Friday, October 3, 2014

What evolution is and isn't

Through the years it has become apparent that those that tend to question evolution don't actually know what it is or what it says. In light of this, here is a compilation of many of these mistakes...

Evolution doesn't explain the origin of life, so it is a failed theory.

The thing is that evolution is not about the dawn of life. Where and how life originated is a completely different field of study. Evolution is concerned only with how life changes and diversified after life started. To complain that evolution doesn't explain where life came from is akin to ordering a cake and complaining that the server didn't bring you a pie.

Evolution is too random to work.

But evolution isn't random at all. The individual mutations are random, yes. But the process of natural selection is not random. Natural selection will select against those that are harmful, and will select in favor of those that present an advantage. Those that are at a disadvantage will tend to live shorter, less successful lives, and will produce less offspring. Meanwhile, those with an advantage will usually reproduce more and increase the saturation of this trait in the gene pool. But this isn't all to say that all mutations must be beneficial to be passed on. Mutations that are neither positive or negative may be passed  along since only the negative is selected against. And these initially worthless mutations may be useful after-all when coupled with a future mutation.

If evolution says that we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

If the Bible says that mankind came from dust/dirt, why is there still dust/dirt? The quick answer is that evolution doesn't say that we came from monkeys. What it does say is that us and modern apes share a common ancestor. Unlike the popular evolution chart we have all seen, evolution looks more like a many branched tree. If we follow the human branch back, and the Chimpanzee branch back, we will find that the human branch and modern ape branch will intersect. While that creature would look distinctly more ape-like, it wouldn't by any stretch be a modern ape.

Why aren't monkeys still evolving into humans?

See above...

Evolution is 'just' a theory.

In everyday usage most use the word 'theory' to mean no more than a wild guess or hunch. But that's not the scientific meaning of 'theory'. In science a theory is a set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena. Scientific theories have been repeatedly tested by experiments and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena. So when we are talking about the theory of evolution we are using this sense of the word. Just as in gravitational theory or the germ theory of disease. A theory is the closest thing science has to a law or fact.

Evolution supports 'might makes right' and is responsible for the Holocaust and other immoral behavior.

Evolution is only concerned with the survival of species, not the eradication of others for whatever reason. Social Darwinism (as it's often called) is completely separate from biological evolution. It is no more than a hijacking of the theory to push personal goals and views. Blaming the Holocaust on evolution is like blaming the fork because you stabbed yourself in the eye. Misuse of something doesn't make it false or evil.

Evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.

The argument here is that evolution is usually an increase in order. And the second law states that total entropy (disorder) can only increase over time. There are two problems with this though, and one is glaring. The second law is talking about total entropy. That means that amongst a sea of
disorder, it doesn't rule out a small pocket of order. But the biggest problem is that the second law only applies to closed systems. For the Earth to be an open system it would need to be receiving energy from an outside source. And the Earth does receive an amazing amount of energy from an outside source... the Sun!

Evolution works too slow. A half of something is no good to anyone.

True, evolution does usually work slowly, but this claim is still incorrect. Let's look at the eye for example. An evolution denier may say that half an eye is of no use. But this isn't true. Throughout nature we see eyes from the most basic and primitive, to eyes that are very complex, and everything in between. The remarkable thing is that all these different eyes can be rearranged to show the evolution of the eye from simple to complex. If we pick an eye from the middle of that list, it may not see as well as our eyes, but it is still better than no eyes. The problem is that some look at our eyes as the finished product when they really aren't. There are other eyes in the animal kingdom that can see in the dark, see color spectrums we can't, see many many more colors than us, and see clearly at much greater distances than we can. Given that those eyes do something better than ours can, does that make our eyes worthless now? Of course not!

Evolution is to improbable. It requires a male and female of each new species to evolve at the same time.

Actually, it doesn't require anything of the sort. Despite what some think, the lines between species that are diverging is rather blurred. When species are beginning to separate, they are still similar enough to interbreed. This allows a greater pool for reproduction. As time goes on and one population becomes too different to mate with the other, there will already be breeding pairs in the new species who will be able to generation after generation drive evolution on.

Interestingly, this fact gives us the answer to the question of "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" The answer is the egg. That is because what laid the first chicken egg was almost a chicken, but not quite.

If evolution is true, why aren't we still evolving?

Actually... we are. Some are now being born without wisdom teeth at all. The ability for humans to drink milk into adulthood is actually a fairly recent mutation. In fact, those that can't drink milk are still in the global majority. And one trend that may surprise many is that our brains are actually now shrinking rather than getting larger. So make no mistake, we are still evolving as a species. I just fear
that our over reliance on various forms of technology may cause us to become too lazy and detached, causing evolution to take us in a direction that I fear may not ultimately be in our best interest.

-Brain Hulk

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