Opinion: Evolution should not be a controversial issue



Hank Venetta

Hank Venetta

Hank Venetta is a senior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

When ignorance and arrogance are pitted against each other, nobody wins. Debates between the deniers of evolution and the scientifically-minded often come down to meaningless bickering, not dialogue.

In the extremist blue corner, you have the fanatics who use psychological warfare, insisting that the belief in evolution leads to a dark path without a moral compass, resulting in a loathsome lifestyle and fate in Hell.

In the extremist red corner, you have the sarcastic and arrogant Mr. Scientists who reduce the opposition’s side to stereotypes, such as assuming all creationists are foolish enough to believe the Earth is 6,000 years old and the first people rode on dinosaurs.

Researchers like Richard Dawkins could use some lessons in humility. Talking heads like Bill O’Reilly need to read more books. One side is taunting too much, rendering their views inaccessible, and the other has no idea what the hell they’re talking about.

Thus, below is my attempt to present my position in the nicest way possible. Yes, evolution is a reality of the natural world. No, I’m not going to bash religion due to its occasional relationship with suspicion and mistrust of science [that’s right, suspicion and mistrust of science, of all things], no matter how nastily I grit my teeth.

If you deny evolution, it’s because you’ve been poorly informed. Ever since the 1920s, fundamentalists and the politicians representing them have assaulted the teaching of evolution in schools.

A lot of ridiculous misconceptions about evolution have been circulating over the years. These following questions would not continue to be asked if our education on evolution was not politically tampered with:

1. “Isn’t evolution just a theory, though?”

When I hear this tired expression, I feel angry about the failure of schools to emphasize the difference between a scientific theory and its frequent usage in everyday talk. When an idea enters my head and I say “I have a theory that…” you need to realize this is not interchangeable with a scientific theory. Guesswork and hunches do not equal the concrete evidence involved with scientific theories, which are established over centuries of testing and collected data. Evolutionary theory brings together DNA sequencing, lab experiments, geography, fossil records and other areas into a verifiable, cohesive scheme. Theories are massive accumulations of facts that support one conclusion.

2. “How could we come from monkeys if they are still around today?”

Before looking at my answer to this question, please read: If you cannot answer this, your science education has dramatically failed. This is similar to asking why there are still Europeans if we came from them. You do not understand the tree-like nature of evolution — species branch off to develop into new ones. Species do not disappear when branching occurs. Also, apes, not monkeys.

3. “Why don’t we see any evolutionary transitions occur in our lifetime?”

Because animals are not Pokemon. I think we are failing to comprehend timescales here. Human civilization consists of a few seconds on the cosmological calendar year, as Carl Sagan pointed out. There’s plenty of time for gradual change through mutation and natural selection. In fact, the age of the Earth perfectly matches the time it would take for evolutionary transition.

4. “Where’s the missing link between ape and man?”

There is no missing link. If you’re waiting for the ultimate, essential puzzle piece in the primate fossil record, you are wasting time. Many missing links have been found: Australopithecus, Paranthropus, Habilis, among hundreds of others, and more will be found. Yet there will always be gaps. Think of a line representing a one million year time period. As fossils are discovered, you mark the line, but nevertheless many gaps remain. What link are you talking about? There’s an arsenal of links already discovered. Of course, if you deny evolution, you will always redefine the so-called missing link.

5. “Why is the Earth so fine-tuned for life?”

This question is backwards. The real question is, “Why is life so fine-tuned to the Earth?” It’s almost as if life adapted to the planet through evolution.

I wish scientific education operated outside the boundaries of sociopolitical nonsense and interference. But it doesn’t. And that’s why you’re suspicious of evolution while having a shallow grasp of it. You don’t learn certain things on American television; nor, apparently, in grade school. Riddle me this: Why do we have tailbones?