The Fact of Evolution Essay

Submitted By JRoeser
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The Fact of Evolution
Joshua Roeser Evolutionary theory is a topic hotly controverted in today’s society, triggering paradigmatic shifts in fields as diverse as biology and theology. It has raised important questions about education and drawn attention to the boundaries between religion and science. Charles Darwin, father of the theory, posited in 1859 that over hundreds of millions of years, organisms evolved from simple life forms into the complex biological entities seen today (Hubbs 365, Whye). Since his time, masses of evidence have accumulated in favor of evolution, while creationism has vanished from scientific discourse. A 2012 Gallup Poll report indicates that 46% of American citizens believe “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so” (“Evolution”). By contrast, the overwhelming majority of contemporary scientists accept evolution (Hubbs 365). Clearly, any dissension concerning Darwin’s theory is only present amongst laymen. What causes scientists to embrace evolution, and why do so many people reject it? The first point to address is a common misconception concerning the word theory. While many would describe a theory as a hypothesis that may or may not be true, it is actually defined as “systematically organized knowledge… to explain a phenomenon” (Evenson 837). To say that evolution is a theory is not to suggest a degree of uncertainty; evolution is as well-demonstrated as Newton’s Theory of Gravitation or Copernicus’s Heliocentric Theory. The best known evidence for evolution—and the only evidence commonly refuted—is the fossil record. Detractors assail it for its “missing links,” claiming that there are major gaps where one would expect to find intermediate fossils. While it is true that scientists have not unearthed a perfect gradient of life, thousands of missing links have been recovered since the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. More importantly, nothing in the fossil record contradicts evolution. J.B.S. Haldane famously proclaimed that a fossilized rabbit (or any other anachronistic fossil) found in the Precambrian layer of sediment would be adequate to falsify evolution (Dawkins 115). No such fossil has been found; rather, every fossil ever discovered has been exactly where it should be if evolution were true. The consistency of the fossil record lends robust support to evolution. As powerful as this evidence is, it is superfluous: scientists would still be sure of evolution without the fossil record. By comparing the DNA of modern life forms, researchers have put together “a tree of genetic resemblances” to show the relationship organisms have with each other (Dawkins 234). This tree of life is supported by every gene that has ever been studied, and shows that some organisms—chimpanzees and humans, for example—are very closely related; others—such as dogs and cabbages—are very distantly related. On creationism, one would expect no such relationship. Every species would have been created individually, bearing no connection to other life forms. The absence of even a single derivation from the tree of life proves evolution far beyond reasonable doubt. Lastly, one can be sure of evolution because it can be observed happening in a controlled environment. Macroevolution takes vast stretches of time to occur, but bacterial evolution can happen in just decades. The experiments done by Richard Lenski and his colleagues at the Michigan State University tracked the evolution of E. coli