It is difficult to respond briefly to Jim Hinckley's opinion piece in the March 7 Daily Miner. The column is a mixture of scientific misunderstanding and ignorance, historical inaccuracy and misinformation, and societal fantasy. It also included the typical creationist ploy of presenting quotes out of context and incompletely to make their point.
Evolution is a theory (not a fact), just like the theory of gravitational forces. It explains, using facts and observations of nature, how organisms and natural biological processes change over time. This is a theory which has been fleshed out over the last 150 years or so through the efforts of thousands of scientists who have approached the concept from numerous points of view.
It is not a myth that Charles Darwin was the first to set forth the concept of natural selection. Earlier philosophers, Greeks for the most part, specifically discussed evolution, but none dealt with realistic mechanisms explaining how it proceeded. One of Darwin's greatest conceptual breakthroughs was articulating that evolution proceeds by the process of natural selection and describing how the process works.
Mr. Hinckley clearly does not understand or appreciate science or the process of science. Yes, it is correct that much of science is experimental, with controlled conditions and experiments, such as occurred in the development of antibiotics and vaccinations, however, evolutionary science is a historical/descriptive science along with astronomy and geology. In these disciplines existing information is gathered and analyzed to answer questions generated by the scientist. The answer the question posed in the title of Jim Hinckley's opinion piece, "Evolution: Scientific fact of faithful religion?" is simple. Religion is based on the faith and beliefs, which cannot be proven, while the theory of evolution is based in the clearly demonstrated facts of fossils, structural and biochemical similarities between organisms and the global pattern distribution of organisms.
I think it is demeaning and beneath the level of useful discussion to accuse those who accept the theory of evolution as ignorant, with all the negative implication of that word.
It is true that many people have not been introduced to the facts behind evolution in school, and therefore, do not understand the theory, but this is due to their lack of exposure to the concepts. Whether you believe in evolution or not, in order to discuss the topic, it is necessary to at least understand the facts behind its concepts.