What is the difference between Evolution and the Theory of Evolution?

Evolution is a fact and a theory.  One is observed today in the lab and in the natural environment.  The other is more of a philosophical if not religious viewpoint.

Evolution in and of itself means “change.”  Change occurs all the time, and we can observe it.  Changes do occur within the kinds of animals, and this is not evolution but instead adaptive variation.  There are variations of finches, roses, sharks…the list goes on, and the only scientifically observed “evolution” is just those variations—different colors, fur length, size, shape, diet, etc.  What is not observed is the divergence from a common ancestor that, for example, created the chimps and the humans.  That common ancestor is supposedly ape-like, but the alleged divergence was not, nor can it ever be, observed, tested, or validated.  The past happened in the past; you cannot watch it happen now.  All we can see today is chimps, apes, baboons, and the other primate-type species being related to the primate kind; humans have their variations (race, etc.) only within the human kind.   All experiments have only shown the variation with kinds.  It has not shown the ape-like ancestor diverging into chimps and humans.  Nor do experiments show a water-dwelling creature become amphibious and then become land-dwelling.  These things are supposed to have happened in the unobserved past.  If it is not observable and testable, it is not science.  

The Theory of Evolution, however, states that all life forms today have come from a common ancestor millions of years ago.  More specifically, it states that humans and primates have a common ape-like ancestor.  The processes by which life has evolved include natural selection and mutations.  An ongoing problem in this hotly debated topic is the deceptive “bait and switch” tactic.    That is, when an adaptation is seen in the wild or in a lab, that is called evolution.  When living things are believed to have evolved from simple organisms to complex (i.e. “molecules to man”) over millions of years, and we are said to all be part of a phylogenetic tree of life, this is also called evolution.  They are not the same thing.  This is the fallacy of equivocation.  Proponents of evolution say, “Evolution is true because evolution is observed.”  They are two different types of evolution.  Observed evolution can be studied in a lab or a natural setting, but never will a scientist observe a dinosaur make gradual changes in its skeletal and muscular structure to develop wings and the ability to fly.  One evolution is an observed fact; the other remains a theory.

Charles Darwin theorized that all life came from a common ancestor like a single celled organism. As time went on, life forms became more complex and diverse.


The Theory of Evolution does not account for the actual origin of life—there are other evolutionary studies dedicated to that, such as chemical evolution and cosmological evolution. Charles Darwin popularized the Theory of Evolution, but it was actually a Greek philosopher named Anaximander who promoted the idea that life arose from water, and simple life forms came before complex life forms.

Note: Christians are mocked because they say that they don’t believe in evolution.  By this, they mean they don’t believe in the Theory of Evolution. 

*See also What is the difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution? 

*See also: Evolution for Dummies: A Review.