Pro-Evolution I: Introduction

EVOLUTION: INTRODUCTION

In 1972, geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky told the annual meeting of the National Association of Biology Teachers that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”  The line stuck.  Not just because of Dobzhansky’s credentials.  An émigré from the Soviet Union in 1927, in the 1930s Dobzhansky’s work in genetics helped explain the
way Darwin’s idea of natural selection really worked.As evidence, Dobzhansky pointed to the fantastic diversity
of life forms.  A fungus which forms only on a certain part of a certain beetle that only lives in certain limestone
caves in France.  A fly whose larvae can only survive in seepages of crude oil. Each of these incredible and incredibly diverse forms of life evolved to fit an evolutionary niche.  They represented only those that have survived the ages; many other exotic and specialized forms of life also developed, flourished, and died off as conditions changed.  Dobzhansky argued that none of that made any sense—indeed, he called it blasphemous to think of—if such life forms had been created in all their specificity by an all-knowing God.  It would suggest a whimsical and cruel Creator; one who deliberately set up evidence that life had evolved in order to fool curious humans.  Plus, it would suggest a Creator who only created in order to destroy.  But it made perfect sense if life had evolved.

This is why Dobzhansky’s 1972 speech title immediately became a lasting favorite among those who sought to prove the importance of evolutionary thinking.  Dobzhansky summed up some of the reasons why evolutionists could not live without evolution.  Nothing they did made any sense if it was not unified by the idea that life forms had evolved to fit the diverse conditions of the planet.  Nothing made sense without the notion that each form had come into being as it took advantage of
niches within the diverse sphere of earthly life.  But all came into focus when understood as elaborations of the evolutionary process. All became clear when seen as the ways the process of natural selection allowed life to adapt to changing and diverse conditions.

Dobzhansky relied on the fact that such arguments had convinced every careful and honest student who had studied the evidence.  In these posts, I will not rely on that preponderance of agreement by academic scientists.  This is not because that evidence is not strong.  One of the best known projects that demonstrate the overwhelming agreement among scientists is the National Council for Science Education’s “Project Steve.”  In response to the lists compiled by anti-evolutionists of scientists who doubt the notion of evolution, NCSE compiled a much, much longer list just of scientists named Steve who do support evolution.

However, just as arguments from the Bible would never convince these evolutionists that evolution can’t be true, so such compilations will never convince those who do not believe in evolution.  The number of scientists who believe in evolution will not impress someone who assumes that such people have fallen into a lamentable intellectual trap. Just like a list of the number of healthy people who smoke will not convince me that smoking is healthy.  Just because many people do something can’t prove that it is right.

The purpose of these posts, as with all of the efforts on this blog, is more modest.  I will only attempt to make the arguments in favor of evolution that can demonstrate to a committed anti-evolutionist that one does not have to be deluded or ignorant in order to believe in evolution.  There are good reasons why people believe it.  As Dobzhansky argued forty years ago, once we understand this vision of life, nothing makes sense without it.  It becomes the key to unlocking life’s secrets.

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