The evidence for evolution grows by the day, and has never been stronger, while at the same time, paradoxically, ill-informed opposition is also stronger than ever. This sort of egregious occurrence causes evolution to be one of the most controversial subjects ever to be debated. Many evolution-deniers have been adamantly intransigent about the fact of evolution. One may ponder the notion that since many disagree, then there must be an aspect of evolution that is wrong. However, the disagreements range from misinformation, ignorance, and even deception. The misrepresentation of evolution is possibly the most common reason why people do not think evolution is true. This is evident in the 'refutes' presented by the anti-evolutionists, which have merely become victims of specious misinformation. There are a plethora of these so-called 'refutes,' however these 'refutes' are nothing but banal and hold up poorly to the smallest amounts of scrutiny and tumble underneath the powerhouses of the evolutionary scholars who prove time after time how ill-founded these 'rebuttals' truly are. The slandering of evolution must stop now and light must be shed on the nebulousness that are the anti-evolutionists' claims so that it can be seen how puissant and corroborated both the scientific fact and the scientific theory of evolution truly is. However for this feat to be accomplished, we must rid the consensus' ambiguous guise about evolution so that the fiat of the ill-informed may be abrogated so that the truth is unequivocally seen by all. The most reasonable place to start seems to be the misconceptions of the actual definition of evolution.
Evolution can be simply defined as the change of genetic material over time. Though changes produced from any one generational offspring are small and often insignificant, differences accumulate which can, over time, cause substantial changes within the population, a process that can result in the emergence of new species. These changes are the explanation of the diversity of life that can be seen today, with each species being cousins with the next and both mutated versions of the species' most recent common ancestor. these ideas imply that all of life is derived from one common ancestor or gene pool (Evolution). One might ruminate over where these genetic changes come from (Morris). They emanate primarily from two sources which are the drive trains of evolution: mutations and selection (Evolution).
Mutations are the random genetic change in the DNA sequence of a cells genome (the entirety of an organism's hereditary information) and are caused by radiation, viruses, and many other factors, including errors that occur during meiosis or DNA replication (Mutation). The primary categories of these duplication errors are duplication, translocation, deletion, and frameshift. A duplication error occurs when a gene gets copied more than once so that there are extras of that particular gene, translocation is the interchanging of two parts of nonhomologous genes, and deletion occurs when a gene gets removed or was not copied. Frameshift mutations occur when one part of a DNA pair gets duplicated or deleted which causes the rest of the base pairs to shift over to compensate fro the missing link. One could imagine the sentence: The fat cat sat. If the letter 'T' was to get deleted, then the 'base pairs' would shift in order to compensate, creating a new sentence: Hef atc ats at. These four errors within DNA replication can be neutral harmful or beneficial to the gene, with the majority being neutral. All in all, these mutations are completely random and are the 'benefactors' of the 'second half' of evolution (Types of Mutation).
Selection occurs in two ways: Artificial and Natural Selection. Artificial Selection occurs when humans interfere with natural processes which causes phenomena to occur, such as domestication of animals, specialty breeding of race horses and pedigree dogs, and the cultivation of plants and trees, while favoring specific traits over others which results in genetic variations based on what the humans want. An example being a race horse breeder choosing a mate based on traits the breeder wanted in the offspring. The breeder would not take the racing horse to mate with any random horse; the breeder would choose precisely which horse was the best in terms of what the breeder would want in the offspring, which would be speed (Dawkins, Evolution).
Natural Selection on the other hand, is the process by which heritable traits that make organisms more likely to survive and successfully reproduce, become more common in a population over successive generations (Natural Selection). In evolution, this is the nonrandom factor which rids populations of the bad mutations and keeps the good, which equates to the 'filter' or 'second half' of evolution. These helpful traits are 'favored' by nature in the same way humans favor traits in Artificial Selection. However, instead of arbitrarily favoring genes which cause a dog to have smoother fur or a horse to have faster legs, Natural Selection only 'favors' the genes that increase an organism's chances of surviving to reproduce and pass those successful genes on to the next generation. However, even though the common explanation is that Natural Selection 'favors,' this is not what happens. Natural Selection is not a conscious process that decides what each species will evolve into, and evolution has no end goal. There is nothing that natural selection is trying to work towards. It is merely the natural process that rids nature of the bad genes and keeps the good genes (Dawkins).
One could imagine two gazelles drinking next to a watering hole, and one of these gazelles was born with a limp hind leg. When a cheetah starts striding down the hill planning to attack, the two gazelles see this cheetah and start to run away in hopes of surviving. The gazelle with the limp leg, would get caught before the gazelle with the healthy leg. As a result, the gene for the limp leg would die with the gazelle's death and be terminated from the gene pool. The healthy legged gazelle would live on and reproduce thus passing his genes down to the next generation. In accordance with the gazelles, is the joke concerning the two hikers being pursued by a bear. When one hiker pauses to put on running shows the other says, "Are you mad? Even with running shoes, you can't outrun a grizzly!" The hiker with the running shoes replies, "No, but I can outrun you (Dawkins)."
When nature puts mutations and Natural Selection together, evolution becomes a powerful force. Evolution storms through the populations and coerces them to change or become extinct. Obviously, the populations chose the first because there are birds, humans, plants, bacteria, snakes, deer, and other species (Evolution). One can look around and see these varieties, however that is all anti-evolutionists claim to be able to see, just varieties of the same kind. Anti-evolutionists also claim that a Chihuahua can evolve into a Great Dane, however the Chihuahua cannot evolve into a completely different species (Morris). The Chihuahua to Great Dane evolution is often called Microevolution (Dawkins).
Microevolution, or adaptation, is the occurrence of small-scale changes, below the species level, in the genetic information of a population. Since these changes occur on such a small scale, Microevolution takes a fraction of the time it takes for Macroevolution to occur, which is why it is so well documented (Microevolution). Humans are able to experience Microevolution in antibiotic resistant viruses and bacteria and poison mosquitoes (Dawkins). In November 2009, in Austin, Texas, a species of Helioconius butterfly is splitting into two distinct patterns and colors, and is not, undergoing Microevolution. It is expected that these butterflies will diverge into separate species and leave the intermediate stage of Microevolution into Macroevolution (Butterflies).
After looking that the Chihuahua and the Great Dane for a moment, one could image walking into the past on the line of common ancestors from teh dogs trying to find the most recent common ancestors from the dogs trying to find the most recent common ancestor between humans and dogs. Once he found the common ancestor looks almost nothing like neither the human nor the dog. He would then contemplate how such great change could occur. This great change is called Macroevolution.
Macroevolution is the scale of analysis of evolution spanning over large periods of time dealing with evolution that occurs above the level of species (Macroevolution). Macroevolution is the accumulation of Microevolutions until the evolved group and the original group become so different that they can no longer interbreed. This is also called speciation (Evolution). One would remember that anti-evolutionists often claim that Microevolution exists, but not Macroevolution (Morris). If one would ponder this for a moment he would see how fallacious the anti-evolutionists' assertion truly is. Stating that Microevolution exists but not Macroevolution, is the equivalent of stating that one believes in taking a step, however it is impossible for one to walk a mile. This is exactly the same situational context with evolution and walking. Macroevolution is Microevolution with the addition with huge amounts of time spanning between hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions of years. Microevolution is the step, while Macroevolution is the conclusion of the mile traveled. Each step, or Microevolution, would be one tiny fraction of the mile, or Macroevolution. Therefore after many steps, one would eventually reach the mile mark.
After contemplating about 'Microevolution' and 'Macroevolution', it is imperative that one must understand that neither word is scientific nor recognized by the majority of the scientific community (Dawkins).
Once one was able to construct the entire lineage from dogs to their most recent common ancestor with humans, he would be able to walk the line from generation to generation until he made his way to the front where the modern day dogs were. As he walked the path he would find little differences between any two that were side by side. He would sit there staring at two generations side by side and question whether or not the two dog ancestors were the same. He would let it go and move on to the next; on the next, the same thing happens which causes him to find few differences between the two generational ancestors. This cycle goes on until he reaches the very end of the line of ancestry, looks up, and notices that he just traveled the entirety of the line without even noticing a difference between two side by side generational ancestors. When he compares the most recent common ancestor of dogs and humans to modern day dogs, he could see the immediate difference, however when comparing each generational ancestor side by side, he could not. This is because with each generation only a few mutations occur which changes only a few phenotypes (appearance) of the animals. Since so few genes get affected by the replication of DNA each generation, there are not many distinguishable differences, if any. Only after hundreds, thousands, millions, or billions of generations does Macroevolution, in respect to the original ancestor. It is impossible to see the difference if one is so close to the action he can only see two generational ancestors, he must step back and look at the evolutionary path as a whole. Instead of observing singular side by side generations, observe tens, hundreds, thousands, millions, or billions of generations (Dawkins). Just as one does not 'feel' any difference when one ages into the next year. When one turns from twenty to twenty-one, there are not distinguishable differences in the way one 'feels.' However, when one turns fifty and recalls the grand scheme of many years passed as a whole, one can tell just how much he has changed and while he cannot 'feel' the difference between forty-nine and fifty, one most certainly can 'feel' a difference between twenty-one and fifty.
As stated, evolution is simply the change of genetic information over time, yet many 'refutes' of evolution consist of the phrase, "Well how does evolution describe how everything came from nothing (Evolution, White)?" These types of refutes are commonly favored refutes of anti-evolutionists, and these arguments' intrinsic value is nothing more than ignorance. The theory the anti-evolutionists are referring to is the Big Bang Theory, the best explanation of all the scientific evidence scientists have to describe the initial conditions and subsequent development of the universe. Excluding the point of an improper refute, the anti-evolutionists' idea of the BIg Bang Theory is also incorrect. The Big Bang Theory does not describe the origin of the universe, rather the initial conditions and development of the universe, as stated (Big Bang). Evolution has absolutely nothing to do with Cosmology, Astronomy, or any other subject pertaining to the universe and it's origin; Evolution pertains to how the diversity of life exuded from one common ancestor by means of natural processes (Big Bang, Evolution).
A close cousin to the anti-evolutionists' 'refute' of evolution not being able to describe the origin of the universe, is an argument which is stated, "How does Evolution account for the notion that the appearance of life came from nonliving matter (Menton)?" As before, this is a problem of ignorance. The referred question pertains to a theoretical science called Abiogenesis or "Chemical Evolution," which concerns itself with how life arose on Earth from lifeless matter. Again, evolution is the explanation of how the diversity of life came about and has nothing to do with the origin of life (Abiogenesis, Evolution). Like the origins of the universe, no one knows how life originated on Earth, however it has been shown that organic compounds, the building blocks of life, can emanate from non-life (Abiogenesis, Big Bang).
In an experiment conducted by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey called the Miller-Urey Experiment in the 1950s, it was shown that nonliving matter could produce organic compounds from non-organic precursors in some atmospheric conditions (Abiogenesis). The scientists created atmospheric conditions that were thought to be early Earth conditions and simulated various factors that would have been present. After a week of experimentation, ten to fifteen percent of the carbon present were organic compounds, approximately two percent were amino acids which are made to create proteins in living cells. In addition to organic compounds and amino acids, sugars, lipids, and some of the building blocks for nucleic acids (DNA and RNA are examples of nucleic acids) were also formed. It has been shown that the conditions that Miller and Urey used were not accurate representations of early Earth, however that has no impact on their discovery. The two scientists showed the world that it is possible for the building blocks of life to be produced from non-life, which leaves all the possibility for those building blocks to become life (Miller-Urey Experiment).
After most of the anti-evolutionist's arguments have been shown to be ludicrous, the usual last hope for attacking evolution comes in the phrase: "Evolution is only a theory (Dawkins)!" This is a problem of semantics, and the arguer shows their ignorance of science and basic vocabulary. The anti-evolutionists are referring to the casual, common definition of theory meaning that the Theory of Evolution is nothing more than a conjecture, hypothesis, or a hunch at an explanation. However in reality, when someone speaks of a scientific theory, this imposes a completely different semantic meaning. In science, a theory is neither a guess nor a hunch. A scientific theory is a well-substantiated, well supported, and well-documented explanation for science's observations that ties together all the facts about an idea and provides an explanation that fits all observations which can also be used to make and test predictions (if the predictions fail, the theory must be changed to fit the new information). In science, a scientific theory is the ultimate goal for an explanation. The scientific theory is just as close to being proven correct as anything can be in science (Not Just A Theory).
A frequent continuation of the quote about the scientific theory of evolution is that "Evolution is only a theory! It is not called the Fact of Evolution!" Once again as a common pattern, this is a problem of fundamental, rudimentary scientific literacy that one learns in junior high (Dawkins). There is a structural difference between a scientific law and a scientific theory and both are in two completely different scientific categories. A theory does not get promoted to a law once it is proven - that is not how science works. In science, facts, or observations, are collected, then laws describe the observations while theories explain the observations. A scientific theory does not get promoted to a scientific law by proving the idea; a theory never becomes a law (Not Just A Theory). An example being:
There is the law of gravity, which is the description of gravity, which basically states that if one lets go of something it will fall. This law does not state why the object falls. Then there is the theory of gravity, which is an attempt to explain why. Actually, Newton's Theory of Gravity did a pretty good job, however Einstein's Theory of Relativity does a better job of explaining the phenomenon. These explanations are called theories, and will all be theories. These theories cannot be changed into laws, because the two are completely different ideas. Laws describe. Theories explain. Just because it is called the Theory of Gravity, that does not mean that it is just a guess. It has been tested. All of the observations are supported by it, as well as its predictions that have been tested. Also, gravity is real! One can observe and test gravity for oneself. Just because it is real does not mean that the explanation is a law. The explanation, in scientific terms, is called a theory. In fact, if there was a hierarchy of science, theories would be higher than laws. There nothing higher, or better, than a theory. (Not Just A Theory)
Much like the Theory and Fact of Gravity, evolution is the same conceptually. Evolution (genetic change over time) is a scientific fact! It has been proven countless times, and many-evolutionists unwittingly agree, because, as they state themselves, they accept microevolution. Evolution occurs just as gravity does. The Theory of Evolution by Means of Natural Selection is the best explanation for the Scientific Fact of Evolution. Both the Scientific Fact and the Scientific Theory of Evolution are just as corroborated as the Scientific Fact and Scientific Theory of Gravity, Heliocentric Theory of the Solar System (planets orbit the Sun), and Germ Theory (Dawkins, Not Just a Theory).
With basic knowledge of evolution, comes a bit more understanding and a bit less ignorant 'refutes,' however the basics are just the beginning of the evolutionary edifice. Everyone should study every plausibility in their life; not just what they believe and negate the unfamiliar with information one has heard, contrary to what one could learn by an honest search. The journey to truth begins with a honest desire to learn and seek the truth, no matter how hard or discouraging the search may be. In the end: veritas vos liberabit.