A new age of Evolutionary Theory

On the centennial anniversary of “The Origin of Species” in 1959, geneticist Hermann Joseph Muller warned, “One hundred years without Darwin have been enough.” It has been 53 years since Muller’s quotation, and the American people are still unwilling to embrace Darwinism. On Aug. 23, Bill Nye the Science Guy made a similar lament in a viral YouTube video. He pleaded with parents not to raise Creationist children because we need “scientifically literate voters and taxpayers.”

I agree completely with Mr. Nye. We impede the growth of science when we limit the knowledge of evolutionary theory to a minority of students. We must ensure all children have access to the most important idea in all the life sciences.

Every living creature, from the lowly archaean bacteria found in underwater hydro-thermal vents to the African elephant, bear the distinct mark of billions of years of gradual diversification via natural selection. The fossil record so perfectly fits the evolutionary narrative that oil companies pay paleontologists to find oil because they know which species existed during the formation of hydrocarbon wells.

It is a disservice to future biologists to teach them failed hypotheses that will confuse their understanding when their expertise is needed most. In order for them to be creative in the laboratory, they need to understand the basic framework of biology.

The time is now to bravely tread forward as a nation and abandon our fearful clinging of dead ideas. The American people need to embrace reality and accept that we were not specially created, but are in fact an extraordinary product of an unguided process billions of years in the making. There was no single creation event responsible for life on Earth that occurred a mere few thousand years ago. Life is neither static nor intelligently designed.

When we understand life through evolutionary theory, we know that we have a common ancestor — genetics. We can use the genes of our own species and implant them into other species. We have implanted human insulin-producing genes into E. coli bacteria to generate life-saving insulin. The formation of modern synthesis on genetics, which may one day eradicate heritable diseases, can also be attributed to advances in evolutionary theory.

Principals of evolutionary theory are an indisputable part of the scientist’s intellectual toolkit.

Knowing the truth about the world around us is one of the greatest pursuits in which man can partake. By denying the truth of evolution, our society demonstrates that it would rather remain blind to reality than face the apparently difficult facts. A society unwilling or unable to accept the reality of their humble origins does not deserve to advance beyond them.

Only a small minority of Americans has accepted evolutionary theory over the past 150 years, yet that small minority has used evolutionary insights to advance biology and medicine further than Darwin could have ever dreamed possible. It is time to advance even further on the insights of an evolutionist majority.

We do not get to choose which reality is correct. It has been done for us and we may merely choose to accept it or remain blind to it. We can still choose to use our understanding of our present reality to ensure a better future for science.

 

Reach the columnist at jacob.evans@asu.edu or on Twitter at @jacobevansSP.