|Peripatus Home Page Evolution||Updated: 21-Sep-2018|
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, concocted by illiterate nomads, lacks 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 this is what evolution means.
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.
‘Descent with modification’ 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).
Evolution by natural selection leads to improved adaptation: not to perfection. There is an old joke about two explorers suddenly confronted by a lion. One says, resignedly, that there is no point in running, because the lion can easily outrun both of them. But the other, who has already taken to his heels, shouts back over his shoulder, “I don’t need to outrun the lion. I only need to outrun you.”
And that is how that works. To obtain an advantage, one does not need to be perfect; only better than the ‘competition’.
|Peripatus Home Page Evolution|
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