Thursday, July 12, 2012

Just A Theory?

By: Matthew Chatterton

This is myth #7 from Top Ten Myths About Evolution

The most common argument I hear from creationists is "Evolution is still a theory!" The source of that argument is a simple misunderstanding of scientific terminology.

There is the colloquial definition of the word “theory” and, then, there is the scientific definition. In everyday-speech, people use the colloquial definition to mean "idea", "conjecture", "hypothesis", "guess", or "assumption".

Fact of the matter is, the scientific definition is none of the above. In a scientific context, the word “theory” means, “An explanation of a natural phenomenon, strongly supported by evidence.”

A lot of people believe that scientists have theories, their theories are proven, then the theories become laws. That is not the case. Theories do not become laws and laws do not become theories because they are two different things. Laws describe phenomena and theories explain phenomena.

A theory is only valid if there is no evidence to the contrary. Theories are constantly scrutinized and can be scrutinized because a theory must be falsifiable, meaning that it can be proven wrong. The implication of this is that the longer a theory has been around, the more scrutiny it has faced. The more scrutiny a theory has faced and still endured, the stronger it must be.

The theory of Evolution by means of natural selection has been around 1859. It has, by the time of this writing, endured 153 years of relentless scrutiny. At the point one brings attention to this simple fact, a creationist may say, "And after all this time, it's still a theory!"

Yes, it is still a theory. Gravity is still a theory! Germs are still a theory! Atoms are still a theory! Electricity is still a theory!

They are all still theories because they have withstood all scrutiny so far. If they had been disproved, they would no longer be valid theories. The fact that evolution is still a theory speaks to its strength, not its weakness. Do you know what you call a theory that's 100% proven? A theory...

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