The Theory of Evolution

Scientists recently uncovered a fossil of a Homo erectus scull in current day Georgia (Asia). This discovery provides new clues into how humans developed. It suggests that a single species of Homo erectus left Africa and populated the globe. Homo erectus is the first species in the genus homo, which is believed to have evolved into Homo sapiens, the scientific name for the human species.

The theory of evolution centers on the basic premise that through random genetic mutation, natural selection, and hundreds of thousands of years of breeding, one species will “evolve” into a different species. Thus, all plants and animals are related through a common ancestor. It was developed by Darwin in his book The Origin of Species. While the theory is widely accepted in the scientific community, it is not without its flaws.

One flaw that is still being worked out by modern evolutionary theory (as opposed to true Darwinian evolution) is the idea of irreducible complexity. Because evolution relies on small changes aggregated over time, it is difficult to explain how a creature could evolve systems where every part is integral to the functioning of the whole. The classic example is the mousetrap: a base, hammer, spring, catch, and holding bar. If any one of these is removed, the mousetrap ceases to function.

The human heart is an example of an irreducibly complex system in nature, and there are many other organisms that fit the description. Darwin himself admitted that this poses a serious problem with the theory. One possible solution being proposed is that while the mousetrap may be irreducibly complex, the parts might be able to serve other functions. This would mean that evolutionary traits could serve as double roles, with simple traits combining to serve an entirely new function.

Another flaw is that humans seem to have stopped evolving. There are certainly some human genetic mutations that seem suited to the idea of natural selection. Natural selection is when a trait that is beneficial for survival and reproduction propagates. For example, take a situation where most moths of a species are brown, but some are albino. Normally, the brown moths will have better chances of survival in a forest. If the climate changes and there is an ice age, however, then suddenly the albino moths have a survival advantage. Then, as they pass down the albino gene to their children, the albino moth becomes the rule as opposed to the exception.

An example of a human genetic trait that exhibits this behavior is sickle cell anemia. While the genetic trait is usually maladaptive, it is beneficial in making a person immune from malaria. It has been observed that areas with high levels of malaria have a higher instance of sickle cell anemia. However, such genetic variation is not enough to create a whole new species, just like a St. Bernard and a Chihuahua are still both dogs.

On a more existential level, it is possible for everything in the world to have been created as is at any moment in history. Imagine that you wake up in the morning, and the universe just poofs into existence. It just so happens that when you woke up, you were created with all the memories of a past implanted in your brain. This idea is based on sensory limitations on empiricism. Only the present is observable. So, at any given moment in the empirical sense, the past and future do not exist. They are assumed to exist based on the physical properties of the present and the faculty of memory. This assumption can never be empirically proven, nor is it logically self-evident. Really, the main reason that we believe the past actually happened is because we intuitively rely on the accuracy of our perception. In any case, the assumption has helped us survive for this long.

 

Podcast – Evolution – The Adam Goldfein Show – Hour 1

Podcast – Evolution – The Adam Goldfein Show – Hour 2

 

 

Additional Resources:

The Wall Street Journal, Skull Suggests Single Human Species Emerged From Africa, Not Several: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304384104579141600675336982

How Stuff Works, How Intelligent Design Works: http://people.howstuffworks.com/intelligent-design.htm

Exploring Constitutional Conflicts, The Evolution Controversy: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/evolution.htm

Literature, The Origin of Species: http://www.literature.org/authors/darwin-charles/the-origin-of-species/index.html

All About Science, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution: http://www.darwins-theory-of-evolution.com/

Institute for Creation Research, Nature Reveals God’s Presence: http://www.icr.org/presence-of-God/

Advancing Science Serving Society, Q & A on Evolution and Intelligent Design: http://www.aaas.org/news/press_room/evolution/qanda.shtml

Scitable, Natural Selection: http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/natural-selection-uncovering-mechanisms-of-evolutionary-adaptation-34539

Stephen Hawking, Life in the Universe: http://www.hawking.org.uk/life-in-the-universe.html

Gallup, Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design: http://www.gallup.com/poll/21814/evolution-creationism-intelligent-design.aspx

The Scientist, Are Mutations Truly Random? http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/27910/title/Are-mutations-truly-random-/

The Huffington Post, Gay Men Have Evolutionary Benefit for Their Families, New Research Suggests: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/12/why-are-there-gay-men_n_1590501.html

 

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