Re: evoluetion and facts

Martin Cohen (mcohen@UCLA.EDU)
Tue, 5 Mar 1996 23:36:38 -0700

C. Pate wrote:
> Thanks,but I can't quite buy it. A is related to B by a vast
>pattern observed in a mass of facts, including a whole realm of assumptions of
>scientific logic and methods. "evolution is a fact" communicates a mistaken (
>defensive?) absolutism, but diminishes a principle which is greater than any
>simple fact (by Lasker's definition.) An hypothesis which is repeatedly
>verfied is still an hypothesis, is it not? Maybe by that time it is a "fact of
> culture" in that it is that thoroughly accepted. But is it a fact of nature
>(inorganic or organic)? Lasker and others, whose impatience with unreasoning
> idoelogues is quite understandable, make themselves seem just as absolutist as
> the ideologues when the borrow this bit of rhetoric.
> Following Robert K. Merton, I prefer, "Fact is fact, theory is theory;
>both must interact in science. And I conclude that evolution is theory, not
>"just" theory, but good theory in that it accounts for more of the facts
>more adequately that any alternative explanation.

I will try to keep it simple. Evolution, as defined by changes in gene
frequency from one generation to the next within a population, is an
observation. That these changes over time can give rise to new species is
also an observation. Evolution is as much an observed phenomenon of nature
as is gravity. (Only the concept of gravity does not conflict with either
our notion of our place in the universe or any major religious doctrine.)
Theories are attempts to explain observations. Natural selection is one
theory of evolution. It may not fully explain evolution as a phenomenon of
nature, but it explains much of it and has led to productive research.

Martin Cohen