July 21, 2019 | 92° F

Process not cause for word mistake

I applaud Roger Sheng's column that ran on Feb. 16. I agree with most of it. This may seem trivial, but I take issue with his use of the word "mistake." It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of science, and it is that same misunderstanding that proponents of Creationism and "Intelligent Design" exploit to dress up their ideas as pseudo-science.

Science is a process. Theories are never right or proven; they are merely the best explanations we have so far. Darwin, Copernicus, Kepler and Newton were not wrong; they lacked sufficient data to have a complete explanation. The guide to devising a hypothesis or theory is Occam's Razor, which basically uses the simplest explanation to describe the observed data. As an example, John Dalton noted that hydrogen and oxygen combine in a ratio of 1g to 8g. He suggested that matter was divided into fundamental building blocks that he called atoms. He set the mass of H to be 1 and O to be 8 because there was no data at that point to suggest that more than one atom of each type was being used. We know now there are two atoms of H per O in water, so that relative masses are 1:16, not 1:8. Was Dalton wrong? No. The theory was revised because new data came to light.

There is no working theory in any field of science that doesn't have holes in it at least as big as those detractors of evolution point to, nor could a theory remain in use as long as evolution has without major revision. Newer techniques, new evidence and further exploration must give rise to revised interpretations. The assumption that science instantly has all the answers leads to unwarranted criticism of controversial ideas.

Donald L. Siegel

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