105Why You Probably Do Not Understand Evolution
- Apr 8, 2005Sometimes when reading other people's comments on evolution I get so
frustrated. Somewhere between Darwin's time and today, the vast
majority of people have gotten a total erroneous idea concerning
evolution. For instance while reading Ken Deffeyes latest
book "Beyond Oil" I came across this passage on page 168:
"Although it is unsettling, sometimes we have to unlearn lesions we
were taught in school. When I was an undergraduate, I was taught
that Darwinian evolution proceeded fastest when a population was
under environmental stress. The opposite is probably true. Any
nonlethal mutation can thrive when stress is low, food is plentiful,
and the weather is consistent. Diversity survives: Let the good
Dumb, dumb, dumb. Don't get me wrong, Deffeyes is a great geologist
but from the passage above it is obvious he knows absolutely nothing
about evolution. He should have stuck to his undergraduate learning,
which was far closer to the truth.
And in a recent post to another list, Dana Visalli says:
"I remember one geneticist remarking that the chance of a random
mutation improving the fitness of an organism is about the same as
the chance that blasting your car engine with a shotgun will improve
its performance. The whole schema has seemed somewhat improbable
to me ever since."
Such a statement, coming from a geneticist, is absolutely
unbelievable. Obviously this geneticist understands evolution no
better than Ken Deffeyes. All either of them had to do was read
Darwin himself, he would have it abundantly clear. It would have
become stunningly simple
But I digress. Let me start by explaining Darwinian evolution as
Darwin himself explained it. And it must be said that Darwin got it
right, exactly right. And Neo-Darwinism does NOT REFUTE Darwin, it
only explains Darwinism on the genetic level, DNA and all that. And
almost to the man or woman, Neo-Darwinians agree with Darwin. Only a
couple of scholars in the field give him any argument whatsoever.
So how does Darwin explain evolution? Darwin, in "The Origin of
Species" says it is natural selection selecting from normal
variation. Darwin uses the word "variation" hundreds of times in his
opus. He uses the word "mutation" not even once. Of course that was
probably because the word was not coined in his day. And as far as
understanding evolution is concerned, it is a damn shame it ever was.
Darwin has a chapter on variation under domestication. That is
followed by a chapter on variation in the wild. He clearly explains
that basically they are exactly the same thing except man does the
domestic selecting and nature selects in the wild. But basically,
Darwin takes pains to explain that natural variation is the driving
force of evolution. The very same variation that enabled man to
begin with a Wolf and eventually wind up with a Pekinese is the
exact same variation that drives evolution, ALL evolution. And make
no mistake, nearly all of today's evolutionary biologists agree with
Darwin. They just use a different word to describe variation. And
therein lies the problem.
This variation, described by Darwin, is caused by small DNA copying
errors when the sperm combines with the egg to form the zygote. And
these small copying errors are referred to as "mutations".
"Any time DNA is copied, there is a very small but certain
amount of copying errors that occur. Some of these mutations
may be insignificant, some may be beneficial, or some detrimental.
But when over a billion bases of DNA are being copied to make a
reproductive cell, there ARE going to be a few errors; it is the
engine of natural variation and hence, natural selection.
Paul Mahoney Ph.D. "Ask A Scientists" web page"
What Dr. Mahoney is saying is that these tiny mutations cause
natural variation and this natural variation is the driving force of
evolution. We see this variation in every pup in every litter. We
see this variation in every offspring of every animal that has ever
But what about those mutations which Deffeyes and Dana's genealogist
had in mind. Darwin knew about them as well. And Darwin absolutely
refuted that such mutation, which he called "monstrosities", had
anything whatsoever to do with natural selection. I quote Darwin's
"It may be doubted whether sudden and considerable deviations of
structure such as we occasionally see in our domestic productions,
more especially with plants, are ever permanently propagated in a
state of nature. Almost every part of every organic being is so
beautifully related to its complex conditions of life that it seems
as improbable that any part should have been suddenly produced
perfect, as that a complex machine should have been invented by man
in a perfect state. Under domestication monstrosities sometimes
occur which resemble normal structures in widely different animals.
Thus pigs have occasionally been born with a sort of proboscis, and
if any wild species of the same genus had naturally possessed a
proboscis, it might have been argued that this had appeared as a
monstrosity; but I have as yet failed to find, after diligent
search, cases of monstrosities resembling normal structures in
nearly allied forms, and these alone bear on the question. If
monstrous forms of this kind ever do appear in a state of nature and
are capable of reproduction (which is not always the case), as they
occur rarely and singularly, their preservation would depend on
unusually favorable circumstances. They would, also, during the
first and succeeding generations cross with the ordinary form, and
thus their abnormal character would almost inevitably be lost. But I
shall have to return in a future chapter to the preservation and
perpetuation of single or occasional variations."
The Origin of Species, Chapter 2 pages 59-60.
"I saw, also, that the preservation in a state of nature of any
occasional deviation of structure, such as a monstrosity, would be a
rare event; and that, if at first preserved, it would generally be
lost by subsequent intercrossing with ordinary individuals.
Nevertheless, until reading an able and valuable article in `North
British Review' (1867), I did not appreciate how rarely single
variations, whether slight or strongly marked, could be perpetuated."
The Origin of Species, Chapter 4, page 97.
Notice Darwin's words above: "I did not appreciate how rarely single
variations, whether slight or strongly marked, could be
perpetuated." Single variations have NOTHING to do with evolution
just as large mutations have NOTHING to do with evolution. Variation
drives evolution. Variation can be found in EVERY animal. Evolution
happens to POPULATIONS not individuals.
It works like this. When the last Ice Age invaded the territory of
the mastodon it put considerable stress upon the population. Some
animals, due to natural variation, would have more body fat than
others. Also, due to natural variation, some animals would have more
body hair than others. These animals with more body fat and more
body hair would have a higher survival rate than those with less
hair and fat. The wooly mammoth was the result.
The same natural variation that turned a wolf into a Pekinese, St.
Bernard or a Beagle, is responsible for all evolution and
speciation. It is just that the selecting is done by nature instead
of man. Otherwise it is EXACTLY THE SAME THING. Speciation, as
normally described, occurs only after thousands of generations,
after enough genetic drift has occurred that the animals can no
Natural variation found in ALL animals, NOT large mutations found in
only a very few animals, is the driving force of evolution.
Evolution happens to populations, NOT individuals.
This IS Darwinism as described by Darwin himself. Neo-Darwinism DOES
NOT refute Darwinism, it only explains it at the genetic level.
But at least ninety five percent of the population misunderstands
what evolutionary biologists mean by "mutation". And that is why you
do not understand evolution. And if you are among that ninety five
percent, that is why you misunderstand evolution.
As I have said many times before, evolution is just so damn simple,
so stunningly simple! Any animal breeder should be able to
understand it, yet they do not.
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