Problems With Believing Evolution

I’ve talked to loads of people on this subject. I’m an avid believe in evolution, but I haven’t found many of the same.

In fact, I’ve talked to doctors, medical students, even PhD students and fully fledged scientists. A lot will believe in evolution, but many will be sceptical of it. I have found so far, two main reasons for this.

The first is due to the complexity of life. They find it hard to believe that something like us could evolve through random mutation.

The second is religion. The religious will often fall back on the first reason and state that their must be intelligent design.

I have one answer for this: time.

Evolution happens a few mutations at a time, evolving us literally one generation at a time. It’s so slow that we are unlikely to see a difference in humans in our lifetime.

However if we expanded our view over several thousand years we would definitely see differences. Want an example?

For this I have to leave humans and go to farm animals. This is a normal cow:

Daisy and Her Field

It looks pretty normal right?

OK because of us interfering with evolution, we now have cows that look like this:

Mister Universe Cow Finalist - the Belgian Blue Bull,

So what has happened?

We have been breeding cows for millennia. When we find a cow with slightly more muscle, we tend to see it as better stock, so we breed it, get it’s children, and then eat it. It’s children have inherited their parents trait of ‘slightly more muscle’. We then take the child from that group with the most muscle, and breed it again. Then repeat until today.

What has ended up happening is that this Belgian Blue Bull has inherited so many mutations that it can’t regulate how much muscle it makes sufficiently. Therefore it’s muscle goes into overdrive, giving us one massive cow.

How long did it take? supposedly over 8000 years.

Mutations occur at fertilisation (as there is only once cell at this point, so only that cell needs to mutate).

Cows can give birth after two years. So in 8000 years, there is a possible 4000 generations. That’s 4000 possible mutations from a single cow then, to a single cow today.

This is what I’m trying to get at. Evolution doesn’t occur quickly, it occurs through each generation over a very long period of time. It took that bull pictured above 8000 years, and 4000 babies, to get that little bit more muscle.

Want to know the craziest thing? People say evolution has stopped for humans, and often people think evolution is slowing down (I used to). But actually the time we are at right now, is the fastest period of evolution ever!

As thing’s get more complicated and there are more chances of mutations getting by without killing anyone, evolution can act more readily.

Billions of years ago, evolution was much slower. One of the biggest leaps in evolution ever, was one of the smallest. The jump from a single cell organism, to a multicellular organism (even if it was just two cells) took nearly 3 billion years.

That’s 3,000,000,000 compared to the cows measly 8,000. Just to add one cell.

 

Edit: Here’s another bloggers take on the validity and purpose of one of the common counter arguments – Intelligent Design

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8 Comments

  1. A great way to succinctly explain evolution. It is rather interesting how most of society still has misconceptions about it, even if they’re just considering it a theory.
    By the way, that cow … I’m sorry, that’s strange. I’ve never seen a cow like that before. We sure are a weird species.

    Reply
  2. Thanks!

    Tell me about it. I was shocked when I first saw a picture of one of those bulls. It’s quite interesting though. The actual defect is caused by a single gene and really only requires a single mutation. But as we then bred the cow with that single mutation, we made an entire new type of cow. There are loads now. The gene that’s affected is called myostatin. And it’s not only found in cows!

    Wiki has a nice picture of a dog on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myostatin
    And if you look on google images you’ll see humans can get it as well. Most of the pics are just muscley people who don’t have the problem.

    The cows the best though as far as I’m concerned.

    Reply
  3. I’m curious to hear what fields these evolution skeptics had earned their PhDs in. Since high school biology I’ve been taught that we can’t understand modern biology except through the framework of evolution, and that seems to be true. Otherwise things just don’t make much sense!

    Reply
  4. Sadly I wasn’t taught evolution until I was a fair way into my teens. I was taught creationism from the age of 11.

    It’s one of the problems with the education system. In science, evolution isn’t in the national curriculum till quite late, and as science goes, it is often taught with an opposing argument to ‘balance’ the lesson. As far as I know that happens a lot less now though.

    On the other hand R.E. has a much more flexible curriculum, and creationism is often taught at a much younger age. I can remember being taught it, and having the teacher at the time discredit evolution as being “as likely as a gust of wind making a jumbo jet out of a junk yard”.

    If people get creationism into their system as a certainty so young, they will often grow up staying sceptical of evolution.

    Reply
  5. Ahh. Yeah I went to school in a pretty liberal district, so that probably had something to do with it. I was also oddly lucky to be raised in a religion that believes in evolution, even though it’s pretty conservative and orthodox about other things.

    I do wish we had more intelligent discussion of the issues going on. I would love a more intelligent middle ground to become popular, like “evolution happens through mutation, but we can’t prove that the mutations are random so they may be the work of God.” That to me seems like it should satisfy the most hardcore scientists and all but the most hardcore Young Earth Creationists who insist on interpreting religious creation stories literally to the letter. I feel like that viewpoint would help make scientists and the religious much more comfortable with each other…

    Reply
    • I’m still not sure if that would be satisfactory. Scientists won’t settle on a middle ground if it doesn’t agree with the evidence. And mutations do happen a lot, and they are not always good.

      The argument there would be, if God controls mutations, then he is responsible for almost all of the disabled in the world right now, as well as those with some debilitating lifetime, and sometimes terminal conditions.

      And you get those more often than you get the big advantageous mutations.

      Reply
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