Stand Up for Evolution!

Con­tin­u­ing our cel­e­bra­tion of 2009 as The Year of Sci­ence, this is my sec­ond video for the COPUS Project.

The Feb­ru­ary theme was Evo­lu­tion, as we mark the 150th anniver­sary of the pub­li­ca­tion of Charles Darwin’s On The Ori­gin of Species, hailed by many – includ­ing E. O. Wil­son – as the great­est sci­ence book ever writ­ten.

Darwin’s the­o­ry of evo­lu­tion by nat­ur­al selec­tion is the cor­ner­stone of biol­o­gy as we under­stand it today.  Since its pub­li­ca­tion it has been rein­forced by dis­cov­er­ies in many dis­parate fields of research, includ­ing pale­on­tol­ogy, geol­o­gy, nuclear physics, com­par­a­tive anato­my, and genet­ics.

There is hard­ly a the­o­ry in all of sci­ence that is bet­ter sup­port­ed by mul­ti­ple lines of study.

Yet, some­how, it remains con­tro­ver­sial to this day, espe­cial­ly in the Unit­ed States, where per­haps 50% of the gen­er­al pub­lic (but only 0.15% of sci­en­tists) are still cling­ing to a vision of cre­ation that involves talk­ing snakes and an improb­a­ble ark capa­ble of car­ry­ing mat­ing pairs of sev­er­al mil­lion species.  I won­der who fed and cleaned up after them every­day?  Why do 99.85% of sci­en­tists believe in evo­lu­tion?

Incred­i­bly, as Sean B. Car­roll points out in The Mak­ing of the Fittest, despite the rejec­tion of evo­lu­tion by half the nation’s pop­u­lace, our legal sys­tem relies on DNA evi­dence to deter­mine the free­dom or incar­cer­a­tion – even the life or death – of thou­sands of indi­vid­u­als every year.  DNA evi­dence which, of course, is firm­ly ground­ed in our under­stand­ing of evo­lu­tion and is utter­ly mean­ing­less out­side of it.

I sup­pose we’ll always be a nation of con­tra­dic­tions but some are more glar­ing than oth­ers.

There is no insult in the fact that we are relat­ed to every liv­ing thing on this plan­et!

It’s real­ly quite astound­ing what can become of a single-celled organ­ism giv­en a few bil­lion years and a vari­ety of ecosys­tems.  If you’ve ever left a casse­role in your refrig­er­a­tor for even a cou­ple months, you start to get the pic­ture.

Things change.

Relat­ed posts: 
Year of Sci­ence, March: Nobel, Edi­son and the Speed of Light
Year of Sci­ence, March: Jet­Blue and Cell Phones
Year of Sci­ence, Jan­u­ary:  Why is the Sky Blue?

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