Scientific Facts – Set in Stone?
There used to be a time everyone believed the Earth was at the the centre of the Universe. It was a ‘scientific fact’. Then a naughty chap called Copernicus suggested it wasn’t, backed up a dude called Galileo just a few years after Copernicus died. They were are told off, ridiculed, persecuted and in no doubt told they were naughty chaps to challenge the status quo.
The reason I mention this is it’s a good example of what tends to happen to people who suggest something is not right with the status quo, there’s a better way to explain it and perhaps old theories need to be thrown out in light of new evidence.
Aristotle came up with the idea that the the Earth was at the centre of things. It held sway for 1600 years or so. It was embraced by everyone, from the scientific community (as it was during those years) and the church (also as it was).
Aristotle came up with the idea based on what he could see. As he saw more in the sky, the idea had to be refined to take into account what he could now see.
To put it in to scientific parlance, he made a hypothesis to explain what he observed, then amended the hypothesis to explain the new things he could see.
Along come a gifted mathematician Copernicus and came up with a new hypothesis that the Sun, not the Earth was at the centre of our galaxy. Naughty chap, he challenged the status quo and it got him into hot water. Then Galileo with his new instruments observed more, and suggested Copernicus was right. That also got him into the same hot water as it also challenged the status quo.
Scientific hypotheses make assumptions and propose a hypothesis to explain the observable data. When new observations come along, it brings into light the validity of the assumptions, and the adequacy of the hypothesis to explain the observations.
If the hypothesis is no longer adequate to explain what is observed, either the assumptions or the hypothesis need to change. Sometimes, the hypothesis itself needs to be abandoned and a new one created.
When a hypothesis is abandoned, this is usually when there is alot of friction. People are so committed to that hypothesis they may feel a little defensive or stupid that they believed the original one wasn’t true after all.
So I believe this is what we are seeing with the evolution debate. It appears that the old Darwinian idea that mutations and natural selection are enough to explain the diversity of life (how life originated is a different debate). Good news for science you would think. However, so wedded to the Darwinian idea are people, they are fighting and kicking and swearing at anyone who might think Neo-Darwinism has had it’s time. And heaven help anyone who suggests life might have an intelligent origin, a global flood can account for much of our present geology, or even if the Earth could be younger than 4.723244 billion years.
Here’s my prediction. Neo Darwinism (increasingly called the Modern Synthesis) will be abandoned due to failing to explain what we are seeing in the cell and replaced with a completely new synthesis. Darwin’s statue will move from it’s eminent position in the natural history museum and be replaced with someone we’ve yet to identify.