Myths of Evolution
Required Reading Additional Reading (2-3 Quiz questions from these sources)

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Myths of Evolution

Myths of Evolution

An introduction to widespread misconceptions about modern evolution theory
by Tom Morris
Fullerton College
Fullerton, CA
USA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Study Questions

  1. What are the several important ways that evolution theory is useful in our modern civilization?
  2. What is the PHENOMENON of evolution?
  3. In a nutshell what is the THEORY of evolution?
  4. Evolution science is a synthesis of what two sciences?
  5. What is the science of genetics?
  6. How does the quality of genes influence the nature of an individual's interactions with the environment?
  7. How do genes express themselves in the individual who inherits them?
  8. What is the science of ecology?
  9. How does the environment interact indirectly with an individual's suite of inherited genes?
  10. What scientific theories and natural phenomena are conspicuously absent from but widely associated with evolution theory?
  11. What is population genetics?
  12. What is meant by the expression, “evolutionary result?”
  13. From what sources do Americans learn most about evolution?
  14. What is the most realistic and accurate source of information about this scientific theory?
  15. On an emotional level, why do many people reject the theory of evolution without really understanding the science of the theory?
  16. What is the nature of the "debate" about evolution theory? WHO is actually doing the "debating?"
  17. Was Charles Darwin the first person in the world to consider evolution theory?
  18. How did opportunity and circumstance lead Darwin to discover his evolution theory?
  19. If evolution does not “happen,” then what actually does happen?
  20. Although often portrayed as an evolutionary ladder, or pipeline, what is the real pattern of evolution that scientists observe in nature?
  21. Jean Babtiste Lamarck preceded Charles Darwin with a very logical and easy-to-understand evolution theory of his own? What was Lamarck's theory and why is it completely wrong?
  22. What is the logical fallacy of the statement, "Survival of the fittest?"
  23. On an ecological level, why is it not true that "Only the strong survive?"
  24. Must scientists “believe” in evolution in order to work with it?
  25. Why will human beings not naturally evolve into odd, alien-looking creatures?
  26. Why will human beings not evolve special features that could be useful now, like extra nose filters for smog, or larger index fingers for pushing buttons?
  27. If not by natural processes, what would it now take to cause human beings to evolve in a particular direction?
  28. In terms of modern evolution theory, how realistic are the X-men and Fantastic 4?
  29. If humans all of a sudden disappeared from Earth, what are the chances that the great apes such as gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees will evolve into a technological species like humans?
  30. Is all of evolution based on purely random phenomena? What is random, and what is not?
  31. How does evolution theory contemplate the origin of life on Earth?
  32. Isn’t it just a theory? Aren’t scientific theories just hare-brained ideas cooked up by socially challenged eggheads?
  33. What IS a scientific theory?
  34. What about “Intelligent Design” theory? Why aren’t scientists using the exciting new ID theory instead of old evolution theory?

 

 


CONTEXT:

Why Should We Care About Evolution?

Evolution theory is extremely useful in helping humans produce sufficient food for a growing population. It is useful in fighting emerging new and deadly diseases.

 

Examples of the Usefulness of modern Evolution Theory

 

 

 

 

Evolution Theory is Essential in Modern Food Production

chilis
image source: unknown

The above photo shows the high genetic variety in two species of peppers. Agricultural scientists draw upon this variety to genetically modify crops to accomplish the following: 1) Counteract continuously-evolving pests; 2) Develop new varieties needed to cope with changing climates.

agricultural biologist
image source: unknown

a University of Nebraska plant geneticist inspects tiny transgenic plants growing in her lab. She heads a research team that has identified a genetic key that triggers male sterility in plants. Male sterile plants don't produce pollen, which makes it easier to breed improved hybrids and produce hybrid seed. Scientists think their techniques should work on a broad range of crops and vegetables.

crop geneticists
image source: unknown

In above photo, Theodore Hymowitz, emeritus professor of plant genetics in the crop science department at the University of Illinois., and doctoral assistant Leina M. Joseph have isolated two Chinese soybean lines that grow without the primary protein linked to soy allergies in children and adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evolution Theory Helps Fight Disease

Steven A. Frank, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyImmunology and Evolution bookcover
image source: unknown

Steven A. Frank relies on evolution theory to unify our understanding of how infectious diseases work - giving new insight on how best to fight them.

 

 

 

Using Evolution Theory to Fight Bird Flu

Bird flu
image source: unknown

Evolutionary biologists are racing to understand how a bird flu virus has suddenly started to infect humans for the first time. Humans are especially vulnerable to this new flu because our immune systems are not prepared for it

Evolutionary biologists are investigating how environmental circumstances are leading to dangerous genetic transformations in many varieties of the virus.

 

 

Using Evolution Theory to Understand SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome)

genetic map
image source: unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Evolution Theory to Understand HIV

HIV evolutionary history
image source: unknown

 

 

HIV patient
Click on one of the links below to see a brief video on evolution and HIV.
View using Apple QuickTime Player
View using Real Player

The medical treatment of HIV patients is becoming a sophisticated evolutionary battle. The emerging treatment strategy acts to counteract the virus' evolutionary power with a combination of evolutionary tricks and powerful drugs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Evolution Theory in Business and Industry
Evolutionary algorithms solving problems not otherwise solvable by logical algorithms - BRUTE FORCE

brute force genetic algorithm animation
image source: unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


OBJECTIONS:

Who Objects to Evolution Theory?

Various groups object to the theory and to interpretations of life on Earth based on the theory.

 

Unfortunately, many myths about evolution theory are used as arguments against it by groups who object to the theory -- which invalidates their arguments.

 

 

 

A video where expert scientists talk about evolution theory and refute creationism on scientific grounds.
Link to this video on youtube

 

Ben Stein's "Expelled"

Expelled Exposed

Some of my students have asked about this movie. I investigated it and found it to be a good example of myth propagation.

All scientific theories are vulnerable to assault. But if you are going to attack any scientific theory, you must:

  1. Understand the theory at length and in depth. This movie grossly misunderstands evolution and jumbles it all together with origin of life theory, physics and cosmology.
  2. Understand and respect the scientific institutions and their methods that have helped our civilization prosper. This movie complains that the gatekeepers of science are discriminatory, that they won't let in new ideas. That is true and that is by design -- only if such new ideas are scientifically weak. There are standards. In science, not all ideas deserve a global hearing. To get such a hearing, you must do the research and steadily build your case -- and you must respect the peer-review process.
  3. Respect the requirements for ethics and honesty. Ironically, in claiming the moral high ground, this movie invents false conspiracies and misrepresents events.

LINK: Here is a page on the movie at the National Center for Science Education

Note that there are many video critiques to the movie on Youtube and other online video houses. But I thought they are a bit too edgy for this page.

 

 

 

 

 


EVOLUTION BASICS:

The Phenomenon of Evolution Described

The phenomenon of evolution is observed if the genetic makeup of a population from one generation is different from the genetic makeup of the population from a previous generation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Concise Theory of Evolution

Evolution theory explains that the observed differences in the genetic makeup of a population from one generation to the next are because environmental circumstances on all levels can qualitatively and quantitatively influence the flow of genetic information in a population from one generation to the next.

 

LINK: What is Evolution? A short paper hosted by TalkOrigins.org

 

 

 

 

 

Evolution Theory in a Nutshell

Genetics Theory + Ecology Theory = Evolution Theory

 

GENETICS COMPONENT: The physical and operational features of living individuals largely are determined by genetic information inherited from parents.

The mix of genetic information in each individual is unique, yielding genetic diversity in any group of individuals of a species.

Genetics Theory - Information Management

Genetics theory helps us understand:

  • How packages of coded data on chromosomes translate into useful information

  • The manifestation of information into observable biological features (traits)

  • How information can be remixed and transmitted to a new individual (offspring)

 

 

 

ECOLOGICAL COMPONENT: Life experiences by individuals in a population can influence the flow of genetic information from one generation to the next.

Ecology Theory - Life happenings

Ecology theory helps us understand:

  • How individual living things stay alive in their natural environments

  • How individuals bring inherited features to bear on their surrounding environments

  • How inherited features assist in exploiting opportunities in rewarding ways

  • How inherited features help minimize exposure to threats in rewarding ways

 

What is Conspicuously Absent?

The above statements generally characterize evolution theory as nothing more than a synthesis of genetics theory and ecology theory. That's pretty much all there is to it...

Please note that the following items are not part of the theory:

  • The Big Bang - not part of evolution theory. This is a Physics problem.
  • Origin of Life - not part of evolution theory. There is another branch of biology that deals with origin-of-life theory.
  • The Origin of Humans from earlier types- not part of evolution theory. Biologists use evolution theory to help guide investigations about human origins.
  • The rejection of God - not part of evolution theory.
  • The rejection of morals - not part of evolution theory.

Once you understand that these components are not part of the theory, then your perception of it will be much more accurate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Population Genetics - Genetic information in populations

  • Population Genetics is a science that tracks the flow of genetic information in whole populations from generation-to-generation.

  • Evolutionary Result - If the genetic makeup of a population is different in one generation from the genetic makeup of the population in a previous generation, this is an evolutionary result (the phenomenon of evolution is observed) .

Here is an extremely simplified illustrative example:

Generation 1 Generation 1 Reproductive Event Generation 2
beetles
75% speckled
25% striped
beetles
100% speckled
0% striped
New individuals receive genes exclusively from surviving adults. beetles
100% speckled
0% striped
Population at the start of a new generation.

In this example, color pattern is controlled by two kinds of genes:

 1) speckled

2) striped

Surviving adults just prior to reproductive event   Population after reproductive event.

The proportions of genes (proportions of alleles) in this generation are different from the proportions of genes in the previous generation. This observed difference is an evolutionary result.

Time ->

images source: Tom Morris

 

Evolutionary Biology - Population genetics in terms of ecology

Scenario

  • Population geneticist discovers significant differences in the genetic makeup of a population over several generations. This is an evolutionary result. But what life experiences could account for such a result?

  • At the same time, ecologists observe interesting changes in the environment. Ecologists also observe how individuals of the population differentially bring their inherited traits to bear on these new environmental circumstances.

  • Evolutionary biologists consider reports from the population geneticist and the ecologist. The evolutionary biologist looks for evidence of a causal relationship between genetic changes and the environment. That is, "Could the observed genetic changes have been a consequence of observed environmental changes?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


EVOLUTION EDUCATION AND PUBLIC DISCOURSE:

Where do people learn about evolution?

  • My experience as a college biology teacher since 1980 indicates that Americans learn more about evolution theory from Hollywood films, television and church - than they do from science teachers and scientists.

  • Unfortunately, the "evolution theory" they learn outside the science classroom is not the same evolution theory that scientists use.

 

science class
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moviegoers
moviegoers
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church sermon
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Evolution learned in a science classroom Evolution learned from movies and television Evolution learned at place of worship

molecular electrophoresis
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Fantastic 4 guy
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cartoon of Darwin
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People love to talk about Evolution

 

religion and science
Philosophers seek to understand the relationships between religious faith and scientific understandings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darwin nameplate
image source: unknown
The message expressed by this object feeds into the notion that evolution theory should be decided upon by advocacy on the community square.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herman cartoon
Credit: Jim Unger

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes scientific findings can be unwelcome and unsettling

  • Scientists use evolution theory as a tool for interpreting publicly verifiable evidence.
  • Sometimes such interpretations are at odds with fundamental beliefs - especially religious beliefs.
  • As a result, they can be unwelcome and unsettling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Debate is Artificial

  • Despite that evolution theory is debated by theistic philosophers, politicians,  journalists and everyday people, it is not a religious, political, journalistic or everyday idea. It is a scientific idea based on verifiable observations about nature.

  • Any debate about evolution theory outside the scientific arena generally frames it in ideological and political terms.

  • Current debates about evolution theory in the media are artificial and do not reflect the general sense of the theory in the scientific community as a whole.

  • Fruitful debate about evolution theory only can come from the realm in which it resides... science.

  • Scientific theories are not refined or overturned with rhetoric; they are refined and overturned by research.
  • For decades, scientists have continued to refine the theory based on new findings. But within the scientific community, there is little debate about its usefulness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mythical giraffe evolutionThis Talk's Mission

  • Debunk widespread misconceptions about evolution theory

 

image source: unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


MYTHS OF EVOLUTION:

 

 

 

 

 

myth

That the theory of evolution was first contemplated by Charles DarwinAristotle

Ancient Greek philosophers like Anaximander, Empedocles and Aristotle proposed their own natural evolution theories.

Alfred Russell Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin, independently discovered the same theory as Darwin.

Charles Darwin
image source: unknown

 

  • Many early naturalists considered natural explanations for the appearance of different species on Earth.

LINK: Early notions of evolution, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

myth

That Charles Darwin just imagined the theory of evolution, just pure deduction and rhetoric.
Actually, it was based on experience, hard work and fortunate timing.

Unlike many accomplished naturalists before him, Darwin lived in a time when global exploration was new and expanding. He had the opportunity to travel from ecologically impoverished Great Britain and explore the surprisingly rich tropics -- a transformational experience.

  • Scientists assemble theories from many explanations about our natural reality

  • Scientific discovery involves many years or many generations of exploration, study and hard work in the field or in the lab.

no armchair scientists, please
image source: unknown
astronaut
  Scientists get out and discover stuff.
Image source: NASA

                          

 

HMS Beagle
Beagle - Expedition seeking commercial development opportunities around the world.
image source: unknown

map of Darwin's voyage
image source: unknown

 

LINK: The Voyage of the Beagle, hosted by Literature.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

myth

That evolution is a unique and separate biological process that can be directly observed as it is happening
It is important to clarify that there is no special, separate action going on in living things that can be attributed uniquely to some mysterious evolutionary force.

There are two main kinds of action that may lead to evolutionary results: 1) Genetic actions such as the process of random assortment of parental genes in the formation of sex cells, or the appearance of mutations; and 2) Ecological actions as individuals interact with their surroundings in an effort to stay alive.

 

  • Evolution theory is a synthesis of Genetics and Ecology.

DNA      plus    wolf and snowshoe hare
images source: unknown

 

  • There is no unfolding evolution action to directly observe.

  • Evolution is NOT a process. Evolution is an outcome.

  • 'Evolution' is the term we use to describe a RESULT.

 

bunny and cat scenario
In this scenario, the first population of rabbits has genetic variety in terms of ear-length alleles - mostly short-ear alleles. Following reproduction of the adult survivors, the long-ear alleles are more abundant. The observed difference in allele frequency between generations represents an evolutionary result. The phenomenon of evolution is observed.

The cause for the differences was ecological (the result of life experiences amongst individuals in the first generation). For some reason(s), individuals with long ears reached adulthood at a greater rate than individuals with short ears. This is a purely statistical finding.

There could be many, many random and non-random ecological causes for this result.

For example, in this scenario ecologists observed the presence of predators during the study period. If they determined that the predators were the primary cause of the observed difference in survivorship among rabbits, and if they found that predators killed short-eared rabbits at a higher rate than long-eared rabbits, then this would be an example of a non-random ecological influence acting on the flow of genes from one generation to the next. This kind of non-random influence is labeled as "natural selection." The kind of non-random evolution that results would be described as evolution by natural selection.

But if ecological explanations are inconclusive, this would not nullify the genetic results. It would still be an evolutionary result, but the ecological cause would not be known.

Image source: Tom Morris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

myth

That evolution theory is explicitly and almost entirely about human evolution

No. It is a sleek, compact and portable theory that can be universally applied to all species of living things.

  • Evolution theory is an abstract framework for investigating observed changes in the genetic makeup of populations of ANY SPECIES across generations.

  • People adopt this myth because the story of human evolution usually is used as an interesting introduction to the theory's utility. But evolution theory is not specifically about human evolution or any other species.

LINK: What is Evolution? A short paper hosted by TalkOrigins.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

myth

That individuals genetically adapt to their environments
That would be LaMarck's theory of evolution - Hollywood's favorite. And the actual theory everybody loves to hate.

Lamarck erroneously portrayed natural evolution as if individuals had the capacity to "respond" to their environment by making heritable improvements to themselves.

Lamarck's evolution theory can be boiled down to the two following fallacies:

  1. Evolution-by-necessity. If a feature is needed, it will appear.
  2. Use-it-or-lose-it. If a feature is not needed, then it will disappear.

Lamarck's ideas were acceptable at the time, and are still beguiling today, but are now understood to be completely unsupported by the evidence. Here is why...

  • Living individuals have no capacity to 'evolve'. They have no capacity to change their personal genetic content.

  • Biological evolution is not a response to the environment.

  • Biological evolution is a consequence of the environment.

Physiological adaptation is another matter. Physiological adaptation is an instantaneous change in the operations of the body, usually in response to internal or external environmental conditions. You start to shiver when it gets cold; your breathing rate increases while exercising; your skin pigment production increases after repeated sun exposure. These are physiological adaptations, changes in the operations of inherited traits, but not changes in the genetics of inherited traits.

LaMarcke's giraffes
image source: unknown
Lamarck's evolution theory of the early 1800's (before Darwin) proposed that species evolved by necessity. Here, according to Lamarck's theory, a short-necked giraffe initiates evolution of a longer neck out of perceived necessity. Hollywood loves Lamarckian evolution... but it's generally not supported by the evidence.

 

if evolution were true, mothers would have three arms
image source: unknown
Straw Man fallacy. The statement on this sign expresses one of the great myths about evolution theory - the notion of "evolution-by-necessity." According to this myth, if a feature is "needed" then it should appear - by evolution. Evolutionary scientists agree that there is nothing in modern evolution theory that would support such a claim.

 

evolution cartoon
image source: unknown
Lamarck again. This cartoon is based on long-discredited Lamarckian evolution theory - Evolution-by- necessity.

 

 

bird with teeth
image source: unknown
Lamarck again. If evolution is so powerful, why don't birds have teeth? Here is another misinterpretation that implies "evolution-by-necessity".

The big fallacy here is that somehow humans have the ability to imagine lasting improvements on existing configurations. This is pure Lamarck.

LINK: Short bio on Lamarck hosted by the University of California Museum of Paleontology

LINK: A description of evolutionary adaptation hosted by Wikipedia

LINK: Definition of physiological adaptation hosted by biology-online

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

myth

That the expression, "Survival of the Fittest", is meaningful in relation to evolution theory
These days, fitness is measured statistically.

 

  • In other words, 'survival of the survivors' (a tautology)

  • This expression implies that an individual's unique suite of traits somehow pre-destines it to survive to adulthood, while others are predestined to die before reaching adulthood.

  • It's like saying, "He finished the race because he's a finisher, and this other guy didn't finish the race because he's a quitter." The problem is that it is not possible to accurately make such determination until AFTER the race is run.

  • This expression invites a Lamarckian perspective.

  • Because living individuals are too complex and life is too unpredictable (dynamical), it is not possible to accurately predict which individuals will succeed and which will not. As such, this expression is inconsistent with modern evolution theory and practice.

  • Instead, scientists understand the term, "fitness" in terms of statistical "presence" of alleles in the population. Alleles present in greater proportions are regarded as "most fit." This is purely a statistical interpretation. No qualitative rationale are implied.

LINK: Survival of the Fittest, hosted by Wikipedia.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

myth

That Only the Strong Survive
Not so. There are many ways to succeed that have nothing to do with strength.

 

drawing of bunnyHe who turns and runs away, lives to eat, and reproduce, another day.

Sometimes subtlety is more rewarding than brute strength

 

picture of a walking stick insect
image source: unknown
Rewarding application of camouflage by a walking stick insect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

myth

That the theory of evolution is a "belief system"The faithful worship a Darwin smudge

  • A "belief" is the acceptance of a proposition to be true, sometimes without the requirement for supporting evidence; and sometimes in spite of evidence to the contrary. Beliefs constitute solidified absolutes about the world around us; settled mysteries that merit no further analysis in our minds. Our mix of beliefs can influence our world view and our experience of the world, sometimes actively filtering out elements of natural reality that conflict with our beliefs.

  • Science is not in the belief business. Science does not trade in absolutes.

  • Science is in the utility business. Science trades in useful, verifiable understandings; rewarding explanations about nature usually accompanied by lingering mysteries that merit further analysis.

  • Rather than "believe" in the theory, scientists "accept" the theory as a useful tool.

  • Scientists need not become loyal subjects of the theories they use.
  • Ironically, to the extent that a scientist becomes emotionally attached to a theory (a strong believer), he / she is NOT doing science. Acceptance of any scientific theory is best done without emotion or loyalty, and should be accompanied with a skeptical eye for faults.

LINK: Belief, hosted by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

rendering of an alienmyth

That humans will evolve into creatures with bigger heads and weaker bodies - kinda like the way we think advanced aliens must look
Only if we choose to. For many thousands of years, human beings have invented and used technology to protect themselves from the killing power of their environmental surroundings. We invented farming to protect ourselves from starvation, and medicine to protect ourselves from disease. We invented civilization in which we value human life and human rights.

image source: unknown
If differential death based on inherited traits ever produced evolutionary results in humans before, it hardly happens anymore. We have insulated ourselves from the directional killing power of nature, and as a result, we have significantly reduced the chances of any kind of directional evolution.

There have been attempts in human history to force directional evolution by artificial means. For example, eugenics was proposed in the early 1900s to purify the human genome and to eliminate unwanted genes. The Nazis engaged in genocide to cleanse the Earth of Jews, and sponsored their own breeding program in an effort to grow a new master race. Unfortunately, there are many examples of genocide and ethnic cleansing in human history, each with the intention of fostering some desired genetic form.

So, if humans are to change into the alien-like creature in the above picture, it could only happen by artificial means. This would require a global form of eugenics, global elimination of free choice of mates, and the invention of new genes for new features. Such a program would have to be enforced globally for thousands of years. It would be much easier to buy a nice costume.

 

 

 

kissing humans
image source: unknown
"C'mere you big-headed,  skinny wimp. Let's make ugly alien babies."

We could if we wanted to...  

 

Or...

Evolution-by-necessity (myth)
Use-it-or-lose-it (myth)

cartoon drawing of a future human
image source: unknown
This drawing uses Lamarckian evolution theory to predict  the result of future human evolution. Lamarck's discredited theory proposed that living things evolved out of necessity. So, this future human exhibits features accordingly.

This drawing is utterly inconsistent with present-day, Darwinian evolution theory. Instead of making predictions based on strident presumptive logic, modern evolution theory recognizes the power of unpredictable environmental circumstances that have the potential to produce unexpected results.

Interpretation: There is no reason to suspect future humans will be much different from us.

LINK: A Scientific American book review of Future Evolution, by Peter Ward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

myth

That a single instance of mutations will produce special powers in humans - like the X Men or the Fantastic 4
In your DREAMS...

fantastic 4fantastic 4
images source: unknown
This myth suggests that in a single instance genetic mutations can produce fully functional new biological systems. This is an example of "spontaneous creation", not evolution.

This is a gross oversimplification. Genetic mutations do occur, but the results are mostly benign, or harmful if not outright fatal.

This myth addresses the notion of "adaptation" evolution. Darwin proposed the ecological phenomenon of "natural selection" to explain how useful features might arise - possibly after many incremental steps of evolution by natural selection. Not by a single event.

 

x-men, well, x-kids
image source: Warner Bros.
The "X-Men" fantasy implies that sudden genetic mutations could lead to completely new kinds of fully operational biological systems. This is completely science fiction that uses long-discredited Lamarckian evolution theory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

myth

That the direction of evolution ultimately leads to human-like qualities.
Apes had their chance and look where it got them.

planet of the apes

Evolution theory's predictive powers are limited because the system it seeks to understand is inherently dynamical and unpredictable.

 

Modern apes are contemporaries of modern humans and modern cockroaches.

All of these lines have diverged to produce unique results.

Evolutionary biologists understand that, even with a robust evolution, there is no ultimate pipeline that leads all species to become human-like.

Even if humans disappeared from Earth tomorrow, it is scientifically unsupportable to claim that modern apes would certainly evolve into a technological species.

image source: unknown

 

 

 

 

gorillaIf we were to use the theory to predict the evolutionary outcome of ape evolution in the absence of humans on Earth...

 

 

image source: unknown

 

LINK: Dynamical Systems, explained on Wikipedia.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

myth

That evolution is thoroughly random. According to this myth, given enough time, a group of monkeys could type the entire works of Shakespeare
All is not random. Non-random environmental circumstances are very influential.

monkey typing
image source: unknown

Macbeth
image source: unknown

  • Straw Man fallacy. This myth maliciously misrepresents present-day evolution theory. It attacks the notion that complex and meaningful traits come about entirely as the result of single, random events. This is the "straw man" that is presented as modern evolution theory.

  • This claim actually argues against "spontaneous creation," not modern evolution theory.

  • It is more likely that the monkeys would destroy all the typewriters within 10 minutes.The most reasonable expectation of the monkey scenario, using modern evolution theory, suggests otherwise - that the monkeys would destroy the typewriters in less than 10 minutes.

  • Using the theory, it is accepted that the development of meaningful features (adaptations) cannot come about entirely as a result of randomness, and neither as a result of a single event.

  • Non-random environments present each generation with a generally consistent set of environmental circumstances. Generation-after-generation, individuals repeatedly bring their genetic inheritance to bear on their environment in non-random ways - in a non-random effort to maintain the living state.

  • Features that are rewarding in one generation also may be rewarding in future generations.

  • The theory predicts that adaptations can only arise following multiple rounds of the appearance, refinement and application of inherited features that produce rewarding outcomes generation-after-generation.

A note about the role of randomness in evolution

The overwhelming majority of genetic, molecular and ecological operations that occur in an individual's life are non-random. The living state is utterly dependent on regular operations such as getting food and water, and avoiding dangerous situations. Internal operations like digesting food, filtering the blood and processing sensory input. These are all operations that result in rewarding outcomes (which are non-random). Life is mostly about non-random operations.

But randomness does play a part. For example, a flood or a fire might occur randomly in a given area. Or particularly good weather might occur randomly. But by far the most important random operation in evolution is the re-assortment of parental genes during the production of sex cells like eggs and sperms. Except for identical twins, kids from the same parents may resemble each other, but they are completely unique genetic formulations. The random mixing of parental genes produces unpredictable results in offspring. Once instantiated, newly developed individuals are obliged to apply their genetic inheritance to survive in their environment as best they can - in non-random ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

myth

That evolution theory contemplates the origin of life on Earth
That would be a different theory - Origin of Life theory.

DarwinOrigin of life theory wonders about the origin of life on Earth.

Its main tools are biochemistry and molecular biology

Evolution theory wonders how species of living things can change

Its main tools are genetics and ecology

image source: unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's just a theory

myth

That it's just a theory...
and a rootin' tootin' useful one at that.

 

  • Evolution theory, like all our modern theories, was discovered by generation-after-generation of naturalists who left their comfortable homes to explore nature.

  • Everything we understand about how reality works in modern civilization is theoretical.

  • To the extent that a theory is useful, it will be used.

  • To the extent that a theory is not useful it will not be used.

  • Given the power and the utility of theories that form the foundation of modern, technological civilization, a statement like the one above reflects an unfortunate failure to comprehend this.

image source: unknown

planetary biology theory drawing

Planetary Biology theory. This picture depicts a network of related ideas that, together, make up a larger idea.

Image source: Tom Morris

 

  • A scientific theory is a model that explains how reality is organized and how it operates.

  • A scientific theory provides a framework for understanding natural reality by showing how real phenomena are organized and interrelated - like the organization of a jig-saw puzzle.


image source: Tom Morris

 

shopping mall
Our modern civilization is utterly dependent upon scientific theories. Ignoring them purely for ideological reasons jeopardizes the practical foundations upon which our civilization stands.
Image source: Microsoft Office clipart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

myth

Intelligent Design vookcoverThat Intelligent Design Theory is Science
If it were, science could be much more interesting...

Intelligent Design (ID) Theory presents an interesting, if entirely deductive, explanation on the role of an intelligent designer (God?) and the appearance of life on Earth.

The "intelligent design" advocates vary greatly. But the core beliefs which they all appear to share are the following:

(a) ID advocates believe that the action of an intelligent (presumably conscious) being was involved in the creation and placement of living organisms on Earth.

(b) ID advocates believe that all species appeared suddenly on Earth and were fully developed and fixed in their final form. That is, once they appeared, there were no additional modifications. And there can be no future modifications.

(c) ID advocates believe that the genetic lines of all species are completely independent from one another. There are no relationships of decendency between species. There are no common ancestors or any other forms of historical genetic links connecting species. The only common link is the link to the designer.

(d) ID advocates believe that there already exists empirical evidence of this action, sufficient to justify a scientific inference that such action occurred.

Despite its spiritual appeal, ID is not a useful scientific theory for many reasons. Several important ones include:

  • ID theory is based on a foundation of "unexplained" - otherwise known as the "God-of-the-gaps" - advocates claim that what scientists do not completely understand today can best be explained by invoking the intelligent designer.

  • In other words, evolutionary scientists should give up, stop trying, and use the ID solution when confronted with puzzling mysteries about life on Earth.

  • ID theory is a top down approach, starting with an answer, then searching for evidence to support its claim - while systematically ignoring all evidence to the contrary - a process called, "cherry picking". Dogmatic adherence by advocates precludes open-minded consideration of competing possibilities.

  • ID theory itself provides no expository or explanatory tools that normally accompany useful scientific theories. It doesn't help scientists solve the mysteries that lie before them.

  • ID advocates promote claims that are largely arguments from ignorance - a logical fallacy. This fallacy goes like this: "If your explanation has incomplete parts to it, then it is false, and therefore my theory is superior."

  • ID advocates invoke the action of "new laws" to support their claims, but without providing the empirical research with which to scientifically evaluate such new laws.

 

LINK: Thorough explanation of Intelligent Design, on Wikipedia.org

Intelligent Design and Dover, PA

In 2004, the teaching of Intelligent Design in American public schools was challenged by parents in Dover, PA. A trial ensued, and the judge ruled against the teaching of ID.

LINK: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now it's time for the Evolution Answer Guy

And now it's time for the evolution answer guy
image source: BBC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright© 2009 by Tom E. Morris. All rights reserved.

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