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Tag Archive | "Evolution"

Theory and Theory and Evolution


Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller


Nearly everyone knew certain facts as absolute truth but science evidence changed accepted knowledge. Examples of known facts that are no longer accepted: 

*The Earth is the center of the universe.

*Swallows hibernate in winter at the bottom of lakes.

*The sun moves around the Earth daily.

*The Earth is flat.

Facts change as new physical evidence is gathered. Scientific theories, however, are the most supported evidence for understanding how nature functions. They are based on experimentation with rigorous scientific challenges. Science is self-correcting. Scientists challenge experimental methods and conclusions for every finding. Conclusions must be verified with repeatable physical experimental evidence 100 percent of the time. When always supported, the conclusion can be elevated to scientific theory status.

Some supported scientific theories are atomic theory, gene theory and theory of evolution. There is another definition for theory that most people know but it has a different definition from scientific theory. 

Theory in general use is an educated guess. An example is that swallows hibernated at the bottom of lakes. Swallows gathered over lakes in fall, suddenly disappeared, and then reappeared over water in spring. The ancient idea of hibernating in lakes was an educated guess based on what people thought was occurring. Experiments could provide evidence that swallows could not be found in lake bottom mud. Putting a swallow underwater would cause it to drown. Most songbirds migrate at night so their departure was not easily noticed. 

The words theory and theory are different words with different definitions but are spelled the same. It is much like the words: bark (dog’s vocal) and bark (tree covering), bank (land along stream) and bank (financial institution), or bat (flying mammal) and bat (baseball club). Theory (scientific) and theory (hypothesis) are spelled the same but do not have the same meaning. 

I wrote about the two theory definition concepts in a December 2010 nature niche article to help clarify that a theory is not always a theory. In everyday use the word theory means a preliminary idea of what happened. “How did the accident occur”? In science, a theory is the evidence-based conclusion proving “How the accident occurred.” For scientific acceptance, it must have repeatable methods of experimentation. A scientific theory requires physical evidence as proof and is not an educated guess (hypothesis).

When the scientific community identifies something as a theory, it means scientific evidence is overwhelmingly conclusive as the one correct explanation. When new scientific experiments demonstrate a flaw in a theory, the theory must either be discarded or the flawed portion removed from the theory. 

In one of the papers (Rockford Squire) where my Nature Niche column is published, a question was posed to readers: Should creationism and evolution be taught in schools as theories? Readers provided interesting responses. The science and non-science theory definitions were not clarified. Physical scientific evidence verses faith beliefs was not addressed as to what can be accepted as science. 

Physical evidence supports the theory of evolution. Many people accept or reject it depending on the conclusion they desire regardless of evidence or lack of evidence. People often have beliefs based on perceptions without rigorous scientific experimental support. That is typical for politics and religion. Physical evidence usually will not convince people concerning politics or religion. What people want to believe takes priority.

Science and faith can complement each other. Science is about “How” the world works based on physical evidence. Religion is about “Why” the world exists. Faith is belief without supportable physical evidence. 

Should religion be dismissed because it is not supported with rigorous scientific evidence? My answer is No. There is a place for multiple realities that impact our lives. Faith should not be taught as science because it is not based on physical evidence. Science should not be taught as faith because it requires physical evidence.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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