Can you believe in a sientific theory such as evolution?
All scientific theorems have not been, and cannot be, proved factual in the same way as mathematical theorems, and yet common sense and reason treats it as a fact. Many Scientific theorems are proved beyond reasonable doubt to all, but ill-informed observers, by a mass of quantative evidence.
For instance; almost everyone believes that planet earth uses and needs solar energy, the energy radiated by the sun. Without this energy all life on planet earth would cease to exist. Without the heat and light from the sun plants and animals would die, everything would freeze. Almost nothing could survive in this hostile environment.
Denying that the sun is needed for survival is absurd. People don’t hesitate to say that they believe it even though it has never been proven in the same way a mathematical statement can be proven. But yet one would not deny the necessity of solar energy.
Science assumes the availability of logic and empirical evidence in order to function. Mathematics is a priori as you can know something to be true before you look for evidence such as a triangle having three sides, you don’t need to find ever triangle in the world to prove this.
To a mathematician, a proof is a logical demonstration that a conclusion necessarily follows from axioms that are assumed. For instance, Pythagoras’ theorem is necessarily true, although we must assume that Euclidean axioms such as the axom that parallel lines never meet. There is no need to measure thousands of right angles to try and find the one that falsifies Pythagoras’ Theorem as it is simply true, although it can never be definitively proved, it will never be disproved.
The same is true of evolution. Evolution will not be proved, it can not be proved. But does this mean that you can’t believe it?
I believe that the earth uses solar energy and that humanity would cease to exist without it. It has not been proved to me, and it won’t be. Yet I still believe in it as it is far beyond reasonable doubt, much like Evolution. There is as much evidence of evolution as there is of solar energy (I will examine this evidence later) but religion has held it back. Religion is powerful, it is a prominent part of many peoples lives but the evangelical wings can be dangerous. The truth is that all leading member of the church of England believe in Evolution, the Pope had no problem with it (apart from the exact moment when the human soul was first placed), as Pope John Paul II stated in 1996:
“In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points…. Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favour of the theory.”
The creationists voice has never been louder and more robust, especially with the growth of Islam in the western world and evangelical churchs in the southern states of the USA. As I theist I see evolution as a point of majesty, something at which I am at ore. As far as I’m concerned it is one of the ultimate signs of Gods existence. As Richard Harries wrote in a joint article in the Sunday Times (2004): “Evolution is a fact, and from a Christian perspective, one of the greatest of Gods works”.
It was Bertrand Russell who said; “we may have all come into existence five minutes ago, provided with readymade memories, with holes in our socks and hair that needs cutting”. Russell is right here, arguing against evolution in the 21st Century is much like this. There is now so much evidence in support for evolution, I would claim it is a fact.
Before I proceed I want to look at what a fact is, as many theists claim that you can’t believe in evolution as it has not been proven, it is not infact, a fact (facts are where we get our beliefs). As we have seen above, evolution can’t be proven in the sense of a definitive undeniable fact as its not a mathematical statement. But if you were to look up “fact” in the Oxford Dictionary, you would find this definition: “a thing that is known, or proved to be true”. By this definition evolution is a fact as it has, on a level of logic and reason, been proved to be true. This definition is however too vague, so for the sake of this argument I propose two definitions of the word “fact”:
“Fact 1″: A mathematical Statement, something that can be definitively proven.
“Fact 2″: Much like the Oxford Dictionary definition, a thing that can be proved to be true by a mass of reliable scientific evidence, the application of logic and the application of reason.
Under the definition of “Fact 1″ Evolution has to be rejected as a belief. But not under the definition of “Fact 2″ by which evolution is most defiantly something one can believe.
Genes are what determine the traits of living organisms, they are themselves made up of strands of DNA and RNA. It is genes which make up chromosomes which inturn make up cells (there are 25000 to 30000 Genes in every cell). It is genes which carry the inherent characteristics which distinguish animals, humans and plants a like. It is the combination of your parents genes which determine your height, your eye colour etc.
Although Charles Darwin wrote of gene like entity’s (he called them gemmule) they were not truly discovered until 1940 when DNA was identified as genetic material.
The Gene pool is quite literally what makes up all animals, plants and humans. It is the evolution of these gene pools which evolve species. The easiest way to see this is by looking to dogs; It was originally thought that the majority of dogs have evolved from Jackals, but the discovery of DNA showed that dogs have actually evolved from wolves not Jackals, Foxes or Coyotes. In recent years, since the discovery of genes, humans have been breeding pedigree dogs. We have had the power to mould the perfect dog, we can narrow the nose, widen the legs and thicken the fur. This is down to genes and shows evolution taking place at a noticeable speed.
The speed at which dogs have been evolved by humans in such a short space of time is staggering. In a Century dogs have been made larger, faster and stronger. If these staggering changes can take place that quickly, then just imagine the changes that can take place given millions, if not thousands of millions of years.
It is because of the discovery of genes that genetic engineering of human beings is now theoretically most possible, if not illegal. We have bred dogs for looks and strength, we have utilised our knowledge of genes to breed cows that produce huge quantities of milk or the best quality meat. The beef and milk that are consumed by the wester world has been genetically modified through breeding. There is therefore a wide consensus among scientists that, given a few lifetimes the perfect sportsman could be produced or even the perfect musician.