Everyday evidence of evolution

The debate between creationism and evolution is again at the forefront of our psyches (we obviously are tired of hearing about all of the US soldiers dying in Iraq, only 27 months after major combat had been declared “ended,” and we only have more important issues to really deal with, such as our dependence on foreign oil, state and federal deficits, and the offshoring of our jobs). The latest argument that I’ve heard is called “intelligent design.” This theory suggests that we could not have evolved by chance; some divine power was involved in the creation of all living beings. To me, it seems like an attempt to bridge science and faith. But it’s too simplistic, and it lacks any empirical evidence that evolution offers. And now there’s a push to require it to be taught in our schools.

The “proof” that I recently read about refers to the development of the eye. Certain creatures have special photo receptors that allow them to see things that other creatures cannot. Per intelligent design advocates, this could not have developed by chance; some form of intervention was involved. But biologists point to the fossil record and show that a slight mutation that led to survival is the explanation for its development. The fossil record has plenty of evidence of that. I further argue that there are creatures that have eyes that are not very useful. For example, bats have eyes that they do not fully exploit; since they are nocturnal hunters, they rely much more on their sonar abilities. And since the nocturnal carnivores tend to live in caves, the need for an alternative to the eye further shows that evolution had a greater part in the development of sonar; it could not have evolved by design. If that were the case, creatures with similar lifestyles would also have this ability.

But there is more evidence that intelligent design has less viability than evolution. And this evidence exists in our everyday lives. For the past fifty years, we’ve relied on antibiotics to destroy unwanted bacteria that invade our bodies and wreak havoc on our health. During that time, bacteria that escaped the demise brought about by penicillin and such have come back stronger and more resistant to the drugs that we’ve developed. It’s probably a simple example of evolution, but there is plenty of empirical evidence, and it was not the result of divine design (but rather of human ingenuity and overuse).

I think additional evidence is apparent in the cultures of the world. If you look at the different languages that are spoken, many of them developed quite differently across major regions. Spoken languages in Europe differ from those in Africa and Asia. The sounds vary, some are still only spoken, and some use sounds (such as clicking) that are considered bizarre in other cultures. The way different cultures write are further evidence that human language was not developed by design. If they were, I would think that we’d see closer similarities to the languages. Although the Bible’s Old Testament explains these differences away in an incident with lightning striking a very tall tower in Babel, it’s too simplistic and does not explain the huge disparities in language and culture (or as I like to say, the Onion is America’s finest news source). It’s so obvious that one cannot miss why European languages are written from left to right, yet middle-eastern (including Hebrew) are written from right to left, or why European names are in given name, surname order while oriental names are surname, given name order.

These are simple yet compelling examples of how life evolved by chance rather than by design. Simple explanations of “because it’s in the Bible” don’t hold water. It makes no sense to believe everything you read. And the argument of development by design does not have much credibility either, as I’ve just demonstrated.

Time Magazine article, “The Evolution Wars” (the full online article is only available to subscribers; look for the August 15 issue at your newsstand or library)

Time Magazine article, “Face-Off: Darwinians vs. Anti-Darwinians”