Evolve or die

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I mean you people are the reason we don’t have flyng cars and butler robots. Goddammit.

By Gary Lim
Photos by Tim Vickers

I’m a pretty apathetic guy, almost to the point where it’s starting to become a real danger to my academic career and personal life. But if there’s one thing that just rubs me the wrong way, it’s the denial of evolution.

Evolution, or the “thing that science made up to piss off god” as it’s known to 26 per cent of British Columbians and 30 per cent of all Canadians according to a September 2012 Reid-Angus poll, is simply the gradual change of a species over time, due to selective pressures of the environment. But what am I telling you this for? I’m sure you’ve taken Science 10 and/or your parents aren’t siblings.

But just as a refresher, here’s evolution in a nutshell:  individuals in a population have some DNA-based trait that makes it easier for them to survive in an environment. Ergo, it’s more likely that they’ll survive and actually get to have kids of their own. These kids have inherited said trait from their parents, survive better than their compatriots, and spawn kids of their own. Eventually a generation of these kids will be so genetically different from the original population that they wouldn’t be able to breed with them (unless they had access to some sort of hot tub time machine), and are considered a entirely different species.

This a gross simplification, but I only have about 500 words, so if you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend the Wikipedia page for Introduction to Evolution. It answers such questions as, “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” (Spoiler: we didn’t evolve from monkeys.) It’s important to add that evolution has been proven on a microscopic scale; we see the effects of it every year when the influenza virus mutates just enough to make the shot we got last year useless.

The theory of evolution is far from perfect. It’s incomplete, with many key variables still not understood, otherwise evolutionary biologists would just spend all day sitting around, high-fiving each other.  But that’s the beauty of it: the theory is continually being revised, rewritten, and re-hypothesized. Whereas the theory of intelligent design, arguably its largest rival in answering the question, “From whence did humanity arise?” is the opposite; it’s stagnant, slow and singular.

The crux of intelligent design theory is based off of the “argument from ignorance” fallacy.  The term “god of the gaps” is a phrase coined by 19th century preacher Henry Drummond, which refers to the gaps in the knowledge or logic of one solution acting as the proof for the other. This makes intelligent design an unfalsifiable theory, which holds no value for science. A falsifiable theory (like evolution) is one that can be proven or disproven in a variety of scientific settings, meaning we can actually learn from it, unlike intelligent design.

The real takeaway here is that when your answer to one of the most fundamental questions of life (let’s call it theory A) is right, because theory B doesn’t account for the totality of all of everything your answer is just fundamentally unsound. You need to be proactive. You can’t just point to a lack of transition fossils, or complexity and call it a day.  That’s where the beauty of scientific rigor comes in; if you somehow prove something in your field, you can bet that there’ll be 10 other people on your ass trying to disprove it (possibly due to some sort of deep-seated insecurity issues in the scientific community).

Evolution is currently our best explanation for the emergence of new species, the range of eco-diversity on Earth and our own humble origins.  In 100 years, the theory of evolution may be drastically different from what it is today, or be completely disproven in favor of some new theory. Either way, we will have only gotten to that point through experimentation, analysis and lengthy debate.

If you ask me why it is then, that a banana fits perfectly in a human hand, I will hit you. Hard.