Recently I developed a new interest in learning more about evolution and creationism. For a long time I never really looked into this issue. As a middle eastern, I know how controversial the theory of evolution is among Muslims. Some Muslims find it okay and compatible with religion while others vehemently oppose it. This fuelled my interest in finding a solid position on this issue. Though I would have wanted to dive deeper into this topic, I will present to you what I’ve learned so far from looking into evolution and creationism.
First we have to start by definitions, the theory of evolution, is a theory on the origin of life that suggests that all organisms on earth have a common ancestor and organisms started adapting different traits. Those with traits that were fit for the environment helped the organisms reproduce and therefore pass their traits onto their offspring, while those who don’t adapt well to their environment end up dying and becoming extinct. There are two types of evolution. Macro and micro evolution. Microevolution is described as evolution on a small scale. As an example, if a finch develops a different beak shape, this small adaptation is considered microevolution while macroevolution is on a larger scale for example from dinosaurs to birds, this change occurs over a generation and millions or even billions of years these small changes in genes accumulate over time and thus lead to the creation of a new species. It is a theory that has a strong foothold within the scientific community and you’ll often find it used as an explanation for some human behaviours.
Creationism however, is popular among religious literalists who use texts from holy books or other religious sources as the main evidence for why the theory of evolution is incorrect. Creationists believe that there must’ve been a creator. Often there are “scientific creationists” who attempt to use scientific arguments to explain their objections to the theory of evolution.
Now let’s get into what I discovered through my journey on researching on this topic. This article will be divided into several sections each outlining what I’ve learned so far:
Intelligent design versus evolutionists:
Diving into the topic I realized the biggest reason religious individuals reject the theory of evolution is because it was often used by atheists such as Richard Dawkins as proof that the world can exist without a God creating it or creating all the organisms and creatures we see on earth. In his book, the blind watchmaker that was subsequently made into a documentary film he argues for a universe without design.
A lot of religious people oppose such a narrative, including Muslims, Jews and Christians all unite on rejecting this idea. There was also a rise of a movement known as the “Intelligent Design” movement, one of its main proponents is the “Discovery Institute”. This movement is often viewed as creationist. However, on their website they claim that they are not creationists but simply scientists who use scientific methods to infer whether or not there is a detectable “design” within nature. This design is often attributed to a creator or a God.
This movement has been met with hostility from the scientific community. Anyone who mentions Intelligent Design in their research papers or articles is at a risk of losing their jobs and reputation as scientists. This is outlined by one documentary by Ben Stein known as “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” in which he features several different scientists that have been expelled from their jobs for mentioning intelligent design or writing books on them.
So, why does the scientists have this reaction towards the idea of intelligent design? Scientist say that intelligent design is simply untestable and unfalsifiable. As such it is not scientific and not even worth arguing with. Scientists also say that without being able to use any evidence as to the nature or identity of the designer the theory of intelligent design is then useless. This quote essentially illustrates the main reasons why scientists find it untestable: “This looks like it was designed, so there must be a designer; we know there is a designer because this looks designed.”
Other oppositions by creationists towards the theory of evolution is the lack of observable evidence for macroevolution. Most people accept microevolution. We see it everywhere around us from finches to bacteria we see different organisms develop new traits as an adaptation to their environment.
Different modes of evolution:
There are different modes for evolution besides natural selection that people often don’t know about. Here I will outline some of them:
Natural selection: easily the most common and well known of all types of evolution. Individuals with traits advantageous for survival end up reproducing and therefore passing on their genes to their offspring.
Genetic drift: when frequencies of an allele change in a population due to chance. For example, the bottleneck effect when a small portion of the population survives and the rest dies out due to some natural disaster and the founder effect is when a small population splits off from the main population and so the remaining population tend to have certain alleles prevalent among them and less diverse than the main population.
Coevolution: when two species evolve with one another such as with insects and plants.
Mutation: a random alteration in genes usually by radiation or whatever. Often these alterations aren’t advantageous for survival or are simply neutral however in cases where its advantageous it gets passed onto offspring and spread across the population.
Sexual selection: some organisms are more successful at finding mates for reproduction and those who dont dont reproduce and therefore they die out because they don’t pass their genes onto any offspring
Orthogenesis: evolution that seems to go towards a certain goal or in a specific direction
Neo Lamarckian evolution: it essentially suggests that genes can be altered due to lifestyle and this alteration can be passed down to offspring. One example of this is the Swedish chicken who were subjected to an environment that was stressful for them. Experimenters would alter the lighting conditions of the place the chickens would kept in so that they didn’t know night or day. This reduced the chicken’s ability to find food in a maze. This caused an alteration in the way their genes are expressed and this expression was later passed on to their offspring who also showed inability to find food in a maze.
Gene flow: when a population migrates to a different location and transfers their genetic material to a different population.