MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: Evolution or a greater power?

Date: Tue Sep 11 10:26:47 2001
Posted By: Dan Berger, Faculty Chemistry/Science, Bluffton College
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 999647058.Es

Do most scientists, being that they're scientists, believe in evolution or that a greater power was responsible for the creation of our earth? I am studying earth science, all the components that make up the earth. Before I learn about that, I'm most interested in how earth came to be, especially a scientist's opinion on the matter.
Many MadSci files addressing your question may be found at the MadSci Evolution FAQ. You might also check our "Meaning of Life" FAQ.

What I will do is provide a little more information, that the existing FAQs don't address. I will also provide some references.

  • "Evolution" and "a greater power" are not mutually exlusive.
  • For more, see the answer to "Why is there no category in your list of subjects labelled, 'Creation'?" from the MadSci Evolution FAQ. You should also check out the references I give below.

  • Scientists are not a monolithic bloc of people who all think alike.
  • There is at least as much diversity among scientists (as people, as "political animals," as artists, as writers, ...) as among non-scientists. Many scientists are non-believers [1]; others are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, ... of all degrees of belief or orthodoxy.

    So one scientist's opinion, on a lot of subjects (here are some of mine), may be quite different from another's.

    But the fact of evolution is NOT one of those things on which scientists disagree.

  • Evolution is a theory, but a theory is not tentative.
  • A "hypothesis" is a tentative explanation. Theories are rigorously-constructed explanations of known facts; the more facts they explain, the better-supported they are. No one who has read Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection can mistake its beautifully-rendered argument for a hypothesis. For more, see this MadSci answer (listed in our Evolution FAQ) and others linked from that answer.

    Evolution, in some form, is accepted by EVERY biologist I know of [2]. To quote the answer I linked in the previous paragraph,

    There is no question that the Earth and the Universe are very old; that the Universe is older than the Earth; and that there has been a continuous stream of life forms on the Earth for about the last 3.8 billion years. Furthermore, more complex forms of life tend to appear later in this stream than less complex ones, although of course many less complex forms have survived and developed down to the present day. All these things are known.
    Evolution is, in one sense, simply the description of these known facts. It is also an explanation of them, that says that some forms of life develop into other forms of life by some process or processes; there is still some debate on how important various processes are in this development.

  • Here are some further resources.

Dan Berger
Bluffton College

  1. I deliberately use the term "non-believer" in preference to "free-thinker". "Free-thinker" is a misnomer because it implies--against lots of historical evidence--that it's impossible to come to non-atheistic conclusions by the process of unfettered thought.

    Anyway, first catch your "unfettered thought." The notion that ideas different from those taught by [authority figure] are necessarily "unfettered" is itself in fetters of steel.

    go back

  2. I know that there are professional biologists who think "intelligent design" is a better explanation of some aspects of the development of life, but they do not deny the basic facts of evolution.

    I also know that the Institute for Creation Research has members who claim to be biologists. But that doesn't make it so. "In Biology nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution." This statement, incidentally, was made by a Christian: Theodosius Dobzhansky.

    go back

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