long as we're on the subject of science and theology, here's a quick little
lesson in semantics that you might find useful.
who oppose the teaching of evolution in schools have a favorite phrase they like
to put on bumper stickers and the like: "Why do you think they call it a
implication is that evolution is far from being a fact. "Theory" means
that it's more in the nature of speculation, a guess yet to be proven, like the
theory that aliens killed Kennedy or fluoride in the water is part of a
a little digression, so you know where I'm coming from.
believe in evolution, because the hard evidence supporting it is overwhelming.
the other hand, the concept of "intelligent design" appeals to me in
some ways, although I happen to hold the view that there are ways that
intelligent design can be reconciled with evolution. (Not too many people feel
that way. I may even be the only one.) But the hard evidence for intelligent
design is essentially non-existent, although that might change as more work is
tell you all of this so you don't think I'm some kind of anti-religious hard-ass
who absolutely refuses to listen to any alternatives to evolution. I'll even go
a step further and tell you that there are aspects of Darwinian evolution that
trouble me, like the fact that there seem to be some tautologies in the
argument. (The fittest species always survive. But how do you know they were the
fittest? Simple: Because they survived. Umm…)
hope you now think that I've got an open mind here, because what I want to tell
you has nothing to do with the relative merits of evolution, intelligent design
or creationism. All I want to do is straighten out this business of what a
science, the word "theory" has nothing whatsoever to do with the word
"theory" when used in connection with who kidnapped the Lindbergh baby
or a "theory" about how that scratch got on your new Buick. It's a
completely different word.
scientific theory is the entire structure that is brought into play when
considering some aspect of the universe. It consists of basic, underlying themes
and principles supported by evidence based on experiment and observation.
all theories have the same power in terms of wide acceptability. The Theory of
Relativity is no longer questioned by anybody but is accepted as fact, whereas
Superstring Theory is still being widely debated and doesn't have anywhere even
approaching the consensus of relativity.
even when it comes to a controversial theory such as superstrings, the word
"theory" does not mean a wild-ass guess. It merely refers to the whole
ball of wax surrounding the topic.
simple arithmetic, which contains the most obvious and self-evident bits of
knowledge about our world, exists within a "theoretical" umbrella. The
word "theory" is used even though mathematics is one of very few
(maybe the only) fields of intellectual endeavor in which things that have been
"proven" are considered to be absolutely true, for all time, and no
longer subject to debate. Even then, those things are called
"theories" (or "theorems").
example, you know for a fact that a+ b = b + a. It's a fact. But it's also a
theory, part of the theory of arithmetic.
So when you see a bumper sticker that says "Why do you think they call it a theory?" what you're looking at is a cheap trick, a semantic con game, that only exposes the weakness of the arguments against evolution.
least that's my theory.
from: A Practical Guide for
Everyday Living, by Lee Gruenfeld
* © Copyright 1996-2005 by Steeplechase Run, Inc. - All Rights Reserved
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