I was in a debate and they mentioned the whole thing about how evolution is a theory and takes faith to believe in. I am nowhere near well versed in evolution to be able to defend it against this guy because he is a very good logician, which makes it fun to debate but difficult because I am not nearly as good as him at it.
Anyhow, I didn't bother defending it anyway because it was besides the point but if it does come up again how can I defend it? I saw this: http://www.thinkatheist.com/group/qaar/forum/topics/claim-evolution...

but I'm still unsatisfied with the answer. I think he would call
"If "only a theory" were a real objection, creationists would also be issuing disclaimers complaining about the theory of gravity, atomic theory, the germ theory of disease, and the theory of limits (on which calculus is based). The theory of evolution is no less valid than any of these. Even the theory of gravity still receives serious challenges. Yet the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is still a fact."
A red herring, or something. I'm just not sure it would be an acceptable argument. I'm sure some theist has heard and rebutted this argument before. If not, I would be surprised.

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Right, although the word "theory" is ambiguous even within science. 'My theory is that if I do A to B C will happen." In that example, it's more or less a synonym for "hypothesis." The more important sense is the one you referred to, a theory that unifies or makes sense of a body of data.

Here are a few points to consider. Some may help.

How life started on the planet has nothing to do with the Theory of Evolution. That is the theory of Abiogenesis. Whether a god, aliens or a puddle of hot mud created life on the planet make no difference to the process of Evolution.

Evolution can and does explain very complex cellular structures without the need for a god of the gaps to appear. Evolution has no long term objectives and therefore “Time” is not important to the process. It does not look to the future. It is not sentient. It is only concerned with the present environmental conditions so it can replicate. It can be a difficult idea to see clearly because it is based on changes made over time – usually a very long period of time. We generally cannot imagine what 1000 years is like but life on Earth began over 500 million years ago.

Variations and mutations can happen randomly at any stage. However it is not random if these mutations get passed on. If they are beneficial to this complex cellular structure then by the process of Natural Selection they get passed on to the next generation. This is done only at the genome level. Mutations should not be considered “mistakes”. If cells are constantly dividing and replicating (passing on DNA) then mutations creep in. So if it happens once in a billion (that is a very small number on the genome level) a sequence in the DNA chain is altered. This may result in the mutation getting naturally selected or rejected depending on whether or not it is beneficial to the life (survival) of the organism. That decision is based upon the environment where the organism is living. It is really only this decision that is important as Evolution is only concerned with survival NOW in order to pass on its genetic code. Another way of looking at it is that Evolution has no long term goals.

Survival of the “fittest” does not mean “fittest” in the sense of being the strongest or the biggest. If a trait (mutation) is selected rather than rejected it is because it is useful to the overall improvement in the survival of the organism within it current environment.

There are NO missing links. The word “link” refers to a chainlike structure. Creationists visualise Evolution like a ladder with humans at the top and one or more of the missing ladder rungs equating to Missing links.

However Evolution does not follow a progressive path in the sense that it is linear like a ladder or stairs. It is more like a tree with branches.

Keep the “Tree of Life” image in your mind. Each Species is an offshoot of a major branch. So there may be a “missing twig” instead of a missing link. However we can still see the overall picture even if some of the leaves are missing. It is still a complete tree. I suppose extinct species could be likened to missing offshoots – the major biological branch is still there and will grow another one.

I often use this imagery before I start explaining Evolution to a theist. In a academic sense it may not be strictly correct but it is good enough for debating because it is an easy visual to understand.

If it was done by Intelligent Design then the copying process would be flawless. If it was a flawless process then Evolution would never have occurred – only photocopies of the original are replicated. The process however is not flawless – that is because mutations and variations do occur. This one concept alone is enough to debunk the stupidity of the I.D. argument.

We did not descend from apes. We share a common ancestor with them.

If you can get a chance to - read Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True”.

Also Dawkins “Greatest Show on Earth” chapter one for info on the various meanings of the word Theory which will debunk the argument the it is “only a theory”. Evolution is a fact.100% proven.
Everything else was solid, but I still see one small issue. "If it was done by Intelligent Design then the copying process would be flawless." assumes the theological question "god wouldn't x, x, therefore no god." Here the response would be "how do you know what god would or wouldn't do?

"how do you know what god would or wouldn't do?" 

That argument cuts both directions, a theist has no more knowledge than an atheist of gods mysterious ways as they like to point out. It is a non argument for there case.


But the fact still remains that the argument relies on saying what god would or wouldn't do. It begs the question, I've got to be incredibly careful about that sort of stuff. There are seriously well versed critical thinkers that have serious debate skills.

They can be the best debaters in the world but also woefully uninformed on science.


If someone throws out the "just a theory" nonsense then it shows their scientific ignorance right off the bat. Usually, it's a waste of time debating those who don't understand what a scientific theory is.


But anyway I will shoot them down with something like this:  "Yes, a theory in the same sense as the heliocentric theory which shows that we orbit the sun and the same as atomic theory and the germ theory. The theory of evolution is supported by millions of facts (evidence) and none in contradiction.


The following is from the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not "guesses" but reliable accounts of the real world. The theory of biological evolution is more than "just a theory." It is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease. Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact.



 the term "fact" refers to a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing it or looking for additional examples. In that respect, the past and continuing occurrence of evolution is a scientific fact. Because the evidence supporting it is so strong, scientists no longer question whether biological evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur. Instead, they investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions.

Their contention is there is an Intelligent Designer and they use their lack of understanding of science to try to prove it. When it is all said and done where is the proof of the designer? It always get down to you have presume a god figure, something supernatural, where is the proof?
I've certainly considered this answer. His assertion seems to be based on a false dichotomy of "either god or evolution" where that is simply not the case. I don't need evolution to say there is no god, it just offers an alternative. Then comes the appeal to motive, but I can handle that one.

i had previously posted this in a discussion we were having about The Greatest Show on Earth chapter one and thought i'd paste it over here:


(from The Greatest Show on Earth, Ch. 1)

Theory, Sense 1: (the scientific sense) A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed.


Theory, Sense 2: (the it's just a theory sense) A hypothesis proposed as an explanation; hence, a mere hypothesis, speculation, conjecture; an idea or set of ideas about something; an individual view or notion.


The point being, that when people say, like above that, "it is still just a theory," you are pointing to sense 2, whereas the correct sense when talking about the Theory of Evolution is sense 1.

You can of course point to the fact that the Pope issued a papal decree a number of years ago stating that the Theory of Evolution has been accepted by the Vatican as a factual and valid scientific concept, and the Roman Catholic church sees no dissonance between a belief in God and Darwins theory.( He can always therefore go and argue with the pope...........)?
@ David - Like your thinking there. The pope was so generous to forgive Galileo recently almost after 400 years. Pity the Vatican still thinks Rome is the centre of the Universe though. See also

Hear ya- one step at a time for the believers though eh! Thanks for the link.(how anyone can take a man who wears such silly hats seriously..................!!!!)



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