During some banter the other day on an excellent article like what I wrote about the Darwin Awards, a regular and respected poster opined that “Darwinism is about as credible as the political theory espoused by his bearded contemporary Marx. Or that head-shrinker fraud Freud. In the JK Rowling league”.
This did provoke several more posters to make comments suggesting that he may be mistaken. Having delved into Darwinism in some detail, many, many years ago, I thought I would check out the opposing belief “Creationism”.
So let’s take a look at the basics:
Theory of biological evolution
Darwinism is a theory of biological evolution developed by the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) and others, stating that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. Evolution is change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the expressions of genes that are passed on from parent to offspring during reproduction. Different characteristics tend to exist within any given population as a result of mutations. Evolution occurs when evolutionary processes such as natural selection (including sexual selection) and genetic drift act on these variations, resulting in certain characteristics becoming more common or rare within a population. It is this process of evolution that has given rise to biodiversity at every level of biological organisation, including the levels of species, individual organisms and molecules.
From Wiki: Creationism
Creationism is the religious belief that the universe and life originated “from specific acts of divine creation as opposed to the scientific conclusion that they came about through natural processes. The first use of the term “creationist” to describe a proponent of creationism is found in an 1856 letter of Charles Darwin describing those who objected on religious grounds to the then emerging science of evolution. Creationism covers a spectrum of views which asserts that both evolutionary science and a belief in creation are true, but the term is commonly used for literal creationists who reject various aspects of science, and instead promote pseudoscientific beliefs.
Literal creationists base their beliefs on a fundamentalist reading of religious texts, including the creation myths found in Genesis and the Quran. For young Earth creationists, these beliefs are based on a literalist interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative and rejection of the scientific theory of evolution. Literalist creationists believe that evolution cannot adequately account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on Earth.
Creationism (broadly construed) covers a spectrum of beliefs which have been categorized into the general types listed in the table below.
|Comparison of major creationist views|
|Acceptance in the US||Humanity||Biological species||Earth||Age of Universe|
|Young Earth creationism||38% (2017)||Directly created by God.||Directly created by God. Macroevolution does not occur.||Less than 10,000 years old. Reshaped by global flood.||Less than 10,000 years old, but some hold this view only for our Solar System.|
|Gap creationism||Scientifically accepted age. Reshaped by global flood.||Scientifically accepted age.|
|Progressive creationism||38% (2017)||Directly created by God, based on primate anatomy.||Direct creation + evolution. No single common ancestor.||Scientifically accepted age. No global flood.||Scientifically accepted age.|
|Intelligent design||Proponents hold various beliefs. (For example, Michael Behe accepts evolution from primates.)||Divine intervention at some point in the past, as evidenced by what intelligent-design creationists call “irreducible complexity.”||Some adherents accept common descent, others not. Some claim the existence of Earth is the result of divine intervention.||Scientifically accepted age.|
|Theistic evolution (evolutionary creationism)||Evolution from primates.||Evolution from single common ancestor.||Scientifically accepted age. No global flood.||Scientifically accepted age.|
For the UK: A 2010 YouGov poll on the correct explanation for the origin of humans found that 9% opted for creationism, 12% intelligent design, 65% evolutionary theory and 13% didn’t know.
So what we have is a scientific theory versus either a religious belief or a simple belief man did evolve from primates.
Sorry for the big words, but we need to understand two terms:
micro-evolutionary – (looks at changes within species over time—changes that may be preludes to speciation, the origin of new species)
macro-evolutionary – (studies how taxonomic groups above the level of species change. Its evidence draws frequently from the fossil record and DNA comparisons to reconstruct how various organisms may be related)
Hundreds of studies verify the facts of evolution, at both the micro-evolutionary and macro-evolutionary scale from the origin of new traits and new species to the underpinnings of the complexity we see in life and the statistical probability of such complexity arising.
In addition to the theory of evolution, meaning the idea of descent with modification, one may also speak of the fact of evolution. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) defines a fact as “an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as true.” The fossil record and abundant other evidence testify that organisms have evolved through time. Although no one observed those transformations, the indirect evidence is clear, unambiguous and compelling.
Let’s take a look at a few questions the Creationist ask:
Evolution is only a theory. It is not a fact or a scientific law. – Debunked by the hundreds of studies and micro and macro-evolution evidence.
Increasingly, scientists doubt the truth of evolution. – No evidence suggests that evolution is losing adherents. Pick up any issue of a peer-reviewed biological journal, and you will find articles that support and extend evolutionary studies or that embrace evolution as a fundamental concept. Conversely serious scientific publications disputing evolution are all but non-existent.
The classic “If humans descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” – This surprisingly common argument reflects several levels of ignorance about evolution. The first mistake is that evolution does not teach that humans descended from monkeys; it states that both have a common ancestor. The deeper error is that this objection is tantamount to asking, “If children descended from adults, why are there still adults?” New species evolve by splintering off from established ones, when populations of organisms become isolated from the main branch of their family and acquire sufficient differences to remain forever distinct. The parent species may survive indefinitely thereafter, or it may become extinct.
Evolution cannot explain how life first appeared on Earth. – The origin of life remains very much a mystery, but biochemists have learned about how primitive nucleic acids, amino acids and other building blocks of life could have formed and organized themselves into self-replicating, self-sustaining units, laying the foundation for cellular biochemistry. Astrochemical analyses hint that quantities of these compounds might have originated in space and fallen to Earth in comets, a scenario that may solve the problem of how those constituents arose under the conditions that prevailed when our planet was young. Creationists sometimes try to invalidate all of evolution by pointing to science’s current inability to explain the origin of life. But even if life on Earth turned out to have a non-evolutionary origin (for instance, if aliens introduced the first cells billions of years ago), evolution since then would be robustly confirmed by countless micro-evolutionary and macro-evolutionary studies.
Mutations are essential to evolution theory, but mutations can only eliminate traits. They cannot produce new features. – On the contrary, biology has catalogued many traits produced by point mutations (changes at precise positions in an organism’s DNA)—bacterial resistance to antibiotics, for example.
I therefore believe that Darwin is correct. You should of course make you own mind up.
Do please remember to play the argument, not the man/woman/*Other*.
© Phil the test manager 2018