Evolution: Concepts and Misconceptions Part II

By | May 5, 2021
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Misconceptions and Myths regarding evolution:

Recently , arguably the greatest and most important book ever written “Origin of species” by Charles Darwin completed 150 years ,in which he gave compelling evidence for evolution. But still many people have either misunderstood evolution or even adamantly denied by a large proportion of the public. Infact evolution is as validated as some great laws of physics like that of Newton and plays a very important role in understanding physical world.

Countless fossil discoveries allow us to trace the evolution of today’s organisms from forms which existed earlier. DNA sequencing has confirmed beyond any doubt that all living creatures share a common origin and a probably a common ancestor. Unfortunately there are many misconceptions and myths which resist to die .

Here we list some important misconceptions regarding evolution which does not go well with common people:

1) Mutations cannot accumulate and they are always deleterious.

2) One biggest misunderstanding is that many believe that evolution always proceeds one way- like a climb up a ladder of progress, with organisms are always getting better and humans occupy the pinnacle of evolution.

This is simply not the case. Rather, organisms either adapt to environments that are always undergoing change, or they risk extinction. The birth of so called evolutionary ladder might have arose just to put humans at the top of the tree of evolution. But Nature doesn’t work this way,in fact they uses what is available ( regarding environment which it is in ) and then decides what is good and discard the rest. The variation is what evolution acts upon within a single kind to ultimately originate a new one. Thus, when it comes to natural selection, fitness is linked to the environment (and adaptation to changes), and NOT to progress or perfection.

3) Evolution is always about gaining things (genes): In order for evolution to take place and give rise to new species, its not always important that new genes are formed. In fact existing genes can be used in a different way and in most cases this what happens (Changes in cis-regulatory elements of genes play pivotal role here to give new functions to already existing proteins). During evolution some species also lost quite a few genes, which could be because of environment adaptaion .Prominent examples for loss of genes are Sponges , C. elegans, xenoturbella and ciona. Common man fail to understand that closest relatives of humans other than vertebrates are Ascidians (urochordates). Ascidians / Ciona looks like a plant, No eyes, does not move – implanted to a substrate , but still at molecular level it comes closest to man than Amphioxus, a cephalochordate.

4) Gaps in the Fossil Record Disprove Evolution: another major point which general people make against evolution is that lack of transitional animals or missing links in evolution. Actually ,we have fabulous evidence for intermediate species like archaeopteryx , fossils of transitional organisms between modern birds and their dinosaur ancestors and also for whales and their land mammal ancestors in Pakicetids. But sure there are gaps for sure and this could be for many reasons. One being that some organisms do not fossilize well or exist in conditions that do not allow for the process of fossilization. Science predicts that there will be gaps in the record for many evolutionary changes. This does not disprove the theory.

5) All biologists are Darwinists : Modern evolutionary theory is built on some – but not all – of Darwin’s ideas, but has gone far beyond them.

6) Religion and evolution are incompatible:

The belief that science and Religion are incompatible is largely depended on Darwin’s concept of common ancestors. Which goes completely against creationist view that God created man fully formed, with no previous related species.

“Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world, and to develop theories that coordinate and explain those facts. Religion, on the other hand, operates in the equally important, but utterly different, realm of human purposes, meanings, and values.”-Stephen jay Gould

The misconception that one always has to choose between science and religion is incorrect, however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith. Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution.

Evolutionary theory does not deny the existence of God but Still, science does contradict a literal interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible on the origin of the universe which says that God created heaven and the Earth and the species on it in six days. We now clearly know, thanks to convincing evidence that the universe was actually formed about 13.7 billion years ago, while the Earth was formed around 4.5 billion years ago. The first humans were seen only a hundred thousand years or so.

Science cannot prove or disprove the presence of God and I dont think it wants to and I firmly believe that both can co exists.

“Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” Albert Einstein

Suggested Reading :

NGC NEWS : Evolution and God can co exist

Talking origins : 5 Misconceptions about evolution.

Newscientist : Myths about evolution and religion.