Evolution is a 'theory' grounded in facts

To the management of the Colorado Springs IMAX theater:


Dear Sir or Madam,


I write to beg you, in the strongest possible terms, to show the best science films that you can find.  Especially if they mention evolution.  The best films will.



I donít normally write theaters telling them what films they should show.  But just last week, a few IMAXes in the South refused to show some great science movies.  Why?  Because the films mention evolution.  Theater managers are worried about controversy.


Iím not crying censorship here.  If you think a film wonít make money itís your right to say no.  Thatís not censorship, thatís business.  I do hope, though, that you wonít do anything hasty based on some misconceptions about our town.


Barry Fagin




You might be told that evolution isnít good science, and doesnít belong in a science film.  Whoever tells you that doesnít do science for a living.


Some people say evolution isnít science because it canít be tested in the laboratory.  Nonsense.  Science isnít just something geeks do sitting around in white coats fiddling with test tubes. 



Science is a process for finding things out.  Itís an imperfect, achingly human activity, but itís the best way weíve found so far to understand the world, inside and outside the laboratory.  After all, the Theory of Continental Drift canít be demonstrated in the lab.  Does that mean that geology isnít science?  



If we drift down that path, no large-scale natural process can ever be studied.  In fact, thereís no point in wondering if such processes exist.  Bye-bye geology, cosmology, paleontology, archaeology, and even factual history.  Sorry, but I donít think so.

Good science films use good science.  That means evolution.  Sure, youíll get some letters, and maybe a protester or two.  Theyíll say ďEvolution is a theory, not a fact!Ē, ďEvolution isnít science!Ē, and  ďEvolution is godless and immoral!Ē.  All sincerely felt.  All passionately believed.  All completely wrong.


The ďtheory not factĒ argument comes from how scientists use the word Ďtheoryí.  In ordinary speech, a theory is a guess about something.  When used that way, it makes complete sense to say that something is a theory but not a fact.


Scientific theories, however, are testable.  Thatís what makes them important.  When a scientific theory passes test after test after test, it becomes a Theory, a Ďbig ideaí that ties a bunch of smaller facts together and is a fact itself.   After a hundred years or so of really tough testing, thatís what the Theory of Evolution has become:  A theory and a fact.  Itís one of humanityís finest achievements. 


How come no one objects to planetarium shows because the Theory of Relativity is ďonly a theoryĒ?  In fact, itís better, more powerful, and more accurate than the so-called Law of Gravity.  In fact.

Worst of all, you might hear that evolution denies God and morality. Not so.  The vast majority of thoughtful religious people in Colorado Springs are not afraid of Darwinian evolution.  I know that my faith can handle anything science can dish out.  It may bend, but it wonít break. 


When someone says that evolution is immoral, theyíre telling you how scared they are.  They just canít see how to live an ethical, satisfying life if evolution is correct.  I understand thatís a tough problem for some.  But itís a personal problem, not a scientific one.


I want my children to learn about the wonder and excitement of science.  I want them to learn about the awesome power and mystery of the world we live in.  I want them to learn what the unanswered questions are, because science always gives us plenty of those.  Such things can only inform an authentic religious faith, not weaken it.


The amazing technology in the IMAX theater gives eloquent testimony to the power of science, and provides the perfect venue for what Iím looking for.  Please give my family, and every family in Colorado Springs, a chance to have that experience.  Thank you.

© 2005, Barry Fagin

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