The New York Times

September 20, 2005
F.A.Q.: What's Evolution? Is It 'Just a Theory'?

As part of its training program for docents and staff members, the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, N.Y., provides a pamphlet with answers to frequently asked questions about evolution. Here are excerpts:

What is evolution? Organic evolution is the idea that all organisms are connected by genealogy and have changed through time.

How does evolution happen? Evolution is probably driven by several processes, the most important of which is natural selection.

Is evolution 'just a theory'? A "theory" in science is a structure of related ideas that explains one or more natural phenomena and is supported by observations from the natural world; it is not something less than a "fact." Theories actually occupy the highest, not the lowest, rank among scientific ideas. ... Evolution is a "theory" in the same way that the idea that matter is made of atoms is a theory. Is it true that there is lots of evidence against evolution? No. Essentially all available data and observations from the natural world support the hypothesis of evolution. No serious biologist or geologist today doubts whether evolution occurred.

Doesn't the complexity/design of nature imply an intelligent designer? Science deals only with the material causes of material phenomena. Nothing we can observe in nature requires a supernatural designer; we therefore defer to material processes to explain what we see in nature.

Is evolution against religion? No. ... Science deals only with material reality; religion deals with the spiritual, the moral and the ethical.