Part 7: So . . . is evolution scientific?
Creationists are right: experimentation and observation are important aspects of science, but this is not the whole story. The process of developing ideas (known as hypotheses), making risky predications based on those hypotheses, and then testing these against physical observations, is what forms the foundation of science. This process, called hypothesis testing, is an integral part of the scientific method (see here, here and here). I find it quite strange that in all the creationist and apologetic books I have in my collection, not one of them mention hypothesis testing when discussing science.
Biological evolution, or the idea of common decent, is scientific because we can test it by making risky predictions about what patterns we should expect to observe in the natural world (i.e., in DNA, in the fossil record, in the anatomy of living animals, etc) if evolution were true. We can also, in principle, falsify evolution by thinking about what observations we would not expect to make if evolution was true.
Although an idea can be scientifically valid, this does not mean that it is a scientific fact. Many scientific ideas have failed testing by continuously disagreeing with physical observations. I have argued that evolution is scientific, but I will also argue in the following posts that evolution has been positively confirmed by such a wealth of data that it can be safely regarded as a scientific fact as per Stephen Jay Gould's definition.
But before I move on, I want to first list my sources. Most of the information that will inform these posts originates from the website TalkOrigins, in particular Douglas Theobald's 29 Evidences for Macroevolution. This paper is quite extensive, running to almost 270 pages, so if you are keen to read it in full you can download the PDF version here. Alternatively, for something less complex, you can visit the excellent site Understanding Evolution (thanks to Lui for bringing this to my attention). I will also draw on various books I've read over the years and will reference these in specific posts.
For those of you who want to read argument against my position, take a look at Answers in Genesis and TrueOrigins. In particular you can download a critique of 29 Evidences for Macroevolution here.
Finally, I want to stress the following: I’m not a philosopher, scientist, or biologist, so if you are an academic working in science, creationism, or evolution and you feel I've misrepresented your field of study, please let me know in the comments section, at least for the benefit of other readers. Everything I write on this blog is open to correction, and I really appreciate those who bring my mistakes to my attention. And I also welcome, and hope for, healthy and respectful debate in the next couple of posts.
Now that I have outlined my story of how I came to believe in biological evolution, and provided a brief outline of what science is, I will now jump straight into the specific evidences that convinced me.
And the first revolves around the question of why we struggle to keep insects off our crops . . .
Next post: Observing is believing?
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