A big Wonder to me

Mark Siddall msiddall at umich.edu
Wed Feb 26 01:44:46 EST 1997


thun wrote:
> 
> I try to figure out if there is evolution or if everything was created
> and get confused when theres scientific proof of evolution and then
> theres the proof from the bible. Just lost here is all anyone gimme a
> idea where to go or what to read? Thanks Thun

Let me try to confuse you more, and hopefully in so doing, explain a
difference in the approaches of religion versus science.

First, there is no proof of evolution from science, nor is there proof
of creation from the bible.

Before my learned colleagues hasten to write me off, I will explain:

Proof, in the sense of "proven true" is unattainable.  The lessons of
the usurpation of Newtonian Mechanics by Relativity demonstrated that.
Rather, in science what we have are competing theories.  In the face of
competition for the same evidence, we judge one hypothesis as "better"
than another on the basis of a variety of things.
First: are there any data conceivable that would falsify the theory?
Second: is the theory better corroborated by the evidence than its
  competitors?

The problem with the biblical version of things is that there are no
conceivable data that would actually disprove the creation "theory". 
One must take it on faith or revelation.  Because of this, it cannot be
scientific.
Now, what about evolution?
Are there conceivable data that would falsify this explanation.  Why
yes, in fact, there are.  This is what population geneticists and
phylogeneticists are in the business of gathering.
Now, is there corroboration for the theory?  Yes again.  The
stratification of fossil remains, the similarities in morphology and DNA
evidence that corroborate descent with modification, etc etc.

Does this mean it is true?  Nope.  Would finding that a fossil is "out
of place", that-is a falsifier, prove it false?  Nope.  It would be a
piece of disconfirming evidence.  

The thing is that there is no body of confirming evidence that proves it
true, and no amount that proves is false.  BUT: there is more
corroboration for the notion of evolution than there is for, say,
spontaneous generation.

This leads to a few summary statements, I think... first, we mislead
people when we say that "evolution" has been proven to be true.  It
hasn't.  But then neither has ANY scientific theory ever been proven
true.  So this is not a damnation of evolution any more than it is of
Relativity or quantum theories or whatever. Tennessee wants to put in
school biology texts "Evolution is just a theory".  I say fine, but then
we need to put "Relativity is just a theory. Light is just a theory.
Radioactivity is just a theory. Gravity is just a theory [etc]" in
physics texts for a start.

Second, seeking out whether or not there is more evidence for evolution
than creation is a mistake because all evidence and all lack of evidence
could be compatible with creation.  It is simply non-scientific.  In
fact, it is no more scientific, or falsifiable than the idea that the
universe was created out of ant-dung. 

I would like to help you with your dilemma, but I cannot.  I can only
offer that if you are seeking what answer presently explains the data
scientifically, the answer is unequivocally "evolution".



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