[thechat] Darwin was (Re: Mythology)

Judah McAuley judah at wiredotter.com
Thu May 24 17:21:12 CDT 2001

At 05:34 PM 5/24/01 -0400, Matt wrote:
> > And concerning whether or not science is a religion, I don't know.
> > But I do know that Evolution is still classified as a theory, not
> > a fact, and even Darwin publicly stated that he regretted
> > publishing such an obviously inaccurate theory.
>AFAIK, he simply co-founded the theory of natural selection and
>evolution was a later finding that stemmed from this. Though, I do
>remember a book by him entitled The Anscestry of Man or something
>like that, so I could be wrong.
>Clarification, anyone? Thanks.

Darwin's big book was entitled "The Origin of Species" (available online 
at: http://www.literature.org/authors/darwin-charles/the-origin-of-species/)

Darwin didn't invent the idea of Evolution.  The fact that species change 
(or evolve) was pretty well accepted in the scientific mainstream by 
Darwins time.  There were also people who were questioning the age of the 
Earth.  As a matter of fact, Darwin was heavily influenced by the work of 
Charles Lyle (a geologist) who worked on fossils.

Darwins big contribution was the idea species could be created by the 
process of descent with modification, which we now call natural 
selection.  This, simply stated, is that some organisms survive better than 
others and that the things that cause them to survive better are passed on 
to their offspring.  Therefore, the organisms that change as the 
environment change are going to survive best and are going to have more 
offspring.  And, importantly, he claimed that this process alone was enough 
to cause speciation, or the creation of new species.  This undermined the 
biblical idea that all the species of the Earth were formed at creation and 
the species are immutable.  This is the reason that the book was entitled 
"The Origin of Species" instead of evolution or something else.  The big 
controversy at the time was wether those fossils represented different 
species that had died out and whether our modern species existed 
contemporaneously with the fossils or whether they have come into existence 
since Creation.

And to clarify, Evolution is classified as a theory as are all explanatory 
ideas put forth by science.  Rule #1 of the Scientific Method 
(traditionally) is that you can never prove a theory true, you can only 
disprove it.  The reason is that it only takes one counter example to 
disprove a theory.  A theory could only be proved by eliminating all 
possible counter examples.  Due to our limits in knowledge, this can never 
be assured.  Therefore you cannot prove anything to be absolutely 
true.  For convenience, we tend to believe something if there is an 
overwhelming amount of evidence in favor of a theory and a general lack of 
credible counter examples.  But if someone comes forward with a counter 
example, then its back to the drawing board.


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