I am currently reading – amidst all my Cisco books – Peter Atkins’ On Being. Atkins, a fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford, explores some of the great questions of existence. Where did the universe come from? What happens after we die? He summarizes the current answers provided by science to questions of birth, life and death.
Atkins is a staunch atheist, pretty much in the Dawkins mould, yet that should not be allowed to detract from his prose which is very often elegant and sharp. Here is an extract which deals with a common issue I face when discussing evolution with people who have never actually read a book on evolution by a reputable scientist.
“…It is important to distinguish fact from theory, observation from mechanism, phenomenon from explanation. Evolution is a fact; natural selection is a theory of how that evolution came about. I think it rather muddling to speak of the ‘theory of evolution’. Although natural selection is the currently accepted theory of how evolution occurs, to refer to it as the ‘theory of evolution’ colours the term evolution to suggest that it, evolution, is a theory whereas it is a fact. This is perhaps a pedantic point, but the issue is of such sensitivity for some people that it is better to be precise.”
Atkins’ point is a crucially important one and one that I tried to make in my opening statement in my debate with Harun Yahya a few years ago.
I can’t quantify just how many times I have heard the words “But evolution is only a theory!” The ‘theory of evolution’ is a fact in the same sense as the heliocentric theory of the solar system.
Here is Professor Kenneth R. Miller – author of the superb book Finding Darwin’s God – and who also happens to be a Catholic, explaining a fascinating recent scientific finding about human chromosomes and how it corroborates the theory that humankind share common ancestors with apes.