Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Laws and theories

I have figured out a major problem with the objection to evolution of creationists. And it relates to how we look at evolution.

One comment argued that

"Evolution is most certainly a theory."

I dispute this partly by disputing his definition of "evolution"
Evolution at least in as far as we would say 1+1=2 or "gravity pulls things down" is a "law". The reason for this is that the fact that organisms can change due to mutations is beyond doubt and experimentally provable. In fact you will see such mutations around you in the human and animal populations (most humans on earth have observed these repeatable experiments). Secondly the fact that some mutations are selected for and against by the environment is also totally beyond doubt in both the human and animal populations. Finally to make it "real" evolution it is clear that if you want you can breed a species so that they can no longer - or no longer wish to breed with their ancestors (speciation).

No reasonable person disputes that right?

This is evolution. 100% observable and testable. Just as observable and testable as gravity.

This is a more limited definition than the one that the creationists are trying to attack but it is identical to the form in which we describe other "laws" like gravity. For example "the theory of gravity" does not include reference to the moon orbiting the earth and it is not dependant upon the moon orbiting the earth to be true.

But what you could be disputing is that evolution explains human development - in this case things get a bit hairier. - In this case we are tending towards the history based meaning of "fact"

As the comment notes
"The crucial difference is that the existence of the American Revolution is limited by times and place."

BUT evolution does not need to have occurred everywhere. Maybe a better example than the American Revolution is thus "war has shaped human history" vs. "evolution has shaped life on earth".
Feel free to take on either of these assumptions.

For example if you could prove that humans did not evolve on earth (i.e. we are aliens) science would still be pretty dubious about claims that evolution was false because of the weight of evidence and that it does not depend on any single part. Evolution was never intended to be such a rigid and thus fragile model.

Now the burden of proof falls upon the creationist to demonstrate WHY the law of evolution (its general effects) did not operate. Rather like if you proposed that the moon used to be a yoyo attached to the earth with a string - I would expect you to have to explain why the law of gravity did not operate.


Blogger Illusive Mind said...

You might like to peruse my essay on Intelligent Design here.

However more fundamental problems underlie this debate in my discussion on beliefs at Illusive Mind

7:55 AM  

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