Monday, 10 June 2013

Don't worry guys, evolution is just a 'theory'.

By Ryan Pearson
Didn't you hear? Evolution is just a theory, so clearly it's just made up. It's a lie. Animals didn't 'evolve' to be what we see today, plants, and fungi, and bacteria didn't either. They just appeared one day (approximately 6,000 years ago) after being placed here by a higher power. Clearly all of the evidence and 'facts' support this fundamental bit of knowledge and evolution has already been proven wrong... right? Surely someone out there has tried, and found it very easy to disprove the 'guess' that people are calling evolution... surely... right? Well, in truth, plenty of people have tried...

There have been experiments and observations ongoing ever since this old bearded bloke, let's call him Mr. Charles D., announced to the world that species evolve through a mechanism called natural selection (among others). The thing is though, in the approximately 153.5 years since Mr. Charles D. published his famous book On the Origin of Species, none of these experiments have been able to disprove the theory. And that is exactly what forms tha basis of a scientific theory.

In science, a 'theory' is not a hunch, it's not a guess, it's not just made up bollocks to confuse the pants off christians worldwide and incite massive facebook debates (facedebates). The hunches or guesses in science are called hypotheses, which are then subjected to rigorous testing to see if they hold up. If they do, they may progress to be a theory (which as a side note is as high as the 'rankings' go). There is nothing above a theory in science, gravity is just a theory, relativity is just a theory, that the sun will rise each day is just a theory, and evolution is just a theory.

The reason for this is that some smart scientist a while ago by the name of Karl Popper had the revelation that nothing can ever been proven, it can only be disproven. Let's have a think about this in relation to extinct species. In reality a species is only really declared extinct if there have been no verifiable sightings of the individual for over 50 years. Why? Because it's very hard to say that something doesn't exist, it's impossible to prove that it's not there and it only takes one piece of evidence (a verified sighting) to prove that it does exist. By that same note, no scientist in his/her right mind would argue that 'there is no God'. The simple fact is, there is no evidence proving there is a God, but there is similarly no evidence proving that there isn't. Though, there is plenty of evidence to disprove the theory that the Earth was 'created' about 6,000 year ago.

Back to our evidence for evolution though... as I said, no one has been able to prove that the theory of evolution is incorrect (before you start, 'because the bible says so' is not evidence). Yet, over the course of many years, millions of experiments ranging from geological time scales (that's millions to billions of years) and on much shorter time scales (as little as 30 minutes) have tried and tried yet only found evidence to support the theory.

First up, the most obvious examples are in the fossil record. Species evolution can be witnessed occurring throughout the Earth's history and using techniques such as carbon dating it is possible to calculate exactly how long ago a fossil was trapped. For the shorter time scales, evolution can actually be witnessed in the lab through the changes bacterial populations over multiple generations. Have a look at this article to see more instances of currently observable evolutionary change.

The simple point of this is that evolution is just a theory, but no other idea or widespread 'fact' is more valid than a scientific theory. The whole point of science is to not accept things as real without testing them, and evolution has been tested and tested and tested with nothing but supporting evidence being found. As far as science goes, evolution is as real as it gets. But, if that one piece of evidence arises that utterly disproves it, after a bout of skepticism and rigorous testing, scientists will embrace the change and a new theory will be developed that better explains the phenomena we are seeing. Until that point, evolution is the best explanation we have as how we ended up with the biodiversity we see on our planet today.

Lastly, I don't mean to be antagonistic, but before I get the classic arguments against evolution like 'why aren't apes still evolving then?' (among others), please do yourself a favour and read up on what the theory of evolution actually means. This site is a good starting point to both give you some insight, and to start to respond to some of those burning arguments you have rising up inside of you.

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