What Evolution Isn't
Untangling the Misconceptions About Evolution
Some people in America have a lot of erroneous ideas about what Evolution is. They think it's a religion, an ideology, a moral judgment, or an evil plot to turn them away from God.
Well, evolution is none of those things and through this page I hope to show some of what evolution isn't and explore why it seems like so many conservative Christians have such hatred for this one particular scientific theory.
Share Your Stance on Evolution
Which of the following best describes your position?
Evolution is Not a Philosophy, Not a Belief System, nor a Moral Code: Evolution is Just a Natural Process
Science is Based on Empirical Observations
Evolution is just a process by which change occurs in nature. The process of evolution was deduced by interpretation of evidence that holds up to empirical scrutiny. Evolution is like many other natural processes which are deduced by interpretation of evidence. A couple of other processes we have deduced from evidence found in the natural world are erosion and eutrophication.
Evolution has no moral bias, any more than erosion or eutrophication do. Evolution is an explanation of a process which takes nothing into account but the physical evidence and only that evidence which holds up to careful scrutiny. The process by which scientific theories are arrived at and supported has much in common with crime scene investigation. Data surrounding the thing being investigated is collected and examined as scientists compare it to other known quantities and try to puzzle out how the event happened. Any evidence which doesn't hold up to rigorous empirical investigation is discarded.
The theory of evolution is a similar set of deductions used to postulate what may have happened to cause the existence of myriad life forms on our planet. Like a crime scene investigation, none of the evidence was purposely left for the investigators. In the case of evolution, the events or circumstances happened so long ago and on such a slow scale that by the time we began investigating it, much of the evidence was dust. Our "crime scene" was old, contaminated, and had millennia of wear and tear before we even realized we ought to be looking at it.
A group of crime scene investigators might not piece together the exact story of what happened with 100% accuracy. Perhaps Mrs. Potter didn't kill her husband with a napkin holder in the basement and stuff him in a dryer, maybe he wasn't dead when she stuffed him in the dryer but died inside it of the wounds Mrs. Potter inflicted with a napkin holder. However, the basic facts are correct - it was Mrs. Potter who killed Mr. Potter and she did use a napkin holder to fatally wound him and did stuff him in a clothes dryer. The same lack of 100 percent accuracy of every tiny detail that may have occurred applies to the natural scientists that have pieced together and interpreted the evidence to suggest evolution via mutation and natural selection over the course of millions of years. However, neither group would "take the case to trial" if the evidence wasn't compelling.
My point is that evolution isn't a philosophy, it isn't a religion, it isn't a disproof of the existence of God; it has no moral bias. Evolution doesn't make people into atheists any more than climate changes, global warming, or sedimentation do. Evolution is simply a reasonable, scientific deduction based on analysis of the evidence available. I have no understanding why people have chosen to feel threatened by evolution - it's as bizarre as feeling threatened by erosion or euthrophication or any other natural process.
More Reading on Darwin and Evolution
The original book about evolution. If you haven't read this book, maybe you ought not to have an opinion on evolution.
Evolution is Not The Same as Social Darwinism
Misuse of Darwin's Name Created the Confusion
There seems to be some confusion, especially in the conservative Christian community, between the Theory of Evolution and Social Darwinism.
"Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" which came out in 2008 was a film created to arouse anti-science and anti-evolution sentiments among viewers. To that end the film purposely confused the meaning of Social Darwinism and the Theory of Evolution implying that the Theory of Evolution caused the Holocaust and created communism. The writers of "Expelled" didn't come up with the idea that the Theory of Evolution and Social Darwinism were one and the same. That particular misconception has existed for some time and some natural confusion is completely understandable. However, they used and built upon the misconception for their own purposes.
The confusion about Social Darwinism and The Theory of Evolution is so common that many people repeat the misconception innocently and thus spread misinformation.
Charles Darwin was the writer of "On the Origin of Species" and is considered the father of the Theory of Evolution via natural selection. When his name was applied to the elitist ideology, Social Darwinism, the confusion began.
Social Darwinism is an ideology which holds that competition between human beings drives social evolution in that humanity improves as the strong reproduce and the weak die off. Rich and powerful people have used Social Darwinism to support the idea that the social elite are inherently better and that it is their natural place in the order of things to flourish by stepping on the weak and powerless.
Social Darwinism is actually a misnomer; Charles Darwin himself did not support the ideas behind the ideology, holding that principles of natural selection resulting in fitter offspring should not apply or be applied to human beings. Darwin outright stated that it was man's responsibility to care for weaker members of society and that we have evolved feelings of sympathy to that end.
The Social Darwinism movement also substantially predates the publication of Darwin's treatise - "On the Origin of Species." It wasn't given the name Social Darwinism until much later when key words used to describe natural selection such as "survival of the fittest" struck a chord in those who followed the ideology. It would more properly be called Social Spencerism after Herbert Spencer, the person who published his theories on a natural origin for inequality of the social classes about eight years before Darwin's theory hit print.
The Theory of Evolution is a scientific theory regarding the origin of the myriad of species of life on earth via process of natural selection. The Theory of Evolution is a description of a natural process. It isn't a moral judgment; it's a description of natural forces and probable events as interpreted by scientists.
Social Darwinism bears as much relation to the Theory of Evolution as child molestation bears to making love. Social Darwinism is a perversion. Or you could say Social Darwinism bears as much in common with the theory of evolution as the message of Christ bears to the Spanish Inquisition.
Believing in evolution does not conflict with believing in God. This book explains why.
Polls Show The Vast Majority of Scientists Accept Evolution - No Matter What Religion They Believe or Don't Believe
It seems many people are unaware that people can both believe in God or Gods and accept evolution as a sound theory. But surveys show that scientists, many of them quite religious, overwhelmingly accept evolution.
- Level of Support for Evolution
A detailed examination of the acceptance of evolution including the level of acceptance of evolution among scientists.
- U.S. Public opinion polls on evolution & creation science
Contrasts the 99.86% of American earth and life scientists who accept evolution with the majority of the American public who don't.
- Claim CA111: Many scientists reject evolution and support creationism.
Refutes the idea that "many" scientists reject evolution. Actual figures from polls indicate less than five percent of scientists reject evolution and support creationism.
What Makes Us Human? - Divine Nature or Ourselves?
Some believe that if man evolved rather than being created it would negate our humanity. They believe that we would have no basis for morality if we evolved and were not created. What do you think?
If evolution happened and happens does it make man less human and special than if he were created by an outside force?
Yes, it is because we were created in God's image that we are human and thus contain some of the divine.
Why I Think Some Christian Fundamentalists Hate the Theory of Evolution but Not Other Scientific Facts
What do some fundamentalist Christians and some other religious fundamentalists have against the theory of evolution? Why do they seem so upset by the very idea of evolution?
Evolutionary theory contradicts the literal story of Genesis as found in the Bible. However, a lot of scientific knowledge contradicts parts of the Bible. For some reason, scientific knowledge or facts which contradict literal interpretations of parts of the Bible other than those in contradiction to Genesis in particular simply don't fall under fundamentalist Christian fire.
The Theory of Evolution evokes extreme emotions in some fundamentalist Christians and some other religious fundamentalists for some reason. They openly express disdain, fear and outright hatred of everything to do with the Theory of Evolution.
Some fundamentalist Christians in America feel so strongly about the Theory of Evolution that they throw fortunes at getting it stricken from existence. The Christian Right in America lobbies aggressively to get evolution removed from public school curricula. Fundamentalist Christians have even created "Creation Museums" to counter the theory of Evolution at the cost of millions of dollars. The Christian Right in America is very upset with the Theory of Evolution.
So why do some fundamentalist Christians feel threatened by that particular theory - evolution - but not by other scientific theories of natural processes such as erosion, eutrophication, or genetics? Why aren't they laughing at people and calling them stupid for accepting the theory of plate tectonics, too? Why don't any fundamentalist Christians attack people for accepting geometry, geology, meteorology, and chemistry?
Why are fundamentalist Christians so focused on only those scientific schools of thought which contain elements contradictory to the literal interpretation of Genesis but not those which contain elements contradictory to other portions of the Bible?
My theory is that the book of Genesis deals with the nature of man himself and the nature of life. It defines man as a divine being created in God's image and sets him above all other thing excepting God himself. The Genesis story in the Bible leads to the idea of man possessing a soul, given to him by God.
The Theory of Evolution places humanity as part of the world which gave him life and identifies mankind as a species of animals. That is counter to the nature of man described in Genesis.
People have strong emotional feelings about the divine nature of man, made in God's image. If pi is a tiny bit larger than exactly three or if science shows that the world has never been covered by a global flood, nothing about the nature of man is called into question.
So, in my opinion, it all boils down to self-image. Anything that threatens long-held ideas of self-image will tend to create a strong emotional impact and create a backlash, much as the Theory of Evolution has among fundamentalist Christians and other religious fundamentalists.
Weigh in with Your Opinion on Evolution!
The Theory of Evolution says nothing about the origin of life, only the origin of variation between species. Keeping that in mind, how would you answer?
Do you accept evolution as a valid scientific theory as to why so many varied species of life exist on earth?
Evolution isn't the strict bipolar issue many American Christians make it out to be. There are thousands more options of belief than just believe in literal Biblical creation or think evolution happened. There are not only thousands of other beliefs to be found in the creation stories of other religions and cultures but there's also the option most Christians worldwide use- belief in God plus the acknowledgment of evolution.
Should Schools Be Required to Teach Biblical Creation As an Alternative to Evolution in Science Classes?
I find it strange that people think evolution is meant to disprove God's existence. Evolutionary theory says nothing about God. Additionally, wouldn't an all-knowing, all-powerful God be able to create the universe with a beautiful and elegant set of laws that would ultimately result in whatever He wanted them to? To me, that seems far more awe-inspiring than a being working outside the natural laws He created to create life on earth.
Learn why Intelligent Design is not the same thing as evolution and why it isn't actually a scientific theory but a religious belief.
Teaching About Evolution in Schools
Does Teaching About Evolution in Schools Cause Kids to Become Atheists?