The Scientific Fact of Phlogiston

Imagine some cowboys at the campfire on the trail:

"I see you got that fire built up pretty high. Ain't that a tad much for heatin' up beans?"

"Normally, yep. But I'm making coffee, it's gonna be a long night".

"Well, hope that firewood's loaded up with phlogiston."

"What's phlogiston?"

"The stuff that makes things burn. If it don't have no phlogiston, it won't burn. Johann Becher explained combustion back in 1667. You really should do some science reading now and then."

Too bad the dude doing the explaining didn't read further, or something more up to date. While phlogiston was the dominant scientific theory for a spell, Lavosier became skeptical and determined that it was oxygen, not phlogiston (the dark matter of the 16th century?) that caused burning.

The concensus science view was that burning involved phlogiston
RGBStock / Krzysztof Szkurlatowski
Unlike Darwinism, phlogiston theory had some explanatory merit. Like Darwinism, the idea of phlogiston became the consensus view and did not exit the stage gracefully; adherents resisted contrary evidence. Eventually, it became a footnote in history. The big difference between the concepts of phlogiston and fish-to-firefighter evolution is that evolution is upheld because of spiritual motivations (an excuse to deny the Creator), and phlogiston apparently had no basis in spiritual rebellion.
During the 18th century, scientists understood fire and combustion to be the result of a mysterious substance called phlogiston. Although this theory had great explanatory power and was widely accepted among scientists for approximately 100 years, it nevertheless fell eventually (and its fall, once it occurred, happened very quickly). Phlogiston teaches us that just because a theory is widely accepted among scientists, is believed to explain all the evidence, and reigns supreme for a long time, does not mean that it is true. Indeed, phlogiston was in many ways a stronger theory than is evolution today; however, since evolution allows mankind to shake his fist at his Creator, it is not subjected to the same standard of proof as other, more empirical theories such as phlogiston.
To read the rest of this hot subject, click on "Fire in the air". For curiosity's sake, you may want to see my own article from 2010, "A Faulty Scientific Theory".