Evolution As Fact and Theory - Evolution, Fact and Theory - Fact - Manifest Fact

Manifest Fact

Mahner and Bunge (1997), Bock (2007), and Fitzhugh (2007) claim that it is a fundamental violation of the scientific method to suggest that empirically corroborated observations, hypotheses, or theories could become a fact. These evolutionary biologists and philosophers of science share a common understanding of what can be called a manifest fact, whereby: "confirming evidence cannot change the status of a hypothesis to a fact." The alternative practice, claiming that facts are identified through empirical inference, is "rampant in the philosophy of biology" Stating that "evolution is a fact" is an inexact reference to multiple hypotheses and theories. However, evolution may be considered a manifest fact, but only as the subject of reference stemming from numerous explanatory hypotheses; it is necessary to parcel the different branches in the tree of life to test specific claims (e.g., homology) in reference to the evolution of specific lineages. Philosopher Karl Popper referred to evolution in these terms:

What we call the evolutionary hypothesis is an explanation of a host of biological and paleontological observations--for instance, of certain similarities between various species and genera--by the assumption of common ancestry of related forms. This hypothesis is not a universal law, even though certain universal laws of nature, such as laws of heredity, segregation, and mutation, enter with it into the explanation. It has rather, the characteristic of a particular (singular or specific) historical statement...I see in modern Darwinism the most successful explanation of the relevant facts.

Hypotheses and theories are fallible, theory-laden constructs. Such fallibility does not, however, apply to facts, since facts merely exist regardless of their being perceived. The basis for testing is to evaluate the veracity of our claims regarding facts.

Kirk J. Fitzhugh (2007)

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