Posted 21 August 2011 - 06:03 PM
I have been wanting to respond to this for quite awhile, but work and family have had priority. If you don't mind, I am going to ignore everything after the first post because I don't think it bore out anything very interesting. I will try to stay within the framework you have established (but I may push at the edges a little). I am also going to assume that since we are both savvy computer users that we can do the research on our own. If I do need to present evidence, it will be in the form of peer reviewed white papers. A blog form Atheist's Anonymous isn't going to cut it, and neither will a body of text from a religious source since they clearly have different agendas.
So this will probably sound like I am immediately picking on you, but I am not. You said "A good scientific theory shouldn't depend on something which has never been observed." I don't know what that means. A scientific theory is either likely true, or false. I will have to let you clarify what you mean before I can address your stance. I also want to be clear which version of Darwinian evolution you are talking about. And I mean that in the sense that there is the popular version that is pure misconception, that we evolved from apes. Then there is the idea that we all share a common ancestor. Then there is the idea of natural selection. Darwin wrote some 25 books, and coalescing all of that into a single sentence is impossible. My assumption is that you are talking about the origin of life. I will leave that to you for clarification before we discuss that.
As I mentioned before, scientific explanation is either likely, or false. From a scientific standpoint, nothing can ever be proven fully. Science can deduce tendencies and probabilities. Based on observations, we know that one mass will be attracted to another at a specific rate. We can't see the force, but we can see the effects of gravity. We can't 'see' black holes, but we can see their effects on the environment around them. Thus we can surmise that black holes exist. We can then formulate mathematical functions to describe those affects, and apply those formulas to other parts of our universe to surmise the existence of other black holes. We cannot directly observe interactions at thee quantum level either, but we can measure those interactions and make deductions based on observation of indirect evidence.
If I may use a well-worn example. Suppose I walked up on a murder scene where someone had been stabbed and left lying in a pool of their own blood. Suppose I also noticed a set of bloody footprints leading away from the site, and I decided to follow them. After some time, I come upon a person holding a bloody knife, wearing bloody clothes, and most importantly, wearing shoes that match the bloody tread pattern I had been following. Would we say that no crime had occurred because nobody was there to see it? Or would we deduce that it was very likely that the person in front of us committed a crime? We can't know for sure, but we convict people all the time for crimes with no witnesses.
Since evolution happens so slowly, it would be quite impossible to observe if taken on a global scale. However we can see within our own lifetimes where bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics. I just heard a report on NPR the other day where cut worms were becoming resistant to genetically modified corn. This is evolution on a scale that we can see.
You mentioned that Darwin was wrong, and you provided some useful examples of why predictive science can be wrong. I think it might interest you to know that in addition to Darwin's discoveries, he was one of the first scientists to incorporate statistics. I can't find the resource; it was in a PDF given to me by a professor in one of my ethics classes. There are a few resources on the Internet, but I don't know of any biographies that are peer reviewed. I did a search for "charles darwin use of statistics" and came up with a few resources that assured me my memory wasn't faulty. At any rate, Darwin made predictions based on probabilities. With statistical science there is always the probability of being wrong. If one could somehow account for all possible circumstances, then I suppose that one could approach 95% accuracy.
So to go back to your original question, which I take to be "Why is evolution presented as the only viable explanation for life", I would suggest that perhaps because there has been no other scientific body of work that approaches the depth and scrutiny that has evolution. If a life form suddenly appeared that was completely unrelated to any other life form, shared no DNA with any other life form, and has never been seen before, then we would have good reason to consider other possibilities. So far that has not happened.
Evolution is a scientific theory. Creationism is an aspect of one's faith. Papers get rejected for all kinds of arbitrary reasons. I hope the person who gave the presentation provided some evidence. Peer-reviewed papers are published all of the time that are critical of one theory or another. It is how scientists make their bones, so to speak. However if they are not credible, they will not get published.