Critical Section

why Evolution is true

Wednesday,  09/07/11  10:20 AM

Jerry Coyne explains "why evolution is true"Here's a pretty great BILL talk: Why Evolution is True, by Jerry Coyne. 

He begins by noting that the US is 34th among all countries in the acceptance of Evolution, just ahead of Turkey, and bemoans the fact.  This sets up a basic explanation of what Evolution is and why it is true.

There's a lot of hard evidence presented, which is great, but I like that he structures the argument so well.  There are the elements of evolution:

  • Evolution occurs
  • Speciation occurs
  • Species have common ancestors
  • Evolution occurs because of natural selection

hard evidence: the evolution of whalesAnd there are predictions which come from the "theory":

  • Life becomes more complex over time
  • Speciation occurs over time
  • Transitional forms exist
  • Vestigial features exist
  • Adaptation paths exist
  • Concrete examples of Natural Selection

And he notes there are no counter examples; nothing has been found which refutes Evolution.

Based on the huge amount of scientific evidence supporting these elements, predictions, and lack of counter examples, the "theory" is considered scientifically true, in the same sense as the theories that matter is made of atoms, or of gravitation, or of relativistic space-time.  He notes that all these other theories are more abstract, harder to grasp, and further from our everyday experience than Evolution, yet far more readily accepted.


evolution vs religionTo wrap up he considers why, in the face of such overwhelming evidence, Evolution isn't more accepted in the US.  Which brings him to religion; as shown in the graph at right, there is a strong negative correlation between acceptance of Evolution and belief in God.  Nobody can doubt that the apparent conflict between religious teaching and Evolution is responsible for the lack of acceptance in the US.

{ I say "apparent" conflict because while Evolution obviates the need for religion to explain the existence of Earth and its inhabitants, it does not directly contradict most religious doctrine.  But many people think it does... }

Unfortunately clear precise arguments like these are preaching to the choir; most people who accept scientific reasoning already accept Evolution anyway, and most people who don't accept Evolution also don't reason logically about it, so logical arguments are unlikely to sway them.

© 2003-2020 Ole Eichhorn

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