Evolution as a Matter of Faith

The bit-heads behind Mozilla, Firefox, and related software sometimes feature off-topic blog posts at planet.mozilla.org, an aggregator of Mozilla-related blogs. Today, Gervase Markham replies to a post by Ian Hixie pertaining to evolution. Hixie maintains that evolution is a fact, while Gervase proposes that it’s a matter of faith (that macro-evolution is, at any rate).

Gervase’s tactic is common among those disinclined to believe in evolution, and it can be pretty easily swept aside. Talk Origins points out that evolution doesn’t require faith because it is based on observable phenomena (and further, I would add, phenomena that can be observed by anybody and everybody, unlike a personal relationship with the deity of your choice). In short, because we can review the fossil record and draw conclusions from relationships among creatures that emerge therefrom, we are using evidence rather than faith — and rather than a reliance upon old texts — to support hypotheses.

A general criterion for whether or not something can be classified as science is that it is falsifiable. And it is true enough that evolution as a whole can’t be falsified (because it can’t be reproduced — it’s one big long phenomenon that we have no way of duplicating on so large a scale). But conclusions within the theory can be falsified, and it seems pretty clear to me that there’s a scientific process based on observation rather than just an “I believe this” process going on. So nice try, Gerv, but it really doesn’t fly. There’s a big difference between “hey, look at the similarities and slight differences among these fossils sitting here in front of us and compare them to modern animals of type X” and “I believe Jesus will come back in three weeks because I had a dream about horsemen and beasts with horns and boy doesn’t it make me feel nice to think about heaven.”

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