Some Common Misconceptions about Evolution


When debating creationists, I often find myself continuously repeating myself, or responding to the same questions (as though they really wanted any other answer but God). Like many other bloggers, I have decided to put together a list of common creationist arguments which I find are both annoying and unthoughtful.

One: Chance does not produce complex life.

What is evolution and why is it so important?  Evolution means change through time.  Biological evolution is important because it explains the diversity of life we see today, and without resorting to using magic. “But how?” a creationist might ask. How could life just form itself, by accident, to such levels of complexity?

Evolution is not a thing of chance. I do not know how many times I have had to say this, but I am quite willing to repeat myself for an eternity if I had to. In fact, evolution by means of natural selection is the opposite of that – it is by definition a non-random process.  I shall quickly explain the concept of natural selection. Mutations do randomly occur, but mutations alone cannot and do not drive evolution. Biological evolution is done by natural selection.  Whoa… stop! Natural selection! That means God has to be behind the curtains, right? Wrong. The opposite of random is non-random, not “designed”.  This is how nature selects:

  • A mutation which is beneficial occurs.
  • Said creature therefore has a higher chance of survival in nature.
  • Said creature survives long enough to pass its genes down to future generations.
  • Genetic information is transferred parent to child.

Chance does not produce complex life – I agree with you!  Evolution is non-random, and to call it chance is to miss the essence of the whole concept.

Two: …then why are there still monkeys around?

Humans did not evolve from monkeys. which is exactly why there are still monkeys around. Consult the illustration below.

phillytree

This is the evolutionary tree for primates. Humans and chimpanzees and monkeys and gorillas and orangutans (etc) are all cousins, and we share a common ancestor. We simply took different evolutionary pathways, one which led to humankind, and the other, to monkey…kind.

Three: …show me the intermediate (transitional) fossil!  Where is the missing link™?

Every fossil is presumptively intermediate!  Species continually evolve (until they are extinct).  “Then show me a crocoduck!” a creationist carries on to say.  I have just explained in the section above how humans and monkeys share a common ancestor.  Likewise, crocodiles and ducks share a common ancestor, and we can see why it would not look like a half-croc half-duck – so there is no crocoduck to be found!

 crocoduck

When we point out an intermediate fossil, a creationist would continue to ask for another fossil between the intermediates – and one can see that this is fruitless and there is no way that the “evilutionist” could win; fossils are not easy to come by (but yes, we do have an awful lot of them).  Keeping that in mind, evolution would still be true even without the gift of fossils, for the true evidence lies in the field of DNA.

In conclusion, every fossil is an intermediate fossil. Crocoducks do not exist.

Four: So why didn’t humans evolve wings?

Say what? Wings? But why should we?

Yes, I admit, it would be cool if we had wings, unfortunately we don’t – birds do. The evolutionary path which we blindly took did not favour wings. By “blindly”, I mean that nature has no foresight. It does not look ahead and think to itself “hey, a wing would look cool on these chaps”.  I hereby introduce you to the concept of the evolutionary arms race, wherein all creatures on earth continually race to evolve, in order to survive. If eagles evolve wings enabling greater velocity, then its prays had better evolve faster legs and quick, otherwise they would be extinct (and I should like to mention that 99% of all creatures that have lived are extinct).

So why didn’t humans evolve wings?  Simply because we didn’t need them in order to survive, under whatever conditions we were faced with.  While birds evolved wings, we evolved brains. Having wings would be cool, but also it would cost a lot of energy to keep, and so it was not beneficial for our survival as a species.

Five: Microevolution is possible, but there is no evidence for macroevolution.

Let me start off by defining the two terms. Microevolution is about small changes over short timescales.  Macroevolution is evolution over long (to very long) periods, resulting in speciation. Be reminded that there is no other difference between micro- and macroevolution.

Okay, first thing’s first.  Small changes add up over time. What a surprise!  Keep doing 1+1+1+1+.. for a few million years and tell me if you end up with a big number.  “But how would you know that the small changes won’t slow down and/or stop?” The evolutionary arms race continues. If the other creature evolves, you must as well. Trees fight among themselves for sunlight, if one stops, one’s opponent would rise above it, casting selfishly its mighty shadow. “Then why haven’t trees grown up all the way to heaven?”  Evolution must be cost-efficient. There comes a time when it would be too costly to grow any further – such is the end of an evolutionary road.

Six: Scientists have proven it to be wrong.

The theory of evolution came about 150 years ago.  Darwin was right in many things, but he was certainly not flawless.  For some reason, whenever scientists find a fault in Darwin’s understanding of evolution, the creationists jump up and say “See? Evolution is a lie!”  Our concept on evolution has improved a lot in the past century; Darwin didn’t have many fossils to work with, now we have an abundance of them.  Genetics was not Darwin’s forte; yet it all proves true. Wherever Darwin fails, new hypotheses are made and tested. Evolution still holds true. 

While I’m here, I would also like to point out that evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy, in closed or isolated systems, only increases and cannot decrease. This law applies to closed systems.  Such is certainly not the case for biological evolution, for which the sun provides all the energy that is needed.

Seven: It’s only a theory.

Yes, it is. Evolution is a theory, however it is not theory in the everyday sense that means an idea or a guess.  What is a scientific theory?  My dictionary says: “A well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena”.

Scientists know that genetic change through time is a fact. There are many observed instances of both microevolution and speciation in labs and in nature.  On the other hand, evolutionary theory explores in detail the key ingredients driving evolution, which we now know as natural selection and genetic drift.

Finally, I have to mention that the theory of evolution only deals with the change and development of species through time. For answers to questions such as “How did the first living cell form itself?”, see abiogenesis.  By all means, do remember the good word of Dawkins, that:

Science is unique in that it does base itself upon evidence rather than upon superstition, upon authority, upon holy books or upon revelation”.

~ Tim

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