Understanding Evolution: a Simple and Easy Illustration

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Understanding Evolution: A Simple and Easy Illustration
by Adam Chandler on Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 5:54am Many people don’t understand what evolution is, and how it happens. Therefore, some of them might reject it based on not knowing what it is, or based on a wrong understanding of it. Because of that, I find it my duty to make an easy to understand illustration of evolution, as I believe I understand it well. I’ll try to make this illustration as easy as possible, and in many places, oversimplified to make it easy to understand for the reader with no background about the topic. Therefore, I won’t go into the actual details of the biological processes, and I won’t go into details about the evidence for evolution. To keep this as short and simple as possible, I’ll just give a general idea about the overwhelming and abundant evidence supporting evolution which is both a fact and a theory. This article is divided into four parts: Part I: Evolution, A Fact And A Theory Part II: The Evidence For Evolution Part III: Evolution Explained 1) What Evolution Is, And What It Is Not 2) How Evolution Happens Part IV: Final Remarks Part I: Evolution, A Fact And A Theory Let me start off with a simple clarification of what a fact is and what a theory is in science, and how evolution can be both a fact and a theory. I’m almost sure you’ve heard someone say: “Evolution is just a theory, why to believe in it? Once it’s a fact, we can look at it.” Or maybe you’ve heard someone say: “Evolution is just speculation and guess work, nothing for sure yet”. Those statements come out of a wrong understanding of what a theory is in science. In the public use of the word "theory", what comes to mind (the connotation of the word theory) is something that is not certain, that is built on speculation but not enough evidence. In science, the word "theory" is used differently. Before we examine what a theory means in science, let’s examine the word "fact" that has a stronger connotation for the public. In science, a fact is concerning some occurrence. It’s about the question whether something happened or not, or whether something is true or not. In science, a fact is known through observation or experiments. When we gather enough evidence, evidence strong enough that makes us certain that something happened, or that something has a certain state, we call that a fact. For example, when we say Earth is spherical, that’s a fact. We have strong enough evidence that can make us say without doubt that Earth is spherical and not flat. Notice that this is about whether Earth is spherical or not, and not about WHY it’s spherical, or HOW it became spherical.

In science, when we want to address the issue of HOW or WHY something is the way it is, we call that a theory. Like a fact, a theory is based on observation and experiments. When we have strong enough evidence that demonstrates HOW something works, we call that a theory. Notice that a theory is NOT weaker than a fact in science; it only addresses a different question. While a fact addresses the question WHAT, a theory addresses the questions HOW and WHY. Facts are things that happen in nature, and theories are explanations of how those facts happen. After that brief explanation of facts and theories in science, we can see that theory as used by the public is closer to what a hypothesis is in science. A hypothesis is a suggested explanation for a group of facts but that is still not validated by evidence, or the evidence for it is still not strong enough. A theory in science goes through a very rigorous process of testing and verification, and can be accepted as a theory only when it passes those tests and there is strong and compelling evidence supporting it. Moreover, for a theory to be accepted, it has to successfully explain all the facts in question and successfully predict future occurrences of those facts. Remember, that a theory is NOT weaker than a fact, and similar to facts, it’s only accepted...
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