Reply to a 14 year old creationist

I think I really like this Orac person. I hope they’ll ley me borrow liberally from their response, in case any smart 14-year-old creationists post on my website. (as opposed to the loser who called me an “athiest bitch” a little while back:

You state that “evolution is a theory, not a fact!” You are half correct in this statement. In actuality, evolution is both a theory and a fact. It is a fact in that evolution has definitely occurred. Indeed, one reason that creationism “evolved” from its original Biblically literal young earth variety to its current “intelligent design” concept is because the evidence that living things evolve is so overwhelming that even most creationists were ultimately forced to acknowledge that evolution has occurred. Evolution is also a theory in that it is a set of ideas that attempts to explain how and why evolution occurs. However, I’m wondering if you are aware of what the word “theory” means to scientists; in science the meaning of the word is different than it is in colloquial use. To most laypeople, the word “theory” in essence suggests an “educated” guess. Indeed, the famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said this about the “just a theory” claim about evolution: “Creationists make it sound like a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being out drunk all night.” That they do so (often, but not always, unknowingly) is mainly because of the more rigorous meaning that scientists give to the word “theory” compared to its more common meaning.
You must understand that, to scientists, the word “theory” has a much more specific meaning. To scientists, the word “theory” means a supposition or statement of ideas intended to explain a natural phenomenon (such as the “theory of evolution”). But it is more than that. To scientists, the word “theory” implies that the supposition or statement of ideas at present best explains the available data, has utility as a conceptual principle, and makes predictions regarding the behavior of natural phenomenon. To be recognized as a “theory,” such a statement of ideas must be supported by an enormous quantity of data, so much so that scientists at present cannot think of a better set of suppositions that explains the data and makes predictions of natural behavior. So it is with the Theory of Relativity, and so it is with the Theory of Evolution. No other set of ideas comes close to explaining the wealth of fossil, observational, experimental, and molecular biological evidence regarding how species adapt and evolve and how species come to be. Creationism, regardless of whether it’s the “intelligent design” or Biblical “young earth” variety does not come close and even contradicts much of the known evidence. That is why scientists do not consider creationism to be a theory. Also, to be useful to scientists, theories must be falsifiable. That means there must be evidence that, if found, would prove the theory incorrect. Creationism fails as a theory in that respect as well, because there is no way any scientist could ever prove that there is no God. That is one reason why scientists consider creationism to be religion or philosophy and not science, and thus not properly part of the teaching of biology. The problem with creationism, as far as scientists go, is that the explanation for unanswered questions becomes, in essence, “God did it.” That answer may be fine as a matter of faith, but it does not help science progress.

Respectful Insolence

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