The statement is not mine, I wish it were but it is not. I forget who said it, possibly Sam Harris or some other evolutionary biologist. Nonetheless it makes a very powerful, poignant statement. Once you understand the true intellectual and logical thrust of evolution and Natural Selection, nothing else stands up to it. Not earlier theories, not religious creation accounts (of any culture) and not - much to my chagrin - social philosophy.
I f we look at like traits between us and other species, we can speculate a common ancestor. But that, of course, is not enough. We must also compare our similarities with the fossil record. Is that enough, if not, we have similarities in DNA.
I'm over simplifying it. I'm no biologist. But I do understand the basic premise. Individual members of a species, adapt as is necessary, to prolong the genetic code. Should the environment necessitate an adaptation, the species will adapt. How? Only so much as it needs to pass on its genetic code.
But how Sean, how?
Well, let’s say that a population of fire flies lives on a mountainside. One day, for whatever reason, the climate changes and the mountain is newly cloaked each night in fog. The fire flies, now surrounded in fog are now encumbered in their search for a mate - the fog makes it more difficult for them to seek out other fire flies. However, some of the flies have brighter lights than others. These flies are better able to attract other mates and so their genes (the brighter light genes) are passed on whereas the fire flies with dimmer lights die out.
Over time, the genetic pool has changed so much by the shift of genes that a species, distinct form the original one is manifest. But things are not perfect. To have a brighter light requires more energy so the new species of firefly must also be adept at seeking out more food. Those individuals that are more successful at seeking out food get to eat and as such get to live and as such get to pass on their genes that are more sufficient to survival in their environments. Get it?
If the species it good in it's environment than it will survive with relatively little change - like a shark or a worm or a fern. These species have, for millions of years stayed relatively static because they survive sufficiently in their environments.
Here's the part many folks dislike. Primates by contrast have seen significant speciation in a relatively short time. Sometime ago, an apelike creature(s) (yes, forgive me for ignoring old world monkeys and lemurs) had better luck on the ground than in the trees. That creature is the common ancestor of Gibbons and other apes. Some of those creatures had better luck on the ground and in the trees. Those were the common ancestors of both orangutans and other apes. Somewhere along the line, some creature survived better in small colonies in mountainous areas as opposed to jungles. These were the common ancestors between gorillas and chimpanzees. Somewhere along the lines, some creature selected itself for the ability to walk upright. These were the common ancestors of hominids and bonobo chimps. Somewhere along the line, something figured out how to make tools - hence the common ancestor of Australopithecus and Homo habilis. Next we saw fire and weapons with Erectus, and the final branch (for Hominids) Neanderthals and Sapiens - the humans. Neanderthals couldn't hack the winter, the lack of language, Homo Sapiens etc and so we (Sapiens) are the only humans.
Now I know I can't convince anyone who's already made up their mind about creation et al. I'm not trying to. But I would like to open the dialogue. You see, I'm familiar with Darwin, I've read Dawkins, I know the work of Stephen J Gould and I believe in evolution. But I've also read Collins and Lewis and I've watched Kent Hovind and I've a firm grasp of (and love for) the bible. I know the sides, and the arguments and I want to get the discussion going (if this community's not utterly dead).
Sam Harris, preeminent biologist, author of Letter to a Christian Nation and vocal atheist recently had a debate with Pastor Rick Warren, the Author of A Purpose Driven Life, leading evangelist and spiritual leader for the wildly successful mega congregation, Saddleback Church. Let me say, I like both these men. Harris, whom I tend to agree with on the issue, is forceful in his conviction yet respectful of the opposition (within reason). Warren is a member of my community - he lives about 15 miles away from me - and a leading advocate for poverty alleviation and AIDS relief.
I tend to think that Harris won the debate but I'm sure a believer would say the same about Warren. The important point is not the debate but the dialogue. Harris did not call religion a 'mind virus' as Richard Dawkins does and Warren was remarkably candid in his assertion that he did not possess absolute certainty. But they talked without going to court, without waving placards and without lobbing bombs. And the discussion was real, not the politically correct "segregation" of science and religion advocated by Gould.
So let’s do that here, if anyone still lives in these hallowed e-halls. Let’s talk evolution vs. All of it. Any religion, pseudo-science, philosophy (remember, I was forced to abandon the credibility of my beloved state of nature) or competing theory. In fact, point out the flaws in evolution. Show me what's what because ultimately, what do I really know? So let’s have it out, in a loving, dignified and respectful way.
P.S. Sorry about the spelling/editing. Do you really care? If you do, let me know and I'll try to edit. Le Sigh.