My Evolution Elucidation

99% of the scientific community accepts evolution as fact. Most religious people do not. Could it be that the scientific community simply understands it whilst most theists do not? Yes. I think it’s as simple as that.

Every time I have debated with a theist who doesn’t believe that evolution occurred, they all claim to have some knowledge of it, or investigated it. It usually takes less than a minute of discussing this to discover that they have little to no real knowledge of evolution at all.

Let me say this now: I don’t wish to be critical of anyone for simply not knowing. Many people (like me and those close to me) were brought up and fed lies and misinformation about evolution all their life. Others have simply not had access to it. What I object to is people who talk about evolution and try to criticise it whilst not knowing even simple things about it.

Let’s face it: the only reason theists object to evolution is because it contradicts what they believe about the world. Since they assume their beliefs cannot be wrong, they assume the other person is. The ‘other person’ is anyone or anything! But in this case we’re talking about evolution. This is silly for two reasons. 1: whenever there is a debate over anything, science has always won. Always. That’s just a fact. Just like a heliocentric solar system, flat earth, young earth, etc: whenever religion argues with science it loses. Now, that might not mean that science will necessarily always win, but it has an infinitely better track record, so opposing it seems foolish. 2: theists in the past have opposed scientists but eventually had to recant their objections when they were proven wrong – they didn’t have to reject their beliefs necessarily, but they did have to admit that their interpretations were wrong! E.g.: Galileo. (Even in recent times for example, the Catholic Church has had to admit that evolution of man is a fact.)

Another example of interpretation: Genesis and the creative period. 6 literal days is ludicrous. Eventually, (when they could no longer keep a straight face) many religions conceded that the 6 days couldn’t have been literal. Many interpret them as symbolic. Now, whilst I disagree with them (there is nothing symbolic about the days of Genesis and which parts of the bible are literal and which are symbolic? And who gets to decide that??), it does show an effort to amend faith in light of evidence; something I actively encourage!

Why can’t today’s believers concede that their interpretations of scripture might be in error?? After all, surely god wouldn’t lie to us or plant false evidence of things that never happened. If god exists, then he is the Master Scientist! How better to praise him and understand him than through science!

So, as briefly as possible, let’s quickly review evolution and the truths and lies about it:

What is the theory of evolution?

Evolution is the scientific theory that all life on earth has evolved from simpler forms of life via mutation to produce variety, and natural selection to hone that variety into usefulness.

Natural selection is a fact. It is simply true that anything better at doing something will survive in that environment better than something that doesn’t do ‘it’ as well. Natural selection is true in life, in the workplace, in business, and in nature. In nature, the things to ‘do well’ or ‘be good at’ are survival and reproduction.

Mutation is a fact. It is simply true that genetic copying errors lead to different effects in life-forms, however slight. Mutations can be deleterious, neutral, or beneficial. If a mutation is so deleterious that it inhibits reproduction, the gene will not last long enough to get passed on, and if it does it will be displaced by non-deleterious mutations. Most mutations are neutral in that they have no observably immediate effect on life. Those mutations that are beneficial (in whatever way) will be selected for (e.g.: the human mutation of an enzyme which allows certain races to tolerate large quantities of milk. Some ethnic groups have not evolved this enzyme and are incapable of consuming fresh milk and dairy in large volumes. Other examples of successful mutations might be: slightly longer legs, slightly sharper teeth etc.)

Mutations need only be slight, and the difference only very small. Nature is ruthless, and the line between life and death is incredibly narrow! If you can run only very slightly faster than your rival, you can catch that bit more food, or escape a predator. It doesn’t matter what the real scale is, the point is that the line exists, and any slight advantage will make you “better” at doing what you do, and ultimately made you a better reproducer. Therefore, this advantage will be passed on to your descendants, and you will displace those without it. And the competition will continue: wilder beasts get faster and tougher, so lions get stronger and faster. As you can imagine, life will increase in complexity and get better and better. As time goes on, the more complex and “better” it will become. How long has life had to adapt and improve on earth? Billions of years! No wonder we see the complexity and efficiency we do in nature!

But there is no guiding force. It is a simple escapable result of natural mechanical forces in action. Natural selection will always be a fact of life, but without mutation evolution would be impossible.

By the way, by “better at doing what you do”, I don’t mean being better or more advanced in some universal or moral way. Cheetahs are excellent sprinters. Sharks are great swimmers. Monkeys are excellent acrobats. Humans are excellent thinkers. None of these life-forms is “better” than the other. Humans aren’t more ‘evolved’ than any other life-form on earth: all life is very very good in its own environment, doing what it does best. That is because life adapts to the environment. The environment never adapts to lifeforms!

When evolution occurs on small scales within species, we call this micro-evolution. When it occurs on large scales over time resulting in creatures being so different they are classed as new species, we call this macro evolution. They are both extensions of the same indubitable principle. They both occur by mutation and natural selection, and gradually. The only difference is the time involved. So, for those who accept micro evolution but not macro evolution, this is a profound ignorance of evolution! It’s like saying you accept where volcanoes come from, but not mountains.

Natural selection and mutation are how we explain the evolution of life. This is the theory: the explanatory part. But, there is no doubt that life has evolved. Absolutely no doubt at all. In fact, evolution is a better understood fact and better explained theory than gravity! If you’re a theist, that’s something you’ve probably never been told before.

That all life-forms have a common ancestor is a fact. It’s a fact because the nested hierarchy of all life-forms proves that all species are related, and the relational distance decreases as you go further back through time. Ubiquitous DNA, copying errors, vestigial organs etc, all prove that all life is related and commonly descended. Let’s take just one of those examples: vestigial organs: whales have hind limbs under their skin. Humans have an appendix, tailbone, wisdom teeth, a malformed third-eye, and an atrophied muscle in our feet that we don’t use (but apes do because they have superior dexterity in their feet which our ancestors would have had). It is impossible to explain these anomalies without evolution. Those who believe life was specially created cannot explain this “bad design” unless they pretend god intentionally created useless parts in life-forms. Or worse still, they say that there is an unknown purpose for these vestigial organs. This non-answer is worse than no response at all!

So, that evolution occurs is not debatable. Just like when you drop an apple, it will fall to the ground. It’s a fact. Gravity is a fact. Evolution is fact. We explain gravity with the Theory of Gravity, and we explain evolution with the Theory of Evolution. So, is evolution a fact or theory? Both!

Evolution is one of the best examples of science we have. It has been observed directly and indirectly. It is powerfully explained and incredibly predictive. It has never been significantly changed in all this time. It allows us to clearly understand nature at a biological and behavioural level. In fact, it would be impossible to perform biology, zoology, psychology, or geology without knowing basic evolution. The Theory of Evolution could be proved wrong, but so far it hasn’t been. It could be proved wrong by a better scientific theory that replaces natural selection and mutation as explanations. But that wouldn’t change the fact that life has evolved and continues to do so. No more than if we replace the Theory of Gravity with a better one, apples will stop falling and planets will stop spinning. Evolution is a steady inalterable fact of nature. To deny it is just as stupid as claiming the earth is flat. No exaggeration.

Some theists like to derive strawmen of atheism and humanism based on evolution. They might say that life is meaningless, or purposeless. They might say that evolution implies a “survival of the fittest” morality, or that nature should be our guide to behaviour. Anyone who says this doesn’t know what they’re talking about. To claim that evolution says something about morals is just as pathetic as saying that gravity, or a heliocentric solar system, implies something about the meaning of life.

To quote Robert Carroll again, life has no purpose, but lives do! Nature simply is. It tells us nothing about morality or how we should treat people. And whether you like it or not, the brute fact is: evolution is a fact. Even if realising evolution made you a heartless miserable evil nihilist, evolution would still be a fact! However, accepting the facts should be what everyone should do anyway. How you feel about facts is irrelevant. Whether facts appear to disagree with your beliefs is immaterial.

If you’re a creationist you have a choice: you can either admit that your beliefs require adjusting, or you can discard them altogether. Or you could pretend that the facts are wrong. Without doing any research you might just assume that you’re right anyway. Without understanding evolution or being able to explain the first thing about it, you might just kid yourself that you’ve studied it and fairly rejected it. You might assume it’s an evil conspiracy by atheists, or a lie from the Devil. You might even switch off as though nothing will ever trouble your faith.

Well, it’s your choice. This is not the article to discuss morality, right or wrong, philosophy, religion, or atheism. This is about a magnificent incredible theory that changed the world, and revolutionised how we explain it. It is essential that all theists must totally understand evolution if they’re to be taken seriously in debates with atheists and scientists. Hopefully this article is a small step in clarifying the facts.

Whether you’re a creationist or not, isn’t your goal the truth?? So, none of us has anything to fear…

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9 Responses to “My Evolution Elucidation”

  1. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    I mentioned this on a similar thread on another blog, but it bears repeating and expansion here.

    Theists, creationists, religious people, call yourself what you will, but when you make arguments against evolution you generally manifest complete ignorance of the subject you are discussing. I don’t say this in a disparaging or condescending manner, but from my viewpoint, and most atheists, you people simply look stupid when you argue against evolution. I have yet to hear a cogent argument that even warrants scrutiny, much less a defense, but one might be out there..

    I offer that comment is a spirit of constructive criticism. If you want to have any credibility when discussing science, don’t make claims such as “I’ll believe it after I’ve lived a billion years and seen it with my own eyes” or “it’s just a theory” or ” There’s no way I’m a descendant of monkeys” or “I’ll believe it when I see a fish evolve into a cat” or similar such nonsense. Read up on the science you don’t believe in.

    And try a little honesty. You could start with this statement: “My main objection to the Theory of Evolution” is that it conflicts with my religious beliefs”. At that point we know exactly what your motivations are, and we can continue accordingly.

  2. Joe Says:

    “Most religious people do not.”

    I actually don’t believe this is true. (though maybe it is in the US) I think that the anti-evolution crowd are a very vocal minority of religious people.

  3. tobe38 Says:

    A very nice summary of the facts, the theories and the ignorance.

    I agree with Joe, it depends on where you’re talking about. America? Yes, probably. The whole world? No, I don’t think so.

  4. evanescent Says:

    @ Span Inq:

    Nicely put. That captures exactly how I feel and I hope theists are honest enough to accept that too.

    @ Joe & Tobe:

    Most theists I’ve talked with have a crude (or non-existent) knowledge of evolution. But of course, I haven’t met many liberal theists, so you may very well be right, and it’d be nice to think you are!

  5. Darren Says:

    Not all religious people are American, but most Americans are religious. Not all religious people are evolution-deniers, but all evolution-deniers are religious.

    So now we (I mean, they) have Senators, potential Presidential candidates, denying evolution!

    I find myself humming “Send in the clowns”

  6. Jim Says:

    Wrong: Not 99%
    Wrong: Most people today are NOT taught by their parents or at school to believe in God or His creation.
    Wrong: Millions of people who do not believe in evolution are NOT ignorant of the so-called science behind this mythology. Multitudes of Scientists reject evolution but remain silent because they will loose their cushy jobs if they come out.

    So here is the way to settle this ongoing argument:

    Many people, when they can’t provide evidence for their theory, adopt the strategy of falsehood. Such is the case with many of those who have fallen victim to the propaganda of renowned evolutionists.

    If evolutionists want to end the arguments all they have to do is, get their brilliant heads together and assemble a ‘simple’ living cell. This should be possible, since they certainly have a very great amount of knowledge about what is inside the ‘simple’ cell.

    After all, shouldn’t all the combined Intelligence of all the worlds scientist be able the do what chance encounters with random chemicals, without a set of instructions, accomplished about 4 billion years ago,according to the evolutionists, having no intelligence at all available to help them along in their quest to become a living entity. Surely then the evolutionists scientists today should be able to make us a ‘simple’ cell.

    If it weren’t so pitiful it would be humorous, that intelligent people have swallowed the evolution mythology.

    Beyond doubt, the main reason people believe in evolution is that sources they admire, say it is so. It would pay for these people to do a thorough examination of all the evidence CONTRARY to evolution that is readily available: Try answersingenesis.org. The evolutionists should honestly examine the SUPPOSED evidence ‘FOR’ evolution for THEMSELVES.

    Build us a cell, from scratch, with the required raw material, that is with NO cell material, just the ‘raw’ stuff, and the argument is over. But if the scientists are unsuccessful, perhaps they should try Mother Earth’s recipe, you know, the one they claim worked the first time about 4 billion years ago, so they say. All they need to do is to gather all the chemicals that we know are essential for life, pour them into a large clay pot and stir vigorously for a few billion years, and Walla, LIFE!

    Oh, you don’t believe the ‘original’ Mother Earth recipe will work? You are NOT alone, Neither do I, and MILLIONS of others!

    PS: Please don’t lie about the ‘first life’ problem, scientists are falling all over themselves to make a living cell. Many have admitted publicly that it is a monumental problem. And is many years away from happening, if ever. Logical people understand this problem and have rightly concluded that an Intelligent Designer was absolutely necessary. Think of it this way, if all the brilliant scientists on earth can’t do it how on earth can anyone believe that it happened by accident?????

  7. evanescent Says:

    Jim said:

    Wrong: Not 99%

    From Skepdic.com: Despite the fact that 99.99% of the scientific community considers evolution of species from other species to be a fact.

    (I thought about searching for all possible links to back up this statistic and then realised: you wouldn’t bother looking at them anyway.)

    Wrong: Most people today are NOT taught by their parents or at school to believe in God or His creation.

    You can’t deny that children of creationists are taught it! If it’s not taught in schools then so much the better, but not for the want of trying by creationists!

    Wrong: Millions of people who do not believe in evolution are NOT ignorant of the so-called science behind this mythology. Multitudes of Scientists reject evolution but remain silent because they will loose their cushy jobs if they come out.

    Ah the perfect little conspiracy theory here. So millions of unknown unnamed scientists who profess to believe evolution actually don’t. Nice little story you concocted here.

    So here is the way to settle this ongoing argument:

    The way to settle the argument is for creationists to join the real world.

    Many people, when they can’t provide evidence for their theory, adopt the strategy of falsehood. Such is the case with many of those who have fallen victim to the propaganda of renowned evolutionists.

    Rubbish. Address the article and evolution itself, instead of accusing scientists of propaganda. It’s creationists with the history of lying and deceiving about evolution.

    If evolutionists want to end the arguments all they have to do is, get their brilliant heads together and assemble a ’simple’ living cell. This should be possible, since they certainly have a very great amount of knowledge about what is inside the ’simple’ cell.

    Total and utter nonsense. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    After all, shouldn’t all the combined Intelligence of all the worlds scientist be able the do what chance encounters with random chemicals, without a set of instructions, accomplished about 4 billion years ago,according to the evolutionists, having no intelligence at all available to help them along in their quest to become a living entity. Surely then the evolutionists scientists today should be able to make us a ’simple’ cell.

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. You should really have read my article before you bothered commenting on it.

    If it weren’t so pitiful it would be humorous, that intelligent people have swallowed the evolution mythology.

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. You believe in invisible big friends in the sky that look after you and you can talk to when you feel sad. That’s mythology. I wish I could say I’m sorry that the fact of evolution conflicts with your ancient silly view of the world…but I’m not sorry.

    Beyond doubt, the main reason people believe in evolution is that sources they admire, say it is so. It would pay for these people to do a thorough examination of all the evidence CONTRARY to evolution that is readily available: Try answersingenesis.org. The evolutionists should honestly examine the SUPPOSED evidence ‘FOR’ evolution for THEMSELVES.

    You are ignoring evolution and my article itself. You are saying nothing of note.

    Build us a cell, from scratch, with the required raw material, that is with NO cell material, just the ‘raw’ stuff, and the argument is over. But if the scientists are unsuccessful, perhaps they should try Mother Earth’s recipe, you know, the one they claim worked the first time about 4 billion years ago, so they say. All they need to do is to gather all the chemicals that we know are essential for life, pour them into a large clay pot and stir vigorously for a few billion years, and Walla, LIFE!

    You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Oh, you don’t believe the ‘original’ Mother Earth recipe will work? You are NOT alone, Neither do I, and MILLIONS of others!

    You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    PS: Please don’t lie about the ‘first life’ problem, scientists are falling all over themselves to make a living cell. Many have admitted publicly that it is a monumental problem. And is many years away from happening, if ever. Logical people understand this problem and have rightly concluded that an Intelligent Designer was absolutely necessary. Think of it this way, if all the brilliant scientists on earth can’t do it how on earth can anyone believe that it happened by accident?????

    So your solution to the complex scientific problem of creating a living cell, is that your invisible make-believe daddy in the sky clicked his fingers and popped it into existence. Awful. (If you even read my article, you’d know that “accident” doesn’t enter into it.)

    I wrote the article above specifically for people like you, who pretend to counter evolution but don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. If you want to be taken seriously then you have to at least know your stuff. Your tirade against evolution is like ranting about gravity. Read my article again, and then learn about evolution.

  8. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    (let me try that again. E, delete the last comment)

    Jim said:

    Wrong: Not 99%

    So what is the right percentage? 98.5%?

    Wrong: Most people today are NOT taught by their parents or at school to believe in God or His creation.

    Really? In your opinion, what is the primary source for this belief?

    Wrong: Millions of people who do not believe in evolution are NOT ignorant of the so-called science behind this mythology. Multitudes of Scientists reject evolution but remain silent because they will loose their cushy jobs if they come out.

    Multitudes? Can you say hyperbole? And after that, can you provide proof for this worldwide conspiracy of silence?

    So here is the way to settle this ongoing argument:

    Many people, when they can’t provide evidence for their theory, adopt the strategy of falsehood. Such is the case with many of those who have fallen victim to the propaganda of renowned evolutionists.

    Strategy of Falsehood? Hmmm. Pot-kettle-black.

    If evolutionists want to end the arguments all they have to do is, get their brilliant heads together and assemble a ’simple’ living cell. This should be possible, since they certainly have a very great amount of knowledge about what is inside the ’simple’ cell.

    That’s a bit disingenuous isn’t it? You want us to do in a few years what took billions of years to accomplish?

    After all, shouldn’t all the combined Intelligence of all the worlds scientist be able the do what chance encounters with random chemicals, without a set of instructions, accomplished about 4 billion years ago,according to the evolutionists, having no intelligence at all available to help them along in their quest to become a living entity. Surely then the evolutionists scientists today should be able to make us a ’simple’ cell.

    You didn’t read my first post, did you? Here is a classic, and apparently blatant, indication of the typical ignorance shown by creationists. They always try to conflate the beginning or origin of life, with the Origin of Species (incidentally, Jim, the name of Darwin’s book) when they don’t know what they are talking about. I presume then that you don’t know what you are talking about. Evolution is not the same as abiogenesis, which is what you seem to be referring to, though apparently you are not aware of it.

    Look at the title to this post. See the word “evolution” up there? That’s the topic. Please do some reading on the subject before you post religious nonsense.

    If it weren’t so pitiful it would be humorous, that intelligent people have swallowed the evolution mythology.

    Let me change one word of the above for accuracy.

    “If it weren’t so pitiful it would be humorous, that intelligent people have swallowed the creation mythology.”

    Beyond doubt, the main reason people believe in evolution is that sources they admire, say it is so.

    You could be correct here. Yes, I do believe you are. Score one for Jim.

    Of course, those sources would be all of the scientific research published in peer reviewed journals for the past 150 years or so, by prominent experts in the fields of biology, biochemistry, genetics, paleontology, anthropology, geology, and numerous other disciplines and sub-disciplines. I certainly admire those sources. Apparently, you don’t. Instead…

    It would pay for these people to do a thorough examination of all the evidence CONTRARY to evolution that is readily available: Try answersingenesis.org. The evolutionists should honestly examine the SUPPOSED evidence ‘FOR’ evolution for THEMSELVES.

    …Ahha!. Now we know where your ignorance comes from. Answers in Genesis. The leading light of evolutionary research.

    See? I knew you didn’t read the first comment. Here. I’ll save you the time. Simply tell us whether you agree or disagree with this statement:

    “My main objection to the Theory of Evolution” is that it conflicts with my religious beliefs”

    I’ll even answer it for you.

    Jim: I strongly agree.

    Build us a cell, from scratch, with the required raw material, that is with NO cell material, just the ‘raw’ stuff, and the argument is over. But if the scientists are unsuccessful, perhaps they should try Mother Earth’s recipe, you know, the one they claim worked the first time about 4 billion years ago, so they say. All they need to do is to gather all the chemicals that we know are essential for life, pour them into a large clay pot and stir vigorously for a few billion years, and Walla, LIFE!

    The latter’s already been done. I have a better idea. Why don’t you, along with all the leading intellects from Answers in Genesis, show us how life is created. Seriously. You do it, or better yet, since you’re not a god, get God to do it. He could do it easily, right? He did it 6000 years ago. We could set it up as a little experiment, maybe book the Meadowlands or Wembley Stadium, sell tickets for charity. Wouldn’t that be neat? Right there on the 50 yard line, poof! Life created by God. Maybe David Copperfield could do a few tricks as a warm up act.

    Oh, you don’t believe the ‘original’ Mother Earth recipe will work? You are NOT alone, Neither do I, and MILLIONS of others!

    Boy, that’s a stupid statement. If we didn’t believe the original, we wouldn’t be here, would we? We know that millions of others don’t believe, but if they get their info at church, or Answers in Genesis, then it’s no wonder.

    PS: Please don’t lie about the ‘first life’ problem, scientists are falling all over themselves to make a living cell.

    Probably true. Are you familiar with the Miller/Urey experiment? If not, look it up.

    Many have admitted publicly that it is a monumental problem.

    What’s a monumental problem? Creating life from scratch? Nobody disagree with you, yet here we are. Life. Created from scratch. But again, that’s a different issue than evolution.

    And is many years away from happening, if ever.Logical people understand this problem and have rightly concluded that an Intelligent Designer was absolutely necessary. Think of it this way, if all the brilliant scientists on earth can’t do it how on earth can anyone believe that it happened by accident?????

    Look, Jim, you respond to a post about evolution with a diatribe about how life began. This is a common misimpression about evolution that creationists have, especially those that get their information from Answers in Genesis, because the people behind that site have a religious agenda, and don’t hide it.

    How about you? What’s yours?


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