I recently emailed the National Academy of Sciences in order to explain why their article on evolution is incorrect. I did not expect a reply, and I did not get one, as of yet, but misrepresenting science is not acceptable. Below is the email.
I realize that this discussion is probably not going to be well accepted, and is almost certainly not going to change anyone’s mind to the point of updating the NAS site. However, I decided I would still provide my two cents. For quite a while, I have had an issue with calling evolution fact. I am not saying that evolution is not true. I rely on the body of theory of evolution for my on research. However, that does not mean that we can know that evolution is true, or even likely to be true.
I am sure that you are well aware of the problem of induction. Hume and Popper are among many philosophers of science who recognized that it is difficult to justify the assumption that a theory is true, simply because it has shown to make accurate predictions in the past. We do assume that an unfalsified, yet repeatedly tested theory, is true. But we take this position as axiomatically true.
Bayesian inference seems to solve the problem of induction, but the issue with Bayesian inference is that it is brittle: it exhibits chaotic behavior with respect to the selection of priors. Falsification does not have this issue. That is because falsification is simply a statistical form of proof by contradiction, whether using the p-value approach or the Bayesian approach. We start by assuming that our theory is true, and that assumption gives us everything we need to take observations and estimate the probability of a theory being true. However, because we started with the assumption that the theory is true, stating that it is so is simply circular reasoning. Thus it is only valid to say that we have found a maximum probability of truth, or minimum probability of falsity, based on the observations recorded to date.
A theory becomes a fact, if it is certainly true, or at least very likely to be true. The brittleness of Bayesian inference, and the overall problem of induction allows us to make any claim about a theory being almost certainly true. Furthermore, without knowing how close to being true the body of theory on evolution actually is, we cannot say how likely it will be that it is falsified in the future. We cannot say anything about the distribution of future observations, except by assuming that which we are setting out to show, which again would be circular reasoning, except in the case of falsification.
I recognize the need to justify evolution, which is an incredibly robust body of theory, that is relied upon for so much of our research, our medicine, and so much more, especially when there is still a push to promote creationism as if it were valid theory, when it is not. But any attempt to defend evolution should not result in a misrepresentation of it as a theory or a misrepresentation of science itself. Perhaps one day the problem of induction will be solved, and when that occurs, it will be the most important advancement of scientific investigation itself, since the initial formalization of science. But today is not that day, and evolution cannot be taken as being anything more than a theory, which has yet to be falsified.
Thank you for your consideration,