Evolutionary Theory and the Epistemology of Science



  • The sciences offer us a detailed picture of the world in which we live. But why is it rational to accept this picture? Evolutionary theory provides a beautiful case study of the way in which scientific theories are supported by their evidence. In this chapter we provide a guide for teachers who wish to use evolutionary theory to explain the way in which scientific theories are supported, and to explain what is required for a theory to be rationally accepted. Our method is to consider evolutionary theory in the light of a range of criticisms that have been made by its critics: that it is a theory rather than a fact, that it cannot be proven, that it is not falsifiable, that it has been falsified, and that it does not make predictions. Using a series of examples, we explain why these criticisms are either false or involve a misunderstanding of the nature of evidential support and scientific knowledge. In the process, we exhibit some of the epistemic principles that are at the heart of scientific inference, and show how they are employed to establish the rational acceptability of evolution.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 101
  • End Page

  • 119
  • Volume

  • 1