Peripatus Home Page pix1Black.gif (807 bytes) EvolutionUpdated: 08-Jan-2019 

Evolution


This page provides some links to a few of my essays about evolution.

Before moving on, let me nail my colours to the mast immediately:

Evolution is an evidence-based scientific theory which has been probed and tested – not to say attacked – methodically and determinedly for 150 years. It has always been vindicated. Even if we do not yet have every answer to every question, it provides the theoretical underpinning to technologies as diverse as petroleum exploration and epidemiology. It is demonstrably and spectacularly successful.

Nevertheless, it is rejected by a group of people we can call ‘creationists’. These people rarely have any training in science, and, commonly, little education at all. Instead of evolution, they prefer narrow variations on an unfalsifiable hypothesis which is thousands of years old, having originally been concocted by illiterate nomads, is lacking in any evidential support whatsoever, and requires a belief in supernatural beings, magic, and the moral defensibility of stoning people to death for a variety of trivial and typically victimless crimes.

But that is not the ridiculous thing.

No, the ridiculous thing is that there should be a need to defend evolution – science – the truth – in western institutions of higher learning. That, truly, is ridiculous.

That’s all I’m going to say about that. From here on in, we shall discuss evolution.

Living things are observed to change in important and sometimes fundamental ways over the course of many generations. If all we are seeking is a definition for a word, then ‘descent with modification’ is it.

But a deeper understanding must at least attempt to account for the detailed patterns of change observed on all timescales, including the very long timescale of the fossil record, to provide a mechanism for such change, and explain how and why it works. Charles Darwin (1809-1882) achieved this, when he explained natural selection. Today, nobody (well, nobody serious) doubts that evolution by natural selection occurs; it is the unifying theory of all biology. In the famous words of Theodosius Dobzhansky, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (1973). There are some who maintain that natural selection is not the only mechanism operating, and there are debates about the importance of saltation and so on, though in my mind these are mostly empty or, at best, the deeply muddled results of semantic confusion.

Studies in Evolution

No time for that … my essay is due tomorrow


 Peripatus Home Page pix1Black.gif (807 bytes) Evolution

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