A Deeper Look at If Evolution Is True
By John C. Murphy
There is much talk around the topic of evolution. But one question is key to everything: Is evolution true?
The evolutionary debate is complex on its own, but it is often further complicated by the use of a logical fallacy known as equivocation. Equivocation occurs when someone uses a term with more than one meaning in a misleading manner by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time.1
This fallacy permeates the evolutionary debate because the word “evolution” has multiple levels of meaning. Even though equivocation is often unintentional, when exploring a question like “Is evolution true?” it is important to be able to understand and recognize it. Therefore we will discuss two subcategories of the broad word “evolution” (specifically, microevolution and macroevolution) that lead to much of the misunderstanding.
Darwinian Evolution: In 1859 Charles Darwin published his classic work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. In it Darwin proposed an explanation of how populations and organisms evolve. Darwin’s theory involved two main mechanisms:
- Hereditary traits: In any population of organisms, individuals will exhibit slight variations. Often those variations are hereditary, meaning specific traits can be passed down from generation to generation.
- Natural selection: Individuals with variations favorable within a particular environment are more likely to survive and pass on those variations to the next generation than individuals with less-favorable variations.
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The concept of hereditary traits was already well known by Darwin’s time. The idea of natural selection was Darwin’s greatest contribution to the scientific community, and it is that for which he is most remembered.
Darwinian evolutionary theory proposes that over time these twin mechanisms can cause a population to look entirely different, demonstrating that species are not fixed.2 A common textbook example used to illustrate Darwinian evolution is the Galapagos finches.3 Since 1977, biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant have directly observed the evolution of beak size in the population of Galapagos finches.
Within the Galapagos Islands, environmental factors such as drought and rainy seasons impact food source availability. Different beak shapes and sizes of some finches are more advantageous for gathering specific food sources, which depend upon the environmental conditions. Finches with these favorable beak characteristics are therefore able to survive challenging environmental conditions and pass along their traits. This is an example of natural selection driving microevolutionary modifications: changes that help an organism adapt and survive…
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