Monday, 10 December 2007

I Don't Believe in Evolution

There, I said it. I don't believe in evolution. At least, in the way that religious types, including creationists and their hideous bastard offspring "Intelligent" Designers, use the word I don't.
And, if you started reading this having linked to it randomly from afar, hoping to read a like-minded rant about how evolution is "only a theory" and how the human eye is too complex to have possibly evolved, then I'm not sorry to disappoint. In fact, keep reading. Only this time, don't take what the person telling you things says at face value, blindly following their every instruction no matter how absurd.

Because nobody has to believe in or have faith in evolution. All you need are eyes, ears and a brain - plus all the necessary interconnections of course. If you can find these then you have all the tools required to understand how every living organism on this planet came to be.  If you have these, there is no reason for you ever to believe things just because louder people tell you to.
Evolution is a hugely mind-expanding concept. The fact that a very simple phenomenon repeated billions of times can lead to such a huge wealth of complexity and beauty is quite humbling. It's almost akin to learning the letters of the alphabet or the numbers 0 to 9 and subsequently discovering the huge variety and joy in language or the emergent beauty in mathematics. Only more so.

The problem is, there are so many lies and half-truths spread about evolution by its opponents, that many people are taken in by them. Here are just a few of the stupidest things:

1. It's "only" a theory.
I'm not sure I even need to respond to this one except to say that all of science is based upon theories and that the word means a damn sight more than the crazies like to think. A scientific theory isn't just something I think up one day whilst tying my shoelaces. That's called an "idea". Scientific theories have to be tested and observations repeated, correlations confirmed and so forth. Then it has to pass through the bear-pit of peer-review and survive accepted and unscathed, or at least only slightly scathed; a bit of scathing can be good for a theory after all.
"Intelligent" Design is an idea. It can never pass beyond this fairy-tale realm because it can never be proved, can never be falsified or confirmed.
If evolution must be thrown out as merely a "theory" the faith-heads have to start living as though gravitation does not happen, as though light does not travel at constant velocity, as though every device of technology built upon scientific research and theories does not, in fact, work.
Sounds fun, doesn't it?

2. Evolution has never been "seen in the lab"
This is a good one, because you only have to read a little bit to find out how stupid this statement is. Every day, bacteria develop resistances to drugs or other agents in the lab. We can change the genes of animals and make weird things happen, weird predictable things.
Outside of the lab, we can observe the effects of evolution, both within and between species, everywhere. There are well documented examples of groups of species with geographical distributions and breeding patterns that would be confounding without the concept of evolution to explain their situation.
Finally, science has predicted the existence of intermediate species - the transitional forms that link one species to the next - and then gone out and dug them up. This is a theory that is being tested every day and that hasn't yet fallen down.

3. The human eye/spleen/testicle/immune system/incredulity mechanism is far too complex to have evolved naturally. It must have been designed.
This one is fun as it is a prime example of the argument from personal incredulity: "I'm too stupid to understand how this could have happened so god must have done it." Well, guess what, you don't have to be the brainiest biologist on the block and actually understand how your ability to be incredulous evolved. All you need is the fundamentals and to be able to grasp what they mean. The really smart guys in the labs - of which I am not one, I am occasionally found in a lab but really smart I am not - can get on with working out the evolutionary pathways and I'll be happy to read their more intelligible articles.
For a start, most of the things the creationists bring up have already been explained, and the others require years of training to fully understand. The human eye is quite a simple thing as evolution goes, and the fact is, if we don't understand a particular mechanism yet we soon will. Science will probably figure it out, it's good like that.

4. Evolution is "random"
People often misrepresent evolution this way and it comes from a fundamental misunderstanding. When a mutation occurs it occurs randomly, it's subsequent selection and proliferation through breeding does not. This is a naturally guided process. Beneficial mutations lead to more successful breeding, damaging ones do not. Evolution cannot help but occur in the presence of environmental pressures. All you need to make the human species is a simple repetitive process and lots and lots of time.

One of the things that angers me most about these misrepresentations is that the people who spread them understand exactly what they are doing. They rely on the general public to absorb and parrot these lies without thinking about them. This needs to stop. It took more than 3 billion years for life to evolve to the point that it can understand these things and it saddens me to see people abandoning their amazing natural gifts in favour of dumb incredulity.


artificialhabitat said...

"It's only a theory"

People who trot this one out are doubly wrong: it isn't even a theory.

If anyone thinks I'm talking nonsense, then kindly tell me exactly what the "theory of evolution" is.

In reality, there are a set of interacting theories which aim to explain the complex and fascinating phenomenon known as evolution.

To (somewhat inaccurately) quote Lewis Black:
"Evolution, is an important thread, in the wider tapestry that I like to call..... REALITY!!"

Get used to it

Harespring said...

Where's the fun in 'reality' for believers? Reality is just exactly what they do not like one little bit. Hence belief. Which shies away from 'reality' like an extremely startled horse called Binky. Mumbo-jumbo - cosy stuff for shiers-away-from-reality, you know it makes sense...

Stephen Bain said...

It's almost as if the more it shies away from reality, the better it is for them...