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Evidence for Evolution - Artificial Selection
Once upon a time I was a creationist indoctrinated to believe that not only was evolution in conflict with Christianity but that the whole thing was a grand hoax. I was taught that a conspiracy of scientists and godless men in power to keep our true spiritual nature a secret to 'suppress the truth in unrighteousness'. What I didn't understand was that not only was evolution a well-established fact backed by evidence but that in our everyday experience we come in contact with simple evidences for evolution that we all take for granted.
In this hub I want to talk about one such piece of evidence and explain why denial of evolution makes absolutely no sense in light of the facts not just within biology but of human history as well.
What is Artificial Selection?
Artificial Selection, or selective breeding, is the process by which human beings drive evolution to their advantage by breeding plants and animals to have certain traits which we deem more desirable than others. In other words human beings choose which individuals of a species get to pass on their traits and which ones are left by the wayside leading to plants and animals that are the way they are due to intentional human interference. A common example is the various breeds of dog that human beings have helped to shape. The emergence of dog breeds has taken thousands of years going back to a time when human beings domesticated wolves.
Some creationists will argue that dogs don't count because they are still a subspecies of wolves however this is irrelevant, it's a red herring, because the principle by which dog breeds are derived could, given long enough, create completely different species that cannot interbreed. This is what creationists refer to as the microevolution-macroevolution divide however this divide simply does not exist and no creationist has ever given a mechanism, natural or otherwise, to explain the impossibility of macroevolution when microevolution is so readily apparent. Despite this some will still reject evolution despite the proof of it being in all the aisles at the grocery store.
What do I mean? Well virtually any plant or animal product you purchase at your local market has been edited by human beings over the last few millenia. Animal husbandry and agriculture have allowed us to selectively breed the animals and plants we use for food and alter them irrevocably. This is why there is a distinction between dairy cows and cows used mainly for meat. If creationists are so concerned with and disgusted by evolution they should stop going to the grocery store because all around them is the proof they pretend doesn't exist.
Let's Get Corny
Corn is another vegetable that human beings have changed over the centuries. Originally bred by the Native Americans Corn, a form of grain, used to have only one inch cobs. Through artificial selection over the course of thousands of years Native Americans grew dozens of types of corn (or maize).
This means that every time a creationist bites into some delicious juicy corn on the cob they are biting into a piece of evidence for evolution. While hardcore believers might get away with denying the existence of transitional fossils it would be impossible and downright silly for them to deny the existence of transitional forms of corn and try to say that the corn they eat today is identical to the corn the natives originally cultivated.
Thus not only is evolution a scientific biological fact but it has also played a key role in the history and growth of human society. Without agriculture and raising livestock and the creation of specialized breeds for specific purposes civilizations would never have boomed in such a way and we would not be able to feed such massive populations. The basic fact of biological evolution is not in debate or controversial and the science behind the basic mechanisms of evolution is completely settled. There is no controversy for us to teach our children and no fight between creation and evolution, because creation has already lost to the facts.
Evolution by Natural Selection
Many creationists will stupidly complain that artificial selection is not the same thing because it is guided by intelligence. They will argue that if anything artificial selection proves that God is the guiding force in the origin of species because God is an intelligent being like we are. So proving that evolution by intelligence exists isn't proof of evolution, creationists would claim. However they are missing the point entirely. If the natural mechanisms for evolution were not already in place artificial selection would not work.
By its very function artificial selection presupposes natural selection as human beings recreate the function of environmental pressures, predation, genetic isolation, and other factors in the way evolution works in the wild. If a human being can select for traits to get desired results than nature can select for traits quite randomly and get the sort of results we actually see in the natural world around us. Heredity is a big part of the way evolution works as are environmental pressures. If something in the natural environment of a species changes than those with traits that suit survival in that newly changed environment will pass on their traits and those unsuited will not have a chance to breed (at least not as often).
Whether it is guided by the hand of man or not is irrelevant, the mechanisms are there and are, at this point, undeniable. We have been studying evolution for more than a century but unwittingly we have been active participants in it for thousands and thousands of years.
There is no barrier between micro and macro evolution and similarly there is no big difference between artificial and natural selection both are functions of the same principles and the same biological mechanisms and both of them have an abundance of evidence supporting them. All it takes to recognize this is a willingness to do so and a middle school level understanding of biology.
I can understand the resistance to evolution, for I myself was convinced by a combination of indoctrination and self-deception that evolution just HAD TO BE wrong. But I assure those who do decide to question their beliefs that the rewards outweigh the risks and understanding yourself to be part of nature, of a great unbroken web of life, is just as rewarding as the myths of any religion.
There is nothing to fear from evolution and the evidence for it is everywhere.