I wanted to get an on-the-spot response from a scientist, so I asked one of my colleagues at work, Dr. Briana Pobiner, a paleoanthropologist, “You believe in evolution, right?” I was surprised by how quickly she answered “I don’t believe in evolution – I accept the evidence for evolution.” The believing isn’t what makes evolution true or not, it’s that there is evidence that supports it.
I was all prepared for this to be a critique of how people use “science” to quote-unquote prove unprovable questions, like whether there’s a God or where the human race came from or what consciousness is.
I am disappointed that it is just a word game. “I don’t take anything on faith; I accept the evidence.”Which evidence would that be?
The evidence that is conditional on certain assumptions?That’s faith, sweetie.The most science can ever truly say about evolution (or anything else) is that if the assumptions science starts with are true, then this theory can be assumed to be correct.The problem is that the assumptions science starts with are not true. They are sometimes true. Sometimes they are demonstrably untrue.
Consider Ockham’s razor: is it true that the “most elegant” explanation is necessarily true?
Of course not. The history of science is a history of people saying “This must be true because Ockham’s razor says it is.” Then – when lots of people die – guess what! Now we have new data. So Ockham’s razor worked – not because it was true, but because it enabled us to take a situation where we didn’t have enough data to work with, and create a testable hypothesis that either would be right, or would generate more data. That’s what Ockham’s razor does. Anyone who thinks that therefore Ockham’s razor is always true is not thinking very clearly.
Materialism – aka naturalism – is another article of faith. The problem with this one is that it leads to “proof” that is in fact tautological: you are starting with the assumption that matter is all there is. You can’t use such an assumption to prove that matter is all there is.
Though it would sound sorta stupid to say, “we have proven that, if there is no such thing as God, or the supernatural, or anything that we don’t have proof for, then it is true that evolution blah blah blah…”
It sounds much more impressive – and authoritative – to say, “I accept the evidence” – and hope nobody misses that little lie of omission.