May 4th, 2012
Darwin's Theory: Law, Fact, Theory, or Hypothesis?
The origins debate has recently made the news through the attempted placement of disclaimer stickers in school science textbooks. (Originally published in 2005) These stickers warn students that evolution is only a theory, not a fact.
At the scopes evolution trail of 1925, exactly 80 years ago this summer, one of the scientific witnesses claimed that Darwinism was not just a theory but a scientific law, as firmly established as the law of gravity. This highlights one of the big points of origins controversy – is Darwinian macroevolution a fact to be taught as truth? Is it a theory, a hypothesis, or even a scientific law? Where does it fit best?
It helps to simply go to the dictionary and look up the basic definitions of these terms. Once we have these definitions firmly in mind, the proper category for Darwinism becomes quite apparent. So, according to the Oxford English and the World Book Dictionaries, here are the definitions:
FACT – That which exists, something witnessed firsthand, a datum of experience (plural: data).
HYPOTHESIS – A tentative scientific explanation for a set of observed facts, subject to future proof (or disproof) through further observation/ experimentation. The usual progression is that a hypothesis graduates to being a theory.
THEORY – A framework of scientific explanation concerning a certain phenomenon or group of phenomena, which has gained validity by showing predictive power or explaining newly observed facts.
SCIENTIFIC LAW – A regular pattern of occurrence of natural events, so regular and predictable that there are few or no exceptions. The fewer the exceptions to a law, the better established it is.
For example, the law of gravity and the second law of thermodynamics are very well established scientific laws. No exceptions to them have ever been shown. Other examples include Newton’s laws of motion, Ohm’s law of electrical resistance, Boyle’s law of gas pressure and temperature, and so on.
With these definitions in mind, let’s go back to 1859 and consider what should have happened from that point if Darwin was right. What did he predict in the Origin of Species, either directly or by implication? To sum up briefly:
- Life could arise from non-living matter
- Fossils yet-to-be-discovered would show progression from a few simple life-forms to many kinds of complex life (the Darwinian “tree of life”).
- Thousands of transitional fossils would fill the gaps between kinds.
- Higher organisms would have useless vestigial organs left over from evolution.
- Major changes in organisms could be shown after breeding for thousands of generations.
Instead of these, the exact opposite has generally been found in each instance. Specifically:
- Life never comes from non-living matter.
- There is no such thing as “simple life” (even bacteria are complex beyond human technology).
- The fossil record still shows big gaps between major kinds of creatures, and abrupt emergence, with most major kinds going right back to the “Cambrian explosion” (just as the fossils showed in Darwin’s day).
- Nearly all organs once considered vestigial have now been found to be fully functional.
- Despite deliberate attempts, no Darwinian transformation has been reproduced by selective breeding or forced mutation (everything stubbornly reproduces “after its kind”)
So, is Darwinism a fact? Absolutely not, as no one has seen it. Is it a scientific law? Only in someone’s dream world. Is it even a good theory? No, for it has no predictive power, and has been continually at odds with new facts.
We have to conclude that it’s just a poor, tired old hypothesis that has been battered by real science for 145 years. This is the real truth that should be fully taught in all textbooks of biology.
By Dr. Dave Demick, M.D., Guest Writer
Originally Published in the September/October 2005 Think and Believe.
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