Evolution supported by evidence

September 2, 2013 • Dear Editor

Dear Editor:

I see in various letters to the editor:

• That humankind has only been around for 6,000 years. Ridiculous. Good scientific evidence shows [auth] that humans were already wearing animal skins as clothing well over 150,000 years ago. We have powerful genetic evidence that human evolution has been in progress for millions of years. (But oops, I forgot, no evolution. We humans, complete and immutable and unrelated to our environment, were just whipped up one day like a taco salad.)

• That the universe is less than 10,000 years old. Breathtakingly preposterous for numerous reasons.

• That scientists the world over are coming to disavow evolution. Tiresomely often repeated, and untrue.

• That evolution equals Darwin. Untrue, genetics offers the best evidence.

• That mutations in retro-pseudogenes “can only be called speculation.” Tell that to an army of professional geneticists. Such mutations are readily detected and analyzed, and it is widely known that they constitute splendid proof that humans and other organisms have common ancient ancestors.

• That fossils cannot be even approximately dated. Well, so much for the sciences of geology and paleontology, right out the window! Sedimentation analysis and rock strata? Nope, that stuff is apparently just a demonic invention of those nasty old atheist propagandists.

• That dinosaurs were contemporaneous with humans and are still around, being seen today in New Guinea. Give me a break.

• That “just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true.” Silly old me, I always thought “prove” meant “establish as true.”

• That evolution is false because a fully-formed RNA molecule or complex protein would not likely have just popped out of the slime. But no evolutionist would expect it to! Bogus straw-man argument. The truth is that in the earth’s prebiotic chemo-sphere, any simple primordial self-replicating molecule would enjoy predation-free replication, copying itself exponentially into countless replicates, from which adaptive selection could (and obviously did) produce incrementally more elaborate self-replicating forms over vast spans of time. The development of life is gradual. Nobody expects a fully developed rhinoceros to just appear out of nowhere. Nobody but Creationists, anyway.

• That “all scientific research indicates that life cannot spring from nonliving matter.” On the contrary, it has been experimentally known for decades that after only a few days, inorganic “soups” excited by electric currents can and do spontaneously produce organic compounds, including the amino acids and even DNA nucleotide bases. Think what a few billion years could (and did) do.

• That evolution is “a religion masquerading as science.” This is just plain silly, and denigrates the work of scientists everywhere. In science we look to the hypothesis that best explains everything observed, and no hypothesis accounts for life on the planet nearly as well as evolution does. To deserve to be taken seriously, any alternative hypothesis would have to be supported by evidence as least as strong as the genetic, anatomical and paleontological evidence for evolution. But no such well-supported alternative hypothesis has ever appeared.

There’s nothing ignominious about our being part of a fascinating natural world unfolding itself through the ages. We should welcome seeing that world not blighted by ignorance but illumined by the hard-won insights of science.

To you “no evolution” and “young earth” letter writers, I suggest we all go attend any major science conference, an international paleo-genetics symposium would do nicely; or a meeting of the science faculty at any great university. I will gladly stand up and read aloud any letter I have ever written on this subject. The catch is, you also have to stand up and read yours.

Donald R. Burleson, Ph.D.

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