“Creational critics often charge that evolution cannot be tested, and therefore cannot be viewed as properly scientific subject at all. This claim is rhetorical nonsense” (Stephen Jay Gould).
Human life is both sacred and mysterious. From time before recorded history, human beings, both scientific and religious have tried to determine what it is exactly that gives life and by extension, can take life away. In ancient times, most people believed that some great unknown deity who controlled all the aspects of life. With the advent of scientific inquiry and investigation, people have tried to apply empirical research and evidence to the question of human existence. Since the concept of human evolution was first proposed, many people were strongly opposed to the very idea that human beings and primates were descended from a common ancestor. Even today in this supposedly enlightened and scientific time, there are still large amounts of groups and individuals who deny Evolution or, at the very least, demand the opposite hypothesis (Creationism) to be taught alongside Evolution in schools. In the United States, the debate over Evolution vs. Creationism has led to jail time and lawsuits against various educators and schools for teaching the viewpoint that is antithetical to the religious beliefs of a community, most often in the south. For generations now, scientists have been able to prove direct links between modern versions of animals and other life forms to similar organisms that existed in ancient history (Prothero). Evolution is scientifically proven fact and those that maintain an opinion of opposition to the theory are doing so only based on their religious perceptions, disregarding scientific evidence and empirical research that has been cultivated and collected around the globe.
Ancient Greeks and Romans had investigated human development and adaptation. Scientific investigation was in its infancy but already people were interested in understanding some of the larger mysteries of the universe. Religion in these archaic times heavily relied on the belief in creator Gods and an explanation of Divine Creation for humanity. Still, the ancient religions also allowed for the inclusion of scientific inquiry into the debates about the world in which people live. However, the founding of the Christian religion and the publication of the Christian Bible this open-mindedness took several humongous steps backwards. The initial promoters of Christianity demanded a complete acceptance of their holy book as dogma and a belief that everything in the book happened exactly as it was describe. The time for debate and question was over, which led to the Medieval period, also known quite appropriately as the Dark Ages. During the 17th, 18th, and then 19th centuries, scientific investigation again began to take place. Among the investigations that were undertaken was the question of human existence and potential explanations for it (Strickberger 13). Religious fanatics have done everything within their power, since the original proposition of Evolution, to thwart the debate and discussion of the theory. Sadly, this is still very much the case even though the investigation has yielded empirical proof of Evolution.
The theory of Evolution was popularized by Charles Darwin with his publication of The Origin of the Species and his name is most commonly found in histories of the theory. Famously, Darwin was aboard the HMS Beagle on a voyage to the Galapagos Islands (Strickberger 23). On this journey, Darwin observed the many variations of finches and how variation allowed the finch to have certain greater abilities than other variations, such as a longer or thinner beak making the bill more adept at acquiring grubs and small insects. This trend he then examined and observed in other species. He hypothesized that as the world progress through climate or geographic change, the creatures within it must learn to survive in the location in which they live.
Darwin may have popularized the theory and gave it wider spread publicity, but again, he was not the first to suggest it. Darwin’s grandfather, another scientific investigator, published articles about genealogy and how heredity concerned the passing on physical characteristics from parent to offspring. However, he was not the first man to propose nor was he the first man to publish the potential genealogical link between man and other primates. Those who tend to discount Evolution state the glib interpretation of the theory that man evolved from monkeys. Evolution has been popularized by the phrase “survival of the fittest.” This means that species will slowly mutate as the environment in which they live changes. The creature adapts to that change in environment. If the adaptation is successful, then the mutation will continue on in subsequent generations. However, if the adaptation is not as successful, then the mutation will die out and further generations will not possess the attribute. The truth of Evolution, as stated by Edward Humes is that:
Real evolutionary theory explains how life forms change across generations by passing on helpful traits to their offspring, a process that, after millions of years, gradually transforms one species into another. This does not happen randomly but through nature’s tendency to reward the most successful organisms and kill the rest. This is why germs grow resistant to antibiotics and why some turtles are sea animals and others survive quite nicely in the desert and why dinosaurs — and more than 99% of all other species that have ever lived on Earth — are extinct (1).
This is the scientific basis behind Evolution. It is an accepted geological fact that climates and geography changes over time. If creatures do not adapt to these changes, then the animal becomes extinct. Evolution is the process of adapting and evolving from the original form into another in order to survive.
Creationists are people who, as their name suggests, support the concept of Creationism. This is the belief, based upon the Bible that insists mankind began in the Garden of Eden with God creating Adam as a fully developed human being. From Adam’s rib, God then created the female human being, Eve. This is also called the theory of Intelligent Design in that God intended mankind to be one type of being and thus from the start mankind was comprised of Homo sapiens. According to scientist Theodosius Dobzhansky, the people who cling to their religious beliefs will never accept Evolution because of their religion and thus will continue to do everything they can to refute it. He said, “No evidence is powerful enough to force acceptance of a conclusion that is emotionally distasteful” (Dobzhansky 79). Those who believe in Creationism tend to refute the archaeological finds which prove Evolution by falsely claiming that there are gaps in the fossil record (Dobzhanksy 127). This argument asserts that there is no clear correlation between one species than any other. Instead, one species lives and then becomes extinct and then another species is created by God to fill the gap left by the other species.
There is another branch of Creationism which believes in something of a blended concept of Creationism and Evolution. This hypothetical structure came about from the scientific investigation and archaeological digs which discovered Lucy and other pre- Homo sapiens humanoid ancestors. According to this theory, God was the one who created these early versions of human beings and from them mankind has slowly but surely evolved. For those who oppose Evolution, this particular system of belief allows them to combat scientific evidence without forgoing entirely their belief in the intervention of a Divine being and a creator who is somehow more powerful than all of the human beings on Earth. Further, they assert that God is the one who created the original beings from whom modern humans evolved and it is through His action that the beings adapt and change.
In 2005, genetic researchers working on the Human Genome project looked closely at both human and chimpanzee genetic structures in order to prove or discredit the widespread belief that the chimpanzee was humanity’s closest living relative (Varki 1746). These researchers were able to ascertain that the divergences between humans and primates began several relations back. However, the research was also able to determine that chimpanzees are not only in the same genealogical family as humans, but in the same genus as well (Hecht). In a 2003 investigation, researchers were able to state unequivocally that humans and chimpanzees had a 99.4% identical DNA structure (Hecht). The only possible reason for such a close genealogical relationship is that there was an ancestor in the past that mutated to form two branches of animal, one who would become human and one who would become chimpanzee.
As stated, even in the present historical moment, nearly a century since the Scopes’ Monkey Trial led to the reversal of the ban on teaching of evolution in the classroom, there is still much debate over the place of the theory of Evolution vs. that of Creationism. In 2012, the state of Tennessee proposed legislation demanding that both Evolution and Creationism be taught in public schools with equal amounts of time and equal amounts of attention. Both theories are to be taught as viable hypothesis to the question of human existence. The fact that Creationism is not a scientific, but religious hypothesis has led to many disagreements upon this legislation. As a religious belief, Creationism should not be taught in public schools but ignoring the belief system also has led to problems because parents are angry at the schools for teaching information that violates their belief structure. In short, it is a debate that will continue to divide opinion and population for a long time to come.
Dobzhanksy, Theodosius. “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.”
The American Biology Teacher. The National Association of Biology Teachers. 35:3. 1973. 125-129.
Hecht, Jeff. “Chimps are Human, Gene Study Implies.” New Scientist. 2003. Print.
Humes, Edward. “Unintelligent Designs on Darwin.” Trib Live. Trib Total Media. 2012. Print.
Pereto, Juli. “Controversies on the Origin of Life.” International Microbiology. 8. 2005. 23-31.
Prothero, Donald. “Evolution: How We Know It Happened and Why It Matters.” 2005. DVD.
Strickberger, Monroe W. Evolution. Jones and Bartlett: Sudbury, MA. 2000. Print.
Varki, Ajit & Tasha K. Altheide. “Comparing the Human and Chimpanzee Genomes: Searching
for Needles in a Haystack.” Genome Research. CSH Press. 15. 2005. 1746-1758. Print.
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