Saturday, July 19, 2008

What is a Scientific Theory?

Lauri Lebo, author of The Devil in Dover, has more to say on another topic I'd like to quote. Those who argue against evolution often say that it is just a theory, implying that it isn't proven, isn't the basis for much of current science. She has a couple of good quotes on that topic that might be of use if you find yourself arguing with a creationist.

From page 151: "At one point Rothschild [plaintiff's lawyer] reminded Behe [defense witness] of National Academy of Science's definition of a scientific theory: 'A well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses."

From page 115: "Dr. [Ken] Miller [plaintiff witness], isn't evolution just a theory?" Walczak [plaintiff's lawyer] asked at one point in the testimony, emphasizing the word, 'just'.
Miller answered with the same patience and earnestness he might direct to a bright but confused student. 'Evolution is just a theory,' Miller said, ' in the same way that the atomic theory of matter is just a theory, the Copernican theory of the solar system is just a theory, or the germ theory of disease is just a theory. But theories...are not hunches, they're not unproven speculation. Theories are systems of explanations which are strongly supported by factual observations and which [explain] ... whole sets of facts and experimental results."

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