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Charles Darwin was born 206 years ago this month, and each February we reflect on his theory of evolution by natural selection — the central idea about which the biological sciences revolve.

Yet, sadly, despite overwhelming evidence supporting the model, more than a third of Americans still doubt the reality of evolution. Time and again, the same objections are raised. But these criticisms can be shown to be fallacious, based on a flawed understanding of the subject.

Here’s my attempt to address a few of the more common misconceptions:

Macro-evolution has never been observed: Biologists define evolution as a change in the gene pool of a population over time. Only rapidly reproducing organisms can be observed in the act of such a change. An example might be microbes developing a resistance to antibiotics, or insects becoming pesticide-proof. Even most creationists recognize that evolution at this level is a fact — they call it “micro-evolution.” This is a red herring, however, for macro-evolution is just the sum of these micro-evolutionary changes over a long span of time. Furthermore, evidence isn’t limited to seeing changes occur before our eyes. One need only consider the fossil record, comparative anatomy, genetic sequences and geographical distributions of species. The number of observations supporting “macro-evolution” is overwhelming.

Why are there no transitional fossils? Though the fossil record is spotty, as conditions have to be just right for fossilization to occur at all, we nevertheless have found many instances of intermediary organisms. Tiktaalik — a transition between fish and amphibian, Ambulocetus — between a land mammal and the modern whale, and Archaeopteryx — a creature bearing the characteristics of both reptiles and birds are but a few examples of transitional forms. The evolution of the horse is also well-documented with a wealth of transitional fossils.

The complexity of life couldn’t occur by random chance: While chance mutations certainly play a role, there is nothing random about natural selection. The constant culling of the less well-adapted (or less mate-attractive) from the gene pool is a rather severe filtering mechanism, the very opposite of chance.

If man came from chimps, why are there still chimps? This is akin to asking, “If we came from our parents, why do we still have living cousins?” Humans did not descend from modern chimps. Rather, we share a common ancestor. The stumbling block here is the mistaken idea that evolution occurs in a straight line, where entire populations change into new species at the same time, as though on a ladder of ascent. A better analogy is a continually branching tree. Evolutionary theory never states a source population must go extinct in order for a new species to evolve.

Information cannot be created by genetic mutation: Mutations can occur during the copying of DNA, and these can take the form of additions, deletions or changes to the genetic code, or duplication of entire sections or genes. Color vision is a great example of this. While most mammals have two types of retinal cones, corresponding to red-green color blindness, most primates, including humans, have three types of cones. The study of the DNA reveals that the evolution of primate color vision was due to a gene duplication coding for one of the kinds of cones. Information is created, and that small difference in the gene allows primates to distinguish red from green, conferring an obvious selective advantage.

Evolution is only a theory, it hasn’t been proven: The misunderstanding here lies in the definition of “theory” itself. Unfortunately, in common usage the term theory can mean hypothesis or best guess; however, evolution is a scientific theory — an explanatory model which makes testable predictions and has been substantiated with corroborating evidence. The theory of evolution has been supported with vast amounts of incontrovertible evidence, and no better explanatory model has ever come along.

A good theory makes both verifiable and falsifiable predictions about the natural world, and Darwin clearly demonstrated this. When he saw that the Star Orchids of Madagascar have 11½-inch nectaries, with the bottom 1½ inches filled with nectar, Darwin expected that, like all other smaller orchids of this variety, a moth would be required to pollinate it. Not just any moth, but a very large one with a never before seen 10-inch proboscis to extract the pollinia floating within the nectar. Decades later, the giant moth Xanthopan morgani praedicta was found and documented with a 10-inch snout, confirming the prediction.

Evolution also predicts a relatively well-ordered fossil record, with earlier organisms located in deeper strata of the rock. This is exactly what is found, rather than the haphazard record you’d expect if fossils were strewn about all at once in a worldwide flood. In other words, if rabbit bones were ever found in Precambrian strata, evolution would be falsified. This hasn’t happened.

Darwin arrived at the truth of evolution by natural selection without the benefit of the science of genetics, and for that he deserves credit.

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Ed Neumann is a member of the La Crosse Freethought Society.

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(44) comments

Mentat

Buggs Raplin:

In an internet forum such as this, lacking non-verbal cues, i's hard to know if you seriously believe the Annunaki stories you keep bringing up or if you enjoy causing irritation and frustration among the members here (i.e. trolling). It seems like trolling to me, as your claims are so ridiculous and persistent. I believe you are enjoying the effect you have on the people posting on this forum, much like a small child enjoying the effect of a tantrum.

If you have any respect for the LCAFS group or the freethought movement, please stop with this nonsense. I personally have learned nothing of value from your comments and would be so grateful if you moved on to another group.

If, on the other hand, you are doing this solely to cause consternation and anonymously fill some deep seated need for attention, carry on.

Monteee

The attention-starved looney will never stop. He's too miserable, too lonely, and too paranoid.

The entire scientific community has rightfully rejected the quack Sitchin for his clumsy and corrupt writings on Sumerian deities. The quack's misreadings and misinterpretations of Sumerian writing were easy to expose. Even worse, the quack openly ignored the huge amount of evidence that disproved his claims. He wanted to see aliens, so when he looked at the Sumerian artifacts, he saw aliens. He was a FRAUD, and the entire scientific community knows it.

But the troll of which you speak doesn't care. His only goal is too attract attention to himself, thereby validating his existence. All he does in reality is bring ridicule upon himself. How sad......

oldhomey

Now THERE is a suggestion of what is going on that I had not considered. Mentat, you may be on to something. If Buggs comes clean, I will eat my crow and admire him to the end of my days for pulling my leg so expertly. I am not so worried, however, that I will have to find crow recipes any time soon. I think Buggs is exactly who he advertises himself to be, which is the waste of what appears to be a fairly intelligent individual.

Buggs Raplin

See above reply to Mentat.

Buggs Raplin

I absolutely believe in what I write which is based on the evidence. You act like I'm forcing you to read my stuff. Clearly, what you've just written is a call for censorship simply because you don't like what I write. Apparently I'm upsetting your worldview. And, boy, let me tell you Mentat, you insult the members of the LCAFS with such a call for censorship. You give the impression that they're a bunch of babies who can't handle criticism of their beliefs. What are we supposed to do, Mentat when Ed or his wife or Midwest Atheist write a column? Stand back and cheer with no introspection of what they've said. Darwin's theory has many problems, which Darwin himself admitted. The Annunaki theory is based on the science of archeology. Did you even bother to read Lloyd Pye's essay as to refute it, or are you so afraid of finding information there that you can't handle.-Chip DeNure aka Buggs Raplin

Buggs Raplin

Google: Lloyd Pye essay on the theory of Intervention....for a discussion of Darwin, Creationism, and Sitchin. Fascinating read.

Comment deleted.
MidwestAtheist

You're doing science wrong, Sweet Tea. Since the beings you describe would have evolved very early, and would have evolved from very soft-bodied ancestors, it would not be surprising to lack fossils. I'm not saying there aren't any, because I don't know. However I do know that unless there are bones, or a shell, or something like that, it probably would not fossilize. Also, fossilization is a rare event, so we would not expect ever species that ever lived to have left a fossil, or that we will ever find every fossil that exists in the earth. Bottom line- the genetic evidence alone is sufficient to support evolution, even if there was not a single fossil.

" If there was any lingering doubt about the evidence from the fossil record, the study of DNA provides the strongest possible proof of our relatedness to all other living things."
Dr Francis Collins, Human Genome Project

Comment deleted.
wishsciencerules

wrong!

Machiavelli

Curious how scientists get their result for the age of the earth? After all, if this planet were 6000 years old as creationists claim, evolution would be proved false. The key to understanding lies in a branch of the calculus known as ordinary differential equations.

Separable Differential Equations

http://www.math.fsu.edu/~fusaro/EngMath/Ch1/MSDE.htm

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html

Comment deleted.
Machiavelli

Amusing comment! Here is your chance to shine in Wikipedia:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pikaia_gracilensgracilens

"Pikaia gracilens is an extinct animal known from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia. Sixteen specimens of Pikaia are known from the Greater Phyllopod bed, where they comprised 0.03% of the community.[1] It resembles a living chordate commonly known as the lancelet and perhaps swam much like an eel."

wishsciencerules

Perhaps, someone can explain to me why some people are so frightened of evolution and cling to horrible myths about the origin of life. The hard definition of species becomes more fluid the more we learn. We have a genome very similar to all other living organisms. At the first microscopic glance one can not avoid noticing that our human cells resemble one bacteria inside of another. It is easy to watch how bacteria (and virus) enter and modify human cells and each other. Why would anyone want to attach the mythology of gods for us to stumble over as we try so hard to understand this science? And, even worse, put these barriers in front of children? It is perfectly respectable to say "I don't know" but it is criminal to impede the search for knowledge. Thanks, Ed Newman, great summary.

Monteee

I'll take an honest "We don't know" over a dishonest "Jesus did it" every single time.

easy

Quote Buggs:
"The most rational explanation is that humans were created through genetic experimentation by the Anunnaki alien race. The story is told in the clay tablets of the Sumerians...."
* * * *

Dear Mr Buggs,

You have talked about those space people a lot. So how about some details? Like, in their creation of "modern man" did the Anunnaki only perform experiments on earthlings, or did they actually mate with them?

If they mated, who with, neanderthals? And what would you say are some Anunnaki traits we can see in ourselves today?

If they performed, "genetic experimentation," who or what did they experiment on, or with? And how?

All the stories from days of yore, from so many places, and so many versions -- remember the Biblical passage about "giants in the earth in those days," and how the Sons of God and daughters of men created, "mighty men of old, men of renown?"

http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Genesis-6-4/

Searching for the truth, hey.

sign me,
Curious

Buggs Raplin

Much of the Old Testament is simply a version of Annunaki history. For example, in Genesis, the lord is said to have said, let "us" make man in "our" own image. The plurality aspect obviously conflicts with the Bible's idea of a lone God in charge of things, but is consistent with the Annunaki theory of Sitchin. The Annunaki desired a slave raqce to mine for gold so they created humans for that purpose. And, yes, they mated with the females. It's all written down on the clay tablets of the Sumerians housed in the British Museum, and explained so succinctly by the eminent scholar Zecharia Sitchin.

easy

What, one little sort-of half answer is all you'll give? Who, on the earth, did they mate with? How do we, the offspring resemble each side?

Are they watching us now, to see how we'll turn out, like a ten year old with an ant farm?

Give it up, Buggs!

oldhomey

Buggs will never give it up. No matter how loopy his numerous hobby horse opinions may be, he defends them like the Black Knight defends the very short, very sorry little bridge in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He gets his arms and legs cut off in the fight, just like Buggs has every "fact" he produces in an argument shot down, but the Black Knight and Buggs still lay bloody and helpless on the ground, manfully but mindlessly yelling, "Wait! I'm not done with you yet!" He is what he is. You can supply the word for what that is.

Buggs Raplin

See above reply to MA

MidwestAtheist

Now that's just stupid. There is NO WAY an alien could mate with a human. We can't have a dog mate with a cat and they are both mammals who evolved on the same planet. You want us to believe that a being that evolved on a different planet, with a different number of chromosomes and genes, with possibly different DNA structure/base pairs, different genes, completely different genetic ancestry- would somehow be able to mate with us?!? You'd have a better chance of mating with a petunia- at least you evolved on the same planet and have far more similar DNA than you would with an alien.

But hey, if it's written down on some clay tablets that were later dug up, well then it must be true, right? Now THAT's faith if I've ever seen it.

Buggs Raplin

No, it is NOT stupid. The Annunaki made man in their image with their DNA. And they mated with human females. It's all written down on the clay tablets of the Sumerians. If you're so scientifically minded, why do you ridicule the science of archeology?

MidwestAtheist

Yes, Bugs, it IS stupid. If you or Zecharia Sitchin knew a little more than a gradeschool understanding of biology and genetics, then you would easily see why it is stupid.

How much of Earth's life did these aliens alter? It can't just be humans, because humans share close to 96% of our DNA with CHIMPS. There would be no way that an alien species could tweak only 4% of our DNA in order for us to be suitable mating partners with them. Therefore, you would have to postulate that they also altered Chimps because of our similarities to them. Not only that, you would also have to postulate that they altered the bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas- as there are also great similarities of chimps (and us to a lesser extent) to those species. But then, they would have also had to alter monkeys due to the similarities of the apes to them... You see we fit perfectly into the evolutionary tree of life. You can't say we had ET origins without impacting all other life further down.

MidwestAtheist

"Why don't you ridicule the science of archaeology"

Archaeology is more a social science and a humanity than it is a hard science, like biology or physics. Just because you dig something up, does not make the thing true. I don't understand why you don't get this. This really is pretty obvious, and indicates a lot about your major bilindspots with who you personally consider to be authorities, i.e. Zecharia Sitchin. If they dug up a bible in an archaeological dig (they have) why doesn't it make everything in the bible true, according to your logic? Does it have to be carved in a clay tablet to qualify for this bizarre allowance? We dig up myths and tales of ancient cultures all of the time, and this does not make the stories true. This is the fallacy of the argument from antiquity.

wishsciencerules

Great job Ed.

Buggs Raplin

I ask Ed's indulgence on this board as my response to his article has generated three derisive comments, though none apparently from Ed himself. In any case, I would put forth it is the height of arrogance for anyone to ridicule the idea that in the vastness of the universe, only intelligent life exists here on earth, or that our technology here on earth in terms of space travel is the most advanced. Of course, the evidence of our extra-terrestrial beginnings has been suppressed by those in power, particularly in religious circles, for such knowledge is a threat to them. Read Zecharia Sitchin. Actually read him-don't take the word of compromised debunkers. Read him, and make up your own minds.

MidwestAtheist

Bugs- you are aware of the Straw man fallacy, correct? Please show where Ed, or anyone else, made the claim that intelligent life exists nowhere else in the universe?

The whole idea you propose is just stupid on its surface. You claim that an alien species with the technology to travel millions of light years came to a primitive earth, yet lacked any ability to mine gold, and the easiest way was to genetically engineer a new race of primates to be humans, and them have them mine gold with primitive tools (since no evidence of advanced tools have ever been found). This is stupid for so many reasons, but cheif among them is that if you wanted heavy metals, mining earth is the worst way to get them. Since the heavy metals mostly sunk to the earth's core when it was molten, most of our gold is very hard to get to. Some estimates say asteroids are a much richer source of heavy metals, including gold.

Buggs Raplin

I made no comment as to Ed's believing in UFO's. I merely pointed out that Darwin's theory cannot explain the rapid development of humans from homo erectus to homo sapiens. Darwin admits that. I then proposed my theory based on archeological evidence of the Sumerian clay tablets. Those tablets reveal man was created by the Annunaki to mine gold. The Annunaki had been doing it themselves, but it was too arduous for them, so they created humans to do it for them.

Pimagreen5

A great piece of writing. I will save it for my doubting grandson. One sentence, however, may need a slight re-wording: In your explanation of the star orchid's pollination, the statement "a very large moth would be required to pollinate it," might be more clear by saying, "would have been required...."
As it is, it sounds as though the moth still had not existed, implying that the moth came about after the orchid. Therefore, the question - how had the moth been pollinated in the first place.

MidwestAtheist

http://youtu.be/iMz6lApJgu4

http://youtu.be/iMz6lApJgu4

GPS

Evolution? Is that where a creature without change in its DNA lefts itself from the muck, slime, scum and transforms itself through self actualization into a higher life form? If so, I believe there is evidence of evolution since Ronald Reagan was once a democrat.


Bill O'Rights

GPS--You apparently learned your science at one of the schools that are now tax subsidized with vouchers.

saltydogscientist

EXCELLENT ARTICLE!

Mentat

Great article, Ed. Clear and concise, as always.

descheneaux

Ignorance knows no bounds when faith is involved.

Buggs Raplin

It's been a battle between the evolutionists versus the Christians on the question of human development. Neither is right. Darwin's theory can not explain the rapid development from homo erectus to homo sapiens, and the Biblical version in Genesis is based on faith, not science. The most rational explanation is that humans were created through genetic experimentation by the Anunnaki alien race. The story is told in the clay tablets of the Sumerians, the first civilization on earth. The books of Zecharia Sitchin go into this in amazing detail. Of course, all of what I just said will be derided by staunch Darwinists and equally staunch religionists, but it is a theory based on the science of archeology and the failure of Darwin' theory to explain human development. I have no disagreement with natural selection in the other areas, but it does not explain human development.

saltydogscientist

Riiiiight! Huh? Sounds like another god equivalent here.

tower

See what happens when you have a reaction to vaccine?

PhysicsIsFun

You're kidding right? Is this the "Onion"?

oldhomey

Buggs, I don't think any evolutionary scientist would say that they have the transition from homo erectus to homo sapiens "right". They have a very good idea of the trajectory of the transition, they just haven't got the evidence of what all happened in between. That's why they are still sifting through the rock strata and continue to find bits and pieces of new evidence to help fill it in. But leave it to you to set us straight with the "facts". You have the slamdunk evidence that the aleien Anunnaki race came here by space ship and created humans from scratch with genetic experimentation, told in detail by Sumerian tablets. Right. Go to your room.

MidwestAtheist

Bugs is like a broken record. We can explain his faulty reasoning every time, and every time it is like Groundhog day, like the conversation never happened.

There is no unexplained gap between Homo Erectus to Homo Erectus that requires the introduction of alien genetic engineers to explain. Please support your assertion with a recent quote from an evolutionary scientist.

"The science of archaeology". Yes, because one culture wrote some stories on clay tablets and buried them, and they were dug up later, that means that the stories are automatically true? Shocking reasoning skills there, even for a conspiracy theorist.

oldhomey

I think your first paragraph, MidwestAtheist, is the best description I have seen of the Buggs phenomenon, and I include my own meager, unsuccessful attempts to describe him. Congratulations on a job well done.

Buggs Raplin

MA has never refuted any thing I've said with verifiable evidence. Just because he "thinks" he has does not make it so.

oldhomey

Buggs, you are a bit slow on the uptake here. I was praising MidwestAtheist for comparing you to the weatherman in Groundhog Day.

Buggs Raplin

The Sumerians, earth's first civilization, wrote down their history on clay tablets. Their history relates the story of the Annunaki alien race coming to earth, creating humans through genetic experimentation, and then teaching them the various sciences resulting in a very advanced civilization. The leader of the Annunaki, Anu, was mentioned in the writings of Hammurabi. According to Sitchin, it was the Annunaki who built the pyramids at Giza. Other wonders such as Stonehenge, Easter Island, the Nazca Lines could not possibly have been built by humans. The existence today of thousands of intricate crop circles the world over is proof that aliens are still involved with this planet. There is no other rational explanation.

Monteee

"If man came from chimps, why are there still chimps?"


This question to me, is the most irritating. It really shows the ignorance of those who reject evolutionary theory. It shows a lack of critical thinking skills as well as a good bit of intellectual laziness. If only these people would try to actually LEARN about evolutionary theory.....but then, they would have to pay attention and listen.

57

Yep right on, there is no way the Earth is 8000 years old.

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