The Evolution of Evolution

September 19, 2007 | By | 27 Replies More

Contrary to the way it is portrayed by Creationists, the theory of evolution wasn’t handed down from the Goddess Athe to her true prophet Darwin, to whose faith all subsequent researchers have to slavishly adhere. From the day each of Darwin’s books were published, and for the century and a half since, serious and powerful researchers (as well as semi-educated and/or pseudo-scientific dabblers) have busily been trying (and mostly failing) to make a name for themselves by finding a flaw — any flaw — in the overall Theory of Evolution. Darwin’s singular contribution, the principle that those members of a population best adapted to an environment will survive, is rarely challenged.

I was inspired to write this post after reading Can God be scientific? Consider the evidence, Part II by Daniel Jarvis. His post makes it clear that Creationists believe that all fields of science that are cited in support of this basic principle of modern biology have to meet criteria set by Darwin. These include astronomy, geology, genetics, tectonics, crystallography, quantum theory, and many other fields of study.

Let’s look at one supporting pillar of biological evolution: Things take time. The best Creationist argument (IMHO) is that all the species could not possibly have evolved in the short time since the beginning of the universe (or just of the world, for those who accept astronomical science) a few thousand years ago. I discuss this in detail here. In brief, the age of the world and the age of the universe were both determined independently with no reference to Darwin. Before Darwin was born, both geologists and astronomers knew that the Universe and the Earth were older than Biblical time indicated. The estimated ages exponentially increased as more and more accurate methods of measuring were developed. However, for the last few decades the estimates have held steady.

If the world is very young (Biblical history including Genesis is shorter than the archaeological record of modern man), then there obviously wasn’t time to evolve the diversity we see today. That the world is old is not a presumption, it is a hard-won conclusion based on millions of pieces of independent corroborating evidence, and no contradicting evidence.

It is not a matter of tens of thousands of living and retired/demised researchers all obeying an authority, but rather of all these people following the evidence and constructing and modifying theories to fit the facts. Their greatest wish is to change a theory and win a Nobel.

What of the popular Creationist argument that evolutionists have contradicted themselves, and even Darwin? Sure. That’s how science works. First, review what is known, and then try to improve on it. Most newly announced Creation Science discoveries are already on record, and their fallacies well documented. Scientists record both their successes and failures. Creationists are doomed to repeat their history because they only examine the (scant and questionable) positive results they’ve had before proceeding.

As with the age of the universe, the Theory of Evolution will continue to be refined (evolve) as better methods of measurement and detection are developed (evolved). Therefore, the Theory explaining the observed fact of evolution will likely never be complete or uncontested. But at the core, there are no objections within a scientific frame. The basic kernel of it has remained unchanged for over a century.


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Category: Communication, Evolution, History, Religion, Science, Technology

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (27)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    Here's an excellent lecture by Ken Miller, one of the expert witnesses in the Dover Intelligent Design lawsuit. The video contains an hour lecture, and then a lengthy Q&A session.

    There are some excellent points made:

  2. Ben says:

    According to a 2005 survey, 40% of Americans agreed with, 39% disagreed with, and 21% were unsure about the proposition “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals”. The United States is almost unique in the developed world for its rate of doubt about evolution with only Turkey faring worse.

    NCSE is particularly delighted to be contributing a regular column—“Overcoming obstacles to evolution education”—to Evolution: Education and Outreach as part of those efforts.

    “Yo Mista, does evolution mean people will grow wings and fly around?” This is the question I am most frequently asked when introducing evolution to incoming ninth graders. The posing of this particular question tells me two things: (1) students have a very basic idea of what mutations and adaptations are but little understanding that mutations are slight and must be passed down through generations, which is a slow process when the affect is evolutionary change, (2) for evolution to occur, there often needs to be a catalyst (for example, drastic climatic change causing environmental degradation resulting in mass extinction opening niches).

    The common thread of evolution runs through all science disciplines, and the concept of evolution enables students to better understand the nature of the universe and our origins.

    Most Recent Refinements/Advancements in Science:

    Precession of Mercury’s orbit is solved by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. Theory and observations agree. Pluto is demoted to non-planet status

    Plate tectonics; seismology used to get more accurate picture of interior structure of earth. Early atmosphere and conditions better understood.

    Dark matter & dark energy. Attempts to explain increased rate of expansion of universe. Improvements in telescopes and spectrometers advance knowledge

    Relation between elementary particles and fundamental forces sought. Process of reductionism seeks to find a grand unified theory (GUT); superstring theory, M branes are under active research

    The universal gravitational constant is hypothesized to change as the universe expands. Black holes are the ultimate condensed matter state. Strong and weak forces discovered

    Ceramics, high temperature superconductors, advanced pharmaceuticals

    Discovery of the DNA double helix, RNA; the mechanism of inheritance was detailed; gene sequencing & mapping. Prebiotic chemistry and origin of life hypotheses: Miller—Urey, RNA World, Lipid World

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