An article appeared in the Jan./Feb. 2004 issue of The Professional Geologist by paleontology Professor, James S. Mellett, with the intriguing title, "Question: Do You Believe in Evolution? Answer: Do You Believe in Gravity?" While the article brought nothing new to the debate, and indeed belied a substantial misunderstanding of creation thinking, its title indicates a profound misunderstanding of evolution as well and merits a response.
Let me remind you that "science" has always relied on human observation. Obviously, observations occur in the present, even if they relate to things in the past. For instance, paleontologists, who exist in the present, make observations in the present of fossils, which exist in the present even though the fossils are the remains of organisms, which lived in the past. Science is done in the present.
The study of gravity involves science, for the effects of gravity can be observed today. In fact, each and every time someone observes anything, gravity operates. Gravity is more than a theory, it is a law, and has never been known to fail. It seems nonsensical to ask, "Do you believe in gravity?" because we know for a certainty that gravity works.
Contrast this with evolution. By "evolution" I mean "macro-evolution," or big changes such as the transformation of a fish into an amphibian or a dinosaur into a bird or an ape into a man. On a grander scale, evolution implies the common ancestry of all life, including amoeba-to-man. Evolution means that dogs evolved from a non-dog ancestor.
Today we observe dogs with many adaptations, even having speciated into domestic dogs, wolves, coyotes, etc., all inter-fertile, but this observed variety in the present does not address the ultimate origin of dogs in the unobserved past.
Evolutionists claim that large-scale evolution occurs too slowly to be observed today. The question remains, did it happen in the unobserved past, when no human was there to observe it? While gratuitously called a "historical" science, evolution thinking obviously differs from observational, empirical sciences such as the study of gravitational effects. In reality it is a historical reconstruction, attempting to decipher what happened in the unobserved past to make things get to be the way we observe them today.
While the evolutionary reconstruction of history may have some appeal, providing a way to arrange today's array of life, it is far from proven. Creationists contend there is another, more scientifically robust way to understand history, i.e., that each basic type of life appeared abruptly, without having descended from some other type, and remained substantially the same, varying within limits, until either becoming extinct or surviving into the present. This view much better fits the observed facts.
The claim that evolution is as well proved as gravity surfaces repeatedly in evolution discussions. But the statement does not stand the test of scrutiny, nor does evolution fare well in comparison to the alternative.