Some people are not convinced of evolutionary biology. I believe that the reasons for this have nothing to do with evidence or theory. The reason is because most of us need meaning, purpose and moral guidance in our lives. The real issue is that people seem to think it’s impossible to find these things if we accept that evolution is the real story of our origin. It is also assumed by many that if our origins are traced back to a purposeless and materialistic force such as evolution by means of natural selection, then our lives therefore have no purpose, and without creation we have no morals. It is suggested that if we accept the laws of evolution as fact, then nothing is stopping us from behaving like primal beasts (although it could be strongly argued that we already do).
The very people that believe this belong to the same group of people that have convinced our society (or propagated the belief) that there is a lack of evidence and that evolution is an unproven ‘theory’ (by the way, the definition of a ‘scientific theory’ is much different than the every day usage of the word, for example gravity, germs and atoms are all theories). A small group of young-earth creationists have somehow convinced a large amount of western society that evolutionary biology is a farce, and to top it off, that various evidence has been forged.
The truth is, evolution is a fact, although it will likely continue to be disputed for centuries to come anyway, solely due to religious pressures. Hundreds of independent scientific societies around the world have looked at evidence from many areas, including but not limited to: the fossil record, biogeography, embryology, vestigial structures, suboptimal design, and so on. In every single tested prediction, experiment, or analysis (and there have been millions) every single shred of evidence has supported evolution.
We’ve seen new species form, both in the fossil record and in real time. Scientists have found transitional forms between major groups, such as whales and land mammals.
“Through evolutionary biology we can predict where fossils will be found (take Darwin’s prediction that human ancestors would be found in Africa), we can predict when common ancestors would appear (for example, the discovery of the ‘fishapod’ Tiktaalik in 370-million year old rocks), and we can predict what those ancestors should look like before we find them. Scientists predicted that they would find fossils of marsupials in antarctica, and they did. We can also predict that if we find an animal species in which males are brightly colored and females are not, that the species will have a polygynous mating system.
Every day hundreds of observations and experiments pour into the hopper of the scientific literature. And every fact that has anything to do with evolution confirms its truth. Every fossil that we find, every DNA molecule that we sequence, every organ system that we dissect supports the idea that species evolved from common ancestors. Despite innumerable possible observations that could prove evolution untrue, we don’t have a single one. We don’t find mammals in precambrian rocks, humans in the same layers as dinosaurs, or any other fossil out of evolutionary order. DNA sequencing supports the evolutionary relationships of species originally deduced from the fossil record and, as natural selection predicts, we find no species with adaptations that benefit only a different species. We do find dead genes and vestigial organs, incomprehensible under the idea of special creation. Despite a million chances to be wrong, evolution always comes up right. That is as close as we can get to scientific truth.”
- Jerry A. Coyne, Ph. D., Professor at the University of Chicago, Author of “Why Evolution is True”
Evolution has been tested and proven from many different angles, but the most compelling section of the evidence has to be the fossil record. When the majority of people are shown this evidence (i.e. transitionary fossils demonstrating whales ancestors being 4-legged land mammals), they are convinced and usually have little problem agreeing. The real problem is when the evolution of humans is mentioned. People like to think that we are superior to all other animals and that, although maybe other animals evolved over millions of years, humans were specially created. The idea that humans evolved along with every other species has been around since the 1700s. Obviously it was met with huge backlash. Still, for hundreds of years the theory was developed, and more and more evidence would pile up supporting that humans evolved. Most people having an ‘I have to see it to believe it’ attitude did not accept it, until 1924 when Raymond Dart discovered a human transitional fossil in africa (as predicted). What he discovered was australopithecus africanus, a species that resembled a human with ape-like features. within the next 70 years, more were found. The oldest being about 3.5 million years old, a species almost entirely ‘chimp-like’ but with human-like legs for walking bipedally (try to picture an ape walking upright like a human). As evolutionary order would follow, more fossils very clearly demonstrate the evolution of humans.
If you ask me, evolution is not just fact, it is also the amazing connection between us and nature. It shows that we are all related, not just to other humans but to other animals, plants and the earth. Evolution over such vast amounts of time have molded our brains to be so complex that we are capable of doing almost anything. It has made us the only known species so developed that we can actually understand the laws of nature that govern us.