The late Stephen Jay Gould, a noted paleontologist who once described himself as an “agnostic leaning towards atheism,” wrote the classic treatise Evolution as Fact and Theory for Discover magazine back in 1981. His distinguished career and scientific achievements did earn him respect amongst his peers, but to the general public he is best known for his popular science writings and, to smaller circles, as a champion of evolution. As his treatise was written for a non-academic, science themed magazine, a basic understanding of science, and specifically evolutionary mechanics, was assumed of his audience. The treatise itself is on the often overlapping distinction between “theory” and “fact”; two words, he asserts, that creationists…show more content… And, as colorful exchanges are far more entertaining than dry discourse, it also remains a source of his popular appeal.
As for addressing fact versus theory, the two keywords in the titular treatise, he is slow to get to the point. Over the next paragraph he asserts creationists, as a sweeping generalization, have “presented not a single new fact,” and they have “…arguments that seemed kooky just a decade ago.” This, with the accusation that creationist’s true motivations are political, along with the improper comparison of “scientific creationism” to the Orwellian term “newspeak,” bears no relevance to the denotive differences between fact and theory in any context. Also, his attacking an opposing stance, and failing to point out any contradictions or fallacies therein, could be an indication that his own position lacks substance.
Of course Professor Gould’s writings were rarely without substance. He does go on to point out two creationist’s argumentative fallacies and then, finally, he addresses the issue of fact versus theory. His distinction, summed up both imperfectly and incompletely: a theory is comprised as a rigid, codified series of explanations of the facts; therefore, the theory of evolution, a consistent explanation of the recurring trends found in the fossil record, is in line with said “facts.” It is a