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Friday, January 14, 2005 CE

Evolution, creationism, fact, theory

This is a comment to a post in Crystal Clear

Here is a nice definition of theory
Theory: A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested OR is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.
So evolution is a theory since it is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.
Theory and fact are not mutually exclusive. Gravity is a theory, relativity is a theory.
In the case of evolution the fossil evidence show that species change and new ones are developed with time. So an association can be established. The association is between change in species and change in time. We can arrive to conclusions here in the same way we arrive to a conclusion from a retrospective study in medicine, i.e., establishing associations. Certain associations are powerful enough to accept a cause-effect relationship, i.e. change in time leads to change in species (there is no way that a change in species will lead to a change in time). How do you think we arrived to the conclusion of which antibiotics are best for pneumonia? Retrospective studies did it because ethical concerns made prospective studies impossible. In the same way, evolution cannot be proven prospectively due to lack of time.
Creationism is a belief, based on faith. There is no science there. It belongs to the territory of religion so it should not be included in school textbooks. Anyone is entitled to believe in creationism, even scientists if they wish.


Blogger Chuck said...

Very nice summary. I have always found it interesting the way people who argue the evolution/creation point in schools seem to bring up the theory issue. They always want to argue against the theory of evolution but don't attack other theories such as gravity and relativity as you pointed out. Single-mindedness I assume.


1:45 PM  
Blogger birdwoman said...

Good explanation.

I posted on this a while back, also. Seems to be a hot topic these days, what with all those folks pushing their "Intelligent Design" theory.

One argument that I've seen, and I don't remember enough of my pure science studies, is that any scientific theory is "falsifiable". Evolution is falsifiable - you could show that a related specie's DNA was not related. But ID is not falsifiable - you can't disprove the possibility of a creator. So, ID is not a scientific theory.


2:03 PM  
Blogger Puma said...

Why do these religion-pushers always hammer away incessantly with the semantics? Incessantly!

3:20 PM  
Blogger TOKilla said...

To whoever wrote the original post,

There is evidence for evolution (fossils, african and indian elephants came from the same place and have different adaptations, some 98.5% of human and chimpanze DNA are the same), but there is also evidence for intelligent design (the Bible). Assess its validity as you will, but it is still evidence. The Bible is not scientific data, and I would not want it to be presented as science (the whole point of Christianity is blind faith - but thats beside the point), but to totally omit a theory from textbooks is a crime. Debators learn to argue both sides of an argument so that they can anticpate what the other side will say, so even if you support evolution it is still important to be aware of the arguement for ID.

"The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance."

3:57 PM  
Blogger Greg Stephens said...

Personally I know refer to evolution as a theorem not a theorem. A theorem is proven and is fact.
In the social sciences it is almost impossible to conclude things as fact, but with a certain amount of prove it is deemed as such. The same basis as to be applied to evolution theorem. There is enough evidence to say it is fact hence it is.

6:41 PM  
Blogger TOKilla said...

Greg, science is by its definition the probability of an event happening. Some findings of science are called facts because they have a high probability, but since science is inductive (conclusions are based on observed data) it is impossible to observe all data and therefor no sciece "fact" is ever absolute. The social sciences fall under the same category, but when dealing with people there are a whole bunch of variables that cannot be controlled. Chemistry reactions are based on chemical properties whereas social science reactions are based on all of the person's experiences. Since now to people are alike, a fact in social science would be useless, so generalizations about certain types of people are made.

12:32 AM  
Blogger Puma said...

For me, Science falls into the same objective place that the rest of the physical world falls: I touch the chair and it feels real, therefore it is real to me. Science informs us of all sorts of things (what we call facts), such as "this is how a cow eats grass" and "that is why jet fuel burns" and "carbon dating shows us how old this fossil is" etc. Rules of Nature are clearly in effect, though we may not know where those rules came from or how they were arrived at.

Religion and faith, pyschology and philosophy, beliefs and extra-sensory perceptions for me all fall into the realms of the human mind and heart, and hence are immensely pliable and subjective. Religion allows us to imagine how those Rules of Nature came about, and for some organized religions, exactly why, where, who, and how.

Art falls into a sort of in-between place - it is a kind of physical manifestation of a sort of metaphysical mental energy that comes from some place not quite inside ourselves, but not quite outside either.

In the end, I tend toward the "it all could possibly be an illusion of some sort" anyway. My faith urges me to question some things that many may consider a given, such as fate, destiny, the nature of power, or spiritual authorization.

In my own agnostic experience I find that the things I believe, about myself, about others, about the world, directly affect my material existence. This may be explained by Science one way, by Pyschology another, by Religion another, and by Art yet another. They are all relevant, and all useful to our understanding. However the moment one understanding attempts to compete with another, or one describes itself as MORE relevant, that is the moment we allow ourselves to become dogmatic, intolerant, and overly invested in our own rectitude.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Tokilla is asuming that ID is a theory. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it is not, it is something which is based in faith and cannot be considered a theory or science. If the belief is that a god created the rules of nature in an intelligent way, lets have religion deal with it in order to avoid unnecessary clashes with the scientific world.

6:15 PM  
Blogger TOKilla said...

I never claimed that ID was science "The Bible is not scientific data, and I would not want it to be presented as science." My point was that ID exists and whether valid or not, we should still be informed about it. i did type theory on accident, but one word should not change the sentiment of my comment.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Ok, that is fine. However, since ID is a belief, I think it should not be part of an official school program. There are many ways in which ID can be shown to society.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Puma said...

I disagree. There are many important, legitimate subjects taught in school that have everything to do with beliefs, such as literature, philosophy, and art. In addition, in many European countries, the religions of the world are taught as a subject, which to me makes the most sense, since that way the student survey reflects a worldwide perspective.
In other words, it is a false choice. We need not choose between science and religion. We need not pretend one does not exist in order to placate the other. Instead, each should be given their proper due, each in their own realm.
Children are not that stupid. Their intelligence, and their curriculum, should also be given their proper due.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

I had the experience of being taught just Catholic religion at school. I believe all religions should be presented in exactly the same way. ID can have a space there. ID should be presented as a belief from certain groups of people.

Science and religion are different things, I see them as mutually exclusive. Faith is a concept that is very strange for science. Religion is all about faith. That does not meen that a scientist could not have a faith, but it cannot interfere with his or her work.

8:33 PM  
Blogger TOKilla said...

Adolf Hitler didn't let religion get in the way of his science, and as a result he brutally tested thousands of human subjects.

"Religion without science is lame, and science with out religion is blind"
-Albert Einstein

2:36 AM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Bioethics does not depend on religion. Scientists continously have to have bioethical approval for their projects, religion is not even mentioned. What happened in Nazi Germany has to do with lack of bioethical standards, not with lack of religion.

Albert Einstein, when he said "god does not play dice" missed the opportunity of embracing quantum mechanics. He is an example of a scientist who chose to have a religion, but at a given moment, his religion interfered with his scientific work.

2:56 AM  
Blogger Daniel_T said...

I agree with a lot of what Sarah said in her comments.

Religion and Science maybe somewhat mutually exclusive, but if we think of a larger picture of spirituality - I think that embraces everything in life. "Religion" to me is like a small subset of spirituality, just as science is.

I think that religion, science, and state should be very separate, but I also think that a true embracing spirituality embraces science completely. I'll probably get fried for saying it, but I think that one of science's biggest strengths AND biggest problems is that it is so empirical. Our intuitive capabilities are so important in making progress and these are not respected enough by science. If you look to history, I think there are many examples of scientists who were informed by both empirical study and an awareness of a spiritual element, but in our current age it seems to be only the measured results that are given any credence.

One final thing, just to clarify my thoughts - I don't think that creationism should be taught in schools - I think it is too specific to one religion. It would be better if children were given an awareness of all major religions.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Puma said...

And of course that is the problem. If only any one religion could suffer the teachings of another. Just as you point out that science's biggest strength is also its greatest downfall, so is the same with religion: blind faith is it's most wonderous, gratifying secret but also it's greatest downfall.
The clutching close of exclusive beliefs has only served to divide us, and this is the point that most who worship in churches, synagogues, and mosques fail to appreciate.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Empirical: (From Yahoo Dictionary)

- Relying on or derived from observation or experiment: empirical results that supported the hypothesis.
- Verifiable or provable by means of observation or experiment: empirical laws.

Most of the knowledge starts from empiric observations. In fact, in medicine more than 90% of the actions we perform are based on empirical observations. Less than 10 % derive from formally performed studies that established a cause-effect relationship.

I do believe that religion and science are totally mutually exclusive. Science has ethics to deal with what is wrong and what is right. Ethics has nothing to do with religion.

With respect to Jews, Christians and Muslims, I think they have to learn from the Classical values, when there was no "correct" religion and there was more communication with nature with symbolic "gods"

10:35 PM  
Blogger Daniel_T said...

Yeah - but I wasn't talking about religion. Religion is like a political social take on a larger thing which is spirituality or life or whatever you want to call it. It embraces everything. If you want to get an idea of what I'm talking about take a look at the film doco "Baraka".


10:45 PM  
Blogger Marrissa said...

My two cents, for what is worth:

I was raised in a small southern community before all of this hooplah about whether or not creationism should be taught in schools. Some of my teachers were more progressive than others, but I was taught a lot of interesting theories. When I entered college, I remember being outraged that only partial information was given to me, or in some cases completely wrong, unverifiable information, much of it influenced by the Baptist roots of my educators. Children are not stupid, as one of you pointed out. However, often children rely on their educators for facts and even at times the path to information that should be pondered and what should be accepted as fact. I believe whole-heartedly that this particular topic should be saved for adult education, when the facts and ideas can be presented in a proper manner. My son brings notes from his teachers today with horrible handwriting and bad grammar, misspelled words, etc... Be careful what you ask for, because sometimes you do not get to choose that Yahoo who can deliver this information to your children.

3:44 PM  

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