Darwin and Evolution

Today is Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, and the world celebrates the genius of the man who brought a paradigm-shift in whole of biology with his insights, and had a lasting impact on philosophy, sociology and many other arenas. Few scientific theories have generated the controversy that evolution stimulated; few ideas have been so passionately debated and even fewer have survived 150 years of constant skepticism. Alfred Wallace developed the theory of evolution independently of Darwin, but he didn't have the courage to face the implications of his own theory, and later turned to spiritualism. Darwin was more intellectually tough and stuck to his ideas. And that is why the world celebrates Darwin today, and few even mention Wallace. Darwin had no access to the information of individual and population genetics or DNA and the exact mechanism of inheritence, and yet despite this lack of knowledge, Darwin was brilliant and insightful enough to come up with the theory of natural selection as the mechanism of evolution. Biology has changed alot since Darwin presented his theory and yet it remains substantially correct even now.

Nicholas Wade writes in The New York Times:

"Darwin knew a lot of biology: more than any of his contemporaries, more than a surprising number of his successors. From prolonged thought and study, he was able to intuit how evolution worked without having access to all the subsequent scientific knowledge that others required to be convinced of natural selection. He had the objectivity to put aside criteria with powerful emotional resonance, like the conviction that evolution should be purposeful. As a result, he saw deep into the strange workings of the evolutionary mechanism, an insight not really exceeded until a century after his great work of synthesis."

Religious believers opposed evolution from the very beginning. Evolution brought genesis down to the level of a myth, and its philosophical implications were too much for theology to handle. So Darwin and evolution was fiercely opposed. However, with time the scientific accuracy of evolution has been proven again and again, and so the religious scholars have little option but to accomodate evolution into their religious framework. The Vatican has accepted the truth of evolution and are now admitting that it was wrong to dismiss natural selection and that evolution is compatible with the Christian view of Creation. They have even dug up references from St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas to show that Christianity is actually evolution-friendly. If there is any lesson to be learnt here, it is that scientific theories should never be judged on religious criteria. The recent marriage of religion and evolution in the form of Intelligent Design is not a welcome change for me. If it is seen as a theological idea, fine, but when people begin to sell it as a science, that's where we should be alarmed. Such religious intervention in science will only do more harm. On Darwin's 200th birthday, we need to realize the need to go back to the science, because it is the truth of science which can force religious scholars to re-interpret their beliefs and not vice versa.

Steve Jones writes on Telegraph.co.uk:

"The least welcome among the many gate-crashers at Darwin's birthday party are the philosophers. When it comes to God, I am an untheist rather than an atheist: I have no interest in the topic, particularly in its supposed overlap with science. Who cares about the wrangling of silly old men in frocks as they argue (often murderously) about who has the best dress designer? And when theologians try to explain what Darwin really thought, I roll my eyes in despair.

It's not just their ignorance (for we all, to some degree, share that) but the fatuity of their case. I have spoken recently (and at such moments I feel like a rather mangy lion fed to the Christians) at several events that discuss the religious significance of Darwin's work; once, indeed, from the august pulpit of St Paul's Cathedral. Once the Great Flooders and the Six Dayers have had their say, the consensus among the faithful is that, yes, human evolution happened in the accepted way – because it was meant to happen. Quite what (if anything) that signifies I have no idea, but one thing is certain: it has nothing to do with science and should find no place within a year that celebrates that pastime."

Comments

Sadat Jabeen said…
Charles Darwin's ideas were surely innovative and may have encompassed the available biological facts (and technology) for a long time. But unfortunately, they have failed the test of latest scientific analyses. For instance, the rate at which mutation (and the changes caused by it in physiology of organisms) takes place is too slow to explain the rather quick succession of species (especially the appearance of 'homo sapiens' relative to other closer species) for which irrefutable data is available. There is enough data now in the fields of microbiology, biochemistry and genetics to refute the theory. Another example: the machinery of minute organelles in even uni-cellular organisms is so infinitely complex that the rate at which natural selection takes place would have brought about only a tiny portion of this complexity given the total time-scale of the appearance of life on this earth. Seekers of knowledge will find many other examples like this one to quote over here, what I have mentioned inhere is just a summation.
Awais said…
I'd love to see if you can provide a source mentioning the 'irrefutable data'. And as far as my knowledge of the subject goes, developments in the fields of microbiology, biochemistry and genetics have in fact led to the confirmation of evolution by means of natural selection. The overwhelming majority of biologists are in agreement over the validity of evolution, and this is the current general consensus of the scientific community. I have studied cellular biology; organelles are not 'infinitely complex' in unicellular organisms; they are mostly simple structures whose structure is well-determined and well-documented.

Here is wikipedia's article related to Objections against evolution:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objections_to_evolution
Umer said…
^^^
Exactly. Actually those with insufficient knowledge exclaim Darwinian theory of evolution to be a myth and following pathetic arguments of Harun Yahya try to refute it.

Now I personally do not have sufficient knowledge on the subject but the 'arguments' that I've seen against this theory are more philosophical and religious than logical and scientific.
Avizom said…
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/index.html
^ For rebuttals to most of the claims of the creationists.
Uni said…
Just a question:

Is there a difference between "natural selection" and "something coming into existence by chance/probabalistic process"???????
Awais said…
@ Uni

This is a very common misconception. Natural selection is believed to be a random process, while it is certainly not so. No biologist in his right mind would ever present chance as the mechanism of evolution of complex structures and organisms.

Here is an extract from talkorigins about this misconception:

'"The theory of evolution says that life originated, and evolution proceeds, by random chance."

There is probably no other statement which is a better indication that the arguer doesn't understand evolution. Chance certainly plays a large part in evolution, but this argument completely ignores the fundamental role of natural selection, and selection is the very opposite of chance. Chance, in the form of mutations, provides genetic variation, which is the raw material that natural selection has to work with. From there, natural selection sorts out certain variations. Those variations which give greater reproductive success to their possessors (and chance ensures that such beneficial mutations will be inevitable) are retained, and less successful variations are weeded out. When the environment changes, or when organisms move to a different environment, different variations are selected, leading eventually to different species. Harmful mutations usually die out quickly, so they don't interfere with the process of beneficial mutations accumulating.'

People normally have two options in mind:
1) either a thing is created by chance
2) or it is created by design

But in biology we have a third alternative, 3) natural selection, which is neither chance nor design. For an easy and convenient understanding of how natural selection leads to evolution, see this 'Introduction to Evolution' aricle on wikipedia here.

Richard Dawkins wrote:

"Natural selection is a cumulative process, which breaks the problem of improbability up into small pieces. Each of these small pieces is slightly improbable, but not prohibitively so. When large numbers of these slightly improbable events are stacked up in series, the end product of the accumulation is very very improbable indeed, improbable enough to be far beyond the reach of chance. It is these end products that form the subjects of the creationist's wearisomely recycled argument. The creationist misses the point because he... insists on treating the genesis of statistical imprability as a single, one-off event. He doesn't understand the power of accumulation."
Adnan Siddiqi said…
a bit late but..i also celebrated it! one can read here:

http://kadnan.com/blog/2009/02/13/chacha-evolutions-200th-birthday/

:-)
Adnan Siddiqi said…
umar, frankly speaking,the arguments in favor of Evolution doesn't sound logical to me. Infact evolutionist religiously impose that our grand ancestors were used to be cockroaches and later some magic made them a human. Watch and read Karl Segan on YOutube and you would not find him different than a religious priest
Awais said…
Arguments in favour of Theory of Relativity or Quantum Mechanics wouldn't sound logical to a layman either, but they are accepted without understanding by the public because in this case science doesn't clash with their religious beliefs. Evolution is a scientific theory; when people can't understand it, they tend to dismiss it. Evolution is not 'magic'; its science. And like all scientific theories, and unlike religious theories, it is falsiable.
Avizom said…
Even if evolution is falsified somehow (like discovering precambian rabbits) it can't be replaced by a creation myth (which one? there are so many). Animals definitely didn't fall from the sky. What we see as sky in daylight is only air scattering of light.
The concept of common descent is an important part of evolutionary science and is supported by a large body of evidence.

Besides, evolution is the core of biological sciences. Its considered a scientific fact since it can be observed both directly (in case of organisms with shorter generation times; bacteria developing antibiotic resistance is an example) and indirectly by studying fossils, comparative anatomy, molecular biology, etc.
JAMSHED MOIDU said…
dear Awais why is Rchard Dawkin scared of Harunyahya? ......why is he not accepting his invitation for debate?