I'm new to this group but I thought that I'd start a discussion about something that seems to come up rather regularly. And that of course is evolution. The thing that seems to come up so often with creationists are the unfounded, misconceived and often just plain ridiculous statements that they seem to pass off as facts without ever having to provide any evidence for what they say. While I don't agree that evolutionists should be expected to provide the evidence and answers to such ridiculous claims, it seems apparent that the misinformation that seems to spread like wildfire by creationists make it impossible to do otherwise. And I know that having discussions about this subject, (unless you are a microbiologist, geologist or any other number of scientist) can be frustrating to come up with all of the relevant information that most skeptics require from us. So I thought that I’d go over a couple choice quotes that I hear more often than others.
It’s not proven, it’s still just a theory.
Why it’s called the Theory of evolution:
There are in fact several definitions for the word theory, but these are the two that are relevant to the question are these two respectively (from the Oxford English Dictionary)
1- A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accept as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed. (italics added)
2- A hypothesis proposed as an explanation; hence, a mere hypothesis, speculation, conjecture, an idea or set of ideas about something; an individual view or notion.
It’s commonly and mistakenly viewed that in the Theory of Evolution ‘theory’ is defined as the second definition. But actually it is the first! Like the Heliocentric Theory of the Solar System (the theory that the Earth and other planets orbit around the sun) the Theory of Evolution is a theory only in a sense that it is a confirmed hypothesis established by experiment. So why call it the “Theory of Evolution”? Why not instead call it the “Established facts and general laws and principles of Evolution?” Well aside from the fact that it’s much longer, the fact is that theory in the sense of the second definition is unnecessary in the scientific community. Why? Because science already uses another word- hypothesis! In life as well as in science it is vitally important to understand the semantics and uses of the vocabulary in order to grasp fully the meaning behind them. And the meaning of the Theory of Evolution is that it is established as general principle.
Now for the second most common (quite ridiculous) question:
Why aren't chimpanzees evolving into humans?
Frankly the simplest answer is because they aren’t human, they’re chimpanzees! The common misconception is that we evolved from chimps, which isn’t true at all. We both (humans and chimpanzees) share a common ancestor from which we both evolved from. Humans being the state today of one of those strains and chimpanzees being the other. This is something I hear quite a bit from creationists. This question alone shows very much the lack of understanding of evolution and what it’s principles are. While there is more I could go into about this particular question I’m afraid it would turn this discussion into a short novel >./p>
Where are all the fossils? Why the gaps?
Another common “zinger” that creationists bring up are “gaps” that are prevalent within the library of fossils we have in the world. Honestly the fact that we have any fossils is a small scientific wonder considering the conditions that are needed for fossilization. Variables like the weather conditions, the type of rock, to the hemisphere to the type of material being fossilized. (It’s a surprising that we have as many fossils of life without bones structures as we do!) It’s only natural that not all of the remnants of the animals have survived as long the age of time. Gaps are indeed natural and occur often, but like a detective at a crime scene, we don’t need the murderer at the murder scene to determine what happened. DNA evidence, modern species observation and experiments, isotope dating (such as carbon dating), and numerous other factors and bits of evidence allow scientists to determine much, even without fossils! In fact the fossils are an added bonus if anything! And a great bonus they are, with fossils being discovered all the time. (although some of the more commonly found fossils don’t make the front page) While it’s true that some fossils lack some of their parts, there are many many cases in which we not only find the entire skeleton, but also part of skin, fur, and even the last meal! There is in fact a wealth of fossils around the world that number into the hundreds of thousands. Some are complete, some have missing parts, all are a great value and excellent evidence of evolution. Each new fossil, complete or not provides more and more information about the various species and the times in which they lived.
Isotope dating (carbon dating) is inaccurate the further back you go.
The isotope dating system is a wonderful tool that science has used often because of its accuracy since it was first used back in the 1950’s. For those unfamiliar with it (which might be most creationists that use it as an argument) isotope dating works like this (in a nutshell): Vulcanized rock contains traces of various elements like argon or carbon. Now stay with me, I know that high school physics and chemistry may have been a while ago but I won’t go into all of the math of it just the basics of what happens. Each element decays it turns into another element, for example Carbon-14 decays into Nitrogen-14, and science uses this decay as a clock, the half-life clock. The measured time of decay (or half life) of the elements is very precise actually, with only a marginal amount of error. And the half-life of each element is different. Some are shorter such as Carbon-14 which has a half-life of only 5,730 years approximately. Others like Thorium-232 have a half-life of 14 billion years! But despite the time difference of the two, the decay of elements has been proven to be a reliable clock for the entire science community for well over 60 years! Now as I mentioned, there is always a margin of error, but this comes with understanding that the error in relation to a time period of billion years would be only a few million years or so. In perspective to a billion years the margin of error is as acceptable as the margin for error of a 1000 years is a few hundred. Science has been able to use the isotope dating system to give them the time periods of the geological strata that have scientists have known about for a great many years. Strata like the Jurassic and Cretaceous now are put into an accurate time scale with the age of the Earth thanks to isotope dating. The dating tools that we have been tested and tried by many in the science community for over a long period of time. What’s more, the fossils that are found in each geological stratum have remained constant in the time frame without any anachronism recorded yet ! This means that the consistency of the dating system with the evolutionary data is the same all over the world as we find new fossils of similar evolutionary states. If this doesn’t point towards congruent data I don’t know what does!
And before this gets too long the most common question:
Where is your evidence?
I hear this one more than any question. Where IS the evidence? Well, we have it in every area of science you can think of. In genetics the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, In microbiology they are still holding experiments testing the evolution by natural selection of viruses and bacteria, solid evidence that evolution is fact, not fiction. In geology, archeology, chemistry, from every faction of science there is overwhelming evidence. Each year the mountain of evidence is piling on and on. Go to any museum, read any of the numerous materials that comes out each year after years of scrupulous refinement and experiments from men and women that dedicate their lives gain an understanding of this wonderful ‘Theory’.
Plainly the evidence is only there if you’re willing to be patient and understand what many of us have been trying to explain for years.
said in all deer in the headlights of a TBM:
All your so-called evidence is only a theory. I KNOW what is true.
My biggest peeve apart from the theory/hypothesis thing, is Abiogenesis being lumped in with Evolution. Evolution studies biological changes to living things through the ages. Abiogenesis is a different branch of biology.
yeah, I have heard that mistake made, although not so often from creationists. Mainly just undergrads (sigh).
As if those who rely on faith should have any qualms about lack of evidence. We have infinitely more evidence supporting our position than Creationists do anyway.