A ‘theory’ according to American vernacular is understood as an uncertain approach to the world’s mysteries. It is seen as an idea that is not yet actually confirmed but if proven to be true, can shed light on the reasons behind certain phenomena. This vague notion of the meaning of theories is utilized by Creationists to diminish the impact of the Evolution, (Gould, 1981) dismissing it as a ‘mere’ theory.
Scientifically however, a theory is an explanation or model based on careful observation, rigid experimentation, analytical interpretation and sound reasoning, especially something that has undergone testing and has been confirmed as a general principle that helps in clarifying and predicting natural occurrences. A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of an aspect of the physical world; a well structured system of accepted knowledge that could be applied in many circumstances to explain or clarify a set of phenomena, theories can incorporate factual data, tested hypotheses and established laws.
2) What does Gould mean when he says evolution is a “fact”? A ‘fact,’ as Gould discussed, is something so significantly probable that it is ridiculous not to recognize its importance. Gould says that evolution is a fact as it is body of knowledge consisting of the world’s data; the ‘theory’ of evolution is a structure of thoughts and ideas that could explain facts. Gould has expressed the general view of the scientific community, that evolution is a fact but the mechanism by which evolution has occurred consists of theories.
The scientific community endeavors not to prove the truth of evolution, rather the goal is to explain how it has occurred. He goes on to argue that the occurrence of Evolution is not dependent upon humankind’s ability to come up with a sufficient theoretical explanation to support it. Humans have evolved whether or not Darwin’s theory of natural selection is an accurate theoretical justification for the phenomena. Evolution has occurred and is still occurring. 3) In what way is scientific creationism not scientific? Science is committed to proof and evidence. Creationism is blatantly committed to doctrine.
Since creationism is primarily a subject of Biblical faith and religious conviction, verification from the natural world is no more than secondary in its significance. Gould (1981) observes that ‘scientific creationists’ claim to be scientific because they follow the Popperian model in attempting to obliterate the rationality of the evolutionary theory. Yet Popper’s argument has to be applied in two directions. An idea does not automatically become scientific by the mere act of attempting to falsify an adversary, an alternative system which satisfies Popper’s criterion must also be presented, and it must be falsifiable as well.
‘Scientific creationism’ is self-contradictory in its phrasing because it is incapable of being falsified, there are interpretations and experiments that can refute any evolutionary supposition, but no possible data could make a creationist discard solid beliefs in dogma (Gould, 1981). 4) What are the three arguments for the fact of evolution? First is the presence of unswerving proofs that substantiate evolution in field observations and laboratory experiments.
One example is the recent discovery in 2004, a fish with transitional features was seen in Canada; the said fish had four finlike legs that permitted the creature to drag itself all the way through shallow water onto land. Scientists around the world see this as evidence that support evolution and an important discovery in identifying the transition from ocean creatures to land animals (NAS, 2008). Another example is the well-known specie of British moths that changed color and become black when the trees which the moths inhabited were darkened with industrial soot.
Moths gain safety from predators, usually visually superior birds, by blending and disappearing into the backdrop. It must be noted that major evolutionary changes require a great deal of time that is not compatible with the usage of direct observation in the scale of documented human history (Gould, 1981). Second, the imperfection in nature exposes evolution; evolution is seen in the obvious flaws which record an account of descent. As Gould (1981) discusses, an engineer, designing from the beginning could plan more superior limbs suited for every living thing.
All native hefty mammals from Australia are marsupials because they descended from an ancestor isolated in the isle continent. These marsupials are not really more suited for the environment of Australia; many have actually been pushed out by other (placental) mammals introduced by man from different places and continents. This standard of deficiencies and imperfections extend to every historical science. And finally the undeniable evidence of the transitions found in fossil records, there is a continuous temporal succession of increasingly more modern human features: increased cranial capacity, reduced teeth, large body mass (Gould, 1981).
5) How has Gould and Eldredge’s theory of punctuated equilibrium been used against them by the scientific creationists? Gould and Eldredge’s punctuated equilibrium theory proposes that the majority of evolution is marked by lengthy periods of evolutionary constancy, which is then interspersed by infrequent occasions of branching progression This theory was contrasted alongside phyletic gradualism, which is the popular notion that evolution is marked with a pattern of even and constant change in the fossil record.
Gould (1996) has favored the particular argument that evolution does not have an inherent drive towards long-standing progress. Many interpretations often refer to evolution as a hierarchy of development, leading to better, quicker, and smarter life forms; the assumption is that evolution is in some way driving organisms to be more complex and intricate, and ultimately more akin to humankind. Evolution’s progress is not for complexity, but for diversification.
Because life is inhibited to start with a simple preliminary point, any diversity ensuing from this side may be seen as a shift to the path of higher complexity. But life forms, can adapt towards simplification with no difficulty, an example is the case of parasites (Gould, 1996). This theory has been used by creationists as a citation to support their argument that the scientific community has actually admitted that fossil records does not incorporate transitional forms to support the theory of Evolution.
Gould (1981) has clarified and reiterated that transitional forms can generally be found lacking in the level of species, but can be found abundantly among larger groups. Also, the famous creationist Luther Sunderland discusses the punctuated equilibrium theory and tells his readers that it is basically a tacit admission that Creationists are accurate in their assumption that no fossil verification can be found supporting the hypothesis that every life form descends from a common forebear (cited in Gould, 1981).
The distortions and oversimplifications of Gould and Eldredge’s theory have been used as a caricature of the beliefs of Richard Goldschmidt, an early yet inaccurate geneticist. References: Gould, S. J. (1981). “Evolution as Fact and Theory,” Discover 2, May 1981: 34-37; Reprinted with permission from Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994, pp. 253-262. Gould, S. J. (1996). Full House: The Spread of Excellence From Plato to Darwin. New York: Harmony Books. NAS: National Academy of Sciences. (2008). Science Evolution and Creationism. National Academies Press