Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
Correct. Do you think it has been proven?
Please note that I used the word "proof" in quotes before, and I did that for a reason. Too often this word is taken as meaning "100%, no way out of it, everything else absolutely ruled out" -- and that's not what science is about.
Science is about preponderance of evidence, about finding consistent patterns, about finding the best explanation you can that fits available data.
I would re-ask the question this way: Has evolution proven to be the best explanation so far for the diversity of life as it exists now, the geographic distribution and genetic make-up of life as it exists now, and for the fossil record of life in the past?
To that question, I'd say the answer is a resounding yes. Two "yeses" actually, because there are two meanings of "evolution" to deal with -- the what and the how of evolution.
The "what" of evolution is the basic time line of life on this planet, running over a course of billions of years, showing many species to have come and gone, showing changes over time with much of that change being gradual shifts in the forms of living creatures, with many species appearing in the fossil record looking like variations upon previously existing species. Let's call this "what" "historical evolution".
The "how" of evolution is the mechanism or mechanisms proposed to explain the "what" of evolution. While scientists still debate the specifics and the relative importance of various mechanisms, the overall consensus can be summed up as descent with modification mediated by natural selection. Let's call this "how" the "theory of evolution".
My greatest impatience with those who deny evolution is when they deny historical evolution. You want to believe that only God or alien robots from Andromeda are smart enough to have managed creating all these life forms? Go ahead, knock yourself out. But denying historical
evolution takes either incredible ignorance or irrational denial.
Of course, anyone can deny anything that isn't right in front of their faces -- some can manage to maintain their denial even then -- so the mere fact that someone can hold out against whatever references to evidence another person might bring forth is hardly surprising.
Please answer me this: Do you outright deny science any say over the historical? When you clamor that evolution hasn't been tested, what, in your mind, constitutes a test for any historical event?
Hypothesis: George Washington was the first president of the United States.
Test: What goes here? This idea simply can't be tested? Believing that George Washington was the first President can't be anything other than a mere matter of faith?
If you applied the same standards to "proving" Washington's presidency that you apply to evolution, it's as if the only valid proof would be re-creating the revolutionary United States in a laboratory, watching it for a few years, and checking to see if Washington becomes President again. If you applied the same standard to "proving" a murder case, you'd be demanding that forensic scientists make the suspect re-kill the same victim he's accused of killing.
If you can't accept that valid "testing" includes examination of existing artifacts and data -- the chemistry of ink in historical documents, DNA sampling of blood stains found in a carpet, fossils found in a dry lake bed -- and that validation comes from finding patterns and significant correlations among those artifacts and data, that validation comes from making prediction of what kinds of things you expect to find later and then indeed finding those thing... if you can't accept this, you're essentially saying that the past is closed off to science, and that science can only speak to the immediate present.
If you do accept this kind of testing and validation and don't wish to close off the past to science -- for everything except
historical evolution -- then you're merely exhibiting a hostile prejudice against this particular area of science.
I'll have to get to the theory part of evolution later.