Instigator / Pro
1555
rating
8
debates
75.0%
won
Topic

The Theory of Evolution is a Fact

Status
Debating

Waiting for the instigator's fourth argument.

The round will be automatically forfeited in:

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Publication date
Last update date
Category
Science
Time for argument
Two weeks
Voting system
Open voting
Voting period
Two weeks
Point system
Four points
Rating mode
Rated
Characters per argument
15,000
Required rating
1500
Contender / Con
1500
rating
3
debates
83.33%
won
Description
~ 1,063 / 5,000

BOP is shared.

Pro : The Theory of Evolution is a Fact
Con : The Theory of Evolution is not a Fact

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Definitions for the context of this debate.

-Evolution - A scientific theory of biodiversity, describing how life diversifies [1].
-Scientific Theory - an explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can be repeatedly tested and verified in accordance with the scientific method [2].
-Evidence - The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid [3].
-Fact - A point of data that is objectively verifiable [4][5][6]

These terms are not to be redefined during this debate.

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I look forward to a fruitful discussion.

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[1] https://www.britannica.com/science/evolution-scientific-theory
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory
[3] https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/evidence
[4] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fact
[5] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/fact
[6] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/fact

Round 1
Pro
  Thank you Ayyantu for accepting this debate. My argument is a relatively short one :

1. The Theory of Evolution describes an aspect of reality : Biodiversity [1][2]
2. Biodiversity is a fact
3. The Theory of Evolution is composed of facts [3], describing instances of Biodiversity occurring by the mechanisms [4] maintained by the Theory .
4. Therefore, Evolution is both a theory and a fact.

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Over to Con!

 
Con
Before getting into my argument, let me quickly address the problems with Pro’s argument. First, Pro offers no credible source or reasoning to believe any of his statements. And pointing to dictionaries or encyclopedias to show that “biodiversity” or “evolution” exist as concepts isn’t enough to prove that either is “a point of data that is objectively verifiable.”

Second, Pro fails to specify which theory of evolution he supports. Is Pro arguing for “Lamarckism” or “Darwinism” or something else entirely? Not every theory of evolution can be a “fact,” so Pro needs to specify which theory to satisfy his BoP. A vague theory isn’t “objectively verifiable,” nor can it fairly be argued against, because it becomes a constantly moving target.

Third, Pro’s jump from statement 3 to statement 4 doesn’t follow logically. Even if the theory of evolution is “composed of facts,” that doesn’t mean the theory itself constitutes a “fact.” Maybe the theory is composed of both facts and non-facts. Pro has to show that evolution itself is a fact, not that the theory contains some facts.

Fourth, a brief search on Google turns up at least 10 alternative explanations for “biodiversity,” each with its own set of evidence, including intelligent design, morphic resonance (Rupert Sheldrake’s theory, which is quite compelling), ancient astronauts, and scientology. What makes evolution a “fact” rather than one of these explanations? Pro doesn’t say.
 
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My argument is simple: the theory of evolution cannot be a “fact” (as defined by Pro) because of quantum mechanics.

The famous double-slit experiment showed that when you fire electrons (or any particle) through a slit onto a detector screen, the very presence of observation changes the outcome, even in the absence of any physical force operating between the system and observer. This was the first evidence that there’s no independently existing universe “out there” separable from we who observe it.

In 2018, theoretical physicist Caslav Brukner at the University of Vienna offered mathematical proof that reality is observer-dependent (i.e. subjective to observers). [1] And in 2019, experimental physicists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh tested Brukner’s mathematical theory by creating irreconcilable realities, allowing two observers to experience entirely different realities. [2] This experiment proves conclusively that the fundamental nature of reality is observer-dependent and therefore that it’s impossible to objectively agree on "data" about any observation or experiment.

Pro’s concept of a “fact” is therefore incoherent. The scientific method -- and any theory based on it --  relies on the discovery of regularities in nature. But the possibility that we are not merely observing but rather impacting these regularities presents an insurmountable challenge to Pro's position. How can any theory be a "fact" (i.e. objectively verifiable) when the notion of a "fact" is itself incompatible with science? incompatible with the fundamental nature of reality?

To be sure, quantum uncertainty usually tends to approximate classical mechanics on the scale of everyday experience. But that still doesn't deal with the ontological problem: what is the fundamental nature of reality? Because it's observer-dependent, a "point of data" cannot be "objectively verifiable." And besides, Roger Penrose, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, argues persuasively that quantum effects are routinely projected into macroscopic reality in living systems, and not just in the contrived conditions of a physics lab.

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Sources:




Round 2
Pro
  Thank you Ayyantu for you response. Now for my rebuttals.

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REBUTTALS

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  • R1
"Before getting into my argument, let me quickly address the problems with Pro’s argument. First, Pro offers no credible source or reasoning to believe any of his statements. And pointing to dictionaries or encyclopedias to show that 'biodiversity' or 'evolution' exist as concepts isn’t enough to prove that either is 'a point of data that is objectively verifiable.'"
  Perhaps my opponent failed to check my sources, or else he would know they are quite credible. My third source was a list of examples of evolution occuring. The theory describes this particular aspect of reality: that things evolve to cause biodiversity, or more accurately, that allele frequencies in reproductive populations change over time. Every example is objectively verifiable. The mechanisms described by my fourth source are the mechanisms described by the theory that we directly observe.

"Second, Pro fails to specify which theory of evolution he supports. Is Pro arguing for “Lamarckism” or “Darwinism” or something else entirely? Not every theory of evolution can be a “fact,” so Pro needs to specify which theory to satisfy his BoP. A vague theory isn’t “objectively verifiable,” nor can it fairly be argued against, because it becomes a constantly moving target."
  I'm of course referring to the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis [2], or as it will be referred to from here on, The Modern Synthesis.

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  • R2
"Third, Pro’s jump from statement 3 to statement 4 doesn’t follow logically. Even if the theory of evolution is “composed of facts,” that doesn’t mean the theory itself constitutes a “fact.” Maybe the theory is composed of both facts and non-facts. Pro has to show that evolution itself is a fact, not that the theory contains some facts."
  Perhaps not if the theory was merely composed of facts. But the Modern Synthesis describes four basic mechanisms of evolution: mutation, gene flow, genetic drift, and natural selection. All of these are occurring all the time in nature, each and every case of which, is objectively verifiable. It is a fact that these mechanisms drive biodiversity. These facts are the Modern Synthesis. Therefore, the Theory of Evolution is a factual description of reality. A theory and a fact.

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  • R3
"Fourth, a brief search on Google turns up at least 10 alternative explanations for “biodiversity,” each with its own set of evidence, including intelligent design, morphic resonance (Rupert Sheldrake’s theory, which is quite compelling), ancient astronauts, and scientology. What makes evolution a “fact” rather than one of these explanations? Pro doesn’t say."
  The Modern Synthesis is the only theory of biodiversity that has been indicated, vindicated, and independently verified thousands of times without a single exception found that violates the theory. None of the other "explanations" listed by my opponent have any objective backing.

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  • R4
"The famous double-slit experiment showed that when you fire electrons (or any particle) through a slit onto a detector screen, the very presence of observation changes the outcome, even in the absence of any physical force operating between the system and observer. This was the first evidence that there’s no independently existing universe “out there” separable from we who observe it."
  This interpretation that there's no independently existing universe to be observed without an observer is fundamentally flawed. First, it doesn't clearly define what abserver is, and second, it doesn't clearly demonstrate how observation causes wave-function collapse. Thirdly, it seems to forget that subatomic particles possess a wave-particle duality. They possess both the qualities of corpuscles/particles, and the qualities of a wavelength. Both models of particles, corpuscular and wavelengths, make novel, testable predictions about future data.The existence of information about an electron's location only collapses the wave-function, it does not cause it to exist, as my opponent seems to claim.

"In 2018, theoretical physicist Caslav Brukner at the University of Vienna offered mathematical proof that reality is observer-dependent (i.e. subjective to observers). [1] And in 2019, experimental physicists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh tested Brukner’s mathematical theory by creating irreconcilable realities, allowing two observers to experience entirely different realities. [2] This experiment proves conclusively that the fundamental nature of reality is observer-dependent and therefore that it’s impossible to objectively agree on "data" about any observation or experiment."
  In the sources cited by my opponent, it was not proven that reality is observer dependent, but rather that, "single-world interpretations of quantum theory cannot be self-consistent." However, we aren't discussing quantum theory, we are discussing evolution, and in the context of the verifiability of evolutionary theory, the definition of fact provided is completely applicable.

  My opponent has assumed a philosophical interpretation of quantum mechanics: the Copenhagen Interpretation. He has demonstrated that wave-particle duality exists, but has failed to prove that macroscopic objects possess this same property until "observed."

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  • R5
"Pro’s concept of a “fact” is therefore incoherent. The scientific method -- and any theory based on it --  relies on the discovery of regularities in nature. But the possibility that we are not merely observing but rather impacting these regularities presents an insurmountable challenge to Pro's position. How can any theory be a "fact" (i.e. objectively verifiable) when the notion of a "fact" is itself incompatible with science? incompatible with the fundamental nature of reality?"
  Even if there are irregularities in the quantum realm with answers that aren't yet accessible to the current methodologies of science, that doesn't refute the fact that that there are a plethora of objectively verifiable examples of evolution occuring. My opponent has failed to prove how the mechanisms of Evolution are dependent on observation to exist. Things would evolve even if we weren't here to observe them. And that evolution would be driven by mechanisms. Those mechanisms exist even if an observer is not existent to codify them into language.

"To be sure, quantum uncertainty usually tends to approximate classical mechanics on the scale of everyday experience. But that still doesn't deal with the ontological problem: what is the fundamental nature of reality? Because it's observer-dependent, a "point of data" cannot be "objectively verifiable." And besides, Roger Penrose, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, argues persuasively that quantum effects are routinely projected into macroscopic reality in living systems, and not just in the contrived conditions of a physics lab."
  Penrose's interpretation of quantum mechanics actually contradicts the arguments put forth by my opponent. "It (Penrose Interpretation) is an alternative to the Copenhagen interpretation, which posits that superposition fails when an observation is made...[1]"

  The effect of quantum entanglement is the only quantum mechanical effect I'm aware of that can be experienced in the macroscopic world, but unfortunately, my opponent doesn't specify which effect Penrose was speaking of, I suspect to present the illusion that Penrose is helping their case. 

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CONCLUSION

  In conclusion, Evolution is both a fact and a theory. All the mechanisms of the Modern Synthesis are points of data that are objectively verifiable, and therefore, factual. My opponent has failed to effectively refute my arguments, as his sources do not agree with his arguments, he projects his philosophical interpretation of quantum mechanics with vague definitions, and has failed to demonstrate how the word fact, as defined for the context of this debate, does not describe the theory of evolution. I look forward to my opponent's response.






Con
Pro says my understanding of quantum mechanics is wrong. It isn't. Remember, I'm talking about the results of an actual experiment that was published in a peer reviewed journal.

This is how the physicists describe their experiment for lay persons: "In a paper published in the journal Science Advances, we show that, in the micro-world of atoms and particles that is governed by the strange rules of quantum mechanics, two different observers are entitled to their own facts. In other words, according to our best theory of the building blocks of nature itself, facts can actually be subjective." [3]

Pro wants me to define "observer." The physicists define the term in the paper: "any physical system that can extract information from another system by means of some interaction and store that information in a physical memory." [2] The physicists note that "observers do not need to be conscious, they must merely be able to establish facts in the form of a measurement outcome." [3]

As the paper explains, "the lack of objectivity revealed by a Bell-Wigner test does not arise in anyone’s consciousness, but between the recorded facts." And "because quantum theory does not distinguish between information recorded in a microscopic system (such as our photonic memory) and in a macroscopic system, the conclusions are the same for both: The measurement records are in conflict regardless of the size or complexity of the observer that records them." [2] 

The paper expressly concludes that "quantum theory should be interpreted in an observer-dependent way" and therefore "we need to rethink our notion of objectivity." [2]

The experiment shows what it shows. And Pro's baseless assertions to the contrary don't change this reality. At bottom, nothing is "objectively verifiable" and thus the theory of evolution can't be a "fact" as defined by Pro.

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Pro says his sources are credible but it's just online dictionaries with no credibility in the academic or scientific community. For example, Pro cites an article on "yourdictionary.com" for his "list of examples of evolution occurring." I'd like to know where these examples come from so that I can verify their validity or invalidity, but this is a privately held digital media company (i.e. it values profit over truth) with no transparency or accountability about its publishing standards. Where is Pro's data coming from? Who recorded it? When, where, and how was it recorded? Was it checked for accuracy in some sort of peer review process? We don't know because Pro's source doesn't say.

How am I supposed to verify the data from Pro's sources? Why should we trust random privately held digital media companies more than, say, Fox News or the Bible? In a debate about "facts," the basis of your evidentiary claims matters a lot, especially since we're debating whether a specific "point of data" is "objectively verifiable." Pro's argument completely fails on this front. Pro baselessly asserts things as fact, but how am I (or you, dear reader) supposed to personally verify these claims?

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Pro asserts without basis that neo-Darwinism "is the only theory of biodiversity that has been indicated, vindicated, and independently verified thousands of times without a single exception found that violates the theory." Yet Pro's only peer reviewed source states: "neo-Darwinism is, at the least, incomplete as a theory of evolution." The paper continues: "Neo-Darwinism is capable of falsification. Indeed, in its original form as a complete theory, it has already been falsified. We now need to admit processes outside its remit." [Pro's 2 from R2]

Indeed, more up-to-date scientific evidence shows that biodiversity likely arises from a different process than neo-Darwinism, specifically a process called horizontal gene transfer. According to this theory, genes move sideways from one creature (or species or kingdom) into another, thus allowing nature to make leaps in which lumps of DNA suddenly appear in an individual or population without the process of natural selection. This new scientific paradigm emphasizes symbiosis, cooperation, and the sharing of DNA across species boundaries, rather than competition & natural selection. [4]

Of course, we don't know if horizontal gene transfer is ultimately the answer, although we know it's more correct than neo-Darwinism. Science develops in paradigms, and at no point do scientists consider any theory a "fact." 

---

Pro still doesn't offer any reason to believe that evolution or neo-Darwinism is more "objective" than theories like Rupert Sheldrake's morphic resonance, intelligent design, scientology, or even ancient astronauts. We could even add creationism to that list. Why is Pro's source -- a privately held digital media company -- more credible or objective than the Bible? Where's the "objective verification" for Pro's claims?

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Pro states: "My opponent has failed to prove how the mechanisms of Evolution are dependent on observation to exist. Things would evolve even if we weren't here to observe them. And that evolution would be driven by mechanisms. Those mechanisms exist even if an observer is not existent to codify them into language."

In short, Pro doesn't seem to understand my argument. I'm saying there's no objective mechanism for knowing what would happen without "observation," and in the case of "observation," the data is observer-dependent (i.e. subjective).

---

I'd like to reiterate something I pointed out last round: Even if quantum uncertainty tends to approximate classical mechanics on the scale of everyday experience, that still doesn't deal with the ontological problem: what is the fundamental nature of reality? Because it's observer-dependent, a "point of data" cannot be "objectively verifiable." 

Pro says some stuff about Penrose & Copenhagen, but none of it responds to my central argument: the fundamental nature of reality is observer-dependent and therefore "data" isn't "objectively verifiable."

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Sources:

Round 3
Pro
  Thank you Ayyantu for your response.

  I will re-source two of the examples listed in my opening source: Evolution of whales [1], and Evolution of Finches [2]. My opponent's arguments seem to imply that the fossils of whale ancestors [3] can be physically different depending on who is observing them. This is simply false, their physical characteristics are the same no matter who is observing them. This is what makes them objectively verifiable, and the definition of fact holds in this context. My opponent's study has shown that wave function collapse can occur in the quantum realm, but fails to demonstrate how that is transferred to the specific facts of evolution. Additionally, my opponent dropped that the Penrose interpretation is an alternative to the interpretation my opponent claims should be adopted.

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COUNTER-REBUTTALS

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  • CR1
"The paper expressly concludes that "quantum theory should be interpreted in an observer-dependent way""
  This is precisely the problem: that my opponent is asserting that this study of quantum mechanics concludes that one should adopt the Copenhagen interpretation [4] of quantum mechanics, that wave-function collapse is caused by observation. In the study cited by my opponent, one of the keywords are, "interpretations of quantum mechanics," which link directly to studies that contradict my opponent's claims that the fundamental nature of reality is observer dependent. Why shouldn't we assume Superdeterminism [5], Many Worlds Interpretation [6], or any of the others [7] as the correct one? Simply because although particles possess the quality of experiencing wave-function collapse, there is at best mixed data on which Interpretation is the correct one. In the end, it doesn't make whale bones not objectively verifiable amd my opponent's case fails. 

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  • CR2
"Pro asserts without basis that neo-Darwinism "is the only theory of biodiversity that has been indicated, vindicated, and independently verified thousands of times without a single exception found that violates the theory." Yet Pro's only peer reviewed source states: "neo-Darwinism is, at the least, incomplete as a theory of evolution." The paper continues: "Neo-Darwinism is capable of falsification. Indeed, in its original form as a complete theory, it has already been falsified. We now need to admit processes outside its remit." [Pro's 2 from R2]"
  My opponent left out the end of the final sentence, and I suspect it's because it defeats the rest of his points here. It actually says, "We now need to admit processes outside its remit, so that it needs to be extended [8]." The fact that the theory in its current form has been shown to not yet include every mechanism of biodiversity, doesn't render the mechanisms described by the theory as non-factual. The theory will simply be extended to include these newly discovered mechanisms, like horizontal gene transfer. Every mechanism is still a fact of population mechanics and biodiversity. For example, Natural Selections till occurs in populations even if Horizontal Gene Transfer and Genetic Drift are also occurring in populations (of organisms).

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  • CR3
"In short, Pro doesn't seem to understand my argument. I'm saying there's no objective mechanism for knowing what would happen without "observation," and in the case of "observation," the data is observer-dependent (i.e. subjective)."
  My opponent has not even attempted to demonstrate how any of the specific examples of evolution occuring in my original source are not verifiable. Now instead, they must demonstrate specifically that the physical characteristics of whale bones or finch morphology change depending on who is observing them. 

  Independent observation is central to verification, so the definition of fact provided assumes an observer as a necessary component. Additionally, tools are often used for measurements. These tools can be considered objective mechanisms.

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  • CR4
"Pro still doesn't offer any reason to believe that evolution or neo-Darwinism is more "objective" than theories like Rupert Sheldrake's morphic resonance, intelligent design, scientology, or even ancient astronauts."
  I invite my opponent to bring forth a single piece of verifiable evidence  for any of those hypotheses. I contest they aren't theories because they don't have any evidence. The Modern Synthesis has all the evidence.

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CONCLUSION

  In conclusion, Evolution is both a fact and a theory. All the mechanisms described by the theory can be verified independently, and the mechanisms are extrapolated from the plethora of data supporting the theory. This data can be verified independently, and therefore in a manner that allows for objectivity through the rigorous process of peer review. I await my opponent's response.




Con
Forfeited
Round 4
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