Theorizing about theories

Recently, Casey Luskin has started a series of blogs discussing the validity of the “evolution is just a theory” claim that some ID proponents make.  Luskin spends quite a bit of time going over various dictionary definitions for the word “theory”. I really don’t understand all this pining over the definition of a word.


The key here is that during these arguments over the various definitions of theory, it is obvious that evolutionary theory has risen above your everyday theory. It has withstood the last 150 years of scientific scrutiny with ever increasing amounts of supporting data.  ID/creationists know this, but they still want to use it as a talking point.


To be honest, I frankly don’t care about this whole debate.  Nothing bugs me more than to see an ID/creationist make this argument.  It is simple semantics and nothing more. The focus should not be on the definition of theory, it should be on the facts that support the theory. Other bloggers have given this topic more attention that I (including skepticon and airtightnoodle).  I applaud them for doing so because it is a tool that has been used repeatedly.  As skepticon says:


It’s been the catch cry of pseudo-scientists and the ideologically driven who attempt to undermine the public’s perception of scientific evidence and push their own pet alternative. 

Still, it is so easy to point out that the theory of gravity, big bang theory, plate tectonic theory, and the theory of relativity, all have the word theory attached to them.  How many ID proponents would argue that they are just theories.  In my experience, every argument along these lines ends up saying that these other theories are completely different and are completely accepted.  Of course, this is just another moving the goal posts fallacy from the evolution deniers. 


But why does the general public usually buy into this hypocrisy?  As Luskin states (quoting from a The Scientist article, emphasis mine):


public discontent with classical evolution as an inclusive theory stems parly from an intuitive appreciation of its limits 


This is one of the main reasons, I believe, that people do not accept evolution. Humans cannot really comprehend the imponderable timescales required to produce the vast diversity of life that is currently residing on this planet.  However, just because something doesn’t make intuitive sense doesn’t mean it is wrong, also known as the argument from personal disbelief. 


As an aside, Luskin uses the term “Darwin-skeptic” throughout this post. This is a term that I have not encountered before, but appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to provide some legitimacy to ID/creation. This new term seems to put all the burden of proof on evolutionists and none on intelligent design proponents. It seems just like an extension of the “teach the weaknesses” methodology.



2 Responses

  1. Thanks for linking to me! 🙂

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