Does "The Theory of Evolution" actually exist?

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MetalMann

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You should look up the word "theory."

Our existence is only a theory. We have very little to go back on to see the evolution of man or even the universe. No one will ever know how it came to be. That's because there's only "theories" and not proven facts.
 

tiny

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Natural selection was pretty much Darwin's baby and he was certainly proud of it. I'm sure he would have been happy to know this hypothisis was still going strong 150 years later.
It's not merely a hypothesis. A hypothesis is an idea that needs testing in order to be proven or disproven.

Theories are purely speculation, and shoved on the table for the scientific community and curious onlookers to play with at will.
The word "theory" can be ambiguous, but when applied to "the theory of evolution" it's absolutely the opposite of pure speculation. It is a "theory" because it is well-supported by empirical evidence and testing which supports the theory.

Scientists can make mistakes and theories are occasionally revised and/or tweaked when new information comes to light, but there is always some evidence to support a theory.

And when tests by millions of scientists consistently back up the claims of the hypothesis, one has to consider the distinct possibility that this theory provides knowledge, not mere speculation.



This is in contrast to Creationist or Intelligent Design hypotheses, which are not theories because they have not been (and are not capable of being) tested. The idea that there is an invisible teapot orbiting the earth is on the same level as these religious hypotheses. No evidence has been put forward in either case, so it would be strange to a made-up idea without having some reason to do so.

If you ask which theory of evolution they are talking about you tend to get branded as a creationist.
Newtonian physics was (and still is) pretty good at explaining how objects' forces, masses and acceleration are related. His Laws of Motion can be considered theories because they accurately explain observable and testable phenomena in the real world.

However, Einstein's theories of relativity demonstrate that Newtonian physics is not perfectly accurate because, for example, time dilation caused by massive bodies is not accounted for.

GPS and sat-navs would be uselessly inaccurate if we did not understand Einstein and relied on Newton's theories. And, undoubtedly, there may be minor revisions to Einstein's theories as our scientific tests become more accurate and our knowledge of the world increases. It is not safe to assume that any theory is "perfect" and complete because we do not have complete and perfect knowledge of the universe.

Nevertheless, both Newton and Einstein help to explain how the world works. We trust them enough to make aeroplanes and rockets which fly as predicted, and all manner of other inventions. Tests can be performed which reliably and rigorously back up these ideas, even if there are very minor inaccuracies.

So, when we talk about "the theory of gravity", whose theory are we talking about? Newton's? Einstein's? Some combination of the two, along with some conjectures/hypotheses which we subsequently discover to be true?

The fact that there is no single theory of gravity does not lead us to conclude that gravity does not exist. And the fact that we may have much to learn about the nature of space-time does not make me consider the possibility that gravity is simply due to the downward force exerted by invisible tea pouring onto the earth from the invisible celestial teapot.

It's possible that there is a celestial teapot, and it's possible that Creationism is true and god deliberately planted fossils to confuse us and make us believe false theories of evolution... But, on the balance of probability, it makes much more sense to believe in evolution as a tentative fact, whilst also being open to the possibility that new information may cause us to modify that theory.

I remember someone saying to me once, "You need to keep an open mind... but not so open that your brain falls out."

Think about it. "Natural selection" has taken a fast back burner and most are procreating for amusement, lack of birth control, etc.
Hasn't that always been the case for all species that ever existed? Only humans have tried to interfere with natural selection, as with Eugenics which caused Hitler to wipe millions of Jews off the map. Or in places/times where/when interracial marriages, or marriages between different castes or social classes were considered taboo.

(Random pondering: What do Creationists imagine their cars run on...?)
 
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Drifter

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First, evolution is as close to a fact as anything in science. We can be as confident that evolution explains the diversity of life on the planet as we are about the existence of gravity. There is no significant dispute of that among scientists. The evidence is simply overwhelming, from fossils to nucleic acids. We certainly don't know all the details, but we know that's what happened. There is some argument to be had over those details, of course. There's actually not a lot of evidence to suggest that Darwin himself proposed the idea of phyletic gradualism, nor does that idea hold much traction today.
Anyways, as far as the original question goes, I guess it depends on who you ask. Scientists actually agree on a lot of the details of evolution that we've worked out. I'm not sure I think that evolution is taking on the qualities of a myth. If it is, I'm guessing it's a symptom of a general misunderstanding of how science works and what evolution is. It's certainly not too uncommon to find people who used to be creationists changing their minds in university or whatever, just because they had never had evolution actually explained to them in a clear way. If there's anything I've observed as a scientist, it's that a lot of the general population don't really have a good feel for what science is and why we do things the way we do.
You've shifted gears here a bit. Evolution means change and I think nearly everyone would agree that evolution is a continuously ongoing process affecting everything in the universe, living or inanimate. Evolution theory generally refers to theories about how living things in particular have evolved. "The Theory of Evolution", on the other hand, is what I consider to potentially be a mythological creature. It may have existed in Darwin's time as a single, unified, well supported theory in opposition to creationism, and, if this phrase is used solely in that historical context, then I would agree that it actually exists as a historical document, but people tend to use that expression as if such an all encompassing evolution theory exists today. If it does exist I haven't seen it yet, and I've been looking. Until I see it for myself I will remain an agnostic on the subject. :smile1:
The problem there is that if we're actually looking for the truth, science follows the evidence while religion proclaims it is the truth.
If anyone makes outrageous scientific claims based on personal beliefs there will always be plenty of people to point out the errors so I don't see any real danger in allowing theological ideas to become part of a discusion on the nature of life, especially if we are concerned about "truth".
 

AEsahaettr

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If anyone makes outrageous scientific claims based on personal beliefs there will always be plenty of people to point out the errors so I don't see any real danger in allowing theological ideas to become part of a discusion on the nature of life.
The "danger" is that we waste time and energy going off on pointless tangents.
 

Traemo

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You should look up the word "theory."

Our existence is only a theory. We have very little to go back on to see the evolution of man or even the universe. No one will ever know how it came to be. That's because there's only "theories" and not proven facts.
Actually, you ought to look up "theory" and learn how it's used in a scientific context contrasting that with its connotation and popular usage.
Wisdom from Inigo Montoya

This Scientific Illiteracy that is so pervasive in the modern world frustrates and scares me. More and more people are insisting that their beliefs, foundless and unsupportable, be granted equal validity with the accumulates and distilled knowledge of centuries . . . .
 

Drifter

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The word "theory" can be ambiguous, but when applied to "the theory of evolution" it's absolutely the opposite of pure speculation. It is a "theory" because it is well-supported by empirical evidence and testing which supports the theory.
This is exactly what I'm trying to get away from. If you are refering to Darwin's book "The Origin of Species" I would have to question how you consider this well supported today. If you are talking about modern evolution theory I have to ask "which one?" To me, saying "The Theory of Evolution is well supported" is very misleading because it implies there actually is a modern theory called "The Theory of Evolution". I realize it's become somewhat conventional to talk about "the theory of evolution" but I think whenever the expression is used it should always be met with the question "which one?" in order to avoid falling into the trap of pitting the "The Theory of Evolution" myth against the creationism myth.

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The "danger" is that we waste time and energy going off on pointless tangents.
I wouldn't be surprised if many important discoveries started out as pointless tangents. Anyway, we all have the luxury of choosing how to best waste our time.
 

tiny

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Evolution theory generally refers to theories about how living things in particular have evolved. "The Theory of Evolution", on the other hand, is what I consider to potentially be a mythological creature.
All abstract concepts are "mythological creatures" in that they don't "really" exist... just like the mind (as opposed to the brain) or software in a computer (as opposed to hardware).

[The "Theory of Evolution"] may have existed in Darwin's time as a single, unified, well supported theory in opposition to creationism, and, if this phrase is used solely in that historical context, then I would agree that it actually exists as a historical document, but people tend to use that expression as if such an all encompassing evolution theory exists today. If it does exist I haven't seen it yet, and I've been looking. Until I see it for myself I will remain an agnostic on the subject. :smile1:
The same is true for the Theory of Gravity. Gravitational attraction has been observed by humans for aeons. Aristotle proposed the idea that some objects have a nature which makes them inherently downwards-seeking (e.g. mud) or upwards-seeking (e.g. fire). And since then, the Theory of Gravity has been continually refined. It does not exist (nor has it ever existed) as a single document; it is more of an abstract concept representing the sum of human knowledge on the subject.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_gravitational_theory

But does that mean that we should remain agnostic on the Theory of Gravity? Is it reasonable to doubt that gravity "exists"?

If anyone makes outrageous scientific claims based on personal beliefs there will always be plenty of people to point out the errors so I don't see any real danger in allowing theological ideas to become part of a discusion on the nature of life, especially if we are concerned about "truth".
It is impossible to make outrageous scientific claims based on personal beliefs! That just doesn't make sense! Science has no place for personal beliefs. And whenever theological ideas become part of a scientific discussion, people do point out the fact that this is an error!

So there is no "danger" in allowing theological discussions on the nature of life in science... It is just that such discussions are not scientific and so cannot be incorporated into a scientific discussion in the first place. If someone seriously considers theological explanations, then they are not discussing science. Science requires evidence.

Or, to put it another way, there is no "danger" in allowing us to teach arithmetic based on the theory that the celestial teapot exists. The two areas don't overlap. Our understanding of arithmetic is not concerned with celestial teapots, and our understanding of science is not concerned with theology. Science is the study of what we can observe, measure, and reliably predict. Religion is none of these things. It requires faith instead of reason.

Regarding your notion that the universe might not be wholly physical, you might be interested to read a little background on the debate between materialism and idealism (or, as it's referred to in the link below, "immaterialism").

It starts by referring to Locke, who was a materialist and had the idea that the real world was one of physical particulars. Abstract ideas (e.g. a non-specific table or the concept of what "table" means, as opposed to a specific individual table that physically exists) exist only in the mind; not as part of the "real" physical world. Berkely (an idealist) thought that only our ideas were real; not the external world.

The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy has an entry under "Abstract Ideas" which gives you a bit of background:

How can an idea stand for all individuals of a given kind even though the individuals vary in their properties? How can we form general statements about kinds of things and reason with regard to them? Locke introduced the notion of abstract ideas, also called general ideas, and claimed that they are universal concepts generated as a result of a process of abstraction from our ideas of individual exemplars of a kind, by leaving out their specific features and keeping what is common to all. As an empiricist, Locke believed that only particulars exist in the world. An abstract idea does not refer to something individual or particular, but is a special kind of mental image. This image is the meaning of the abstract general term. The function of abstract ideas is to classify individuals into different kinds for us. As classically understood in Locke, abstraction is something in the mind between reality and the way we classify it. He believed that an abstract idea encompasses a whole kind of thing. This claim was rejected by Berkeley, who insisted that all ideas are particular and only become general through our use of them. Berkeley's criticism of Locke's notion of abstract ideas, like his criticism of Locke's theory of real essence, has been very influential, but it is a matter of dispute whether his criticism is sound.
The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy - Nicholas Bunnin, Jiyuan Yu - Google Books

And here's some info about Berkley's idealism, rejecting Locke's concept of physical reality. It's interesting stuff (honest!):
Berkeley's Immaterialism

Anyway, I'm not sure how it would be possible for there to be "something more" to the physical world that we're somehow missing. Even if there is, there's not much we can say about it since, as physical beings, we can't really know about anything non-physical outside of our own minds.

Hope I'm not boring anyone! :smile:
 
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ade

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Yeah, I agree. Natural selection was pretty much Darwin's baby......
well, actuallyyyyy, it wasn't.
the concept and the practise has been with for............well, you can see it in the existence of dogs.
breeding (good or bad, natural or not) has been with us for yonks, though the concept and expressions have become less used nowadays, but only through the process of expanding urbanization (and the types of people thus bred).

as for evolution/breeding/natural selection explaining global diversity or the origin of species, the academic concepts which we associate with Darwin were proposed some decades earlier (Lamarck and others); Darwin just got his inspired book out on the back of a popularity from the voyage he took, which ties in with one of his peers who also proposed controversial ideas.
the key thing in this is that around the time that Darwin began to ponder natural diversity and it's cause/origin, a lot of exploratory activity was taking place around Australasia, and the stark differences between the animals of Australia and the islands just to it's north were what gave us the ideas of evolution/natural selection and continental drift (the forerunner of plate tetonics).
at that time, there were many ideas related to all this, not necessarily competing with each other, but more with the established dogma (although, some of that dogma was newly established; bearing in mind that things were a little bit slower then, where five years of now, could equal five decades of then) and feeding off each other.

and you'll have to excuse my not remembering every little detail: i'm not a specialist. afterall, specialization is a sure route to extinction ;)

as far as the fossil record goes, i'm skeptical about the whole 'industry' of seeing shapes in rocks. not only is the trade widely recognized as a dodgy business, geology is in it's infancy. consider this: when i was at school, plate tetonics was just one theory amongst many; nowadays, it's touted as established fact, even though there's no more significant or demonstrably proven evidence for it, now, than there was in my youth.
that's one of the annoying things about contemporary science: it's all a mad rush to get out a theory and have it officially declared as fact, regardless of it's proveness, or lack thereof. science has become too much of a business, as much a business as religion, seeking followers and financial backers.
but then, maybe it's no different from Darwin, Lyell and Croll's time, save for the hastiness.

socially, i'd agree that evolution has taken on the charactistics of mythicalness, but then, that's only because of what i've just mentioned. it could seem that that's just part of the process of establishing a dogma. we have the same thing with 'autism', 'global warming' and 'political correctness'. they become buzzwords of a moment, but the damage is done when they become buzzwords to be acted upon. and, as much as we have 'viral ads', it seems that buzzwords and ideas are similarly viral in their nature, especially for the cattle-like within the sheltered confines of urbanity/civilization.
in academic circles, that viral-virility is most likley greater and we then have the 'problem' that we are all forced to endure a period of academia during our most formative years (we are brain-washed or conditioned, if you will). certainly, i can't of a teacher/'authority' who hasn't spoken in terms of 'Darwin's theory of evolution' in the last [possibly] twenty years.

all-in-all, if we are to say "give Darwin credit where credit is due", such credit would be more questionable than 'his' profferings.
 

Drifter

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well, actuallyyyyy, it wasn't.
the concept and the practise has been with for............well, you can see it in the existence of dogs.
breeding (good or bad, natural or not) has been with us for yonks, though the concept and expressions have become less used nowadays, but only through the process of expanding urbanization (and the types of people thus bred).

as for evolution/breeding/natural selection explaining global diversity or the origin of species, the academic concepts which we associate with Darwin were proposed some decades earlier (Lamarck and others);
Breeding (so called artificial selection) has been around for centuries but I believe Darwin was the first to publish a theory of evolution that included the concept of natural selection. Of course, he couldn't delay publishing this any longer than he did or Lamarck might have beaten him to the punch.
and you'll have to excuse my not remembering every little detail: i'm not a specialist. afterall, specialization is a sure route to extinction ;)
lol

socially, i'd agree that evolution has taken on the charactistics of mythicalness,
I think we are pretty much in agreement but when I refer to "myth" on this topic I'm refering to the misguided idea that there actually is a specific, well supported theory called "The Theory of Evolution". To my mind everything changes over time so evolution, itself, is a given.

All abstract concepts are "mythological creatures" in that they don't "really" exist... just like the mind (as opposed to the brain) or software in a computer (as opposed to hardware).

The same is true for the Theory of Gravity.
...
But does that mean that we should remain agnostic on the Theory of Gravity? Is it reasonable to doubt that gravity "exists"?
Theories exist in the same way novels exist and can be shared via spoken or written words. They can be tested and debated. They can be judged as to what extent they are true to the evidence. Theories of evolution exist. "The" theory of evolution does not; at least as far as I can tell. Discussing existing theories can be entertaining and informative. I'm not sure what value there is in arguing over nonexistent theories.

It is impossible to make outrageous scientific claims based on personal beliefs! That just doesn't make sense! Science has no place for personal beliefs. And whenever theological ideas become part of a scientific discussion, people do point out the fact that this is an error!

So there is no "danger" in allowing theological discussions on the nature of life in science... It is just that such discussions are not scientific and so cannot be incorporated into a scientific discussion in the first place. If someone seriously considers theological explanations, then they are not discussing science. Science requires evidence.

Or, to put it another way, there is no "danger" in allowing us to teach arithmetic based on the theory that the celestial teapot exists. The two areas don't overlap. Our understanding of arithmetic is not concerned with celestial teapots, and our understanding of science is not concerned with theology. Science is the study of what we can observe, measure, and reliably predict. Religion is none of these things. It requires faith instead of reason.
By scientific claim I mean any claim based on an interpretation of the evidence. If the interpretation is ridiculous or the evidence is nonexistent then the claim would be, imo, outrageous. I don't think anyone can completely separate themselves from their personal beliefs, not even scientists, so there is an element of personal belief in any claim.

I disagree that there is no danger in teaching bogus math since it affects our ability to function in the modern world. As far as our discussions go, though, there is no real danger in considering theological ideas on scientific issues. People are free to jump in and give their two cents worth if the topic interests them. Besides, we're all adults here and we know how to have tantrums and resort to virtual hair pulling if the need arises. :rolleyes:
 
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ScienceScribbler

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Lucky for me, I actually love this stuff!
A bit of explanation so my responses don't necessarily come off as unnecessarily callous, I'm an evolutionary biologist studying ecosystem development and interaction in light of evolutionary codependence...in other words, I study how one aspect changing in an environment causes pressures that can affect other species and subsequently evolutionary pressures.

So, the 'Theory of Evolution' as you call it is actually pretty clear, and not at all a mixture of uncoordinated theories.

Really, evolution is broken down into 4 forces, only one of which is the 'survival of the fittest' that so many people think about.
1) Natural selection: Individuals that survive to reproduce are going to produce offspring, meaning that characteristics that increase the odds of reproducing (regardless of their effect on longterm individual survival) will increase in a population over time.
2) Mutation: The vast majority of mutations are deleterious, meaning they do bad things for an organism. There's a few hundred papers showing this pattern, over and over. However, when a mutation is advantageous in some way, or even only partially advantageous, it increases the likelihood of the organism successfully reproducing, which combines with that force 1, natural selection, to increase the proportion of the population showing this specific trait.
3) Gene flow: Evolution is about a species, not individuals. This is important when you look at gene flow, which is the movement of genetic material from population to population. This affects evolution by allowing individual populations to have different successes and adaptations/mutations that are either good or bad. This can mean that two populations can diverge if there is insufficient gene flow, or that advantageous mutations are able to spread through other populations. In any case, the main point is that you should remember that evolution is about longterm change in populations, so the single mutations might not survive even if they're good. It's more of a numbers game played out over EXTREMELY long times.
4) Genetic Drift: The process by which sexually reproductive organisms pass along some genes or traits/combinations thereof in different patterns. For example, if my parents are both blonde, how is it possible that I am not? Aside from the obvious adoption jokes, the truth is that they might both have multiple genes affecting hair color, and since each parent only gives me 1/2 their DNA, I might get the 'darker pigmentation' genes they both had in small supply, leading to my own hair and eye color being darker than either parent. It means, basically, that two parents can have offspring that are a whole new combination of traits that can be more or less advantageous, and again with Natural Selection pressures, this means new and possibly evolutionarily advantageous combinations can arise even from seemingly typical traits. Over time, this means you might get wholly different individuals than their parents, who in turn are more likely or less likely to survive, thus not only passing on their parents' genes, but passing them along in specific combinations more commonly (like having long legs and a strong heart are good together, but if you have long legs and a weak heart it might be worse for your longterm health, or having a strong heart and weak legs provides comparatively less benefit of the stronger heart muscle).

Taking all these ideas together, you need to realize that the original theory Darwin and Wallace published was not perfect, and definitely didn't understand the genetic components or 'selfish gene' concepts we now understand and recognize today. But just natural selection alone doesn't explain all of evolution. Without mutation, there would be limited combinations of genes, which would prevent many new species arising. Without gene flow, species would likely be highly localized around areas they arose, instead of spreading and increasing through similar populations and changing the whole species. Without genetic drift, many successful traits might not actually confer the advantages they might otherwise give.

So, I have no idea what you mean when you say the theory of evolution has broken free of its scientific base, and you really haven't explained that in any other postings...
If you want to say that people too often claim characteristics to be purely evolutionarily derived, that might be true. There's a lot of discussion by biologists about the nature of 'adaptationist assumptions'. Often, people see a characteristic and explain that it must be evolutionarily derived, and they're wrong. For example, crocodilians have a 4 chambered heart, which allows greater control of heat than most other cold-blooded organisms. Many people argued that the heart with 4 chambers must have evolved in crocodilians as a result of the need for greater thermal tolerance...but there's no evidence for that! Maybe the heart evolved by chance, and happened to pass on by chance. It might have conferred an advantage in terms of oxygen transport, which might not be related to heat. So, arguing that it is caused by a single 'goal' of evolution is often 'overly assumptive adaptationist logic'. But don't say that the theory is broken or not based on science, especially since you offer zero tangible evidence to support such a claim.
 

Drifter

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Hi ScienceScribbler. I love this stuff too but I'm strictly an amateur.

I have no idea what you mean when you say the theory of evolution has broken free of its scientific base
What I mean is "The Theory of Evolution" does not actually exist as a specific scientific theory anymore. For anyone to say they believe in the theory of evolution is a pretty meaningless statement because it gives you no real clue as to what they actually believe in except that they are probably not hardcore fundamentalists. For example: It could be said that you believe in the theory of evolution and that I also believe in the theory of evolution. You believe evolution is generally a continuous and gradual process occuring over millions of years. I pretty much hold the opposite view that evolution tends to occur in bursts during relatively short periods of time between much longer periods of stasis. Either view can be flexible enough to contain elements of the opposing view but the fundamental difference remains. Which of these two views would be more correctly called the theory of evolution? Or does the theory of evolution simply encompass both views?

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Regarding your notion that the universe might not be wholly physical, you might be interested to read a little background on the debate between materialism and idealism (or, as it's referred to in the link below, "immaterialism").
Thanks for the link. This is related to our other discussion on beliefs.
 
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ScienceScribbler

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So, I really love the respectful and clear way you're communicating and just want to begin by saying thanks for that. This forum and the DD forum are the only ones I've ever been on where I constantly felt vindicated, appreciated, and respected when talking. It's delightful. But getting to the point...

(Note, I'm not quoting your whole argument back, because I don't want this to be hard to follow and longer than necessary. I'll just copy/paste the question or point immediately being referenced, if you don't mind).

"What I mean is "The Theory of Evolution" does not actually exist as a specific scientific theory anymore"
Yes and no. The theory of evolution went from being small to big and encompassing. Basically, the original posited theory was simply 'organisms change over generations because of varying degrees of success at survival and mating'. That's still the main concept, but now we have so many related ideas it's not a single theory. In that sense, you're right. It's almost like if the theory of gravity suddenly had a thousand interrelated mini-theories, and we didn't want to call it the theory of gravity anymore.
The theory, at its most basic level, is still there though. We just have a hundred specific constructs to explain the overarching idea now.

"For anyone to say they believe in the theory of evolution is a pretty meaningless statement because it gives you no real clue as to what they actually believe in except that they are probably not hardcore fundamentalists"

ALSO TRUE! But also, again, mixed. Someone saying they believe in evolution means they believe that populations change traits and alter their genotypic and phenotypic traits as a species over time. But that doesn't mean they believe every related theory, like the theory of the selfish gene, or the theory of memetic behavior acting as a source of genetic change by applying behavioral pressures to the equation. But the basic idea is still there, and still tells you something pretty important and valuable about someone's beliefs.

" You believe evolution is generally a continuous and gradual process occuring over millions of years. I pretty much hold the opposite view that evolution tends to occur in bursts during relatively short periods of time between much longer periods of stasis."

This is called punctuated equilibrium and is a well known and documented theory. But it's also not a very complete theory...because evolution isn't constant as a RATE of change. For example, when one organism is wiped out by, say, disease (I'm going to refer to this as 'organism 1'), the ecological niche they filled is now 'open'. In some cases, this leads to RAPID evolution in other organisms. So, let's say we have organism 2, and its children are almost always filling a similar ecological role as organism 1, but not exactly the same. Now, though, organism 1 isn't around...and therefore, if a child of organism 2 basically 'takes the place' of the now extinct organism 1, you get a rapid change being more likely. In some events, like natural disasters, invasions by a specific new species, disease, or even just a lucky mutation, you can get EXTREMELY fast evolution. A perfect example is the Peppered Moth (Wikipedia article for your consideration: Peppered moth evolution - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). It underwent the fast change you're talking about because of the industrial revolution changing the ecosystem it lived in and reducing lichen density, which made its color go from being good camouflage to dangerously easy to see.
MOST of the time, however, evolution is slow. Hundreds or thousands of generations can pass with only the tiniest of differences across time. But these tiny differences are still evolution. Evolution isn't just the process of how a NEW species forms, but how a single species exists even by itself over time. A lizard might grow a 10% longer tail after 2,000 generations, and that's ALL it changed...but it still DID change. And lots of mutations occur in areas of the genome that don't seriously affect the organism, but the changes occurred nonetheless. One of the keys of understanding evolution is simply realizing it isn't all about changing species, or new species, or fast development, it is also about gene flow between populations, and tiny changes that seem unimportant to survival, but still might offer up a FUTURE change in ecology, behavior, etc.

So, to get back to my main point: The theory of evolution is BOTH theories working together. All the 'Theory of Evolution' states is "Inheritable traits or characteristics in a population can change over multiple generations". That's it. That's the WHOLE theory. The mechanisms, the specific explanations, and the theories that are used to describe TYPES or QUALITIES of evolution are their own problem, and they have many more things to doubt. Evolution as a simple main principle, however, is pretty solid and cohesive. We understand the idea, even if we still argue about what characteristics or concepts play a part in the process.

Hope this helps, and sorry I didn't see you had replied before now, or I'd have gotten back to you sooner!
 

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All the 'Theory of Evolution' states is "Inheritable traits or characteristics in a population can change over multiple generations". That's it. That's the WHOLE theory.
This defintion is broad enough to be easily included in creationist views :smile:, but I appreciate the fact that it is hard to nail down specifically what "the theory of evolution" is. That is the point of this thread.

You seem to be downplaying the importance of the concept of species change in evolution theory, but Darwin's theory, and subsequent evolutionary theories, specifically deal with the issue of species change. The peppered moth is often used as an example of how natural selection works, but, in this case, we are talking about variations within a species, much like the variations produced in breeding where the selection is done by humans. We don't know for certain if the process of natural selection works the same way in causing a jump to a new species.
 

Traemo

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Drifter, once again you're conflating evolution and the origin of life. Once again, these are two completely separate things. Evolution explains why there are millions of extant species. Origin of Life explains why there are organisms at all.

As for speciation, yes, we really do know that natural selection can create different species: look at tigers, elephants, and Galapagos finches.
 

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You seem to be downplaying the importance of the concept of species change in evolution theory, but Darwin's theory, and subsequent evolutionary theories, specifically deal with the issue of species change. The peppered moth is often used as an example of how natural selection works, but, in this case, we are talking about variations within a species, much like the variations produced in breeding where the selection is done by humans. We don't know for certain if the process of natural selection works the same way in causing a jump to a new species.
Have a look at this review article: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic543845.files/Lecture16-Punk-eek.pdf It's like 20 years old, but it was the only one I could find with free access. There is actually a fair bit of evidence for punctuated equilibrium: ancestral survival after branching, mophological phylogenetics, etc. No biologist would claim that every case of speciation has to share a mechanism and phyletic gradualism has actually been observed, but the evidence does seem to show that punctuated equilibrium happens a lot. The point is that when dealing with something as complex as life and having most of the evidence be millions of years old means that it's difficult to work out the details. The basic idea has not changed: non-random selection of heritable traits. We may find more detailed explanations of the processes involved, but the heart of evolution is not going to change. I would argue that things like phyletic gradualism and punctuated equilibrium aren't really separate theories of evolution; they are different explanations of some of the observations, but they're all still based on that fundamental idea. I would consider them subsets of the theory of evolution, where something which didn't depend on natural selection would be a completely different theory. Take gravitation, for example: the theory of universal gravitation and the theory of general relativity are really different theories for the observation that masses seem to attract each other because they have different fundamental explanations. Universal gravitation involves a force acting between masses, where relativity explains the effect as spacetime distortion.
 

Jeremiah

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What evidence supports the linking of origin of life theories to evolution?
 

Ringer

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To get back to the question: does the Theory of Evolution exist the answer is yes. This does not however make it a fact.
 

komodokitty

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What evidence supports the linking of origin of life theories to evolution?
Who says they do? Evolution only works if replicating molecules exist. Abiogenesis is distinct from evolution. Once we have RNA or whatever, then evolution can start working, but evolution says nothing about how it actually came about.

To get back to the question: does the Theory of Evolution exist the answer is yes. This does not however make it a fact.
Evidence makes it a fact. While we don't yet have all the details, that the diversity of life is a result of non-random selection of heritable traits is as indisputable as anything in science.
 
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Drifter

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Drifter, once again you're conflating evolution and the origin of life. Once again, these are two completely separate things. Evolution explains why there are millions of extant species. Origin of Life explains why there are organisms at all.
Actually, we were talking about the origin of species in general, not specifically the first species. Evolution theories deal with the origin of species.

As for speciation, yes, we really do know that natural selection can create different species: look at tigers, elephants, and Galapagos finches.
Technically it is mutation that creates different species. Natural selection, or luck, determines how long any species survives.

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The basic idea has not changed: non-random selection of heritable traits. We may find more detailed explanations of the processes involved, but the heart of evolution is not going to change. I would argue that things like phyletic gradualism and punctuated equilibrium aren't really separate theories of evolution; they are different explanations of some of the observations, but they're all still based on that fundamental idea. I would consider them subsets of the theory of evolution, where something which didn't depend on natural selection would be a completely different theory.
Thanks for the link. I've tended to lean towards puntuated equilibrium for 30 years now as it appears to fit the evidence better.

Adaptive mutation is another theory that sounds interesting. I'm not sure if it's gaining any acceptance as a possibility but, if I understand it correctly, it suggests the possibility of non-random mutation.

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What evidence supports the linking of origin of life theories to evolution?
I'm not sure what you are asking here, or who you are asking, but evolution theory usually doesn't get too wrapped up in the origin of life. Still, there are theories concerning how early molecules evolved into living organisms so I guess the concept of evolution isn't entirely free from origin of life issues.

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[Ringer:"To get back to the question: does the Theory of Evolution exist the answer is yes. This does not however make it a fact."]

Evidence makes it a fact. While we don't yet have all the details, that the diversity of life is a result of non-random selection of heritable traits is as indisputable as anything in science.
Evolution is a fact of life. Whether or not there actually is a "The Theory of Evolution" is a matter of belief. The reason for this thread is to try to get away from statements that claim "The Theory of Evolution" is a fact. There is no single, universally accepted, all encompassing theory of evolution so, if it doesn't exist, how can it be a fact?
 
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