11:34 AM February 28th, 2009
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.