We are well past the turn of the millennium now, when the sky was to unzip and the End of the World begin. The End was then reset, loudly and dramatically, to 2012. The Mayan Calendar was in synch with the Book of Revelation for that year, as you will recall. You may even remember the major motion picture, “2012.” It was an end-of-the-world supernatural thriller, which must surely have had the most dismal prospects for repeat business of any movie ever made. Since dreaded 2012 a couple of years have been pegged as the End, without success. But have faith, there’s always 2666.
We’re settling into the 21st Century, except that some of us remain on the cutting edge of the Dark Ages. Not just field hands, but American presidential candidates doubt or deny Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. That’s pretty unfortunate, especially since the debate over evolution could be ended by a simple presentation of the strongest points for it. These are indisputable.
Nobody can deny that living things change slightly over many generations, once they are shown that selective breeding in agriculture accomplishes exactly this very thing. Did the tea cup poodle and the giant Clydesdale horse exist from the beginning of the world? Would they have ever existed without human involvement, and all the cross breeding that went on to shape those species? Of course not, and anyone can see that. So when these same kind of changes happen randomly in the wild, over a much longer span of time, with mutations selected by nature to better endure the environment, we call that evolution.
A common objection is that small changes do not lead to big changes. That is, micro-evolution does not cause macro-evolution. It is a very poor argument, because with enough small changes over enough time you get, what else? Big changes! The species never goes back to its previous form after making a small change; it simply makes more changes as time goes on! This alone may be the key to understanding evolution.
Anti-evolution arguments say that no living thing changes its “kind.” But kind is not a scientific term. With enough small changes dinosaurs can become birds. And that is exactly what happened.
Deniers of evolution also never fully appreciate the time scale we are talking about. When you consider the vast time span involved, over hundreds of millions of years, all the highly specialized diversity of nature becomes fully feasible.
Further evidence comes in the familiar fact of viruses and bacteria becoming resistant to vaccine and anti-bacterial cleaners. Also insects become resistant to pesticides over time. Everybody knows about this. Okay, the act of a bug “becoming resistant” is evolution. As the bumper sticker says, evolution is why you have to get a new flu shot every year. It happens when those few individuals who tolerate the poison are the ones who reproduce the most. Over enough generations you get resistant bugs. In the wild, bugs mutate this way to resist the venom of other bugs. Then venom-producers evolve better and badder venom. How do people deny this? Do they also deny that the sun is shiny? Most likely they deny it by simply not thinking about it.
If humans are unchanged since Adam and Eve, where did the various races of mankind come from? Don’t say “the devil.” Why are people so much taller now? Why do they live so much longer? We aren’t talking about the evolution of hairstyles. Human bodies have had a slight but noticeable change even over the few generations since the medieval era. Suits of armor worn by the knights of that time are always very tiny. The average Englishman could not climb into one. Yet his ancestors were a perfect fit, and the knights were the most physically fit warriors of that time. Napoleon Bonaparte is thought of as a historical shorty. But he was tall for his time. He is only short compared to us.
Detractors of evolution and their dependent politicians like to use the phrase “It’s just a theory.” But in science the word theory does not mean something that’s unproven. It means a strong, connected pattern of ideas, or a coherent line of thought. Thus you have the Theory of Gravitation. Unless you think invisible angels are holding everything down on this round and rotating Earth. Then there is the Germ Theory of Disease. If you think that one is “just a theory,” and evil spirits cause disease, then next time you go in for an operation tell the surgeon he doesn’t need to wash his hands.
The Theory of Evolution is as thoroughly proven as any fact in science.
Is evolution important? Is it worth you knowing about it? It is important because evolution impacts directly on medical science, for one reason, and not just in the area of mutating microbes. Any future medical advances will involve understanding the realities of evolution, because that is where our bodies came from. When we start living in outer space we will see changes in the human body due to a long term presence in that very different environment. Evolution has not stopped.
Evolution is important to you, personally, because you have only one life. You get to choose whether you will live with intellectual integrity or in ignorance. That choice is what you broadcast to the other people around you, including the next generation.