Columns explain what science reveals

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Don Casebolt’s July 23 letter demonstrates the disadvantage of criticizing something of which you apparently have little firsthand knowledge. He states, “Earlier this year I learned that Steve Luckstead has been writing ... with the thesis that it (evolution) has been proven.”

Had he more familiarity with my writings, he would know I have stated no such “thesis.” He quotes my assertion that scientific ideas must be falsifiable, but, expanding on what he thinks this means, he gets it wrong.

My columns explain what science has revealed. I typically give examples or explanations of how that knowledge came about. I try putting new knowledge in context with larger understandings of a given subject.

Bodies of knowledge referred to as theories are the most highly regarded. This is because they provide exceptional explanatory power based on huge bodies of knowledge that show no internal contradictions. Usually, they span a number of disciplines, each relying on its own unique scientific methods of discovery.

Can they be overturned? Yes, but the task is formidable since existing evidence for theories is so compelling.

Colloquial usage of the word theory implies what is more accurately characterized as a hypothesis. Hypotheses are proposed explanations of some phenomena in need of supporting data.

Without supporting data it will be abandoned, or, if data demonstrates the explanation is in error, the hypothesis is regarded as disproved; hence, the assertion that “scientific ideas must be falsifiable”.

Casebolt challenges me to identify how “ ...(my) theory can be falsified. ...” First, it isn’t my theory, but if anyone knows of vulnerabilities that, if supporting data could be found, would overthrow this body of knowledge, it wouldn’t and couldn’t be concealed.

Furthermore, just as the atomic theory of matter matured from simple models of atoms to more robust models with accumulation of more information, our understanding of evolution has matured.

No authority ever decrees a theory complete. It is precisely because theories are falsifiable that they can grow in sophistication. Could something be discovered that would topple the whole edifice? It’s possible, but extremely unlikely because they are built on such solid foundations.

Casebolt’s quotes of biologists from 40 and 80 years ago are disingenuous. Though the evidence was strong, these eras predate modern molecular and developmental biology and most of DNA based genetics.

My “thesis” is that growth in each of these disciplines has expanded the explanatory power of the theory of evolution.

Steve Luckstead

Walla Walla

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