My Problem with Evolution

PhotonQ-Homer' s Evolution Theory
PhotonQ-Homer’ s Evolution Theory (Photo credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE)

“To put it bluntly but fairly, anyone today who doubts that the variety of life on this planet was produced by a process of evolution is simply ignorant—inexcusably ignorant, in a world where three out of four people have learned to read and write.”
Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).    “Put Your Money on Evolution”  The New York Times  (April 9, 1989)  section VII  p.35

It feels like we learned everything in secondary school – from music, science, to foreign languages*. I took 15 subjects for the first three years, seventeen subjects in the fourth year and nine subjects for the last two years. I wrote three final exams (IGCSE, WASSCE and UME) and then I took the SAT and TOEFL. It wasn’t hard – I didn’t do anything but go to school.

Nigeria’s science curriculum is pretty rough. Between the three standardized exams, we covered everything from the definition of science to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. In chemistry we covered everything up till organic chemistry. Biology was the subject in which we had the least work but it was still pretty intense. “Draw and completely label the malpighian tubules of a cockroach” was a question on my final. So I can say I have a pretty solid background in science. I had it beaten into me (figuratively)

And then there’s evolution. I can’t remember if we covered it or not. I know we did punnet squares and Mendel’s laws of inheritance two or three times (in Integrated Science, Biology and Agricultural Science) but I have no recollection of studying Darwin’s theory of evolution. I did, however, have a basic knowledge of the theory. I knew who Darwin was and I was familiar with the most popular evidence for it. If it was in my textbook, I read it. My understanding of evolution up till I left high school went something like this:

Once upon a time there was a tiny single cell which made little baby single cells. Eventually, some of the newborn single cells joined together to form a multicellular organism.  This multicellular organism then made babies of itself and eventually turned into a more complex organism and then organisms just kept slowly becoming more complex until us. Richard Dawkins has an illustration here:

I also had some of the basic evidence (fossil records, observed mutations and natural selection, vestigial organs, junk DNA, and those now-discredited drawings of embryos). So, I wouldn’t have won a debate on evolution, but I had the basic idea. More importantly, everyone took it for granted. Criticism of Darwin’s theory of evolution was unheard of in the schools I attended.

Enter college: As a freshman in college, I hear about people who didn’t believe in evolution for the first time. It was mind boggling. Evolution is supposed to be true. My biology textbook said so. My story is tragic from there onwards. I tried to look at the evidence for and against evolution. It could have gone better. Here I was being told by ‘creationists’ and ‘Intelligent Design advocates’ that the fossil record has gaps, microevolution has been proven but not macroevolution, there are limits to biological change, there really isn’t good evidence for macroevolution, microbiology pokes holes in Darwin’s theory, etc. etc. I also received the groundbreaking news that Hackel’s drawings of embryos were staged (!!!) and the Miller Urey experiment has been discredited. Oh, golly.

On the other side, supporters of the theory of evolution were telling me that there are gobs of evidence for evolution like evolved viruses, and the fossil record and evolution has been observed in the lab and anybody who doubts evolution is either stupid, ignorant, uninformed, insane or wicked, etc. (please fill in the other insults you’ve heard).

So I was completely turned off. The debate is too charged. One side is too rude and uninterested in discussion. I don’t even really care about it anymore. Whenever someone asks me what I think about evolution, I tell them that I don’t know. If they laugh at me, I get away from them. There’s no point talking with people who don’t want to talk. That’s my problem with evolution – the people who support it.

I don’t fancy myself inexcusably ignorant or stupid or insane or wicked. I’m just an eighteen year old who covered everything but evolution in high school. My knowledge of the theory isn’t worse than that of the trolls on Youtube who accept it. But I don’t believe in evolution. I won’t until I have good reason to. I don’t have another explanation for the complexity of life on earth, but I don’t have to.

Over the next few days I might try to work through some of the evidence for Darwin’s theory of evolution. Or I might just watch Ugly Betty and do homework. The show is disgusting, but good for passing time.

EDIT: After some thought, I believe we did cover evolution in Social Studies during my first three years of secondary school. That explains why the memory is so fuzzy.


* Complete list:
Junior Secondary School: English, Math, Integrated Science, Social Studies, Music, Fine Art, Edo language, French, Business Studies, Agricultural Science, Computer Science, Physical and Health Education, Introductory Technology, Home Economics, Christian Religious Studies
Senior Secondary: English, Math, Further Math, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Geography, Computer Science, Agricultural Science

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I’m Tracy

5 thoughts on “My Problem with Evolution”

  1. I am sorry that some aggression from any side has turned you off to looking at the topic in a way that is objective. I think you are mistaken on several key points since outside of the fossil record dna is more than enough evidence to show common ancestry. I want to say that the truth of something exists independent of the meanness of those that believe it. Evolution doesn’t have a truth value its not something that you have to define as true or not true. It happens. Evolution is a fact, the theory that you are discussing isn’t evolution it’s darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. You understanding of how it creates diversity is not important to me since i am not a biologist and neither are you.

    However i wish you would continue to investigate and understand what evidence the scientists are standing on. They are not relying solely on the fossil record though it very clearly shows relations between species. DNA evidence corroborates the shared ancestry of all species on earth. I would like to correct a couple things.

    Evolution by natural selection does not demand things get more complex. Many “simpler” organisms have many more chromosomes than humans. It’s not complexity its who survives who doesn’t

    You are right however in your assertion that natural selection if left to bear on a single species in a single environment with no external stimuli would produce a mostly homogenized pool of creatures. However its not a closed system and multiple paths become necessary to adapt to the environment and against predators. Pay attention to sources.

    A high school text book is not as complete as one from a college course. Those are even more inadequate in the face of books you would find for post graduate classes. You and i are such laymen that we are not on the cutting edge of this discussion. Just be aware that while education or a lack of education does not ensure one person to be right and the other wrong, a person who has no formal education above a bachelors will have a less intricate understanding of a topic than does a person with a doctorates.

    Unfortunately many of those with doctorates on the side of evolution have grown tired of having a science that has been well explored tested and vetted over the course of 150+ years attacked by people who don’t have any education in related fields have become jaded and cynical. Just like you have become tired and jaded against the topic because of being berated from both sides.

    I have grown tired of people bringing up heckles embryo’s even though he was debunked by scientists not creationists.I often respond to the 50th person who brings up the argument about a loss of information with a bit of exhaustion because it has been explained re-explained and covered by people who’s intellect dwarf mine by dimensions that would not be done justice by my words.

    I want you not to give up because I too am assaulted by people who have an argument one way or the other. I think your understanding of the topic is not as complete or as deep as it could be(i know i spend at least 5 hours a week continuing to read and learn about biology and DNA and evolution. But i am a math guy not a biologist, so some of these topics are a bit outside of my comfort zone). Since you have proven capable of doing research and being honest enough to admit that you don’t know what is most closely related to reality i wont go through your entire post and make you feel attacked but invite you to read more. And don’t listen to people who only attack topics they have no ability to understand. Easy example being ray comfort. And beware of quote mining from both sides.

    I really enjoy your openness and your willingness to post your point of view with an air of objectivity.

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