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A condensed set of basics on what Evolution is and isn't
Published on August 13, 2005 By Draginol In Biology

What exactly is evolution? Evolution is a theory. It is not a hypothesis.  A theory is a set of scientific principles that is supported by observable facts. A hypothesis, by contrast, is a statement not backed up by facts. 

The theory of evolution is as follows:

Fact #1: Random mutations occur in nature.

Fact #2: Mutations tend to be passed onto off-spring.

Fact #3: If one organism is genetically different enough from another organism then they will not be able to reproduce together.


Traits that benefit an organism (or at least don't kill it) will be passed onto its offspring.  Over millions of years, the accumulation of these changes, both big and small. will result in different species based on the local geographic conditions.

For example, a bear that spends most of its life swimming around in the water gives birth to offspring with clubbed feet. This bear is able to swim better as a result than other bears and is thus more likely to catch fish and therefore more likely to survive to pass on its genes. Over time, all the bears in that geographic area will have clubbed feet.

By contrast, same bear, 10 miles inland, born with same clubbed feet is no longer able to hunt food in the woods. It dies before it can reproduce. And with its death so too does that genetic trait.

Our water-loving, club-foot bears, by contrast, have now specialized (or adapted) to life in the water.  Even though they are, at this point, still the same species as their wood-prowling cousins, they no longer interact/interbreed because they spend all their time in the water.  But they are still the same species at this point.

Time passes. More genetic mutations occur over a very long period of time. Other changes are simply the result of certain genes that are already part of the bear being more survivable.  Living in the water all the time has fewer size restrictions. Larger bears are thus not at a hunting disadvantage as their forest living cousins are. So they get bigger and bigger as subsequent generations pass.  Bears, which are fatty to begin with, get fattier still because there's no disadvantage to it and those that are fatty can survive in the cold water better.  One day a genetic mutation results in offspring that has no hair.  The water-swimming club-footed, fatty large bear would have died if the mutation had occurred 50,000 years before when they didn't have all the fat on them from the cold water.  But now it's no disadvantage at all.  In fact, this bear can swim even faster thanks to not having hair dragging it down.  Those genes pass onto their off-spring.

Repeat the process over 50 million years and the genetic differences create a new species.  It's still basically a bear but it can no longer breed with its forest-living ancestors.  It doesn't look like a bear though. It's hairless and its arms are clubbed and its tail looks like a big old fin now and its hind legs are just vestigial.  One day, a human spots one in the water and gives it a name -- whale.

Of course, there are also various species that are in-between those stages or have gone off in their own directions.  After all, different environments favor different traits.  We have walrus's, seals, etc.  They took different paths from one another and became their own species.

What evolution is NOT:

Evolution does not talk about how life came to be on Earth in the first place.  There are no theories on how life started on Earth.  There are numerous hypothesis's on it. Maybe amino acids got together in some random way and pretty soon you have the earliest forms of primitive life.  Perhaps the first single celled life forms were seeded from aliens (which only begs the question, where did they come from?).  Maybe God or some other super-natural force created the first spark of life.  We don't know. We may never know (though my bet is that they'll find a way to create life in a lab at some point from inorganic molecules).

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design is a new hypothesis (or at least a new name for creationism). It argues that God or an alien force created life on earth and then has directed its "evolution" on earth.   It is not science.  It's not science because nothing in it can be scientifically tested or proven.  By contrast, evolution can and has been tested.  Even before we had DNA tracking technology, evolution had been well documented in countless cases (particularly in the case of Pacific Island birds where we can see a single species of bird turning into hundreds of species of different birds of different genus's in the course of hundreds of thousands of years).  Today, with the ability to look at Mitochondrial DNA we can literally graph where different species evolved from and how long ago it occurred.

What about "Missing Links"?

Discussion of missing links and the like do nothing to disprove evolution, as a theory.  When someone says "There is a hole in the fossil record" one might say "Well of course there is."  Missing links were more interesting before mitochondrial DNA research became widespread.  Barring a time machine, no one can say for 100% that evolution is how we have all the different types of animals we have today.  But it is, by far, the strongest explaination we have. 

Comments (Page 1)
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on Aug 13, 2005
I think you mean webbed-footed bears.
on Aug 13, 2005

Why can't we teach creation science in my school?
The courts have ruled that "creation science" is actually a religious view. Because public schools must be religiously neutral under the U.S. Constitution, the courts have held that it is unconstitutional to present creation science as legitimate scholarship.

In particular, in a trial in which supporters of creation science testified in support of their view, a district court declared that creation science does not meet the tenets of science as scientists use the term (McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education). The Supreme Court has held that it is illegal to require that creation science be taught when evolution is taught (Edwards v. Aguillard). In addition, district courts have decided that individual teachers cannot advocate creation science on their own (Peloza v. San Juan Capistrano School District and Webster v. New Lennox School District). (See Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, Appendix A. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. 1998.)

Teachers' organizations such as the National Science Teachers Association, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Science Education Leadership Association, and many others also have rejected the science and pedagogy of creation science and have strongly discouraged its presentation in the public schools. In addition, a coalition of religious and other organizations has noted in "A Joint Statement of Current Law" that "in science class, [schools] may present only genuinely scientific critiques of, or evidence for, any explanation of life on Earth, but not religious critiques (beliefs unverifiable by scientific methodology)." (See Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, Appendices B and C, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., 1998.)

Some argue that "fairness" demands the teaching of creationism along with evolution. But a science curriculum should cover science, not the religious views of particular groups or individuals.

If evolution is taught in schools, shouldn't creationism be given equal time?
Some religious groups deny that microorganisms cause disease, but the science curriculum should not therefore be altered to reflect this belief. Most people agree that students should be exposed to the best possible scholarship in each field. That scholarship is evaluated by professionals and educators in those fields. Scientists as well as educators have concluded that evolution--and only evolution--should be taught in science classes because it is the only scientific explanation for why the universe is the way it is today.

Many people say that they want their children to be exposed to creationism in school, but there are thousands of different ideas about creation among the world's people. Comparative religions might comprise a worthwhile field of study, but not one appropriate for a science class. Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution states that schools must be religiously neutral, so legally a teacher cannot present any particular creationist view as being more "true" than others."

"Some religious groups deny that microorganisms cause disease"

on Aug 13, 2005

I think you mean webbed-footed bears.

I chose club-footed because someone might think that going from regular feet to webbed feet represented too big of a jump. But I agree with you that webbed feet is probably more likely. Once in awhile, a human is born with webbed feet.


on Aug 13, 2005

I will not argue with you, and in fact I have not.  For ID is an hypothesis.  But yet, may be true.  In time, it may be proven false or proven true.  The simple fact is we dont know.

Until we do, why dismiss out of hand that which we do not know?  I know you hate the ID idea,  but there is a lot of evidence (circumstantial and weak) that lends itself to it.

That is all I am saying.

on Aug 13, 2005

My problem with your arguments, Dr. Guy is that you don't even define which parts of ID you propose.  Why should public schools spend time on ANY hypothesis on how life began on Earth? 

Which part of ID has evidence to support it? Be specific.  I want to hear this evidence. Not links, your words. Tell me, what part of intelligent design do you believe in and what is the evidence (weak or strong) that you think supports it?

on Aug 13, 2005

This chart shows the amount of genetic difference there is between various types of humans on Earth.  These differences will slowly disappear thanks to global traveling.  But in just 50,000 years, humans have already developed a 0.03% difference between one another which is not trivial (we're less than couple percent different than chimps). 

If geographic isolation had continued, in a few million years, these different groups of humans would have split off into different species.

on Aug 13, 2005

My problem with your arguments, Dr. Guy is that you don't even define which parts of ID you propose. Why should public schools spend time on ANY hypothesis on how life began on Earth?

Well, wonder no more.  I did blog on it.  Perhaps (since my views were stretched out over many articles) that will help?

on Aug 13, 2005
This is the first result at, thesaurus

Main Entry: hypothesis
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: theory

on Aug 13, 2005

Iconoclast - that's not the scientific definition.   As is clear from around here, people use the terms hypothesis and theory interchangeably. That doesn't mean they're the same thing.

Try instead of a thesaurus.

on Aug 13, 2005
The key here is hypothisis versus reality.

Guessing isn't taught in schools. FACTS are. ID is a guess with 0 proof. In fact almost all of the evidence says that ID is not only a guess, but a bad one at that.

Let schools teach fact. If you want to teach (I use that word generously, it's more like brain washing) your kids about ID or pure creationism you go right ahead, that's your right. If they have a brain, later on in life they're resent you for teaching them something that is so obviously and completely wrong. (i.e. Dinosaurs prove creationism wrong, because the bible doesn't mention them at all, and whatever excuse you want to use for why it they aren't in the old testiment, is just a joke, so please don't bother.)

Use your brains people. Teach kids to use theirs. The problem with creationism in whatever guise, and even a lot of science (quantum mechanics) is that people are coming up with guesses that just are no supported by the evidence and then are trying to force the evidence to fit the guess. This is not science. This is what the Roman Catholic Church did after Copernicus figured out that the sun is the center of our solar system. They came up with all kinds of weird and wonderful theories of complex motion trying to explain the evidence that demanded that their GUESS was completely and absolutely wrong. And the key here, is that it was always completely and absolutely wrong and totally obviously completely and absolutely wrong for anyone with eyes and the most primative of telescopes. The amazing part wasn't that someone figured it out, but that it took so damn long. The reason it took so damn long is because the Church wanted (and still does) people that are ignorant of reality. They're easier to control and keep in the "faith".

Creationism versus Evolution is exactly the same thing. No matter how hard you try and work at making reality fit the creationist GUESS you're still left with a mess that any 2 year old can see is wrong. The only question is if it takes the Church 500 years to finally admit it and appologize like it did with Galaleo.

Guesses are great. They're important. But never mistake that it's a guess. It has no standing, it's irrelivent both to the universe and it should be irrelivent to your life and how you lead it. Never should you make a decision based on that guess unless you want to fail and look like a fool. Base your life on reality and facts, keep the guesses in mind as posibilities and your life will go a whole lot smoother. And hey, one hell of a lot fewer wars would be faught too. Just ask the Jews in the occupied territories that believed that God wanted them to have that land...
on Aug 13, 2005

Guessing isn't taught in schools. FACTS are

You blew it there.  As Evolution is not a fact.  And that is the whole nut that the debate is about.

on Aug 13, 2005

Guessing isn't taught in schools. FACTS are

You blew it there. As Evolution is not a fact. And that is the whole nut that the debate is about.

Evolution can't be a fact by definition.  Theories are based on facts, they are not facts unto themselves. 

That objects fall to earth at 32 feet per second squared is a fact.

That mass creates gravity is a theory.

To use programming terminology:  A theory is like a program. A line of code is like a fact.  A program is not a line of code any more than a theory can be a fact.

on Aug 14, 2005
Giving ID any legitimacy especially in schools is akin to pushing science 1000 yrs behind...people lost their lives...endured ridicule...torture...excommunication...just to prove that it was not magic or supernatural powers but science,theory,fact that caused things to can someone propose an idea...a wild guess...with no way of proving it...and think that they have tied all the loose ends on how life exists as it does right now....just because it conveniently fits into their faith and belief system...
is there any way they can be convinced that evolution is a fact not a figment of our takes a million years for evolution to manifest itself...just because we are shortsighted by our own mortality and the short span of human existence...doesnt mean that that is not the way it we seriously think that we can go back in time and see this "evolution" with our own eyes...i am not a scientist...but a man of science...i can not explain the gaps in evolution...just like i can not explain how black holes are formed...the reason i can not prove ID is that i cant prove a negative...please dont confuse the effect with the cause...
i hope someday we are able to separate church and science...just like we have tried with church and state...
on Nov 20, 2007
Theory: a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.

guess or conjecture.

on Nov 20, 2007
Guessing isn't taught in schools. FACTS are

History and the stories told are typically altered to fit the writers agenda.
You wouldn't believe how many historical facts have been altered, since I was a kid...

Schools teach what is told to them.. nothing more...

It used to be that it was once taught that the earth was flat. and was taught to all who would listen .
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