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Religious Tolerance logo

About origins, creation, and evolution

Scientific developments in 2016, so far

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2016-JAN: Is the Theory of Evolution "just a theory"?

Creationists often disparage evolution by saying that it is just a theory. This might cause many people to conclude that it is grounded in nothing more than simple guesswork. However, the word "theory" has two very different meanings:

  • In TV crime programs and in ordinary life, "theory" usually means a tentative guess, sometimes based only on a hunch with little or no evidence.

  • In science, a theory starts with a tentative guess. However, this must be followed up with experiments to discover whether the hypothesis has validity. It is only when the hypothesis is verified by other scientists and is generally accepted as accurate by the scientific community that the hypothesis becomes a theory. The vast majority of scientists who are not creationists have reached a consensus that evolution has become a scientific theory, is reliable and is a fact.
The following image was posted on this web site's Facebook icon page which addresses the multiple meanings of "theory.":

"Just a theory" image

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2016-FEB-01: Signs of life found in the Earth's mantle:

cross-section of the earth's interior
A cross-section of the Earth from crust to its center. 1

We live on top of the Earth's crust which has a thickness of 0 to 100 km (60 miles). Directly under the crust lies the Earth's mantle.

A team of scientists traveled to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where the crust has minimum thickness. They drilled down through the crust and collected rock samples from the top of the mantle.

The team was led by co-Chiefs Dr. Gretchen Früh-Green (ETH Zurich, Switzerland) and Dr. Beth Orcutt (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, USA). They were aboard the Royal Research Vessel James Cook, which was operated by the National Environment Research Council, UK).

They drilled holes into the Atlantis Massif, a 4,000-m tall underwater mountain along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The holes penetrated the "Moho" boundary:

"... formally known as the Mohorovicic discontinuity ... the division between Earth's brittle outer crust and the hotter, softer mantle."

They extracted the rock cores for analysis.

According to Astrobiology Magazine, the team has collected:

"... an unprecedented sequence of rock samples from the shallow mantle of the ocean crust that bear signs of life, unique carbon cycling, and ocean crust movement. ..."

"The aims of the expedition are to determine how mantle rocks are brought to the sea floor and react with seawater. Such reactions may fuel life in the absence of sunlight, which may be how life developed early in Earth’s history, or on other planets. The team also hopes to learn more about what happens to carbon during the reactions between the rocks and the seawater –- processes that could impact on climate by sequestering carbon." 2

Any findings about the beginnings of life on Earth may well impact the opinions of many North Americans who believe in the literal truth of the creation stories in Genesis, and of an Earth that is less than 10 millennia of age.

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2016-FEB-11: Gravitational waves have been detected from outer space:

One of Einstein's century-old predictions has finally been confirmed: gravitational waves do exist: During 1915, he predicted that major disturbances anywhere in the universe will cause space-time "to stretch, collapse, and even jiggle." 3 The result would be gravitational waves sent through the Cosmos that might be detectable on Earth.

About a billion years ago, two black holes circled each other and eventually merged. When they collided, they emitted the energy equivalent to a billion trillion (10 to the 21st power) suns spread over a fraction of a second. This generated gravitational waves.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a pair of widely separated gravitational wave detectors: one is in Washington State and the other is in Louisiana. On 2015-SEP-14. working together, they were able to detect these gravitational waves for the first time

The LIGO team is made up of:

"... a worldwide team of scientists, along with scientists from a European team known as the Virgo Collaboration

They published a report on gravitational waves in Physical Review Letters with more than 1,000 authors! 3

Szabolcs Marka, a Columbia University professor and a LIGO scientist said:

"I think this will be one of the major breakthroughs in physics for a long time. ... Everything else in astronomy is like the eye. Finally, astronomy grew ears. We never had ears before." 4

Galileo first looked at the universe in 1611-MAR to detect light originating from stars and sunlight reflected from planets. Over three centuries later, scientists started to detect radio waves from the Sun, planets, and the rest of the universe. Now a third phase has been reached in which gravitational waves from the Cosmos are being measured.

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Dennis Overbye, writing for the New York Times, said:

"The discovery is a great triumph for three physicists — Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology, Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ronald Drever, formerly of Caltech and now retired in Scotland — who bet their careers on the dream of measuring the most ineffable of Einstein’s notions." 4


This discovery will have minimal effects on religious beliefs. However it does support scientific calculations of the age of the galaxy which has been estimated at about 13.82 billion years. 5 This is enormously greater than the approximately 6 to 10 millenia estimated on the basis of a literal interpretation of the biblical book of Genesis.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Image copied from "What on Earth is Plate Tectonics?, United States Geological Survey, last modified on 2014-OCT-03, at:
  2. Expedition finds signs of life in Earth's mantle," Astrobiology Magazine, 2016-FEB-01, at:
  3. B.P. Abbott et al., "Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger," Physical Review Letters, 2016-FEB-11, at:
  4. Dennis Overbye, "Gravitational Waves Detected, Confirming Einstein’s Theory," New York Times, 2015-FEB-11, at:
  5. Phil Plait, "The Universe Is 13.82 Billion Years Old," Slate, 2013-MAR-21, at:

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2016-FEB-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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