It amazes me sometimes the little people know about the theory of evolution, so today I would like to clear up a few things and explain why it is universally accepted by professionals and even religious leaders. There are a lot of misconceptions about the theory of evolution and yes if you believe in the misconceptions then the theory can seem ridiculous but there is nothing empirically ridiculous about it.
Charles Darwin is the father of this theory – there may have been earlier attempts at describing it but Charles is the best known with his book “On the origin of the species” or its first published title “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” Charles Darwin travelled to the Galapagos islands during the Beagle expedition in the 1830’s and there he gathered information for his future book by studying the wildlife on the island. Two of the big things he noticed involved the local Tortoises and Finches. He noticed on two different islands there existed the same species of Finch but the Finches on one island had some anatomical differences to the Finches on the other island. He found that the Finches on the island where the food source was primarily insects and bugs had smaller and pointier beaks perfectly adapted for eating the food source. Whilst the Finches on the other island had bigger and more claw like beaks which were perfect for eating fruit and hard nuts. The same was found with the Tortoises with one type of the Tortoise having a curve in the hood of its shell allowing its neck to reach higher for eating food from branches and bushes etc. The other Tortoise did not have this curve and was found to eat whatever was on the ground. These small differences in the same species of animal put it in his head that they would have had to adapt to their surroundings. More study followed back home in England and in 1859 he published his masterpiece which still holds up today and has been proven to a certainty.
I guess now is as good of a time as any to establish and correct the first misconception. Theory – Like a lot of words in the english dictionary it has several meanings that are contextually relevant.
- The Universal Genetic code – All cells on Earth from white blood cells to bacteria to the cells of the leaves in trees are able to read any piece of DNA from any life form on Earth. Very strong evidence for a common ancestor for all life on earth.
- The fossil record – All fossils seem to show a gradual increase in complexity with the simplest forms of life often being found at the deepest levels of soil and a gradual increase as you go higher in the soil samples.
- Genetic Commonalities – Human beings share 96% of our DNA with Chimpanzees, 90% cats, 80% cows and 75% in common with mice. This is another strong indicator of a common ancestor.
- Common Traits in embryos – Humans, dogs, snakes, fish, monkeys, eels and many more life forms are all considered ‘Chordates’ because we all belong to the phylum Chordata. One of the features of the phylum is that, as embryos, all of these life forms have gill slits, tails and other anatomical structures involving the spine. For humans (and other non fish) the gill slits reform into the bones of the ear and jaw at a later stage of development. However in embryo all chordate embryos strongly resemble each other.
- Bacterial resistance – Ever wonder why we haven’t cured the common cold yet. Evolution. Bacteria evolve to withstand the drugs we use to kill them. Effectively when an antibiotic is taken it will usually kill most of the bacteria but not always all. What is left is the strongest bacteria that survived the antibiotic and when this bacteria replicates you begin to get different and stronger strains of the old virus. This happens quite quick and can make many illnesses incurable.