Friday, June 15, 2007

Do You Believe in Evolution?

An interesting question was brought to my attention in a recent interview between the media (Reuters) and an LDS member. "Do you believe in evolution?" I would have to say, as a trained scientist and a believing member of the LDS Church, "NO!" I find it incredibly disturbing that such a question even exists.

Before I go further, let me make a few things clear. I love science. I graduated with a degree in pre-veterinary medicine. Zoology is fascinating to me. I trained in the scientific method. I trained in writing theses. I've analyzed experiments and reproduced them in lab. I miss my scientific field with a hunger that has made me consider cutting my earning power in half just to get my latex-wrapped fingers around a test tube filled with blood agar. I. Love. Science. I love science almost as much as I love animals, which is why I find the question of whether or not I "believe" in evolution so dismaying. It has nothing to do with my sincere and deep religious conviction. In fact, the religious side of me leaves far more room for a "belief" in evolution or its like. My scientific reason, however, cannot accept that science is being formed into the Church of the People.

Science is nothing more than a method used to break down the workings of the world and find out how things are. It was never meant to define the great "Why" that religion addresses. By its very nature, science has nothing to do with belief. In the scientific method, one 1) observes. Through those observations, one drafts a 2) hypothesis. One then 3) tests the hypothesis in as controlled an environment as possible. During the testing, one 4) observes the results. Then one 5) adjusts the hypothesis and begins again. Once a hypothesis has been refined and is provable in multiple experiments at multiple times, it graduates to a 6) theory. Theories are hypotheses with the weight of reproducibility behind them. If a theory becomes so provable (and so concise) that it becomes a law, it has become as assured as possible under the tenets of science and other hypotheses and theories are built on that law. (Bear in mind that even laws can change, though rarely, in science.)

Nowhere in the scientific method (the basis of science) is there room for belief. There is room for guesses, there is room for educated guesses, there is room for reason, but there is no room for faith. Therefore, one cannot by the very nature of science "believe" in a scientific theory, such as the Theory of Evolution.

What is more galling is that the theory of evolution (bearing in mind that I am speaking of MACROevolution, or the change from one species to another, and not microevolution, or the adaptation of existing traits) is not even truly developed to the point that it can honestly be called a "theory." Macroevolution has not been proven in the lab. Macroevolution has not even been satisfactorily observed in the natural environment. The evidence for macroevolution is sparse and largely circumstantial. Although microevolution is perhaps consistent enough to be elevated to the status of a theory, it has not been quantified, has not been refined and cannot be called anything more than a theory in its fledgling state, not having moved into the power of a scientific law. Macroevolution is little more than extrapolation built on the observable evidence of microevolution. Unfortunately, the term "Hypothesis of Evolution" doesn't sound nearly so titillating as "Theory of Evolution."

So, my answer to the question, "do you believe in evolution?" is a resounding "NO!" I like the theory of evolution. I think it is very probably accurate. I think both the concepts of micro- and macroevolution are fascinating. I can't wait to see what more is discovered about evolution, but my interest in evolution is not a matter of belief or faith. The media has fastened upon Darwin's concept and turned it into a weapon in the science-versus-religion smackdown. Sadly, for the media, there is nothing that science could ever do to disprove or prove the existence of God. But then, that is not the purpose of science. Nor is self-verification the purpose of God.

I love science, but it is not a religion and never can be. It is tragic that people are so afraid of faith in the unknown that they turn to a discovery process like science for their self-affirmation. It is tragic that people need to lean on the seen so heavily they mock or ignore the unseen. However, if people insist on venerating the God of Scientific Theory, they should at least have the decency to recognize that the Religion of Science requires just as much faith as orthodox religion. At least, according to Reuters it does.

Perhaps this is the "great and abominable Church" spoken of in scripture. Move over, Catholics, here come the Scientists.

5 comments :

  1. I appreciate your insight as someone trained in the scientific method.

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  2. This was interesting. Thanks!

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  3. I'm just going to say this here, since there has been some confusion over at BCC about my thoughts on evolution. I think that evolution is a great idea and is probably the tool God used to create the earth. That doesn't mean that I can't point out that it is far from being considered a fact and that it should never be treated as a religion or faith-based conviction, as so many do.

    That is my point. No more, no less.

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  4. Just out of curiosity, what branch of science is your training in?

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  5. Veterinary medicine. Pre-graduate work only so far, which straddles most of the "hard" sciences, with a strong emphasis in zoology and chemistry.

    ReplyDelete

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