So I've been busy elsewhere and this Fundie IDiot starts in on Creationism. It's uncommonally wrongheaded to expect me to ignore such moronic pap. So I go and post the below
Evolution is often said to be both theory and fact. This statement, or something similar, is popular among biology literature.  In scientific terms, the word "theory" differs widely from the common, vernacular conception of the same word.
The Terminology of Science
|A "fact" in science is an observation.||A "theory" in science is an explanation of the observations.|
Scientists use many specialized terms, frequently attributing to common words meanings foreign to the layperson. In particular,
- A fact is an observation or a piece of data. It is a measurement or some evidence or the result of an experiment. For example, there are many observations of gravity and measurements of gravity. Every time an apple is dropped and it falls, an observation of gravity has been made. Gravity is measured every time something is weighed. So gravity can be described by scientists as a fact. This is because there is a collection of gravity observations that need to be explained. And observations are facts in scientific language.
- Theories in science are different from facts. Scientific theories describe the coherent framework into which observable data fit. There have been many theories that attempt to explain the fact of gravity. That is, scientists ask what is gravity, and what causes it. They develop a model to explain gravity, a theory of gravity. Predictions can be made based on this theory. Many explanations of gravity that qualify as a Theory of Gravity have been proposed over the centuries: Aristotle's, Galileo's, Newton's, and now Einstein's. So gravity is also a theory. In science, current theory is the theory that has yet to be falsified, that is there have been no observations made which contradict it to this point and, indeed, every observation ever made either supports current theory or at least does not falsify it (see Karl Popper). In no case did gravity disappear when a new theory was created; instead, the explanation for gravity was refined and improved.
Carefully examining these two descriptions of the words "fact" and "theory" in a scientific context reveals a source of confusion when discussing gravity. Gravity is referred to as both a "fact" and a "theory". Gravity is a "fact" because it has been observed, and observations are "facts" in scientific language. Gravity is also the name of the explanation for this "fact" and other evidence, or "facts". And scientific explanations are called "theories" in the language of science. So gravity is also a "theory", as well as a "fact".
The word "gravity" has been assigned to two different things, a "theory" and a "fact". It might appear confusing and disingenuous to refer to gravity as both a "theory" and a "fact", but it is accurate. Gravity is an observable "fact". How and why gravity pulls on objects is the subject of a Theory of Gravity. A Theory of Gravity is subject to rigorous scientific study, and it might be replaced with another "theory" (see paradigm shift or scientific revolution). It is common to refer to the currently accepted "theory" of gravity as The Theory of Gravity. The validity of the statement that gravity exists remains unchanged, no matter what "theory" is most widely accepted, or even if no "theory" exists at that moment.
Scientific terminology applied to evolution
The terms "fact" and "theory" can be applied to evolution, just as they are to gravity. This terminology has been used to dispute the validity of evolution, which results from a misunderstanding of how those terms are applied to evolution.
In the study of biological species, the "facts" include fossils and measurements of these fossils. The location of a fossil is an example of a "fact" (using the scientific meaning of the word "fact"). In species that rapidly reproduce, for example fruit flies, the process of evolutionary change has been observed in the laboratory. The observation of fruit fly populations changing character is also an example of a "fact", using the scientific meaning of the word "fact". So evolution is a "fact", at least using the scientific meaning of the word "fact". These "facts" need an explanation, just like the observations of gravity did.
In biology, there have been many attempts to explain these observations over the years. Lamarckism, Transmutationism and Orthogenesis were all nonDarwinian "theories" that attempted to explain the observations of species and fossils and other evidence. However, the explanation for all relevant observations regarding the development of life is called the Theory of Evolution. The "theory" of evolution is based on a model that explains all the available data and observations. Thus evolution is not only a "fact" but also a "theory", just as gravity is both a "fact" and a "theory".
|Things falling is an observation of the pull of bodies towards each other.||Fruit flies changing generation to generation is an observation of generational organism change.|
|Bodies pulling towards each other is called gravity.||Organisms changing generation to generation is called evolution.|
|Gravity is a "fact".||Evolution is a "fact".|
|An explanation for the "facts" of gravity.||An explanation for the "facts" of evolution.|
|Aristotle and Galileo created explanations of the "fact" of gravity. These are now obsolete explanations.||Lamarckism, Transmutationism and Orthogenesis were created as explanations of the "fact" of evolution. These are now obsolete explanations.|
|Newton's explanation of gravity is approximately correct but required refinement.||Darwin's explanation of evolution is approximately correct, but required refinement.|
|Einstein's explanation is a refinement of Newton's explanation of gravity. Einstein's explanation is currently the most accepted explanation of the "fact" of gravity.||The Neo-Darwinist explanation is a refinement of Darwin's explanation of evolution. Neo-Darwinism is currently the most accepted explanation of the "fact" of evolution.|
|Einstein's explanation of the "fact" of gravity is called the Theory of Gravity.||The Neo-Darwinist explanation of the "fact" of evolution is called the Theory of Evolution.|
|Gravity is a "fact" and a "theory."||Evolution is a "fact" and a "theory."|
Evolution as theory and fact in the literature
- Evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.
Similarly, Neil Campbell writes in his 1990 biology textbook,
- Today, nearly all biologists acknowledge that evolution is a fact. The term theory is no longer appropriate except when referring to the various models that attempt to explain how life evolves... it is important to understand that the current questions about how life evolves in no way implies any disagreement over the fact of evolution.
Biologist Ernst Mayr states,
- The basic theory of evolution has been confirmed so completely that most modern biologists consider evolution simply a fact. How else except by the word evolution can we designate the sequence of faunas and floras in precisely dated geological strata? And evolutionary change is also simply a fact owing to the changes in the content of gene pools from generation to generation.
Biologist Richard Lenski writes,
- Scientific understanding requires both facts and theories that can explain those facts in a coherent manner. Evolution, in this context, is both a fact and a theory. It is an incontrovertible fact that organisms have changed, or evolved, during the history of life on Earth. And biologists have identified and investigated mechanisms that can explain the major patterns of change.
This theme arises over and over again in the biological literature in different guises. Carl Sagan wrote "Evolution is a fact, not a theory". American zoologist and paleontologist George Simpson, stated that "Darwin...finally and definitely established evolution as a fact." R. C. Lewontin wrote, "It is time for students of the evolutionary process, especially those who have been misquoted and used by the creationists, to state clearly that evolution is a fact, not theory." Douglas Futuyama writes in his book, "the statement that organisms have descended with modifications from common ancestors--the historical reality of evolution--is not a theory. It is a fact, as fully as the fact of the earth's revolution about the sun." H. J. Muller states, "If you like, then, I will grant you that in an absolute sense evolution is not a fact, or rather, that it is no more a fact than that you are hearing or reading these words." Kenneth R. Miller writes, "evolution is as much a fact as anything we know in science."
The issue was brought before the courts In 1986, when an amicus curiae brief asking the US Supreme Court to reject a Louisiana state law requiring the teaching of creationism in the case Edwards v. Aguillard was signed by 72 US Nobel Prize winners, 17 state academies of science and 7 other scientific societies. The brief provides a detailed argument which it summarises in the following statement:
- The Act's unconstitutional purpose is also evident in its requirement that both "creation-science" and "evolution-science" be taught as "theory" and not as "proven scientific fact." To a scientist or a science educator, the distinction between scientific theories and scientific facts is well understood. A "fact" is a property of a natural phenomenon. A "theory" is a naturalistic explanation for a body of facts. That distinction permeates all fields of scientific endeavor. It is no more relevant to discussions of the origin of the universe and life than to any other area of research. By singling out one topic in science – "origins" – for special treatment, the legislature conveys the false message that the prevailing theory of "origins" – evolutionary theory – is less robust and reliable than all other scientific concepts. This misleadingly disparaging treatment of evolution confirms that the Act favors a particular religious belief.
- Speculative or conjectural explanations are called hypotheses. Well-tested explanations are called theories.
- "Theories" are not "true" in science, at least in the regular sense of the word "true". "True" "theories" only are "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent." 
- A scientific law is a concept related to a scientific theory. Very well-established "theories" that rely on a simple principle are often called scientific "laws". For example, it is common to encounter reference to the "law of natural selection" or the "laws of evolution."
- ^ a b Evolution is a Fact and a Theory, Laurence Moran, Talkorigins, 1993
- ^ a b c Stephen Jay Gould, " Evolution as Fact and Theory"; Discover, Volume 2, Number 5, May 1981, p. 34-37, reprinted in Speak Out Against The New Right, Herbert F. Vetter (Editor), Beacon Press, 1982, ISBN: 0807004863, Beacon Press, January 1982, ISBN: 0807004871 and by Fenestra Books, October 31, 2004 ISBN: 1587363577 and also in Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, Stephen Jay Gould, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, editions printed April 1983, November 28, 1984 and April 1994, pp. 253-262 ISBN: 0393017168
- ^ a b R. C. Lewontin "Evolution/Creation Debate: A Time for Truth" Bioscience 31, 559 (1981) reprinted in "Evolution versus Creationism,", Peter Zetterberg ed., ORYX Press, Phoenix AZ 1983
- ^ a b Neil A. Campbell, Biology 2nd ed., 1990, Benjamin/Cummings, p. 434
- ^ Helena Curtis and N. Sue Barnes, Biology 5th ed. 1989, Worth Publishers, p. 972
- ^ a b Douglas J. Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology, 2nd ed., 1986, Sinauer Associates, p. 15
- ^ a b H. J. Muller, "One Hundred Years Without Darwin Are Enough" School Science and Mathematics 59, 304-305. (1959) reprinted in "Evolution versus Creationism", Peter Zetterberg ed., ORYX Press, Phoenix AZ 1983
- ^ Theodosius Dobzhansky "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution", American Biology Teacher vol. 35 (March 1973) reprinted in "Evolution versus Creationism", J. Peter Zetterberg ed., ORYX Press, Phoenix AZ 1983
- ^ a b "Evolution: Fact and Theory", Richard E. Lenski, American Institute of Biological Sciences, 2000.
- ^ Fact and theory misconception, Adrian Barnett
- ^ a b Carl Sagan, "Cosmos," Random House, Page 27.
- ^ a b Mayr, E. (1988), "Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA USA.
- ^ a b George Simpson, a famous American zoologist, stated that "Darwin...finally and definitely established evolution as a fact," quoted in G. Bowden & J. Collyer, "Quotable Quotes for Creationists," Creation Science Movement, Pamphlet # 228, 1982-JAN, Page 1.
- ^ Nobel Prize Winner German biologist Hermann J. Muller, circulated a petition entitled: "Is Biological Evolution a Principle of Nature that has been well established by Science?", in May of 1966:
- There are no hypotheses, alternative to the principle of evolution with its “tree of life,” that any competent biologist of today takes seriously. Moreover, the principle is so important for an understanding of the world we live in and of ourselves that the public in general, including students taking biology in high school, should be made aware of it, and of the fact that it is firmly established, even as the rotundity of the earth is firmly established.
- ^ A scientific fact is obtained by objective observation or measurement, usually under controlled conditions. However, a fact does not mean absolute certainty in science. Facts can have error bars due to measurement errors.
- ^ A theory is an attempt to identify and describe relationships between phenomena or things, and generates falsifiable predictions which can be tested through controlled experiments and empirical observation.
- ^ T. Dobzhansky, & O. Pavlovsky, "An experimentally created incipient species of Drosophilia", Nature 23, P. 289-292 (1971)
- ^ The fish tilapia has also been observed to evolve in the field (Franck et al, 1990; M. Losseau-Hoebeke, 1992).
- ^ Fact and theory denote the epistemological status of knowledge; that is, how the knowledge was obtained, what sort of knowledge it is. For more information, see the article on physical law.
- ^ "Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution," Kenneth R. Miller, Cliff Street Books, HarperCollins, New York, NY USA, 1999.
- ^ State of Oklahoma. 2003. House Bill HB1504: Schools; requiring all textbooks to have an evolution disclaimer; codification; effective date; emergency. states that evolution is "just a theory".
- ^ Refuting Evolution II, Jonathan Sarfati, Michael Matthews, Master Books, a division of New Leaf Press, Green Forest, Arkansas, 2002.
- ^ AMICUS CURIAE BRIEF OF 72 NOBEL LAUREATES, 17 STATE ACADEMIES OF SCIENCE, AND 7 OTHER SCIENTIFIC ORGANIZATIONS, IN SUPPORT OF APPELLEES, ROBERT A. KLAYMAN, WALTER B. SLOCOMBE, JEFFREY S. LEHMAN, BETH SHAPIRO KAUFMAN, Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered, One Thomas Circle, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005, (202) 862-5000, Attorneys for Amici Curiae
- J.P. Franck, et al., "Evolution of a satellite DNA family in tilapia." Annual Meeting Canadian Federation of Biological Societies. Halifax, (1990).
- M. Losseau-Hoebeke, "The biology of four haplochromine species of Lake Kivu (Zaire) with evolutionary implications." Thesis, Dept Ichthyology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, (1992).
- Scientific Fact
- Scientific Theory
- Theory vs. Fact (in Creation-evolution controversy)
- Misunderstandings (in evolution)
- Evolution is just a theory, not a fact (in objections to evolution)
- Not Just a Theory Discredits the assertion that evolution is "just a theory", with an explanation of the meaning of the word 'theory' in a scientific context.
- Parody website satirizing theory and fact statements
- Talk Origins Response to the claim that no examples of speciation have been observed.
Q. Lots of people say that evolution is just a theory. Are they all wrong?
A. They are wrong in the sense that they are trying to argue that evolution is not real by exploiting the multiple meanings of the word theory. If they are supposed to be knowledgable in this area, then they are doing it deliberately and disingenuously. If they want to argue against evolution, they shouldn't have to resort to what is essentially an untruth. The Theory of Evolution has over 150 years of actual, scientifically tested and verified supportive evidence. In science, things don't get proven, they get supported.
And this needs to be seen -
By Matt McGrath
BBC Environment reporter
The fuel, made from fructose, contains far more energy than ethanol, the scientists write in the journal Nature.
Separately, a British report on biofuels says all types of waste products, including plastic bags, can be used to make biodiesel fuel.
Critics of biofuels made from plant crops say they drive up food prices.
In both the European Union and the United States politicians have heartily embraced biofuels as a way of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and dependency on imported oil.
Critics say that the current biofuels, both diesel made from palm oil and ethanol made from corn, encourage farmers to switch land to fuel production, driving up the price of food in the process.
Now scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison say that a simple sugar called fructose can be converted into a fuel that has many advantages over ethanol.
The scientists say that fructose can be obtained directly from fruits and plants or made from glucose.
But more work needs to be done to assess the environmental impact of this new fuel.
In Britain, researchers say that the technology now exists to create biodiesel not just from palm oil but from a range of materials including wood, weeds and plastic bags.
This process is called biomass to liquid and experts say that within six years up to 30% of Britain's diesel requirements could be met from this source.
Jeremy Tomkinson of the UK's National Non-Food Crops Centre said this next generation of biofuels could meet many needs beyond powering cars.
"The impact on society we're hoping will be far wider than simply 'we can give you a fuel now with a tenfold reduction in it's carbon footprint'.
"Imagine now if chemicals that we use in the chemical industry also came from the same feed stock, the aircraft that we fly to New York in also runs on this? There's the big potential," he said.
The biggest drawback to this process is cost.Setting up new production facilities is estimated to be ten times higher than for current biofuel refineries.
Maybe we can laugh at the Chimp's veto against Stem Cell research tomorrow ...