and often revision over a period of time. Graham Bell , Selection: The Mechanism of Evolution [42].

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Part of a series on Evolutionary biology Key topics. Introduction to evolution Evidence of evolution Common descent. History of evolutionary theory. Applications of evolution Biosocial criminology Ecological genetics Evolutionary aesthetics Evolutionary anthropology Evolutionary computation Evolutionary ecology Evolutionary economics Evolutionary epistemology Evolutionary ethics Evolutionary game theory Evolutionary linguistics Evolutionary medicine Evolutionary neuroscience Evolutionary physiology Evolutionary psychology Experimental evolution Phylogenetics Paleontology Selective breeding Speciation experiments Sociobiology Systematics Universal Darwinism.

Evolution as fact and theory Social effects Creation—evolution controversy Objections to evolution Level of support. Human timeline and Nature timeline.

Evolution Resources from the National Academies

Introduction to evolution and Evolution. The main purpose of evolutionary biology is to provide a rational explanation for the extraordinarily complex and intricate organization of living things.

The evidence for evolution

Discoveries in astronomy and physics overturned traditional conceptions of the universe. Darwinism understood as a process that favours the strong and successful and eliminates the weak and failing has been used to justify alternative and, in some respects, quite diametric economic theories see economics. First Principles of a New System of Philosophy. The workings of the universe no longer needed to be attributed to the ineffable will of a divine Creator; rather, they were brought into the realm of science—an explanation of phenomena through natural laws. While this meaning of evolution is not necessarily incompatible with intelligent design, there are many scientific skeptics of evolution who are skeptical of Universal Common Descent. Many scientists and philosophers of science have described evolution as fact and theory , a phrase which was used as the title of an article by paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould in More important, however, he extended to the living world the idea of nature as a system of matter in motion governed by natural laws.

To explain means to identify a mechanism that causes evolution and to demonstrate the consequences of its operation. These consequences are then the general laws of evolution, of which any given system or organism is a particular outcome. Abiogenesis Epistemology Evidence of common descent Evolution in List of common misconceptions Status as a theory in Objections to evolution Theory vs.

Evolution as fact and theory

Fact in Creation—evolution controversy. The TalkOrigins Foundation, Inc. The meanings of evolution". Research Triangle Park, NC: Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy. Paper presented at the 38th Annual Meeting. Views of the National Park Service Glossary. In science, a fact is an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as 'true. School Science and Mathematics. Zetterberg , p. Did Darwin avoid publishing his theory for many years? Notes and Records of the Royal Society.

Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. American Institute of Biological Sciences. A Time for Truth". Natural History Magazine, Inc. Letter to the Editor. Wiley-Blackwell for Teaching Statistics Trust. American Association for the Advancement of Science.

What is evolution? Charles Darwin's brilliant idea explained

Ideas in Ecology and Evolution. Effects of Tree Topology and Evolutionary Model". Wiley for the Society for the Study of Evolution. The Mechanism of Evolution 2nd ed. Why Evolution is True. Evolutionary Biology 3rd ed.

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  • Evolution as fact and theory - Wikipedia.

Gould, Stephen Jay [Originally published ]. Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History Reissue ed. Gould, Stephen Jay The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance. Translation of John Ray by E. Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist. Cliff Street Books ]. National Academy of Sciences