Charles Darwin is famous worldwide for being the founder of the modern theory of evolution. Back in 1859 he published a book called On The Origin Of The Species in which he proposed that animals and humans shared common ancestry, and that “survival of the fittest” determined which genetic traits would be more likey to be passed on to subsequent generations.
In essence Darwins theory said that as creatures breed there will be minor genetic mutations, these may be advantageous or not. If a mutation is advantageous that creature will be more sucessful and so more likely to pass on that mutation, as time progresses the mutation will become more common to the point that it is a feature of the creature. It would be considered that the creature has evolved. The mutation could be anything, a longer beak to delve deeper into crevices for bugs, legs of water living creatures reducing in size to reduce drag, colour changes to adapt to environment, or even larger brains.
Evolution is one of the major cornerstones of current scientific thinking, but is it right? One group of people would have you believe not, the Creationsists.
Before I go any further though I will make one thing clear, not all Creationists are the same, there are a range of different Creationist beliefs ranging from the Young Earth Creationists, who believe the bible is an accurate historical document and that the world was created within the last 10,000 years and all life is is placed on earth by God, through to the Evolutionary creationists who belive life was essentially kickstarted by god and has since evolved.
The Young Earth Creationists account for approximatley 40% of the American population, and unfortunatley for the rest of the Creationist population the Young Earth ones have the loudest voices and so their view is the one commonly believed to be the view of all creationists.
So on the battlefield of Evolutionary debate you have two sides, on one side there are those of a scientific slant who look at the evidence presented through radiometric dating of rocks, examination of fossil records, cataloguing of species and studying present day adaptations of creatures to their environments. On the other side there are the Young Earth Creationists who come out with lines like “it’s God’s will” to cover everything and actively try to prove scientists wrong.
Who is right? The Evolutionists take the stand of presenting evidence and theories, examples and ideas that support evolution, and if something comes up that changes or actualy contradicts something taken to be true, they will reevaluate their stand and amend the theories.
The Young Earth Creationists say “It’s God’s will” and try to discredit the evolutionists. From now on any reference I make to Creationists from now on will refer to the extremist Young Earth Creationists.
Lets consider a few of the key points raised in the debate over whether evolution is real or not:
It’s just a theory, it’s not a fact!
Often stated by creationists to try and get across the idea that evolution is not proven and so should not be believed. A scientific theory is the most plausible explanation given the evidence available, gravity is only a theory, but you don’t see creationists floating through the air as they don’t believe in it. Conversley, Creationism is only a hypothesis due to the lack of scientific evidence to support it.
Law of Cause and Effect
Creationists bring up this argument to cover a few things, like the Big Bang Theory, they demand to know what caused it, to which evolutionists shrug and say “We’re evolutionists, not astrophysicists” Evolution does not try and define how all of life was created, just explain how it changes.
“Anything that has a beginning must have a cause. The effect cannot be greater than the cause. A person is a living, feeling and intelligent being and must have been cause by at least a living, feeling and intelligent being. Atoms cannot be the cause of a continuing series of greater and greater effects.”
This is a direct quote from a creationist “book”, and is an example of how ideas get mixed up to misrepresent things. Causality was a basis of scientific principles, if something happened then something else must have caused it, dropping the beaker on the floor caused it to smash. Nowhere in any of my textbooks have i come across the limitation that the effect cannot be greater than the cause, consider a nuclear reaction, splitting the atom, the cause is small, one little atom being split, the subsequent chain reaction and effect could be huge, which completely contradicts the last paragraph. The Law of Cause and Effect is also losing some of it’s creedence in physics as Quantum Mechanics and Nuclear physics tries to define why individual atoms decay and why on a quantum level the same series of events doesn’t produce the same outcomes. Causality is now more closely related to philosophy and self improvement than science
Creationists often quote the Laws of Thermodynamics in an attempt to use scientific principles to prove their point. Alas they get them wrong. The first law of thermodynamics states that for a closed system the total amount of energy cannot change, it can only be converted from one form to another. Somehow creationists warp this to mean that all energy you use is converted to heat and escapes into the universe, where they apply a twisted version of the second law of thermodynamics to say that entropy will always increase and the system will head towards an equilibrium which includes a decrease in complextiy and order, and thus it is impossible for life to “evolve” as this shows an increase in complexity and thus negates the second law of thermodynamics. Or at least their version of it. In reality the second law states that In a closed system there will be a tendancy for entropy to increase taking entopy to be a measure of the amount of energy unavailable for work, agreeing that in a closed system things will tend towards an equilibrium. However, life on earth is not a closed system and so the second law of thermodynamics does not apply. It’s the equivalent of creeationists saying that gravity causes all things to head towards the ground, therefore you cannot go upstairs in your house as that is in defiance of gravity.
Creationists go to great lengths to explain just how improbable life is. One example explained about putting 10 numbered tokens (from 1 to 10) in a bag and then drawing on at random, putting it back and then drawing again another nine times. The chances of you getting the sequence 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 is 1 in 10,000,000,000 they then go on to apply this to the chances of amino acids combining in the sea and how there is zero chance of life forming by accident. A couple of points then, evolution doesn’t concern the creation of life, just the adaptation of it, and secondly so what if the probability of getting 1,2,3,…etc is one in 10 billion. The chance of getting 1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1 is one in 10 billion. 3,6,4,8,9,1,3,7,10,2 is one in ten billion too, the chance of getting any random sequence of ten numbers in that experiment is one in ten billion. As for appying it to amino acids in the sea, you have to understand that however unlikely an event is, the more opportunity there is for it to occur, the higher the probability it will happen. In the experiment above, if you do it once the chance of getting a specific sequence is 1 in 10,000,000,000 if you repeat it ten times your chances of getting the specific sequence are then 1 in 1,000,000,000. Consider then an ocean chock full of amino acids all combining spliting and recombining, you need a specific sequence to occur, given the amount of interactions it will occur at some point as it’s not an individual sequence happening one after the other, there will be millions of interactions occuring every second. If you want to take it a step further consider that ours would not have been the only planet with conditions suitable to form these amino acids, even one other planet with similar conditions would halve the probability of the correct sequence occuring.
If we evolved from Monkeys then why are there still monkeys?
Firstly, we aren’t evolved from Monkeys, we are evolved from Apes, and the reason there are still apes around today is that rather than evolving from the apes we have today, we shared a common ancestor. So the apes we see today weren’t around back then, they have evolved alongside humans, adapted differently to their environments and developed accordingly. An orangutan can scale a tree easily, hang by its toes and peel and eat some fruit upside down. Try and get it to ride a bike though…..
Fossil evidence proves evolution wrong
This usually takes the form of various fossils with footprints etc in them, one even supposedly shows an ammonite set into a sandal imprint. All of these fossils are very tenuous, and in most cases yes they they look like a shoe print, in the same way a cloud can look like a dragon, or a face appears on a tree. They look like something but they aren’t actually the thin unquestioned. Creationists often point to the number of fake fossils found to discredit all fossils, yes ther have been some fakes, but by the same argument, no art can be trusted as some has been faked, and all money is worthless as there are some forgeries out there. Surely the fact that scientific scrutiny has unearthed these fake fossils shows that science is always questioning itself and not taking things on blind trust.
There are many many more arguments put forward as to why Evolution is not real, but most take the line of misquoting scientific principles and then using the twisted argument to try an prove scientists wrong. Or rather, to convince everyday folks that evolution is wrong by confusing them with bad science.
Conversely a lot of scientists do not deny the existence of god, many are agnostics and accept that there may be a superior being that has a controlling influence over things, but are unable to prove it.
So in the creationism/evolution argument you have many camps. The extreme creationists who try to discredit scientists but end up being proven wrong and foolish as their arguments are baseless. The Atheist Scientists, who aren’t much better as they actively deny something without providing any proof, which is another form of bad science. In between you have those creationists who accept that science may have a point and are happy to accept that god created earth, but science has changed it, and also you have those scientists who being proper scientists accept they don’t know the answers to everything and will accept that there may have been some outside influence in creation of life, but there is evidence to show it has changed on its own.
Who is right? Everyone and no one. There is no definitive answer to whether god exists as blind faith is not proof, and neither are allegorical texts, Grimms fairytales do not prove the existence of child eating witches, but may hint at the idea of being wary of strange women who live in edible cottages. Scientific theories can’t explain everything and are constantly being revised, and so does not produce a regimented factual explanation of life, just a best guess based on the evidence provided.
Everyone has their own stand on evolution an creationism, and that’s fine, no one knows for sure. The problems arise when some people try to force their ideas on other people and try to discredit anyone who disagrees, whether they be creationists or scientists.
Such a shame that both extremes can’t accept that the others may have a point.