Today marks the 200th Birthday of the man who forwarded the concept of Evolution of species, which is a basic foundation of the science of Biology. Evolution is also a flash point in arguments between people with different views on religion. Even though Evolution has nothing to do with religion or religious beliefs, it has been used as a scapegoat for some people’s beliefs that might conflict with the results and facts of Evolution. How did we get there?
One problem has been a misunderstanding of the term Evolution. In science Evolution’s basic definition is: a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations.
That’s it. Nothing about monkeys turning into humans or “survival of the fittest”, which have been claims used against teaching of Evolution. All it means is to describe changes in a population over time.
Darwin called his idea “Natural Selection” and by that he meant species changed over time by adaptation controlled by the environment they lived in. Species that adapted appropriately passed their genes on to the next generation while those that didn’t adapt eventually died out. It isn’t that one species was “better” than the other only that one adapted better than the other and was able to pass on its genes.
Natural selection also infers that species can come from a common ancestor since it had to start some where to get to that particular point in time. There is strong evidence that Humans and apes share aspects that suggest we came from a common ancestor. At one time there was some species that then split into apes and another branch split into Humans.
That’s where religious people get upset. They fully believe that God created all the creatures on the Earth and if Evolution is true then it puts that idea into jeopardy.
The religious people are the ones who make it an issue. Darwin never cared about all it ALL began. All he did was forward the idea of how species got to where they are. Nothing in the study of Evolution is meant to be anti-religious or to intentionally contradict the story of creation. Many scientists support Evolution and consider themselves believers in a God.
However since Evolution, like all science facts, are tentative, there could be information collected soon or in the near future that solves the ultimate mystery of how it ALL got here.
That’s the promise of science – learning the answers to all the questions we have about the universe in which we live.
A tip of the hat today to the man who got the ball rolling – Charles Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882).
Some links for further info on Darwin and Evolution