Monday, May 21, 2012

Top Ten Myths About Evolution

By: Matthew Chatterton

Creationists seem to have a lot of strange ideas of what evolution is. From nothing but random chance to violating the second law of thermodynamics, slander ruins science classrooms and pollutes the brains of our children. Simply put, there are a lot of lies and misconceptions about evolution and I'm going to debunk ten of them.

Here is my top ten list of myths about evolution.

10) Evolution is a random process

It is a common myth and misconception that the theory of evolution is all about random chance. Allow me to shed some light on this.

Genetic mutations are, indeed, random but natural Selection, however, is a totally non-random process; that is why it is called natural selection.

Imagine a person shooting paint-balls, aiming randomly, at a large wall that has a small hole in the middle. It is totally random where each individual paint-ball will land but those paint-balls that happen to find themselves aimed directly or near-directly at the hole will pass right through it.

The aimless shooting of the paint-balls represents genetic mutation and the hole in the wall represents natural selection.

Here is another way of putting it: Here is an array of genetic mutations of an individual of a species:
  • Thicker fur
  • longer hind-legs
  • Stronger bones
  • better sight

Now, pertaining to natural selection, the species lives in a cold climate. Which of the above mutations best fits through the proverbial hole in the wall?

Thicker fur is the factor most likely to play a major role in a cold climate. Those members of a species who have thicker fur will be more likely to survive. Being more likely to survive, give one more opportunities to reproduce, in effect, passing on that same gene that gave them thicker fur. You see? Although the mutation was random, the role it played was not.

Genetic mutations make suggestions; natural selection makes decisions.

9) There are no transitional fossils

Here are a few transitional species, all hominids.

Ardipithecus ramidus
Australopithecus aferensis
Australopithecus africanus
Homo habilis
Homo floresiensis
Homo erectus
Homo heidelbergensis
Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal)
Homo rudolfensis
Paranthropus robustus

Creationists tend to demand species that have features of two or more distinctive groups of animals like... um... well... dinosaurs and birds! They insist that has not been found in the fossil record. In actuality, Archaeopteryx is just that and was discovered in 1862, just three years after Charles Darwin published 'The Origin of Species'!

8) Evolution says we evolved from apes

I often hear or read “If we come from chimps, why are there still chimps?”

The theory of evolution does not state that we come from chimps. We and chimps share a common ancestor. As a matter of fact, we share a common ancestor with all known life on this planet.

This misconception likely originated from people confusing evolution with being hierarchical ladder ladder rather than a tree (tree of life).

In the ladder metaphor, life evolves from other contemporary species. This is comparable to Pikachu “evolving” into Raichu in Pokemon. Well, evolution isn't Pokemon and Dr. Seuss didn't write 'The Origin of Species'.

Instead, we evolved from simpler, primitive life-forms; Australopithecus aferensis, for example.

7) Evolution is “just” a theory

There is the colloquial definition of the word “theory” and, then, there is the scientific definition. In everyday-speech, people use the colloquial definition to mean "idea", "conjecture", "hypothesis", "guess", or "assumption".

Fact of the matter is, the scientific definition is none of the above. In a scientific context, the word “theory” means, “An explanation of a natural phenomenon, strongly supported by evidence.”

A lot of people believe that scientists have theories, their theories are proven, then the theories become laws. That is not the case. Theories do not become laws and laws do not become theories because they are two different things. Laws describe phenomena and theories explain phenomena.

6) Evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics

The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy, a measure of randomness, does not decrease in a closed-system.

The second law of thermodynamics is exclusively applicable to closed systems, meaning that energy does not enter nor leave. Life on Earth receives energy from the Sun, thereby, making the Earth an open-system; that means that the second law of thermodynamics is non-applicable.

5) Micro-evolution happens but not Macro-evolution

Some creationists will admit that micro-evolution does occur. There is not, however, a mechanism that prevents micro-evolution from becoming macro-evolution. The only difference between the two is time-scale.

Let's represent micro-evolution with walking to one's mailbox from one's couch. Macro-evolution will be represented by walking to the store from one's couch. As you can see, the mechanism is the same; walking. It's just that walking to the store requires more time.

A species will undergo small changes many times over a long period of time. When that species' population diverges, there are bound to be different mutations within the separate populations and natural selection will, based on the circumstances, demand different things. As these two populations are separate, over the course of time, they will become more and more different and, eventually, different species.

In other words, time plus divergence equals speciation.

4) The eye is irreducibly complex

When you look at the all the eyes in the animal kingdom, you'll see that they range in ability from differentiating light from dark to seeing sharply and in color with depth-perception.

A creationist may, however, state that transition between different eyes isn't possible. Some will say that if you take one piece of the eye away, it will not work. I wonder how many creationists are color-blind or have no peripheral vision. How many of them need glasses? A blind person cannot make use of glasses.

Does the eye cease to function because one single piece missing? No, the eye will still be an eye that works.

3) Evolution can't explain homosexuality

Well, indeed, it can! The idea is that, since they don't reproduce themselves, the “gay” gene can't be passed on.

Well, it's not so simple. Bisexuals can carry that gene or set of genes and have a spouse of the opposite sex and have children.

Also, it has been discovered that women carrying the male “gay” gene are made more fertile by it. That would mean that they can have more children and those children will be inheriting that “gay” gene. This spreads the gene through the population and the female offspring will continue the trend.

The Propagation of Homosexuality: Nature's Gay Agenda

2) Evolution favors selfishness

I will give you a quote from Charles Darwin, himself.

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."

We humans are pretty weak creatures. We are not as strong as gorillas or as fast as cheetahs, nor can we fly but we are a very social species. We have strength in numbers. If we were in a group of six, we could probably take on a grizzly bear, empty-handed. That, of course, would only be the result if we worked together and sharing the spoils rather than working against each other

We use a system known as reciprocal altruism. In this system, we do good for others so that they may do good for us. It is innate in us because working together has favored our survival; working against has given us little reward.

To quote Richard Dawkins, "Nice guys finish first."

1) Evolution is atheistic

In the sense that the theory does not involve a god, evolution is atheistic. Then again, I guess that makes gravity atheistic too. In actuality main-stream Christianity accepts the theory of evolution. That fact may not resonate very well in America but most Christians accept evolution and most of the people who accept evolution are Christian. The majority of creationists are actually made up of Muslims and Hindus. Although I believe evolution makes Christianity pointless ( ), many Christians don't agree with me and believe that evolution is compatible with scripture, provided you're not taking the Bible literally.

I hope you learned something from this list. I hope that any misconceptions you had were debunked and you are now more right than you were before. (◠‿◠✿)

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