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Evolution

And The Theory of Natural Selection

Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved.

Published 2016.01.25


Introduction


I suppose it is possible there are atheists who don’t accept evolution, and I know there are Christians and Muslims who do understand and accept evolution. Neither position mandates or excludes the other. However, for me, the two went hand-in-hand. As long as I accepted the biblical account of creation (and I did* for many years), then I must believe in its God, or one very like it. Once I began to understand and accept evolution as fact, there was less of a possibility that God was exactly as described in the Bible.

(* About 40 percent of Americans believe in the biblical account of Creation.)

This page hopes to answer these questions: (1) why I believed in Creation for so long, (2) how and why I came to accept evolution, and (3) what evolution is and isn’t. First, I will describe, from my past writings, the arc of my changing thoughts on this topic.


Evidence Of My Changing Understanding


The only time the word “evolution” is mentioned in my journals was during high school, when I wrote that my high school biology teacher “talked about evolution, and confessed openly that she didn’t believe in it.”

However, the word “creation” appears many times in my journals. The first instance was on 1988.03.23: “I just talked [to two other boys at church] about the beauty of God’s creation, and never to attribute anything to nature, because there is no such thing.” I referred to animals and insects often as “God’s creations” and rarely used “nature” in reference to the world around us — especially in my early journals. When I did use the word “nature” in this sense, it was as a proof of God.

The next time the word evolution appeared in my writings was in the ad hominem poem The Evolutionists, in which I made fun of scientists who believe in and propogate the “evolution facade”. It’s clear from the poem that I didn’t understand what is meant by the term. A year later, I mentioned it again in the song Kamikaze World, and again belittled the idea.

By the late 1990s (post-college), the word “creation” was no longer appearing in my journals; instead I used the word “nature” to refer to the great outdoors, even using “Mother Nature” a few times.

In 1996, I wrote a paper called Creation or Evolution: What Difference Does It Make?, in which I first mis-represented evolution to be the antonym of Creation, and then mistakenly said creationists have facts on their side and that evolutionists “lean so heavily on their presuppositions that they are very unlikely to change their views, no matter how strong the ‘evidence’ presented to them.” Again, this shows a misunderstanding of what evolution actually is, and an ignorance of how much is known about evolution and related fields.

Just a week later, I wrote Future Possibilities of Evolution, in which I continued to betray an ignorance of evolution, but asserted that even creationists “believe, take for granted, and even admit that some forms of ‘evolution’ actually happen”, and went on to conduct thought experiments about how evolution might continue in the future. I doubt my viewpoint had shifted in a week’s time; the two papers focused on different subjects and so I came at the topic from different directions.

On 1998.06.14, in a letter to an old friend, I wrote: “I can even see how one species might possibly, over billions of years of trials, develop into a newer and better species. Man himself even, just maybe.”

By the late 1990s, as I took up science fiction writing as a semi-serious pursuit, I found myself using the term occasionally, and really without choice as I dealt with alien species and other sci-fi topics. The term is mentioned in Robber Baron, as well as in several unfinished stories: The Search For Home, The Connors Epic, Mrs. Death, Mordecai, A Time For War, Empty Planet, Prichard’s Choice, G.O.D. Was A Teenage Girl, and so on. Sometimes it was mentioned in passing, but other times I included fairly accurate descriptions of the process.

By April 2002, when I wrote Political Ramblings Of A Madman, an attempt to explain my viewpoints on several issues, I appear to have accepted evolution as fact (“...I agree with Darwinian theorists...”)

Considering the great amount I wrote during those years, including journals, poems, songs, fiction, letters, treatises, etc., this is a very surprisingly small amount of space dedicated to this topic — for me.


Why I Believed Creation For So Long


To a secular scholar or scientist, the creation account in Genesis 1-2 reads like a fable or many other ancient religions’ origin stories. When compared to what we actually know of the universe and the history of life on Earth, the creation account is wrong on so many particulars that it can’t even be held up as partly true. So why did I cling to it?

The answer is easy of course: it was ingrained in me since birth. I had Bible story books as a child, including audio books on cassette. All referred to God creating the world; many paraphrased or quoted the Genesis story. As I grew older, every church I attended taught creation as if it was science, and as if it was true. By the time I first heard of evolution (I think it was from the pulpit), my mind was predisposed against it. Despite relying on science for medical treatment, microwave ovens, and air travel, we were told that evolution was all made up, “just a theory”, and that it was a conspiracy by evil secular humanists to undermine our faith in God by pushing the teaching of evolution in classrooms.

I was further unfortunate to have a high school biology teacher who believed in creation, as mentioned above. That was during my sophomore year. She mentioned evolution only because the curriculum required it, and if memory serves correctly, we only spent a few days on the topic, covering key words like “natural selection” but without any real explanation. My main source of information about evolution was from preachers, though I did absorb some knowledge from science fiction books that mentioned it in passing.

By the time I was finally ready to listen to it with an open mind, in the late 1990s, I was no longer in school and surrounded by mostly uneducated people while I worked at menial jobs.

Summarized: I was indoctrinated with creation and told it was true, evolution was misrepresented to me (which I discuss more below), and those who should have been informing me about evolution did not.


How And Why I Changed My Mind


It’s clear from the few things I wrote about it that my mind changed on evolution some time between 1996 and 2000. In 1996, I postulated that it didn’t make any difference whether evolution or creation was true, which was already a change from what I’d believed a year earlier. By 1998, I was just fine with “billions of years” of evolution, and in 1998 and 1999 I was accepting it as true in the sci-fi stories I wrote.

I don’t think I truly began to understand evolution until a decade or more later, when I began reading works by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and others. I didn’t read The Origin Of Species (Charles Darwin) until 2015.

But it is not clear to me how or why my mind changed. Unlike my journey from faith in God to atheism, I have a difficult time tracing my chain of thought regarding evolution — except as it relates to that larger quest. Creation requires a creator; if I no longer believe in God, then I can’t very well believe that it created all of life in six days — or even that it helped along evolution throughout the millenia.

I’m not sure what changed my mind between 1996, when I was merely considering the idea and failing to understand it, and 1998, when evolution clearly seemed more plausible to me. I know I was still reading during that time. Perhaps continued exposure to science fiction (and an occasional nonfiction book) helped to turn the tide. Perhaps I sat down and thought about it one day.

I don’t have any record of this process or what instigated it. I assume that no longer being exposed to regular affirmation of Creation (because I wasn’t attending church during that time) had something to do with it.

Today, I am convinced that I would have accepted evolution all along if it had been presented accurately to me as a youngster, and if I hadn’t been outright lied to about it.


What Evolution Is Not


As noted above, when I rejected the truth of evolution, and even after I began to accept it, I had a curious lack of understanding about it, and I suspect that many who continue to argue against it either suffer from the same ignorance or are disingenous in their opposition.

I’ve often wondered, if we could manufacture a sentient being who had never heard of either “Intelligent Design” or evolution, and both were explained to it, which it would think was more reasonable based on today’s data. I am now certain that it would unhesitatingly discard creation immediately.

Before I could begin to understand evolution, I had to learn what it was not, because these are all things someone told me about evolution when I was young and impressionable.

Evolution is/was:



What Evolution Actually Is


True understanding began for me upon learning that last point. Evolution itself is not a theory; it’s an observed process. In science, a theory is well-substantiated explanation for observable phenomenon — aquired via the scientific method and repeatedly tested and confirmed through observation and experiments. So saying “evolution is only a theory” is like saying “it’s just a theory that objects fall when you drop them”.

Evolution, like objects falling to the ground, is the observed phenomenon. The theory part comes when we try to explain what has been observed; thus the Theory of Natural Selection (to explain evolution) or the Theory of Gravity (to explain falling objects).

Evidence for the occurrence of evolution has come from various fields of study, including paleontology, geology, molecular biology, genetics, and embryology. The explanation for how it happens (the theory) is natural selection.

Briefly stated, evolution is “change in the heritable traits of biological populations over successive generations.”

The theory of evolution by natural selection starts by examining artificial selection, the breeding that humans have governed in many species of plant and animal, and then uses the same idea — that outside forces can select for specific qualities. The primary difference is that humans select intentionally, while nature has no sentience. Human breeders select for desirable traits (“this flower is prettier than the others”), and nature selects for desirable traits (“this bear is better able to survive a long, cold winter”).


Misrepresentation


Aside from early indoctrination, the primary reason I remained unconvinced of evolution for many years is that it had been misrepresented to me, and I can only surmise that this is the case for others as well. I was told that evolution itself was “just a theory”. I was told that it was a lie, that there was “zero evidence” in support of it. I was given a few historical examples of hoaxes, frauds, and mistakes — including the Nebraska Man (mistake; turned out to be an extinct species of javelina) and the Piltdown Man (fraud; bones from orangutan and modern human) — and told that all the “so-called” evidence for evolution was just like that. I was never taught that there have been hundreds of legitimate, dated fossils found of human ancestors.

I was told that “evolutionists” had too many “missing links”, often called gaps, in the fossil record; there were no intermediate species found to connect the various known species. Only years later did I realize the lunacy of this argument: that the more evidence is gathered, the more gaps there will be. If you only know of two species in an ancestral chain, there is only one gap. But if you discover eight intermediate forms to make a total of ten, now there are nine missing links.

I was told that evolution meant an individual of one species would give birth to an individual of another species, which was easy to argue against: “A dog can’t give birth to a cat” or “A fish will never give birth to an alligator”. It was years later that I learned this is a Strawman argument — lying about the original stance in order to argue against it, and I eventually learned that no scientific theory of evolution has ever claimed one species gives birth to another.

I was told that dating techniques used by scientists were notoriously inaccurate, with the volcanic eruption at Mount St. Helens used as an example. Supposedly, someone dated new features as millions of years old, proving that every other million-year-old item was actually very recently created by God. It wasn’t until the advent of the internet that I learned this was a mistake in dating by one man, using a dating method known to be inaccurate for recent items.

Further, I was told that Darwin only “invented” the theory in order to justify the subjugation of other humans. This was the most pernicous lie of all, but was easier to swallow when I was first told the entire original title of his most-known book: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” (see my review).

Of course, I had not read the book, nor was I familiar with scientific terminology. I had only heard the term “race” used to describe different groups of human: black, white, Asian, etc. I had no idea that Darwin used the word race as synonymous with “variety”. When I eventually did read the book, in early 2015, I saw this immediately; Darwin’s first use of the word race was in reference to varieties of cabbage, which is followed by a discussion of “the hereditary varieties or races of our domestic animals and plants”.

All of these misrepresentations — and more — are still circulating in parts of the Christian world, most notably among Young Earth Creationists (YECs). To this day, I see Christians asking why no one has ever observed an animal or plant evolve into another species, despite no one ever claiming such an absurd thing has happened. I regularly see YECs say that evolution means “everything happened by random chance”, that “it’s just a theory”, that evolution was only invented by atheists to help justify their atheism, that teaching evolution is “indoctrination” and “brainwashing” (example), and that if evolution was real, we should be witnessing dogs evolve into cats (example).

Almost all of these misrepresentations can be dispelled by learning a bit of the history of scientific thought on evolution, and about where the science stands now.


A Short History Of Evolution


The main thing that struck me when studying how the ancients thought of species development is that there was never complete homogenity of opinion on the subject. We tend to think in absolutes — “everyone believed the Earth was flat” or “everyone believed in Creation” — but it simply isn’t so. There were always competing world views on these topics.

While the Old Testament was still being written and compiled, pre-Socratic Greek philosophers were supposing that animals could give birth to different types of animnals, that animals first lived in water and that man likely came last. Others, in China and Rome speculated along similar lines, but it was very much a guess, a supposition, a thought experiment. Others elsewhere supposed that all species were static — never changing. Still others suggested that new species occasionally just popped into existence.

In the early 1000s (CE), Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun described a form of evolution, saying minerals became plants and plants became animals. He suggested in the 1300s that humans came from the “world of monkeys”. Nasir al-Din al-Tusi put forth an early theory about the survival of the fittest due to hereditary variability — almost exactly what Darwin would espouse 600 years later.

Through most of these millenia though, “essentialism” was the dominant world view. This was the idea that all kinds of animals were specially created — though proponents differed on what exactly constituted a “kind”, a “species”, and a “variety”. Essentialism was helped immeasurably by the stranglehold of religion, and the fact that modern science hadn’t yet been developed.

The second thing to keep in mind is how little many of these men knew about the world — how little information was available relative to today. The Americas were unknown, as were many of the oceanic islands. Aside from fossilized shellfish and a few petrified plants, the fossil record was unknown. And there was a strong school of thought that fossils had a mineral (rather than biological) origin. There was of course no knowledge of genetics and DNA, plate tectonics, atomic structure, microscopic life. Even the idea that species could go extinct was unheard of until the late 1700s when Georges Cuvier demonstrated otherwise.

Fundamental changes to most sciences began during the Age of Reason, including geology, paleontology, biology, and archeology. By the 1800s, explorers regularly found skeletal and fossilized remains of creatures never before known: mammoths, mastedons, giant sloths, and dinosaurs, just to name a few. It began to be clear also that various strata of rock contained differing kinds of fossil records, each representative of a different period in Earth’s history, and that the planet was older than previously thought. Even as these studies grew, current species were going extinct, including the aurochs (1627), elephant bird (1600s), dodo (late 1600s), Steller’s sea cow (1768), and great auk (1840).

If species were going extinct, and earlier ones had already done so, and if the fossil record strongly indicated that there had once been fewer species, this meant that new ones had arisen. Some believed that new species were created or spontaneously generated as necessary. Others began to lean toward “transmutation” of species, the precursor of the modern idea of evolution. This idea was helped by direct observation and knowledge of species changing through human influence, such as breeding.

As it began to be more obvious that species were not completely static, naturalists began to look for explanations. Why did some animals go extinct? Why do many current species have features and habits unexplainable by the story of Creation? Why could some species be crossed but others could not? If plants and animals had been specifically created for their habitats, why did non-native species often easily take over once introduced?

Darwin lit upon his Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection after observing artificial selection performed by humans on animals and plants. He noted the documented processes by which men had bred horses, dogs, flowers, pigeons, fruit trees, varieties of wheat, and so on, just in a matter of several generations. This part is easy to envision, since we know it happens. You want a faster horse, you just select the faster horses from every generation, and make sure to breed only those, separating them out from the slow ones. You can do the same thing for smaller horses, stronger horses, horses of a certain color, etc.

The theory Darwin formulated, in short, is that nature itself selects for beneficial traits.

It makes sense on the face of it. The same set of parents are known to produce non-identical offspring. Sometimes the traits that differ are immaterial. Other times they are crucial for survival. The bird with a beak better able to crack a nut, the faster-swimming fish, the moth with better camoflauge, the tiger with stronger, sharper claws. Besides these obvious, exterior traits, there are hidden ones that are just as important: ability to resist disease, to heal from injury, to produce offspring, to see in the dark. Those better able to survive and reproduce will do so.

Darwin also noted that all of life is in intense competition, for food and living space, but that the most intense competition is among members of the same or similar species. For example, lions don’t compete with cows. Lions eat meat and cows eat grass. Instead, lions compete with other lions and other hunting carnivores. Cows compete with other cows and large grazing animals. The winner in each competition was the individual — or group — best able to survive, adapt, and reproduce.

This is anything but “random”, and was able to explain both current species and the fossil record — given enough time.

For a few generations, the popularity of Darwin’s theory waxed and waned as other ideas temporarily took root and then faded in turn. The rise of genetic science and molecular biology helped sway the few holdouts. Today’s modern evolutionary synthesis combines ideas from several fields, built around Darwin’s theory of natural selection. In the years since Darwin’s work was first published, every scientific objection to the fact of evolution and the theory of natural selection has been debunked. Today, the only objections come from religious sources, most often from self-titled “creation scientists” who assert that a particular religion’s holy book is literally true and that anything found in nature must be forced to align with it.


The Hardest Parts To Understand


For me, the hardest parts of evolution to understand were (1) the time involved, and (2) that it acted on populations instead of individuals.

Because I came from a YEC background, I had a hard time thinking about lengths of time longer than a few thousand years. Most people do. I can imagine living a hundred years, because I’ve known people who lived to be a hundred, or close. If you could live 100 lifespans of 100 years, back-to-back, that’s still just 10,000 years. You have to do that a hundred more times just to get to one million. To assert that we’re talking about four billion years*, though I can manage that number mathematically, is difficult to comprehend.

(* The earliest evidence for life on Earth comes from about 3.4 billion years ago, and its complexity has led scientists to think life first arose 3.8 billion years ago.)

Because my brain was stuck in a shorter timeframe, I had difficulty imagining bacteria resulting in a human over the course of many generations.

That difficulty combined with the second one to hinder my understanding. Because evolution had always been misrepresented to me, I didn’t know it happened to populations rather than individuals. Once I began to understand both of these, it made more sense.

Evolution is not a matter of one member of one species (say, a monkey) giving birth to a member of a new species (say, a chimpanzee, or a human). If that was the case, how would the individual member of the new species mate? She would be the only one of her kind. Instead, it is a matter of the offspring of an entire population being slightly different than the previous generation. The difference is so slight as to often not be detected. Even if the slight, unnoticeable difference manifests itself in only one individual, if that individual survives long enough to breed, it can pass that difference on to offspring, and the variation will eventually spread throughout the population as each generation chooses its mates. If something about the variation makes the successive generation less likely to survive to breeding age, or less likely to mate, or less likely to survive afterward to care for its offspring, then the variation eventually fades out. But if something about the variation makes the successive generation more likely to do any of those things, the variation will spread more quickly throughout the population.


Every Species Is A Transitional Form


Another roadblock to understanding evolution is that — despite all evidence to the contrary — we still think of each species as static, or at least I did. It’s because each of us only lives 80 years or so. Even if I raised cattle, I would never see more than a few dozen generations of them. So they seem to not be changing.

YECs argue that “if evolution was true, we would see more transitional fossils, more transitional species”. It turns out that every species, and thus every fossil, is transitional. There is no dividing line between two generations, where the parents were Species A and the children belong to Species B. Every living member of a given population belongs to the same species and is close enough genetically to be identifiable as a member of the same species. The next generation will also belong to that same species. But the changes are there, subtle though they might be. And the changes add up over time. After 100,000 years, or 500,000 years, the population might very well be a different species, but every living member will still belong to one group.

I helped myself think about this by imagining I had a time machine. If I traveled back in time to a few years before my birth, I’m still the same species as every human alive. I can successfully mate with any living female of childbearing age. If I go back another hundred years, the same is true. Even if I went back a thousand years, my genes still match up with every human alive. But if I went back 12,000 years, there are noticeable differences. I would be able to drink milk obtained from a cow without getting sick, while no other adult human alive would be able to (that mutation arrived about 12,000 years ago). I would also be the only human alive with blue eyes (that mutation showed up between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago), and — if I had blonde hair — I would be the only man alive with blonde hair (because that mutation first made an appearance about 11,000 years ago). I would be one of very few people with white skin (a mutation that hadn’t fully dominated Europe yet). The farther back I went, the more different I would be from those around me, even those I identified as “human”. At some point, my straight hair would be unique, as well as the fact that my face is mostly hairless. I would be resistant to diseases that would kill others around me (and I probably brought some of those diseases with me), but I might fall ill from something that harms no one else.

At some point — we’re not exactly sure when — I wouldn’t be able to create viable offspring with a female; our genes would be too different (not to mention she and I probably wouldn’t be attracted to each other). At some point, all the variations and mutations that added up to make homo sapiens as we know it today would be absent from the ancestors I met. But there would never be a dividing line from one generation to the next; it would just get less and less likely.

Dawkins perhaps said it better:
“If a time machine could serve up to you your 200 million greats grandfather, you would eat him with sauce tartare and a slice of lemon. He was a fish. Yet you are connected to him by an unbroken line of intermediate ancestors, every one of whom belonged to the same species as its parents and its children.”


Misconceptions I See Floating Around


Above, I mentioned a short list of misconceptions I had about evolution before I learned more on my own. Below, I list some popular ones that I see floating around social media these days. The two lists will overlap to some degree.


Humans Came From Monkeys/Apes


Sadly, I see this one almost weekly. Even a current presidential candidate made a joke about it. The fact is, biologically, genetically, and taxonomically speaking, humans are apes — members of the superfamily Hominoidea (apes), and the family Hominidae (great apes, or hominids). Of the current living species of other apes, none are the ancestors of humans — and the same is true of monkeys, which are not as closely related to humans as are the rest of the ape family.

While science continues to study the issue, and there is sometimes debate over which apes (bonobos, chimpanzees, or orangutans) are our closest living relatives, there is a complete consensus that we and they evolved from a common ancestor, sometime between 4 and 7 million years ago in Africa.


It’s Just A Theory


I explained a bit above that the theory of evolution via natural selection is actually the explanation for observed reality. Further, however, “theory” has multiple definitions. In common parlance, it means a hunch or a guess. In science, theory is something different entirely. It’s what happens when a hypothesis is repeatedly and rigorously tested until it is accepted as a credible theory — or in this case, the credible theory.

Yes, theories can be accepted and later proved incorrect. This has not happened with the theory of evolution. To date, every evidence collected and every test run continues to support this notion, reinforcing it further, though sometimes the details (like dates) are refined or corrected.


There Is No Evidence For It


Anyone who says this is either — like I used to be — woefully ignorant of scientific discoveries over the past few hundred years, or intentionally dishonest. Evidence for evolution is abundant and widespread, including the remains of ancient organisms, sedimnentary layers (in order), embryology, genetic studies, as well as current experiments and observation — especially noticeable among species with very short reproductive cycles, including insects and bacteria.


Why Don’t We See Fish Turning Into Land-Dwellers


As I mentioned above, evolution is not something that happens to an individual organism, but rather to entire breeding populations, over many generations. No dog will give birth to a cat, nor will a bird turn into a lizard or a fish into a frog. What is clear is that entire populations do change over time — and some others, apparently fit for their environment, do not change.


Evolution Is About How Life Began


I’ve seen YECs, in arguments about evolution, deflect to the beginning of life, accusing proponents of evolution of “believing that life came from nothing”. This is a red herring, since evolution is about change, not about the beginning. Evolution starts after life first arose and addresses how all existing forms of life arose from a common ancestor.

It is actually Creation that addresses how life began — magically — from nothing, with the help of an invented creator-god who spoke a word or snapped her fingers and living beings popped into being.


Evolution Is About The Origins Of The Universe


From my own earlier writings, it is clear that this is what I thought at one point. I thought the Big Bang Theory was part of evolution. It is not. Again, evolution is only about the changes in life forms over time.


Evolution Is Governed By Chance


An accusation often leveled against evolution is “everything happened randomly, by chance”. While chance and randomness do figure into it, natural selection is clearly not completely random. A genetic mutation, for example, might be completely by chance (though it’s possible we will someday discover that this is not by chance either), what is definitely not by chance is what happenes after that mutation is introduced: whether that mutation helps the survival or breeding of the offspring. For example, the mutation that allowed humans to better digest animal milk might have happened by chance, but then the humans with that mutation were better able to survive than those who didn’t have the mutation — because they had a new and widely available food source unavailable to others.


Natural Selection Acts With A Plan Or Endpoint In Mind


I never had this misconception, but I’ve seen others falsely put it forth. It is actually Creationism that purports an all-knowing, planning mind behind life. Evolution through natural selection is not an entity, does not have a mind, and does not follow a plan. It is simply a description of what we see happening in nature. This is why not all traits that evolved over time are beneficial, and why not all species will continue to survive.


Evolution Is A Competing Belief System


It’s clear from my writings that I thought this at one point, that a bunch of God-denying scientists keep preaching evolution as a way to justify not believing in God, that they had as little evidence as Creation does. This only shows how little I knew about both.

In reality, the only evidence for any Creation theory is the holy book that asserts it, which is to say, no evidence at all. No evidence exists that all current species arose on the same day, or series of six days, several thousand years ago. All evidence — genetic, geographic, and fossils — point to a much older Earth, and life having existed for billions of years. All evidence points to each form of life having evolved from simpler forms of life. This is why scientists believe evolution — because of the evidence — and this is why they would change their minds if evidence pointed elsewhere.

It also helped me to learn that many of the early scientists who formulated these theories, and many of the scientists who continued to find the evidence, were Christians or believers in other religions. It further helped me to learn that major church bodies across the world eventually accepted evolution as fact, changing their theology to match with what science had discovered. The particular denomination I’d belonged to is one of many smaller bodies that continues to insist science is wrong and that the Bible is literally true on this point.


Evolution Naturally Leads To ‘Social Darwinism’


Misuse and misunderstanding of the phrase “survival of the fittest” led to a school of thought called “Social Darwinism”, which attempted to apply ideas gleaned from evolution to society. Thinking that weaker species were destined to fail, social darwinists supported the idea of allowing weaker individuals to fail and die, saying this was morally right because it would lead to a stronger species. This school of thought also tried to justify mistreatment of poorer nations, poorer people, and ethnic minorities based on the idea that those groups “deserved” their fate because they were “less fit”, according to evolution.

It should be clear though, that this is something separate from the theory of evolution via natural selection, which again is an explanation of observed facts, not a statement about morality or how to treat individual members of our species. Accepting evolution does not automatically lead to Social Darwinism.


Conclusion


I am not a scientist, and as much as that idea appeals to me, I will probably never be one, so nothing on this page is intended to be a scientific statement or educational in nature. As a person who got it wrong for many years, it is very likely I’ve misstated something above. If so, please feel free to leave a comment below with links to correct information or suggestions for rephrasing anything I’ve said.

I wrote this page to help explain my own change of thought on this issue, which I did, but in the process, knowing that some of my readers still hold misconceptions about evolution, I thought it only right and fair to cover a little bit of its history and explanations for their benefit.





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