As you may or may not know, I'm well on my way to being a computer scientist. So well, in fact, that I consider myself a scientist. And I think its time I extrapolate my values and ideas in light of this fact. However, do not think this is a recent or sudden change based on a what I have learned in college, rather what I have learned in college has added to and extended what I think and value. I will forewarn any readers that my scientific value system may be in conflict with any number of religious systems, and I have taken this into account. In fact, I have run into a number of conflicts, but these are things every scientist deals with in his own time. Also know that when I say 'he,' I am not being patro-centric, I am simply using the standard English that I use as a scientist and I learned from reading great books. When I say 'he' or 'his,' I generally an referring to the standard “his or her” construct (unless context dictates otherwise) that I prefer to avoid due to its awkwardness. With these rules laid down, I will begin.
There are strict lines between fact and theory, especially for scientists. But the problem with this, however, is the words have become bastardized in the popular vernacular to mean the wrong thing. This is something Stephen J. Gould always touched on when writing papers for the popular press about the theory of evolution. So definitions are in order. A fact is merely a observable, concrete phenomenon, whether it is biological,chemical, physical or mental (albeit what is defined as mental phenomena is rather unclear). That is it and nothing more. It is a fact to say that if I drop something it falls. It is made even more concrete by the fact that everyone can reproduce the result. It is a fact to say that granite is hard. It is a fact to say that there are many species and there are similarities between these living species and fossils. However, facts in of themselves have little more than trivial meaning. To tell someone that things fall down when not supported, just gives them information enough to not put something in a precarious position, it tells them nothing of why it would fall. What pulls facts together is theory. A theory is a set of idea and rules used to explain not only a specific fact, but a whole group of current and potential facts. A theory is not perfect, and no amount of testing, even if an infinite number of experiments are performed, and it explains an infinite number of facts, will make it so (as a side note, even if you have done things a seemingly infinite amount of times, you can still do it an infinite number of times more). But this is a little strict, when a theory is proved beyond a reasonable doubt (i.e. for all possible conceivable cases), it can rightly be called a law. Examples would be Newton's Three Laws of Motion or Maxwell's Equations. But even these laws are only laws in our current context simply because we have not found a case to prove them wrong. Going back to a theory, it is fine to be imperfect, and a theory is always open to reinterpretation or destruction in light of new data. And that is the final piece of a theory, it is nothing more than a well supported hypothesis, and as such, is subject to testing through mathematical or experimental, or both, means. And with that last property of a theory, one can exclude many ideas as non-theories since they set up non-testable conditions.
Before I go any farther, let me state that I am fully comfortable with my faith, and I have reconciled it with the facts as I have learned them. I am not an atheist, although I always prefer to keep religious interpretations to a minimum. Why? Namely because I work with people from many faiths, and my faith is not necessarily theirs. To use your faith as a basis for any moral code outside of your own is to commit a great crime. I ask no others to take my faith, and I expect no one to give me theirs (although I do sometimes inquire why, just to learn something different). Honestly, because science and mathematics are faith neutral, I can talk and work with many others. Just remember, as I continue, I am not an aetheist, and if it goes that fa, I doubt I'm going to to the hell you envision. Also, after the discussion, I'll include an interpretation based on my faith.
There are many species: fact. There are fossils of many species that do not exist anymore: fact. Some fossils resemble living species: fact. But how are they related? There must be some relation. Evolution. Its a theory. What we have today is a modified form of what came before. Regardless of the mechanism, what we have today came from before, and was changed somehow. What gets debated about evolution among evolutionary scientists is not the existance of evolution, buts its varying mechanisms and the pacing and timing of the process. The debates range from ideas that mutations happen more under great stress to ideas that evolution may occur in fits and starts. Regardless: evolution exitsts, its mechanism is a theory, and a testable one at that. Special creation, on the other hand, fails to be a theory: its sets up a non-testable condition for its existance. And as established, non-testable conditions do not a theory make.
I have a feeling some are now damning me to whatever hell they can think of. Just remember, judgement is reserved for God and God alone. Lets let the Big Guy decide on where I go, shall we?
Did you know gravity was merely a theory? Did you know the Newtonian Gravitation Constant needs to be changed once a body leaves our solar system? Its true: the little old Viking probe, the farthest flung bit of human creation, reported in one of its last messages that it was actually changing acceleration as it left the Oort Cloud. And so physicists sat down and ran the calculations and found that there needed to be a modification a few decimal places out. A small change, but the first one made to a theory of motion that had stood tall for 400 years. Interesting. The thing every one yells and points to as an inscrutable fact, never was. Gravitation exists, yes. And Newton's explanation describes all physical interactions in our solar system to the last detail. It is valid in 99.99999 percent of all cases, execpt for when we get really small or go really fast. No scientist worth his salt ever claimed that Netwonian gravitation was a fact. It was theory, an explanation for the fact the planets have a more or less precise and organized process, and the fact that objects thrown up (below what is known as escape velocity) fall back down to Earth. The three general rules he extracted from his (and others') study of planetary motion and Earth-bound motion are very concrete, and can be considered laws unless we are going really fast or we are looking at something really small. Just thought you would like to know.
But what does all this mean to me? All these counter-intuitive, yet extremely logical and accurate ideas? They tell me that there were great men and women who were capable of postulating ideas based on otherwise irreconcilable facts. People who said, “Gee, I wonder why this thing does that?” People like my family, people like me. I value that, that inense curiosity and the ability to link it logically into a stable framework that anyone can understand. With that, I also value people who were capable of making a statement of the way things and standing by it until it was shown wrong (nothing irks me more than someone holding onto an idea when it has been shown by irrefutable proof to be wrong).
I suppose the one thing I hold core is decisiveness. What I mean by that is the ability to make a “yes or no,” “a or b,” decision in a fairly rapid manner with full assurity. Why? Because people capable of this a percieved to be extremely confident (i.e. Donald Trump) and their decisions are taken with greater weight. I follow this regimen myself. I will make a decision quite rapidly (do not assume this means without thought, I think very quickly) and stick to it until I'm proven wrong. I get very annoyed with wishy-washy attitudes that were fostered by the feel-good movement of the late 1980's and 1990's. This is not to say I have no campassion for others, but when someone gaffes, and they won't admit that it was their own fault, I get annoyed. I once had a boss in high school who was notorious for this and a lot of kids used this to their advantage to get away with things without guilt. But I never used it; if I fucked up, I admitted to it and took whatever was dealt to me. It is this kind of thing, this indecisiveness as well as the attitude of instant gratification, that is leading us down dangerous paths. These kinds of people expect something immediately, and if it doesn't come, they look to others to take the lead, the decisive ones. However, a good portion of these types of people are not the most intelligent or stable.
What do I mean by all this? I'm not really sure. I just felt people should know some of the things I think about, and why I think about them. Am I a harsh and cold person? Sometimes, yes I am, but other times I am kind and nice. I remain confident in the choices I have made in my life, and I stay confident that I will make all the right decisions in the future. I see what I want, and I'll have it, sooner or later. And frankly, that kind of attitude of seeing what you want and making the steps toward it have built some of the most powerfull people and companies in the world. Names like Trump, Gates, Microsoft and Oracle. All built by people with drive, even though I am somewhat appalled by some of their inhumanity (back-stabbing, outright deceit, theivery, and piracy).
To be short, I am a scientist, I look at things very analytically, sometimes totally devoid of emotion. And I sometimes do this in social situations. Its harsh, I know, but it is who I am. Ask me what I think, and you'll get all possible opinions, and if you ask further, and nicely enough, I might tell you what I think is best. But I'd rather not, its more important for people to make their own choices. As a writer once penned for a hard-case character, “I swear - by my life and my love of it - that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
And before I go, if you are with me after all this, let me give you my theological interpretation. To be honest, I believe my Creator was more crafty and skilled than we can ever hope to imagine. As such, I think my Creator was powerfull enough to make a system so complex that there is always something for us to learn and do. And the more we learn, the more likely we are to find another layer of complexity for us to learn. And in the process, we become better people.