Re: Evolution as fact

Brian Michael Howell (bmhowell@ARTSCI.WUSTL.EDU)
Fri, 8 Mar 1996 12:56:48 -0600

I've been watching this thread and generally agree with the kinds of
opinions expressed, but as the post below reflects, most people are not
really directing their thinking to high school/junior high (even
elementary) science. Very few primary and secondary teachers I have
known (and I spent several years as a fifth grade teacher) would be able
to articulate the kinds of distinctions regarding epistemology, theory,
scientific paradigm, etc. that are reflected on this list.
I agree the Tenn. Senate is wasting their time, but if their
effort actually goes through at least it may open up primary and
secondary education to the kinds of discussions regarding the nature of
science so eloquently related here.

On Thu, 7 Mar 1996, Jana Fortier wrote:

> I've been a bit bemused by this hoopla over "evolution as fact" as well.
> Since when did scientists speak of *facts* anyway? Theories, yes. But we
> normally leave *truth* to the philosophers and *facts* to the
> police/politicians. Most of us treat Darwin's theories as theories, or am I
> being too presumptuous?
> Plus,,, There's already a movement, started by quantum mechanics to show
> that Darwin's work is ready for some revisions. And there are the wonderful
> 'epistemology of science' groups who show how Darwin's work is part of the
> cultural fabric of its times, i.e., that metaphors of struggle and
> evolutionism were part of colonialism and other political forces at the time.
> Just the Theories, Ma'am (!)
> Adrian Tanner wrote:
> >I have also wondered about calling evolution a 'fact'.
> >
> >Once upon a time there was born in someone's head an 'idea'; it developed to
> >become a 'hypothesis', and later joined together to become a complex set of
> >hypotheses called a 'theory'; finally, when enough confirming observations,
> >and no disconfirming ones, had been made, it became a 'law'. To avoid
> >confusing it with it's legal namesake, it is often spoken of a 'scientific'
> >or 'natural' law.
> >
> >Evolution is such a law, rather than a fact, isn't it?
> >