In the last few posts I have concentrated on geoengineering. I have considered both the need for geoengineering and why such an outcome would be a positive event for life on Earth. This need and outcome are firmly embedded within a view of the universe, and life on Earth, as evolving entities. I was slightly disturbed by some of the anti-evolution views expressed in the Metro on Wednesday (12/12/12) and thought I should write about them here.
'Gaps in our fossil records only open door to attacks on Darwin's Theory' (Metro, 12/12/12, p. 14):
"Creationists accept variation within a kind (ie within the dog 'family', cat 'family', bovine 'family', equine 'family', etc) but reject the notion of one type of creature, such as a wolf, turning into a completely different creature, such as a whale."
"the fossil record contains exactly what you would expect to find if the biblical account of creation were true."
"As a creationist, I agree there is such a thing as micro-evolution (changes within species). However, the fossil record does not support macro-evolution, which claims all species are related to each other and, for example, that we are related to apes and descended from fish. Tens of millions of fossils have been dug up and still there is not a single clear, undisputed case of a 'missing link' between species. The fossil record consistently supports creation of separate species, not gradual evolution from micro-organisms to humans."
There appear to be lots of people who believe that if Charles Darwin's proposed mechanism of evolution is false, then this is a good reason to reject evolution and embrace creationism. This misunderstands Darwin's legacy. There are three meanings of evolution:
1 Evolution as Fact - species are not fixed but arise out of and develop into other species.
2 Evolution as Path - the actual routes that evolution has taken.
3 Evolution as Mechanism - the power that lies behind evolutionary change.
Darwin's achievement was to establish beyond reasonable doubt the truth of 1). He had very little to say about 2) and he did his best to postulate a possible mechanism for 3) - 'natural selection'. If one rejects Darwin's proposed evolutionary mechanism, as many evolutionists do, then one really needs to look for a more plausible evolutionary mechanism in accordance with 1). One cannot reasonably reject 1) on the basis of rejecting a single possible mechanism (there are other possible mechanisms which can occupy 3) above).
The Metro quote above states:
"The fossil record consistently supports creation of separate species, not gradual evolution from micro-organisms to humans."
The important word here is "not". In other words, the belief is being expressed that IF "separate species" came into existence THEN this entails that there was no "gradual evolution from micro-organisms to humans". Of course, there is no actually no such entailment. If one rejects "gradual evolution from micro-organisms to humans" then one is rejecting 1) above. However, such a rejection does not follow from an acceptance that "separate species" came into existence. This is because there are very plausible evolutionary mechanisms which entail that "separate species" came into existence. In other words, one can believe, like I do, that there is "gradual evolution from micro-organisms to humans" AND that "separate species" come into existence throughout the evolutionary process. In Acquiring Genomes Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan propose one such evolutionary mechanism with their symbiogenetic theory of animal speciation.
The conclusion seems to be that those who jump straight from a belief in "separate species" to creationism do not understand that there are evolutionary mechanisms which entail "separate species" coming into existence. The alternative is that they simply choose to ignore this fact.
For more on evolutionary mechanisms and paths see:
An Evolutionary Perspective on the Relationship between Humans and their Surroundings: Geoengineering, the purpose of life & the nature of the universe