“The Fact of Evolution” from Big Think
I think this short piece from Big Think featuring Richard Dawkins succinctly shows the definition of the word “fact” and its common misuse by people in an attempt to discredit science. This follows on well from my last post in which I tried to illustrate the difference between “facts” and “fancy”. Enjoy.
Transcript after the jump.
Question: How would you correct the understanding that evolution is a theory?
Richard Dawkins: The word “theory” can be used to mean something speculative and tentative. In everyday speech it probably usually is used in that sense. Scientists very often use it in a much more positive sense. I think the easiest way is to use the ordinary language word “fact”. In the ordinary language sense of the word fact, evolution is a fact.
Question: What is the evidence that evolution is a fact?
Richard Dawkins: The evidence that makes it a fact is partly fossil evidence, partly comparative evidence, looking at modern species and comparing their bones, their organs, their structures generally, and especially their molecules, their genes, at a molecular level. This is extremely persuasive and powerful evidence. You compare the genes of animals and plants. You find that the pattern of resemblance is a tree, a branching tree. And that branching tree could only be a family tree. Other very persuasive evidence is the geographical distribution of animals and plants on islands and continents: they’re exactly where we should expect them to be if evolution were a fact.
Recorded on: October 21, 2009