This I Believe

Lefty - Fairborn, Ohio
Entered on April 11, 2007

EVOLVE ALREADY!

I believe in science. I can barely even begin to express the overwhelming buzz I’ve experienced countless times when a scientific revelation lights up my brain’s proverbial light bulb. In the simplest possible terms, science helps me understand reality, and the method by which it does this, the scientific method, is a such a breath-takingly perfect system it moves some to tears. State the problem, formulate a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, collect data, and state your conclusion. Maybe God didn’t need such a method to construct the universe, but the rest of us certainly do to make any sense of it, and why shouldn’t we try? After all, if one believes in God, surely one must also believe it was no accident that God endowed us with a reasoning mind. A mind capable of learning, growing, evolving. Science’s only limitations may be human doubt, and our inability to let imagination rule the day as the limitless entity it is. Indeed Einstein, history’s greatest scientist, set our understanding of reality ablaze not because he was an exceptionally gifted mathematician, but because he was an exceptionally gifted imaginatician. Einstein, by his own admission, had the uncanny ability to trust his intuition and reasoning faculties. And his greatest contribution to science came to him as if in a vision while he was busily day-dreaming away an afternoon. He caught a glimpse of something elegantly beautiful that day, something revealing the underlying infinity and interconnectedness of the universe. Sound like new age hooey? Try quantum mechanics, an astoundingly crazy sounding scientific theory that has been proven repeatedly in laboratory settings for the last 50 years.

I also believe in evolution. Not because I want to attend a nudist Pagan ritualistic orgy in France next month, but because evolution makes sense to me. Evolution is elegant, it’s beautiful, it’s intuitively reasonable. In short, I want to evolve, and believe I can. I believe I can learn and grow today and wake up tomorrow better, more evolved. And the journey towards this goal is the flavor of life. Otherwise, what are we doing here? Is life really only a moral test of our characters? If so, shouldn’t we just sit in front of the TV so we aren’t out breaking any commandments? A great many of us apparently think so.

I notice that many anti-evolution folks hate the fact that we supposedly came from apes. “I ain’t no chimp” is an actual quote I’ve heard in this context. But the true context of science goes far beyond the last million years of evolution. It concerns itself with the last 13.7 billion years, a period that began with an unimaginably dense and tiny sphere of hydrogen containing all known matter and energy in what became the Big Bang. So it’s not just that you and me have a common ancestor in the chimp; it’s that you and me, and the chimp, and Jesus and Buddha, and Genghis Khan and Mussolini, and the Milky Way and Beateljuice and the Virgo cluster galaxy all have a common ancestor in the Big Bang. This is obviously unpleasant sounding to the religious zealots of the world, who prefer to see things in a black and white context, with a judgment day type of scenario coming in the not too distant future, where the trouble makers of the world will finally get their eternal comeuppance!

But are they right? After all, what evidence really exists to support evolution. Because this isn’t a doctoral thesis, space is limited. However, the four main criticisms of evolution are usually: 1) that evolution has never been observed 2) that there are a lack of “transitional fossils” that species should leave if they are evolving 3) that evolution is governed by “random choice” and that 4) evolution has yet to be proven as a theory. The problem with these criticisms is that they are often used as political tools by primarily religious, and not scientific, persons. They are also patently untrue. Indeed, there have been thousands of observed genetic mutations in a laboratory setting, like the fly who can develop a resistance to poisons in just a few successive generations. And while it is true that not many transitional fossils have been found, some have that both support ape to man evolution as well as reptile to mammal evolution. These fossils are hard to find but it is assumed that many more are out there. Furthermore, calling evolution an act of “random choice” is particularly ignorant because it violates the central tenet of natural selection. Namely, that reproductive success is rewarded to those genetic variations that are more appropriately adapted to the ever-changing environment of the terrestrial planet we live on. Lastly evolution, defined as “a change in allele frequency over time” has been proven repeatedly, in laboratory settings hundreds of times.

There is more evidence to support evolution than there is to support gravity, and experiments to verify this have occurred in the fields of genetics, anatomy, paleontology, and ecology. Evolution as a theory does not attempt to explain the origins of life, although many feel it has garnered enough experimental evidence to do so. In contrast, Creation “science” does attempt to explain the origins of life, but not within the context of the scientific method. For this reason, Creationism is not real science but is a legitimate philosophy, as credible as any other, especially when it’s adherents can argue the logic behind it which many do very well. I believe in science however, and the scientific method is the central pillar of it’s wondrous power. To not follow the method and claim you’re doing science is a little like claiming you’re playing basketball with a cinder block and two Dixie cups.