Before we understood evolutionary biology, we were clueless as to the cause of the variation of life on Earth. “How did we get here?” and “who are we?” were questions only answered by philosophy. Various religions made their best attempts to explain the emergence of life. They used what we call “creation narratives.” These creation stories served a very important function being as where we come from says a lot about who we are. Creation stories made us feel good about having a reason why we were here (the stories provided philosophical explanations), but they did not help our understanding of how we got here (the stories did not provide scientific explanations). In order to truly explain how life came to be, the ancient idea that all life was created suddenly using a mysterious process had to be challenged. We needed an explanation we could actually test. Charles Darwin’s explanation of natural selection (the mechanism whereby evolution is made possible) gave us a powerful starting point. Natural selection is such a powerful explanation it stood up to scientific scrutiny before we discovered DNA. Once we unlocked the mystery of DNA, we understood that evolution is not only a good explanation, it is a fact of life (no pun intended) and full-fledged scientific theory. With the emergence of evolutionary biology, we now have a theory with practical application that has led to many important advancements in medicine and other fields. Evolutionary biology offers great promise for the future. A good place to learn about the practical application of evolutionary biology is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Educators may order free materials here.
Evolution is a revolutionary understanding of our very existence as human beings. By understanding evolution, we better understand how we came to be human and how we depend on other life and the environment for our survival.
What makes evolution revolutionary? The answer is simple: the same thing that makes all revolutionary discoveries revolutionary. Think of discoveries like our understanding of Earth’s moon. This discovery changed the way we see the world and ourselves. And it challenged us to put a man on the moon. One by one, we move away from ancient assumptions as scientific exploration leads us to answers we can actually use. The moon is not a night light as our ancestors believed, but rather a satellite of Earth that reflects light from our sun. The moon also affects Earth’s tides by its gravitational pull (gravity is another revolutionary discovery). Most revolutionary discoveries are well-accepted truths that we use to make predictions with great levels of precision. We can predict the Earth’s tides by understanding the position of the moon relative to Earth at any given time. And we can predict the moon’s position by understanding the moon’s path and rate of travel as it rotates and revolves around the Earth. One of the great rewards of science is that we not only gain understanding, we gain applicable knowledge that we use to make plans for the future and to build amazing technology that improves our quality of life. While our understanding of electricity, for example, has brought about great technology for communications like televisions, computers and cell phones, our understanding of evolution helps us to know how nature uses chemicals to manufacture living things. The more we know about our bodies, the better we can find ways to fix ourselves when we are broken and to prevent ourselves from breaking in the first place. Evolutionary biology is the most promising field of science for the longevity of human life.
Evolution Faces Opposition
The theory of evolution is the most revolutionary discovery of them all when it comes to how we see ourselves and all other life on Earth. It is also one of the most well-supported scientific theories, confirmed by many scientific fields. Despite this, evolution is the hardest truth to accept for some people. The people who reject evolution feel that the implications of not being “created in God’s image” diminishes human existence. Evolution threatens many of the faithful who base their own self-image on the assumption of creation. They feel that not being created by God with an objective purpose and moral mandate inevitably leads to the corruption of society. Because of the threat to the worldview of those who take creation narratives literally, evolution is facing a much bigger challenge than other revolutionary discoveries of the past (think flat-Earthers). In fact, there are people unwilling to learn about evolution and as a result have unwittingly – and in some cases purposefully – constructed their own distorted versions of evolution and spend a great deal of time and money attacking the science of evolution and inventing pseudosciences to offer as “alternative theories” to evolution. While most of the faithful do not interpret creation narratives literally and have not allowed evolution to shake their faith, creationist fundamentalists have organized full-scale misinformation campaigns against evolution. It may seem harmless and even a bit humorous that people would reject such solid and well-supported science as evolution. It’s like saying the Earth is flat. But this effort against evolution and science is no laughing matter.
As a direct result of the rejection of evolution by religious fundamentalists, science classrooms are becoming the battlefield of a war against evolution and science in general, including the vast majority of scientists (see Project Steve) who reject creationism as a scientific explanation. When you wage wars in the classroom, students become the casualty. The active rejection of evolutionary biology amounts to denying young men and women the tools they need to participate in one of the most promising career opportunities today and in the future. The war on science ultimately robs the global community of potential advancements in medicine, energy, and other areas of concern by retarding views of biology, geology, chemistry, physics, anthropology, paleontology, and other disciplines that make up our full understanding of evolution. In addition, shrinking the talent pool of scientists also results in the loss of potential contributions to national economies and national security.
The war on evolution is not a few zealots making bizarre claims à la Westboro Baptist Church. The war on evolution is an invasive form of public intoxication brought on by the mass consumption of a potent cocktail of fundamentalist indoctrination, pseudoscience, and abuses of the judicial system. In extreme cases, such as Ken Ham’s Creation Museum in Kentucky, we have an entire amusement park built for the sole purpose of indoctrinating children into a cult of science denial whereby scientists are compared to Nazis. In some cases these “museums” of hate and ignorance are subsidized by the community via multi-million dollar tax breaks as with Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter, also in Kentucky, a cement and wood building held together by steel plates made to look like Ham’s conception of the 100% wood ark of the biblical flood. Meanwhile, 33% of Americans believe that humans existed in their present form since the beginning, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center analysis. This is not a simple oversight, this is an epidemic of ignorance. The well-organized offensive against science education is a serious threat to society at large.
The science community cannot and should not be expected to fight this battle alone. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are on the front lines in defense of science education and have been doing a stellar job at keeping this offensive [mostly] at bay. And it is also through the grass-roots educating of friends and family and people in the streets by concerned citizenry (activism) that will help communities to educate their youth so as to build rewarding careers with excellent compensation while contributing to future advancements that benefit us all.
We Are Doing Our Part
In addition to providing news and commentary on evolution, T-REX.com intends to play a prominent role in exposing the people and organizations who are working to impede scientific progress and cripple children and their families intellectually. This includes organizations like the Discovery Institute (that has not discovered anything) who have created a creationist website made to trick people into thinking it is evolution news (evolutionnews.org). Also, there is Answers in Genesis (that provides no real answers), a website run by Ken Ham that teaches anti-science and pseudoscience to children and unsuspecting adults. We welcome all science enthusiasts regardless of religious affiliation to join in our quest to educate the public using facts to counter the misinformation spread by fundamentalists who bad-mouth good science and our hard-working science community.
Reconciling Faith with Evolution
It’s not all bad. Most of the people who reject evolution simply have no idea what evolution is. Catch phrases like “molecules to man” and the purposeful misuse of philosophical concepts like naturalism and materialism are carefully crafted attempts to malign evolution. Creationists have conjured up frightening moral implications of rejecting the literal interpretation of creation narratives. They will insist that if you believe we are all “just here by chance,” nothing matters. They have gone all out to falsely imply that the beauty of life on earth is ugly if evolution is true.
Evolution is true and life on earth is beautiful. A person of faith can also make this very same statement as they see God as expressing life through evolution.
In order to begin the process of reconciling faith with evolution, it is essential to understand on a philosophical level that evolution does not threaten the moral foundation of faith. Many of the faithful who embrace evolution, such as Kenneth R. Miller, have written books to this affect and are great resources for the faithful to draw from. Evolution is not about science vs. religion. Evolution is widely accepted by millions of the faithful. It is a morally sound explanation because it is the truth of what we are, who we are, and how we came to be. If God created all life on earth, he evidently did it using evolution.
Evolution and Purpose
As to the question of purpose, each of us has the ability to make decisions about our own purpose. This is one of the most powerful and positive philosophical implications of evolution. When reconciled with faith, evolution supports the freedom for each of us to make our own choices within each of our own spheres of influence.
Evolution and Morality
As to the question of morality, evolution provides explanations for how human beings came to have empathy and to care for one another and to work together for a common goal of living in harmony and ensuring prosperity and security for our families and our communities. The laws we enact reflect our moral intuitions.
As to the question of where evolution leads ultimately, we have no way to answer this question because we cannot predict the future. Evolution is driven by our environment and so the better we care for our environment, the better we care for ourselves. To a degree, we all contribute to future outcomes for ourselves, good and bad. The more we understand evolution, the more informed decisions we can make about how to properly care for ourselves and our environment.