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61
37
Yes No
Debate Score:98
Arguments:213
Total Votes:102
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 Yes (57)
 
 No (29)

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Dermot(5453) pic



Was Evolution the greatest theory ever ?

 Richard Dawkins talks about evolution — specifically, the power of Charles Darwin‘s theory.

He calls evolution “a big idea, arguably the most powerful idea ever.”

It echoes Daniel Dennett, who has called evolution “the greatest idea ever to occur to a human mind.”

Specifically, Dawkins uses a formula which he calls the “Explanation Ratio”:

Power of a theory=
That which it explains

That which it needs to assume in order to do the explaining

Dawkins writes:

If any reader knows of an idea that has a larger explanation ratio than Darwin’s, let’s hear it.


Yes

Side Score: 61
VS.

No

Side Score: 37

I'm not sure if it's the "greatest theory ever", however off the top of my head I can't think of another one which surpasses it so I'll put my argument here.

The theory of evolution massively challenged the status quo, and changed how the entire Western world thinks. Whilst secularisation was already taking place in 1859, I'd argue that Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection is why we have an almost fully secular society (UK+US) today.

Arguments could be made that other theories (such as gravity, laws of thermodynamics, etc) are more important in the wider scheme of things, however I'd definitely argue that evolution is the most significant theory to impact social change in our history. Nothing - that I can think of - has come close to changing the way millions of people think in such a short time.

In a few centuries, I think it's guaranteed that Darwin's theory will become the most accepted idea of our beginnings.

Side: Yes
1 point

In a few centuries, I think it's guaranteed that Darwin's theory will become the most accepted idea of our beginnings

But Darwin's theory isn't a theory about our beginnings. Human beginnings perhaps, but not life itself.

Side: No
NicolasCage(506) Disputed
1 point

But Darwin's theory isn't a theory about our beginnings. Human beginnings perhaps, but not life itself.

I never said "life itself", though.

We're human, aren't we? Therefore it's rather obvious that the "our" was referring to "us", as in, we the human race.

Side: Yes
3 points

If you accept the equation then yes. I think on paper it's the theory that has the broadest scope for explanation, is able to make accurate predictions, makes very little assumptions and above all the core of it is very simple. In principal it's everything you want from a scientific theory.

Having said that I would say that the power of a theory could be better measured in how much practical use we've gotten out of it. That would probably go to Girolamo Fracastoro for the germ theory of disease with Newton a close second. I could see those two potentially being the other way round though.

Side: No
2 points

Hi Jimbo , I remember reading Darwin actually postponed publishing his work for many years out of fear of public reaction , he certainly got that .

Very good point as regards in practical terms and I would agree with you .

Newton to me was a once in a lifetime genius the likes of which we will probably never see again

Side: No
JimboR(87) Clarified
2 points

He certainly was. It's easy to be compelled to question and inquire about something that has never been seen before or is at the very edge of our understanding. But Newton asked the question "why" of something that was always there and had been taken for granted for the entirety of human history.

Side: Yes
1 point

I would say that the power of a theory could be better measured in how much practical use we've gotten out of it. That would probably go to Girolamo Fracastoro for the germ theory of disease with Newton a close second.

I agree with you about the germ theory being much more useful. Before Fracastoro, people did not know there was a causal connection between filth and ill health.

Once people made that connection, and bought into the proposition that cleanliness was useful for preventing disease and infection, soap became the greatest development ever made in medical technology, despite the fact that it was invented 5000 years before Fracastoro.

Darwin's theory may have some claim to greatness, as do Newton's laws, but none of them suddenly transformed a 5000-year-old invention into a paragon of human technological achievement.

Side: No
JimboR(87) Clarified
1 point

It seems so obvious to us now doesn't it? But the fact that cleanliness, particularly in hospitals, was resisted so fiercely just goes to show how hard it can be to break a paradigm once its been established.

A tip of the hat to empiricism as well at this stage, another important theory, once deaths plummeted it couldn't be dismissed any longer.

Side: Yes
2 points

In my view, the question of "Was Evolution the greatest theory ever?" and is evolution the most powerful theory based on the criteria you listed (via Dawkins formula) are two separate question. That is, the Theory of Evolution is a remarkable feat of the Human mind and is very powerful in it's explanatory power, it also does not require the same depth and rigor of thought that many other important scientific theories have which in many ways are more "impressive" feats of human intellect. For instance, if you were to ask who were the top 5 most important/best scientists, then Darwin, Newton, Einstein would all be in the mix and one could make the case that Darwin was the most important scientist. However, the intellectual achievement/rigor of Newton, Einstein, and others far surpass that of Darwin's Evolutionary Theory (e.i. Evolution is an extremely powerful idea, but it is not difficult to get your mind around or see how someone discovered/thought it up compared to that of Newton, Einstein, any many others (particularly Newton in my view since there was essentially no prior framework for him to work out of). Now, in my view, I would say that by the formula listed I would still go with Newton's Laws of Motion over Darwin's Evolutionary Theory as it was still lacking the explanation for which random mutations occurs and Newton provided the entire Framework/basis for Physics/modern science to grow out from. I do not necessarily view Newton's Laws of Motion as the "greatest theory ever" which I take to be a separate question.

Side: No
JimboR(87) Clarified
3 points

Now, in my view, I would say that by the formula listed I would still go with Newton's Laws of Motion over Darwin's Evolutionary Theory as it was still lacking the explanation for which random mutations occurs

I agree to a point, the only thing I would say is that while Newton did provide the framework he didn't give a full accounting for gravity. For him it was this mysterious force that had no explanation as to its source. We also know that his laws only work up to a point, that's why Einstein came up with GR. This doesn't detract from the amazing work he did, it's just to say that both Darwin and Newton didn't deliver the fully fleshed out theories we know today.

Newton provided the entire Framework/basis for Physics/modern science to grow out from

As did the theory of evolution by natural selection. Sure he didn't have an accounting for random mutation, but the framework was there just as with Newton's laws. I'd still put Newton first for practical reasons.

but it is not difficult to get your mind around or see how someone discovered/thought it up

I would disagree. In an age where the widely accepted explanation for living things was religion, for someone to have the courage and intellect to see outside of this and come up with a better explanation is truly remarkable. He broke a paradigm, that's no easy thing to do.

Side: Yes
2 points

MathFan,

I would say that by the formula listed I would still go with Newton's Laws of Motion over Darwin's Evolutionary Theory as it was still lacking the explanation for which random mutations occurs and Newton provided the entire Framework/basis for Physics/modern science to grow out from.

Very well put.

There is a problem with applying the formula (What is explained / what must be assumed) to Newton's Laws.

Every one of Newton's Laws of motion is completely testable, and therefore nothing is assumed. We cannot divide by zero. I presume this is why they are laws, not theories. :)

Side: No
1 point

Your debate is really about Richard Dawkins himself, not evolutionary theory. Dawkins didn't come up with natural selection, and Dawkins doesn't get to be the sole voice about it. I don't buy his rationale for what makes the greatest theory ever, and I don't even have to buy that rationale to still see value in evolutionary theory.

And as a side note, that same standard could be applied to religious belief, too. And then if we concluded something other than Christianity was the greatest religious belief ever you'd probably be pissed as hell.

Side: No
Dermot(5453) Disputed
1 point

Actually it's not , I was reading an article about what were considered the greatest theories ever Evolution is right up there in most polls .

Dawkins is not the sole voice regarding the matter but he is pretty well versed on the matter .

Of course one can have a similar topic regarding religious belief , and why in Hell you would think I would get pissed at other beliefs being perceived as greater than Christianity is beyond me as I'm an atheist and care not about which one is assumed to be "better

Side: Yes
1 point

If the power of a theory is proportional to that which it explains divided by that which it needs to assume in order to do the explaining.......

The greatest theory ever is God.

The Supreme and Ultimate Reality explains EVERYTHING and the only assumption is its existence.

But God is no theory, God is reality. The Supreme and Ultimate Reality. You can be sure of God with knowledge. I know that God exists. It has been proven to me thoroughly, and there is no room for doubt. This is knowledge to me. That is science.

Side: No
xMathFanx(1742) Disputed
1 point

@TzarPepe. God actually is a Theory btw, or rather a Hypothesis. The problem is precisely that it lacks explanatory power compared to how much you need to suppose in order to do the explaining

Side: Yes
TzarPepe(793) Clarified
1 point

I think I made it pretty clear that what you are saying about "explanatory power compared to how much you need to suppose" is incorrect.

If you believe I am wrong, tell me where you believe I am wrong.

Side: Yes
Dermot(5453) Disputed
1 point

Interesting you try and " lump " god into the debate little realising that when scientists use the term " theory " it's used in a totally different way than people like you assume ; incidentally Evolution is accepted as fact .

Which God is the greatest theory ever ? There are over a million Indian gods to start with and if you allow for them one can also claim that vampires , ghosts , and demons are the greatest " theory " ever , if that's not the case you're " special pleading " yet again .

Let's look at your " God theory " Michael Shermar has written a lovely piece that may bring you some clarity but I doubt it will ......

I HAVE GIVEN MUCH THOUGHT to the creationists’ demand that evolution be stricken from public school science classes, or that it be taught side-by-side with creationism because “evolution is only a theory” and since “no one was there to witness the creation” we cannot say for sure what really happened.

I have come to the conclusion that what’s fair is fair, and that the creationists have a good point. After all, isn’t education all about hearing both sides of an issue? And they are correct, no one was there to witness the creation, so any ideas about who or what caused the creation can only be speculative theories and therefore never provable.

Therefore, I am certain that Ministers, Priests, Rabbis, and religious leaders of all sects will be pleased to read the following disclaimer to their respective congregations every Sunday morning, or before any sermon delivered:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, God bless and welcome to [fill in the name of your church, temple, mosque, or center of worship here].

This morning we are going to talk about the creation of the universe and the origins of life on Earth. According to the Bible, Genesis 1:1–3: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

Now, it is important for us to understand that no one was actually present at the creation so we don’t really know what happened. Genesis 1:1–3 is only a theory, and as such cannot be treated as fact. And it is only fair that I share with you that there are other theories of the creation.

For example, some Sumerians and Babylonians, Gilbert Islanders, Koreans, and Greeks believed that the world was created from the parts of a slain monster; some Zuni Indians, Cook Islanders, and Tahitians have a theory that the world was created by the interaction of primordial parents; and some Japanese, Samoan, Persian, Chinese, and Hindu have a theory that the world was generated from an egg.” And, of course, there is that dogma being foisted upon us by the liberal media and intelligentsia, the theory of evolution.

As for the origins of human life, that is spelled out in Genesis 1:27: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Of course, not only was no one present to witness this act — except for Adam and Eve after they were created — I should point out that this theory has a counter theory in Genesis 2:7, where “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” In this theory Adam is all alone without a mate, so in Genesis 2:21–22 “the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

Since everyone here was blessed by the almighty with a brain that thinks, I will allow you to decide which theory is the correct theory of the creation of humans, Genesis 1 or Genesis 2. Weigh the evidence and decide for yourselves. You be the judge.

Oh, there is one other minor detail. Adam and Eve begat Cain and Abel, and as you all know Cain — as firstborns are wont to do to their laterborn siblings who compete for the limited parental resources — slew him. That left Adam, Eve, and Cain as the only humans on the entire Earth. But in Genesis 4:17 we read that “Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch.” Now, I don’t mean to burden you with more of the liberal media’s fascination with smut and porn, but I think as created beings endowed with intelligence and critical thinking skills blessed to us by the good Lord, it might be reasonable to ask just who it was that Cain “knew.” Unless Adam was himself blessed with both types of reproductive organs, or Cain was capable of parthenogenesis, then we are left with the theory that Cain “knew” his mother. But that’s just a theory, and as we all know, theories are just wild guesses and should not be taken seriously.

Side: Yes
marcusmoon(586) Clarified
2 points

Dermot!

I laughed from the 5th paragraph to the end. Thank you.

Side: Yes
TzarPepe(793) Disputed
1 point

None of this has anything to do with what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about God, not religion or scripture.

The Supreme and Ultimate Reality is no theory, but a fact.

Side: No
1 point

The Atomic Theory would seem to have had a greater impact than Evolution on practical and economic realities. Look around and start eliminating products whose existence/invention depend on some scientist or engineer making use of the periodic table of the elements. Remarkably little would be left to use to furnish a home.

Maxwell's Theory of Electromagnetism is another good one. Especially in an age dominated by electronics and radiation, I think it should get credit for much of what we do, including participating in an online forum.

Side: No
0 points

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Side: No
-1 points

No. In terms of what a theory has done for our understanding of the universe, nothing tops general relativity.

Side: No
Sv3rige(162) Disputed
1 point

You are a stupid. General relativity is the nonsense for sv3rige, what has einstein ever done for you rothschilds? he is a zionist scum.

Side: Yes
Dermot(5453) Disputed
0 points

But your Hitlers spawn and a sausage munching Kraut ; so away with you and invade a neighbouring country

Side: No
marcusmoon(586) Disputed
1 point

No. In terms of what a theory has done for our understanding of the universe, nothing tops general relativity.

GR is a good one.

The problem with The Theory of General Relativity is that it has little practical application in most people's daily lives, and most people do not use it to understand their personal experience, or to explain why we are what we are. In a sense, it is like the Gravitational Theory--Knowing it is neat, but the theory itself has little impact on our individual capabilities or our perceptions of the self.

We use the Atomic Theory, Germ Theory, Maxwell's Theory of Electromagnetism, Newton's Laws variously to accomplish small projects and large, to explain our direct experience, or to orient ourselves in our perceptions so that we as individuals can DO things.

We use the Big Bang Theory, the Theory of Evolution, and even to a certain degree Plate Tectonic Theory as Cosmologies. The theory of General Relativity kind of fits in there, but mostly on the sidelines.

Side: No
1 point

The problem with The Theory of General Relativity is that it has little practical application in most people's daily lives

That's untrue. The principles first put forward by Einstein form the technological basis of everything from satellite navigation to television sets.

Side: Yes
marcusmoon(586) Disputed
1 point

N,

In terms of what a theory has done for our understanding of the universe, nothing tops general relativity.

I think Atomic Theory has it beat. General Relativity helps us understand the universe on the Quantum and cosmic levels, but does not do much for us in between. In between is where our consciousness is focused.

Atomic Theory gives us the idea that the universe is made of particles of matter, that the matter is made of the same sorts of particles arranged in different ratios and configurations to make different elements is basic to how we look at the universe both close up and cosmically.

I don't consciously experience General Relativity in action, nor do I use it to explain the parts of the universe I see and smell and touch and taste. It is Atomic Theory that does that.

- - When I start my car and know what is happening to the gasoline.

- - When I light a cigarette and know what the difference is between a butane lighter and a match.

- - When I use the phosphates in eggs to bind ingredients when I cook.

- - When my wife makes soap.

- - When I light fireworks off, etc. ad infinitum, I am dealing with the results of Atomic Theory helping me understand the universe with which I directly interact.

People do not look at the parts of the universe we interact with in our daily lives and use General Relativity to help us understand or manipulate it.

As much to the point, General Relativity has nowhere to hang its hat without Atomic Theory.

What is a star doing but building bigger atoms out of smaller atoms?

Without the Atomic Theory, what is an Atom Bomb splitting to release that Einsteinian energy at no more than the speed of light?

So go ahead, demonstrate how General Relativity has a bigger impact. I am willing to be convinced, but you have to show me the virtues of GR.

Side: No
1 point

I think Atomic Theory has it beat. General Relativity helps us understand the universe on the Quantum and cosmic levels, but does not do much for us in between.

Atoms are part of the quantum level. Relativity isn't a quantum theory.

Side: Yes