evolution and facts

Tue, 5 Mar 1996 13:55:00 PST

Pate quotes from a text by Lasker:

< Human evolution is a fact, not
<just a theory. It has the same kind of status as any other "fact" studied by
<scholars. (Gabriel Lasker, The Evolution of Man, New York: Hold, Rinehart
and Winston, 1961, p. 7.)

and comments:

"One can beg to differ on a fine but important point of philosophy of science.
How can one get all the relevant facts, the "whole picture" of evolution into
range precise enough to observe and measure? "Fact" is too small to
the grandeur of the idea of evolution! And must we force the argument into
binary polarization by counterposing "just a theory"? A theory is a theory
a theory."

Let me suggest that some of the confusion is in the use of the word
"evolution" two senses.

(1) Evolution used to refer to the fact that hominid ancestors, say about
100,000 BP are not the same, morphologically, as folks today in certain
aspects. Thus at time A hominids have, one set of characteristics and at time
B, their genetic descendants have different characteristics. The change from
A to B is evolution.

Here evolution is being used in a way in which it makes sense to say
"evolution is a fact."

(2) Evolution used to refer to the PROCESS by which change has
taken place. To assert that the process of natural selection as it is
currently understood to operate is the means by which changes have taken
place is a theory that may be subject to modification. Such modification
has already taken place e.g., with neutral mutations and
with the introduction of the idea of "inclusive fitness."

D. Read