Albert Boynton’s letter (May 8) about evolution and creationism typifies the misunderstanding of many people about scientific theories as well as the attempt to wrongly characterize it a “fairy tale” or a “religion.”

A theory in science is a conceptual model that ties together many observations and research findings to explain significant aspects of nature. A theory is used to generate new hypotheses and research.

Science is based on empirical observation — not on faith — and seeks to discover laws based on only natural — not supernatural — causes. A theory will be replaced or modified if it is not supported by data.

Charles Darwin’s theory has been modified as new knowledge has become available, but his central idea of natural selection has been verified repeatedly by converging data from many diverse sources, from paleontology (fossils) to microbiology.

The revolution in genetics has accelerated both the confirmation and the understanding of evolutionary processes. New findings supportive of evolution are reported almost weekly in publications such as Science News, Scientific American, and the online Science Daily. Evolutionary theory contributes to understanding of disease processes such as cancer and drug-resistant microbes.

In no way is the theory of evolution a religion, but it is rather one of the most useful tools of science.

Francis Collins, director of National Institutes of Health, is involved in research on the human genome and is an evangelical Christian. He has stated that students who do not learn about evolution in their science education lack the basic foundation for careers in biology and medicine.

Creationism, centered on faith in a supernatural being, is indeed religion. Boynton is free to believe and practice his faith, but in accordance with court rulings, public funds cannot be used to promote creationism in public school science classes.

Charles W. Acker


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