Back to basics
Biology and Evolutionary Theory
"When the views entertained in this volume ... are generally admitted, we can dimly foresee that there will be a considerable revolution in natural history."
- Charles Darwin,
The Origin of Species 
- Introduction to Evolutionary Biology
- This essay is a must-read for anyone who wants to participate in talk.origins. It lays out the land for evolutionists and creationists alike, presenting the ideas behind and the evidence for biological evolution.
- What is Evolution?
- All too often creationists spend their time arguing with a straw-man caricature of evolution. This brief essay presents a definition of evolution that is acceptable to evolutionists.
- Evolution is a Fact and a Theory
- Biologists consider evolution to be a fact in much the same way that physicists do so for gravity. However, the mechanisms of evolution are less well understood, and it is these mechanisms that are described by several theories of evolution.
- The Modern Synthesis of Genetics and Evolution
- Darwin developed his theory of natural selection without any knowledge of genetics. Since Darwin, genetics and evolution have been synthesized, and natural selection is no longer considered to be the only evolutionary mechanism.
- The Origin of Species
- Read the book by Charles Darwin that started it all. The full text of the book is online.
- In evolutionary biology today macroevolution is used to refer to any evolutionary change at or above the level of species. It means the splitting of a species into two or the change of a species over time into another.
- 29 Evidences for Macroevolution
- This article directly addresses the scientific evidences in favor of macroevolutionary theory and common descent. It is specifically intended for those who are scientifically minded but, for one reason or another, have come to believe that macroevolutionary theory explains little, makes few or no testable predictions, or cannot be falsified.
- Are Mutations Harmful?
- People often ask questions such as, "Doesn't evolution depend on mutations?", "Aren't most mutations harmful?" and "Are there favorable mutations?". This article catalogs the different types of mutations and discusses their effects on an organism's reproductive fitness.
- The Evolution of Improved Fitness by Random Mutation plus Selection
- The notion that all the complexity we see before us today could have been the result of naturally selected random mutations seems mind-boggling. But antibody genes provide a clear example of random mutations leading to the evolution of increased reproductive fitness.
- Darwin's Precursors and Influences
- It is sometimes claimed by those who wish to denigrate the achievements of Charles Darwin that he was little more than a "serial plagiarist." This essay aims to show that Darwin, like any scientist, had influences, but that he was honest in his theoretical development.
- Darwinism: What is it?
- Do Darwinism and natural selection really conflict with what is now known about evolution?
- Random Genetic Drift
- Natural selection isn't the only mechanism of evolution. One of the most important theories of evolution is genetic drift. Some have even argued that drift is more important than natural selection in evolving new species.
- Punctuated Equilibria
- There are few components of modern evolutionary theory which seem so prone to misinterpretation as Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould's theory of punctuated equilibria. This article explains the purpose and meaning of punctuated equilibria and dispels some of the myths about it.
- Evolution and Philosophy: An Introduction
- Critics of evolutionary theory very often misunderstand the philosophical issues of the speciality known as the philosophy of science. This essay seeks to summarise some of the more important recent developments, provide a reading list, and to show that evolution is no worse off philosophically than any other science would be, and that the usual arguments against evolution from a philosophical approach fail.
- Evolution and Chance
- Evolution does not proceed from any basic randomness, although genetic changes are not coupled to selection and may be characterised as "random" relative to selection pressures, nor do they anticipate the needs of a species.
- Evidence for Evolution: An Eclectic Survey
- This set of articles surveys some of the scientific literature presenting interesting or unique lines of evidence for evolution. Cichlid fish, sexual selection, sperm competition, and endosymbiosis are but a few of the topics discussed.
- Observed Instances of Speciation
- Not only does this essay examine in detail a number of observed speciation events, but it also discusses the meaning of the word "species."
- Some More Observed Speciation Events
- This group of talk.origins articles contains some instances of speciation not covered in the speciation FAQ by Joseph Boxhorn. References are usually given for further reading.
- Fossil Hominids
- Much of human evolution is well documented by the fossil record. This set of articles covers the fossil evidence for such human ancestors as Australopithecus afarensis, Homo habilis and Homo erectus. Creationist arguments about these fossils are also confronted.
- Transitional Vertebrate Fossils
- It is impossible to to debate creationists without hearing them claim that there are no transitional forms in the fossil record. This essay puts the lie to that claim by listing and briefly describing a large number of transitional fossils among the vertebrates.
- Piltdown Man
- It took over 40 years to realize that Piltdown man, represented by hominid-like fossil specimens found in Britain, was a fraud. Why did it take so long to discover the hoax, who was the hoaxer, and what does this episode say about evolution?
- The Archaeopteryx FAQs
- This set of articles describes almost everything one could ever want to know about the reptilian/avian intermediary, Archaeopteryx. All known fossil specimens are described, claims about Archae's possible forgery are assessed, and creationist arguments against the fossil's transitional status are dissected.
- Horse Evolution
- The evolutionary history of the horse has been reinterpreted in recent years, but its record remains one of the most complete examples of species evolution that biologists have.
- The Natural History of Marsupials
- This article is a concise presentation of the natural history of marsupials, showing their evolutionary origins and outlining their representation in the fossil record.
- The Evolution of Color Vision
- Creationists like to attack the eye as evidence of an organ that could not have come to exist by any other means than creation. The evolution of the eye (and specifically of color vision) are discussed in this article, providing a fine counter-argument to creationist arguments from incredulity.
- The Origin of Whales and the Power of Independent Evidence
- One of the favorite anti-evolutionist challenges to the existence of transitional fossils is the supposed lack of transitional forms in the evolution of the whales. Raymond Sutera explains why the anti-evolutionists' arguments fails by examining the fossil record of whales.
- Back to basics
Sunday August 3, 2003
How many stories are there to tell in the world? One school of
thought holds that there are just 10 archetypal tales around which
novelists spin more or less elegant variations. I remember being
persuaded, years ago, that there were as few as seven basic plots at
the heart of our literature, or was it three?
Cinderella (rags to riches) is certainly one. The Odyssey (the hero's
return home) is another. That was recently the inspiration for
Charles Frazier's bestselling Cold Mountain. And the plot of Beowulf
is the same as the plot of Jaws (a monster terrorises a seaside
community and is eventually overcome by a local hero). I could go on:
no doubt well-informed Observer readers will think of others. Did
somebody mention Jung?
Our first source for archetypal stories must be the literature of
ancient Greece and Rome, whose greatest writers were, so to speak, at
the cutting edge of dramatic narrative, exploring the raw material of
human experience with an urgency and immediacy we cannot share. The
creative windscreens of Aeschylus, Euripides and Seneca were free of
debris. Aristotle, whose Poetics is the handbook to Western
narrative, was born shortly after Euripides's death; imagine going to
school and being brought up on the Trojan women, the Bacchae and