So yesterday I was sitting at Panera before work reading Jerry Coyne’s new book Why Evolution Is True (which is a great book) when an older gentleman, probably about 60ish noticed it. He asked if I was reading the book for a class to which I said no, I’m a biologist and I enjoy keeping up with the literature. He then proceeds to tell me that I need to look at all the evidence because there is no way evolution can be true. He also states that he was once a biology major but realized that he could not go anywhere with a career in biology not subscribing to evolutionary theory. So I asked him why he thinks evolution can’t be true. Let’s just take these one at a time.
The first thing he tells me is that I need to go to Glen Rose, Texas and look at the fossils they have down there of human footprints that are right next to some dinosaur tracks in an old riverbed. Now what he is referring to is known as the Paluxy Man Tracks. They are what appear to be man-like tracks walking along side some dinosaur tracks (talked about here and here). These tracks have long been debunked by scientists as either eroded dinosaur footprints or sculpted man tracks in effort to support the young-earth creationist view (classy). I recommend the Talk Origins link if you want to read more about it, I don’t want to plagiarize.
The second thing he said was the second most tired argument I always hear when people are trying to tell me that evolution is impossible. It’s the argument that evolution completely contradicts the second law of thermodynamics, which is completely ridiculous. The second law of thermodynamics is as follows:
In a closed system, processes that occur will increase in entropy, or disorder. (link)
Now it is possible that evolution could contradict the second law of thermodynamics…if the earth was a closed system, but it isn’t. A closed system is a system which has no source of energy other than what is already present in it. Therefore it will continue to lose usable energy as processes continue. The earth however is an open system. How you ask? Because there is that big, bright, hot thing in our sky called the sun. The sun produces the same amount of energy as 9.15 x 1010 megatons of TNT (link) every single second. That is a ridiculous amount of energy. Of course that is radiated out in every direction but some of it reaches the earth, providing the energy plants need to perform photosynthesis, and in turn, they provide the energy for herbivores, and they for carnivores. If energy continues to be put into the system then it does not violate the second law of thermodynamics by more complex organisms evolving from less complex ones. Again I point you to Talk Origins, they do a better job than I.
His last claim is the one that I have heard the most and is probably the most debunked one: The bacterial flagellum and other organs are too complex to have evolved randomly. I am so sick of people using this tired old stupid argument. Anyone with access to Google can find countless replies to this. I believe Michael Behe is the most famous proponent of this argument and one of the leading advocates of intelligent design (repackaged creationism). What people who haven’t thoroughly studied evolution don’t realize (though Behe has, not sure why he still says this) is that macro-evolution does not happen over one generation, it takes many many many generations for evolution by natural selection to modify existing structures for new uses. The flagella would have evolved gradually from a very simple, yet useful, structure such as a protrusion in the cell wall that could help the cell move like an amoeba’s foot. The eye would evolve much in the same way. There are many current examples of organisms that have patches of light sensitive cells that can’t distinguish shapes but allow the organism to detect which direction the light is coming from, a still useful adaptation. A depressed area of these cells makes determining the direction even easier and therefore more useful. You see where I’m going with this. If you would like a more thorough explanation I suggest googling it or again, Talk Origins.
One of the last things the man said to me was that evolution is barely even a theory in science, which is just blatantly not true at all. It is one of the most well established and widely accepted facts in all of biology. Theory does not mean what most people think it does in science. A theory is a fact of science that is based on mountains of scientific evidence, and keep in mind, gravity is also a theory. People seem to get hypothesis and theory mixed up.
Now please don’t think I am calling this man an idiot. He is by no means an idiot, I just think that he is blinded by his ideology from seeing the evidence right in front of him. He clearly has some college education, even if it was decades ago. He just has drawn different conclusions than I have based on the evidence he has seen.
I used to be just like him, thinking that evolution was impossible, until I started actually studying and reading about it. I find it to be one of the most beautiful and amazing processes of nature. It’s amazing to me that over billions of years natural processes could have created such a complex and diverse ecosystem on our planet.
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