Evolutionary Theory and the Epistemology of Science

  • Kevin McCain
  • Brad Weslake
Part of the History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences book series (HPTL, volume 1)


The sciences offer us a detailed picture of the world in which we live. But why is it rational to accept this picture? Evolutionary theory provides a beautiful case study of the way in which scientific theories are supported by their evidence. In this chapter we provide a guide for teachers who wish to use evolutionary theory to explain the way in which scientific theories are supported, and to explain what is required for a theory to be rationally accepted. Our method is to consider evolutionary theory in the light of a range of criticisms that have been made by its critics: that it is a theory rather than a fact, that it cannot be proven, that it is not falsifiable, that it has been falsified, and that it does not make predictions. Using a series of examples, we explain why these criticisms are either false or involve a misunderstanding of the nature of evidential support and scientific knowledge. In the process, we exhibit some of the epistemic principles that are at the heart of scientific inference, and show how they are employed to establish the rational acceptability of evolution.


Evolutionary Theory Good Explanation Scientific Theory Perceptual Experience True Belief 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Matt Frise, Kostas Kampourakis, Lynnette Lounsbury, H. Allen Orr, and Elliott Sober for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of AlabamaBirminghamUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA

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