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Believe in evolution?

Last updated on 22 Jun 2018

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31 Comments

  1. I accept evolution is true because of the massive evidence. I’m sure belief enters into it but not as the word is usually used. You have to believe something in order to accept it as fact. There isn’t a bright line that separates the two categories of thought.

  2. Marilyn Marilyn

    Has evolution ever been predicted and what the outcome will be known when it occurs. I don’t mean a morph experiment or a controlled experiment in a lab, I mean for example can it be said that in 20 years time the elephant will develop hair.

    • Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

      I believe it was used to predict where the Tiktaalik fossils would be found.

  3. Great Comic!! I think we need evidence when we accept something as fact. When I’m asked what church I go to I reply with “I don’t attend church, I don’t believe in magic”. I don’t see any evidence in religion. And I have received my share of angry replies. I guess I’m saying I don’t believe in evolution, I accept the scientific evidence of evolution.

  4. Jim Thomerson Jim Thomerson

    I liked a colleague’s comment, “No, I do not believe in evolution. I have studied the matter and I am convinced of it.”

  5. Marilyn: Has evolution ever been predicted and what the outcome will beknown when it occurs.I don’t mean a morph experiment or a controlled experiment in a lab, I mean for example can it be said that in 20 years time the elephant will develop hair.

    While I suspect a troll, I’d just like to point out that elephants have hair.

  6. ckc (not kc) ckc (not kc)

    I judge that evolution is the best explanation of the patterns I observe in biology (many firsthand, some second – or third-). If there were a better explanation offered, I would consider it. Is that belief? It’s a considered judgement, but is it like judging that a particular acquaintance will fail to follow through on a promise (or not), or that a politician will lie (or lie)? There are errors involved in all these judgements, some measurable, some not – I don’t hesitate to say that I believe in evolution, but I’m happy to abandon the word “belief” if it becomes clear that it has come to mean something other than a considered judgement.

  7. Rob Rob

    I think Marilyn makes a good point. We can not predict the outcome of “evolution”, which sort of gets in the way of the “fact” of it. Fact of what? When we compare it to belief, the expectation is that evolution resolves certain tensions that belief may attempt to address, but what I see is a resolving of tensions related to past religious teachings and cultural institutions. The fact would thus be related to this cultural difference, which again goes back to the knowledge perception Locke talked about – what feels “correct” in the circumstance.

    • Lerusse Lerusse

      Every year, scientist make prediction based on evolution.
      Every year, the flu virus change and the scientist produce a new vacine to fight it. It is important to use anitbiotics as prescribed and use all the dose prescribed because we know that the bacteries will become resistant to it.

      Time scale for bacteries are quite small and the environment to which they adapt is limited. But those are real example. (as far as I know, I’m not a biologist)

      Other predicition on longer time scale for bigger animals would be: Stronger radiation resistance around Chernobile, resistance to an ocean more acid due to CO2 absorption for crustacean, …
      If you predict a change in environment sufficiently large, you can predict that the most adapt individual will prosper and their characteristics will be spread to the general population or that the animals will go extinct.

  8. ckc (not kc) ckc (not kc)

    We can not predict the outcome of “evolution”, which sort of gets in the way of the “fact” of it.

    Evolution is, by its (postulated) nature, in some aspects unpredictable. This has no effect on its reality. The forecast today was for sunny and hot – anyone who follows weather would know that weather is somewhat unpredictable, but the fact is that it was sunny and hot today. “Tensions related to past religious teachings and cultural institutions” do not affect the fact that the weather forecast was for sun and the actual weather was sunny and hot.

    • Rob Rob

      Try stating what the actual “fact” of evolution is and you might see where I’m coming from. I think it might be prudent to call evolution (if/when compared to belief) a type of conceptual “knowledge” or “gnosis” that science is working with. There is really no reason to treat evolution as “fact” – it’s objectifying needlessly.

  9. ckc (not kc) ckc (not kc)

    the actual “fact” of evolution

    …hundreds of thousands of species of extant plants and animals, fungi, bacteria, protists, etc. with shared and novel characteristics (just to name one)

    A fact (just as a sunny day is a fact) – call it “objectifying” if you must, but a fact, and a fact “of evolution” until a better explanation of their existence is on offer. Your turn.

    • Rob Rob

      I didn’t see the fact there.

      • ckc (not kc) ckc (not kc)

        …the fact (not to put too fine a point on it) is that there are hundreds of thousands of species of plants and animals, etc. with shared and novel characteristics.

        • Rob Rob

          That’s not a fact, that’s an observation. Again – more akin to knowledge. Before Darwin’s theory people were making the same distinctions between animals. So what is this something extra that makes evolution a “fact”? My answer is it need not be one.

        • ckc (not kc) ckc (not kc)

          That’s not a fact, that’s an observation

          I welcome a discussion of the distinction between a fact and an observation.

  10. bob koepp bob koepp

    What’s this talk of not being able to predict the outcome of evolution? Ever hear of of Lotka-Volterra models, of competitive exclusion? Granted, we may not be able to make highly specific predictions about what sorts of organisms will be distributed over what ranges at a particular point in time, but we can certainly predict certain “formal” features of that distribution. It’s done all the time, quite successfully.

  11. I certainly believe in evolution, in the same way that I believe in sex before marriage: I know for a fact that it happens.

  12. Evolution is a model of an aspect of reality. All models are flawed; some more than others. There is no better explanation of the evidence than evolution. So I accept it for what it is – the best we’ve got so far. Does that mean I “believe” in evolution? I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader. 🙂

  13. Richard Carter, there’s a large difference between believing in sex before marriage, the results of which are far more reliably observed, also an act one has the chance of experiencing directly, and evolution which is the result of complex analysis and direct observation, which none of us can actually be said to experience personally and directly. There’s a lot more unverifiable information you have to believe in accepting evolution, which accounts for why some people have so much trouble accepting it as compared to things they experience directly.

    I’m surprised at the paucity of consideration of how we come to accept very abstract ideas in the educated classes. It doesn’t just happen, it certainly didn’t just happen in history. It’s far from a certain activity and the consequences of it being difficult and inherently ambiguous carries obvious social and political consequences. How we come to accept those things does matter in understanding phenomena like creationism. If that evolution happened was an easy conclusion to draw creationism would be less common. I suspect it’s also related to the denial of climate change, which is being experienced and observed directly, though a lot of the language used to deny that seems to be eerily similar to the language of pseudo-skepticism. But that’s for another occasion.

  14. joe joe

    Are we able to predict earth quakes, meteorite impacts, etc.? Nope. Is the catastrophe of Fukuchima therefore not a fact? Nope, it is a fact. Predictive power is highly overrated. Scientists hypothesise and there is no guarantee in advance to be right. In retrospective, a hypothesis that turned out to be right is called a prediction.

  15. Anthony McCarthy The Thought Criminal, when I said that I believe in sex before marriage, I should perhaps have added the rider ‘…provided that it doesn’t interfere with the ceremony’.

    I trust that clears up the confusion.

  16. TomS TomS

    “Do you believe in Infant Baptism?”

    “Believe in it? I’ve seen it!”

  17. Three quick points:

    1. Many theories “predict” the impossibility of prediction. The modern version of evolution is just one. Quantum mechanics actually quantifies some of the uncertainties intrinsic to the physical world; but, as Feynman pointed out many years ago, classical physics also predicts unpredictability in many cases and chaos theory is Newtonian. The unpredictability of markets follows from the axioms of mainstream economics. Theories may owe us real world implications, but these implications need not be predictions.

    2. If something like modern evolutionary theory is right, you wouldn’t expect prediction to be possible. If any theory owes us predictions it would be intelligent design since, if living things change at the direction of an agent, that agent could, if it chose, tell us what it had in mind. Of course that the divine will is inscrutable is a regular supplementary hypothesis among the devotees of I.D., which means, of course, that I.D. also makes no predictions.

    3. Commonsense and some older versions of positivism operate on the assumption that theories are built out of observations as a wall is built out of bricks. On this account, seeing is believing and the rest is conjecture. Thing is, though, it is normally the laws that can be known with relative certainty; and if we are sure of certain facts, it is usually because the facts comport with the laws. As anybody who watches cable news should know by now, establishing what occurred in any particular case is extraordinarily hard to establish. The point isn’t that one can dispense with confirmation by experience and simply deduce everything but that the dependencies between observation and theory are complex and the commonsense account of knowledge is simply wrong.

  18. Ramblings: I believe that the sun will die out in 5 or so billion years. I told this to my 13-year-old son, and he did not believe that the sun will die out in 5 or so billion years.

    • Sarah Sarah

      I just want to say that Evolution makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. That’s how God tells me it is true.

  19. Jeb Jeb

    I heard a nice ‘what made you believe’ story from a barrister last night in the pub that reminded me of this.

    Happened during a medical negligence trial .

    Judge asks a witness; “how did you know the patient was dead when the autopsy was carried out”?

    witness; “at the time, I was holding his brain in my hands”.

    • At least he did appeal to circular reasoning by replying that he performs autopsies only on dead people. 🙂

      • Oh, my. I mean, “At least he did [not] appeal to circular reasoning by replying that he performs autopsies only on dead people. 🙂

  20. hugh hugh

    ckc (not kc): That’s not a fact, that’s an observationI welcome a discussion of the distinction between a fact and an observation.

    It’s an observable fact. It’s a fact because it’s true, and observable because you can determine its truth by inspection.

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