Theory vs. fact [was Not just in Kansas, Anymore...]

Mary Barkworth Mary at BIOLOGY.USU.EDU
Sat Jul 28 14:04:56 CDT 2001

Well, I admit I had to think a bit because I am so used to the

The fact is that the apricot falls. The theory of gravity offers an
explanation of why it falls. 
The falling of the apricot is one of many facts that led Newton to come
up with a general theory to explain why things fall (and a few other
things as well).  
Biological organisms differ.  The theory of evolution offers an
explanation of why they differ.  The explanation involves mutation and
natural selection, not just natural selection. It has been found to have
great predictive power and explanatory power.  

The developmental sequence of change is probably theory in my book; the
differences between the organisms would be facts.  That does not mean
that I think the developmental sequence being postulated is fiction,
just that I see it as resulting from interpretation of facts. Someone
else might, using different facts or another theory, interpret the
sequence differently, but there would be a rational reason for the
difference in interpretation and the facts themselves would be the same.
Of course, if new tools show the facts to have been based on
misinterpretation of observations, then both interpretations need
re-evaluation - and new tools could, conceivably lead to recognition
that some of the facts were incorrect interpretations of observations.  


-----Original Message-----
From: Eric Dunbar [mailto:erdunbar at YAHOO.COM]
Sent: Saturday, July 28, 2001 1:34 PM
Subject: Theory vs. fact [was Not just in Kansas, Anymore...]

Alright, let's enlighten a young, naive student like me. What exactly is
difference between theory and fact, and *what* would lend support to
referring to evolution as a fact, rather than as a theory?

A ripe apricot hanging on a tree, falling through the air (meeting air
resistance) and then splatting on the ground was and is affected by
acting upon it (gravity, theory of).

A sequence of changes between organisms (lets say number of vertebrae or
developmental steps of a human vs. an amphibian) is described as what?
Is it
described as evolution (ergo fact?) or is such a sequence of change
of evolution (theory of?)? Or, is such a breakdown too simple?

Eric Dunbar.

> From: Mary Barkworth <Mary at BIOLOGY.USU.EDU>
> Reply-To: Mary Barkworth <Mary at BIOLOGY.USU.EDU>
> Date: Sat, 28 Jul 2001 13:09:56 -0600
> Subject: Re: Not just in Kansas, Anymore....
> I learned of the THEORY of gravitation, the THEORY of relativity.  I
> no problem about talking about the THEORY of evolution. Being a theory
> does not imply that it is not reliable. I hope that aircraft designer
> are familiar with the theory of gravitation (not to mention a few
> others).  I am really bothered with the concept of teaching evolution
> fact.  Please note that I mention it as a theory in the same context
> the theory of gravity.

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