So November 24th, 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the first publication of what is probably the most influential book of the last two centuries if not more: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” The title was shortened in the sixth edition to the more familiar four words The Origin of Species. I’ve got a paperback edition on my shelf, but have never read it…yet. But I don’t need to have read it to know how it changed science. Or how it is essentially true.
Ernest Rutherford said “All of physics is either impossible or trivial. It is impossible until you understand it, and then it becomes trivial.” I apply the same thought to evolution. I don’t study the mechanics, nor do I understand them, but as one can explain gravity to a layperson without delving into the math, one can explain evolution without getting into the specifics. So I think I understand evolution. It certainly makes sense to me. More sense than conflicting myths. Stephen Hawking felt biology was too imprecise, and yet much more complicated than theoretical physics. I am an engineer and also feel that about biology, yet I don’t pretend for a minute that I can understand the various theories’ details. As academic study is not my profession, I leave the theories, scientific theories, to the experts in their fields. But even the complexities of evolution can be distilled to a simple understanding that is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.
Unless that observer is dogmatically blinded by religion. How Kirk Cameron believes and spouts his ignorance in a modern age baffles me. The prospect of state Education Boards attempting to insert creationism, or its thinly veiled brother “Intelligent” Design, in science curricula reinforces daily our decision to homeschool our children. The myths still propagated by religion and clergy, and worse, by media personalities and “news” networks are swallowed by too many gullible sheep for my comfort.
Evolution is a fact. The mechanisms of natural selection and the specific mutations that link species may be forever under refinement and adjustment, but the evidence supporting evolution is incontrovertible – unless one chooses to deliberately ignore it. I just might pull the great work off my shelf and add it to my pile of “to read soon”!