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Evolution is scientific theory, not fact, and therefore open to the same challenges, and updates, as others

letter of the day: Origin of man

Published 27/09/2016

I ENTIRELY agree with "Honest man" (Write Back, September 16) that "Write Back is not really the place to explain scientific theories", and thank him for his reference to Berkeley University's website on understanding evolution.

However, discussing the truth, or otherwise, of evolution was not the purpose my original letter (Write Back, September 13). What I was pointing out there was that his arguments in its support were flawed.

If he had good arguments, as he believes are available on the above-mentioned website, why did he use such poor ones in his first letter (Write Back, September 12)?

Its whole tone was that anyone doubting the current orthodoxy of evolutionary theory must be a fundamentalist crackpot, whose heretic views should not be published.

Scientific theories are something quite distinct from facts - they provide a framework for organising knowledge. However, they may be overturned when a better theory is formulated.

A good example of this is gravitation. That bodies fall to the ground and planets and comets move in orbits are facts, observable by anyone. Newton devised his theory of gravitation and laws of mechanics, which gave a simple way of organising these facts.

It even was able to predict that there must be more planets and pinpoint where they could be found, as was done by Halley, when he observed Uranus.

Unfortunately, there were a few minor discrepancies, like the small perturbations in the orbit of Mercury, that could not be explained by his theory.

Einstein came up with a completely different theory, which was successful in doing so and has, therefore, replaced Newton's one.

No doubt, in the future, Einstein's will be found wanting and yet another will be devised. That is the way science works.

What Newton and Einstein had done was provide useful models of the universe, but nobody can claim that their theories are factually correct. The same is true of evolution and claims, such as those of "Honest man", to the contrary are either misguided, or dishonest.

MARTIN D STERN

Salford, Greater Manchester

Belfast Telegraph

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