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What Evolution Isn't


Untangling the Misconceptions About Evolution

Some people in America have a lot of erroneous ideas about what Evolution is. They think it's a religion, an ideology, a moral judgment, or an evil plot to turn them away from God.

Well, evolution is none of those things and through this page I hope to show some of what evolution isn't and explore why it seems like so many conservative Christians have such hatred for this one particular scientific theory.

Darwin as an ape, image in the public domain from Wikimedia Commons

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Evolution is Not a Philosophy, Not a Belief System, nor a Moral Code: Evolution is Just a Natural Process

Science is Based on Empirical Observations

Evolution is just a process by which change occurs in nature. The process of evolution was deduced by interpretation of evidence that holds up to empirical scrutiny. Evolution is like many other natural processes which are deduced by interpretation of evidence. A couple of other processes we have deduced from evidence found in the natural world are erosion and eutrophication.

Evolution has no moral bias, any more than erosion or eutrophication do. Evolution is an explanation of a process which takes nothing into account but the physical evidence and only that evidence which holds up to careful scrutiny. The process by which scientific theories are arrived at and supported has much in common with crime scene investigation. Data surrounding the thing being investigated is collected and examined as scientists compare it to other known quantities and try to puzzle out how the event happened. Any evidence which doesn't hold up to rigorous empirical investigation is discarded.

The theory of evolution is a similar set of deductions used to postulate what may have happened to cause the existence of myriad life forms on our planet. Like a crime scene investigation, none of the evidence was purposely left for the investigators. In the case of evolution, the events or circumstances happened so long ago and on such a slow scale that by the time we began investigating it, much of the evidence was dust. Our "crime scene" was old, contaminated, and had millennia of wear and tear before we even realized we ought to be looking at it.

A group of crime scene investigators might not piece together the exact story of what happened with 100% accuracy. Perhaps Mrs. Potter didn't kill her husband with a napkin holder in the basement and stuff him in a dryer, maybe he wasn't dead when she stuffed him in the dryer but died inside it of the wounds Mrs. Potter inflicted with a napkin holder. However, the basic facts are correct - it was Mrs. Potter who killed Mr. Potter and she did use a napkin holder to fatally wound him and did stuff him in a clothes dryer. The same lack of 100 percent accuracy of every tiny detail that may have occurred applies to the natural scientists that have pieced together and interpreted the evidence to suggest evolution via mutation and natural selection over the course of millions of years. However, neither group would "take the case to trial" if the evidence wasn't compelling.

My point is that evolution isn't a philosophy, it isn't a religion, it isn't a disproof of the existence of God; it has no moral bias. Evolution doesn't make people into atheists any more than climate changes, global warming, or sedimentation do. Evolution is simply a reasonable, scientific deduction based on analysis of the evidence available. I have no understanding why people have chosen to feel threatened by evolution - it's as bizarre as feeling threatened by erosion or euthrophication or any other natural process.

More Reading on Darwin and Evolution


Evolution is Not The Same as Social Darwinism

Misuse of Darwin's Name Created the Confusion

There seems to be some confusion, especially in the conservative Christian community, between the Theory of Evolution and Social Darwinism.

"Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" which came out in 2008 was a film created to arouse anti-science and anti-evolution sentiments among viewers. To that end the film purposely confused the meaning of Social Darwinism and the Theory of Evolution implying that the Theory of Evolution caused the Holocaust and created communism. The writers of "Expelled" didn't come up with the idea that the Theory of Evolution and Social Darwinism were one and the same. That particular misconception has existed for some time and some natural confusion is completely understandable. However, they used and built upon the misconception for their own purposes.

The confusion about Social Darwinism and The Theory of Evolution is so common that many people repeat the misconception innocently and thus spread misinformation.

Charles Darwin was the writer of "On the Origin of Species" and is considered the father of the Theory of Evolution via natural selection. When his name was applied to the elitist ideology, Social Darwinism, the confusion began.

Social Darwinism is an ideology which holds that competition between human beings drives social evolution in that humanity improves as the strong reproduce and the weak die off. Rich and powerful people have used Social Darwinism to support the idea that the social elite are inherently better and that it is their natural place in the order of things to flourish by stepping on the weak and powerless.

Social Darwinism is actually a misnomer; Charles Darwin himself did not support the ideas behind the ideology, holding that principles of natural selection resulting in fitter offspring should not apply or be applied to human beings. Darwin outright stated that it was man's responsibility to care for weaker members of society and that we have evolved feelings of sympathy to that end.

The Social Darwinism movement also substantially predates the publication of Darwin's treatise - "On the Origin of Species." It wasn't given the name Social Darwinism until much later when key words used to describe natural selection such as "survival of the fittest" struck a chord in those who followed the ideology. It would more properly be called Social Spencerism after Herbert Spencer, the person who published his theories on a natural origin for inequality of the social classes about eight years before Darwin's theory hit print.

The Theory of Evolution is a scientific theory regarding the origin of the myriad of species of life on earth via process of natural selection. The Theory of Evolution is a description of a natural process. It isn't a moral judgment; it's a description of natural forces and probable events as interpreted by scientists.

Social Darwinism bears as much relation to the Theory of Evolution as child molestation bears to making love. Social Darwinism is a perversion. Or you could say Social Darwinism bears as much in common with the theory of evolution as the message of Christ bears to the Spanish Inquisition.

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Polls Show The Vast Majority of Scientists Accept Evolution - No Matter What Religion They Believe or Don't Believe

It seems many people are unaware that people can both believe in God or Gods and accept evolution as a sound theory. But surveys show that scientists, many of them quite religious, overwhelmingly accept evolution.

What Makes Us Human? - Divine Nature or Ourselves?

Some believe that if man evolved rather than being created it would negate our humanity. They believe that we would have no basis for morality if we evolved and were not created. What do you think?

If evolution happened and happens does it make man less human and special than if he were created by an outside force?


Why I Think Some Christian Fundamentalists Hate the Theory of Evolution but Not Other Scientific Facts

What do some fundamentalist Christians and some other religious fundamentalists have against the theory of evolution? Why do they seem so upset by the very idea of evolution?

Evolutionary theory contradicts the literal story of Genesis as found in the Bible. However, a lot of scientific knowledge contradicts parts of the Bible. For some reason, scientific knowledge or facts which contradict literal interpretations of parts of the Bible other than those in contradiction to Genesis in particular simply don't fall under fundamentalist Christian fire.

The Theory of Evolution evokes extreme emotions in some fundamentalist Christians and some other religious fundamentalists for some reason. They openly express disdain, fear and outright hatred of everything to do with the Theory of Evolution.

Some fundamentalist Christians in America feel so strongly about the Theory of Evolution that they throw fortunes at getting it stricken from existence. The Christian Right in America lobbies aggressively to get evolution removed from public school curricula. Fundamentalist Christians have even created "Creation Museums" to counter the theory of Evolution at the cost of millions of dollars. The Christian Right in America is very upset with the Theory of Evolution.

So why do some fundamentalist Christians feel threatened by that particular theory - evolution - but not by other scientific theories of natural processes such as erosion, eutrophication, or genetics? Why aren't they laughing at people and calling them stupid for accepting the theory of plate tectonics, too? Why don't any fundamentalist Christians attack people for accepting geometry, geology, meteorology, and chemistry?

Why are fundamentalist Christians so focused on only those scientific schools of thought which contain elements contradictory to the literal interpretation of Genesis but not those which contain elements contradictory to other portions of the Bible?

My theory is that the book of Genesis deals with the nature of man himself and the nature of life. It defines man as a divine being created in God's image and sets him above all other thing excepting God himself. The Genesis story in the Bible leads to the idea of man possessing a soul, given to him by God.

The Theory of Evolution places humanity as part of the world which gave him life and identifies mankind as a species of animals. That is counter to the nature of man described in Genesis.

People have strong emotional feelings about the divine nature of man, made in God's image. If pi is a tiny bit larger than exactly three or if science shows that the world has never been covered by a global flood, nothing about the nature of man is called into question.

So, in my opinion, it all boils down to self-image. Anything that threatens long-held ideas of self-image will tend to create a strong emotional impact and create a backlash, much as the Theory of Evolution has among fundamentalist Christians and other religious fundamentalists.

Weigh in with Your Opinion on Evolution!

The Theory of Evolution says nothing about the origin of life, only the origin of variation between species. Keeping that in mind, how would you answer?

Do you accept evolution as a valid scientific theory as to why so many varied species of life exist on earth?

Teaching Evolution

Teaching About Evolution in Schools

Does Teaching About Evolution in Schools Cause Kids to Become Atheists?

So What Do You Think about Evolution? - Is Evolution an evil plot to take away religious belief? Or is it just science?

Zut Moon on February 29, 2012:

Also ..featuring it in my lens - Mankind: An Amazing Creation ... or a Collossal Mistake?

Zut Moon on February 29, 2012:

I like this lens. Blessed it and am going to feature it in my lens A Look at the Complexities of Man.

Edutopia on January 29, 2012:

I think that the discourse in America over evolution says more about education in our country than it does about the validity of either side.

reasonablerobby on September 04, 2011:

Evolution is a theory that is supported by a considerable weight of evidence. The evidence suggests that biological change occurs over considerable lengths of time. It makes no claim to stipulate the originating cause, God , demiurge, or whatever. Evolution is a process not a belief system. Science is circumspect about its claims. Dogma isn't described as dogmatic for no reason!

anaamhussain on August 17, 2011:

I believe evolution is another theory, an attempt by science to solve a mystery. It has nothing to do with religion. we all are entitled to our believes.

efriedman on June 27, 2011:

Evolution is a sound scientific theory and the fundamental concept of biology, so it should be taught in biology class. Religious beliefs should not be taught in biology class just as we don't teach sewing or basketball in biology class. Furthermore, creationism is a view held by only one religious group - there are many other religions that do not share this view. It is a narrow view to assume there is one version of religion.

The Gutter Monkey on April 05, 2011:

@anonymous: The Theory of Evolution is taught in schools because it is a field of science. It is a scientifically studied, researched, and tested scientific theory that is consistent with numerous other fields of science. So it must be taught it our schools for children to understand science as a whole.Religions are in no way another equal side to this coin because they don't pertain to scientific studies and are not scientific theories. If religions are to be taught in schools they shouldn't be taught side by side in the Science class next to evolution... they should be taught side by side in English class next to other works of poetry and literature.

The Gutter Monkey on April 05, 2011:

"Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people." Carl Sagan

alyssa87 on March 03, 2011:

great great great lens, vvv informative, keep it up :)

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on January 27, 2011:

@anonymous: Then why do most Christians, worldwide, believe evolution happened? There are not just two sides. Every religion has its creation story.

anonymous on January 27, 2011:

I don't think it is necessarily an "evil plot." However, if the Biblical approach to creation is not presented side-by-side with the evolutionist approach, then I think the children are, by default, being taught that God did not create us and, therefore, is not the Supreme Being that we Christians claim him to be. If one side is presented, then the other should be also. Since or no science, it influences religious beliefs.

eccles1 on February 03, 2010:

I am happy to come across something nice said about Charles Darwinthank you

Eliza Rayner from Boulder, Colorado on January 28, 2010:

Thanks for posting this page. I teach biology and there are SO many misconceptions about what eveolution is and isn't that its nice to see you address some of that here. I spend over 12 weeks talking about it in my classes! I have added this page to my newest page - a few of my favorite things. thanks.

nickupton lm on November 30, 2009:

I thank God that I don't live in a religious fundamentalist state. Evolution explains the process of change, Creationism deals with how things originated, they deal with different things. The only conflict arises if you believe that there is no chainge and that all things were made as they are - that belief contradicts much of what we know as fact about nature; things we can see before our eyes.

Sonya Chappell from UK on November 13, 2009:

Doing our Dinosaur Discovery project with the children left us in no doubt that evolution is a fact. I'm glad you raised the issue though and I think in the States its more of a discussion point than over here in the UK where evolution is pretty much accepted.

Webcodes LM on June 14, 2009:

Thank you for the discussion. 5*.

JanieceTobey on June 01, 2009:

Very nice lens! 5 stars

anonymous on May 24, 2009:

Good thought provoking lens! I think it is possible to believe in both. One is science and in my opinion does not take away from God's creation of life itself. I've often wondered if the humans that are spoken of in Genesis Chapter One are evolutionary man - the people evolving from earlier creation into pre-Neanderthal and beyond. Genesis Chapter One speaks of many humans having dominion over the other creatures. Genesis Chapter Two speaks of ONE man and ONE woman created in God's likeness and put in the Garden of Eden. Couldn't that explain the difference of what we think of as "Cavemen" or pre-historic men and what seems to be the sudden appearance of men who are more like what we are today? And if there weren't already some sort of "evolutionary" humans on earth - how is it that Cain found a wife in Nod?

Bambi Watson on May 23, 2009:

Wonderful fun :-)Though I personally believe in both evolution and "God" as in the source of all energy in the universe, not the guy in the clouds lol...It saddens me how organized religions use the idea of "God" as an excuse for hate, war,, power & greed...and repress scientific proof because then they would lose the power to manipulate the masses and profit from it.

Quirina on May 22, 2009:

Hi Kylyssa, I love this lens! I think the question you are raising ('Why don't fundamentalist Christians attack people for accepting geometry, geology, meteorology, and chemistry?') is brilliant, and I share your guess about the answer. Thank you!

Spook LM on May 15, 2009:

Thanks for the thought provoking lens. Unfortunately I just happen to be one of those people who love a good debate

dannystaple on May 10, 2009:

Excellent lens. It clarifies a number of points that some people often mistake in this topic.

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on March 27, 2009:

[in reply to Amitabh1702] Oh, thank you!

anonymous on March 26, 2009:

I have featured your lens in my lens here => The Blind Watch Maker - Book ReviewHope you approve.

anonymous on March 12, 2009:

I am not surprised you adore Dawkins. Here's 5 *'s for your fantastic lens.

juice28 on March 12, 2009:

great! it is a topic of debate, im not gonna repeat my comment posted above but i like it!! good job

MikeMoore LM on March 11, 2009:

Very interesting lens. Thanks for the read!

anonymous on February 22, 2009:

This debate goes on an on without any solid solutions

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