The Epistemic Status of Evolutionary Theory

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The theory of evolution continues to be a bone of contention among certain groups of theistic believers. More often than not, debate about it is conducted in terms of firm blanket statements, with one side maintaining that evolution is just a proven fact and the other claiming that it is a theory in crisis. This paper aims to bring some light to this heated debate by doing two things. First, we distinguish between three different ‘layers’ within the theory of evolution: Historical Evolution, Common Ancestry, and Natural Selection. Next, we introduce a framework for epistemic appraisal and apply it to the three layers in order to provide a realistic and sober assessment of their respective epistemic credentials. The upshot is a more nuanced epistemic appraisal of the theory of evolution, which shows that there are significant differences in epistemic standing between its three layers. While there ought to be little doubt about the first two layers, the claim that natural selection alone is the key driving force of evolutionary change is much less certain. Any serious conversation about the theory of evolution ought to reflect these facts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454–472
Number of pages19
JournalTheology and Science
Volume15
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2017

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Layer
Evolutionary Theory
Theory of Evolution
Natural Selection
Blanket
Ancestry
Believer
Evolutionary

Cite this

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title = "The Epistemic Status of Evolutionary Theory",
abstract = "The theory of evolution continues to be a bone of contention among certain groups of theistic believers. More often than not, debate about it is conducted in terms of firm blanket statements, with one side maintaining that evolution is just a proven fact and the other claiming that it is a theory in crisis. This paper aims to bring some light to this heated debate by doing two things. First, we distinguish between three different ‘layers’ within the theory of evolution: Historical Evolution, Common Ancestry, and Natural Selection. Next, we introduce a framework for epistemic appraisal and apply it to the three layers in order to provide a realistic and sober assessment of their respective epistemic credentials. The upshot is a more nuanced epistemic appraisal of the theory of evolution, which shows that there are significant differences in epistemic standing between its three layers. While there ought to be little doubt about the first two layers, the claim that natural selection alone is the key driving force of evolutionary change is much less certain. Any serious conversation about the theory of evolution ought to reflect these facts.",
author = "{van den Brink}, G. and {de Ridder}, G.J. and {van Woudenberg}, R.",
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The Epistemic Status of Evolutionary Theory. / van den Brink, G.; de Ridder, G.J.; van Woudenberg, R.

In: Theology and Science, Vol. 15, No. 4, 02.10.2017, p. 454–472.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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AU - van den Brink, G.

AU - de Ridder, G.J.

AU - van Woudenberg, R.

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AB - The theory of evolution continues to be a bone of contention among certain groups of theistic believers. More often than not, debate about it is conducted in terms of firm blanket statements, with one side maintaining that evolution is just a proven fact and the other claiming that it is a theory in crisis. This paper aims to bring some light to this heated debate by doing two things. First, we distinguish between three different ‘layers’ within the theory of evolution: Historical Evolution, Common Ancestry, and Natural Selection. Next, we introduce a framework for epistemic appraisal and apply it to the three layers in order to provide a realistic and sober assessment of their respective epistemic credentials. The upshot is a more nuanced epistemic appraisal of the theory of evolution, which shows that there are significant differences in epistemic standing between its three layers. While there ought to be little doubt about the first two layers, the claim that natural selection alone is the key driving force of evolutionary change is much less certain. Any serious conversation about the theory of evolution ought to reflect these facts.

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