Evolution (genetic change over generations) happens, just like gravity does. The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is our best explanation for the fact of evolution. It has been tested and scrutinised for over 150 years, and is supported by all the relevant observations.
In the mid 19th century, Charles Darwin formulated the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection, published in his book On the Origin of Species (1859).
The fact/fiction dichotomy shows bias as a 'theory' can never be a fact. Science calls those 'laws'. A theory is a working rule that is open to challenge no matter how widely accepted and employed. As theories go evolution by natural selection isn't bad, but it hasn't been proven irrefutable. Yet it stands well ahead of dogmatic belief in the written doctrine of a religion that has disputed editions, internal contradictions and conflicting interpretors of the true meaning.
So what would be the irrefutable proof for you? For me it's a fact. I'm 100% sure. Just look around, observe animals - they're exactly the same as we are. Sometimes intuition is enough and we don't need a mathematical proof. Imagine there are no humans, but there is a group of monkeys. Now imagine a billion years. Do you think the monkeys are still monkeys?
In many cases, scientists uses Laws and Theories interchangably. The Laws of Gravity are still theories, since we don't have actual proof on how it works. Newtons Laws of Gravity are not the same as Einsteins Theory of Relativity. Taken as a whole, the Theory of Evolution still needs work, but there is no other working theory that can challenge it.
You have a few misconceptions about science.
First and foremost, there is no such thing a scientific "law." Or, at least, a scientific law is no different than a scientific theory.
Built into the scientific method is the attribute that we could observe something tomorrow that totally contradicts everything we think we know. A theory is just an explanation of the phenomenon we see that can be observed, repeated, tested/refuted by other people as well. On that note, Evolution is backed up by more evidence that most Theories.
Second, another thing built explicitly into the scientific method is reputability. If it is irrefutable, it is no longer science. There has to be a way to prove it wrong, if it is wrong. So no scientific theory is irrefutable, by definition.
All that being said, the ToE is one of the most solid Theories we have. We have so much evidence (fossil records, DNA, anthropology, biology, etc...) to support it that the layman might as well treat it as fact at this point, although I think it is important that some people oppose it and spend time trying to disprove it.
No theory should ever be shown to be irrefutable. If something is irrefutable it *cannot* be proven false. This is antagonistic to the scientific development of knowledge - if there's no way for something to be shown false, there's no way to test if it's true. The theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is falsifiable, but not to current knowledge false.
Evolution is both a fact and a theory. Fact in science means data "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent". In everyday usage theory refers to a spaculation. Scientific definition of theory is different from the everyday meaning of the word. It is a well-substantiated explanation of such facts.
Creationism is not science, it's bad inductive reasoning that does not prove there is a god but merely suggests in a weak fashion that perhaps, maybe it's possible that we were potentially designed because we are afraid to admit we could be a cosmic accident. The argument is based solely on the awe factor, the lack of imagination of the arguer. This kind of thinking, or more specifically the lack thereof, results in a people who don't believe in themselves because even simple problems are too awe inspiring to be looked at rationally and solved.
Consider the caveman who understood how to make fire when his peers did not. If they revere him as a god and never try to understand or learn about the nature of fire then all of the power lies with the one person and the chosen few he shares his knowledge with. What the creationism idea does is try to idolize the caveman and demonize the people who would attempt to learn about fire, because the small minded religious types don't want to surrender the power they hold over people. If we listened to these type of arguments with any mind to accepting them we'd never have gotten beyond the dark ages because science would be demonic witchcraft and punishable by death.
Contrast that with the theory of evolution, which has years of actual proof behind it some of which is of great concern (bacteria for example, evolving to be immune to drugs). We can actually trace back various mutations and determine that evolution does happen. We aren't afraid to examine our origins, even if we do find out at some point that there was some kind of guiding hand involved. The point is to find out rather than assume something based on an inductive argument that could mean that we are an alien ant farm instead of some god's children.
It is the best explanation we have, and I fully accept and support it. I am a Christian who plans on going to Seminary, and to reject science and believe in the "young earth" pseudoscience gives the entire religion a bad name. Creationism should not be taught in science class. The question of how the Big Bang happened, and how matter formed, and why everything came to be has more place in philosophy and religion than in science.
Note that for evolution to happen you need two things.
1. You need to have heritable features and either genetic mixing or errors in copying.
2. You need some sort of "pressure" ie, not every living thing will procreate equally, but those with certain feature will procreate more.
If you have both of these things, and we do, then you will get evolution. It's an unavoidable certain effect of the above two situations. Denying evolution is therefor on the level of denying that 1+1 = 2.
This does not prevent there being a creator, or somebody guiding the evolution. Realizing this is Darwins great achievement. (He didn't discover that animal evolved, scientists already knew that, the question was how and why).
Evolution doesn't even contradict creationism. The world could have been created 6000 years ago, or even 10 seconds ago, and evolution would still be a fact. Claiming that evolution is fiction or just a hypothesis is therefore just silly.
I am still waiting for squirrels, which have heritable features, and face the constant pressure of oncoming traffic, to evolve to the point where they can instinctively run straight across a street instead of stopping in the middle and getting run over. They have had over a hundred years of incessant breeding and show zero sign of selective procreation. Maybe in two hundred years, or a million.
"heritable features, and face the constant pressure of oncoming traffic"
First squirrels don't face constant pressure of oncoming traffic, it's an occasional danger, and in the wild stopping in the middle of a wide open area gives squirrels a chance to see predators, and cars don't act like predators, cars act like herd animals, more than anything else. So why be afraid of a cow, a horse or anything else that doesn't eat you, yes they all can and have stepped on squirrels and killed them, but all in all they aren't the real danger to a squirrel, now if cars acted more like foxes; bobcats or hawks, they'd runaway and fast.
The options provided are based on misunderstandings of the meaning of scientific theory and perhaps truth. Quoting from Wikipedia:
"Scientific theories are the most reliable, rigorous, and comprehensive form of scientific knowledge, in contrast to more common uses of the word "theory" that imply that something is unproven or speculative (which is better characterized by the word 'hypothesis')."
So if something is a theory, it is known to be true to the full extent of human knowledge. However, every theory is tentative. There is no practical distinction (or at lest no knowable distinction) between a scientific theory and a fact.
Evolution is a scientific theory.
Evolution is true to the full extent of human knowledge.
Evolution is a theory, likely to be true. Just as the geocentric model was a theory, likely to be true. All theories have a percentage of falseability; even if this percentage is small. The theory becomes more likely to be true when observation and facts help its argument; but this doesn't mean the theory is 100% true. There is no such thing as a theory 100% true.
Near as we can tell, evolution is so true that it actually has a higher certitude than a lot of other ideas that people accept as unquestionable in day-to-day reality.
There are many unanswered questions about the nature of biological change over time. But we understand so much about evolution, from its mechanisms (DNA and RNA) to how it tends to operate to its general time frame, and the evidence for it ties together so many disciplines, that for it to be falsified or even put into any serious doubt would require a mountain of evidence.
Evolution is a fact, a scientific fact. Having an 'opinion' about it is like having an opinion about gravity. You are either rational and 'know' the facts, or you are superstitious and 'believe' the facts to be 'just a theory' (you have an opinion).
It is undeniable that evolution is a fact, you can see it all around us, we as humans have evolved, from using the stone wheel, to apple products, I'm not going to touch on the idea of evolution from certain organisms, but evolution does happen through many different outlets.
This topic is about evolution from "certain organisms". I thought it's pretty obvious as I don't think there's a single person on earth denying technology evolution.
Theory is just a theory. It is not a law. Theory of evolution is a myth. Certain features of the world and of living things can be explained by the existence of the Designer. The world is too complex to be just an accident. An eye can't be formed over time - it's too complex. There are too many interconnected parts that would not work without the other. They wouldn't work if even one piece was missing. How does an organism that has no eyes grows eyes when it cannot even know there is anything to see?
You're right - many things (in fact all) could be explained by the existence of an all-powerful designer and creator of the universe. However, all things could equally well be explained by physical properties of what we can observe and know exists. Occam's Razor says that the thing which is simplest is most likely to be true, because it's the easiest to have true. It's easiest for any mechanism acting on the universe to exist and be observable in the universe, because if it wasn't we would have to postulate things like other realities, special cases where things are unobservable, and many other things. Evolution has recently been very conclusively demonstrated in an experiment with the E. Coli bacteria, where several million generations were grown and frozen over several years then compared to each other. A whole new species broke off, losing the original (and very useful) ability to consume glucose (sugar) and gaining the ability, which was useful in the environment these many generations found themselves in, to eat a derivative of citric acid.
Just in case you aren't sure how evolution works, please allow me to explain it. Basically, the DNA in cells can get screwed up in little ways when it's copied before the cell splits. Usually this doesn't change much but sometimes it changes some characteristic in the cell. This can be sped up in sexually reproducing species because the DNA of the parents also mixes together to make the DNA of the child. (This is simplified, but it's the basic mechanism.) When a mutation happens during the cell reproduction phase, it can result in some physical change in the offspring. Evolution is the tendency of some of these mutations being good for the survival of the offspring. If a meat eater by pure chance is born with sharper teeth, it will be able to take down its prey faster and more effectively, which lets it survive better. This means that it is more likely to live a long time and have many children, which will mostly have these same sharper teeth. Over a long period of time, these sharper teeth could become more common than the old dull teeth that this species had. This is how genetics works.
As for eyes, there is absolutely an evolutionary explanation for that. Imagine that there is a very simple organism, living in the sea with not much around it but others of the same species and some food, which grows in the light. This organism has no eyes or seeing mechanism, and wanders blindly until it finds food. When it reproduces, the child has, by chance, a small mutation which gives it a light-sensitive patch of skin. Nothing knew about light or seeing, it is by pure chance that this happened. The child will learn as it grows that food can be found easiest when the light-sensitive patch is sensing light. It knows to go where the light is, and so gets more food and has more children than others of that species. Maybe one of those children has a light-patch which is slightly concave (bowl shaped), which means that light from one side will not activate the whole patch, only one side. This one can tell which direction the light is coming from (to a degree) and not only whether or not it is currently in the light. Over many many generations, the light-patch might become more and more concave, allowing each generation to better distinguish which direction to go to find more food. Each time, it is by pure chance but it happens to be an advantage to that creature. There are many more children who's mutations didn't help it at all, or even made it harder to survive. Because these didn't help the species, they usually (not always) die out within a few generations. Maybe eventually some descendant of that ancient first creature happens to (again by chance) have a mutation which lets it turn this light-patch slightly, or it has a focusing lens in front of it, which lets it see more clearly. Over many many generations this light-patch becomes a retina, the concavity becomes the eyeball. The ability to turn the eye develops with muscles appearing around it, and the lens becomes more refined and accurate. Now we have an eye!
And remember - this isn't only happening with eyes. In this one species, multiple mutations happen all over all the time. Some help survival, and tend to be preserved. Some make it harder to survive, and those children die quickly, not spreading their genes. Maybe at the same time this species is growing a limb which can be waved to push itself around in the water instead of just drifting. Every child is different from its parents but based on them, and evolution is the tendency for new things which are an advantage to survive better and have children which are based on that advantage and may have another mutation which makes it even better.
I hope this helps you understand what evolution is and how it works!
EDIT: Also, in science a theory means that "We had this idea, so we tested it and it looks like it works. We gave it to our friends and said 'we think this, can you see if there's any way we could be wrong?' and they couldn't. They did the same, and so far no one has been able to find any way it's wrong, with all of us trying our best to find anything wrong with it." In science, you only know you're right when you try your hardest to prove yourself wrong and fail.
Designer? Why singular? To really consider intelligent design a viable alternative theory to evolution, you need to have some observations as to who are these designers, where are they from, and how did they do it? You would also have to explain how they were doing it over a couple of billion years. Note, it has to cover all life, animal and plant.
1) Being a member-in-good-standing of the Church of England, Darwin agonized over his findings and their religious implications. And even before Darwin, wasn't Gallileo excommunicated for daring to publish his findings that the earth is not the center of the universe. Now THAT was heresy.
2) Did-you-know there is a species of jelly fish in Australia that has 4 functioning eyes and [obviously] no brain or central nervous system.
3) Having survived 12 years of Catholic School, we were taught that Yes God created all this stuff; who says he didn't use evolution to do it, or even that God retired on the 8th day instead of continuing on finetuning Creation?
4) With discovery of genetics and DNA molecule the important holes in Darwin's theory are now solved. All that remains scientifically to move evolution from a "theory" to a "law" is reproducing it in the laboratory. simple, is not easy or it would be done.
Evolution is part of our designer, We were created twice. we were created as monkeys or chimps, then into homo-sapiens. by our designer. So I agree with everybody. More or less.
We weren't "created" as monkeys or chimps. Humans, like any other species, evolved from simple unicellular organisms. It took hundreds of millions of years, or even billions of years. You can't even imagine such space of time.
You offer no facts or refuting evidence. The theory of evolution is a sound theory that has been tested and retested through the ages, and best of all it does not presuppose that there is no designer behind its ingenuity. Come back when you have evidence refuting the theory of evolution, and I will spend my life championing the cause of removing it from human consciousness.
It's a little bit of both. I believe that mankind was created by a divine power. However, I also believe that, that divine power did not create man perfectly on the first try. In fact, the dinosaurs were simply a trial run to get things like eyes, ears, and limbs perfected before wiping them out to create the humans.
I call this the compromise theory.
The question is problematic because the meaning of the words, "fact" and "theory" are different outside of scientific context. What people mean when they say these words depends on the people and the context. But YES, in general, evolution is a 'fact' in as much as 'gravity' is a fact...although both are scientific 'theories' which are also laws - and are open to revision as the field of science continues to grow and change. The other commenters on this thread have said more or less the same thing.
A theory, by definition can not be factually proven, only supported by evidence. I think it's an accurate theory, and evidence supports it beyond a reasonable doubt. While the difference between calling it an accepted theory and fact is nuanced, terminology is important in debating such topics.