'Theory' Doesn't Mean What They Think It Does!

RECEIVED Fri., Aug. 8, 2003

The recent spate of letters to the editor decrying the fact that evolution is the leading scientific theory have all seriously missed the point.
    There is simply no serious debate as to the fact of biological evolution in the scientific community. None at all. And the reason is very simple: The word "theory," as used in the term "Theory of Evolution" does not mean what they think it means.
    In order for a scientific hypothesis to reach the status of theory, it must endure the harshest scrutiny and account for (if not predict) all the available evidence. Famous hypotheses that have reached this level are Atomic Theory, the Theory of Gravity, and the Theory of Evolution.
    The Theory of Gravity states that masses exert force upon each other. The Theory of Evolution states that genetic populations change over time in response to environmental conditions. The details behind these theories may be open to debate, but the overwhelming evidence grants these hypotheses the status of theories, if not scientific facts.
    An incomplete fossil record does not disprove evolutionary biology, any more than the lack of a Grand Unified Field Theorem disproves gravity. Semantic hand-waving, misquoting of scientific papers, and appeals to theology are all entirely irrelevant to these theories as well.
    In fact, the term "evolutionary biology" is a misnomer, because, to quote Theodosius Dobzhansky, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." Without the Theory of Evolution, there would be no modern science of biology, just as without Atomic Theory, there would be no modern physics.
    I suggest than anyone unfamiliar with these subjects start with the essay by Dobzhansky at www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/10/2/text_pop/l_102_01.html and follow up with the archive and FAQs at www.talkorigins.org.
Christian Wagner
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