In What Sense is Evolution “True”?

Richard Dawkins on the truthfulness of evolution.

Just as you entrust your travel to a Boeing 747 rather than a magic carpet or a broomstick; just as you take your tumour to the best surgeon available, rather than a shaman or a mundu mugu, so you will find that the scientific version of truth works. You can use it to navigate through the real world. Science predicts, with complete certainty unless the end of the world intervenes, that the city of Shanghai will experience a total eclipse of the sun on July 22, 2009. Theories about the moon god devouring the sun god may be poetic, and they may cohere with other aspects of a tribe’s world view, but they won’t predict the date, time and place of an eclipse. Science will, and with an accuracy you could set your watch by. Science gets you to the moon and back. Even if we bend over backwards to concede that scientific truth is no more than that which enables you to pilot your way reliably, safely and predictably around the real universe, it is in exactly this sense that - at the very least - evolution is true. Evolutionary theory pilots us around biology reliably and predictively, with a detailed and unblemished success that rivals anything in science. The least you can say about evolutionary theory is that it works. All but pedants would go further and assert that it is true.…

Evolution is true in whatever sense you accept it as true that New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere. If we refused ever to use a word like “true”, how could we conduct our day-to-day conversations? Or fill in a census form: “What is your sex?” “The hypothesis that I am male has not so far been falsified, but let me just check again”. As Douglas Adams might have said, it doesn’t read well. Yet the philosophy that imposes such scruples on science has no basis for absolving everyday facts from the same circumlocution. It is in this sense that evolution is true - provided, of course, that the scientific evidence for it is strong.

(Read the rest…)

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on February 17, 2009 4:20 PM.

Falco peregrinus was the previous entry in this blog.

It would help if he read the actual book… is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.361

Site Meter