I’m going to start out by stating my position on the subject. If you don’t believe in evolution then you’re an idiot. That may sound a little harsh and I will add an addendum; You’re either an idiot or uninformed.
As one of the most ingenious and well documented ‘theories’ ever created (alongside the likes of gravity and relativity), it astounds me that so many people can dismiss it as out of hand as if they’re talking about faking the moon landing or Bush orchestrating 9/11. Clearly idiots.
Firstly, ‘theory’ does not mean “we’ve just come up with this idea…”, that’s hypothesis. Theory means there is this idea and it’s backed up by this evidence but we don’t have every angle that could ever be conceived explained, set in concrete and sat on a sturdy plate in the back room that can be wheeled out for photographs by the media monkeys. Evolution by natural selection should probably be called a law rather than a theory, like thermodynamics. Something like: “The unit which is most advantaged in the population is survives at a higher rate and increases in future generations”. The rest is just details.
That’s where the phrase ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ comes into play. There is more evidence to prove evolution as the origin of all life on this innocuous planet than any reasonable person could disregard. You would either have to be an unreasonable person or someone who has never been informed of the facts that they’re overlooking. Both of which I believe occur in fairly equal proportions.
PersonA is uninformed. Which is fine. I spent years rubbishing The Smiths before actually sitting down and listening to the wonders that they produce. But that’s the thing. Eventually, after spending years with my fingers in my ears I gave it a chance and realised I was wrong. That could be PersonA with evolution
Person B is much more dangerous. They are smart. They are well-read. They are articulate. Statistically they’re probably American but it takes all kinds. They’ll have been brought up all their life to disbelieve evolution by stuck-in-their-ways parents and therefore when they’ve grown up and are presented with a trickle of facts which contravene their deep down indoctrination they block out whatever they don’t like, like a cartoon character with a cork in a leaky boat. “well, this AND this cant both be true so, as I had this stupid belief first I’ll stick to it and burn the other one”
Typical subconscious thought stream.
Anyway, there is plenty of literature, websites and bloggers spouting about the evo/creation divide and you are welcome to peruse that at your leisure but here’s my crack at evolution in the basic terms of Action Man (yes, that’s right, Action Man. It’s tangential but go with it).
So, imagine yourself as head of toy design at Action Man HQ. You’ve just invented the Action Man doll; a simple muscley bloke with a gun. It’s an instant hit with the young lads (and some girls). Your bosses are on your back already. The first one was such a success that they need a new design. A version2. But what? You get the thinking cap on, slave away all night and then you’ve got it:
“Let’s give him a bigger gun!”
Genius. Congratulations. They love it. It’s made, it’s sold and it’s got itself a nice place in the toy market. Sales of the original drop but that’s ok, because v2 is better. So you’re on a roll now. But what next? Step up the big brains. How about we release 2 at the same time? That’s all they need to hear. Cash signs in their eyes, the bosses ask for the designs.
“We have one that has a hang-glider, and one that has a bazooka”.
Brilliant. That goes out. Kids love it. But it has a bit of a knock-on effect on the v2. No-one wants a big gun when you can have a bazooka and so sales drop. Eventually, amongst all the bazooka and hang-gliding Men being bought people forget about the lowly v2. The company stops making it and it fades from existence only to fossilise in car-boot sales. The original chugs along nicely. Under the radar but it always has its niche.
By this point the design team is on overdrive, spewing out ideas all over the place. Hang-gliders with machine-guns on them, bazookas with laser-sights, dune-buggies with machine-gunning bazookas. Stocks in hyphens are going through the roof. The company churns them out to the shops and lets the public decide which ones are worth spending their hard earned time playing with. Some succeed, some fail. Some get replaced by newer models. Who needs a hang-glider when you can have a jet-pack? A few years on and there are hundreds of varieties in production. They have all kinds of weapons, vehicles, animals, teammates. There are ones that fly, swim, even talk. What a natural process of development, eh?
Now imagine you’ve never heard of Action Man before. First time you’ve seen it or anything like it and you’re a bit dim and don’t understand this process called ‘development’. Being confronted with so many different types of plastic doll you’d be confronted with two polarised opinions:
1 Somebody started with a simple doll and built it up with some becoming obsolete along the way (as above).
2 This one brilliant guy simultaneously came up with hundreds of designs, all of them solid gold, every single one capturing a niche in the market without one failure or significant overlapping characteristic.
So there’s no actual intellectual process behind evolution but I think the analogy covers the main points. Evolution is a process of trial and error and what works sticks around and what fails is naturally dropped. It’s not a complex theory or requires any schooling to comprehend. It’s the most simplistic concept known to mankind. Ok, so there are some bits that still have to be worked out and the infinitesimally small nuances can cause some mind bending but the overall concept is sound. And that’s all there is.
I refer to my original position.