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Letter: Science is a process used to decipher the natural world

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Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2014 12:06 am

This is in response to Tom Baker’s letter, “Darwin’s theory has never been proven as truth,” published July 31.

Mr. Baker, do you know what science is? Science is a process of asking questions, then using the answers to ask new, more refined questions.

This brings us to your doubt over Darwin’s theory. Because science is a process, the theory has changed since Darwin wrote “On the Origin of Species.” Scientists have asked questions about natural selection, and it has been refined and adjusted, becoming one basis for the modern theory of evolution.

Unfortunately, these slow changes over the course of the theory’s development means the theory today is a very different beast than it was even 30 years ago. Arguments from the 1980s may not hold up against the modern theory, even if the criticisms came from “honest men of science,” as you say.

That last bit may not be true, either. You reference “Darwin on Trial” by Phillip Johnson, which was published in 1991. Johnson did indeed graduate from Harvard and the University of Chicago — with degrees in English literature and law, respectively. “The most respectable academic critique of evolution” was written by a man with no background or expertise in biology at all.

This by itself would not be a problem. Eugenie Scott, who has a doctorate in biological anthropology, reviewed the initial edition of Johnson’s book in 1993 (“Darwin Prosecuted: Review of Johnson’s Darwin on Trial”). And as she states, “if one wishes to step out of one’s area of expertise, scientist or nonscientist, it behooves one to make a careful study of the new area ...” Judging by Scott’s review (and others), Johnson failed to do that. Simply put, “the most respectable academic critique” isn’t.

Finally, Mr. Baker, you seem to believe that science is some monolithic, members-only club designed to keep the layperson out. That simply isn’t true. The information you say is being hidden is available — in scientific journals, in textbooks, in libraries and on the Internet. You just need to go out and find it, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist.

Matt Wilson


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