Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Problem with Evolution

The main problem with evolution is that people don't understand it. At most, many people know what evolution means ie, the dictionary definition, but they don't study it sufficiently to grasp how it works.

This leads to people making silly claims like, "if we evolved from apes, how come apes are still here?" Anyone who has studied evolutionary biology knows that at one point in evolutionary history, humankind branched from apes becoming a separate species.

My grandson, who is 13, and I have been having some interesting discussions about ethics, religion, evolution and other topics. He's doing ethics and religion at school, but not evolution because it goes against the school's religious teachings. I'm filling in the gaps.

In so doing, I'm taking as much care as I can to not impose my views upon him, but to give him sufficient knowledge to critically analyse what he hears at school, elsewhere and from me and to decide what he believes.

During our discussions about evolution I showed him Richard Dawkins excellent title, "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution." It's a bit advanced for him to read yet, but it has some excellent diagrams about design failures in animals and humans.

For example, both the vas deferens of human males and the vaso vagal nerve of giraffes has been stretched awkwardly in a manner that would not have been done by an intelligent designer. The former was stretched when testes, which were once internal organs, descended from the body. The giraffe's nerve stretched as the length of giraffe's necks increased.

One was done to ensure fertility and the other to ensure food in tall trees could be accessed. Both survival strategies.

Next, we spoke about the large number of human births that don't go as well as they should. With a grandmother who is a midwife, information about the imperfection of the birthing process is easy to get. Maybe if the birthing process had been designed by someone smart enough, it would work much better than it does. He understood my logic.

Finally, I tried to explain to him the concept of irreducible complexity but, I'm not sure he grasped it fully.

We touched on the fact that birds evolved from lizards and that the evolutionary progress can be seen both in the fossil record and in some reptiles that are still present. We've left that for another day.

I love my grandson very much and enjoy our in-depth discussions about such often discussed matters. If I can get him to think rationally about life, the universe and everything associated with it, I will be forever happy. There are too many people who believe things that are irrational and that can't withstand intelligent scrutiny.

If you are still confused by evolutionary biology, I highly recommend Dawkins' text because it is easy to understand and gives a sound coverage of very complex topics.