Only a Theory?

We need to face the fact that the theory of evolution serves the purposes of Satan. He wants people to imitate his course, and that of Adam and Eve, in rebelling against God. This is especially so now, since the Devil has only "a short period of time" left. (Revelation 12:9-12) Thus, believing in evolution would mean promoting his interests and blinding oneself to the wonderful purposes of the Creator. How, then, should we feel about this? We feel indignant to those who try to defraud us of money, or even of a few material possessions. We should feel even stronger indignation towards the doctrine of evolution and its originator, since the intent is to defraud us of eternal life. - 1 Peter 5:8.

Life - How did it get here? By evolution or by creation?
[Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc., 1985]

Although I am fully convinced of the truth of the views given in this volume under the form of an abstract, I by no means expect to convince experienced naturalists whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts all viewed, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite to mine. It is so easy to hide our ignorance under such expressions as the 'plan of creation', 'unity of design', &c., and to think that we give an explanation when we only restate a fact. Any one whose disposition leads him to attach more weight to unexplained difficulties than to the explanation of a certain number of facts will certainly reject my theory.

Charles Darwin
On the Origin of Species, Ch.14, 1859

As Good as it Gets


(Only a divine being)

"It's only a theory"—that's what a Jehovah's Witness of my acquaintance invariably asserts, whenever the topic of coversation turns to matters Darwinian. My reply is equally predictable: "Less of the only, if you don't mind!"

In science, a theory is as good as it gets. Science, unlike religious fundamentalism, doesn't pretend to deal in certainties. A scientific theory is only as good as the tests it has so far withstood. No matter how convinced you might be, you can never state categorically that a theory is 'true'.

Of course, some theories are better than others. Anyone can come up with a crack-pot theory of their own (and many people calling themselves scientists do), but few of these stand up to any sort of rigorous scrutiny. Darwin's theory of evolution by means of Natural Selection, however, has been undergoing rigorous scrutiny for over 140 years, and it has stood up to the onslaught remarkably well. The keystones of his theory, inherited variation and natural selection, still remain the best explanation we have for why lifeforms are the way that they are.

Theories Can Evolve Too

Admittedly, as any Jehovah's Witness will be quick to point out, Darwin did make his fair share of mistakes. For example, he knew nothing about the mechanism for inheritance, inventing his own, horrendously wrong, theory of pangenesis.

But scientific theories can, like organisms, evolve. Just because Darwin got it so wrong on the heredity front, it doesn't mean that everything else he said automatically falls to pieces. We now have a much better idea of how heredity works, and our modern understanding of genetics fits very nicely into Darwin's theory.

Singing from Different Hymn Sheets

The two quotations given at the top of this page both make use of the words fact and theory, but the two authors mean completely different things by the terms.

When the (shamelessly anonymous) author of the first quotation cites 'facts', they quote chapter, verse and religious dogma, equating the very idea of evolution with the work of Satan. By 'theory', they mean something which is, by definition, flawed (they are probably confusing the word 'theory' with the word 'hypothesis'—an idea that hasn't been fully tested yet). Theories, in their book, are inevitably less valid than the 'gospel truth'.

Many scientists nowadays would feel uncomfortable using the word fact in any context. When Darwin uses the word in the second quotation, however, he means a verifiable observation. By 'theory', he means a set of ideas based on or attempting to explain these observations.

How could any scientist possibly test whether the theory of evolution is the work of Satan? How could any religious fundamentalist possibly provide scientifically acceptable evidence merely by quoting chapter and verse? The scientist and the Bible-basher cannot do battle because they can't even agree the rules of engagement.

An Appeal to Reason

But just read the two quotations at the top of this page again, and ask yourself the following question:

Which of the two authors seems the most reasonable?

If you even have to think about your answer, you probably won't want to join the Friends of Charles Darwin.


See Also: Polite Note to Creationists, Religious Fundamentalists, and their Ilk

This article was written in 2000.

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