Evolution: Fact or Theory (or Fiction)?

As of today, a Google search on evolution produces “about 91,200,000″ results. I’m sure by tomorrow, that will have changed. Controversial subjects will do that. (Actually, in the time it took me to write this entry, it blossomed to 92,300,000)

What’s equally amazing is just how uneducated people are about evolution! I include myself in that pile. A few days ago, a conversation with a co-worker came around to the topic of speciation (893,000 hits for speciation) and he and I both agreed that there had been no observations of a speciation event in the laboratory or the wild.

It was bugging me after that conversation that I couldn’t speak with any real knowledge about evolution. I decided to use the internet to do some searching, to see what I could find. Well, I found quite a bit.

Did you know that speciation has been observed numerous times since at least 1905? I did not, but now I do. Of course, by “observed” we speak of a scientifcally determined differentiation between creatures which is dependent on what species really means, anyway. I’m not going to argue with a bunch of biologists, go read it for yourself. Furthermore, speciation has been “observed” by methods other than the Mark I Eyeball. It only takes a moment of critical thinking to determine that. 1) Life is derived from other life. 2) There are life forms that exist now that did not millions of years ago. 3) Therefore life forms must change into different life forms, over time.

Ahhh, but why am I bothering with this mental doodle, you ask? It’s because there are a number of topics that are subject to heated debate, and those of us who are going to tilt at them windmills, should at least be educated about the topics in question.

For Example: If you follow the news, you’ll know that Cobb County, Georgia, my fair home, placed a sticker on the front inside cover of biology textbooks within the county. The sticker says, “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.” I’ve learned a lot about evolution since this debate heated up; let’s take it one sentence at a time.

“This Textbook contains material on evolution:” Well, yes. It’s biology. As I understand it, evolution (not evolutionary theory, we’ll get to that) is the foundation of modern biology. Without it, biology would not exist. This sentence isn’t very controversial.

“Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things:” I’ve learned through research that Evolution is a fact, not a theory. Why do I say this? Because Evolution is merely the statement that existing life has developed from pre-existing life; that creatures change in nature as time goes by. This is questioned/debated by virtually no one. There are no dinosaurs still roaming around and there were no humans when the dinosaurs existed, therefore things/creatures have evolved over time. That is verifiable, observable fact and to question it is to be a six-day biblical creationist. Now, what is theoretical about Evolution? Evolutionary theory is a theory which attempts to explain how creatures move from dinosaurs to birds, over time. Modern evolutionary theory is best represented by Neodarwinism which indicates that evolutionary processes proceed through slight mutations followed by natural selection. That is the “theoretical” part of Evolution, not evolution itself. The last part of that sentence says that evolution addresses that origin of living things. That’s not correct, although I think I know what the writers were trying to say. What they meant to put on the sticker should have been, “…regarding the development of living things,” but they didn’t. Evolution and Evolutionary Theory do not address how life began. They presupposes life, and then Evolution states that yes, things evolve, and Evolutionary Theory says, this is how they change over time. No origins in there anywhere.

“This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered:” I bet that there is a very similar sentence in the introduction of the biology book where the scientific method is explained. Why bother including it on the cover. Or rather, why not include this sentence on the cover of every science textbook. That way, you’re covering your bases and teaching students not to be dogmatic robots.

Now, I’m just an engineer with internet access. I’m not a biologist who can state an eloquent argument. If you disagree with my points, I refer you to the above links and some FAQing good FAQ’s there.

For edification, I present the following sticker to be placed inside all Cobb County Physics Textbooks. Keep in mind that the scientific definition of “theory” is, “An idea so well supported by evidence that it would be really silly to not at least tentatively agree with it, until you develop countervailing evidence.”

This textbook contains material on gravity. Gravity is a theory, not a fact, regarding the attraction of matter to other matter. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

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