Welcome to the Church of Evolutionism! Blessings of Darwin be upon you all! Please open your Biology Textbooks to page 42, and turn your attention to the diagram of a monkey giving birth to a human baby. This actually happened, so saith Dawkins, Amen.
The Church of Evolutionism, decorated with tax-payer money!
Fortunately, that scenario is a fantasy.
Evolution is regarded as fact because it can be demonstrated as fact, so guess what I’m about to do!
First, I will make it clear what evolution is, cutting through all the lies so many are told.
After that, I’ll present the evidence to demonstrate it.
Belief may divide us, but evidence is the great equaliser.
What is this ‘Evolution’ thing?
Evolution is the process by which populations of life physically change over generations. It’s responsible for the diversity of life.
Here’s how it works:
If a life-form is bad at surviving, it is less likely to survive to have children.
If a life-form is good at surviving, it is more likely to survive to have children.
(This is called natural selection).
The children of those who are good at surviving will inherit those beneficial traits, and will therefore be likely to be good at surviving as well.
If each generation is slightly different from the previous one (are you identical to your parents?), and if being better at surviving makes a life-form more likely to survive (obviously), then over time a species will inevitably change physically. All those little differences from generation to generation add up, in the general direction of greater survivability.
When a life-form reproduces, mutation occurs in the offspring’s genes (DNA), making them slightly different from the parents. Whether or not a life-form reproduces is determined by environmental factors like predators, disease, and climate; it is non-random. Mutation, on the other hand is effectively random. The combination of these two factors produces a system of change with no special limits.
The only requirements for change are a hospitable environment (like, not inside a volcano), available material (like food), and time.
There’s nothing more to it than taking what you already know about how life works, and giving it time.
A demonstration of natural selection: The process by which the fittest become the most numerous.
You are free to use the image as long as you keep the attribution.
Acceptance without Evidence
Though you may not agree with my reasoning, I can determine whether or not you accept Evolution with just two simple questions:
- Do life-forms sometimes reproduce, creating offspring which are similar to themselves?
- Do life-forms sometimes die before reproducing?
If your answer to both was yes, then you have confirmed your acceptance of Evolution.
This simple test is not meant to trick you into belief, but to demonstrate just how simple the basic concept is. If the real answer to those questions is indeed yes, then Evolution is inevitable.
If you answered no to either, then you might need to go back to school, or perhaps just open your eyes occasionally.
Theory and Reality
Whereas ‘Evolution‘ is the process in nature, ‘Evolutionary Theory‘ is the explanation of that process; the understanding of Evolution.
For convenience, either of the two may sometimes be referred to as just ‘evolution’, but it should be obvious by context which one is being referred to.
‘Evolution’ in science refers to biological evolution. Though the word can be used in a general sense, there is no other area of science which is called evolution; for example: there is no such thing as ‘cosmic evolution’. Disregard Hovind.
The theory of evolution, which describes the reality of evolution, is proven beyond reasonable doubt. This article is intended to dispel all the unreasonable doubts, and explain why evolution is so proven.
Myths, Misconceptions, and Denial
As part of a rather disturbing concerted effort by many groups and individuals to spread denial of science, evolution (among other things) is widely misunderstood. Let’s sift through the mountains of nonsense before we get to demonstrating that evolution is true.
“It’s just a theory!”
So is Germ Theory, but you wash your hands, right?
The word ‘theory’ in common use generally means a ‘guess’ or an ‘idea’. That’s not what it means in a scientific context. Think of ‘theory’ in science as meaning an ‘area of study’, like Music Theory.
In science, a theory must be well-substantiated – that means there’s a lot of evidence to support it. Evolution is among the best-supported scientific theories.
A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method and repeatedly tested and confirmed through observation and experimentation.
If you doubt evolution for this reason, then you must also doubt Gravitational Theory, Germ Theory, Microwave Theory, Nuclear Theory, etc. All these theories are actually less well-substantiated than evolution is, and yet I’ll wager you believe in all of them.
“If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes?”
Because not all apes evolved into humans.
Evolution is not a process by which individuals change. Populations change over successive generations, as each child differs from its parents. Physical separation is usually necessary for this change to occur.
Take for example, the separation of Europe and the United States. Generally speaking, Americans are descended from Europeans, and yet Europeans still exist today. If you can understand this, then you can understand the same aspect of evolution.
Also, if you happen to believe in the Biblical account of creation, let’s turn this question around: If God created man from dirt, why is there still dirt? Moreover, if God created woman from man, why are there still men?
Oh, and by the way… humans are apes.
“Monkeys” instead of “apes”
We certainly didn’t evolve from modern monkeys. That’s like saying we are descended from our cousins.
Here’s what actually happened.
However, that simian ancestor would fit modern descriptions of a monkey, though that animal is long-extinct.
“Missing Links! Transitional Forms! Where are they?!”
Every life-form is a transitional form. Every one of them evolved to where they are and will continue to evolve if unimpeded.
Insisting that fossils for every single species that has ever existed be uncovered is extremely fastidious and entirely unnecessary. There are fossils for almost every genus, and for every family. This is plenty to reliably extrapolate the tiny details between the known forms. (We know the extrapolations are correct due to predictive power, that’s explained in the evidence section later in the article.)
“Where are all the species which came between our ancient ancestors and modern humans, then?”
This popular image makes this argument against evolution:
Stupid questions do exist.
…and is thoroughly debunked by this one:
Stupid questions don’t get answered, they get destroyed.
“Evolution is a religion!”
Except for the fact that it defies the definition of religion:
The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods
- Calling evolutionary theory a belief is inaccurate by all but the most charitable definition, even then it would be misleading.
- There is no worship whatsoever involved in the theory of evolution. It doesn’t recommend any action whatsoever from anyone.
- Evolution is only superhuman in the sense that it is the process responsible for the existence of humans, but ‘evolution’ is not an entity, simply a process, so it isn’t superhuman in the same sense that a god would be.
- Evolution exerts no control, as it isn’t an entity, just a process. By the most charitable definition, you could state that the fates of animals are ‘controlled’ by evolution, but this is again misleading.
- Evolution is not a power, it is a process.
- Evolution is certainly not a god or gods, personal or otherwise. Hopefully, I don’t need to run through that definition too.
Is evolution believed on faith? No, it is believed on evidence, and evidence alone. Evolution is the only known explanation which accounts for all the evidence.
Evolution is as much an ideology as belief in tree-growth is; that is to say: not at all.
Pope Dawkins of Evolutionism
‘Evolutionist’ / ‘Evolutionism’
These terms were concocted in an attempt to paint non-creationists as just as irrational as creationists. They are meaningless outside of their use to smear those who accept science.
The correct terms are “evolutionary biologist“, for someone who studies evolution, and there is no specific term for someone who accepts evolution.
I tend to call those who deny science “history-deniers” or “denialists”. If you think this is just as bad as the “evolutionist” title, you must not be well-acquainted with the evidence for evolution, which I’ll explain near the end of this article.
“Time is your god!”
This is one of the stranger ones I’ve heard, it argues that the actual age of the Earth is either not proven, or is disputed, and that since evolution requires an old Earth, ‘evolutionists’ believe the Earth is old on faith.
The Earth has been proven to be around 4.5 billion years old. The margin of error is not 4.5 billion. To believe that the Earth is 6000 years old (or anything less than about 4.5 billion) would require ignoring large amounts of evidence. I’ll explain this evidence later in the article.
What is most interesting about this challenge is that the ones who usually propose it actually do believe on faith on this subject. It’s very telling that they are willing to ignore the evidence in order to accuse their opponent of bias, while completely missing the fact that they are doing exactly that themselves.
“Evolution defies the Second Law of Thermodynamics!”
No, it doesn’t.
The second law of thermodynamics says: “The entropy of a closed system cannot decrease.” Entropy is an indication of unusable energy and often (but not always!) corresponds to intuitive notions of disorder or randomness.
This would seem to argue against the increasing order observed in evolution.
However, the Earth is not a closed system. The Sun exists. It provides plenty of energy for life to exist and develop. Not even our solar system is completely closed.
The law doesn’t describe an invariable increase in entropy in every object and location, just a general/total increase.
What’s more, order exists in many non-living forms, such as:
- Sand dunes
- Graded river beds
[…] In any non-trivial system with lots of energy flowing through it, you are almost certain to find order arising somewhere in the system. If order from disorder is supposed to violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics, why is it ubiquitous in nature?
If the logic of the challenge was true, then it would stand to reason that humans could never build anything. Everything man-made refutes the challenge. That seems like a rather gaping flaw.
“Evolution doesn’t add new information!”
That’s not an argument against evolution, it’s an Appeal to Incredulity about a misconception of evolution relying on ambiguity.
The way ‘information’ is defined in this context is subjective and ambiguous, often tactically so. Does it refer to quantity of information, or complexity / usefulness / quality of information? Either way, it’s both wrong and irrelevant.
The amount of genetic ‘information’ can increase or decrease at various points throughout evolution, but these changes are simply manifestations of the basic process; if a gene is causing a trait which isn’t beneficial, it’s less likely to be part of the species’ genome.
There’s more detail on this page.
“If everything is evolving, why isn’t everything human yet?”
Because evolution is not aiming for anything.
It’s not an intelligent process, it’s just natural. It’s basically chemistry on a larger scale, and operates based purely on physical laws.
Humanity isn’t the end-result of evolution, and in fact, humanity is still evolving, just in a very different way from how other life evolves, due to our civilisation.
Humans (and other life-forms) actually have a lot of biological flaws, so don’t assume we are ideal. Humans just happened to evolve great intelligence before any other animal did.
What’s more, if some species is well-suited to survive, then it has no reason to evolve any further. In other words, if it’s very good at surviving in it’s environment, there will be no tendency towards a particular change in configuration, because there will be no natural selection.
“Most scientists don’t believe in evolution!”
99.9% of scientists do.
About 1200 scientists world-wide have signed a petition exclaiming doubt in Evolution. This seems significant, until you realise how many scientists there are in the world. One estimate puts the number at 7 million, which puts the percentage who doubt evolution at 0.017%.
There are more scientists called Steve who affirm evolution than who signed the petition.
There are many more problems with this petition, including seemingly deliberate deception and lack of credentials, sincerity, or understanding of signatories. For more information, visit this page.
It’s true that there are scientists who don’t believe in evolution. This does not in any way affect the truth of the idea, but it does help to discredit those scientists.
Also, interestingly, there’s a distinct correlation between level of education and acceptance of evolution.
If anyone can show evidence which discredits evolution, they will win a Nobel Prize.
Theists can do science. Theism can’t.
“All you have are diagrams and drawings! That’s not evidence!”
No-one is proposing that that’s evidence.
It does, however, help people who don’t comprehend evolution to grasp the concept.
The diagrams make the claim clearer, and no-one is proposing that they are evidence themselves. They can also be used to clarify the evidence.
If you make this argument, then you are attacking the claim before the evidence for that claim has been presented by saying that the claim isn’t the evidence. That would be among the highest intellectual dishonesty.
If you do that, then you’re probably exactly the kind of person for whom those simple diagrams could be useful.
“Scientists just assign preferable ages to fossils to fit their timeline!”
No, they use science.
Fossils are almost always found in rock, and the ages of these rock layers can be confirmed by many different methods, including radiometric dating. The ages of fossils in those rock layers are, by this method, certain to within a small range in geological time.
This article provides more detail on how fossils are dated.
There will be more detail on the fossil record in the evidence section of the article, near the end.
Do you have any idea how much food would be required to sustain such an enormous life-form?
As I said earlier, there are no special limits on evolutionary change, but there are natural limits.
There’s always a balance to be struck in each life-form, since there’s only a limited amount of time and energy available for the initial development, and for sustaining the life-form once it is born. For example, if humans had a third arm and hand, it might come in handy sometimes, but we would almost certainly lose something else in exchange, and we would need to take in more energy to sustain ourselves in that form.
Suffice to say: certain mutations which seem beneficial on the surface have a cost that outweighs their potential benefit. Those mutations are naturally selected against, and so do not propagate in a species.
Micro-evolution and Macro-evolution
Many who deny evolution believe that “micro-evolution” can happen, but that “macro-evolution” cannot.
Micro-evolution is evolutionary change which doesn’t result in a change of species.
Macro-evolution is evolutionary change at the species level, and higher taxonomic categories (like genus or family).
If you admit that the first is possible, then you have admitted that the second is possible. There is no boundary to physical change by evolution.
The only practical difference between the two is time. Micro-evolution over a long enough period of time is Macro-evolution.
The classifications that life-forms have are defined, not discovered. All taxonomy is theoretical, for the purpose of better understanding biology. To suggest that these categories represent necessary biological boundaries would be ridiculous.
Macro-evolutionary change may also be referred to as speciation, which just means a change of species.
“Macro-evolution has never been directly observed!”
Yes it has. Speciation has been observed many times, those I just linked are only a few examples (all cited).
However, for all those evolutionary changes which have not been directly observed:
You haven’t observed the entire life-time of a 150-year old tree, yet you still believe trees grow, right?
With macro-evolution, the problem with the argument is even more pronounced. We’re talking about many millions of tiny changes over many millions of years – how could the entire process ever be directly observed?
What we have is this thing called evidence. I’ll get on to the evidence for evolution later in the article, but here’s a basic example to help you understand the problem:
You hear a gunshot. You walk towards it, around a corner, and find two people before you. One is lying on the ground, bleeding from his chest. The other is standing over them, holding a smoking gun. The gun seems to be pointed in the direction that the wounded person was probably standing before they fell. There is blood on the clothes of the standing person which looks like it could have come from the person lying on the ground.
Do you think there’s a good chance there was a shooting in this situation? You do? But you didn’t see the shooting, how could you know?
What if you have genetic evidence, ballistic evidence, a very detailed motive, and all the evidence suggests there was a shooting?
What if that evidence had been gathering for 150 years, and some people still didn’t believe that a shooting occurred?
I have never heard anyone define ‘kinds’ in a way which wasn’t instantly self-defeating.
It’s a non-defined non-scientific term, tactically employed to produce empty refutations and allow for endless Goalpost Moving.
There is a very detailed and comprehensive taxonomic system in biology for classifying life-forms. Using only one term (‘kinds’) does not provide sufficient specification for anything.
If your use of ‘kinds’ is based on the Bible (I have heard of no other source posited), then you might be interested to know that the Bible classifies bats as birds, while also classifying them as ‘swarming things’. Bats are mammals, and are remarkably similar to other mammals, with the obvious exception of their wings (more details later in the article). The Bible is not a trustworthy source on zoology, which shouldn’t be surprising considering it was concocted between two- and about five-thousand years ago.
There is a ‘field’ called ‘baraminology‘, which attempts to construct a biblically-literal taxonomy. It is used by no scientists, and utterly fails in many key areas that Linnean Taxonomy succeeds in.
Some claim that various aspects of life are too complex to have evolved gradually. A common example is the human eye, which is intricately specialised to its purpose.
However, as this diagram shows, the eye exists in nature in various different stages, all of which function despite being less well-adapted than the final example:
Evolution of the eye
Octopus eyes are relevant in this case because they are so similar to human eyes:
Comparison of the Octopus and Human eyes to demonstrate their similarity.
What’s really remarkable about the similarity here is that humans and octopuses are quite distantly related:
Octopuses are Cephalopods, and Humans are Mammals.
What this distance demonstrates is that not only is it perfectly possible for the eye to evolve naturally, but that it’s such a natural progression that it has happened at least twice independently.
Obviously, diagrams are not evidence, these are just intended to help portray the concept. I will get onto evidence later in the article.
The Irreducible Complexity argument is an Appeal to Incredulity. Whether you can believe that complex systems evolved or not has no impact on whether they did.
“How could a creature survive with only half a heart?”
That’s not how evolution works.
This is one of the most cringe-worthy challenges to evolution that exists. It relies entirely on lack of comprehension of evolution by twisting the concept to a degree that it’s almost unrecognisable to the informed individual.
Organs like the heart did not evolve in pieces, they evolved in complexity.
Earthworms have very basic hearts, not even really hearts at all. A life-form doesn’t need a fully-formed heart in order to survive.
Everything that comprises a life-form evolves in complexity at the same time. All life-forms are fully formed, later generations are just more complex.
There is a random chance element to evolution: mutation during reproduction. Every generation, the child is slightly different from the parent(s), due to tiny errors in copying the genetic code of the parent.
However, natural selection is distinctly non-random. That doesn’t mean it’s intelligently guided though.
“But look at this complex calculation that shows that evolution is almost impossible!”
Probability is irrelevant because evolution is not random. It’s not a matter of just picking one possibility out of an extremely high number of possibilities, the result is determined by other factors, and ultimately it all proceeds according to the fixed laws of physics, which reduces the odds perhaps even to 1 in 1.
Probability is a very misleading tool when used incorrectly.
Let’s take for example, the odds of rolling a 6-sided die and coming up with 5. One could say it’s 1 in 6, but that would be using a certain scope. That assessment assumes that the roll is happening in theory such that the die is perfectly fair and balanced between the six sides. In reality, the die is likely to have microscopic imbalances in every direction. If the scope is the level of fundamental physics, one could assert that the chance is 1 in any number: what were the chances that each atom would do exactly what it did? And yet, we could also assert that the chance is 1 in 1, if the universe is deterministic, and the die actually does come up as 5.
All that is just for the simple problem of a dice-roll. Assessments of probability for the extremely-more complex situation of evolution are near impossible to make objectively, and of course it always depends on your scope and range of factors.
Any probability could be proposed for evolution (or anything else), depending on the method of assessment.
What’s more, matter and energy do not act completely at random, they have tendencies. It may be that these tendencies allow for only one possibility, but in any case, they significantly restrict the range of possibilities. By this fact, the probability could be reduced by several orders of magnitude depending on the assessment, perhaps even to 1 in 1.
Also, by the logic of these assessments, every possible outcome would be just as unlikely as every other; and since one of them had to happen, we’re just looking at the one which did.
Causal uncertainty is a mine-field when dealing with the past. Luckily, it’s completely irrelevant here because evolution has been proven. If there was no evidence, a probabilistic argument against the hypothesis would still not disprove it, but would make it seem less likely. We’re decades beyond that point now.
This page explains this problem quite well.
Abiogenesis would be a natural process which produces life from non-living matter.
Abiogenesis is not evolution, and the two ideas can be true separately whether the other is true or not.
Evolution does not attempt to explain anything about the origin of life, it just explains the subsequent diversification of life.
Nothing about abiogenesis is proven, but there are some workable and partially-substantiated hypotheses. The most popular idea is that chemicals can combine naturally into the basic components of life. All a chemical mixture would need to do in order to effectively be life would be to self-replicate; as soon as that’s happening, evolution is happening too.
There will probably never be evidence of the original life-form, because any remains of it have likely been destroyed. This doesn’t mean we can’t learn about abiogenesis, or at least what likely happened; we may even replicate the original event one day.
The Miller-Urey experiment conducted in 1952 proved that a mixture of basic chemicals could, with the application of energy, produce amino acids, which are essential to life as we know it. While it was later found that the conditions present during the early Earth were different from those used in the experiment, it still proved that amino acids could form from simple chemicals with an application of energy.
“You can’t explain life’s diversity unless you know how it started!”
If you apply that logic to any other situation, it falls apart. An effect can be observed and even deeply understood without the cause being known.
Here’s some examples to demonstrate:
- You don’t have to know how the first house in a city was built to know there’s a city, and its layout.
- You don’t need to know how to build a microprocessor to know the one you’re currently using exists, and what it does.
- You don’t need to know the squishy details of your parents intimacy to know that you exist, and that you’re able to read this.
This logic applies to everything, including life.
Spontaneous generation is an obsolete body of thought on the formation of living organisms without descent from similar organisms, for example, flies being formed from rotting meat. It was mostly dispelled by Louis Pasteur in 1862.
Spontaneous Generation is not the same as abiogenesis. It’s true that they are similar, and even have common historic origins, but they work to explain phenomena in entirely different contexts. Conflating the two is a Strawman Fallacy.
“You think life came from a rock!”
No-one claims that. It’s a Straw-man against abiogenesis.
Rocks aren’t the only material that isn’t alive.
However abiogenesis happened (if it did), the chemicals that comprised the first life were the same that we find comprising life today: hydrocarbons, water, etc.
I refer you again to the Miller-Urey experiment for an example of matter that’s complex and necessary for life as we know it, generated from non-living matter by processes which could have occurred naturally.
“If abiogenesis were possible, we’d see it happening all the time!”
The conditions which exist now are nothing like the conditions present in the early days of the planet.
For one thing, other life exists, and would almost certainly eat any newly-developing life without even noticing it.
It’s also possible that life began more than once, but there’s no strong evidence for that thus-far.
If abiogenesis happened off Earth, then there’s no reason to believe we’d see life generating here now.
Still, maybe there is a small pocket of life, somehow cut off from most other life, with a completely different ancestry to our own, thriving somewhere hidden, that we might one day uncover.
Some claim that evolution is not falsifiable, which is a central requirement of a workable hypothesis: It must be able to be proven wrong, otherwise how could you recognise when it’s proven right?
Find a Rabbit in the Precambrian and you’ll disprove evolution.
In fact, there are many things which would disprove evolution; if a member of one species gave birth to a member of a different species, that would disprove (or at least strongly challenge) evolution.
If evolution wasn’t true, and there were some seriously out-of-order fossils in the ground, they would almost certainly have been found by now. It’s still possible, but it would be irrational to disbelieve evolution based on evidence you hope exists.
The bold challenge proposed by Dawkins
“But didn’t someone find a rabbit from the Cambrian Period?”
Amusing though it was, no. That was a hoax, and it was not intended to genuinely deceive, but to poke fun. The names of the discoverer and institute from which he was based were jocular.
Rabbit in the Cambrian! Next to a trilobyte! Suck it, Dawkins!
The image is simply a digital fabrication.
The ever elusive trilorabbit!
The Dreaded “Crocoduck”!
The BANE of evolution!
Kirk Cameron, a laughable creationist (a tautology?), and Ray Comfort, an even more laughable creationist, posit (among other things) the crocoduck as a challenge to evolution. The crocoduck is, they claim, what we would see if evolution was true.
The only thing this demonstrates to the rational mind is the abject absence of sanity, education, honesty, or a combination of the three in either of these creationists.
If a crocoduck existed, it would probably disprove evolution. Evolution does not propose individual hybridisation between distantly-related species.
The argument is against a dire misrepresentation of evolution and has no validity whatsoever.
Ray Comfort gets intimate with a banana
A passionate re-enactment
Ray elegantly hoists his own petard with his hilarious banana argument. He posits the banana’s seemingly-designed compatibility with humans as evidence of a designer.
The one thing he forgot to do was any research. The banana has evolved in recent history, due to artificial selection (the same as natural selection, but with an intelligence doing the selection, in this case humans).
Wild bananas are significantly less appealing to humans than the common form:
mmmm… crunchy banana!
Wild bananas are just horrible as food, but they don’t come close to how bad the banana argument is.
“Ever seen a canine turn into a non-canine?”
That would disprove evolution.
That kind of massive change in a single generation is nowhere near what evolution suggests. However, given enough time and material, the distant descendants of a canine could become so different that they would no longer be classifiable as canines.
Even that response is giving the argument the benefit of the doubt, as what it’s literally suggesting is that a dog would morph into a non-dog while still alive. This perfectly demonstrates the level of comprehension of evolution that its detractors tend to have.
Thanks go to uhh… Preachin’ to the Choir Ministries for this gem of a question.
“Evolution doesn’t disprove god!”
It’s not trying to.
It does disprove large parts of Genesis in the Bible, though. ‘Adam and Eve’ and ‘Noah’s Ark’ never happened; they are both incongruent with the available evidence. (not just evolutionary evidence, either.)
Many religious people believe in evolution. It’s perfectly possible to integrate it into a theology… I think it’s pointless, but I’m not a theist.
“Evolution encourages killing the weak!”
Evolution is not a moral system, it’s an explanation.
Does Gravitational Theory encourage dropping people off buildings? Does Germ Theory encourage biological warfare?
If knowledge can make an evil person worse, that’s a problem with the person. Is the alternative to eliminate knowledge? (If you say your alternative is religion, then, yes, your alternative is to eliminate knowledge.)
“…something something Darwin!”
Genius though he may have been, Charles Darwin has nothing to do with evolution as it is now.
He could have been completely wrong about everything, and it would make no difference to the facts, since they are based on evidence.
In science, no person is an authority, there are just experts on the authority of nature. This is a difficult concept for religious people to grasp, considering that in religion (unlike in science), truth is defined by an authority figure. That’s why science works and religion doesn’t.
A depiction of the horrifying TRUE story!
“Darwin recanted his theory and spoke of Jesus on his death-bed!”
You are parroting a lie known to be false for almost 100 years.
The ‘Lady Hope Story‘ was a baseless lie told by Elizabeth Cotton in 1915. It was a story inconsistent with the facts, and is practically implausible.
Many members of Darwin’s family wrote in opposition to her story. Some stated that Ms. Cotton had never been present near the end of Darwin’s life, and there’s no evidence that she was.
Even creationist website Answers in Genesis agrees that it was a fabrication. A good indication of the falsehood of something is when even those who would benefit from it being true admit it is false. (The same applies for truth).
Not only did no such event occur, but Darwin actually renounced his religiosity later in life. He called himself an Agnostic, but by today’s standards, he probably would have been an Atheist.
To continue to propagate the lie is to misrepresent a dead genius in order to push an anti-knowledge myth that he never espoused.
“…something something Hitler!”
Hitler, the “deeply religious” Führer of the Christian Third Reich, did what he did due to bigotry, politics, and religion.
Though he had a great respect for science, that in no way incriminates science for his actions. Even if he had claimed to be doing what he did because of evolution, that would only prove his irrational use of the knowledge. Again, is the solution to just abandon all pursuits of truth which could be misused by evil people? Anything could be.
Again, evolution is not a moral system, it’s an explanation.
“I didn’t start it, you invaded Poland!”
Senescence, or “why didn’t something evolve to live forever?”
Good question, actually.
No-one knows for sure, but there are good hypotheses.
Ageing is an interesting subject, and in fact, we might well eradicate ageing using medical science, possibly within the next 50 years.
Of course, this area of temporary uncertainty does nothing to affect the truth of evolution, it simply punctuates the fact that we don’t yet know everything about it. That’s the nature of science.
Any I’ve missed?
I have included the most important and common myths, misconceptions and denials about evolution, but there are others. If you have any issues with it that I haven’t addressed, they might be addressed here or here or here.
But why should you believe me?
The evidence for evolution is overwhelming, and has been for decades. It’s been gathering for 150 years, and cannot be explained by any other hypothesis. It is so far beyond doubt, that one must ignore the vast majority of the evidence in order to doubt the theory.
The Age of the Earth
Since Evolution requires a great deal of time to have occurred to the extent it has, it’s worth mentioning the evidence for an old Earth.
There are dozens of methods of establishing the age of the Earth which all agree with one another. These methods are of varying precision, but they all establish a range consistent with an old Earth. There is no scientific dating method which puts the maximum age of the Earth anywhere near 6000 years.
Since this article is about evolution, I won’t go into great detail on this evidence, but this page gives a comprehensive explanation of many dating methods. I recommend you read over it if you have doubts.
For any misconceptions or ‘counter-arguments’, I recommend this page.
The Evidence for Evolution
The evidence for evolution comes from a number of different fields, which all independently corroborate one another — like if a hundred witnesses of a crime, all the genetic and physical evidence, and a psych analysis all described or suggested the exact same series of events.
Importantly: The individual lines of evidence do not prove evolution on their own, it is the combination of all the lines which does so. That said, some of the lines are very compelling evidence on their own.
These are the most important lines of evidence, I will go into detail on them momentarily:
All of these items are linked to pages which give either an introduction to or a full explanation of each. Though I will explain them here, I will be brief, so I recommend you investigate any you don’t immediately understand.
I will stress: There are other lines of evidence. These are just the most important, in my opinion.
This video explains several of these lines of evidence:
Many animals have very similar physical features, and for those which are extinct, fossil bones can be analysed and bodily forms reliably extrapolated from them.
The bone structure of the arms of many mammals.
The distinct similarities shown here clearly suggest some kind of connection between the physical forms of these animals. A common ancestor is the best explanation of this by far.
“The only similarity is the names of the bones! It’s arbitrary and biased!”
Incorrect. The function of the bones is often identical, the physical structure, though warped in some cases, is very similar. There is also a clear progression between these species, which is observed in fossils.
The Duck-billed Platypus
The platypus is a very strange animal. It exhibits traits similar to those of animals of many disparate groups.
This video runs through all the perceived problems the platypus presents to evolution and debunks them.
Put simply, the platypus has many qualities common to lizards and mammals, this is because it’s part of an early branch of mammals (called monotremes), and mammals originated from lizards. Any similarities in appearance (for example, the duck-like ‘beak’ and otter-like tail) are coincidental and natural.
Similarly to Comparative Anatomy, Comparative Embryology is the study of similarities in embryos during development.
The distinct similarities between the embryos of many different species
The similarities clearly indicate a connection between these animals, and common descent is, again, the best explanation by far.
The fossil record is the collection of all fossils that have been discovered, as well as the information derived from them.
The Earth’s crust contains fossils of life-forms. Fossilisation is a very rare process, but there have been so many life-forms over the ages that there are plenty of fossils to provide an accurate picture of that history.
The age of layers of rock can be established by a number of different methods, but once the rock ages have been established, the only reasonable explanation for the position of the fossils is that they are the same age as the rocks. Any other situation would have left other evidence.
A rendition of the fossil record.
There is a clear progression of life-forms in the fossil record which is consistent with all the other evidence we have found. There isn’t a single out-of-place fossil, and the depth of a particular fossil can be reliably predicted by its supposed age.
Tree fossils which intersect several rock layers are often cited as serious challenges to the rock layers being indicative of the age of fossils. Such tree fossils are quite easily explained, however.
To put the explanation simply, some rock layers were not always solid rock, and trees either sunk down into them, or the layers were deposited as sediment above the bottom of the tree.
This ‘problem’ has been solved since the 1800s.
Here’s a full explanation.
It would be very difficult to explain the genetic evidence succinctly, as it’s very complicated and there’s an awful lot of it. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I’ll explain what I think is the most compelling form of genetic evidence here.
The DNA of each life-form is inherited (with some variation) from its parents. Because of this, it’s possible to identify exactly the line of descent of each species by looking at unique patterns of DNA in each.
By finding common genes (left), we can easily infer the relationships between species (right).
This evidence is, in my opinion, strong enough on its own to prove evolution true.
If you’d like more information, you could try this video, which is an introduction for the layperson, but is still quite technical.
This is quite a simple one to understand. As I mentioned earlier, Macro-evolution has been observed (links 1 & 2), but even creationists will agree that micro-evolution has been observed; it’s actually very common.
Here’s several examples of both macro and micro-evolution observation:
Predictive Power of Evolution
The test of a good scientific hypothesis is that it can make accurate and precise predictions. Evolution has been known to do this on several occasions.
Obviously these predictions pertain to the past (as they deal with fossils and ancient evolutionary change), but it is the discovery that was predicted, which was in the future relative to the prediction.
Here’s some examples and more information on evolution’s predictive power:
Pervasiveness / Dependency
Related to the predictive power is the pervasiveness of evolution in modern science; that is to say, evolution is essential to many fields. If evolution was not true, the work being done in various fields would not be possible, as it would be based on falsehoods. The fact that evolution has brought actual progress to many fields is evidence for its accuracy.
Here’s a list of fields which rely at least partially (but in some cases entirely), on evolution being true:
- Cell Biology
- Population Biology
- Zoology (and various subsets, eg. Ornithology, Herpetology etc.)
- Field Biology
- Theoretical Biology
Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.
—Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973
Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science – in all of biology.
“This evidence just proves Creationism!” or “Not a Common Descent, but a Common Designer!”
Prove a god exists, first.
Until then, your hypothesis makes an infinite assumption and evolution doesn’t. Occam’s razor clearly favours evolution.
Also, some of this evidence cannot be completely dismissed by postulating a god, and most of it indicates a very nonsensical design process.
Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way.
—Christopher Hitchens (full quote)
“All right, this is convincing, but I believe God was involved in the process!”
The process works just fine without any intervention. Proposing the involvement of a god is utterly redundant, and quite telling of an attitude of partial resistance to reality in favour of preferred fantasy.
It’s perfectly possible to be a good theist and accept reality. Gods will never be categorically disproven (as they are deliberately non-falsifiable), so you can accept everything in science (without supposing intervention by a god) and still believe in a god. Almost no-one follows their entire holy book, you don’t have to assume that every claim in the book is true, and you’ll be much better off using religion as an emotional framework than an undeniable source of truth.
If you’re a theist who has respect for science and for genuine truth, I encourage you to do just that.
I suspect the reason is that most people … have a residue of feeling that Darwinian evolution isn’t quite big enough to explain everything about life. All I can say as a biologist is that the feeling disappears progressively the more you read about and study what is known about life and evolution.
If we want to postulate a deity capable of engineering all the organized complexity in the world, either instantaneously or by guiding evolution, that deity must have been vastly complex in the first place … If we are going to allow ourselves the luxury of postulating organized complexity without offering an explanation, we might as well make a job of it and simply postulate the existence of life as we know it!
There are far worse humans than any other apes, and not even creationists dispute that all humans are related.
In fact, creationists claim that all humans exist as a result of repeated incest… at least twice.
Not to mention the belief that we’re just the enchanted dolls of a manifestly cruel overlord. Such a view cheapens humanity immensely, in my opinion.
Kinship with all life is a wondrous thing, bringing a sense of unity and familiarity, allowing us more empathy towards our fellow creatures. A naturalistic perspective of the universe also brings a sense of comprehension and simplicity which is impossible with an infinite and mysterious god running the show.
Evolution is not a problem for emotional fulfilment, it’s just different from a traditional theistic perspective. If you value truth, you should be strong enough to adjust to it. Many have, and have been immensely satisfied.
And, most importantly, the truth does not depend on our preferences. If something is true, the only honest thing to do is accept it and live with it. If you find yourself in that position, I dare you to learn more about evolution, and science in general; you might grow to love your new perspective.
All the great religions have a place for awe, for ecstatic transport at the wonder and beauty of creation. And it’s exactly this feeling of spine-shivering, breath-catching awe — almost worship — this flooding of the chest with ecstatic wonder, that modern science can provide. And it does so beyond the wildest dreams of saints and mystics. The fact that the supernatural has no place in our explanations, in our understanding of so much about the universe and life, doesn’t diminish the awe. Quite the contrary. The merest glance through a microscope at the brain of an ant or through a telescope at a long-ago galaxy of a billion worlds is enough to render poky and parochial the very psalms of praise.
I’ll be blunt: What I have presented here is enough to convince a rational person that evolution by natural selection is true.
And there’s still so much more to the theory, and so much more yet to be discovered.
Evolution: as Beautiful as any Art, Elegant as any Dance, Simple as any Creationist.
So, will you follow the charlatan creationists who rely solely on deception to convince the gullible that reality didn’t happen, but that magic is the only possible explanation?
Or will you join humanity, striving together to push away the veil of ignorance and myopia, surging forth into the expanse of knowledge yet to be known?
There is grandeur in this view of life… from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.