From “Evolutionary Theory” to an “Evolutionary Law”

It is not uncommon to hear the suggestion of replacing the word "theory" with "law" in "evolutionary theory" to prevent confusion among the public. Does an established scientific theory qualify as a scientific law?

Self-acclaimed young-Earth creationists often say “evolution is just a theory” online to understate evolution and give the impression that evolution is just an idea that the scientists came up with. Therefore it is not uncommon that people with common sense suggest replacing the word “theory” with “law” in evolutionary theory to prevent confusion among non-scientists.

Evolutionary theory is indeed an established scientific theory, but does the theory qualify as a scientific law?

Creazione di Adamo (Creation of Adam)
Creazione di Adamo (Creation of Adam), a painting by Italian artist Michelangelo.
Scientific Theories

The word theory entered the English language in the late sixteenth century meaning conception, mental scheme, speculation. Arts and sciences began using the word in the seventeenth century but in a different meaning.

Contrary to popular belief, in science, a theory is not the best-educated guess scientists have about a certain natural phenomenon. On the contrary, a scientific theory is a well-confirmed type of explanation of nature, made in a way consistent with modern scientific methods.

A scientific theory is a framework for observations and facts in the natural world, and it does not only address existing scientific data but also makes predictions. Scientific theories are repeatedly tested confirmed through experiments or observation.

Following are some examples of scientific theories:

  • Cell theory
  • The Theory of Gravity
  • General relativity
  • Evolutionary Theory
Charles Darwin
Scientific Laws

A scientific law is a statement describing what always happens under certain conditions, and it can often be expressed as mathematical equations.

For example,

  • Newton’s laws of motion
  • Archimedes’ Principle
  • Laws of Thermodynamics

Finally, scientific theories do not graduate to become scientific laws.

it is not evolutionary law but ...

Evolutionary theory explains how a certain scientific fact works. That fact, evolution, is the third law of biology.

  • The First Law of Biology: all living organisms obey the laws of thermodynamics.
  • The Second Law of Biology: all living organisms consist of membrane-encased cells.
  • The Third Law of Biology: all living organisms arose in an evolutionary process.
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Tamer Aydogdu
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