Sunday, 26 July 2009

The “Fact” of Evolution: When Is a Fact Not a Fact?

Could “a change in allele frequency in a population over time” have changed the cousin of this fellow into a blogger writing on the wonders of evolution?

Joel Kontinen

It seems that this blog has recently caused a considerable amount of displeasure to some readers, especially to Austin Cline of About. com, whose name I happened to mention in an earlier post.

You might guess that this displeasure stems from my reluctance to admit that Darwinian evolution is a universally acknowledged fact. Austin Cline quickly posted a reply on in which he repeated his earlier thesis that belief in evolution is not dogmatic.

Cline says:

The statement "evolution is a fact" is no more a dogma than "gravity is a fact" or "plate tectonics is a fact" are dogmas. Saying that evolution or gravity is a fact is simply a recognition of reality.

Actually, creationist scientists played major roles in the discovery of both gravity and plate tectonics. Few Bible-believing scientists would doubt them. The problem is with the ideology beginning with the e-word.

Cline’s chief witness is no other than the late Stephen J. Gould, who wrote an article for Discoverer magazine in 1981 entitled Evolution as Fact and Theory.

Like Humpty Dumpty, evolutionists want to set the rules of the semantic game: “When I say a word it means exactly what I want it to mean.” For Cline, evolution is “the change in allele frequency in a population over time”.

Now, this was not the definition I was referring to, as he could easily have found out by reading some of the earlier posts I have written on this blog. No creationist that I know of doubts that animals have changed over time and do change.

What they do doubt, however, is the “goo-to-you-via-the-zoo” version in which we are all the descendants of a primeval unicellular being. That, if anything, is very dogmatic since there is no real evidence for it but it is assumed a priori.

Otherwise, they would have a Divine foot at the door. And that is something that would definitely spoil their day.

But let us return to where we began, i.e. Austin Cline’s statement on evolution being as well attested in science as gravity or plate tectonics. In his excellent book The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions (2008), Dr. David Berlinski says:

Although Darwin’s theory is very often compared favorably to the great theories of mathematical physics on the grounds that evolution is as well established as gravity, very few physicists have been heard observing that gravity is as well established as evolution. They know better and they are not stupid. (p. 191)


Berlinski, David. 2008. The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions. New York: Crown Forum.

Cline, Austin. 2009: Joel Kontinen: Acknowledging Reality is Being Dogmatic. (21 July).