When is a Theory a Fact?

I’ve written about evolution here before. It seems to be a subject that causes some people to become very animated, to say the least. I think this is because of the mistaken idea that evolution is “just a theory”. But, when, if ever, can a theory become a fact?

Well, it happens all the time. The theory of electrical conductivity was just a theory at one point, but has been shown to be a fact after thousands upon thousands of experiments and observations. We are so completely sure that electrons flow from a positive to a negative (or negative to positive depending on how you measure it) that the vast majority of our technologies are based upon it. But, isn’t it “just a theory”? Yes, it is, but one that has made predictions that have been proven time and time and time again to the point that it is also a fact.

The same holds true of the theory of gravity. Every satellite that we rely on for communications, weather reporting, GPS and other uses all rely on the theory of gravity postulated by Newton and Einstein. If this “theory” wasn’t a fact, then none of these satellites would be able to function because they wouldn’t stay in stable orbits.

So, why is it that the theory of evolution is just a theory? After all, thousands upon thousands or experiments and observations has time and time again proved it’s validity.

It is even able to make accurate predictions. For example, take Tiktaalik .

\Tiktaalik is an intermediate fossil, which means it is of a creature that is evolutionarily between a finned fish and a four-legged vertebrate, or a tetrapod. It is the first know example of what is now called a fishapod. It was found in the northern Canadian territory of Nunavut.

I say “found” rather than discovered, because I feel that “discovered” makes it sound more like it was stumbled upon by accident, which it wasn’t. Using two independent theories from two different scientific disciplines that made predictions about the past, this fossil was found right where it was predicted it would be found.

According to this article:

“..it was found by predicting that a transition occurred approximately 360 to 380 million years ago, before which, according to the fossil record, there were no four-legged vertebrates living on land. Relying on geology, an appropriately aged and conveniently exposed rock stratum was located in the Canadian Arctic that had once been an ancient shoreline. That’s where the search commenced.

Bear in mind that the fossil search was based on two independent theories about the past — first, that the fossil record tells a reliable history of the development of life on earth, so the scientists knew when to search; and second, that geologists have developed reliable methods for determining the age of various rock strata, so the scientists knew where to search. The fossil hunt was a test of both theories.”

And the fossil that was found was exactly what, where and when (geological time period) it was predicted to be. Just like the theory of electrical conduciveness and the theory of gravity.

I think that, not just the main reason, but the only reason that people don’t accept evolution as a fact (and it is mainly in the U.S.) is because the feel it violates their religious tenets. But it really doesn’t, when you think about. After all, many Protestant faiths, most Anglican organizations, and the Roman Catholic church all accept the fact of evolution. They still hold that God created the universe, but accept that God used evolution as his means of creation of life on earth.

If you ask me, the almost incomprehensible complexity of life and how it has evolved shows a creator who used evolution to be much more awe inspiring that one who just created man with a wave of his hand.

Evolution is, by all measures and definitions, a fact. You can argue about if it was initiated by a supernatural creator or not, but over 150 years of experiment after experiment, and observation after observation, it has been shown to be a solid fact. And the fact that humans evolved from earlier forms doesn’t take away in the least from our intelligence, our beauty, and our value.


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