In his letter of Aug. 20, Cecil Phillips cites the website dissentfromdarwin.org and a list of “scientists” that have supposedly signed on to its anti-evolution agenda. This website and the list are products of the Discovery Institute, an outfit that has long attempted to “teach the controvers” and push a religious agenda.
Are there problems or even flaws in evolutionary theory as it now stands? Of course. This is expected of any scientific theory. The theory of evolution has been revised, fine-tuned and altered on a number of occasions. For example, we now have genetic data that were unavailable 10 years ago that are helping us refine some of the findings of paleoanthropology.
There is no doubt a basic misunderstanding of science that is the root of the problem here. Science involves an unceasing attempt to disconfirm existing laws and theories, and scientists are relentless and very good at what they do. Thus, it is natural and expected for theories to be adjusted from time to time. Of course, evolutionary theory in its current iteration is not absolutely true. No scientist would ever make such a claim. It is, however, the only existing naturalistic theory of our origins and that is why it remains the fundamental organizing principle upon which all of the biological sciences are based.
Other theories that have been put forth in an attempt to explain our origins have not come close to passing empirical muster and that is why they are not taught in biology, anthropology and genetics classes in mainstream universities anywhere. All of our schools, especially schools funded by taxpayer dollars, should teach good, standard, fundamental science.
More importantly, individuals like Phillips should stop implying that the theory of evolution is controversial in scientific circles. It is not. This controversy exists only in school boards and state legislatures, since these individuals can freely pursue a religious agenda without the inconvenience of empirical substantiation.
Finally, science doesn’t really care if its findings do not agree with our personal, religious or philosophical notions regarding how we would like the world to be. Standard science, as it is practiced today, is our best attempt to understand the world as it actually is. It doesn’t have the luxury of embracing nonfalsifiable and nonempirical claims. An indication of the validity of science and the scientific method can be seen in the global consensus regarding the theories and laws of the basic sciences.
On the other hand, no such consensus exists in the domain of religious belief where approximately 10,500 different versions (at last count) compete for followers.
James Houk, Ph.D.