Understanding Evolution: History, Theory, Evidence, and Implications

Understanding Evolution: History, Theory, Evidence, and Implications

 By - March 5, 2006
Updated - May 2, 2006


  1. Introduction
  2. Origin Mythology
  3. Mesopotamian and Mediterranean Origin Belief
  4. Evolutionary Concepts in Ancient Greece
  5. The Early Christian Fight Against Naturalism
  6. The Reemergence of Evolutionary Concepts
  7. Scientific Attempts to Develop a Theory of Biological Evolution
  8. Darwin
  9. Current Theory of Biological Evolution
    1. Sources of Variation
    2. Sources of Constraint
    3. Evidence of Evolution
      1. Evidence that Evolution Has Historically Occurred
      2. Evidence that Evolution Is Occurring
    4. Understanding "Species" and "Speciation"
    5. Understanding Viruses and Other Subcellular Replicators
  10. The Implications of Evolution
    1. Evolution Beyond Biology
      1. Evolution of the Universe
      2. Evolution of Languages
      3. Memes and the Evolution of Morals, Culture, and Religion
      4. The Darwinism of Laissez- faire Capitalism
    2. Understanding Human Cognition and Behavior
      1. Perception and the Senses
      2. Desire and Emotions as Behavior Modifiers
      3. Intelligence, Superstition, and Religion
  11. Science vs. Religion
  12. The Christian Worldview vs. Naturalistic Worldviews
  13. Criticisms of Evolution
  14. Popular Comments on Evolution
  15. Conclusion and Summary


Evolution itself is simply the process of change over time. When applied to biology, evolution generally refers to changes in life forms over time. "The Theory of Biological Evolution" is a term used to refer to the proposition that all forms of life on earth are related through common descent, that inheritable traits are passed on from parent organisms to their offspring, that some changes naturally arise when organisms have offspring, and that over time these changes have resulted in the variety of life that we see on earth today.

The Theory of Biological Evolution is most often associated with Charles Darwin, because it was Charles Darwin that proposed the mechanism of natural selection and accompanied that proposition with a large volume of empirical data providing evidence for biological evolution.

Darwin was not, however, the first person to propose an evolutionary explanation for the diversity of life on earth. In fact, evolutionary concepts about life date far back into history and arose in many different cultures. The Greeks developed a concept of evolution over 2,300 years ago that was basically equivalent to that of Charles Darwin's, but the early Christians opposed the idea and destroyed all of the works that promoted it or any other naturalistic explanations for earthly phenomena.

Origin Mythology

There are literally thousands of different mythological stories about the origin of the world and of life. There are several common themes in origin mythology, but there are many different means by which the universe, earth, life, and man have come into being throughout the various different origin myths. The importance and role of origin mythology has varied widely from culture to culture throughout history as well. In many archaic cultures origin mythology was not central to the belief system, nor were the origin myths fully thought-out to a logical conclusion. In societies that did not have writing, origin myths, like all of the other myths, were passed down orally, and often served as a form of entertainment as well as a means of passing on beliefs that were important to the society.

When looking at origin myths from around the world several patterns can be observed. The origin myths of pre-agricultural societies tend to place humans and animals in close relations, while the origin myths of agricultural societies tend describe a separate creation of humans. Some of the beliefs about humans and animals that are expressed in various origin myths include beliefs that: Animals transformed into people, humans were born from animals, the gods were animals or part-man/part-animals, there was a time when animals were civilized, humans and animals share spirits, humans are reincarnated as animals or animals as humans.

Among more technologically advanced societies, where separation between humans and other animals was more pronounced and where humans had domesticated animals, themes such as the domination of man over animals, the separate creation of man from animals, and the creation of animals for the use of man are common themes in origin mythology.

Australian Aboriginal culture is thought to be the oldest continuous culture in the world, due to the isolation of the Australian continent. The mythology of the Aboriginal Australians is also thought to be reflective of some of man's earliest mythology. Below is one telling of Aboriginal Australian origin mythology.

In the beginning the earth was a bare plain. All was dark. There was no life, no death. The sun, the moon, and the stars slept beneath the earth. All the eternal ancestors slept there, too, until at last they woke themselves out of their own eternity and broke through to the surface.

When the eternal ancestors arose, in the Dreamtime, they wandered the earth, sometimes in animal form - as kangaroos, or emus, or lizards -- sometimes in human shape, sometimes part animal and human, sometimes as part human and plant.

Two such beings, self-created out of nothing, were the Ungambikula. Wandering the world, they found half-made human beings. They were made of animals and plants, but were shapeless bundles, lying higgledy-piggledy, near where water holes and salt lakes could be created. The people were all doubled over into balls, vague and unfinished, without limbs or features.

With their great stone knives, the Ungambikula carved heads, bodies, legs, and arms out of the bundles. They made the faces, and the hands and feet. At last the human beings were finished.

Thus every man and woman was transformed from nature and owes allegiance to the totem of the animal or the plant that made the bundle they were created from -- such as the plum tree, the grass seed, the large and small lizards, the parakeet, or the rat.

This work done, the ancestors went back to sleep. Some of them returned to underground homes, others became rocks and trees. The trails the ancestors walked in the Dreamtime are holy trails. Everywhere the ancestors went, they left sacred traces of their presence -- a rock, a waterhole, a tree.

For the Dreamtime does not merely lie in the distant past, the Dreamtime is the eternal Now.

source: http://www.crystalinks.com/australiacreation.html

This origin myth, like many archaic myths, demonstrates the concept of a common ancestry between humans and other animals.

In many Native American and Asian mythologies there is no specific creator god or act of creation, instead the world is said to have formed out of chaos, and the development of life is said to be a product of some spirit force. This spirit force is often said in these belief systems to be ever-present and continually acting. Native American mythology generally presents humans and animals as being related and having common ancestry. Many different Native American cultures discovered and interpreted fossils and integrated the knowledge of fossils into their origin mythology.

Various origin myths can be identified as having come from Asia, but origin mythology has not held an important role in Asia for many centuries. This is largely because much of Asia came to be dominated by Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, all of which are highly philosophical and say little or nothing about origins.

"Animism" was common among the European and Asian cultures of pre-historic Eurasia and persisted into relatively recent times in some parts, until it ultimately came into conflict with Christianity. Many of the ancient European cultures, such as the Celts, the Huns, those of the Scandinavians, and many others, believed in a common tie between the "animal" and "human" world. Indeed for many there was no separation at all. This is one reason why the wearing of animal hides was a common ritual practice among the so-called "barbarian" tribes of Europe.

It was precisely this belief in the unity of the human and animal world that that was seen as "pagan" and primitive by later Christians of the Roman Empire and post-imperial Romanized societies. The belief that humans and the animal world are united has been one of the major beliefs that Christians have worked to stamp out over the past two millennia of Christian expansionism. First throughout Europe, and then throughout North and South America, Christians have come into conflict with cultures that viewed humans as having descended, in some form, either spiritually or bodily, from animals. In every case Christians have fought intensely for the past 2,000 years to eradicate the belief that humans and animals have a close relationship.

Mesopotamian and Mediterranean Origin Belief

Mesopotamia is known as the "cradle of civilization", and for good reason. It is in Mesopotamia that writing, farming, and the domestication of animals is thought to have first taken place. Civilization from this region had wide ranging impacts on the surrounding area as the practices of writing, farming, domestication, law, and coinage spread east and west to influence other cultures.

It is also from Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean that we find the most developed creation myths that tell of a separate creation of man and of the domination of man over the rest of the animal world.

The Sumerians, because they were the first to develop writing, recorded one of the oldest known origin myths. Sumerian mythology tells that the gods lived on earth where they worked and toiled. After some time, the gods grew tired of working so they created humans to do their work for them. In Sumerian mythology a team of six gods created humans from a special mud. During the creation several different "defective" people were made, (non-sexual, sterile, diseased, and blind) explaining why it is that such afflicted people exist on the earth.

Animals, in this case, already existed and were of a completely separate origin. The people were made in the image of the gods, to be like the gods, but they were mortal and imperfect. This mythology tells that people were created for the purpose of laboring and ruling over the animals and farm fields.

In a major telling of Babylonian creation myth, Enuma Elish, which was based on the Sumerian story, the primary Babylonian god Marduk is credited with directing the creation of the heavens and the earth through six cycles and creating man as the final and ultimate act of his creation. The purpose of creation, again, was to remove the burden of work from the gods by creating humans in the form of gods to take on the burden of work. In the Babylonian myth the blood of Kingu, a god who led a rebellion against Marduk, was used to create mankind.

His [Marduk's] heart prompts him to create ingenious things.
He conveys his idea to Ea,
Imparting the plan which he had conceived in his heart:
'Blood will I form and cause bone to be;
Then will I set up a savage, Man shall be his name!
Yes, I will create mankind!'
Upon him shall the services of the gods be imposed that they may be at rest.


Kingu it was who created the strife,
And caused Tiamat to rebel and prepare for battle.
They [the gods] bound him and held him before Ea;
Punishment they inflicted upon him by cutting the arteries of his blood.
With his blood they created mankind;
He [Ea] imposed the services of the gods upon them and set the gods free.
After Ea, the wise, had created mankind,
And they had imposed the services of the gods upon them-
That work was not suited to human understanding;
In accordance with the ingenious plans of Marduk did Nudimmud [Ea] create it.
- Enuma Elish, ~1700 BCE

In the Sumerian myth the humans have no divinity, but in the Babylonian myth people are given partial divinity by their creation from the blood of a god, but the god from which they were made was rebellious and deceitful, thus giving the explanation for the "negative" aspects of human behavior.

Like the creation myths of the Sumerians and Babylonians, the creation myth of the Hebrews tells of a separate and special creation of man. In the Hebrew myth man is also given dominion over the plant and animal kingdoms.

25   And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
26   And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27   So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28   And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29   And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30   And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
- Genesis 1, ~440 BCE

It is also worthy of note that the Genesis myth, like the Sumerian and Babylonian myths (as well as other Mesopotamian myths), mentions the existence of cattle (domesticated animals) at the time of creation. All of these myths were obviously influenced by the fact that their civilizations had control over animals. Importantly as well, all of these myths reflect the fact that these were civilizations where work was portrayed as the objective of life.

Moving from the mythical and religious realm to the philosophical, the Greeks made substantial philosophical arguments in favor of a universe created and designed by a creator god for the use of man.

Many different schools of philosophy developed in Greece. Stoicism was a Greek school of philosophy that, while ostensibly non-religious and anti-superstitious, viewed the universe as being intelligently designed by a rational creator, who continued to govern the universe through his divine providence.

In 45 BCE the Roman statesman Cicero wrote a masterful summary of the boldest elements of Greek philosophy, The Nature of the Gods. In the tradition of his time the work was written in dialog format. In The Nature Cicero put forward the positions of the major schools of Greek philosophy relating to gods, the universe, and life. The Nature was a widely read work by Roman scholars and early Roman Christians; such men as Saint Augustine were influenced by the work. The Nature also, of course, reflects the views and opinions that prevailed in Mediterranean society shortly before the birth of Christianity. In The Nature Cicero summarized the arguments for and against views, including those of Platonic Stoics, that the universe was created by an intelligent force for the use of man, and thus the book serves as a good window into that school of philosophy.

[W]ho would ascribe the intelligence of a man to him who when he saw such regularity in the movements of the heavens, such stability in the order of the stars, such interconnection and mutual coherence in all things, denied the presence of any reason in these, and described as the result of chance things which are administered with a skill to which we cannot by any skill attain? Or is it that when we see anything such as a globe, or horologe, or numerous other things, moving by means of some kind of mechanism, we make no question of their being the work of intelligence, and yet are skeptical, although we see the heavens rushing on with marvelous speed, and bringing about with the utmost regularity the yearly recurring changes of the seasons by their revolution, ensuring thereby the most complete well-being and preservation of all things,—are we, I say, skeptical as to such phenomena being the result not merely of intelligence, but of an intelligence which is exalted and divine? For we may now set aside the refinements of argument, and survey, as it were, with our eyes the beauty of the things which we say were instituted by the divine providence.

And in the first place let us note the earth as a whole, which is situated in the central quarter of the universe, and is solid, spherical, gathered at every point into that shape by its own gravity, and clothed with flowers, herbs, trees, and fruits, the incredible multitude of all these being set off by a variety which cannot tire. Add to them the cool perennial springs, the liquid transparency of the rivers, the green covering of the banks, the vast hollows of the caves, the rugged rocks, the lofty overhanging mountains, and the boundless plains; add, too, the hidden veins of gold and silver, and the limitless wealth of marble. And what tribes of animals, there are, both tame and wild, and how various! what flights and songs of birds, what grazing of cattle, what forms of woodland life! How shall I next speak of the race of men, the appointed cultivators, as it were, of the earth, who neither allow it to become the lair of savage beasts, nor to be turned into a waste by a rough undergrowth, and whose handiwork makes bright the fields and islands and coasts, dotting them with houses and cities? If we could see these things with our eyes, as we can with our mind, no one, when he gazed upon the earth in its completeness, would doubt as to the divine intelligence.


The conclusion is thus reached upon every hand, and from every consideration, that everything in this universe is marvelously administered by the divine intelligence and forethought with a view to the safety and preservation of all things. But it will be asked for whose sake so vast a work was carried out. Was it for the sake of trees and herbs, which though without sensation are nevertheless sustained by Nature? No, that at any rate is absurd. Was it for the sake of animals? It is equally improbable that the gods went to such pains for beings that are dumb and without understanding. For whose sake, then, would one say that the universe was formed? For the sake, undoubtedly, of those animate beings that exercise reason. These are gods and men, whom nothing assuredly transcends in excellence, since reason is the highest of all things. It is thus credibly established that the universe and everything that is in it were made for the sake of gods and men.
- The Nature of the Gods; Cicero, 45 BCE

This argument, while more sophisticated and philosophically derived, exemplifies the reasoning present in the earlier creation myths of the Sumerians, Babylonians, and certainly the Hebrews, as well as the myths of others. This reasoning, however, was not the only one present in ancient Greece or presented in The Nature.

Must I not here express my wonder that anyone should exist who persuades himself that there are certain solid and indivisible particles carried along by their own impulse and weight, and that a universe so beautiful and so admirably arrayed is formed from the accidental concourse of those particles? I do not understand why the man who supposes that to have been possible should not also think that if a countless number of the forms of the one and twenty letters, whether in gold or any other material, were to be thrown somewhere, it would be possible, when they had been shaken out upon the ground, for the annals of Ennius to result from them so as to be able to be read consecutively,—a miracle of chance which I incline to think would be impossible even in the case of a single verse. Yet, as the Epicureans assure us, it was from minute particles possessing neither color, nor any kind of quality, nor sensation, but coming together by chance and accident, that the world was produced, or rather that innumerable worlds are, within each instant of time, either coming into being or departing from it. But if a concourse of atoms is able to form the universe, why cannot they form a portico, or temple, or house, or city, things which are less, far less elaborate?
- The Nature of the Gods; Cicero, 45 BCE

Here we see, from over 2,000 years ago, a common argument that is still used against evolution today. We see this argument in The Nature because the ancient Greeks had already developed a "theory of evolution by natural selection" over 2,000 years ago.

Evolutionary Concepts in Ancient Greece

bust of Epicurus

"Ancient Greece" is a very loose term that refers to the Greek speaking cultures from the period of about 800 BCE to 200 CE, a period of about 1000 years. The exact times and cultures considered to be a part of "ancient Greece" vary from historian to historian. The cultures, philosophies, and beliefs of "ancient Greece" are, of course, extremely varied. There is no possible way to generalize "ancient Greek" culture, and the individuals within each of the different cultures were themselves highly varied.

The first logically proposed evolutionary concept is agreed to have come from Anaximandros (Anaximander) of Miletos, who lived from 610 BCE to 547 BCE, about 100 years before the writing of Genesis. Very few texts from Anaximander remain today, but some information about the teachings of Anaximander have been preserved by later writers who disagreed with him.

Anaximander believed that life must have started in the water, and that from this early form of life, other forms of life, including man, developed. Below are some quotes that refer to the evolutionary concepts of Anaximander:

Wherefore they (the Syrians) reference the fish as of the same origin and the same family as man, holding a more reasonable philosophy than that of Anaximandros; for he declares, not that fishes and men were generated at the same time, but that at first men were generated in the form of fishes, and that growing up as sharks do till they were able to help themselves, they then came forth on the dry ground.
- Plutarch (1st century CE)

Anaximandros, the companion of Thales, says that the infinite is the sole cause of all generation and destruction, and from it the heavens were separated, and similarly all the worlds, which are infinite in number. And he declared that destruction and, far earlier, generation have taken place since an indefinite time, since all things are involved in a cycle. He says that the earth is a cylinder in form, and that its depth is one-third of its breadth. And he says that at the beginning of this world something [Diels] productive of heat and cold from the eternal being was separated therefrom, and a sort of sphere of this flame surrounded the air about the earth, as bark surrounds a tree ; then this sphere was broken into parts and defined into distinct circles, and thus arose the sun and the moon and the stars. Farther he says that at the beginning man was generated from all sorts of animals, since all the rest can quickly get food for themselves, but man alone requires careful feeding for a long time; such a being at the beginning could not have preserved his existence. Such is the teaching of Anaximandros.
- Hippolytus (3rd century CE)

Animals come into being through vapors raised by the sun. Man, however, came into being from another animal, namely the fish, for at first he was like a fish. Winds are due to a separation of the lightest vapors and the motion of the masses of these vapors ; and moisture comes from the vapor raised by the sun from them; and lightning occurs when a wind falls upon clouds and separates them. Anaximandros was born in the third year of the forty-second Olympiad.
- Hippolytus (3rd century CE)

What distinguishes the teachings of Anaximander from other origin mythology is that his views were arrived at from a naturalistic perspective and they were not tied to any religious belief. Anaximander is credited with having invented the sun dial and other observational instruments. He produced teachings in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, geography, and biology. While his teachings were crude compared to what we know today, they represent the earliest known example of naturalistic evolutionary thought.

Xenophanes of Kolopbon, who was born around 570 BCE, was both the first recorded person to have understood the implications of fossils, and also one of the first monotheists. Xenophanes was considered an "atheist" of his time because he rejected the traditional Greek pantheon of anthropomorphic gods, instead claiming that there was only one god and that god was infinite.

Despite the fact that this view seems "religious" today, Xenophanes was seen as a rationalist and materialist of his time. Like other monotheistic Greeks, Xenophanes did not develop any kind of religion or base his beliefs on claims of divine revelation. Instead, his view of god was philosophically derived.

In relation to fossils, Xenophanes understood that the fossils were formed by animals that had been preserved in mud. He developed an explanation for fossils which stated that earth must have gone through many life cycles, during which different forms of animals existed and were then wiped out, but their bodies were preserved in the rocks. He believed that new forms of animals developed during the new cycles. Xenophanes did not believe that his god created people, instead he stated that all living things, including people, developed from earth and water.

"Shells are found inland and in the mountains, and in the quarries of Syracuse an impression of a fish and seaweed has been found, and impressions of fish were found in Paros in the depth of the rock and in Malta impressions of many marine creatures. These, he [Xenophanes] says, were produced when everything was long ago covered with mud and the impressions were dried in the mud."
- Hippolytus (discussing the teachings of Xenophanes)

The Greeks, along with other ancient cultures, came into frequent contact with fossils. The word fossil actually comes from Greek and means "dug-up item". The Greeks did not use the term fossil the way that we do today, instead they often talked of petrified bones when discussing larger fossils. Ample evidence now suggests that the fantastic mythology of the ancient Greeks was heavily influenced by their observation of fossils. Not only were fossils commonly found out in the open throughout the lands of ancient Greece,  but the Greeks quarried massive amounts of rock. In the process of quarrying rock they often came across fossils. Fossils were actually excavated and put on display in temples in some cases.

The Greeks interpreted many of the large bones that they found as being humanoid. When the Greeks found large thigh bones, for example, they were commonly interpreted as the bones of giants, and it is from these giant bones that the Greeks developed the mythology that Titians once lived on earth, whom Zeus and the other gods fought and killed. Because of the tendency of the Greeks to interpret the "bodily" fossils that they found as humanoid, when they found near complete skeletons that included horned or tusked skulls they interpreted these as having a human type body with an animal head. A small sampling of ancient accounts of fossils are listed below:

"I have seen shells on the hills," evidence that "Egypt was originally an arm of the sea."

In Scythia, "the natives show a footprint left by Heracles on a rock by the river Tyras. It is like a man's footprint, but 3 feet long." (units of measure translated)
- The Histories; Herodotus, 430 BCE

"When King Masinissa landed on the headland of Malta, his admiral stole the special tusks of astonishing size from the ancient Temple of Juno."
- Against Verres; Cicero (born 106 BCE)

A "figure resembling Pan" was found inside a slab of rock split open in a Chios quarry.
- De Divinatione; Cicero

"earth brought forth the giants, ... who were matchless in the bulk of their bodies and invincible in their might, with terrible aspect.... Some say they were born at Phlegra [Italy], but according to others in Phallene [Greece]." Zeuse "killed them with thunderbolts and Heracles shot them with arrows." Athena "threw Sicily on top of the giant Enceladus," while Poseidon "broke off part of Kos and heaped it on the giant Polybotes." Typhon "surpassed all the offspring of earth. As far as the thighs he was of human shape and of prodigious bulk." Zeus fought him from Syria to Thrace and finally buried Typhon under Mount Etna, Sicily.
- Apollodorus (1st century CE)

"The giants [were] men of immense bodies, whose bones of enormous size are still shown in certain places for confirmation of their existence."
- Clement of Rome, 96 CE

"Historians of Chios assert that near Mount Pelinaeus in a wooded glen there was a dragon of gigantic size who made the Chians shudder. No farmer or shepherd dared approach the monster's lair. But a miraculous event allowed the discovery of how large it really was. During a violent lightning storm a forest fire destroyed the entire region of the wooded slopes.... After the fire, all the Chians came to see and discovered the bones of gigantic size and a terrifying skull. From these the villagers were able to imagine how large and terrible the brute was when alive.


Euphorion says... that in primeval times Samos was uninhabited [except for] animals of gigantic size, which were savage and dangerous, called Neades. Now these animals with there mere roaring split the ground. So there is a proverbial saying in Samos: 'So and so roars louder than the Neades.' And Euphorion asserts that their huge remains are displayed even to this day."
- On Animals; Aelian (lived 170-230 CE)

Two schools of thought developed to explain these "large bones":  Mythological explanations and naturalistic explanations. To some degree, however, even the mythological explanations were naturalistic, because these were not mythologies that were made up out of thin air, nor did the mythological beliefs of Greeks always include supernatural beliefs. To many Greeks the objects of their mythology were as real and natural to them as dinosaurs are to us today.

Despite this, not all Greeks believed in the mythological explanations for the bones, as we shall see, but before discussing the naturalistic Greek explanations for fossils we must first discuss the Greek atomic theory and evolutionary concepts about the "origins of worlds".

Between 500 and 370 BCE Anaxagoras, Leucippus, and Democritus are credited with developing the basis of materialism (the view that everything that exists is made of matter) and the concept of the atom. Democritus is specifically credited with developing the first atomic concept. Democritus identified atoms as the smallest forms of matter, of which everything else is made.

The early atomic concepts were based on the observation that things could be transformed. Specifically, animals were observed to consume food in the form of grass as they grew in size. The conclusion was that the grass had to be made of invisibly small particles that were capable of being broken apart and then put back together into different forms. The early atomists had made the connection that living bodies were actually composed of the material that they ate.

The Greek concepts of atoms were relatively crude compared to today, but the fundamental concept of the atom as a particle was the foundation for the materialist understanding of reality. Democritus stated:

"The universe is infinite because it has not been produced by a creator. The causes of what now exists had no beginning."

"There is an infinite number of worlds of different sizes: some are larger than ours, some have no sun or moon, others have suns or moons that are bigger than ours. Some have many suns and moons. Worlds are spaced at differing distances from each other; in some parts of the universe there are more worlds, in other parts fewer. In some areas they are growing, in other parts, decreasing. They are destroyed by collision with one another. There are some worlds with no living creatures, plants, or moisture."

"The material cause of all things that exist is the coming together of atoms and void. Atoms are too small to be perceived by the senses. They are eternal and have many different shapes, and they can cluster together to create things that are perceivable. Differences in shape, arrangement, and position of atoms produce different things. By aggregation they provide bulky objects that we can perceive with our sight and other senses."

"By convention sweet, by convention bitter, by convention hot, by convention cold, by convention colour: but in reality atoms and void."
- Democritus

Atomism was never completely accepted among all the Greeks, in part because of the materialism that the concept was based on, and because the atomists proposed that the world was created from the chance collisions of atoms, contradicting the popular idea of a purposeful creation. Plato and Aristotle, in particular, argued against the atomic concepts of the materialists.

Democritus' atomic concepts were integrated into the later teachings of Epicurus. The Epicurean school of thought went on to become relatively well accepted in Greece. It's estimated that about 30% of Athenians were Epicureans during the philosophy's height.

Like so many of the other naturalistic works of the Greeks, almost all the texts of the atomists were lost or destroyed by the Christians. Cicero's The Nature of the Gods does, however, provide a good summary of the Epicurean concept of the "evolution" of worlds from the random collisions of atoms.

[T]he world was produced by the working of nature, without there having been any need for a process of manufacture, and that what your school declares to be capable of accomplishment only by means of divine intelligence is a thing so easy that nature will produce, and is producing, and has produced worlds without end. It is because you do not see how nature can accomplish this without the help of some kind of mind that, like the tragic poets, in your inability to bring the plot to a smooth conclusion, you have recourse to a god. Yet you would certainly feel no need for his agency if you had before your eyes the expanse of region, unmeasured and on every side unbounded, upon which the mind may fasten and concentrate itself, and where it may wander far and wide without seeing any farthermost limit upon which to be able to rest. Now in this immensity of length and breadth and height there floats an infinite quantity of innumerable atoms which, in spite of the intervening void, nevertheless join together, and through one seizing upon one, and another upon another, form themselves into connected wholes, by which means are produced those forms and outlines of the material world which your school is of opinion cannot be produced without bellows and anvils. You have therefore placed our necks beneath the yoke of a perpetual tyrant, of whom we are to go in fear by day and night, for who would not fear a god who foresaw everything, considered everything, noted everything, and looked upon himself as concerned in everything,—a busy and prying god? From this has come, in the first place, your idea of preordained necessity, which you call ε μαρμένη, meaning by the term that every event that occurs had its origin in eternal truth and the chain of causation—(though what is to be thought of a philosophy that holds the ignorant old crone’s belief that everything happens by destiny?)—and secondly your art of μαντικ , or divinatio, as it is called in Latin, which, if we were willing to listen to you, would imbue us with such superstition that we should have to pay regard to soothsayers, augurs, diviners, prophets, and interpreters of dreams. From these terrors we have been released by Epicurus, and claimed for freedom; we do not fear beings of whom we understand that they neither create trouble for themselves, nor seek it for others, and we worship, in piety and holiness, a sublime and exalted nature.
- The Nature of the Gods; Cicero, 45 BCE

To these concepts the Stoic of the dialog, after giving many examples of "ordered phenomena", replies:

Can any sane person think that all this grouping of the stars, and this vast ordering of the heavens, could have resulted from atoms coursing to and fro fortuitously and at random? Or could, indeed, any kind of nature that was destitute of mind and intelligence have produced these results, which not only needed intelligence in order to be produced, but which cannot be understood in their nature without a very considerable amount of intelligence?
- The Nature of the Gods; Cicero, 45 BCE

It was this concept of atoms and infinity that freed the Greek Epicureans and materialists to embrace evolutionary concepts of life origin. Though Cicero does not present the Epicurean teachings on biological evolution in The Nature, the Greek materialists had nevertheless developed a highly sophisticated concept of evolution with natural selection. Atomic theory was the essential first step in their development of concepts of biological evolution.

Several different Greeks are known to have put forward varying evolutionary explanations for biological diversity, ranging from the mythical to the purely naturalistic. Two of the best surviving examples of Greek evolutionary concepts come from the Epicurean Lucretius and from Aristotle, who argued against the concept.

In 50 BCE the Roman philosopher Lucretius wrote the epic poem On the Nature of Things, which is now one of the best surviving examples of Greek materialist thought in a materialist's own words. (Most of our knowledge of Greek materialism comes from the remaining writings that opposed the view) This work contains the best known explanation of the Greek concept of biological evolution written by a proponent of the teaching. In a section titled "Origins of Vegetable and Animal Life " Lucretius wrote:

For lapsing aeons change the nature of
The whole wide world, and all things needs must take
One status after other, nor aught persists
Forever like itself. All things depart;
Nature she changeth all, compelleth all
To transformation.
In suchwise, then, the lapsing aeons change
The nature of the whole wide world, and earth
Taketh one status after other. And what
She bore of old, she now can bear no longer,
And what she never bore, she can to-day.

In those days also the telluric world
Strove to beget the monsters that upsprung
With their astounding visages and limbs-
The Man-woman- a thing betwixt the twain,
Yet neither, and from either sex remote-
Some gruesome Boggles orphaned of the feet,
Some widowed of the hands, dumb Horrors too
Without a mouth, or blind Ones of no eye,
Or Bulks all shackled by their legs and arms
Cleaving unto the body fore and aft,
Thuswise, that never could they do or go,
Nor shun disaster, nor take the good they would.
And other prodigies and monsters earth
Was then begetting of this sort- in vain,
Since Nature banned with horror their increase,
And powerless were they to reach unto
The coveted flower of fair maturity,
Or to find aliment, or to intertwine
In works of Venus. For we see there must
Concur in life conditions manifold,
If life is ever by begetting life
To forge the generations one by one:
First, foods must be; and, next, a path whereby
The seeds of impregnation in the frame
May ooze, released from the members all;
Last, the possession of those instruments
Whereby the male with female can unite,
The one with other in mutual ravishments.

And in the ages after monsters died,
Perforce there perished many a stock, unable
By propagation to forge a progeny.
For whatsoever creatures thou beholdest
Breathing the breath of life, the same have been
Even from their earliest age preserved alive
By cunning, or by valour, or at least
By speed of foot or wing. And many a stock
Remaineth yet, because of use to man,
And so committed to man's guardianship.
Valour hath saved alive fierce lion-breeds
And many another terrorizing race,
Cunning the foxes, flight the antlered stags.
Light-sleeping dogs with faithful heart in breast,
However, and every kind begot from seed
Of beasts of draft, as, too, the woolly flocks
And horned cattle, all, my Memmius,
Have been committed to guardianship of men.
For anxiously they fled the savage beasts,
And peace they sought and their abundant foods,
Obtained with never labours of their own,
Which we secure to them as fit rewards
For their good service. But those beasts to whom
Nature has granted naught of these same things-
Beasts quite unfit by own free will to thrive
And vain for any service unto us
In thanks for which we should permit their kind
To feed and be in our protection safe-
Those, of a truth, were wont to be exposed,
Enshackled in the gruesome bonds of doom,
As prey and booty for the rest, until
Nature reduced that stock to utter death.

But Centaurs ne'er have been, nor can there be
Creatures of twofold stock and double frame,
Compact of members alien in kind,
Yet formed with equal function, equal force
In every bodily part- a fact thou mayst,
However dull thy wits, well learn from this:
Such hybrid creatures could not have been begot
And limbs of all beasts heterogeneous
Have been together knit; because, indeed,
The divers kinds of grasses and the grains
And the delightsome trees- which even now
Spring up abounding from within the earth-
Can still ne'er be begotten with their stems
Begrafted into one; but each sole thing
Proceeds according to its proper wont
And all conserve their own distinctions based
In Nature's fixed decree.
- On the Nature of Things; Lucretius, 50 BCE

The monsters that Lucretius mentions no doubt refer to the many forms found in fossils, but the discussion of monsters also contains the idea that many of the early forms of life were "unfit", and that through a process of "natural selection", which he discusses, the forms of life that were able to survive did survive and have passed on their traits to their present day descendants. It is also important to note that Lucretius denied the existence of "fantastical" creatures, such as centaurs, griffins, etc.

As much as this sounds similar to our present day concept of evolution it must be remember that Lucretius' work is but a poem, and though poems were often used in ancient times, it was still not as rigorous a text as other scholarly works. We do know, however, that an even more sophisticated concept of evolution existed hundreds of years before Lucretius because of Aristotle's discussion of the concept in 350 BCE. Aristotle refuted the idea of evolution, however, but mentioned the concept in his work because he taught against it. He taught against it because it was a known concept that had been embraced by a significant portion of thinkers at the time.

We must explain then (1) that Nature belongs to the class of causes which act for the sake of something;


[I]f a man's crop is spoiled on the threshing-floor, the rain did not fall for the sake of this-in order that the crop might be spoiled-but that result just followed. Why then should it not be the same with the parts in nature, e.g. that our teeth should come up of necessity-the front teeth sharp, fitted for tearing, the molars broad and useful for grinding down the food-since they did not arise for this end, but it was merely a coincident result; and so with all other parts in which we suppose that there is purpose? Wherever then all the parts came about just what they would have been if they had come before an end, such things survived, being organized spontaneously in a fitting way; whereas those which grew otherwise perished and continue to perish....

Such are the arguments (and others of the kind) which may cause difficulty on this point. Yet it is impossible that this should be the true view. For teeth and all other natural things either invariably or normally come about in a given way; but of not one of the results of chance or spontaneity is this true. We do not ascribe to chance or mere coincidence the frequency of rain in winter, but frequent rain in summer we do; nor heat in the dog-days, but only if we have it in winter. If then, it is agreed that things are either the result of coincidence or for an end, and these cannot be the result of coincidence or spontaneity, it follows that they must be for an end; and that such things are all due to nature even the champions of the theory which is before us would agree. Therefore action for an end is present in things which come to be and are by nature.
- Physics; Aristotle, 350 BCE

This description of the process of evolution and natural selection put forward by Aristotle is perhaps the most lucid explanation of evolution to be found in the existing literature of the ancient Greeks. Why is it that the best explanation of evolution comes to us in a book that is written by an author that is opposed to the concept of evolution?

The Early Christian Fight Against Naturalism

Understanding Christian belief requires understanding the historical development of those beliefs, and understanding the Christian impact on the world also requires understanding the historical rise of Christianity.

"Christianity" is an amalgam of Jewish mythology and law, Zoroastrian mythology and theology, Ptolemaic Egyptian Religion, Greek philosophy, Roman civics, and Roman imperialism. The Christian religion as we know it today developed over a period of several hundred years.

The concept of God in Christianity is not the Jewish concept of God. The God of the Hebrews was a God that embodied both good and bad. He was the creator of both strife and blessing. The Christian concept of God, on the other hand, is a combination of the Platonic god concept and the Zoroastrian God.

Isaiah 45:
7 The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.
- The Torah/Old Testament

Furthermore, the god of the Hebrews was not well defined, he was simply YAHWEH, who gave various commands and was given credit for the fortunes or misfortunes of the Hebrew people. Likewise, the Jews did not have a concept of Satan like that which exists in Christianity. The Hebrew religion presents Satan as one of God's helpers - a being that tests the faith of individuals for God. In the Hebrew religion there is no "war in heaven" or "fall from grace". The Christian concept of Satan comes from Zoroastrianism.

Early Christianity adopted Zoroastrian mythology and the concepts of Zoroastrian dualism. The word devil does not appear in the Torah or the Old Testament because the word "devil" comes from the Persian word daeva, which was used by Zoroastrians to describe evil spirits. The Zoroastrian religion believed in one god, Ahura Mazda, who was completely good. In opposition to Ahura Mazda was Angra Mainyu, the evil one.

Pre-Christian image of Angra Mainyu

According to Zoroastrian mythology these two beings were almost equally powerful and they were locked in a cosmic battle of good vs. evil. Angra Mainyu, according to the mythology, rebelled against Ahura Mazda and is responsible for all of the ills of the world, while Ahura Mazda is responsible for all of the good things. On the day of final judgment Zoroastrians believe that Ahura Mazda will defeat Angra Mainyu and banish him, as well as all evil, from the universe forever.

It is a matter of historical fact that this mythology of the Zoroastrians existed before the advent of the Christian religion, and the transmission of this mythology to Jews within the Babylonian empire is also a matter of recorded history.

This dualism set the stage for the integration of the Platonic concept of god.

Early Christianity developed among Greek speaking and Aramaic speaking Jews. The word Christ itself is Greek and means "anointed one". The first references to "Christianity" began to emerge around 120 CE in Greek speaking regions around the Mediterranean Sea.

Paul, the apostle who is said to have spread the message of Christianity, spent his time promoting the religion in Greece.

Acts 17:18-33 (New International Version)

18A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean." 21(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

 22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

 24"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

 29"Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

 32When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." 33At that, Paul left the Council.

It was the Epicureans who would have sneered no doubt.

The fact of the matter is, however, that the concept of a single god, creator of the universe, had been log established in Greece on philosophical grounds. As early Christianity developed in Greece it was heavily influenced by the Greek concepts of god and providence.

Clement of Alexandria, who was born in Athens around 150 CE, was a highly influential early Christian theologian. Clement was a Greek and infused Christianity with a strong element of Platonic philosophy.  Clement's attacks on other Greek philosophies is indicative of the interactions between Christianity and Greek philosophy of his time. The following quotes are taken from Clement's Stromata, written in 190 CE.

"Theopompus and Timaeus, who composed fables and slanders, and Epicurus the leader of atheism, and Hipponax and Archilochus, are to be allowed to write in their own shameful manner. But he who proclaims the truth is to be prevented from leaving behind him what is to benefit posterity? It is a good thing, I reckon, to leave to posterity good children. This is the case with children of our bodies. But words are the progeny of the soul."
- The Stromata, Book I; Clement of Alexandria, 190 CE

Here Clement is discussing the issue of whether or not Christians should leave behind writings or reject writings as materialistic and embrace oral tradition instead. Clement was a well educated Greek from a well off background, and thus he believed that Christians should embrace philosophy and literature, things that earlier Christians had opposed.

"The Greek preparatory culture, therefore, with philosophy itself, is shown to have come down from God to men,...


These arts, therefore, if not conjoined with philosophy, will be injurious to every one. For Plato openly called sophistry "an evil art." And Aristotle, following him, demonstrates it to be a dishonest art, which abstracts in a specious manner the whole business of wisdom, and professes a wisdom which it has not studied.


Thus the truth-loving Plato says, as if divinely inspired, "Since I am such as to obey nothing but the word, which, after reflection, appears to me the best." Accordingly he charges those who credit opinions without intelligence and knowledge, with abandoning right and sound reason unwarrantably, and believing him who is a partner in falsehood. For to cheat one's self of the truth is bad; but to speak the truth, and to hold as our opinions positive realities, is good.



This, then, "the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God," and of those who are "the wise the Lord knoweth their thoughts that they are vain." Let no man therefore glory on account of pre-eminence in human thought. For it is written well in Jeremiah, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the mighty man glory in his might, and let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth that I am the Lord, that executeth mercy and judgment and righteousness upon the earth: for in these things is my delight, saith the Lord." "That we should trust not in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead," says the apostle, "who delivered us from so great a death, that our faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." "For the spiritual man judgeth all things, but he himself is judged of no man." I hear also those words of his, "And these things I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words, or one should enter in to spoil you." And again, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ;" branding not all philosophy, but the Epicurean, which Paul mentions in the Acts of the Apostles, which abolishes providence and deifies pleasure, and whatever other philosophy honours the elements, but places not over them the efficient cause, nor apprehends the Creator."
- The Stromata, Book I; Clement of Alexandria, 190 CE

What would become known as the Christian movement began among the poor and uneducated, which is a major reason why there are no writings from the earliest "Christians". It is within the Greek culture, and through the Greek influence, that Christianity gained the intellectual fortitude, as well as the credibility, to expand beyond the simple moralistic movement of its origin.

The god of Christianity was heavily influenced by the god of Plato and Aristotle. The god of Plato and Aristotle is the all knowing and all powerful creator of the universe and instrument of "final causes". The god of Plato and Aristotle was a philosophically derived concept though, and not to be worshiped - nor did their god love and care. The Zoroastrian god of love and forgiveness was merged with the Platonic god of omnipotence and infinity to create the all knowing, all powerful, and all loving god of Christianity.

Plato, who lived between 427 and 327 BCE, believed in the immortality of the soul and in the existence of two forms of reality, the corrupt material world that we experience while we are alive on earth and another perfect spiritual world where the soul goes after death. Plato thought that truth came from the soul, while falsehood came from the natural world.

Aristotle, while more of a naturalist than Plato, accepted Plato's view of god and added that whatever has a use must be the product of an intelligent creator, thus all things in nature that have a function must have been created by god.

Aristotle extended the teleology of Socrates into a system of natural philosophy that he used to describe all of the phenomena of nature, especially the phenomena of life. Teleology is a doctrine that attempts to explain the universe in terms of ends or "final causes". Teleology is based on the proposition that the universe has design and purpose. In Aristotelian philosophy the explanation of, or justification for, a phenomenon or process is to be found not only in the immediate cause, but also in the "final cause"— the reason for which the phenomenon exists or was created.

"Further, where a series has a completion, all the preceding steps are for the sake of that. Now surely as in intelligent action, so in nature; and as in nature, so it is in each action, if nothing interferes. Now intelligent action is for the sake of an end; therefore the nature of things also is so. Thus if a house, e.g. had been a thing made by nature, it would have been made in the same way as it is now by art; and if things made by nature were made also by art, they would come to be in the same way as by nature. Each step then in the series is for the sake of the next; and generally art partly completes what nature cannot bring to a finish, and partly imitates her. If, therefore, artificial products are for the sake of an end, so clearly also are natural products. The relation of the later to the earlier terms of the series is the same in both. This is most obvious in the animals other than man: they make things neither by art nor after inquiry or deliberation. Wherefore people discuss whether it is by intelligence or by some other faculty that these creatures work, spiders, ants, and the like. By gradual advance in this direction we come to see clearly that in plants too that is produced which is conducive to the end-leaves, e.g. grow to provide shade for the fruit. If then it is both by nature and for an end that the swallow makes its nest and the spider its web, and plants grow leaves for the sake of the fruit and send their roots down (not up) for the sake of nourishment, it is plain that this kind of cause is operative in things which come to be and are by nature. And since 'nature' means two things, the matter and the form, of which the latter is the end, and since all the rest is for the sake of the end, the form must be the cause in the sense of 'that for the sake of which'.


It is plain then that nature is a cause, a cause that operates for a purpose."
- Physics; Aristotle, 350 BCE

So, what does all of this have to do with evolution?

Opposition to the ancient Greek concept of evolution was an integral part of the early development of Christianity. The philosophy and culture of Christianity has its roots among the anti-Epicurean philosophers of Greece. Anti-Epicurean philosophy of Greece was merged with Christianity by early Greek theologians, whose works became the basis for later Christian theology. Both directly and indirectly, Christian theology was heavily influenced by Platonic philosophy from this early point on. This is not to say that Christian theologians accepted every philosophical principle of Plato, they did not, but Platonic views had become such an integrated part of some segments of Greek and Jewish society by the time Christianity came along that many Platonic views had ceased to be strictly identified with Plato and were just popularly held concepts that evolved and integrated into various other philosophical and religious systems. Plato was embraced by early Christians, but even he was rejected as time went on and Christian ideology become increasingly anti-philosophical and opposed to all people who were associated with "the pagan times".

Concepts adopted by Christians from Platonic Greek philosophers include:

  • God is infinite and perfect
  • The ontological argument for the existence of god
  • Logos (logos has dual meanings: logic and word) is the source of existence
  • Logos (logic) is unique to humans
  • The soul contains sacred knowledge that people have from birth
  • The sun revolves around the earth
  • Nature is a product of intelligent design, and god is the designer

Most important, however, was the conflict between the early Christians and the other schools of philosophy, namely the Epicureans. The early Christians saw Epicureanism and other forms of natural philosophy as the main ideologies that they were struggling against. The writings of the early Christian fathers are littered with references to Epicureanism, Anaxagoras, and Democritus. Likewise, the naturalistic philosophers saw Christianity as a growing negative influence in the civilized world as well.

One of the most striking books written by the early Christians is perhaps Refutation of All Heresies by Hippolytus of Rome. It is not known when Hippolytus was born, but he is thought to have died around 235 CE. What makes Refutation of All Heresies so extraordinary is that it is a collection and explanation of all of the most well known naturalistic philosophies of the time, which the work then goes on to refute. The work stated to Christians that the ideas held by the naturalistic philosophers were heretical. Refutation of All Heresies now provides one of the fullest explanations of the Greek philosophies because it is one of the fullest accounts that remains of these teachings (the originals were destroyed by the Christians).

"We propose to furnish an account of the tenets of natural philosophers, and who these are, as well as the tenets of moral philosophers, and who these are; and thirdly, the tenets of logicians, and who these logicians are.

Among natural philosophers may be enumerated Thales, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, Archelaus, Parmenides, Leucippus, Democritus, Xenophanes, Ecphantus, Hippo.

Among moral philosophers are Socrates, pupil of Archelaus the physicist, (and) Plato the pupil of Socrates. This (speculator) combined three systems of philosophy.

Among logicians is Aristotle, pupil of Plato. He systematized the art of dialectics. Among the Stoic (logicians) were Chrysippus (and) Zeno.

Epicurus, however, advanced an opinion almost contrary to all philosophers. Pyrrho was an Academic; this (speculator) taught the in-comprehensibility of everything. The Brahmins among the Indians, and the Druids among the Celts, and Hesiod (devoted themselves to philosophic pursuits).



It is said that Thales of Miletus, one of the seven, wise men, first attempted to frame a system of natural philosophy. This person said that some such thing as water is the generative principle of the universe, and its end;--for that out of this, solidified and again dissolved, all things consist, and that all things are supported on it; from which also arise both earthquakes and changes of the winds and atmospheric movements, and that all things are both produced and are in a state of flux corresponding with the nature of the primary author of generation;



Anaximander, then, was the hearer of Thales. Anaximander was son of Praxiadas, and a native of Miletus. This man said that the originating principle of existing things is a certain constitution of the Infinite, out of which the heavens are generated, and the worlds therein; and that this principle is eternal and undecaying, and comprising all the worlds. And he speaks of time as something of limited generation, and subsistence, and destruction. This person declared the Infinite to be an originating principle and element of existing things, being the first to employ such a denomination of the originating principle. But, moreover, he asserted that there is an eternal motion, by the agency of which it happens that the heavens are generated; but that the earth is poised aloft, upheld by nothing, continuing on account of its equal distance from all (the heavenly bodies); ... And that man was, originally, similar to a different animal, that is, a fish. And that winds are caused by the separation of very rarified exhalations of the atmosphere, and by their motion after they have been condensed. And that rain arises from earth's giving back (the vapours which it receives) from the (clouds under the sun. And that there are flashes of lightning when the wind coming down severs the clouds.



And that animals originally came into existence in moisture, and after this one from another; and that males are procreated when the seed secreted from the right parts adhered to the right parts of the womb, and that females are born when the contrary took place.



And with regard to animals, he affirms that the earth, being originally fire in its lower part, where the heat and cold were intermingled, both the rest of animals made their appearance, numerous and dissimilar, all having the same food, being nourished from mud; and their existence was of short duration, but afterwards also generation from one another arose unto them; and men were separated from the rest (of the animal creation), and they appointed rulers, and laws, and arts, and cities, and the rest. And he asserts that mind is innate in all animals alike; for that each, according to the difference of their physical constitution, employed (mind), at one time slower, at another faster.



But Leucippus, an associate of Zeno, did not maintain the same opinion, but affirms things to be infinite, and always in motion, and that generation and change exist continuously. And he affirms plenitude and vacuum to be elements. And he asserts that worlds are produced when many bodies are congregated and flow together from the surrounding space to a common point, so that by mutual contact they made substances of the same figure and similar in form come into connection; and when thus intertwined, there are transmutations into other bodies, and that created things wax and wane through necessity. But what the nature of necessity is, (Parmenides) did not define.



And Democritus was an acquaintance of Leucippus. Democritus, son of Damasippus, a native of Abdera, conferring with many gymnosophists among the Indians, and with priests in Egypt, and with astrologers and magi in Babylon, (propounded his system). Now he makes statements similarly with Leucippus concerning elements, viz. plenitude and vacuum, denominating plenitude entity, and vacuum nonentity; and this he asserted, since existing things are continually moved in the vacuum. And he maintained worlds to be infinite, and varying in bulk; and that in some there is neither sun nor moon, while in others that they are larger than with us, and with others more numerous. And that intervals between worlds are unequal; and that in one quarter of space (worlds) are more numerous, and in another less so; and that some of them increase in bulk, but that others attain their full size, while others dwindle away and that in one quarter they are coming into existence, whilst in another they are failing; and that they are destroyed by clashing one with another. And that some worlds are destitute of animals and plants, and every species of moisture. And that the earth of our world was created before that of the stars, and that the moon is underneath; next (to it) the sun; then the fixed stars. And that (neither) the planets nor these (fixed stars) possess an equal elevation. And that the world flourishes, until no longer it can receive anything from without. This (philosopher) turned all things into ridicule, as if all the concerns of humanity were deserving of laughter.



Epicurus, however, advanced an opinion almost contrary to all. He supposed, as originating principles of all things, atoms and vacuity. He considered vacuity as the place that would contain the things that will exist, and atoms the matter out of which all things could be formed; and that from the concourse of atoms both the Deity derived existence, and all the elements, and all things inherent in them, as well as animals and other (creatures); so that nothing was generated or existed, unless it be from atoms. And he affirmed that these atoms were composed of extremely small particles, in which there could not exist either a point or a sign, or any division; wherefore also he called them atoms. ... [H]e says that God has providential care for nothing, and that there is no such thing at all as providence or fate, but that all things are made by chance. And he concluded that the souls of men are dissolved along with their bodies, just as also they were produced along with them, for that they are blood, and that when this has gone forth or been altered, the entire man perishes; and in keeping with this tenet, (Epicurus maintained) that there are neither trials in Hades, nor tribunals of justice; so that whatsoever any one may commit in this life, that, provided he may escape detection, he is altogether beyond any liability of trial (for it in a future state).


The opinions, therefore, of those who have attempted to frame systems of philosophy among the Greeks, I consider that we have sufficiently explained; and from these the heretics, taking occasion, have endeavoured to establish the tenets that will be after a short time declared. It seems, however, expedient, that first explaining the mystical rites and whatever imaginary doctrines some have laboriously framed concerning the stars, or magnitudes, to declare these; for heretics likewise, taking occasion from them, are considered by the multitude to utter prodigies. Next in order we shall elucidate the feeble opinions advanced by these.


The followers, however, of Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, and of Democritus, and of Epicurus, and multitudes of others, have given it as their opinion that the generation of the universe proceeds from infinite numbers of atoms; and we have previously made partial mention of these philosophers. But Anaxagoras derives the universe from things similar to those that are being produced; whereas the followers of Democritus and Epicurus derived the universe from things both dissimilar (to the entities produced), and devoid of passion, that is, from atoms. But the followers of Heraclides of Pontus, and of Asclepiades, derived the universe from things dissimilar (to the entities produced), and capable of passion, as if from incongruous corpuscles. But the disciples of Plato affirm that these entities are from three principles--God, and Matter, and Exemplar. He divides matter, however, into four principles--fire, water, earth, and air. And (he says) that God is the Creator of this (matter), and that Mind is its exemplar.



The first and only (one God), both Creator and Lord of all, had nothing coeval with Himself; not infinite chaos, nor measureless water, nor solid earth, nor dense air, not warm fire, nor refined spirit, nor the azure canopy of the stupendous firmament. But He was One, alone in Himself. By an exercise of His will He created things that are, which antecedently had no existence, except that He willed to make them. For He is fully acquainted with whatever is about to take place, for foreknowledge also is present to Him. The different principles, however, of what will come into existence, He first fabricated, viz., fire and spirit, water and earth, from which diverse elements He proceeded to form His own creation. And some objects He formed of one essence, but others He compounded from two, and others from three, and others from four. And those formed of one substance were immortal, for in their case dissolution does not follow, for what is one will never be dissolved. Those, on the other hand, which are formed out of two, or three, or four substances, are dissoluble; wherefore also are they named mortal. For this has been denominated death; namely, the dissolution of substances connected. I now therefore think that I have sufficiently answered those endued with a sound mind, who, if they are desirous of additional instruction, and are disposed accurately to investigate the substances of these things, and the causes of the entire creation, will become acquainted with these points should they peruse a work of ours comprised (under the title), Concerning the Substance of the Universe. I consider, however, that at present it is enough to elucidate those causes of which the Greeks, not being aware, glorified, in pompous phraseology, the parts of creation, while they remained ignorant of the Creator. And from these the heresiarchs have taken occasion, and have transformed the statements previously made by those Greeks into similar doctrines, and thus have framed ridiculous heresies.


Such is the true doctrine in regard of the divine nature, O ye men, Greeks and Barbarians, Chaldeans and Assyrians, Egyptians and Libyans, Indians and Ethiopians, Celts, and ye Latins, who lead armies, and all ye that inhabit Europe, and Asia, and Libya. And to you I am become an adviser, inasmuch as I am a disciple of the benevolent Logos, and hence humane, in order that you may hasten and by us may be taught who the true God is, and what is His well-ordered creation. Do not devote your attention to the fallacies of artificial discourses, nor the vain promises of plagiarizing heretics, but to the venerable simplicity of unassuming truth. And by means of this knowledge you shall escape the approaching threat of the fire of judgment, and the rayless scenery of gloomy Tartarus, where never shines a beam from the irradiating voice of the Word!

You shall escape the boiling flood of hell's eternal lake of fire and the eye ever fixed in menacing glare of fallen angels chained in Tartarus as punishment for their sins; and you shall escape the worm that ceaselessly coils for food around the body whose scum has bred it. Now such (torments) as these shall thou avoid by being instructed in a knowledge of the true God. And thou shalt possess an immortal body, even one placed beyond the possibility of corruption, just like the soul. And thou shalt receive the kingdom of heaven, thou who, whilst thou didst sojourn in this life, didst know the Celestial King. And thou shalt be a companion of the Deity, and a co-heir with Christ, no longer enslaved by lusts or passions, and never again wasted by disease. For thou hast become God: for whatever sufferings thou didst undergo while being a man, these He gave to thee, because thou wast of mortal mould, but whatever it is consistent with God to impart, these God has promised to bestow upon thee, because thou hast been deified, and begotten unto immortality. This constitutes the import of the proverb, "Know thyself;" i.e., discover God within thyself, for He has formed thee after His own image. For with the knowledge of self is conjoined the being an object of God's knowledge, for thou art called by the Deity Himself. Be not therefore inflamed, O ye men, with enmity one towards another, nor hesitate to retrace with all speed your steps. For Christ is the God above all, and He has arranged to wash away sin from human beings, rendering regenerate the old man. And God called man His likeness from the beginning, and has evinced in a figure His love towards thee. And provided thou obeyest His solemn injunctions, and becomest a faithful follower of Him who is good, thou shall resemble Him, inasmuch as thou shall have honour conferred upon thee by Him."
- Refutation of All Heresies; Hippolytus (3rd century CE)

This book is not only one the few remaining sources of information about the naturalistic philosophies of Greece that preceded Christianity, but it tells us the real story of the decline of Western Civilization. All of the advanced knowledge and concepts of the ancient world were condemned by the Christians, considered heresies and eliminated. The principles that we understand today as being products of "modern science" were generally understood over 2,000 years ago, but the Christians denied them and destroyed almost all evidence of these ideas, the only real evidence remaining being their own denunciations of the ideas.

The work of the Greeks and Romans was not purely "philosophical" as we know the term today. The Greeks and Romans practiced science, thought they did not use the term. They postulated hypothesis, conducted experiments, collected data, and reviewed each other's work. They conducted experiments on gravity that would not be duplicated again until the time of Galileo and Newton. They built machines, calculating devices, mechanical robots, and observational instruments. All of this was destroyed by the Christians.

The teachings of Epicurus were especially disdained and opposed by the Christians. It was the Epicurean school that developed the most coherent philosophical framework of materialism that integrated the concepts of many of the different naturalistic philosophers and combined the ideas of atoms and evolution as well as natural explanations for fossils and meteorological events. For the Epicureans all the world was explainable through observation and reason. Epicurus himself is known to have been a very prolific writer, and he is thought to have written over 900 books, based on titles that have been referenced in other works, but Epicurus himself was just one of many men who held naturalistic views. All of the early Christian theologians taught against Epicurus and naturalistic understandings of the world.

"And as he is in error who alleges that the superintendents of the markets make provision in no greater degree for men than for dogs, because dogs also get their share of the goods; so in a far greater degree are Celsus and they who think with him guilty of impiety towards the God who makes provision for rational beings, in asserting that His arrangements are made in no greater degree for the sustenance of human beings than for that of plants, and trees, and herbs, and thorns.

For, in the first place, he is of opinion that 'thunders, and lightnings, and rains are not the works of God,'--thus showing more clearly at last his Epicurean leanings; and in the second place, that 'even if one were to grant that these were the works of God, they are brought into existence not more for the support of us who are human beings, than for that of plants, and trees, and herbs, and thorns,'--maintaining, like a true Epicurean, that these things are the product of chance, and not the work of Providence. For if these things are of no more use to us than to plants, and trees, and herbs, and thorns, it is evident either that they do not proceed from Providence at all, or from a providence which does not provide for us in a greater degree than for trees, and herbs, and thorns. Now, either of these suppositions is impious in itself, and it would be foolish to refute such statements by answering any one who brought against us the charge of impiety; for it is manifest to every one, from what has been said, who is the person guilty of impiety. In the next place, he adds: 'Although you may say that these things, viz., plants, and trees, and herbs, and thorns, grow for the use of men, why will you maintain that they grow for the use of men rather than for that of the most savage of irrational animals?' Let Celsus then say distinctly that the great diversity among the products of the earth is not the work of Providence, but that a certain fortuitous concurrence of atoms gave birth to qualities so diverse, and that it was owing to chance that so many kinds of plants, and trees, and herbs resemble one another, and that no disposing reason gave existence to them, and that they do not derive their origin from an understanding that is beyond all admiration. We Christians, however, who are devoted to the worship of the only God, who created these things, feel grateful for them to Him who made them, because not only for us, but also (on our account) for the animals which are subject to us, He has prepared such a home, seeing 'He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man, that He may bring forth food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.' But that He should have provided food even for the most savage animals is not matter of surprise, for these very animals are said by some who have philosophized (upon the subject) to have been created for the purpose of affording exercise to the rational creature. And one of our own wise men says somewhere: 'Do not say, What is this? or Wherefore is that? for all things have been made for their uses. And do not say, What is this? or Wherefore is that? for everything shall be sought out in its season.'"
- Contra Celsus, Book IV; Origen of Alexandria (185-232 CE)

"But with reference to man, whom He formed an eternal and immortal being, He did not arm him, as the others, without, but within; nor did He place his protection in the body, but in the soul: since it would have been superfluous, when He had given him that which was of the greatest value, to cover him with bodily defences, especially when they hindered the beauty of the human body. On which account I am accustomed to wonder at the senselessness of the philosophers who follow Epicurus, who blame the works of nature, that they may show that the world is prepared and governed by no providence; but they ascribe the origin of all things to indivisible and solid bodies, from the fortuitous meetings of which they say that all things are and were produced. I pass by the things relating to the work itself with which they find fault, in which matter they are ridiculously mad; I assume that which belongs to the subject of which we are now treating."
- On the Workmanship of God; Lucius Lactantius (~250-325 CE)

""These," [Lucretius] says, "flutter about with restless motions through empty space, and are carried hither and thither, just as we see little particles of dust in the sun when it has introduced its rays and light through a window. From these there arise trees and herbs, and all fruits of the earth; from these, animals, and water, and fire, and all things are produced, and are again resolved into the same elements." This can be borne as long as the inquiry is respecting small matters. Even the world itself was made up of these.

He has reached to the full extent of perfect madness: it seems impossible that anything further should be said, and yet he found something to add. "Since everything," he says, "is infinite, and nothing can be empty, it follows of necessity that there are innumerable worlds."


Why should I speak of animals, in whose bodies we see nothing formed without plan, without arrangement, without utility, without beauty, so that the most skilful and careful marking out of all the parts and members repels the idea of accident and chance? But let us suppose it possible that the limbs, and bones, and nerves, and blood should be made up of atoms. What of the senses, the reflection, the memory, the mind, the natural capacity: from what seeds can they be compacted? He says, From the most minute. There are therefore others of greater size. How, then, are they indivisible?

In the next place, if the things which are not seen are formed from invisible seeds, it follows that those which are seen are from visible seeds. Why, then, does no one see them? But whether any one regards the invisible parts which are in man, or the parts which can be touched, and which are visible, who does not see that both parts exist in accordance with design? How, then, can bodies which meet together without design effect anything reasonable? For we see that there is nothing in the whole world which has not in itself very great and wonderful design. And since this is above the sense and capacity of man, to what can it be more rightly attributed than to the divine providence?"
- On the Anger of God; Lucius Lactantius (~250-325 CE)


Therefore, when Epicurus reflected on these things, induced as it were by the injustice of these matters (for thus it appeared to him in his ignorance of the cause and subject), he thought that there was no providence. And having persuaded himself of this, he undertook also to defend it, and thus he entangled himself in inextricable errors. For if there is no providence, how is it that the world was made with such order and arrangement? He says: There is no arrangement, for many things are made in a different manner from that in which they ought to have been made. And the divine man found subjects of censure.

Now, if I had leisure to refute these things separately, I could easily show that this man was neither wise nor of sound mind. Also, if there is no providence, how is it that the bodies of animals are arranged with such foresight, that the various members, being disposed in a wonderful manner, discharge their own offices individually? The system of providence, he says, contrived nothing in the production of animals; for neither were the eyes made for seeing, nor the ears for hearing, nor the tongue for speaking, nor the feet for walking; inasmuch as these were produced before it was possible to speak, to hear, to see, and to walk. Therefore these were not produced for use; but use was produced from them.


Does wisdom therefore nowhere exist? Yes, indeed, it was amongst them, but no one saw it. Some thought that all things could be known: these were manifestly not wise. Others thought that nothing could be known; nor indeed were these wise: the former, because they attributed too much to man; the latter, because they attributed too little. A limit was wanting to each on either side. Where, then, is wisdom? It consists in thinking neither that you know all things, which is the property of God; nor that you are ignorant of all things, which is the part of a beast. For it is something of a middle character which belongs to man, that is, knowledge united and combined with ignorance. Knowledge in us is from the soul, which has its origin from heaven; ignorance from the body, which is from the earth: whence we have something in common with God, and with the animal creation.


What course of argument, therefore, led them to the idea of the antipodes? They saw the courses of the stars travelling towards the west; they saw that the sun and the moon always set towards the same quarter, and rise from the same. But since they did not perceive what contrivance regulated their courses, nor how they returned from the west to the east, but supposed that the heaven itself sloped downwards in every direction, which appearance it must present on account of its immense breadth, they thought that the world is round like a ball, and they fancied that the heaven revolves in accordance with the motion of the heavenly bodies; and thus that the stars and sun, when they have set, by the very rapidity of the motion of the world are borne back to the east. Therefore they both constructed brazen orbs, as though after the figure of the world, and engraved upon them certain monstrous images, which they said were constellations. It followed, therefore, from this rotundity of the heaven, that the earth was enclosed in the midst of its curved surface. But if this were so, the earth also itself must be like a globe; for that could not possibly be anything but round, which was held enclosed by that which was round. But if the earth also were round, it must necessarily happen that it should present the same appearance to all parts of the heaven; that is, that it should raise aloft mountains, extend plains, and have level seas. And if this were so, that last consequence also followed, that there would be no part of the earth uninhabited by men and the other animals. Thus the rotundity of the earth leads, in addition, to the invention of those suspended antipodes.

But if you inquire from those who defend these marvellous fictions, why all things do not fall into that lower part of the heaven, they reply that such is the nature of things, that heavy bodies are borne to the middle, and that they are all joined together towards the middle, as we see spokes in a wheel; but that the bodies which are light, as mist, smoke, and fire, are borne away from the middle, so as to seek the heaven. I am at a loss what to say respecting those who, when they have once erred, consistently persevere in their folly, and defend one vain thing by another; but that I sometimes imagine that they either discuss philosophy for the sake of a jest, or purposely and knowingly undertake to defend falsehoods, as if to exercise or display their talents on false subjects. But I should be able to prove by many arguments that it is impossible for the heaven to be lower than the earth, were is not that this book must now be concluded, and that some things still remain, which are more necessary for the present work. And since it is not the work of a single book to run over the errors of each individually, let it be sufficient to have enumerated a few, from which the nature of the others may be understood.


Wherefore there is nothing else in life on which our plan and condition can depend but the knowledge of God who created us, and the religious and pious worship of Him; and since the philosophers have wandered from this, it is plain that they were not wise. They sought wis-dom, indeed; but because they did not seek it in a right manner, they sunk down to a greater distance, and fell into such great errors, that they did not even possess common wisdom. For they were not only unwilling to maintain religion, but they even took it away; while, led on by the appearance of false virtue, they endeavour to free the mind from all fear: and this overturning of religion gains the name of nature. For they, either being ignorant by whom the world was made, or wishing to persuade men that nothing was completed by divine intelligence, said that nature was the mother of all things, as though they should say that all things were produced of their own accord: by which word they altogether confess their own ignorance. For nature, apart from divine providence and power, is absolutely nothing. But if they call God nature, what perverseness is it, to use the name of nature rather than of God! But if nature is the plan, or necessity, or condition of birth, it is not by itself capable of sensation; but there must necessarily be a divine mind, which by its foresight furnishes the beginning of their existence to all things. Or if nature is heaven and earth. and everything which is created. nature is not God, but the work of God."
- Divine Institutes, Book III; Lucius Lactantius (~250-325 CE)

"I will therefore set forth the system of the world, that it may easily be understood both when and how it was made by God; which Plato, who discoursed about the making of the world, could neither know nor explain, inasmuch as he was ignorant of the heavenly mystery, which is not learned except by the teaching of prophets and God;... But since God has revealed this to us, and we do not arrive at it by conjectures, but by instruction from heaven, we will carefully teach it, that it may at length be evident to those who are desirous of the truth, that the philosophers did not see nor comprehend the truth; but that they had so slight a knowledge of it, that they by no means perceived from what source that fragrance of wisdom, which was so pleasant and agreeable, breathed upon them.


Therefore that is more correct which they derived from Plato, that the world was made by God, and is also governed by His providence. It was therefore befitting that Plato, and those who held the same opinion, should teach and explain what was the cause, what the reason, for the contriving of so great a work; why or for the sake of whom He made it.

But the Stoics also say the world was made for the sake of men I hear, but Epicurus is ignorant on what account or who made men themselves. For Lucretius, when he said that the world was not made by the gods, thus spoke:

'To say, again, that for the sake of men they have willed to set in order the glorious nature of the world'

then he introduced:

'Is sheer folly. For what advantage can our gratitude bestow on immortal and blessed beings, that for our sake they should take in hand to administer aught?'

And with good reason. For they brought forward no reason why the human race was created or established by God. It is our business to set forth the mystery of the world and man, of which they, being destitute, were able neither to reach nor see the shrine of truth. Therefore, as I said a little before, when they had assumed that which was true, that is, that the world was made by God, and was made for the sake of men, yet, since their argument failed them in the consequences, they were unable to defend that which they had assumed.


Let us now assign the reason why He made man himself. For if the philosophers had known this, they would either have maintained those things which they had found to be true, or would not have fallen into the greatest errors. For this is the chief thing; this is the point on which everything turns. And if any one does not possess this, the truth altogether glides away from him. It is this, in short, which causes them to be inconsistent with reason; for if this had shone upon them, if they had known all the mystery of man, the Academy would never have been in entire opposition to their disputations, and to all philosophy. As, therefore, God did not make the world for His own sake, because He does not stand in need of its advantages, but for the sake of man, who has the use of it, so also He made man himself for His own sake.


Therefore the opinion entertained by Democritus, and Epicurus, and Dicaearchus concerning the dissolution of the soul is false; and they would not venture to speak concerning the destruction of souls, in the presence of any magician, who knew that souls are called forth from the lower regions by certain incantations, and that they are at hand, and afford themselves to be seen by human eyes, and speak, and foretell future events; and if they should thus venture, they would be overpowered by the fact itself, and by proofs presented to them. But because they did not comprehend the nature of the soul, which is so subtle that it escapes the eyes of the human mind, they said that it perishes."
- Divine Institutes, Book VII; Lucius Lactantius (~250-325 CE)

Divine Institutes, by early Christian apologist Lucius Lactantius, is a somewhat confused work which demonstrates that the author did not fully understand the philosophies that he was addressing, but nevertheless, the work was addressed to the Greeks and Romans of his time. In the work Lactantius explains that while all of the Greek philosophies contain some elements of truth, none of them can fully explain the nature of existence. Lactantius explains that Christians alone have the answers that the philosophers cannot explain because they have been given the answers by God. Lactantius explains in his works that all true knowledge comes directly from God, and that wisdom comes from religion, and that knowledge is born into the soul. Lactantius also explained that it was foolish for the Greeks to believe that the earth was round and that the idea of "antipodes" was inherently against the divine teachings of the scriptures. Antipodes ("opposing feet") is a term that was used to describe people living on the other side of the earth, whose feet would have to be facing the feet on the opposite side of the earth. The rejection of the Greek understanding that the earth is round was later upheld by Saint Augustine and became official Christian doctrine based on the teachings of the Bible.


How is it with those who imagine that there are antipodes opposite to our footsteps? Do they say anything to the purpose? Or is there any one so senseless as to believe that there are men whose footsteps are higher than their heads? or that the things which with us are in a recumbent position, with them hang in an inverted direction? that the crops and trees grow downwards? that the rains, and snow, and hail fall upwards to the earth? And does any one wonder that hanging gardens are mentioned among the seven wonders of the world, when philosophers make hanging fields, and seas, and cities, and mountains? The origin of this error must also be set forth by us. For they are always deceived in the same manner. For when they have assumed anything false in the commencement of their investigations, led by the resemblance of the truth, they necessarily fall into those things which are its consequences. Thus they fall into many ridiculous things; because those things which are in agreement with false things, must themselves be false. But since they placed confidence in the first, they do not consider the character of those things which follow, but defend them in every way; whereas they ought to judge from those which follow, whether the first are true or false.

What course of argument, therefore, led them to the idea of the antipodes? They saw the courses of the stars travelling towards the west; they saw that the sun and the moon always set towards the same quarter, and rise from the same. But since they did not perceive what contrivance regulated their courses, nor how they returned from the west to the east, but supposed that the heaven itself sloped downwards in every direction, which appearance it must present on account of its immense breadth, they thought that the world is round like a ball, and they fancied that the heaven revolves in accordance with the motion of the heavenly bodies; and thus that the stars and sun, when they have set, by the very rapidity of the motion of the world are borne back to the east. Therefore they both constructed brazen orbs, as though after the figure of the world, and engraved upon them certain monstrous images, which they said were constellations. It followed, therefore, from this rotundity of the heaven, that the earth was enclosed in the midst of its curved surface. But if this were so, the earth also itself must be like a globe; for that could not possibly be anything but round, which was held enclosed by that which was round. But if the earth also were round, it must necessarily happen that it should present the same appearance to all parts of the heaven; that is. that it should raise aloft mountains, extend plains, and have level seas. And if this were so, that last consequence also followed, that there would be no part of the earth uninhabited by men and the other animals. Thus the rotundity of the earth leads, in addition, to the invention of those suspended antipodes.

But if you inquire from those who defend these marvellous fictions, why all things do not fall into that lower part of the heaven, they reply that such is the nature of things, that heavy bodies are borne to the middle, and that they are all joined together towards the middle, as we see spokes in a wheel; but that the bodies which are light, as mist, smoke, and fire, are borne away from the middle, so as to seek the heaven. I am at a loss what to say respecting those who, when they have once erred, consistently persevere in their folly, and defend one vain thing by another; but that I sometimes imagine that they either discuss philosophy for the sake of a jest, or purposely and knowingly undertake to defend falsehoods, as if to exercise or display their talents on false subjects. But I should be able to prove by many arguments that it is impossible for the heaven to be lower than the earth, were is not that this book must now be concluded, and that some things still remain, which are more necessary for the present work. And since it is not the work of a single book to run over the errors of each individually, let it be sufficient to have enumerated a few, from which the nature of the others may be understood."
Divine Institutes, Book III; Lucius Lactantius (~250-325 CE)

"As to the fable that there are Antipodes, that is to say, men on the opposite side of the earth, where the sun rises when it sets on us, men who walk with their feet opposite ours, there is no reason for believing it. Those who affirm it do not claim to possess any actual information; they merely conjecture that, since the earth is suspended within the concavity of the heavens, and there is as much room on the one side of it as on the other, therefore the part which is beneath cannot be void of human inhabitants. They fail to notice that, even should it be believed or demonstrated that the world is round or spherical in form, it does not follow that the part of the earth opposite to us is not completely covered with water, or that any conjectured dry land there should be inhabited by men. For Scripture, which confirms the truth of its historical statements by the accomplishment of its prophecies, teaches not falsehood; and it is too absurd to say that some men might have set sail from this side and, traversing the immense expanse of ocean, have propagated there a race of human beings descended from that one first man."
- The City of God; Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE)

The above statement, while allowing that the earth might be round (since so many people at the time already knew it and had proved it), asserted based on scriptural logic that there couldn't be people on the other side of the earth even if it was round. Significantly, Augustine put forward the Christian view that scripture was always right because it is proved true by scriptural prophecies. This thinking is what overturned the scientific method that had been established in the Greek speaking world for hundreds of years.

"1. Introductory.--The subject of this treatise: the humiliation and incarnation of the Word. Presupposes the doctrine of Creation, and that by the Word. The Father has saved the world by Him through Whom He first made it.


2. Erroneous views of Creation rejected.(1) Epicurean (fortuitous generation). But diversity of bodies and parts argues a creating intellect.


Of the making of the universe and the creation of all things many have taken different views, and each man has laid down the law just as he pleased. For some say that all things have come into being of themselves, and in a chance fashion; as, for example, the Epicureans, who tell us in their self-contempt, that universal providence does not exist speaking right in the face of obvious fact and experience. 2. For if, as they say, everything has had its beginning of itself, and independently of purpose, it would follow that everything had come into mere being, so as to be alike and not distinct."
- On the Incarnation of the Word; Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373 CE)

Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria, a now Catholic saint, was one of the highly influential early Christians. He was a controversial figure, but he not only wrote several highly influential works, as well as being the first to assemble the 27 books of the New Testament, but he was also very active in fighting for the dominance of early Christianity. Athanasius used strong-arm tactics to gain political and religious power. He incited large riots of poor people and had a close group of militant loyalists. He was exiled from Alexandria several times for his use of beatings, murder, and bribery to silence critics of Christianity, but he enjoyed a large following among the poor, who were quick to rally to his support. Bishop Athanasius justified his actions by saying that it was for the ultimate good since his actions would lead to the saving of future souls.

During the early period, before Christianity was made the official religion of Rome, religious and philosophical conflict was building in the Greek speaking region of the Roman empire. Christians were being persecuted and they were also persecuting others. Christians rioted, destroyed libraries, and intimidated opponents, Epicureans being chief among them. The reason that the Christians were being persecuted in the first place, however, is that they broke laws and were intolerant of other religions. The Roman empire and Greek civilization were both renowned for their religious and philosophical tolerance, which is why so many different gods were worshiped in these cultures. All of the different temples existed amongst each other. The Christians, however, said that there could only be one god and that everyone else had to renounce their gods, or lack of gods, in order to follow Christ. Not only were the Christians pushy, but they consisted mostly of the uneducated poor, who were prone to riot at the direction of their spiritual leaders, and thus they were considered a threat.

Christianity made its inroads into society through the poor. Eventually the Christian movement came to dominate the Roman army because the army had become filled with the ranks of the poor. In imperial Rome the army held great political power, so when the a significant number of people in the army became Christian the emperor Constantine gave acknowledgement to the religion and began granting concessions to the Christians in return for the loyalty of the military.

Christ as Roman Legionary from 495 CE - "I am the way, truth, and life"

Rome was a dictatorship when Christianity was adopted as the official state religion in 381 CE by the emperor Flavius Theodosius. Furthermore, there was significant controversy within Christianity as to the nature of Jesus and the beliefs of the religion. There was also significant controversy about making Christianity the official state religion of Rome, and there was much opposition from the various non-Christian citizens of the empire. Many schools of learning were openly opposed to Christianity.

Under the reign of Theodosius, official state oppression against non-Christians began. All of the holidays that had not yet been Christianized (all of the Christian holidays are pagan holidays that were converted to Christianity) were eliminated, non-Christian temples and libraries were destroyed by mobs with the assistance of the state, all state support for the civic activates of the pagan temples was eliminated, and the Olympic games were terminated.

In 391 some part of the Library of Alexandria was destroyed by Christians under the order of Theodosius. The Christian historian Socrates Scholasticus recorded the destruction of the library and part of its adjoining museum in his writing Demolition of the Idolatrous Temples at Alexandria, and the Consequent Conflict between the Pagans and Christians:

"At the solicitation of Theophilus bishop of Alexandria the emperor [Theodosius] issued an order at this time for the demolition of the heathen temples in that city; commanding also that it should be put in execution under the direction of Theophilus. Seizing this opportunity, Theophilus exerted himself to the utmost to expose the pagan mysteries to contempt. And to begin with, he caused the Mithreum to be cleaned out, and exhibited to public view the tokens of its bloody mysteries. Then he destroyed the Serapeum, and the bloody rites of the Mithreum he publicly caricatured; the Serapeum also he showed full of extravagant superstitions, and he had the phalli of Priapus carried through the midst of the forum. ... Thus this disturbance having been terminated, the governor of Alexandria, and the commander-in-chief of the troops in Egypt, assisted Theophilus in demolishing the heathen temples. These were therefore razed to the ground, and the images of their gods molten into pots and other convenient utensils for the use of the Alexandrian church; for the emperor had instructed Theophilus to distribute them for the relief of the poor. All the images were accordingly broken to pieces, except one statue of the god before mentioned, which Theophilus preserved and set up in a public place; 'Lest,' said he, 'at a future time the heathens should deny that they had ever worshiped such gods.'"
Demolition of the Idolatrous Temples at Alexandria, and the Consequent Conflict between the Pagans and Christians; Socrates Scholasticus

The Serapeum was one of the final holdouts for the non-Christians of the region. The city had been fortified to try and protect it against Christian attack, and many pagan and philosophical works had been taken to the Serapeum to protect them. A large collection of the works of the Library of Alexandria were housed in the Serapeum at the time it was destroyed.

The emperor Justinian, however, was the most destructive and authoritarian Christian ruler to yet come to power. Under Justinian non-Christians were stripped of their rights and their property. All non-Christians were given the opportunity to be baptized and declare themselves followers of Jesus Christ. Those that did not lost their rights. The Justinian Institutes prohibited the building of pagan temples or Jewish synagogues. All non-Christians, including Jews, were forbidden from public assembly and from testifying against Christians in court.  Christians were prohibited from marrying non-Christians. Christians retained the right to hold any and all slaves, but non-Christians could not hold Christian slaves. The Justinian Institutes collected many different laws that had been passed over the previous centuries by Christian emperors under one code and added several new laws as well, thus many of the laws in The Justinian Institutes had already been in place prior to Justinian.


1. The Emperors Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius to the people of the City of Constantinople.

We desire that all peoples subject to Our benign Empire shall live under the same religion that the Divine Peter, the Apostle, gave to the Romans, and which the said religion declares was introduced by himself, and which it is well known that the Pontiff Damasus, and Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic sanctity, embraced; that is to say, in accordance with the rules of apostolic discipline and the evangelical doctrine, we should believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute a single Deity, endowed with equal majesty, and united in the Holy Trinity.

(1) We order all those who follow this law to assume the name of Catholic Christians, and considering others as demented and insane, We order that they shall bear the infamy of heresy; and when the Divine vengeance which they merit has been appeased, they shall afterwards be punished in accordance with Our resentment, which we have acquired from the judgment of Heaven.

Dated at Thessalonica, on the third of the Kalends of March, during the Consulate of Gratian, Consul for the fifth time, and Theodosius.

2. The Same Emperors to Eutropius, Prætorian Prefect.

Let no place be afforded to heretics for the conduct of their ceremonies, and let no occasion be offered for them to display the insanity of their obstinate minds. Let all persons know that if any privilege has been fraudulently obtained by means of any rescript whatsoever, by persons of this kind, it will not be valid. Let all bodies of heretics be prevented from holding unlawful assemblies, and let the name of the only and the greatest God be celebrated everywhere, and let the observance of the Nicene Creed, recently transmitted by Our ancestors, and firmly established by the testimony and practice of Divine Religion, always remain secure.

(1) Moreover, he who is an adherent of the Nicene Faith, and a true believer in the Catholic religion, should be understood to be one who believes that Almighty God and Christ, the Son of God, are one person, God of God, Light of Light; and let no one, by rejection, dishonor the Holy Spirit, whom we expect, and have received from the Supreme Parent of all things, in whom the sentiment of a pure and undefiled faith flourishes, as well as the belief in the undivided substance of a Holy Trinity, which true believers indicate by the Greek word .... These things, indeed, do not require further proof, and should be respected.

(2) Let those who do not accept these doctrines cease to apply the name of true religion to their fraudulent belief; and let them be branded with their open crimes, and, having been removed from the threshhold of all churches, be utterly excluded from them, as We forbid all heretics to hold unlawful assemblies within cities. If, however, any seditious outbreak should be attempted, We order them to be driven outside the walls of the City, with relentless violence, and We direct that all Catholic churches, throughout the entire world, shall be placed under the control of the orthodox bishops who have embraced the Nicene Creed.

Given at Constantinople, on the fourth of the Ides of January, under the Consulate of Flavius Eucharius and Flavius Syagrius.


12. The Same to John, Prætorian Prefect.

We order that Our Divine Decree by which We have ordered that no one who accepts the error of heretics can receive an estate, a legacy, or a trust, shall also apply to the last wills of soldiers, whether they are made under the Common, or military law.

Given, on the Kalends of September, after the Consulate of Lampadius and Orestes, during the second year of the reign of Justinian, 535.



1. The Emperor Constantius to Taurus, Prætorian Prefect.

We have determined that the temples shall be immediately closed in all cities, and access to them forbidden to all, so that permission for further offending may be refused to those who are lost. We also wish everyone to abstain from sacrifices, and if any person should do anything of this kind, he shall be laid low with the avenging sword; and We decree that his property, after having been taken from him, shall be confiscated to the Treasury, and that the Governors of provinces shall also be punished, if they have neglected to suppress these crimes.

Extract from the Novel, "Concerning Statutes and Customs." Section Beginning "Gazarists," Collection 10, Last Constitution.


We condemn to infamy, set apart, and banish the Gazarists, the Patarians, the Leonists, the Spheronists, the Arnoldists, the Circumcised and all heretics of both sexes, and of every denomination; declaring that all the property of such persons shall be confiscated, and shall not be restored to them afterwards, so that their children cannot succeed to them; for it is much more serious to give offence to Eternal than to temporal majesty.

(1) Moreover, those who are found to be only liable to suspicion, unless they show by proper repentance that they are innocent, shall, according to the nature of the suspicion and the rank of the person, and in compliance with the orders of the Church, be considered as infamous and banished, so that if they remain in this condition for a year We shall condemn them as heretics.


1. The Emperor Constantius and Julian-Cæsar to Thalassius, Prætorian Prefect.

If anyone, after renouncing the venerated Christian faith, should become a Jew, and join their sacrilegious assemblies, We order that, after the accusation has been proved, his property shall be confiscated to the Treasury.

Given at Milan, on the fifth of the Nones of July, during the Consulate of Constantius, Consul for the ninth time, and Julian-Cæsar, Consul for the second time, 357.
- The Code of Justinian; 529-534 CE

In 529 Emperor Justinian closed all of the remaining schools of philosophy in Athens. The remaining members of the Academy of Athens fled with Greek texts to Persia, where the largest part of the remaining texts of Greek antiquity remained until the Crusades. The Athenians who fled were of the Platonic and Aristotelian school of thought, which is why they had been allowed to remain as long as they did, and also one of the reasons why so many Platonic and Aristotelian texts remain compared to the writings of other Greek philosophies.

Over the following few hundred years Christian doctrine was consolidated and all writings and teachings that contradicted official Christian doctrine were destroyed. All writings that taught about atoms or chaos or evolution were prime targets for destruction.

This is why almost nothing remains of the early Greek writings on these subjects, except for the writings that were opposed to the ideas. Almost all of our knowledge of Epicureanism comes from anti-Epicurean writers because these are the only texts that were allowed to survive.

The Christian battle against evolution is not new. In fact the conflict between Christianity and evolutionary concepts is central to understanding the history of Western Civilization.

Ever since the domination of Christianity in Rome, Western Civilization has been viewed through the lens of Christianity. The history of ancient Rome and Greece that has been popularly passed-on and accepted is the Christian version of history.

Why have Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle been considered the greatest Greek philosophers for the past 2,000 years? Because these were the philosophers that were most compatible with Christianity. The philosophers of opposing schools of thought not only had almost all of their works destroyed, but their philosophies are incompatible with Christianity, so they have been relegated as lesser thinkers for the past 2,000 years.

Yet, among these so-called "lesser thinkers" sprang the concepts of atoms, gravity, the realization that stars are suns with other planetary systems, the comprehension of fossils, and the idea of biological evolution.

Additionally, Christians saw to it to belittle and trivialize Greek mythology. In efforts to demonstrate superiority, Christian writers and thinkers have presented Greek religion and Greek mythology as absurdly fantastical and beyond belief. Over the centuries Christians have been taught to think of the Greeks as lascivious, corrupt people who believed in completely ridiculous gods. The reality of Greek achievement and society has always been a sore point for Christians. The reality is that even Greek mythology has a substantial basis, and the Greeks went well past mythology to develop purely naturalistic explanations for existence based on both philosophical and scientific principles.

Not only did the Roman Christians destroy the greatest conceptual products of advanced Greek philosophy, but due to the nature of Roman civilization Christianity became a civilizing force among the non-Roman peoples of Europe. Christians, who were not the creators of Roman civilization, but who instead contributed to its downfall, became the inheritors of the greatest civilization the world had ever yet known. As such, Christians brought both civilization and their religion to the so-called "barbarian" peoples of Europe. As Christianity expanded the Christians came into conflict with European cultures that believed people and animals were related and that humans should live in harmony with the natural world.

This again was in conflict with Christian ideology, which held that humans were superior to all life on earth, and that humans were rightly the rulers and subduers of the earth. The Christian inheritance of Roman civilization brought apparent validity to the Christian doctrine of human superiority and separation from the animal world in the eyes of less technologically advanced peoples. During the process of Christian expansionism the previously dominant view in Europe, that humans and animals are related, was eliminated.

The so-called barbarians who sacked Rome were in fact Christians. Rome was both literally and figuratively destroyed by Christians. The Visigoths had been Christianized by the time they invaded the city of Rome under the command of Alaric and slaughtered its citizens, but they only killed pagans and Jews. They spared the Christians, as recalled by Saint Augustine:

"Are not those very Romans, who were spared by the barbarians through their respect for Christ, become enemies to the name of Christ? ... Thus escaped multitudes who now reproach the Christian religion, and impute to Christ the ills that have befallen their city; but the preservation of their own life -- a boon which they owe to the respect entertained for Christ by the barbarians -- they attribute not to our Christ, but to their own good luck. They ought rather, had they any right perceptions, to attribute the severities and hardships inflicted by their enemies, to that divine providence which is wont to reform the depraved manners of men by chastisement, and which exercises with similar afflictions the righteous and praiseworthy -- either translating them, when they have passed through the trial, to a better world, or detaining them still on earth for ulterior purposes. And they ought to attribute it to the spirit of these Christian times, that, contrary to the custom of war, these bloodthirsty barbarians spared them, and spared them for Christ's sake.... Therefore ought they to give God thanks, and with sincere confession flee for refuge to His name, that so they may escape the punishment of eternal fire -- they who with lying lips took upon them this name, that they might escape the punishment of present destruction. For of those whom you see insolently and shamelessly insulting the servants of Christ, there are numbers who would not have escaped that destruction and slaughter had they not pretended that they themselves were Christ's servants."
- The City of God; St. Augustine, 410

Romanized Christianity attacked naturalism on two fronts, both the intellectual front and the "barbaric" front. The Greek teachings on materialism were destroyed and the European cultures of "pagan animism" were eradicated. Barbarian kings converted to Christianity to gain the favor of Rome and they slaughtered those among them that resisted. With their own ranks cleansed they invaded Rome itself, finishing the task of the elimination of all non-Christians. Thus the Dark Ages were born.

The rise of Christianity can be classed as the single most destructive event in the history of all civilization.

The Reemergence of Evolutionary Concepts

The Crusades of the 11th  through 13th centuries brought Christian Europeans back into contact with some of the Greek texts that had been vanquished from Europe by earlier Christians. These texts made their way through the hands of European scholars and theologians leading to the reemergence of concepts long forgotten by Europeans.

The rediscovery of ancient Greek philosophy formed the basis of the Renaissance and Enlightenment in Europe. By the 1700s philosophical materialism and empiricism were being reborn in European thought. Fundamental assumptions of Christian thought were being shaken off and challenged by increasing numbers of thinkers.

During the Age of Enlightenment evolutionary concepts were reborn, but they were often reinvented from scratch, based on the same fundamental principles of materialism and observation of the natural world, i.e. empiricism.

In 1748 French philosopher Julien Offray de La Mettrie published Man a Machine, one of the most controversial books that Europeans had ever seen. The book was banned by the churches and often burned.

In Man a Machine La Mettrie stated that he believed humans and animals were related. La Mettrie also believed that it would be possible to teach apes to communicate using sign language.

"But the better to show this dependence, in its completeness and its causes, let us here make use of comparative anatomy; let us lay bare the organs of man and of animals. How can human nature be known, if we may not derive any light from an exact comparison of the structure of man and of animals?

In general, the form and the structure of the brains of quadrupeds are almost the same as those of the brain of man; the same shape, the same arrangement everywhere, with this essential difference, that of all the animals man is the one whose brain is largest, and, in proportion to its mass, more convoluted than the brain of any other animal; then come the monkey, the beaver, the elephant, the dog, the fox, the cat. These animals are most like man, for among them, too, one notes the same progressive analogy in relation to the corpus callosum in which Lancisi - anticipating the late M. de la Peyronie - established the seat of the soul. The latter, however, illustrated the theory by innumerable experiments. Next after all the quadrupeds, birds have the largest brains. Fish have large heads, but these are void of sense, like the heads of many men. Fish have no corpus callosum, and very little brain, while insects entirely lack brain.


The transition from animals to man is not violent, as true philosophers will admit. What was man before the invention of words and the knowledge of language? An animal of his own species with much less instinct than the others. In those days, he did not consider himself king over the other animals, nor was he distinguished from the ape, and from the rest, except as the ape itself differs from the other animals, i.e., by a more intelligent face."
- Man a Machine; Julien Offray de La Mettrie, 1748

In 1749 French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon published his first 36 volumes of Natural Hi story.

Natural History was condemned by the Catholic Church and often burned. In Natural History Buffon challenged the belief that the earth was 6,000 year old and he proposed that some change could occur within "species". At the time the only accepted view in Western Civilization was that all species were completely static. Because of this, virtually all Europeans believed that different "races" of people were all actually different "species".  Buffon challenged this view by stating that all humans were one "species" which had changed over time to produce the variety of forms that is presently observed. Buffon stated:

"Everything therefore comes together to prove that humankind is not made up of essentially different species, that to the contrary there was originally only one sole species, which, having multiplied and spread itself over the entire surface of the earth, underwent different changes, though the influence of the climate, differences in food, diversity in way of life, epidemic illnesses, and also the infinitely varied mix of more or less similar individuals."
- Natural History; Louis Buffon

In 1770 Baron d’Holbach, another French philosopher, published what was perhaps the most radical view of the natural world up to that time, The System of Nature. Baron d'Holbach was an ardent opponent of the Catholic Church and a philosophical materialist, and thus The System of Nature was more than just a book about nature, it was also a political and philosophical book that was openly anti-religious. In The System of Nature Baron d'Holbach proposed  the idea that humans have changed over time and vaguely implied the concept of common decent, as stated below:

"Let us now apply the general laws we have scrutinized, to those beings of nature who interest us the most. Let us see in what man differs from the other beings by which he is surrounded. Let us examine if he has not certain points in conformity with them, that oblige him, not withstanding the different properties they respectively possess, to act in certain respects according to the universal laws to which everything is submitted. Finally, let us inquire if the ideas he has formed of himself in meditating on his own peculiar mode of existence, be chimerical, or founded in reason.


Has man always been what he now is, or has he, before he arrived at the state in which we see him, been obliged to pass under an infinity of successive developments? ... Matter is eternal, and necessary, but its forms are evanescent and contingent. It may be asked of man, is he anything more than matter combined, of which the form varies every instant?


[S]ome reflections seem to favour the supposition, and to render more probable the hypothesis that man is a production formed in the course of time; who is peculiar to the globe he inhabits, and the result of the peculiar laws by which it is directed; who, consequently, can only date his formation as coeval with that of his planet."
- The System of Nature; Baron d’Holbach, 1770

In 1745 French philosopher Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis anonymously published The Earthly Venus,  in which he made reference to a concept of natural selection. In his work he stated:

"Could one not say that, in the fortuitous combinations of the productions of nature, as there must be some characterized by a certain relation of fitness which are able to subsist, it is not to be wondered at that this fitness is present in all the species that are currently in existence? Chance, one would say, produced an innumerable multitude of individuals; a small number found themselves constructed in such a manner that the parts of the animal were able to satisfy its needs; in another infinitely greater number, there was neither fitness nor order: all of these latter have perished. Animals lacking a mouth could not live; others lacking reproductive organs could not perpetuate themselves... The species we see today are but the smallest part of what blind destiny has produced...."
- The Earthly Venus; 1745, Pierre Maupertuis

In 1779 Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, by philosopher David Hume, was published (three years after Hume's death).

In Dialogues Hume put forward a concept of evolution with natural selection. Dialogues presents a debate between three thinkers of opposing schools of thought. Not only did Hume put forward an early concept of evolution, but he also presented a counter argument that is still used by opponents of evolutionary theory today.

  • CLEANTHES: The philosopher
  • PHILO: The skeptic
  • DEMEA: The orthodox theologian

"[PHILO:] Now, according to this method of reasoning, DEMEA, it follows, (and is, indeed, tacitly allowed by CLEANTHES himself,) that order, arrangement, or the adjustment of final causes, is not of itself any proof of design; but only so far as it has been experienced to proceed from that principle. For aught we can know a priori, matter may contain the source or spring of order originally within itself, as well as mind does; and there is no more difficulty in conceiving, that the several elements, from an internal unknown cause, may fall into the most exquisite arrangement, than to conceive that their ideas, in the great universal mind, from a like internal unknown cause, fall into that arrangement. The equal possibility of both these suppositions is allowed. But, by experience, we find, (according to CLEANTHES), that there is a difference between them. Throw several pieces of steel together, without shape or form; they will never arrange themselves so as to compose a watch. Stone, and mortar, and wood, without an architect, never erect a house. But the ideas in a human mind, we see, by an unknown, inexplicable economy, arrange themselves so as to form the plan of a watch or house. Experience, therefore, proves, that there is an original principle of order in mind, not in matter. From similar effects we infer similar causes. The adjustment of means to ends is alike in the universe, as in a machine of human contrivance. The causes, therefore, must be resembling.


[CLEANTHES:] Consider, anatomise the eye; survey its structure and contrivance; and tell me, from your own feeling, if the idea of a contriver does not immediately flow in upon you with a force like that of sensation. The most obvious conclusion, surely, is in favour of design; and it requires time, reflection, and study, to summon up those frivolous, though abstruse objections, which can support Infidelity. Who can behold the male and female of each species, the correspondence of their parts and instincts, their passions, and whole course of life before and after generation, but must be sensible, that the propagation of the species is intended by Nature? Millions and millions of such instances present themselves through every part of the universe; and no language can convey a more intelligible irresistible meaning, than the curious adjustment of final causes. To what degree, therefore, of blind dogmatism must one have attained, to reject such natural and such convincing arguments?


[PHILO:] In either case, a chaos ensues; till finite, though innumerable revolutions produce at last some forms, whose parts and organs are so adjusted as to support the forms amidst a continued succession of matter.

Suppose (for we shall endeavour to vary the expression), that matter were thrown into any position, by a blind, unguided force; it is evident that this first position must, in all probability, be the most confused and most disorderly imaginable, without any resemblance to those works of human contrivance, which, along with a symmetry of parts, discover an adjustment of means to ends, and a tendency to self-preservation. If the actuating force cease after this operation, matter must remain for ever in disorder, and continue an immense chaos, without any proportion or activity. But suppose that the actuating force, whatever it be, still continues in matter, this first position will immediately give place to a second, which will likewise in all probability be as disorderly as the first, and so on through many successions of changes and revolutions. No particular order or position ever continues a moment unaltered. The original force, still remaining in activity, gives a perpetual restlessness to matter. Every possible situation is produced, and instantly destroyed. If a glimpse or dawn of order appears for a moment,it is instantly hurried away, and confounded, by that never-ceasing force which actuates every part of matter.

Thus the universe goes on for many ages in a continued succession of chaos and disorder. But is it not possible that it may settle at last, so as not to lose its motion and active force (for that we have supposed inherent in it), yet so as to preserve an uniformity of appearance, amidst the continual motion and fluctuation of its parts? This we find to be the case with the universe at present. Every individual is perpetually changing, and every part of every individual; and yet the whole remains, in appearance, the same. May we not hope for such a position, or rather be assured of it, from the eternal revolutions of unguided matter; and may not this account for all the appearing wisdom and contrivance which is in the universe? Let us contemplate the subject a little, and we shall find, that this adjustment, if attained by matter of a seeming stability in the forms, with a real and perpetual revolution or motion of parts, affords a plausible, if not a true solution of the difficulty.

It is in vain, therefore, to insist upon the uses of the parts in animals or vegetables, and their curious adjustment to each other. I would fain know, how an animal could subsist, unless its parts were so adjusted? Do we not find, that it immediately perishes whenever this adjustment ceases, and that its matter corrupting tries some new form? It happens indeed, that the parts of the world are so well adjusted, that some regular form immediately lays claim to this corrupted matter: and if it were not so, could the world subsist? Must it not dissolve as well as the animal, and pass through new positions and situations, till in great, but finite succession, it falls at last into the present or some such order?"
- Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion; David Hume, posthumous publication in 1779

Despite the philosophical reemergence of evolutionary concepts, the natural sciences, especially biology, were still dominated by the theologically minded. The heavy reliance on Plato and Aristotle further reinforced the idea that all life was created and that form followed design.

The scientific concept of biological evolution was eventually redeveloped independent of philosophy based on fresh observations of the natural world. The philosophical reemergence of evolutionary concepts, however, laid the groundwork for the acceptance of the scientific evidence for evolution.

Scientific Attempts to Develop a Theory of Evolution

By the late 1700s there was significant interest in fossils among both scientists and the public. A wide variety of speculations were put forth in attempts to explain fossils and their implications. Among the most common speculations were that fossils were evidence of Biblical creation. A widely held view was that the fossils were formed after the flood mentioned in the story of Noah. Many Christian naturalists argued that all fossils had to represent currently existing life forms because God's creation is perfect so life must always have been in its current form. They thus tried to assemble and interpret fossils in such as way that they matched up to currently existing forms of life, or they believe that if they could not match a fossil to a known form of life then the fossil must represent a form of life that was not yet known to Europeans.

It had become in vogue for poorly excavated fossils to be put on display in churches across Europe and America, where the fossils were claimed to be the human remains of victims of the Great Flood.

In 1731 Johann Jakob Scheuchzer published Sacred Physics which put forward what he believed was evidence of the Great Flood. The book provided a natural history of the earth based on a combination of natural observations and the Biblical account. Scheuchzer was a widely traveled scholar who had collected fossils from all over the world.

From these fossils he described what he believed to be the fossilized remains of a human victim of the Great Flood in his book Sacred Physics. The fossils were later examined by other scientists and found to be the bones of a giant salamander.

Despite the fact that the majority of natural scientists were out looking for evidence of creation in the natural world, there were growing doubts among them. This is because the evidence was pointing in the other direction. Increasingly varied and complex explanations were proposed to try and make all of the natural evidence fit into the assumed model of a world created according to the Biblical account.

It was becoming increasingly apparent that the earth was much older than the 6,000 years that was calculated from the Bible. The estimated age of earth the was continuously being pushed back. In 1778 Georges Leclerc de Buffon estimated the age of the earth at 74,832. In 1804 leading paleontologist Georges Cuvier estimated that the fossils he found were "thousands of centuries" old.

As naturalists traveled around the world, especially to the tropics, the number and variety of species that were catalogued was increasing beyond the wildest estimates of men who had grown up and studied in Europe. There was also an acknowledgment that there were far more "lowly" animals than "high order" animals. Especially insects.

Increasingly, as well, naturalists were finding life in places that no human beings had ever been to before.

All of these facts challenged the idea that God had created the world over a short period of time and that life on earth was created for the use of man. If life was created for the use of man then why were there so many insects that hurt man instead of helped him? Why was there so much life in places where people didn't live? If God loves order and reason and advanced creatures then why did he create more worms, insects, reptiles, and amphibians than "higher order" animals such as mammals?

In the tropics naturalists observed that many forms of life, such as leaf bugs, had developed complex forms and behaviors that helped them hide from other animals. Life was much more competitive and violent than many naturalists had originally thought. If God created all life, and God is good, then why is "life" so "deadly"?

Extinction also played a major role in discussions about life. Christian naturalists always maintained that extinction didn't exist and that it was impossible for a species to go extinct because God wouldn't create species that were not fit. Extinction, they argued, would prove that God was not perfect, and thus extinction could not occur.

These types of issues were on the minds of many naturalists.

In 1794 Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin's grandfather, published Zoönomia; or, The Laws of Organic Life. Erasmus was a trained physician who was very active in intellectual pursuits. Erasmus produced several inventions, he was involved in genealogy, philosophy, and botany, and wrote several books on a variety of subjects. His book Zoönomia put forward what was known about disease and germs at the time, as well as ideas about what life really is, how it formed, and how it has developed over time. In Zoönomia Erasmus makes references to ideas that resemble evolution and DNA. Interestingly, Erasmus mentioned both Aristotle and Plato in his work, but not Epicurus, which was likely due to the fact that the ideas of Epicureans were still so very little known. Virtually everyone who studied classical Greek philosophy only studied the Platonic school. The reference to Aristotle in Zoönomia appears to be a somewhat misunderstood reference to the quote in Physics where Aristotle actually argues against evolutionary concepts.  The concepts of evolution put forward by Erasmus, however, were similar to those later put forward by Lamarck. His view was that animals changed according to their wants, i.e. that a want could create a change. In the writing below Erasmus refers to mules because he is talking about the possibility that there were originally a few basic forms of life and that the variety we see today has come from the interbreeding of these few basic forms.

"From this account of reproduction it appears, that all animals have a similar origin, viz. from a single living filament; and that the difference of their forms and qualities has arisen only from the different irritabilities and sensibilities, or voluntarities, or associabilities, of this original living filament; and perhaps in some degree from the different forms of the particles of the fluids, by which it has been first stimulated into activity. And that from hence, as Linnæus has conjectured in respect to the vegetable world, it is not impossible, but the great variety of species of animals, which now tenant the earth, may have had their origin from the mixture of a few natural orders. And that those animal and vegetable mules, which could continue their species, have done so, and constitute the numerous families of animals and vegetables which now exist; and that those mules, which were produced with imperfect organs of generation, perished without reproduction, according to the observation of Aristotle;


All animals therefore, I contend, have a similar cause of their organization, originating from a single living filament, endued indeed with different kinds of irritabilities and sensibilities, or of animal appetencies; which exist in every gland, and in every moving organ of the body, and are as essential to living organization as chemical affinities are to certain combinations of inanimate matter.


Fourthly, when we revolve in our minds the great similarity of structure which obtains in all the warm blooded animals, as well quadrupeds, birds, and amphibious animals, as in mankind; from the mouse and bat to the elephant and whale; one is led to conclude, that they have alike been produced from a similar living filament. In some this filament in its advance to maturity has acquired hands and fingers, with a fine sense of touch, as in mankind. In others it has acquired claws or talons, as in tygers and eagles. In others, toes with an intervening web, or membrane, as in seals and geese. In others it has acquired cloven hoofs, as in cows and swine; and whole hoofs in others, as in the horse. While in the bird kind this original living filament has put forth wings instead of arms and legs, and feathers instead of hair. In some it has protruded horns on the forehead instead of teeth in the fore part of the upper jaw; in others tushes instead of horns; in others beaks instead of either.


Another great want consists in the means of procuring food, which has diversified the forms of all species of animals. Thus the nose of the swine has become hard for the purpose of turning up the soil in search of insects and of roots. The trunk of the elephant is an elongation of the nose for the purpose of pulling down the branches of trees for his food, and for taking up water without bending his knees. Beasts of prey have acquired strong jaws or talons. Cattle have acquired a rough tongue and a rough palate to pull off the blades of grass, as cows and sheep. Some birds have acquired harder beaks to crack nuts, as the parrot. Others have acquired beaks adapted to break the harder feeds, as sparrows. Others for the softer seeds of flowers, or the buds of trees, as the finches. Other birds have acquired long beaks to penetrate the moister soils in search of insects or roots, as woodcocks; and others broad ones to filtrate the water of lakes, and to retain aquatic insects, as ducks. All which seem to have been gradually produced during many generations by the perpetual endeavor of the creatures to supply the want of food, and to have been delivered to their posterity with constant improvement of them for the purposes required.


From thus meditating on the great similarity of the structure of the warm-blooded animals, and at the same time of the great changes they undergo both before and after their nativity; and by considering in how minute a portion of time many of the changes of animals above described have been produced; would it be too bold to imagine, that in the great length of time, since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind, would it be too bold to imagine, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions, and associations; and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down those improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end?
- Zoönomia; or, The Laws of Organic Life; Erasmus Darwin, 1794

The writings of Erasmus serve as a good reference for how thought about the natural world was developing along the leading edges of the intellectual community, but the work did not have a popular audience and was not indicative of the views of the majority of thinkers at the time.

In 1809 Jean-Baptiste Chevalier de Lamarck published Zoological Philosophy, in which he famously proposed the first testable evolutionary hypothesis. Lamarck's proposals, while now often ridiculed, were rather understandable at the time, and also revolutionary in their effect because Lamarck introduced the concept of evolution to a much broader audience than it had ever been introduced to before. While Lamarck was ultimately wrong about how evolution works, he was also right about several things, and he did defend the concept of common descent, i.e. that all living things on earth are biologically related.

One of the things that Lamarck was correct about, which is generally overlooked in present day biology, is that there really is no such thing as a "species". Lamarck was among the first to note that the species concept was a man made concept, based on the belief that different kinds of animals were created and are unchangeable. Lamarck corrected this and stated that in truth no species exists. He acknowledged, however, that the species concept was useful in describing populations, though it still has to be understood that it is purely a term used for the convenience of human classification, and does not reflect an actual reality. On this subject Lamarck stated:

"Throughout nature, wherever man strives to acquire knowledge he finds himself under the necessity of using special methods, 1st, to bring order among the infinitely numerous and varied objects which he has before him; 2nd, to distinguish, without danger of confusion, among this immense multitude of objects, either groups or those in which he is interested, or particular individuals among them; 3rd, to pass on to his fellows all what he has learnt, seen and thought on the subject.  Now the methods which he uses for this purpose are what I call the artificial devices in natural science, -- devices which we must beware of confusing with the laws and acts of nature herself.


When the interest of studying and knowing nature was felt, these artificial devices continued to be of assistance in the prosecution of that study.  These same artificial devices have therefore an indispensable utility, not only for helping us to a knowledge of special objects, but for facilitating study and the progress of natural science, and for enabling us to find our way about among the enormous quantity of different objects that we have to deal with.


The artificial devices in natural science are as follows:

    (1) Schematic classifications, both general and special.
    (2) Classes.
    (3) Orders.
    (4) Families.
    (5) Genera.
    (6) The nomenclature of various groups of individual objects.

These six kinds of devices, commonly used in natural sciences, are purely artificial aids which we have to use in the arrangement and division of the various observed natural productions; to put us in the way of studying, comparing, recognising and citing them.

Nature has made nothing of the kind: and instead of deceiving ourselves into confusing our works with hers, we should recognise that classes, orders, families, genera and nomenclatures are weapons of our invention.  We could not do without them, but we must use them with discretion and determine them in accordance with settled principles, in order to avoid arbitrary changes which destroy all the advantages they bestow.

It was no doubt indispensable to break up the productions of nature into groups, and to establish different kinds of divisions among them such as classes, orders, families and genera.  It was, moreover, necessary to fix what are called species, and to assign special names to these various sorts of objects.  This is required on account of the limitations of our faculties; some such means are necessary for helping us to fix the knowledge which we gain from that prodigious multitude of natural bodies which we can observe in their infinite diversity.

But these groupings, of which several have been so happily drawn up by naturalists, are altogether artificial, as also are the divisions and sub-divisions which they represent.  Let me repeat that nothing of the kind is to be found in nature, notwithstanding the justification which they appear to derive from certain apparently isolated portions of the natural series with which we are acquainted.  We may, therefore, rest assured that among her productions nature has not really formed either classes, orders, families, genera or constant species, but only individuals who succeed one another and resemble those from which they sprung.  Now these individuals belong to infinitely diversified races, which blend together every variety of form and degree of organisation; and this is maintained by each without variation, so long as no cause of change acts upon them.


It is not a futile purpose to decide definitely what we mean by the so-called species among living  bodies, and to enquire if it is true that species are of absolute constancy, as old as nature, and have all existed from the beginning just as we see them to-day; or if, as a result of changes in their environment, albeit extremely slow, they have not in course of time changed their characters and shape.


Thus, among living bodies, nature, as I have already said, definitely contains nothing but individuals which succeed one another by reproduction and spring from one another; but the species among them have only a relative constancy and are only invariable temporarily.

Nevertheless, to facilitate the study and knowledge of so many different bodies it is useful to give the name of species to any collection of like individuals perpetuated by reproduction without change, so long as their environment does not alter enough to cause variations in their habits, character and shape."
- Zoological Philosophy; Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, 1809

This is actually a very important clarification that Charles Darwin later failed to fully address in his The Origin of Species, which it could be argued furthered the misunderstanding of the very concept of evolution due to the use of the species concept. The term species, and the entire biological classification system, was developed by natural theologians who believed that the classification system was based on a direct model of God's creation, and that thus each classification did represent something concrete in nature. Unfortunately this misunderstanding has still not been fully addressed in biological education today.

Lamarck went on in Zoological Philosophy to give his explanation for how life came to be as it is on earth. His explanation basically stated that all individuals can change a little bit during their lifetime, and that these small changes are passed on to their offspring. It is important to note that Lamarck did not believe in the widespread phenomena of extinction, in part because according to his ideas about how life changed it should make sense that all life forms can improve themselves, and thus natural selection did not play an important role in his ideas about evolution, but the idea of common descent was central to his works.

"Thus to obtain a knowledge of the true causes of that great diversity of shapes and habits found in the various known animals, we must reflect that the infinitely diversified but slowly changing environment in which the animals of each race have successively been placed, has involved each of them in new needs and corresponding alterations in their habits.  This is a truth which, once recognised, cannot be disputed.  Now we shall easily discern how the new needs may have been satisfied, and the new habits acquired, if we pay attention to the two following laws of nature, which are always verified by observation.


    In every animal which has not passed the limit of its development, a more frequent and continuous use of any organ gradually strengthens, develops and enlarges that organ, and gives it a power proportional to the length of time it has been so used; while the permanent disuse of any organ imperceptibly weakens and deteriorates it, and progressively diminishes its functional capacity, until it finally disappears.


    All the acquisitions or losses wrought by nature on individuals, through the influence of the environment in which their race has long been placed, and hence through the influence of the predominant use or permanent disuse of any organ; all these are preserved by reproduction to the new individuals which arise, provided that the acquired modifications are common to both sexes, or at least to the individuals which produce the young.

Here we have two permanent truths, which can only be doubted by those who have never observed or followed the operations of nature, or by those who have allowed themselves to be drawn into the error which I shall now proceed to combat.

Naturalists have remarked that the structure of animals is always in perfect adaptation to their functions, and have inferred that the shape and condition of their parts have determined the use of them.  Now this is a mistake: for it may be easily proved by observation that it is on the contrary the needs and uses of the parts which have caused the development of these same parts, which have even birth to them when they did not exist, and which consequently have given rise to the condition we find in each animal

If this were not so, nature would have had to create as many different kinds of structure in animals, as there are different kinds of environments in which they have to live; and neither structure nor environment would ever have varied.

This is indeed very far from the true order of things.  If things were really so, we should not have the race-horses shaped like those in England;

we should not have big draught-horses so heavy and different from the former, for none such are produced in nature; in the same way we should not have basset-hounds with crooked legs, nor grey-hounds so fleet of foot, nor water-spaniels, etc.; we should not have fowls without tails, fantail pigeons, etc.; finally, we should be able to cultivate wild plants as long as we liked in the rich and fertile soil of our gardens, without the fear of seeing them change under long cultivation.

Conclusion adopted hitherto [The previously held belief]: Nature (or her Author) in creating animals, foresaw all the possible kinds of environment in which they would have to live, and endowed each species with a fixed organisation and with a definite and invariable shape, which compel each species to live in the places and climates where we actually find them, and there to maintain the habits which we know in them.

My individual conclusion: Nature has produced all the species of animals in succession, beginning with the most imperfect or simplest, and ending her work with the most perfect, so as to create a gradually increasing complexity in their organisation; these animals have spread at large throughout all the habitable regions of the globe, and every species has derived from its environment the habits that we find in it and the structural modifications which observation shows us."
- Zoological Philosophy; Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, 1809

The famous example given by Lamarck was that of the giraffe, which he proposed has evolved over generations with each individual stretching its neck a little longer to reach higher and higher leaves, and that the small changes in each individual were passed on to the offspring and thus the necks of giraffes grew longer and longer.

Lamarck's ideas were put to the test by a number of different experiments, none of which conclusively supported his hypothesis. The most famous test performed was one in which the tails of mice were repeatedly amputated in every generation. After many generations no change in the length of the mice tails was observed. This made it rather unlikely that use or disuse of an organ by an organisms had an effect on the form of their offspring.

Despite this, Lamarck's beliefs about evolution retained some support because it was the best naturalistic explanation at the time for biological diversity and how well-suited life was to the environment. The majority view in Western Civilization, however, was still the theological view - that all life had been created at one time by God and that species were fixed. Indeed significant arguments against evolution were becoming more widespread before Darwin published his book, The Origin of Species.

One example of the arguments against evolution that preceded The Origin of Species was published in the British newspaper The Times in 1836, which stated that evolution could not have taken place because various forms of life were present in rock layers. This argument was later refuted by closer examination of rock layers.

"The investigation of the newer transitionary strata assures us by their remains of the cotemporaneous existence of the four divisions of the animal kingdom, vertebrata, mollusca, articulata, and radiala--a fact which at once and for ever annihilates the doctrine of spontaneous and progressive evolution of life, and its impious corollary, chance."
- The Times, November. 15, 1836


Charles Darwin was born in 1809, seven years after his grandfather Erasmus had died. Charles grew up during a conservative period in British and American society, shortly after the Napoleonic Wars. While Charles' grandfather had been a freethinker, his father was more reserved. This was true of society in general. The proceeding 100 years of the 18th century were quite radical and the early 19th century was a period of consolidation and reservation after periods of dramatic social change.

At the age of eight Charles went off to a leading Christian boarding school, where he attended until his graduation in 1825. Darwin then went to Edinburgh University to study medicine to become a physician like his father. While at Edinburgh he learned about the ideas of Lamarck and other evolutionary concepts. Charles showed no interest in becoming a physician however, so in 1827 his father enrolled him in Christ's College at the University of Cambridge to become a clergyman. In his autobiography Darwin wrote:

"I asked for some time to consider, as from what little I had heard or thought on the subject I had scruples about declaring my belief in all the dogmas of the Church of England; though otherwise I liked the thought of being a country clergyman. Accordingly I read with care 'Pearson on the Creed,' and a few other books on divinity; and as I did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible, I soon persuaded myself that our Creed must be fully accepted."
- The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin; 1887

At Christ's College Charles studied natural history along with many other doctrinal subjects.

"Again, in my last year I worked with some earnestness for my final degree of B.A., and brushed up my Classics, together with a little Algebra and Euclid, which latter gave me much pleasure, as it did at school. In order to pass the B.A. examination, it was also necessary to get up Paley's 'Evidences of Christianity,' and his 'Moral Philosophy.' This was done in a thorough manner, and I am convinced that I could have written out the whole of the 'Evidences' with perfect correctness, but not of course in the clear language of Paley. The logic of this book and, as I may add, of his 'Natural Theology,' gave me as much delight as did Euclid. The careful study of these works, without attempting to learn any part by rote, was the only part of the academical course which, as I then felt and as I still believe, was of the least use to me in the education of my mind. I did not at that time trouble myself about Paley's premises; and taking these on trust, I was charmed and convinced by the long line of argumentation."
- The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin; 1887

After passing his final exams, but before leaving the university to become a full-time clergyman, Darwin enrolled in a geology course run by Reverend Adam Sedgwick, who was a strong proponent of the idea that all of nature was divinely designed by God.

In the mean time the captain of the HMS Beagle, Robert FitzRoy, was preparing to make a return journey to South America as part of a Christian experiment in social engineering. FitzRoy had taken four native children from Tierra del Fuego, South America back to England with the intent of converting them to Christianity and civilizing them so that they could go back and spread Christianity to their community. On the journey to England one of the children died, but the three that survived did well in England and were quite popular. As things progressed, however, two of the teenagers began having vigorous sexual relations and seemed to be beyond the control of their hosts. As a result, FitzRoy decided to take them back to their native lands sooner than originally planned.

In order to make the voyage worthwhile, aside from just taking three "savages" back to South America, FitzRoy decided to commission a Christian naturalist to chart the coastline of South America. For this FitzRoy turned to the University of Cambridge, who recommended Charles Darwin for the volunteer position.

When Darwin began his voyage on the HMS Beagle he was an orthodox Christian, but his views changed over time as he came in contact with the world.

“Whilst on board the Beagle (October 1836-January 1839) I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament; from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian.”
- The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin; 1887

The voyage of the HMS Beagle took five years to complete. During the journey Darwin spent most of his time on land studying wildlife and recording geological features. Darwin also spent time with native peoples, going on long expeditions inland to survey regions and document the flora and fauna. He found many fossils, observed primitive cultures, and documented unknown organisms.

When they reached Tierra del Fuego the crew left the three Fuegians that they had previously taken to England believing that they would become missionaries. Years later, upon later return, FitzRoy learned that one of them had murdered some white missionaries and that the girl from among them had become a prostitute for sailors. The native people of Tierra del Fuego are now completely extinct.

Darwin was almost killed several times on the journey, including when he got caught up in a genocidal war that was being waged against natives in Argentina by the Catholic General Juan Manuel de Rosas.

During the visit to the Galápagos Islands Darwin, with the help of other crewmembers, collected many different bird specimens. He cataloged all of them and identified them as best he could. Darwin noticed that life on each of the islands was mostly the same, but just a little bit different.

From South America the HMS Beagle sailed over to Australia, where Darwin learned that Christians of the Church of England were hunting the natives for fun and allowing their dogs to eat them. This upset Darwin, but there was noting he could do about it. On his journey Darwin was as impressed by the variation that he found in nature as he was with the variation that he found in human civilization. The extreme differences in human culture and civilization among the people he came in contact with had a profound affect on his views about religion and humanity. After seeing people living in such different levels of civilization Darwin was inclined to believe that humans had evolved over time from simpler origins.

Upon returning home in 1836 Darwin was a minor celebrity due to the publication of some of his notes and the fossils that he had sent back to England.

Darwin presented his collection of birds to ornithologist John Gould, who informed him that he had incorrectly identified most of the birds. To Darwin's surprise, nearly all the small songbirds in his collection were different types of finches.

After his return, Darwin began formulating his ideas on evolution, however, the concept of evolution had already been spreading among "non-Christians" by that time. The concept was highly controversial and deemed blasphemous by The Church of England, of which Darwin was now a clergyman. Because of this, Darwin was very reluctant to expose his ideas to his peers and he was not prepared to publish them.

Instead, Darwin had plenty of work to do documenting his collections and writing about his journey on the Beagle. Darwin published several works on geology and zoology which remained non-controversial and he gave various speeches, but his health was generally poor.

In 1851 Charles Darwin's daughter Annie died at age 10 from a painful illness. The loss was particularly hard on Charles, and with her death he lost his last reaming belief in Christianity. His faith had already been challenged by his findings in the natural world, but after watching his daughter die a painful death he could not believe that a benevolent God was watching over the world. With his loss of faith he found a renewed interest in his concept of natural selection.

After his daughter died Darwin worked on experiments to test his hypothesis of natural selection. He used plants and pigeons to test how individuals in a population changed over generations in response to an altered natural environment. He found that over generations the traits of a population did change in relation to the different conditions of the environment in which they existed.

In 1856 Darwin was notified by a friend that the naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace had written a paper on species that echoed many of Darwin's beliefs. His friends prompted him to hurry to publish a paper in order to get recognition for his ideas before the world passed him by. Darwin listened to his friends and began work on what would become his most famous book, The Origin of Species. Throughout the work on his book Darwin corresponded with Wallace. Eventually Darwin and Wallace co-published two scientific papers in 1858 titled On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection. This publication received no special reception, in part because it was not clearly differentiated from the other ideas on evolution that were floating around at the time.

In 1859, however, Darwin published his monumental book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, which became an international phenomenon.

The basis of what Darwin proposed was this:

1. Species have great fertility. They make more offspring than can grow to adulthood.
2. Populations remain roughly the same size, with modest fluctuations.
3. Food resources are limited, but are relatively constant most of the time. From these three observations it may be inferred that in such an environment there will be a struggle for survival among individuals.
4. In sexually reproducing species, generally no two individuals are identical. Variation is rampant.
5. Much of this variation is heritable.

The two guiding forces of evolution proposed by Darwin in The Origin of Species are "natural selection" and "sexual selection", although Darwin used the term "descent with modification through natural selection", which has caused confusion over the years because it presents natural selection as the "cause" of evolution, which it is not.

"That many and grave objections may be advanced against the theory of descent with modification through natural selection, I do not deny. I have endeavoured to give to them their full force. Nothing at first can appear more difficult to believe than that the more complex organs and instincts should have been perfected not by means superior to, though analogous with, human reason, but by the accumulation of innumerable slight variations, each good for the individual possessor. Nevertheless, this difficulty, though appearing to our imagination insuperably great, cannot be considered real if we admit the following propositions, namely, -- that gradations in the perfection of any organ or instinct, which we may consider, either do now exist or could have existed, each good of its kind, -- that all organs and instincts are, in ever so slight a degree, variable, -- and, lastly, that there is a struggle for existence leading to the preservation of each profitable deviation of structure or instinct. The truth of these propositions cannot, I think, be disputed."
- On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; Charles Darwin, 1859

The biggest problem for Darwin's concept of "descent with modification", guided by natural and sexual selection, was that no one knew how inheritance worked. The role of DNA had not yet been discovered, so there was no explanation for how traits could be passed on to progeny.

What initially made The Origin of Species different from other works was the volume and quality of data that Darwin presented in support of his arguments. What made Darwin's ideas different from others in the long run, however, was that new evidence continued to support the basic principles that he had put forward.

The reaction to Darwin's ideas varied widely among different nations. His work was primarily published in Western Nations, so the exact reaction of Asian and Indian culture is difficult to gauge since these cultures were not a part of the initial "Origin of Species phenomenon".

What is known, however, is that the reaction to The Origin of Species was more positive in Europe than it was in America. The most favorable reaction actually came from the Germans, in part because Germany had a broader freethinkers movement and philosophical materialism had been relatively widely adopted there. The British were more skeptical, but this was in part due to the fact that so many works on evolution had already been published in England. At first Darwin's work was seen as "just another bit of evolution tripe" by some. Both the French and the Germans were critical of Darwin's imprecise language however, which often anthropomorphized nature. Both the French and German schools of science were highly refined by this point and used very precise language, whereas the English wrote more in layman's terms.

On the whole, however, the negative reaction from the religious community was overwhelming.

anti-Darwin cartoon from the 1800s

Though Darwin intentionally avoided discussing the implications of this ideas in relation to mankind or religion in The Origin of Species, he did later address these topics in The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, published in 1871.

"Belief in God- Religion: There is no evidence that man was aboriginally endowed with the ennobling belief in the existence of an Omnipotent God. On the contrary there is ample evidence, derived not from hasty travelers, but from men who have long resided with savages, that numerous races have existed, and still exist, who have no idea of one or more gods, and who have no words in their languages to express such an idea. The question is of course wholly distinct from that higher one, whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the universe; and this has been answered in the affirmative by some of the highest intellects that have ever existed.


The belief in God has often been advanced as not only the greatest, but the most complete of all the distinctions between man and the lower animals. It is however impossible, as we have seen, to maintain that this belief is innate or instinctive in man. On the other hand a belief in all-pervading spiritual agencies seems to be universal; and apparently follows from a considerable advance in man's reason, and from a still greater advance in his faculties of imagination, curiosity and wonder. I am aware that the assumed instinctive belief in God has been used by many persons as an argument for His existence. But this is a rash argument, as we should thus be compelled to believe in the existence of many cruel and malignant spirits, only a little more powerful than man; for the belief in them is far more general than in a beneficent Deity. The idea of a universal and beneficent Creator does not seem to arise in the mind of man, until he has been elevated by long-continued culture.


He who is not content to look, like a savage, at the phenomena of nature as disconnected, cannot any longer believe that man is the work of a separate act of creation."
- The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex ; Charles Darwin, 1871

Overall, however, Darwin publicly avoided involvement in religious and political speculation. What really set Darwin apart from others of his time, and what has made him such a beneficial figure to modern science, is that Darwin avoided needless controversy, he was very diligent and detailed in his studies, and he stayed out of many of the political movements that adopted positions based on his theories. If Darwin had gotten involved in politics or broad religious criticism it could not only have significantly undermined his credibility, but it could have put everlasting baggage on evolutionary theory as well. As it is, however, Darwin was a non-political man who was as well educated in all of the schools of natural science as anyone of his time. Darwin's background as a clergyman and his education in one of the world's best theological schools of natural science served him well in understanding exactly what the counter arguments against evolution were, and it can never be said that Darwin was someone who believed in evolution because he was anti-religious, because the fact is the opposite. Darwin was initially a religious man who fully believed in the literal truth of the Bible. It was his careful observation of the real world that changed Darwin's mind about religion, and Darwin struggled with his religious beliefs because he wanted to be a pious man. He simply knew that, based on the facts he observed, Biblical and theological claims could not be true, and this fact pained him.

Current Theory of Biological Evolution

The present day "Theory of Biological Evolution" has come a long way since the days of Darwin. The merger of Darwin's ideas with genetics, which took place in the 1920s, is known as Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, or neo-Darwinism. Some of Darwin's specific ideas have been rejected through scientific inquiry, holes in his ideas and evidences have been filled, and many new avenues of thought and evidence have been brought to light.

The most significant discovery that has impacted for our understanding of evolution is the discovery, in the 1950s, of DNA, the molecule that serves as the instruction set for life. What Darwin and other evolutionists that came prior to the discovery of DNA were primarily able to do was present evidence for the historical occurrence of evolution. What these people were not able to do, however, was fully explain how evolution actually took place, because they did not know how reproduction and inheritance actually work. Today DNA itself is at the center of our understanding of evolution, because DNA is really where evolution "takes place".

Present day evolutionary theory does, however, still contain the basic principles that were laid out by Charles Darwin. Those principles are:

  • Common descent - All life on earth comes from a common ancestry, and thus all living things are related to other living things.
  • Modification through reproduction - All living things on earth come from other living things, and when new livings thing are created there is a potential for the manifestation of novel traits.
  • Mechanisms of selection - Living things that survive and produce offspring generally pass-on the their traits.

These three principles constitute the basis of "The Theory of Biological Evolution". Having said that, the principle of common descent is a somewhat contentious issue because total common descent for all life on earth is not a necessary aspect of evolutionary theory. In theory it could be possible that there are many different ancestral origins for life on earth, and if there is life on other planets it is almost certain that that life would have a different origin, yet we would also expect that that life would have developed through a process of evolution. Though the evidence does not suggest this, it could theoretically be possible that life on earth originated in several different environments and that the current population of the earth has multiple different origins. If this were true it would not invalidate "evolutionary theory" in general, but it would invalidate one of the specific principles of "The Theory of Biological Evolution", because this theory does state that all livings things on earth have common ancestry.

It is also important to note that The Theory of Biological Evolution only deals with the development of life from living things, it does not address, in any way, how life originated. There are evolutionary models that have been used to explain how life might have originated, but so far there is no specific explanation for how it did originate. Due to the passage of time, and our inability to go back in time, it will probably never be possible to say with certainty exactly how life did originate, but it will be possible to prove or disprove ways that living cells can naturally form from non-living organic matter. The import thing to note, however, is that The Theory of Biological Evolution does not address the origin of life, it only addresses the subsequent development of life once life existed.

For more information on biological evolution see:



Sources of Variation:

Natural selection is commonly misstated as "the mechanism" of evolution. This is not true. The root mechanism of evolution genetic change. This misunderstanding actually comes partly from Darwin, because of Darwin's use of the term modification "by natural selection". The actual mechanics of how change occurs were unknown in Darwin's time. Evolution, again, is the process of change over time. What actually causes biological change is genetic change. Sources of genetic change include mutation, sexual recombination, gene flow, and genetic duplication, but the main concept really is that changes to DNA occur in a variety of ways, and these changes can result in the expression of new characteristics in organisms.

Sexual Recombination

Gene Flow in Prokaryotes

Genetic duplication, while not shown above, is now understood to play a major role in evolution by providing "new raw material" for selection and the replication of major body segments, such as limbs.

These mechanisms for change are always acting. There is a common misperception that "evolution has stopped" or that "humans are no longer evolving". This is a misperception based on the incorrect belief that natural selection "drives" evolution and the idea that natural selection no longer applies to humans. Both assumptions are wrong. Natural selection does not drive evolution, genetic change does, and all populations, even the most technologically advanced human populations, are still subject to natural selection.

Without any selection pressures whatsoever complex forms would still evolve. The difference is that in a theoretical environment where there is absolutely no selection pressure at all, i.e. every living thing that is produced is able to survive and all living things reproduce at the same rate, what we would expect to see is a huge diversity of life forms, many of which would be what would appear to us as "malformed" individuals, i.e., what we call "deformities".

It is actually impossible that such a situation could exist, however, because some genetic changes result in the creation of organisms that are completely incapable of life or reproduction, even in the most amenable environment.

The only thing that would actually stop the process of evolution, aside from total extinction of all life, is perfect cloning. In the natural world there are many forms of life that reproduce through "cloning", these primarily being prokaryotic cells, but genetic changes are still introduced in these populations through mutations, duplications, and gene flow. Gene flow is the acquisition of new genes through the taking in of foreign DNA particles, DNA swapping, and viral DNA exchanges.

As long as new organisms are not identical to their parent(s) then evolution is taking place.

Sources of Constraint:

Genetic change is what causes biological diversity, but why is it that we see distinct life forms on earth and why are those life forms so well suited to their environment? This is where "natural selection" comes in. DNA is the instruction set for the production of a life form. Through the various mechanisms mentioned above changes are introduced into the DNA of life forms.

"Natural selection", "sexual selection", "random acts of nature", and "artificial selection" all constrain the variation that develops through genetic change. Genetic drift also occurs, which is when genetic code is neither selected for or against.

Natural selection generally refers to the process by which favorable traits are "selected for" and negative traits are "selected against" by nature. "Selection" itself, however, is a loaded word and generally connotes some conscious act, but this is not the case. Selection in this case is not active, but passive. To put it simply, if an organism survives and passes on its genetic traits through reproduction then those traits have been "selected for". If an organism dies without passing on its genetic traits then those traits have been "selected against". It can actually be more complicated than this, because an organism's traits can be selected for even if it does not procreate, if that organism contributes to the successful spread of traits that it shares with other members of its population, for example if an organism dies fighting for the protection of its family (parents, siblings, cousins, etc.), leading to its family's success.

Natural selection is the process that is seen as responsible for the well-suitedness of organisms to their environment. When an organism displays traits that confer survival ability to that organism, such as the long beak of a hummingbird that is used to suck nectar from flowers, those traits are seen as having been selected for through natural selection.

Sexual selection can be seen as a form of natural selection, but it occurs in relation to mates instead of in relation to the "environment". Traits that increase an individual's ability to attract mates and successfully produce offspring may arise through sexual selection. Examples of this are brightly the colored bodies of some fish, birds, and reptiles, instinctive mating behaviors, emotions like love, etc. Traits that arise through sexual selection are not necessarily selected for based on a conferred favorability towards survival, and because of this traits that arise through sexual selection may have zero or negative fitness qualities. What this means is that traits that develop through sexual selection may not provide any survival benefit and they may actually make survival more difficult.

The tail of a peacock is a prime example of this. The plumage of the male peacock does not help the male peacock survive at all, in fact it makes them less likely to survive because it is cumbersome. These types of traits can only develop when organisms are capable of overcoming the negative attributes of the traits through greater overall fitness, and this may be a key element of why sexually selected traits are so common, because they signal to mates that the organism is very fit.

Another important role of sexually selected traits is identification of viable potential mates. Sexually selective behavior keeps like organisms together and creates behavioral mating boundaries. These traits provide a way for organisms to identify mates that they have a high likelihood of being able to produce viable offspring with.

Genetic drift occurs among traits that are not selected for or against. Traits that do not impact survival or sexual reproduction are neither selected for nor against, and thus their frequency in a population can change over time in seemingly random ways. Genetic drift can be complicated because sometimes a trait which is not selected for or against occurs among individuals in a population that have other traits that are selected for or against, so even though the specific trait is not being selected for it may be expressed similarly to a trait that is selected for, at least for some period of time. Genetic drift typically has the most profound effect on smaller populations, because a smaller set of traits become determinative to survival in a smaller population. As a population gets larger the granularity of selection increases.

In a small population a few traits will be critical, while other traits will not be selected for or against. For example:

  • A population of 10 rabbits is placed on an island and 5 of the rabbits have blue eyes and 5 have brown eyes. Additionally 5 rabbits are white and 5 rabbits are brown, but these traits are not evenly paired, meaning that some brown rabbits have brown eyes and some have blue eyes. The same with the white rabbits
  • Being white is a strongly negative trait that makes the rabbits less likely to survive because they are not able to hide from predators.
  • Blue eyes are slightly less able to deal with the strong sunlight and are only a very minor negative trait.

In this scenario the blue eye trait may "drift" genetically because the selective pressure on the white trait is so strong that having blue eyes or not makes no difference in whether individuals survive and reproduce. The blue eye trait could actually become dominant in the population even if it is not a genetically dominant trait, because with such a small population it could be that the few brown rabbits that are otherwise the most fit in terms of health, strength, speed, and reproductive rate, happen to have blue eyes. In their case, even though the blue eyes are a slight disadvantage, the other factors so far outweigh the blue eye trait that there is no selective pressure on the blue eye trait.

Over time, however, even if the blue eye trait becomes pervasive (but not exclusive) the brown eye trait may eventually be selected for once a large diverse population is stabilized, even if all other environmental conditions stay the same, because once the population reaches a large enough size, and there is enough diversity, the granularity of competition will increase to the point that even the slightest advantage that one individual has over another will make a difference in rates of survival and reproduction. Once many individuals exist that are all relatively equal in every other way, except eye color, then eye color may become a determining factor in rates of survival.

So-called "random" acts of nature also impact evolution. If, for example, a major meteor shower strikes the earth and kills several individuals in a population, or kills an entire population, these individuals may have actually been very fit in every way and well suited to their environment, and other individuals that didn't get hit may have actually been less fit, but nevertheless the ones that get killed can no longer reproduce, so their traits are not passed on. In reality the use of the term "random" in the physical sciences is problematic. Random is actually a mathematical concept and true randomness does not occur in reality because in reality the laws of nature dictate behavior such that everything that occurs is determined by some acting force and all things follow the laws of nature. Things do not occur truly "randomly" in nature. Meteors hitting the earth may seem "random", but of course this is not a random event as any meteors that strike earth have been on a collision course with earth for an extremely long time. These types of events are not "random", they are just "unusual".

It is arguable whether there is such as thing as "artificial selection", but in general the term is used to describe the conscious breeding of plants and animals by humans. In general artificial selection and natural selection work in the same manner to guide the process of evolution. It is important to note that domesticated animals are evolving just like everything else, it's just that their evolution is being guided by human choices. Genetic variation occurs among individuals, and humans select for the traits that they want, these either being new novel traits or continuous selection for the same traits in an attempt to keep the traits of a "breed" of static.

Other organisms also selectively "breed" other organisms as well, such as the leaf cutter ants that cultivate a specific fungus for food. The proper view is really to consider so-called "artificial selection" a more complex form of natural selection.

Evidence of Evolution:

Evidence for The Theory of Biological Evolution can be classified in several different ways. There is evidence of common descent, evidence of natural selection, evidence of modification of traits, and evidence of inheritance. The evidence for evolution can also be broken down by evidence supporting the historical occurrence of evolution and evidence that shows evolution is occurring. While much of the historical evidence for evolution is interesting and exciting, the reality is that The Theory of Biological Evolution can be supported almost solely by our understanding and knowledge of genetics and biochemistry, which shows that evolution is occurring and cannot but occur. Much of what people think about in terms of evolution today is still the same old evidence for evolution that was used by Darwin, things like fossils and comparative morphology, etc., but since the discovery of DNA the most important facts that we have learned about evolution come from the study of genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry. Again, this is because the genetic code is where evolution actually takes place.

What we have learned from the study of DNA is that small genetic changes can result in major changes to the form and structure of organisms. For example, a single genetic mutation could cause a grass seed from a plant that came from parents with smooth or hairy seeds to have large spikes, resulting in the development of the sandspur.

It is not required, as Lamarck and early evolutionists thought, that the sandspur develop slowly over generations from a smooth seed by gradually getting longer and longer spikes, but rather the transformation from smooth or hairy  seeds to spiked seeds can take place in one generation with a single mutation. This immediate morphological change would not create a "new species", rather this trait, if it is advantageous, could become dominant in a population and allow a sub-population to become successful in a new environment, possibly leading to the development of "new species" over time.

None of the evidences for evolution are claimed to independently "prove that evolution is true".  The support for evolution comes from the combination of a wide variety of evidences, and the fact that no evidence exist that contradicts the theory of evolution.

It is also important to understand that The Theory of Biological Evolution makes many testable predictions. The Theory of Biological Evolution is actually one of the most expansive, if not the most expansive, scientific theories. A wide array of predictions and verifications fall under The Theory of Biological Evolution. Science works by proving things to be false, not by proving things to be true. A scientific hypothesis or theory is proven to be false when evidence that contradicts the hypothesis or theory is found. With science we say that we believe something is true when there is a means to prove it false and it is not possible to prove it false. In order for something to be considered true, however, it has to be testable - we have to have a way to try and falsify it. To date, over a broad spectrum of disciplines, no evidence has been found in nature that contradicts evolutionary theory. There are countless opportunities to falsify evolutionary theory, and in no case has any evidence been found that does falsify it.

Because of the volume and complexity of the evidence for evolution, I will only briefly describe the different types of evidences and what they tell us about life.

Evidence that Evolution Has Historically Occurred:

The most popularly known evidences for evolution are the evidences for the historical occurrence of evolution. Evidence that evolution has occurred can be classified as follows:

  • Phylogenic  Diagrams
  • Comparative Anatomy
  • Comparative Genomics
  • Embryology
  • Vestigial Organs
  • Biogeography
  • Progression in the Fossil Record
  • Transitional Forms in the Fossil Record
  • Extinction Recorded in the Fossil Record

Phylogenic Diagrams:

Phylogenic diagrams are used to show relationships between things. There are certain limitations and problems with using phylogenic  diagrams to map relationships between living things, however, phylogenic diagrams can be used to make general validations of evolutionary theory. The problem with using phylogenic diagrams to map relationships between living things is that phylogenic diagrams are based on the assumption that all relationships are linear and created through reproduction, however we know that gene flow results in the transfer of genetic material and traits outside of these assumptions. Having said that, phylogenic diagrams are still useful to show relationships between living things, especially among "higher order" animals.

Phylogenic diagrams can be created based on different criteria. If relationships between things are real, and not just perceived, then we expect that independently derived phylogenic diagrams, constructed based on different criteria ,and by different individuals, will resemble one another.

In other words, if many different people, using many different methods, derive phylogenic diagrams and all of the diagrams agree with each other, then this is a very strong indication that there are real relationships between the things being diagramed.

Phylogenic diagrams have been used in biology to map believed relationships between types of organisms, and through the use of many different techniques, using many different criteria, by many different people, these diagrams show extremely strong correlations, indicating that the organisms being mapped actually are related to each other.

The most significant phylogenic test was when the first phylogenic diagram was made based on genetic code. In 1965, before any such molecularly based phylogenic diagrams had been developed, a hypothesis was put forward by Emile Zuckerkandl and Linus Pauling that a newly developed molecular phylogenic diagram would correspond to existing phylogenic diagrams.

"It will be determined to what extent the phylogenic  tree, as derived from molecular data in complete independence from the results of organismal biology, coincides with the phylogenic  tree constructed on the basis of organismal biology. If the two phylogenic  trees are mostly in agreement with respect to the topology of branching, the best available single proof of the reality of macro-evolution would be furnished. Indeed, only the theory of evolution, combined with the realization that events at any supramolecular level are consistent with molecular events, could reasonably account for such a congruence between lines of evidence obtained independently, namely amino acid sequences of homologous polypeptide chains on the one hand, and the finds of organismal taxonomy and paleontology on the other hand. Besides offering an intellectual satisfaction to some, the advertising of such evidence would of course amount to beating a dead horse. Some beating of dead horses may be ethical, when here and there they display unexpected twitches that look like life."
 "Evolutionary Divergence and Convergence in Proteins." in Evolving Genes and Proteins, p. 101. (1965)

Indeed this proved to be the case, so the hypothesis was validated. This is especially significant because many of the elements used to construct molecular phylogenic diagrams are elements that are not visibly expressed.

If different phylogenic methods resulted in significantly different phylogenic diagrams, then that would falsify evolutionary theory, but this is not the case. The high degree of correlation between all differently constructed phylogenic diagrams strongly suggests that the perceived relationships between organisms reflect actual relationships between organisms.

Below is one example of a high level phylogenic tree of life on earth.

For the most complete phylogenic tree on the internet see: Tree of Life

Comparative Anatomy:

Comparative anatomy is one of the first major lines of evidence that was used to support The Theory of Biological Evolution. Comparative anatomy reveals that the structure of organisms follows basic patterns that would be expected if organisms are related to one another.

Evolutionary theory predicts that if organisms are related then the anatomy of organisms that are closely related will be closer to one another than organisms that are less closely related even if they live in a more similar environment.

This prediction deals with analogous structures and homologues structures.

Analogous structures are anatomical features that are functionally similar but anatomically different. For example the fin of a fish, the fin of a whale, and the wing of a penguin are analogous. The wing of a bird and a bat are also analogous, as shown below:

Homologues structures are anatomical features that are structurally similar but functionally different. The diagram below shows examples of homologues structures.

Evolutionary theory predicts that the structures of organisms will show greater overall anatomical similarity based on relatedness rather than function. Notice that the bat wing is more similar anatomically to other mammals than it is to bird wings, even though bird wings and bat wings perform more similar functions than, for example, a cat paw and a bat wing. This indicates that bats are related to cats more closely than they are to birds, i.e. that bats and cats have a more recent common ancestor than bats and birds.

Fish, whales, and penguins also provide an excellent example. The appendages of fish, whales, and penguins all serve the same basic function - underwater propulsion and guidance.  Evolutionary theory predicts that the overall anatomical structure of whale fins will be more similar to the structure of other mammal forelimbs than it will be to the structure of penguin wings or fish fins. The same goes for the others. Evolutionary theory predicts that the structure of penguin wings will be more similar to the structure of bird wings than to the structure of fish fins or whale fins, etc.

This prediction has been tested thousands of times, and in no case has an exception to it ever occurred. This condition is exactly what evolutionary theory predicts.

What is important to understand is that in the absence of evolution any wild combination of features could be expected to be found among organisms. Evolutionary theory predicts, however, that the only features that can be expected to exist in an organism are ones that have a precedent in an ancestor. Obviously gills are superior to the blow holes and lungs that are found in whales for underwater breathing, but we don't find gills in whales because their more recent ancestors didn't have gills, they had lungs and breathed air.

Comparative anatomy confirms evolutionary theory by showing that indeed organisms have features that do have precedents along phylogenic lines.

Comparative Genomics:

Comparative genomics is one of the most important and rapidly developing fields in evolutionary study today. Comparative genomics is used in several different ways. The most commonly thought of example of comparative genomics is the comparison of human DNA to the DNA of other life forms to determine how similar the DNA is. This is where we get figures such as "human and chimpanzee DNA are 98% similar." This type of comparison is just a raw overall comparison. What these types of raw overall comparisons show us is that: #1 the amount of genetic change needed to create significantly different life forms is relatively small, and #2 we can see that organisms that we believe to be closely related do have DNA that is more similar to one another than organisms that we believe to be distantly related, which is in line with the predictions of evolutionary theory.

Comparative genomics is actually essential for understanding human DNA. When the Human Genome Project was initiated scientists realized that without something to compare human DNA against all that the decoding of human DNA would give us is a long listing of As, Gs, Ts, and Cs (the nucleotides that makeup DNA). We can only get an idea of what these codes mean by comparing them to sequences of DNA from other organisms, to help locate major genes and determine which genes are unique to humans. By comparing the DNA of organisms like yeast, flies, mice, chimpanzees, and humans we can relatively quickly identify which genes are related to fundamental cellular processes (because these genes are common to all organisms),  and which genes code for things like the eye (because these genes will only be shared by animals that have eyes), etc.

Genetics and genomics are fundamentally reliant on the validity of evolutionary theory. If life on earth has not developed through evolutionary processes from a common ancestor then the entire science of genomics wouldn't even be viable.

Comparative genomics can be used in much more sophisticated ways to provide information about evolution as well based on principles similar to anatomical analogy and homology. Evolutionary theory predicts that gene structure and gene function will show patterns of relationships in ways similar to anatomical structure and function. Many traits can be coded for genetically in more than one way. What evolutionary theory predicts is that related organisms will have traits that are coded for in the same way, even when there are multiple ways to code for the same trait.

A recent study was published that makes of this type of comparison. The DNA of three distinct populations of cave fish was examined and revealed that in the three different populations a different mutation to the same gene that codes for skin pigment resulted in the loss of function for the gene, resulting in albinism. This indicates that albinism evolved independently in the different populations. This observation is in line with the predictions of evolutionary theory, which states that mutations arise "randomly" and are then selected for or against (or not selected for or against, in which case there is genetic drift).

For more on this study see: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051220000639.htm

Evolutionary theory predicts that when similar traits are evolved independently the structure that gives rise to those traits will not be the same - for example, the whale fin vs. the fish fin. In this case the structure is the DNA itself. Because of the nature of caves we know that cave organisms all over the world have developed their traits independently of one another. Cave fish in one cave had to have evolved their traits independently of cave fish in other caves where the cave populations have always been separate.

If all cave fish had the same genetic codes for common cave traits (such as lack of pigment, blindness, feelers, etc.) this would be evidence against evolution, but that is not the case. Evolutionary theory predicts that these same traits will exist in different cave fish populations for different genetic reasons, as the research verifies.

Other studies have shown that organisms retain genes that are no longer expressed. An excellent example of this are studies that show birds still possess genes that code for the production of teeth, despite the fact that birds today do not possess teeth. For more on studies showing that birds possess genes to produce teeth see:





Embryology provides several different types of evidences for evolution, however, there is much misunderstanding of the role of embryology in evolutionary theory because incorrect embryological hypotheses were popularized back in the 1800s. In the 1800s Ernst Haeckel, a well known German scientist and supporter of "evolutionary theory", proposed what he called his "biogenetic law". Haeckel himself was really more of a Lamarckian evolutionist however. He had been a supporter of Lamarck for years prior to the publication of Darwin's work on evolution. He never really got beyond the Lamarckian thinking, as was typical during those times, and as still continues today because Lamarckian thinking more closely follows the way that be view the purposeful creation of new functions.

What Haeckel's biogenetic law stated was that organisms developed through the historical forms of their ancestors. In other words, that if people were descended from fish, and then reptiles, and then primates, etc.,  that a human embryo would go through a fish stage, and then a reptile stage, and then finally go to its human form.

At the time that this was proposed DNA had not yet been discovered and developmental biology was still "in its infancy" (so to speak). Haeckle fabricated some data and drew incorrect conclusions. His work was later proven to be fraudulent and overturned as false by other evolutionary biologists. With this, the main embryological evidence that was claimed to support evolution at the time was disproved in the late 1800s.

Associated with Haeckel's biogenetic law as been the claim that human embryos have gills. This is false, and it was never a claim that was made by supporters of evolution, but this claim originated from opponents of evolution as a means to try and incite outrage by creating a taboo example of evolutionists "animalizing" people. Human embryos do not have gills, and the claim that they do has never been a part of the evidence for evolution. Human embryos do, however, have slits that form and are then "erased" later in development. These same slits develop into gill slits in fish.

Having said all that, there is much about embryology that does provide evidence for evolution.

One of the best examples of the use of embryology to learn about evolution, and to create cross disciplinary predictions, is the case of the development of the mammal ear. In the early 1800s it was observed that the same two bones in reptilian embryos that later develop into jaw bones instead develop into ear bones in mammals. This was documented at the time, but not fully understood. Later, after the acceptance of evolutionary theory in the later 1800s, scientists interpreted this as evidence of evolution showing that mammalian ear bones evolved from reptilian jaw bones.

Indeed, the fossil record has subsequently yielded a great many fossils showing this transition, and the development of the reptilian jaw into the mammalian ear has become one of the strongest pieces of evidence supporting the historical occurrence of evolution and common descent. The development of the mammalian ear has proven to be key in understanding the course of evolutionary history and this will be covered again under the subject of transitional forms.

Embryological development also provides other evidence for evolution, such as the common occurrence of the development and later degeneration of features, such as human "gill slits", a human tail, legs in snakes, and legs in dolphins and whales.

human embryo at 37 days

cat embryo

dolphin embryo

Here we can see that humans develop a tail, which at its maximum stage of development makes up about 10% of the length of the embryo and contains developing vertebrae, muscle tissue, and nerves. Around the eighth week of gestation the tissues in the tail begin to die off and get reabsorbed into the fetus. The same is the case for the hind limb buds of the dolphin embryo (h). The dolphin embryo develops hind limb buds that later die off and are reabsorbed into the fetus.

Vestigial Organs:

Like embryology, there are many misconceptions about vestigial organs. Vestigial organs are organs that are less developed and with a diminished utility compared to equivalent organs in related organisms. Many opponents of evolution incorrectly define vestigial organs as "completely useless" organs that have zero functionality. This definition makes it easier to claim that there are no such things as vestigial organs, because they claim either that designated vestigial organs have some use, or that it is impossible to prove that they have no use. Vestigial organs have never been defined as completely useless by evolutionists however, as demonstrated by Charles Darwin and other early evolutionists:

"An organ, serving for two purposes, may become rudimentary or utterly aborted for one, even the more important purpose, and remain perfectly efficient for the other. ... Again, an organ may become rudimentary for its proper purpose, and be used for a distinct object: in certain fish the swim-bladder seems to be rudimentary for its proper function of giving buoyancy, but has become converted into a nascent breathing organ or lung. Other similar instances could be given."
- Charles Darwin 1859

"Rudimentary organs, on the other hand, are either quite useless, such as teeth which never cut through the gums, or almost useless, such as the wings of an ostrich, which serve merely as sails."
- Charles Darwin 1872

"... for, although the latter [ostrich] does not fly, it still uses its wings as aids in running swiftly over the African plains and deserts ... Retrogression is, however, not always carried so far as to do away with a structure altogether ... But not infrequently the degenerating organ can be turned to account in some other way, and then retrogression either stops just short of actual elimination, as in the case of the wings of the ostrich, or so alters and transforms the structure as to fit it for new functions ..."
- August Weismann 1886

"Comparative morphology points not only to the essentially similar plan of organization of the bodies of all Vertebrates, ... but also to the occurrence in them of certain organs, or parts of organs, now known as 'vestigial.'

By such organs are meant those which were formerly of greater physiological significance than at present."
- Robert Wiedersheim 1893

Probably the most straight forward and simple example of organs that can be demonstrated to be vestigial are eyes with lenses that are covered by flesh in blind cave animals. Below are examples of different cave organisms that have vestigial eyes:

Mexican cave fish (b) with its surface dwelling ancestor (a)

Blind cave salamander with vestigial eye

Many different cave organisms have been observed to have semi-formed eyes that serve no purpose for vision in the dark and are often non-functional. Since there are many different caves, and the age of the populations in each of the caves is different, the degree to which these organs have degenerated is different among different cave populations. Some cave organisms have almost completely lost their eyes, while some have fully formed but non-working eyes, while some still have eyes that work, and others have eyes that are partially covered over by flesh or have other forms of degeneration.  The best examples of vestigialism are cases where the eye still develops and forms a lens, but the eye is covered over by flesh.  The lens in this case cannot serve any of its initially evolved function, if any function at all, because the purpose of a lens is to focus light to form an image, and a lens cannot focus light to form and image if the eye is covered by flesh. The reason that vestigial organs arise can be the fact that the function of the organs is no longer selected for, which allows degenerative mutations to build up unchecked, or the degeneration of the organ can be positively selected for if the energy used to produce and maintain the organ can be eliminated or put to better use in another way that contributes to greater competitiveness. Of course a combination of these factors can also be at work.

The finding of vestigial organs such as vestigial eyes in cave animals is completely in line with evolutionary theory. If all cave animals had no sign of ancestral eyes or any other ancestral organs, but instead they seemed perfectly designed for life in the dark, this would be evidence against The Theory of Biological Evolution, but that is not what we find in nature.

One criticism of the use of vestigial organs as evidence of evolution is that vestigial organs are only signs of degeneration, not the development of new novel traits. The counter to this, however, is that organisms that possess vestigial organs also possess other new novel traits. For example, many cave fish have sensory organs, such as advanced feelers, that their surface dwelling ancestors do not have, thus possessing both new traits and degenerated old traits.

Vestigial organs alone also demonstrate descent with modification, as stated by evolutionary theory.

Evolutionary theory explains the existence of cave organisms that contain both vestigial organs and novel traits that were not present in their ancestors. Cave fish that are both blind with vestigial eyes and have feelers or other sensory enhancements for sensing in the dark are explained by common descent from an ancestor that had eyes and the development of new novel traits that the ancestor did not possess.

Some other examples of vestigial organs are fully formed but unusable wings on beetles that are covered by the exoskeleton, pollen formation by dandelions (since dandelions reproduce asexually), vestigial leg bones in whales, snakes, and legless lizards, and "wisdom teeth" in humans.


Biogeography deals with the study of species distribution. Evolutionary theory states that all life is related, and that types of organisms should only be present where their ancestors were present.

The fossil record indeed confirms that types of organisms are geographically constrained and related to the locations of their ancestors. Any given life form may be able to survive and thrive in a variety of places, but we only find life forms present where they are related to other life forms. In other words, a particular species could be successful in North America, South America, Australia, Europe, Asia, and Africa, but we don't find that species in all those locations, we only find it in a location where the fossilized remains of what appears to be its ancestors exists. We shouldn't find any species where there was not some means for their ancestors to travel to those locations.

Biogeography has been used to make powerful evolutionary predictions. The best example is that of ancestral marsupial geographic distribution.

At present the only marsupials that exist live in North America and Australia, two remotely separated locations. The earliest known fossils of marsupials were from the Cretaceous period. With the understanding of continental drift scientists knew that South America, Australia, and Antarctica were all connected during the Cretaceous period. With this knowledge scientists predicted that marsupial fossils would be found in South America and Antarctica, and indeed fossil marsupials were subsequently found on those continents, but have not been found anywhere else.

One of the most famous predictions made by Charles Darwin was also based on biogeography: The location for the "origin of man". 

"We are naturally led to enquire, where was the birthplace of man at that stage of descent when our progenitors diverged from the Catarrhine stock? The fact that they belonged to this stock clearly shews that they inhabited the Old World; but not Australia nor any oceanic island, as we may infer from the laws of geographical distribution. In each great region of the world the living mammals are closely related to the extinct species of the same region. It is therefore probable that Africa was formerly inhabited by extinct apes closely allied to the gorilla and chimpanzee; and as these two species are now man's nearest allies, it is somewhat more probable that our early progenitors lived on the African continent than elsewhere."
- The Descent of Man; Darwin 1871

Indeed, all of the oldest humanoid fossils have been found in Africa, despite searches on other continents. Both modern genetics and paleontology support the "out of Africa" hypothesis. There is still on-going debate about at what point human ancestors left Africa and how much of human evolution took place outside of Africa, but the initial origin of the human lineage appears to be in Africa, where it was predicted to be by Darwin through the use of biogeographic principles.

Progression in Fossil Record:

Observed progression of fossil "complexity" in the fossil record, like comparative anatomy, was one of the major phenomena that contributed to the development of the evolutionary theory. The fact that "older" rocks do not hold "more complex" organisms had been observed for many years, but there was no satisfactory explanation for this. Fossils are created when minerals replace the organic parts of dead organisms. People understood that fossils were records of previously living organisms, and they also understood that newer rock is formed on top of older rock. In general, the deeper you dig the older the rock is. There are exceptions to this that have been caused by geologic events such as earthquakes, but these exceptions can be taken into account.

Evolutionary theory not only explains why this phenomenon occurs, but it also predicts that the progression of fossil organisms will always be observed. If, for example, we found a fossil of a human in a Paleozoic rock layer, that by itself would invalidate evolutionary theory. This principle is called the Law of Fossil Succession.

Transitional Forms in the Fossil Record:

One of the most contentious pieces of evidence for evolution is the existence of so-called "transitional forms."  Darwin himself started this controversy when he complained that there were few examples of transitional forms in the fossil record, nevertheless he predicted that "transitional forms" would be found if the theory of evolution were true.

The first problem with transitional forms comes from the concept itself. "Transitional form" implies that the transitional form is not a "species" in and of itself and that the transitional form is like a short lived bridge between "two different species". This is not the case. Evolutionary theory holds that all life is a progression of individuals, and thus, in truth, every individual that has ever existed since life began is a "transitional form". Every organism that lives today is a "transitional form".

The concept of transitional forms is still useful however. Evolutionary theory predicts that every living thing today has traits that are derived from ancestors, and thus it should be theoretically possible to find examples of the development of these traits in the fossil record.

Indeed, many transitional forms have been found in the fossil record since the publication of The Origin of Species; in fact, the abundance of documented "transitional forms" is staggering and well beyond what Darwin predicted scientists would be able to find. Transitional forms have been found showing the development of amphibians from fish, of birds from dinosaurs, of mammals from early tetrapods, of humans from a common ape ancestor, and of much more.

There are still several inherent problems with trying to find so-called transitional forms in the fossil record. The biggest problem is that it's impossible to verify whether or not a specimen represents an ancestor to present day life or to any other life form without DNA. The majority of life forms in the fossil record are probably not ancestors of modern life forms, they are organisms in lineages that went extinct, but they are nevertheless members of populations and can tell us about the types and combinations of features that did exist and were likely to exist among ancestors of modern organisms. The second problem is that the fossil record is sparse by nature because an extremely small number of the things that ever lived became fossilized, so we do not have a complete fossil record, and we never will. By nature, we have to work with a very limited set of data when working with fossils.

Before going further, however, it is important to understand that evolutionary theory predicted that many fossils would be found that do not resemble any living organisms, but that contain features of both extinct organisms and organisms that are alive today. Indeed many such fossils have been found.

Recent discoveries have shed light on the evolution of land dwelling organisms from fish. The transition from aquatic fish to land dwelling tetrapods with legs has been difficult to discern, but since the 1970s there have been many fossil finds that have shed light on this transition. Just recently, on April 4th, 2006, a new find was announced that fills in more information about the transition of aquatic fish to land vertebrates.

Four legged vertebrates are known as tetrapods. Tetrapods are said to have evolved from fish, but the fish that tetrapods evolved from were very different from most fish that live today. The vast majority of boney fish that live today are "ray-finned fish", fish with delicate rayed fins and a delicate skeletal structure. The fish that tetrapods evolved from, however, were "lobe-finned fish". These fish had thick heavy bones and thick boney fins. This distinction is critical for biologists because there are several fish today that locomote on land, such as mud-skippers and walking catfish, but these fish are not representatives of tetrapod ancestors because they are ray-finned fish, and they do not have the key structures that developed into tetrapod features, such as lungs, wrists, fingers, etc.

The diagram below shows the evolutionary development of finned fish from early vertebrates, and of tetrapods from lobe-finned fish. 

The above diagram shows the latest understanding of appendage evolution based on both fossil and genetic data. Appendages are now understood to have evolved from duplications of the genome and subsequent refining of the duplicated segments of the DNA through natural selection. Early fish appendages resemble the structures of tails, and the genetic evidence shows that appendages evolved from duplications of the genes that coded for tails.

From these early fins evolved the limbs that we now see on land animals.

Early hypotheses about how legs evolved were based on the idea that fish similar to the mud-skipper emerged onto land and struggled about with only a minor ability to walk. Newer evidence, however, shows that legs and the ability to walk developed among purely aquatic fish, who evolved the ability to walk before coming out onto land. The first land dwelling vertebrates would have already been able to walk when they came onto the land.

The diagram below shows two early tetrapods that exhibit a mix of both fish traits and the traits of land animals. They represent transitional forms that show the development of legs.

a. Ichthyostega c. Acanthostega

Ichthyostega was an early land dwelling tetrapod whose lineage is believed to have gone extinct. Acanthostega, on the other hand, is believed to be an ancestor to modern land animals. Acanthostega lived in the water, but was able to breath air and use its limbs for walking under the water. Acanthostega are believed to have lived in shallow water that had low oxygen content, which is why their ability to poke their head above water and breath air would have been selected for.


The recent discovery of Tiktaalik roseae fills a gap between earlier aquatic fish and limbed tetrapods. It is unclear whether Tiktaalik roseae spent much time on land, if any, but the specimen clearly possesses structures that that are transitional between fish and tetrapods.

reconstruction of Tiktaalik roseae with cast of fossil

The diagram above lists some of the major transitional specimens that bridge the gap between fish and tetrapods and shows how Tiktaalik roseae fits into the previous gap that existed between finned fish and the earliest limbed tetrapods. This diagram is not a phylogenic diagram and is not meant to indicate that these specimens are linearly related.

Tiktaalik roseae has fin rays, but also has bones that form a wrist, arm, and precursors to digits.

The features of Tiktaalik roseae that are "fish-like" are its gills, scales, fin rays, and jaw. Features of Tiktaalik roseae that are tetrapod-like are its wrist, elbow, neck, head, and ribs.

The lack of gill plates if very significant, because all fish have gill plates, which prevents them from being able to move their head from side to side independently of the body. The loss of the gill plates is a significant step in tetrapod evolution, and this is the earliest specimen that shows the loss of the gill plates. While showing the loss of the gill plates, Tiktaalik roseae also retains fin rays, demonstrating clearly that it is a transitional form between fish and tetrapods.

For more on Tiktaalik roseae see:




For more on Acanthostega see:



There are only a few remaining lobe-finned fish today, but they offer valuable insight into the evolution of land animals. The lungfish is now considered the fish that is most closely related to land dwelling tetrapods. Lungfish live in shallow, oxygen poor, environments, and they can breath air. Lungfish possess "transitional forms" between aquatic fish and tetrapods, but it is important to note that tetrapods are not descended from lungfish, just like modern humans are not descended from chimpanzees. Lungfish demonstrate how the development of lungs and the ability to breath air evolved while fish still lived in the water, confirming the conclusions drawn from the fossil evidence.

Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri)

Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri)

For more information on lungfish see:


There is further evidence to support the development of walking among fish prior to the emergence of tetrapods onto land. There are several species of ray-finned fish, mostly from the order Lophiiformes, that also demonstrate the ability to walk under the water. These fish have "legs" that are obviously composed to ray-fin elements. These fish are not ancestors of tetrapods, instead they demonstrate convergent evolution. The development of legs in these fish independently evolved after the split between lobe-finned fish and ray-finned fish.

Roughback Batfish (Ogcocephalus parvus)

Handfish with eggs (Brachionichthys hirsutus)

Handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus)

click the image above for video

Lophiiforme fishes demonstrate that walking limbs can indeed be selected for among purely aquatic fishes. It is also easy to see among the Lophiiformes that their legs and feet have developed from fins.

You can view more videos of handfish here: Spotted Handfish Movies

For more information on the evolution of land animals from fish see: Recent Findings: Fishes With Legs

Probably the most exciting transitional forms are those linking birds and dinosaurs. The fossils of Archaeopteryx are the most famous of the transitional fossils. The Archaeopteryx fossils are historically significant as well, because the first Archaeopteryx fossil was found in 1861, just 2 years after the publication of Darwin's The Origin of Species, and it was seen as a profound validation of evolution that had shocking effects on society. Many who were skeptical of evolution became convinced of its truth when the Archaeopteryx fossil was found.

The Archaeopteryx fossils are not the only examples of fossils that exhibit transitional forms from dinosaurs to birds. Some of the most well known fossils that display transitional bird characteristics include:

  • Archaeopteryx - (fossils from ~150 million years ago): Had asymmetrical feathers, meaning that they could probably sustain flight.
  • Sinosauropteryx - (fossils from ~135-121 million years ago): Covered with proto-feathers and with short arms. Is probably not an ancestor of modern birds, but demonstrates the development of early feather-like structures among other dinosaurs.
  • Protarchaeopteryx - (fossils from ~135-121 million years ago): Long, symmetrical feathers on arms and tail, but it probably could not fly. Evidence of non-flight utility of feathers, indication of so-called "transitional" function.
  • Caudipteryx - (fossils from ~135-121 million years ago): A small, very fast runner covered with primitive (symmetrical and therefore flightless) feathers. Evidence of non-flight utility of feathers, indication of so-called "transitional" function.
  • Hesperornis - (fossils from ~120-65 million years ago): A large flightless seabird showing structural similarity to modern flightless birds, but having a toothed jaw and dinosaur-like skull
  • Ichthyornis - (fossils from ~99-65 million years ago): Early flying seabird that had a heavy toothed jaw.


Comparison of Archaeopteryx to dinosaur and chicken.

Caudipteryx showing tail and wing feathers

Sinosauropteryx showing downy-like proto-feathers

Ichthyornis with breast bone and teeth

Hesperornis showing small teeth

It is possible that none of these specimens represent direct ancestors to modern organisms, but what they do provide is evidence showing the combination of bird features and dinosaur features, exactly what The Theory of Biological Evolution predicts that we should find in the fossil record. In fact, organisms like Sinosauropteryx are significant precisely because Sinosauropteryx is thought not to be an ancestor of modern birds, but Sinosauropteryx shows that feathers and feather like structures existed on a broad spectrum of dinosaurs, making it all the more likely that birds evolved from dinosaurs.

For more information on prehistoric birds see:



Recent studies lend cross disciplinary support to the proposition that birds evolved from a dinosaur or reptilian ancestor by showing that birds possess dormant genes for the production of teeth.

Another major example of transitional fossils are the fossils showing transitional forms that "bridge the gap" between reptiles and mammals. The key evidence used to support the evolution of mammals from reptiles are fossil sequences that demonstrate how bones from the reptilian jaw could have developed into the bones of the mammalian ear. This fossil sequence is further supported by the embryological evidence showing that the same structures that develop into parts of the lower jaw in reptile embryos develop into the bones of the ear in mammals.

Sequence outlining reptile to mammal transitional fossils

The sequence above outlines fossil evidence that shows a likely transitional pathway for the lower jaw of reptile bones to the ear bones of mammals. There are actually many different transitional forms and structures in the fossil record that establish pathways between ancient reptiles and mammals, but the jaw and ear bones provide an excellent example because #1 jaw and ear bones are commonly preserved, #2 this example incorporates many different disciplines such as embryology and present day comparative anatomy, and #3 the transition provides an answer to a complex question: "how did the mammalian ear form?"

What we also know is that modern day reptiles hear low frequencies using their lower jaw, which is comprised of three bones. Vibrations from the lower jaw are transmitted to the single "ear bone" of the reptiles, the stapes, which transmits the vibrations to the inner ear. Mammals, however, have three ear bones and a single jaw bone. The transitional sequences based on the fossil record shown above provide an explanation for how bones from the reptilian jaw could have evolved into the mammalian ear.

Of particular concern to many, however, are fossils showing transitional forms between man and a common ape ancestor. Ever since Darwin predicted the discovery of ancestral human fossils that would show the transition of man from an ape-like ancestor to modern form, scientists, as well as hobbyists and fame seekers, have combed the planet, especially Africa, Europe, and Asia, looking for fossils that might be the remains of our evolutionary ancestors. As predicted, thousands of such specimens have been found, several of which are high quality specimens.

Below is a series of skulls believed to be from the recent human family tree. Not all of the skulls are believed to be direct ancestors of modern humans. The first skull is actually that of a modern chimpanzee. The exact classifications of the skulls are listed below. Those in bold are thought to be direct ancestors of modern humans.

(A) Pan troglodytes, chimpanzee, modern
(B) Australopithecus africanus, 2.6 MYA
(C) Australopithecus africanus, 2.5 MYA

(D) Homo habilis,1.9 MYA
(E) Homo habilis, 1.8 MYA
(F) Homo rudolfensis, 1.8 MYA
(G) Homo erectus, 1.75 MYA
(H) Homo ergaster 1.75 MYA
(I) Homo heidelbergensis, 300,000 - 125,000 YA

(J) Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, 70,000 YA
(K) Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, 60,000 YA
(L) Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, 45,000 YA
(M) Homo sapiens sapiens, Cro-Magnon 30,000 YA
(N) Homo sapiens sapiens, modern

Below is a phylogenic tree showing relatively recent human evolution based on currently known fossil and genetic evidence.

For further reference the skulls of several modern primates are compared to modern human below.

Clearly, the skulls of modern primates are more significantly different from the skulls of modern humans than fossil skulls of potential human ancestors.

The image below contains some of the best skull examples of believed direct human ancestors. Click on the image to see a larger version that includes the skull of a modern chimpanzee (believed to be our closest "living relative") for reference. What you will see is that these presumed "transitional forms" are significantly different from that of the chimpanzee and are all much closer in form to modern humans than the skulls of any living organisms today, yet they are distinctly not the same as modern human either, which is exactly what evolutionary theory predicts.

All of the hominid fossil skulls above clearly show transitional forms between an old extinct common ape ancestor and modern humans, and these skulls represent only a small fraction of the fossil evidence. There is not only more fossil skull evidence, but there is also a lot of other skeletal evidence showing transitional forms for the spine, pelvis, hand, foot, etc.

Equally important to the understanding of human evolution are artifacts left behind by human ancestors of the past. By looking at a combination of the fossil evidence and archeological evidence we can draw conclusions about how mentally, culturally, and technologically sophisticated human ancestors were.

What is perhaps most important about ancient tools, however, is that tools and cultural practices have been found in association with hominid species that scientists believe have gone extinct and are not direct ancestors of humans, such as Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis.

Tools and culture of early hominids:

  • 2.5 - 2.6 MYA - Oldest known tools comprised of chipped rocks. Makers of tools unknown. Location: Africa
  • 2-1.5 MYA- Bone tools used for digging. Tools found with Australopithecus robustus. Location: Africa
  • 1.7 MYA - Olduwan stone tools found among the remains of "Homo" habilis. Location: Africa
  • 1.5 MYA - Stone hand axes used. Tools found with Homo erectus. Location: Africa
  • 1.5 MYA - Possible first known use of fire by either Australopithecus robustus or Homo erectus. Location: Africa
  • 1.36 MYA - Oldest known stone tools used in China. Believed to have been made by Homo erectus. Location: China
  • 300,000-500,000 YA - First definitive evidence of controlled use of fire. Location: Europe, Asia
  • 225,000 YA - Oldest evidence of burial behavior. Fifteen Neanderthals found "buried" together in cave. Location: England
  • 200,000 YA - Possible mass grave of 32 individuals of species Homo heidelbergensis. Location: Spain
  • 125,000 YA - Evidence of widespread use of controlled fire. Location: Africa
  • 70,000 YA - Oldest known example of art. Location: Africa
  • 70,000 YA - Oldest personal grave, belonging to Homo neanderthalensis. Location: Europe
  • 40,000 YA - Oldest "ritual" burial of Homo Sapiens , "Mugno Man". Location: Australia

While this is only a small sampling of the pertinent data relating to cultural and technological development, what is clear is that sophisticated tools were created, fire was used, and burial was practiced before Homo sapiens even existed. Finds of fossil hominid bones and tools together confirm that hominid species that likely went extinct long before Homo sapiens existed were already making and using tools. Regardless of any dating questions, fossil bones that do not match the form of modern humans have been found with tools, with use of fire, and in burials, proving that regardless of any dating questions "non-humans" did these things.

The archeological evidence and fossil evidence both support The Theory of Biological Evolution in relation to the development of humans. The evidence clearly shows that non-human organisms had sophisticated stone tools and that the practices that we associate with "being human" also evolved over time. There are still "gaps" in our knowledge of the exact process by which humans evolved, and gaps in our knowledge of our exact ancestors, but there is not any evidence that contradicts the premise that humans evolved by the same processes that other animals evolved. That humans have evolved over time is now beyond question among the scientific community based on the evidence, but there is still much to be learned about the specifics of how humans evolved.

Extinction Recorded in Fossil Record:

Another one of the major observations that contributed to early evolutionary theory was the observation of life forms in the fossil record that bore no resemblance to any living things. Darwin paid special attention the role of extinction in The Origin of Species. One of the major reasons that so much attention was paid to extinction in the development of evolutionary theory is that creationists claimed that extinction was contrary to the Bible. The creationist view was based on the belief that the world and all life has been basically the same since the creation of the universe by God. They claimed that the creation was perfect so it would not make sense for species to go extinct, because that would mean that God's creation was not perfect. As evidence of extinctions became more prevalent, however, the explanations for extinction were adjusted by creationists. Creationists then explained fossils of organisms that no longer exist as evidence of the Great Flood.

There are two different classifications of extinctions: Total extinction, where the genetic lineage of a "species" goes extinct, and pseudo extinction, where a "species" evolves into another "species" and the parent "species" no longer exists. The genetic lineage continues in the case of pseudo extinction. Today scientists estimate that 99.9% of all "species" that have ever existed are now extinct.

Evolutionary theory predicts that we should expect there to be many extinctions, because life is constantly changing and there is a constant struggle for survival. Furthermore, the naturalistic view of life recognizes that life is what it is and survives if it can. The naturalistic view does not hold that there is any special purpose or design to life and recognizes that there is no such things as "perfection" in nature. If nature was "perfect" then of course one would not expect there to be extinctions. Creationists argued that it was impossible for any species to go extinct well into the 20th century, which is one of the major reasons that Christian fundamentalists have traditionally been opponents to environmentalism, dating back to the 1800s. Fundamentalists argued that God would not allow species to go extinct, and that man was not capable of destroying God's creation, so to worry about such things was absurd. The evidence, of course, has been overwhelmingly to the contrary.

Evidence that Evolution is Occurring:

While the historical evidence strongly suggests that evolution has occurred, The Theory of Biological Evolution cannot be supported by the historical evidence alone. Indeed the most critical support for The Theory of Biological Evolution is the evidence that shows evolution is occurring, and the demonstration of how evolution occurs.

Evidence that evolution is occurring can be classified as follows:

  • Observation of heritable genetic change
  • Observation of the development of novel traits
  • Observation of changes in gene frequency in populations
  • Observation of "speciation"

Observation of heritable genetic change:

Gregor Mendel, an Austrian Monk, is considered the first person to have demonstrated inheritance. Mendel's work on inheritance was published in 1866, but was essentially unknown. His work was later rediscovered in 1900 and, after some dispute, became the basis of the modern evolutionary synthesis. Mendel's work, however, and the demonstration of general inheritance, did not demonstrate heritable genetic change because it was not demonstrated that novel traits arose. Mendel's works showed how inheritance worked, but it did not show that "new traits" could arise and be inherited.

In 1910 -1911 Thomas Hunt Morgan demonstrated the creation of genetic change and the inheritance of genetic change. Morgan conducted research using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. He bombarded the population with X-rays and looked for novel traits. Eventually he discovered a "white eye" mutation out of a population of flies that all had red eyes, and had all had red eyes for many generations. After many generations a fly with white eyes emerged, demonstrating the development of novel traits.

The mutation had occurred in a male fly. Morgan carefully bred the white eyed fly with a red eyed fly and found that none of the flies in the second generation had white eyes. He then cross bread the second generation flies and found that some of the males had white eyes, demonstrating both the inheritance of genetic changes and the phenomenon of sex linked inheritance. This led Morgan to conclude that genes were located on specific chromosomes. By this time chromosomes had been discovered, though the structure of DNA itself was not yet known.

This experiment showed that new traits could arise in a population and that those traits could be passed on to decedents, exactly what evolutionary theory predicted.

This still did not give a full picture of genetic change however. In order to really understand genetic change one needs to know what "genes" are and how they are passed on. This information came with the discovery of the structure of DNA.

It was not actually established that DNA is the carrier of genetic information until 1943. Oswald Theodore Avery conducted experiments with bacteria that isolated DNA as the "transforming principle" that carried traits. DNA was discovered in the mid 1800s, but no one knew what it was. Once the actual genetic material was discovered by Avery, then work began on trying to figure out the exact structure of the material and how it worked to transfer traits.

At this time the concept of DNA as a carrier of "information", that could be read like a script, had not yet been conceived. People knew that the DNA molecule was what caused characteristics to appear, but how it did this people had no idea.

In 1948 it was determined that DNA had some type of helix structure by using X-ray diffraction, but the exact structure could not be determined.

By the early 1950s there was an extensive race among scientists to discover the structure of DNA. In 1953, based on a variety of other experimental data, James Watson and Francis Crick of England published their proposal for the structure of DNA in the journal Nature, along with separate publications in the same journal by Rosaland Franklin and Maurice Wilkins, whose work was instrumental to Watson and Crick.

First sketch of proposed DNA structure by Francis Crick

Structure of DNA

Once the structure of DNA was confirmed the root mechanism of evolution became apparent. Indeed, once the structure and function of the DNA molecule was recognized it became obvious that it was impossible for evolution not to occur. It was only once the structure of DNA was determined that people fully recognized what it was and how it worked. Shortly prior to the determination of the structure of DNA people knew that it contained "genetic material", they knew that it had something to do with the traits expressed in an organism, but they didn't realize that this one molecule was a complete set of instructions for creating a life form. They also did not understand how the genetic material could both be faithfully be copied, while also allowing for the introduction of changes.

Showing how DNA is copied

Once the structure was known it became obvious how DNA was copied, and it was easy to surmise, in general terms, how changes to the code could naturally occur. Since that time many studies have shown in great detail exactly how DNA is copied and exactly how changes naturally arise in DNA. The structure and function of DNA is the single most important discovery to support The Theory of Biological Evolution.

DNA is what makes sense of the entire theory; it is the central piece of evidence that explains how evolution happens. Knowing what we now know about DNA, we know that it is impossible for evolution not to happen. The structure and function of DNA makes evolution, change over time, inevitable.

Observation of the development of novel traits:

Novel traits are any characteristics that have not been present in a lineage of individuals in the past. Novel traits are the result of mutations to the DNA that affect characteristics of the individual. The development of novel traits has been observed many times in the lab, by animal and plant breeders, and, more difficultly, in the wild. Of course it is more difficult to determine if a trait is new in the wild, but cave populations provide excellent specimens for studying the development of novel traits in wild populations due to the relative ease of proving common descent and showing that certain features have developed after the separation of a group from an original population.

As for domesticated organisms, breeders have been able to identify and isolate many different novel traits in plants and animals. The identification and isolation of novel traits is an essential part of domestic breeding. Some examples of novel traits that have been isolated in domestic pigeons, known as "fancy pigeons", are shown below. These birds have been specifically selected by breeders for their "radical" physical characteristics.

All of the pigeons shown above are from breeds of pigeons that are decedents of the common pigeon, known to pigeon breeders as the "wild type" ancestor, shown below:

Breeders of all types of organisms, from plants to fish to birds to dogs etc. are continuously identifying new traits that arise in their breeding populations, demonstrating the present occurrence of the development of novel traits.

Observation of changes in gene frequency in wild populations:

Evolution is fundamentally understood to be a change in gene frequencies of populations over time. Therefore, showing that changes in gene frequencies of populations can currently be observed is an important element of verifying evolutionary theory and showing that evolution is occurring.

"The major tenets of the evolutionary synthesis, then, were that populations contain genetic variation that arises by random (ie. not adaptively directed) mutation and recombination; that populations evolve by changes in gene frequency brought about by random genetic drift, gene flow, and especially natural selection; that most adaptive genetic variants have individually slight phenotypic effects so that phenotypic changes are gradual (although some alleles with discrete effects may be advantageous, as in certain color polymorphisms); that diversification comes about by speciation, which normally entails the gradual evolution of reproductive isolation among populations; and that these processes, continued for sufficiently long, give rise to changes of such great magnitude as to warrant the designation of higher taxonomic levels (genera, families, and so forth)."
- Futuyma, D.J. in Evolutionary Biology, Sinauer Associates, 1986; p.12

"In fact, evolution can be precisely defined as any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next."
- Helena Curtis and N. Sue Barnes, Biology, 5th ed. 1989 Worth Publishers, p.974

Changes in gene frequencies among domestically bred populations are obviously easy to observe and document. Any time a breeder selects for a specific trait among a population they are changing the gene frequencies of the population. If a dog breeder has a population of dogs with brown eyes, and then a blue eye mutant emerges and they select for the blue eye trait so that they develop a breed of all blue eyed dogs, this is an example of changing gene frequencies in a population.

An example of an experiment that verified a change in gene frequency over time through natural selection in a controlled environment was performed by Bruce Wallace in 1963 showing that the frequency of a detrimental allele declined in a population of fruit flies at predicted rates. Many other such experiments have been performed.

Monitoring gene frequencies is most accurately performed by taking genetic samples from random sets of individuals in a population over a period of time and recording the rate of occurrence of alleles among the individuals in the set. A change of gene frequency in the population is detected when the rate of occurrence of alleles is significantly different from one period of time to the next.

Monitoring of gene frequencies is a common practice in ecology and various other population sciences. That gene frequencies change in wild populations has been observed and verified by thousands of independent studies.

Observation of "speciation":

The issue of speciation is very contentious, as I will explain in the next section, however, according to the standard accepted biological definitions of "species" and "speciation", a number of speciation events have been observed, both in the wild and in captivity. The biological definition of a species is a population of breeding or potentially breeding individuals.

I am simply going to address some of the reported instances of "speciation" here, and I will address the details of so-called "speciation" in the next section.

Speciation by Polyploidy and/or Hybridization:

Sexually reproducing organisms generally have a set of two for every chromosome, one that came from the mother and another that came from the father. This makes most sexually reproduced organisms "diploid",  meaning that they have two copies of each chromosome. It is possible, however, for organisms to have more than two copies of a chromosome, and these cases are called "polyploidy", meaning that organisms have "many" copies of each chromosome.

The polyploid condition can arise instantly during the formation of gametes (sperm or egg) and through a variety of other ways, including hybridization (pairing of two different species).

When a ployploid organism is produced, it is generally unable to reproduce with any other organisms of its kind unless they also have the same number of chromosomes. Polyploids with an odd number of chromosomes, such as 3 or 5, etc. are not able to reproduce under any circumstance.

The condition of polyploidy arises relatively commonly in plants. This is for a variety of reasons, including how plants make gametes, and the volume of gametes that plants produce, as well as the frequency of hybridization. It is estimated about between 20% and 30% of all plant species are polyploids. Polyploids also exist among animals, but they are much more rare.

What makes polyploidy significant for plants is that many plants can self-fertilize, so even when a spontaneous occurrence like this happens and there are no other polyploids around, the plant can at least "mate with itself". Also, due to the relatively high occurrence of polyploidy in plants, there are cases when multiple independent occurrences of polyploidy happen so that a plant can "find a mate". In the case of trees that lives for hundreds or thousands of years, if a polyploid is created and there are no other ployploid mates for the tree immediately, as long as another polyploid is crated in the region from the same original species some time over the next hundreds or thousands of years the two can potentially "mate". This makes the chances for polyploids "finding" mates pretty high.

Since the polyploids are only able to breed with plants that have the same chromosome count, each time a polyploid plant is created with a new chromosome count that did not previously exist among its parent species, a new species is formed, because the new plant can no longer mate with any of the other plants of its kind, aside from other polyploids with the same chromosome count. This new polyploid now goes down its own independent "road of evolution". The genetic changes in the new polyploid lineage will accumulate distinctly from the genetic changes in the parent lineage, leading to further and further divergence over time.

Polyploidy has also been observed to occur among plant hybrids, both in the wild and under human control. In this case, two different species of plants are crossed with each other and none of the diploid offspring are able to reproduce, but some of the polyploids are capable of reproduction among themselves. This results in the creation of a new species from a hybrid. None of the polyploids are able to reproduce with plants from either of the ancestral species, but they can reproduce with each other.

Speciation by polyploidy has been recoded among plants many times, some examples are listed below:

In 1928, the Russian plant geneticist Karpechenko produced a new species by crossing a cabbage with a radish. Although belonging to different genera (Brassica and Raphanus respectively), both parents have a diploid number of 18. Fusion of their respective gametes (n=9) produced mostly infertile hybrids.

However, a few fertile plants were formed, probably by the spontaneous doubling of the chromosome number in somatic cells that went on to form gametes (by meiosis). Thus these contained 18 chromosomes — a complete set of both cabbage (n=9) and radish (n=9) chromosomes.

Fusion of these gametes produced vigorous, fully-fertile, polyploid plants with 36 chromosomes. (Unfortunately, they had the roots of the cabbage and the leaves of the radish.)

These plants could breed with each other but not with either the cabbage or radish ancestors, so Karpechenko had produced a new species.

Source: Polyploidy and Speciation

Cover of Science magazine that contained published articles on the Karpechenko species

There are hundreds of other human induced hybridization examples like the one above. An example of the natural occurrence of this same type of speciation by hybridization has been observed among wildflowers that were introduced to the United States from Europe. Three species of wildflowers called goatsbeards, from the genus Tragopogon, were introduced to America about 150 years ago in different locations. Two of the species are Tragopogon dubios and Tragopogon porrifolius, shown below:

Tragopogon dubios

Tragopogon porrifolius

Over time the range of the different species expanded and the different species came into contact with one another. These different species regularly crossed with each other to produce sterile hybrids, however, within the past 60 years a different polyploid hybrid of these two species has been observed that is capable of reproducing among itself. This hybrid is not capable of breeding with either of its ancestral species, and can only reproduce among its own kind. This plant has been classified as a new species, Tragopogon mirus, with a common name of remarkable goatsbeard.

Tragopogon mirus

Tragopogon mirus is recognized by the US Department of Agriculture. The US Department of Agriculture lists the information on this species as follows:

Genus: Tragopogon
Family: Asteraceae (alt. Compositae).
Nomen number: 100555
Place of publication: Amer. J. Bot. 37:497. 1950
Comment: an amphidiploid of origin T. dubius × T. porrifolius
Name verified on: 17-Nov-1993 by Systematic Botany Laboratory. Last updated: 25-Jan-2002
Species priority site is: Western Regional PI Station (W6).
Accessions: 3 in National Plant Germplasm System.

More information on Tragopogon mirus can be found on the US Department of Agriculture website: Plant Profile for Tragopogon mirus (remarkable goatsbeard) | USDA PLANTS

There are actually many examples of naturally occurring reproductive plant hybrid species, Tragopogon mirus just provides an example of a reproductive hybrid species that we know has recently developed in the wild.

Although polyploidy is rare among animals, it has been observed. Several species of polyploid insects, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and birds have been observed, and recently a polyploid species of rat was discovered as well, being the first known example of a polyploid mammal. Every case of polyploidy presumably results in "instant speciation" by virtue of the fact that the polyploid organisms are not capable of mating with their "parent species".

Recently a diploid hybrid cross between two species of fly was discovered that is believed to have developed within the past 250 years. Rhagoletis Lonicera was discovered to be a new hybrid species in 2004. Genetic tests show that the Lonicera fly is a hybrid cross of  Rhagoletis zephyria (snowberry maggot) and Rhagoletis mendax (blueberry maggot). Lonicera fly is believed to be a recently developed hybrid species in part because its host plant is a recently introduced invasive species from Asia. The study on Lonicera fly was first published in the journal Nature in 2005.

More on Lonicera fly can be read here: Evolution Revolution: Two Species Become One, Study Says

The original university paper on Lonicera fly can be read here: http://www.ento.psu.edu/mcpheronlab/schwarz/schwarz_complete_thesis.pdf

Rhagoletis Lonicera

Controlled Speciation without Polyploidy (Standard forms of sexual speciation):

Erneso Paterniani conducted a 5 year speciation experiment using maize, the results of which he published in 1969. Paterniani was able to reduce the intercrossing of two varieties of maize from 46.7% to 3.4%. He achieved this by planting two different varieties of corn side by side in a field and then replanting only the non-crossed seeds for each generation. In other words, he never planted the seeds that were the product of crosses between the two different varieties. Doing this for only five years he was able to almost completely eliminate interbreeding even though the two different types of corn were planted right next to each other. The experiment was not continued past the 5th year, but it clearly demonstrated the ability for barriers to breeding to develop among populations.

There are several examples of speciation events among laboratory fruit flies (Drosophila). This is because Drosophila is commonly used for genetic study and has been used in the laboratory for almost 100 years. In order to put "speciation events" in perspective, however, it has to be noted that the closest known relative to Drosophila  melanogaster is Drosophila  simulans, which looks very similar and  is believed by scientists to have diverged from Drosophila  melanogaster about 2 to 5 million years ago. These two different species are still able to produce sterile hybrids in the lab, thus demonstrating the difficulty of "creating distinct species" over short periods of time. If two species of Drosophila look fairly similar and can produce sterile offspring, and these are believed to be divergent by 2+ million years, the challenge of producing two distinct species from one population in a lab in the matter of tens of years is obvious. Indeed Drosophila  melanogaster is capable of producing hybrids with species that it is believed to be separated from by as much as 20 million years.

In addition, while Drosophila  melanogaster is a great specimen for genetic studies, it is a poor specimen for speciation research, because the qualities that make Drosophila  melanogaster good for genetic study are the same qualities that reduce the likelihood of speciation events within the species. The reason that Drosophila  melanogaster is useful for genetic study is that it has a very simple genome. The fly only has 4 pairs of chromosomes, compared to 24 in humans, and it has a very "compact" genome without much "junk DNA". Organisms with very short lifespans that that have high reproduction rates and intense reproductive competition tend to have very "efficient" reproductive systems. Evolutionary theory explains this by stating that the size of the genome is actually a trait that is selected for by natural selection in these cases, causing such organisms to have genomes without much "excess" DNA. This quality is what makes Drosophila  melanogaster a good subject for genetic study, but by the same token it reduces the amount of genetic material that is likely to undergo "successful" mutations, because there is not much excess DNA in Drosophila  melanogaster and the DNA that is there is very "finely tuned". Likewise, the small number of chromosomes reduces the likelihood of the development of chromosomal breeding barriers. So, basically, fruit fly populations are not very susceptible to genetic change - we expect fruit flies to maintain their genetic integrity fairly well.

Organisms with large genomes are actually much better suited to speciation experiments than Drosophila  melanogaster, but despite all of this, the fact that Drosophila  melanogaster is the primary organism for genetic study means that it has had the most study in the lab and has often been used for speciation experiments.

A variety of different speciation experiments have been performed with Drosophila  melanogaster. These experiments have typically not been designed to test if  speciation can occur, but rather these have typically been experiments to test different ways that speciation might occur. Speciation among Drosophila has been determined by the inability to produce fertile offspring with a parent population, while having the ability to produce fertile offspring among the peer population, and/or "assortative mating" behavior, meaning that individuals choose to mate with only their "own kind". Both accidental speciation and intentionally caused speciation has been observed with Drosophila in the lab.

There have been at least eight reported cases of laboratory speciation of Drosophila that have had papers published about them.

The most well documented example of the creation of new species in the laboratory was performed by W.R. Rice and G.W. Salt in the 1980s. Fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster, were bred using a maze with three different choices such as light/dark and wet/dry. Each generation was placed into the maze, and the groups of flies which came out of two of the eight exits were set apart to breed with each other in their respective groups. After 35 generations the two groups and their offspring would not breed with each other even when doing so was their only opportunity to reproduce. This experiment was published in The American Naturalist in 1988; "Speciation via disruptive selection on habitat preference: experimental evidence".

Wild Speciation without Polyploidy (Standard forms of sexual speciation):

As difficult as it is to observe speciation events in laboratory conditions, it's even more difficult to directly observe "speciation" in the wild.  There are advantages to looking for speciation in the wild however. The conditions for speciation are, somewhat obviously, more prevalent in the wild, where there are large diverse populations. One problem with many lab speciation experiments is that the populations being used in the experiments are small populations of genetically similar individuals.

In the wild the populations are much larger and there is much more variability, both genetically and often environmentally as well. Several different "speciation" studies on wild populations have been published recently, and these studies are still on-going.

Anolis lizards are one subject of major speciation studies. Study of Anolis lizards have used both field experiments as well as genetic and morphological studies of existing Anolis populations in the Caribbean.

There are about 138 recognized species of Anolis lizards among the islands of the Caribbean. Phylogenic studies indicate that these 138 species have developed relatively recently from as few as two colonizing species from the mainland that initially colonized the islands less than 20 million years ago. The diversity of Anolis lizards in the Caribbean is concluded to be a result of relatively recent speciation from an initially small variety of species; 2-4 species have become 138 species.

Map showing number of Anolis species per island

Anolis luteogularis, Cuba

Anolis cristatellus, Puerto Rico

Anolis angusticeps, Bahamas/Cuba

Anolis bahorucoensis, Hispaniola

Anolis allisoni, Cuba

Anolis distichus, Hispaniola

In 1977 an experiment was begun to study extinctions using small populations of Anolis lizards  that were introduced onto small islands in the Bahamas that had no native lizard populations. The introduced lizards were from a common population. Contrary to the intent of the experiment, the populations of lizards did not die out. Instead they survived and have since become the subjects of adaptive evolution and speciation studies.

Anolis sagrei

Comparative studies of these lizard populations began being published in 2001. The studies found significant morphological, behavioral, and genetic divergence among the populations and from the ancestral population. The differences were observed to be adaptive, and they followed patterns of adaptive differentiation, though to a lesser degree, found among other species of Anolis lizards in the Caribbean.

Studies of these populations are still on going. These studies include research to make associations between the morphological changes and genetic changes, as well as speciation studies. The populations are now being closely monitored and are important for studies of adaptive evolution and speciation.

Evolutionary Diversification of Caribbean Anolis Lizards

Molecular Phylogenic  Perspective on Evolution of Lizards of the Anolis grahami Series

Experimental studies of adaptive differentiation in Bahamian Anolis lizards

Adaptive differentiation following experimental island colonization in Anolis lizards

Contingency and Determinism in Replicated Adaptive Radiations of Island Lizards

Todd Jackman's Anole Page

Two major examples of observed "speciation in action" in the wild are well known examples of "ring species". One of these ring species is a salamander (Ensatina eschscholtzii) from California, the other is a song bird (Phylloscopus trochiloides) from central Asia. There are 23 reported ring species that are being studied, these two are just the most well known examples.

A "ring species" is a "ring" of populations which contains subgroups that can and do interbreed as well as subgroups than cannot and/or do not interbreed, but the non-breeding subgroups do and/or can interbreed back to a common subgroup. The illustrations below provide a simpler visualization of this phenomenon.

Ensatina eschscholtzii picta

Ensatina eschscholtzii eschscholtzi

Ensatina eschscholtzii klauberi

The salamander ring species from California, Ensatina eschscholtzii, has been extensively studied and shows several different examples of speciation in action among different subgroups. The origin of this population is believed to be in northern California, from where it has migrated both north into Oregon and south into Southern California. Populations of the species have become isolated and subsequently re-contacted each other several times at various points.

Historical biogeographic interpretation for the Ensatina complex. Five zones of secondary interaction are shown. 1, Interaction of klauberi and eschscholtzii. 2, Complex interaction between northern and southern platensis and of these interactors with xanthoptica in the central Sierra Nevada. 3, Interaction of oregonensis and northern platensis in the Lassen Peak area. 4, North Bay interaction of oregonensis and xanthoptica. 5, South Bay interaction of oregonensis and xanthoptica and of xanthoptica and eschscholtzii.

- Incipient species formation in salamanders of the Ensatina complex - David B. Wake

While originally viewed as one big ring, recent studies suggest that this ring species actually contains several "sub-rings". In other words, there appears to be more than one "speciation event" taking place among this species.

Another well studied ring species is that of the greenish warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides).

West Siberian greenish warbler (P. t. viridanus)

East Siberian greenish warbler (P. t. plumbeitarsus)

"Our results show how gradual divergence in a trait involved in mate choice leads to the formation of new species," Irwin wrote in the team's Nature report.

The colored bars on the wings of the two groups of birds that coexist in Siberia also differed markedly, Irwin found. One group wears a single yellow bar on each wing, while the other bears two - another key to sexual selection, he says.

All those differences, and especially the fact that the two groups of birds in Siberia do not interbreed, provide the most defining evidence that the two songbird populations have become truly separate species, Irwin and Price agree.

"They act like separate species, and the genetic evidence supports that conclusion," Irwin said. "In central Siberia today, the original species has definitely become two species."


"What Darren Irwin has found with his warbler ring species and what we have found with our Ensatina ring are two compelling pieces of evidence for true speciation," Wake concluded.
- Evolving Before Our Eyes; San Francisco Chronicle, March 26, 2001


Incipient species formation in salamanders of the Ensatina complex

Evolving Before Our Eyes  Songbirds and salamanders bolster Darwin's theory

The greenish warbler ring species

"Ring Species": Unusual Demonstrations of Speciation

Understanding "Species" and "Speciation":

Many of the terms we currently use to describe life were developed prior to the establishment of evolutionary theory. As has been mentioned, this is the case with the system of classification that is used in biology (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species). This system of classification was developed by Carolus Linnaeus during the mid 1700s. Linnaeus also promoted the idea of "race". In both cases Linnaeus believed that these classifications represented static and concrete aspects of nature that could be considered unbending laws of classification. A famous saying of Linnaeus was "God creates, Linnaeus classifies".

Interestingly, Linnaeus had originally classified whales as fish and bats as bird, but he later changed their classifications to that of mammals. This was the first official recognition that whales were not fish and bats were not birds. Linnaeus also classified humans among the primates, which did upset the religious establishment and resulted in attacks on him from the church.

The entire system of Linnaean taxonomy, however, was based on the principle of classification by visual recognition of physical traits. Linnaeus and other naturalists believed that all species were distinct and were thus easily recognizable, and that there was no such thing as "speciation" or the progression of "one species" into "another species". For Linnaeus each species was an unchanging product of divine creation.

Linnaeus was not aware of microorganisms nor, of course, was he aware of DNA or even the concept of genetics.

The concept of "a species", however, really does not reflect reality. The species concept is an old, pre-evolutionary, concept that in truth cannot be satisfactorily applied to our current understanding of biology. The problem for biologists, however, is that the Linnaean classification system was strongly established by the time evolutionary theory became accepted and the Linnaean system of taxonomy is relatively simple to use.

The result is that biologists have tried and shoehorn reality into a model that simply does not fit.

Darwin himself recognized this, and recommended that the term species be done away with, despite the fact that he used the term in the title of his most famous book, which itself has resulted in great confusion and, in my opinion, poured fuel on "species" fire.  In The Origin of Species Darwin stated:

When the views entertained in this volume on the origin of species, or when analogous views are generally admitted, we can dimly foresee that there will be a considerable revolution in natural history. Systematists will be able to pursue their labours as at present; but they will not be incessantly haunted by the shadowy doubt whether this or that form be in essence a species. This I feel sure, and I speak after experience, will be no slight relief. The endless disputes whether or not some fifty species of British brambles are true species will cease. Systematists will have only to decide (not that this will be easy) whether any form be sufficiently constant and distinct from other forms, to be capable of definition; and if definable, whether the differences be sufficiently important to deserve a specific name. This latter point will become a far more essential consideration than it is at present; for differences, however slight, between any two forms, if not blended by intermediate gradations, are looked at by most naturalists as sufficient to raise both forms to the rank of species. Hereafter we shall be compelled to acknowledge that the only distinction between species and well-marked varieties is, that the latter are known, or believed, to be connected at the present day by intermediate gradations, whereas species were formerly thus connected. Hence, without quite rejecting the consideration of the present existence of intermediate gradations between any two forms, we shall be led to weigh more carefully and to value higher the actual amount of difference between them. It is quite possible that forms now generally acknowledged to be merely varieties may hereafter be thought worthy of specific names, as with the primrose and cowslip; and in this case scientific and common language will come into accordance. In short, we shall have to treat species in the same manner as those naturalists treat genera, who admit that genera are merely artificial combinations made for convenience. This may not be a cheering prospect; but we shall at least be freed from the vain search for the undiscovered and undiscoverable essence of the term species.
- The Origin of Species; Charles Darwin

The biggest problem with understanding "speciation" is really the concept of "species" itself. There really is no such thing as "a species". What the evolutionary model tells us is that life is a continuum and every living thing is related. The species concept is based on the idea that different "species" are not related.

What the evolutionary model tells us is that if every animal that ever lived were to be arranged in order of their genealogy it would be impossible for the most part (with some exceptions in cases of hybridization, etc.) to make any determination of what is "a species". Darwin made this observation in The Origin of Species:

"Extinction has only separated groups: it has by no means made them; for if every form which has ever lived on this earth were suddenly to reappear, though it would be quite impossible to give definitions by which each group could be distinguished from other groups, as all would blend together by steps as fine as those between the finest existing varieties, nevertheless a natural classification, or at least a natural arrangement, would be possible."
- The Origin of Species; Charles Darwin

What Darwin is saying here is that individuals within every lineage would blend together, but the branches of diverging lineages would still be able to be classified.

Some illustrations may help to explain this, but one of the major problems with trying to use illustrations to understand species and speciation is that real life is infinitely more complex than any reasonable illustration can represent.

The image below shows four skeletons in the ancestral lineage of the modern whale.

These skeletons are individuals from populations. The bar above the whales represents a segment of populations over time from which these individuals would have come from. In the diagram each pixel (dot) can represent an individual. The diagram, however, fails to fully demonstrate the concept of speciation because of its narrow focus. A more accurate image would show many different branches and multiple different forms developing from the same ancestral populations with a less uniform gradation.

The question that we can ask based on this diagram, however, is: Where along the top bar is a new species formed?

Most people today still view "species" in the same way that biologists did prior to the establishment of evolutionary theory, as distinct morphological units. It's something that you look at and recognize as significantly different from something else. So, when most people think about "speciation", they imagine that at some point animal A gives birth to animal B, at which point, a "new species" comes into existence, but that simply isn't how it works. As has been said, with the exception of some hybridization examples, there never is a case in which a "new species" is born.

Unlike the pre-evolutionary view of "species" as distinct units, the term "species" can only be applied today in a relative way. The term is really an attempt to classify something in a way that, as Lamarck said, does not actually represent reality. It's a way for humans to classify things for convenience, but it's not a "real" classification.

The image below attempts to illustrate the concept of "change over time" as it relates to "speciation". The top of the image is the present day and the bottom of the image is some time in the past. In this example there are two populations that would be recognized as different "species" today, the blue branch that reaches present day and the green branch that reaches present day. All other parts of the tree represent populations that existed in the past.

Press the "Show Fossil Record" button to see a representation of fossilized specimens from the populations represented in the tree. As you can see, the fossil record inevitably has gaps and there are not fossils representing every different branch of the tree.

If the changes in color represent variation, where can we say that "speciation" occurs. Looking at the fossil record, every dot of a different color would probably be classified as a "different species", but as we can see if we look at the full tree, these dots aren't isolated and distinct individuals, they are elements of gradual transitions.

Looking at organisms in the present day, all that we see are two distinct organisms, blue and green. They are clearly different from one another, and don't "appear" to be related. Through the fossil record we can piece together some of relationships based on morphology, but the fossil record will never fully show the gradual transitions of the development of life.

The term "species" as it is understood by biologists is actually a completely different concept than the "traditional" concept of a "species". Today, because of evolutionary theory, biologists view a "species" as a population of breeding or potentially breeding individuals. This is really using the word species in a completely different way than how it was used by Linnaeus; its actually a complete redefinition of what "a species is".

This redefinition actually creates many problems. The new definition of species, a.k.a. the biological definition of species, is really just a term that defines breeding or potentially breeding populations, however it has been wrongly believed by many, including some biologists, that we are "more accurately determining what a species is". This is false. We are simply using an established word in a different way, to describe something completely different than what the term originally described.

The Linnaean concept of a species is "a morphologically distinct form of life that was created by God". The biological concept of species is "a population of breeding individuals". Unfortunately, our current classifications of "species" are a mix of both the old and new classification systems. The way that we label species today is still not uniform, we use a mix of the Linnaean concept and the modern biological concept.

When most people think about "speciation" they are looking for a process that will produce a "new species" according to the Linnaean concept of what a species is. This is never going to happen, because the Linnaean concept of a species isn't even valid.

Biologists really shoot themselves in the foot by continuing to even use the word species. The word is still used because it is so ingrained in the culture, but by the same token this is also the problem. The fact of the matter is that "a species" is whatever we say a species is. We have some standards for naming "species", but, aside from mating tests, it's a mostly subjective process.

Even the biological definition of "a species" is highly flawed, and it shouldn't be called "species". All it is is an indication that individuals are part of the same breeding population, but there are many problems with this. The problems with this concept of "species" are:

  • It's not practically testable in most cases, even among living sexual organisms
  • It can never be applied to dead organisms
  • It can't be applied to asexual organisms
  • It does not deal well with geographically isolated but genetically compatible populations

There are many different things that contribute to breeding boundaries, and breeding boundaries can exist between organisms that are more genetically similar than other organisms that have greater genetic differences. For example, there are many different "species" of song birds that look almost identical and have very little genetic variation between them, yet there are also dogs as different as the Chihuahua and Great Dane which can interbreed. The two birds below are classified as different species, which do not interbreed, despite the fact that their ranges overlap.

Western Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Captive breeding experiments found that they can produce offspring, but very few of the eggs are viable and hatch, though some do.

Breeding boundaries can exist for a number of reasons. Breeding boundaries are typically categorized as either pre-mating or post-mating boundaries.

Pre-mating boundaries include:

  • Geographic isolation
  • Mating preferences (organisms choose mates based on certain characteristics, such as color, song, size, smell, etc.)
  • Physical incompatibility of sex organs (penis does not pair with vagina, etc.)
  • Different mating schedules (different timed release of gametes among things like corals, plants, etc.)

Post-mating boundaries include:

  • Different numbers of chromosomes
  • DNA from one parent  is not able to fully pair with other parent DNA during fertilization and mitosis

Interestingly enough, though, even organisms with different numbers of chromosomes can breed in some cases. The results of post-mating boundaries include sterile offspring, terminally deformed offspring, or no fertilization at all.

The term species is especially problematic when dealing with asexual microorganisms such as prokaryotes. Not only do such microorganisms reproduce directly through cell division, making each individual essentially "its own species", but there is a tremendous amount of DNA transfer among vastly different types of prokaryotes. The concept behind the biological definition of "species" is that a species is a population of individuals among which genes can be shared and transferred. When we look at microorganisms, however, we see that genes get transferred in many different ways, though not through reproduction, so the entire "species concept" breaks down.

So-called "hybridizations" illustrate other problems with the "species" concept and also provide strong evidence for common descent as well.

There are many sexual animals, not to mention plants, that we call different species, but which can nevertheless breed and produce offspring. In some cases these offspring are fertile and can themselves produce offspring.

Male Liger (Lion+Tiger)

Many of the cats can interbreed. There are over a dozen different combinations of different cat "species" that can breed and produce offspring. Several of these crosses produce fertile offspring. Female Ligers, for example, are usually fertile, but male Ligers are not.

Many of the canines can interbreed as well. Wolves, Coyotes, and Dogs can all interbreed, typically producing fertile offspring. Several other types of canines can interbreed with other canine "species" as well, such as Jackals.

Zebras and Horses can interbreed, and Bison, Yaks, and domestic Cows can also interbreed.

Bison and Cows produce fertile offspring when they interbreed and are now a widely farmed breed called Beefalo.

One of the most interesting crosses is the recently produced cross of a Camel and a Llama, called a Cama.

Scientists suspected that it would be possible to cross a Llama and a Camel based on evolutionary predictions. The Llama is from South America and weighs an average of about 165 pounds, whereas the Camel is from the Middle East, halfway around the world, and weighs an average of almost 1,000 pounds. From the traditional view of "species", and based on the model of "separate creation", there would be no reason to think that a Llama from South America and a Camel from the Middle East would be able to breed. The evolutionary model, however, states that all organisms are related, and evolutionary biologists determined through the study of fossil evidence, comparative morphology, and genetics that Llamas and Camels are closely related, meaning that they have a "recent" common ancestor. Genetic studies also show that both Camels and Llamas have 74 chromosomes.

Based on the knowledge that these animals have a recent common ancestor scientists believed it would be possible to cross breed them, and it is indeed possible to cross breed them.

For more on the Cama see:

Scientists produce first cross between camel and llama

Cama - Wikipedia

The Camel-Llama Cross Project in Dubai

For examples of many animal hybrids see:

Real Animal Hybrids

The more proper way to view the organisms that we see in the world today is not as "distinct species", but as genetic islands, with the historical ancestry of all organisms beneath the water, out of sight. The difference in how we view life and how we view land is really very similar. Islands and continents can be viewed as completely separate, isolated bodies of land, unconnected to one another, but we know, because we we can trace the foundations of land under the water, that all land is indeed connected.

The same is the case with life, but tracing what's "under the water" is just much more difficult because what's "under the water" in this case is in the past, so we can't directly observe it.

Time and death are what creates the isolation of "species". If not for the death of ancestors, all life would be like currently observed "ring species".

Having discussed the problems with the species concept, the concept of "race" is even more problematic. Certainly the Linnaean concept of species is completely invalid. We can use the term "species" to discuss genetically isolated populations, but this does not really have the same meaning that many people think of when they think of "species". The concept of "race", however, is completely invalid as well. Race simply does not exist, there is no such thing. Race, like species, is a concept that was developed before the acceptance of the theory of evolution and well before our modern knowledge of genetics.

The pioneers of race concepts believed that the different "races" were unrelated, i.e. that "Blacks", "Whites", "Orientals", and "Aboriginal Americans" were all separately created, and that only "Whites" were descendants of "Adam and Eve". Others believed, as some Mormons still do, that non-Whites are the descendants of Cain, the Biblical character who fled the Garden of Eden after murdering his brother, whom the Bible stated would be "marked" for eternity.

Furthermore, "race" was viewed as a single unchanging unit. The race concept came about before any knowledge of genetics.

What we know now is that all people, indeed all organisms, are made from collections of genes. All humans have the same genes. In fact all life shares mostly the same genes.

For each of our genes we have different alleles. An allele is basically a variant of a gene. For example, there is a gene that controls eye color. The different alleles of this gene cause eyes to be blue, brown, green, grey, etc. (This is a very simplified explanation)

What we call a "race" is just a certain collection of alleles. These alleles can be rearranged and crossed in any number of ways however, and how we have chosen to categorize allele groups is purely a matter of human choice. In fact, the real genealogy of humans does not match the ways in which race has historically been defined.

We can demonstrate the meaninglessness of race with a simple example. Lets just take a few common traits and use a very simplified system to represent different alleles for these traits and show how we have identified these traits with so-called "race".

  Skin color Eye color Nose Type Hair Type
White (L)ight (B)lue (N)arrow (S)traight
Black (D)ark (Br)own (W)ide (K)inky
Oriental (L)ight (Br)own (W)ide (F)ine

So, lets categorize the following examples:

A person's DNA is made up of the following alleles: L-B-N-S

We would call that person "White".

Now take this example: L-Br-W-F

Easy enough, that person is an Oriental.

What about this: L-Br-N-K

What "race" is this person?

The fact is that, for the most part, all of our alleles can be mixed and matched in any combination. Due to geographic isolation certain alleles have become concentrated in different populations. We have recognized the physical manifestation of certain combinations of alleles and simply labeled those combinations "a race".

There is no Black race, nor White race, nor any other race, there are just various combinations of alleles, which we have chosen to label based on a few observed traits, such as skin color and eye shape, etc.

Using genetics we are now able to identify the geographic origin of an individual's ancestors, and through this it is possible to determine if someone has African, European, Asian ancestry, etc., and many people have called these tests that "identify race", but that is not accurate. These tests just identify alleles, and we associate those alleles to what we call races. For example, if we did a genetic test and found that someone from the above example had the K allele, we would be able to say that they had a "Black", ancestor, but we would more accurately say that they had an ancestor from Africa. That same person, however, could also have a N allele, showing that they also have an ancestor from Europe, or a "White" ancestor. In America today approximately 25% of people who identify themselves as "Black" have some European ancestry.

A genetic test can show that a person's DNA matches what we typically call a "Black" person or a "White" person, for example a test can find an allele combination of L-Br-W-F, but the understanding of DNA that makes such tests possible is the same understanding that completely does away with the very concept of "Black" and "White" altogether.

People, indeed all organisms, are not single units, they are made up of thousands of "parts" (genes), which can be mixed and matched in an endless variety of ways.

Understanding Viruses and Other Subcellular Replicators:

Viruses are the most well know form of subcellular replicating entities. Known subcellular replicators include:

  • Viruses
  • Viroids
  • Satellites
  • Plasmids
  • Transposons
  • Prions

All of these subcellular replicators require cells for replication. They also follow the Darwinian model of descent with modification and natural selection.

Most viruses today are thought to have old ancestries, almost as old as cells, or perhaps even older. Unlike cell based life, however, which is thought to have a single common ancestry, the evidence strongly indicates that not all viruses are related. There appears to be multiple independent origins of viruses, indeed various viruses have probably originated by completely different means.

Some viruses are DNA based, while others are RNA based, and there are even more fundamental variations among viruses as well.

How viruses originated is still not completely certain, but there are several likely possibilities. Some of the ways that viruses may have originated include:

  • Genetic reduction of a cellular parasite to a non-cellular parasite
  • Spontaneous creation by cells when a mutation creates a piece of DNA or RNA that codes for endless replication
  • Detachment of mobile genetic units, such as transposons, from the core DNA
  • The ancestors of RNA viruses could have existed prior to the development of DNA based life

There are several evolutionary principles that are important for understanding subcellular replicators. In brief, the evolutionary process can be both additive and reductionist in nature. There is often selective pressure to reduce the size of the genetic code and eliminate unneeded elements because this means that copies of the code can be made faster and with fewer resources so the rate of replication for smaller pieces of code will be faster and thus the smaller pieces of code will "overpopulate" larger ones. This applies to both cellular and subcellular evolution.

Under some conditions reduction of genetic code is the primarily selected characteristic. Viruses and other subcellular replicators are often observed to become less complex through generations as they become more efficient. What allows subcellular replicators to become increasingly "less complex" is the fact that a large part of their "life cycle" is performed by their host cells.

As the host cells for subcellular replicators become more complex, the subcellular replicators are able to shed genetic code that performs redundant functionality to code that exists in the host cell.

This view of viruses holds that the viruses we see today could be vastly less complex than the original ancestral "viruses".

Viroids are nothing more than small loops of RNA. Viroids are much smaller than viruses and have no protein coat. They are essentially just small loops of RNA that are quickly and endlessly replicated when they are in the right environment. Cells are typically the right  environment, but viroids can be replicated in test tubes as well.

Satellites, or virusoids, are basically viroids that depend on the existence of a virus for their replication and spread. Satellites are small pieces of RNA that replicate and get encapsulated into the protein capsule of a "helper virus". In some cases, the virus cannot be reproduced without the satellite, in other cases the satellite is more like a parasite of the virus.

Plasmids are "autonomously" replicating segments of DNA that can become integrated into "host" DNA. In some cases plasmids can even affect the behavior of their host, causing the host bacteria to join with other bacteria and inject copies of the plasmid. Some plasmids can kill cells, while others can be beneficial.

Transposons are segments of DNA that replicate and move about the DNA of a cell. They are typically thought of as segments of DNA that only operate within a cell, though there is some evidence that they may somehow be able to spread from one organism to another. Transposons are also called "selfish DNA". They are replicated and move about the genetic code with no apparent function for the "host" organism. They do have an indirect effect of mixing up the genetic code, however, and increasing the rate of genetic change.

Prions are the first known replicators that have no nucleic acids - they are made only of protein. Prions were discovered in the 1980s, and are now known to be the cause of several infectious diseases, including mad-cow disease. Known prions are often the products of proteins found in brain tissue, and thus the diseases caused by prions are brain related diseases. A major problem with prion caused diseases is that proteins are much more difficult to destroy than nucleic acids. DNA and RNA are relatively easy to breakup, but proteins are much more resistant and long-lasting. Scientists are not completely certain how priors replicate.

A major misconception about viruses and other subcellular replicators is that they are "active", or that they "do things". With few exceptions, all of these subcellular replicators are completely inert. There are some viruses that have limited metabolic activity for brief periods, and which do take brief action, but, for the most part, viruses do nothing. Some viruses do absolutely nothing and just get taken in by cells, but there are viruses that will actively attach themselves to cells and inject their genetic code. These types of viruses can be thought of as being like a "mouse trap". They are set to be activated, and upon being triggered they can "fire" an action, but this is the limit of their capability.

The replication of viruses is completely determinative, but the terms that are often used to describe how viruses are replicated are terms that we associate with "free will" concepts. The use of terms like "hijack" or "take over the cell's machinery" to describe the replication of viruses are highly misleading and anthropomorphic. They anthropomorphize both the virus and the cell. Cells are not conscious, nor are viruses, so the idea that a cell can be "forced to do something against its will" is a complete fallacy, because cells have no will.

A cell is an enclosed unit in which chemical work takes place. The work done in the cell is done by "the cell". Cells basically have "instructions" to take genetic code (DNA or RNA) and perform actions with it based on the structure of the code. When a piece of DNA or RNA is in a cell, the cell will take that piece of code and either integrate it back into the nucleus, replicate it, or transcribe/reverse transcribe it.

Most "viruses" don't "do" anything. When the viral code enters a cell, the cell takes the code and starts performing the instructions in the code. The cell simply treats viral DNA or RNA the same way that it treats other DNA or RNA in the cell, with the exception that in some cases the virus codes for enzymes that are not typically present in a cell, which causes different behavior than normal, but again, this proceeded the way any chemical reaction proceeds.

Subcellular replicators are really passive agents, the cells are the ones that actually reproduce them. "Viruses" themselves have no active role in their own construction. At the time of virus reproduction the original "virus" doesn't even exist. Viral DNA is typically either integrated into the nucleus of the cell, or viral RNA is actively being copied or transcribed in the cell.

If you think of a factory where workers take instructions handed to them on an assembly line and execute the instructions, then a virus would be like a set of instructions that tells the worker to produce another copy of the same set of instructions. When the worker produces those instructions he then reads them and follows them, so he again makes another copy, and just keeps doing that over and over again. Since cells are "mindless", they are not capable of judging whether or not they should follow instructions. Cells are just complex "bags of chemicals" and the reactions take place according to the basic laws of chemistry without any "guidance", hence the reason that things like viruses exist. Cells cannot make "decisions" about whether a set of instructions are "good" or not, they simply execute whatever instructions are present in the cell.

For more on viruses and subcellular replicators see:

Subcellular Life Forms (note that I do not agree with this author's characterization of viruses, etc. as "life forms")

Origins of Viruses


The Implications of Evolution

The implications of Darwinian evolution are significant and extend well beyond the boundaries of biology. Evidence that Darwin had correctly described the fundamental processes by which life has developed challenged all of the fundamental assumptions of 19th century Western Civilization, which had been built on almost 2,000 years of Christian ideology.

Darwin's primary advocate, Thomas Huxley, perhaps best stated the implications of evolution:

For the notion that every organism has been created as it is and launched straight at a purpose, Mr. Darwin substitutes the conception of something which may fairly be termed a method of trial and error. Organisms vary incessantly; of these variations the few meet with surrounding conditions which suit them and thrive; the many are unsuited and become extinguished.

According to Teleology, each organism is like a rifle bullet fired straight at a mark; according to Darwin, organisms are like grapeshot of which one hits something and the rest fall wide. For the teleologist an organism exists because it was made for the conditions in which it is found; for the Darwinian an organism exists because, out of many of its kind, it is the only one which has been able to persist in the conditions in which it is found. Teleology implies that the organs of every organism are perfect and cannot be improved; the Darwinian theory simply affirms that they work well enough to enable the organism to hold its own against such competitors as it has met with, but admits the possibility of indefinite improvement. But an example may bring into clearer light the profound opposition between the ordinary teleological, and the Darwinian, conception.

Cats catch mice, small birds and the like, very well. Teleology tells us that they do so because they were expressly constructed for so doing--that they are perfect mousing apparatuses, so perfect and so delicately adjusted that no one of their organs could be altered, without the change involving the alteration of all the rest. Darwinism affirms on the contrary, that there was no express construction concerned in the matter; but that among the multitudinous variations of the Feline stock, many of which died out from want of power to resist opposing influences, some, the cats, were better fitted to catch mice than others, whence they throve and persisted, in proportion to the advantage over their fellows thus offered to them.

Far from imagining that cats exist 'in order' to catch mice well, Darwinism supposes that cats exist 'because' they catch mice well--mousing being not the end, but the condition, of their existence. And if the cat type has long persisted as we know it, the interpretation of the fact upon Darwinian principles would be, not that the cats have remained invariable, but that such varieties as have incessantly occurred have been, on the whole, less fitted to get on in the world than the existing stock.

If we apprehend the spirit of the 'Origin of Species' rightly, then, nothing can be more entirely and absolutely opposed to Teleology, as it is commonly understood, than the Darwinian Theory. So far from being a "Teleologist in the fullest sense of the word," we would deny that he is a Teleologist in the ordinary sense at all; and we should say that, apart from his merits as a naturalist, he has rendered a most remarkable service to philosophical thought by enabling the student of Nature to recognize, to their fullest extent, those adaptations to purpose which are so striking in the organic world, and which Teleology has done good service in keeping before our minds, without being false to the fundamental principles of a scientific conception of the universe. The apparently diverging teachings of the Teleologist and of the Morphologist are reconciled by the Darwinian hypothesis.

The ultimate implication of evolution is that we live in a world that has not been designed for a purpose, but rather that life exists simply because it does. This implication has, of course, been recognized by everyone who understands evolution. It was understood by the ancient Greeks, by the early Christians, and by people today.

Evolution Beyond Biology:

The concept of evolution has proven to be one of most significant revolutions in human thought in all of human history. What makes evolutionary theory so significant is its ability to solve problems and make predictions that were previously unsolvable via traditional views of the world. Not only is evolutionary theory able to develop models that solve significant problems, but it has also revolutionized the way that we view the world and ourselves.

It is important here to clearly distinguish the difference between "The Theory of Biological Evolution" and "evolutionary theory" in general. The Theory of Biological Evolution deals strictly with the evolution of life on earth after the origin of life. The Theory of Biological Evolution does not pertain to how life originated in the first place. Furthermore, the Theory of Biological Evolution deals strictly with genetic evolution.

Darwinian theory in general, however, deals with any system in which there is "descent with modification", competition, and "natural selection" where processes are "undirected" or "undesigned".

Evolutionary theory is now applied in many different fields of study, including economics, linguistics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and cosmology.

Evolutionary theory has been used to propose explanations for the development of matter and the universe, the origin of life, the development of language, the development of morals, the development of culture, the development of religion, animal and human behavior, and capitalistic economic models.

Evolution of the Universe:

Physicists and cosmologists have used evolutionary models to explain the development of gravitational matter, 3 dimensional space, our universe as a whole, and galaxy systems. The following article, published in Nature on June 2, 2005, is one example of how evolutionary theory is used in developing models for the development of the universe: Simulations of the formation, evolution and clustering of galaxies and quasars

Evolution of Languages:

Linguists have used evolutionary models to understand the development of the various languages that exist in the world today. Just like "species", languages change over time, expand their ranges, and flourish or go extinct. Darwin himself recognized this fact and used languages as an example for explaining general evolutionary theory.

It may be worth while to illustrate this view of classification, by taking the case of languages. If we possessed a perfect pedigree of mankind, a genealogical arrangement of the races of man would afford the best classification of the various languages now spoken throughout the world; and if all extinct languages, and all intermediate and slowly changing dialects, had to be included, such an arrangement would, I think, be the only possible one. Yet it might be that some very ancient language had altered little, and had given rise to few new languages, whilst others (owing to the spreading and subsequent isolation and states of civilisation of the several races, descended from a common race) had altered much, and had given rise to many new languages and dialects. The various degrees of difference in the languages from the same stock, would have to be expressed by groups subordinate to groups; but the proper or even only possible arrangement would still be genealogical; and this would be strictly natural, as it would connect together all languages, extinct and modern, by the closest affinities, and would give the filiation and origin of each tongue.
- The Origin of Species; Charles Darwin

It is important to understand here that we are not discussing the evolution of the biological capacity to use language, but rather the evolution of languages themselves. This is an example of non-biological evolution. We know now that there is no biological component of language, meaning that Chinese do not have a genetic capacity for Chinese language, nor do British people have a genetic capacity for English, etc. Humans have a biological capacity for language in general, though this may not be a capacity specifically for "language", but rather a more general capacity for pattern recognition and abstract thinking, which humans have used to create language, among other things.

Both Darwinian and non-Darwinian (directed and undirected) evolutionary models can be used to understand the development and spread of languages themselves however, which takes place through the medium of the human mind and writing.

Languages, like organisms, demonstrate common descent, "mutation", and selection. Also like organisms,  both "natural selection" and "artificial selection" have taken place on languages, and the equivalent of "genetic drift" takes place with language as well. A major component of how a language evolves and survives, of course, has to do less with the language itself, and more to do with the underlying humans who use and spread the language. For example, is English becoming the dominant language in the world today because of the characteristics of the language itself, or because of the economic dominance of English speaking peoples, who carry that language with them? In this way  a language is like a virus. A virus evolves itself, but the spread of a virus also depends on the spread of its host.

The chart below traces the evolution of the word "snow" among several different Indo-European languages.

The evolution of language is in some ways more complex than biological evolution because it is a "second tier" of evolution taking place on top of the biological tier of evolution.

Below is a language phylogeny that uses the underlying biological tier of human migration to aid in the reconstruction of a language phylogeny.

source: Genetics and the history of life on earth, human migrations and languages

For more on language evolution see: The evolution of language and languages

Memes and the Evolution of Morals, Culture, and Religion:

Moral codes, culture, and religion are all aspects of human society, and perhaps the societies of other organisms, that are now explained via memetic evolution. Memes can basically be considered "ideas". The term meme was coined by Richard Dawkins to explain ideas that replicate. Since that time memes have gained acceptance as a way to model many aspects of societies via evolutionary means.

Even prior to the use of the term "meme", however, there was considerable discussion of the development of moral codes and religions according to Darwinian principles. Joseph McCabe, a prominent materialist and evolutionary philosopher, discussed the evidence for the Darwinistic evolution of morals themselves. 

"Unquestionably there was in the mind of practically all men an imperious sense of moral law. Men might defy it, but they did not deny it. And it did not come from revelation, since it was just as strong amongst civilized peoples beyond the range of Christianity, or before the Christian Era. It was a great reality, and it had to be explained.

But until the idea of evolution arose again, there was no possibility of explaining it, at least fully. Some of the Greeks and the Deists could see how closely this law was related to the social interests of man. Justice, truthfulness, and self-control are obviously desirable social qualities. But there were parts of the law, like sexual purity, that seemed to have no social significance; and it was not at all clear how even the law of justice, however useful it was, came into existence. So the law was taken as a great fact, existing in the scheme of things apart from man, and "intued" by him through a special faculty which he called his "conscience."

The entire situation was changed when the truth of evolution was proved.

Evolution has made all this mysticism superfluous; and it is the only explanation of moral law in which you can put any confidence, because it is the only theory which takes into account all the facts of the moral life.

The philosophers do not even explain, or candidly confront, all the facts of the moral life of civilized people. One of the most striking features of normal moral ideas is that the approval or censure of an act is overwhelmingly proportionate to the social value or social injury of the act. Wherever religion or superstition has perverted the conscience, you get very extraordinary notions of sin: amongst the different castes of Hindus, for instance, and amongst savages. You get mortally serious rules about washing, sneezing, coughing, excreting, wearing hats, and so on. But in proportion as men rise toward a rational order -- an order prescribed by rational consideration only, not by blind subservience to tradition -- the ideas of the moral and immoral come to coincide more and more with human and social interests.

Why is justice the fundamental and essential moral law? It is a vital regulation of social life. Why is murder the greatest crime? It is the gravest social delinquency. And so on. It would be a remarkable coincidence if this mystic law of the philosophers and the theologians, existing before man existed, and surviving when he disappears, just happened to agree so well with the social interests of the observers of the law themselves!

But all this will become clearer. For the moment I am only pressing the social nature of moral law because it is essential to the evolutionary theory of it.

But the man who studies morality in the light of evolution is not troubled by these verbal contradictions. They are just what he expects to find. Ask three travelers to a certain region whether the natives have government, shops, churches, or art. One will say "no," one "yes," and the third "a sort of government," etc. We more advanced peoples attach meanings to our words which do not apply to the corresponding culture of the natives. It is entirely in harmony with evolution. In Australia the highest authorities on the natives have assured me that they have "no religion and no morals"; and they have then assured me that the natives have an elaborate belief in spirits, especially the spirits of certain remote and very powerful ancestors, and a relatively high code of character.

It is religion and morals in the making. It is from first to last, a massive testimony to evolution. Everything in the world testifies to it. Everything in the world is illumined by it.

Hence we cannot expect to put our finger on a point in the history of the race and say: Here religion begins, there morality begins. They rise gradually, with a long dawn.

Let us take the Golden Rule in its proper and more or less practical form: Act toward others as you would have them act toward you. It is a most admirable principle. It puts the Utilitarian theory of morality in a nutshell. It is so obvious a rule of social life that one is not surprised that few ever said it. It is not profound. It is common sense. If you do not want lies told you, don't tell them. If you want just, honorable, kindly, brotherly treatment from Cyrus P. Shorthouse or James F. Longshanks, try to get it by reciprocity.

Rather a good word, is it not, reciprocity? Well the famous and Agnostic Chinese moralist Confucius gave that as the Golden Rule six hundred years before Christ was born, and nearly two hundred years before the Old Testament, as we have it, was written!

Moral-law is social law. We have the whole story of its evolution before us. We have studied tribes without moral ideas, tribes with a dull glimmer of moral sentiment, and tribes with a moral code in every stage of development. We have put these tribes in the strict order of their degree of culture -- as is, unfortunately, very rarely done -- and this corresponds to the various chronological stages in the evolution of humanity."
- The Human Origin of Morals, Joseph McCabe, 1926

Morals certainly are ideas that provide, ostensibly, some social value. Any society in which a moral against murder of the members of that society did not exist would of course be less likely to survive and be successful than a society with such a moral. Any society that has a moral against theft would have had a selective advantage over societies in which there is no moral against theft.

Using memes to understand morals provides a fuller model for the development of the moral ideas that we observe in the world today, and can help to explain why there are so many seemingly nonsensical and repressive morals as well.

Memes can be viewed as ideas, and taken to the fullest extent, memes can be seen "genes" that code for the actual proteins in the brain that store ideas. Means of communication are how memes propagate. Means of communication can include spoken language, writing, art, music, simple observation, etc.

Memes present another layer of evolution on top of biological evolution. Memes arise from material conditions, either from other memes or from the brain's observation of the environment, which can give rise to new memes. Memes develop through a process of either directed or undirected mutation and are selected for by "natural selection".

The mind is seen as the vector for memes. Memes that convey some beneficial quality to the vectors that they occupy have an increased likelihood of survival and propagation. Therefore, memes, in the form of morals, which convey ideas that are socially beneficial, such as opposition to murder and theft, are more likely to be retained in a society and to spread. Societies without these memes would have less selective advantage, and thus they would be more likely to die out, and their memes along with them.

If memes can be seen as similar to genes, however, then one meme would simply be one gene, while an entire conceptual framework, such as a religion (a meme complex or memeplex), would be seen as similar to an entire piece of DNA.

Just as is the case with the biological evolution of organisms, where genetic drift can play a major role in the propagation of genes, "memetic drift" can play a major role in the propagation of memes that are a part of meme complexes as well.

In other words, many deleterious memes or memes that have no effect, can become bundled into meme complexes that contain a few primary memes which are advantageous, and thereby "piggyback" on the propagation of the meme complex.

This is commonly observed with religion. Religions are typically extensive meme complexes that incorporate a wide body of memes. While some of the memes that make up the religion may produce beneficial traits for a society in which the memes reside, many other memes may have either no impact or they may have a detrimental impact, but the negative effects of the memes in the meme complex may be outweighed by the beneficial effects of the other "positive" memes.

Furthermore, some of the memes that have a detrimental impact on the society may serve to reinforce the retention and spread of the beneficial memes.

Creationism can be seen as a detrimental meme that persists because it supports the morality memes of the Christian religion.

It should not be assumed, though, that memes have to be beneficial to the individual vector in order for the memes to spread, not at all, but memes that provide beneficial traits have one type of selective advantage because a meme that benefits the individual increases its chance of survival.

Comparisons between social humans and social insects offers more insight into how memes can affect behavior. Social insects are very different from humans because all insects in a hive or colony are produced by a single queen, and thus they all share the same genetic code. An important aspect of social insect behavior is self-sacrifice - fighting and dying for the colony. Self-sacrifice of worker insects has been selected for through evolution because the workers are really genetic extensions of the queen. They themselves cannot replicate, but they can increase the likelihood of spreading their own genes by sacrifice, because their genes don't replicate through them, they replicate through the queen.

A similar phenomenon exists among humans, but instead of actual genes influencing sacrificial behavior, memes do. Sacrificial behavior among humans actually has both genetic and memetic components, and it is likely that memes take advantage of the genetic tendencies for sacrificial behavior. Humans have genetic coding that promotes sacrificial behavior in order to protect family members, especially offspring, because protecting family members through sacrifice can still increase the likelihood of the propagation of the individual's genes that are shared by other family members, who have many of the same genes.

Why, however, would people sacrifice themselves for causes, beliefs, nations, or other groups? Much of this has to do with memes. Just as sacrificial behavior has been genetically selected for among social insects because the actual genes are not propagated by the worker insects, but rather by the queen, humans engage in sacrificial behavior that has zero genetic benefit because they are being driven to sacrifice by memes, not genes. Humans sacrifice their genes to defend or propagate ideas (memes), showing that in many respects memes are more powerful than genes in controlling human behavior.

Answering the question, however, of why it is that most religions or codes of conduct have a fundamental core of beliefs that they all seem to share is quite the same as answering the question of why there are fundamental genes that all organisms share, such as the genes that code for transcription factor, which is needed to transcribe RNA to make proteins. These genes are highly conserved and shared by all life because they are highly useful to all life. The same is the case with memes. Memes that are highly conserved, such as memes for morals against murder, are common among many different meme complexes because they are highly conserved because they are useful across populations.

We observe the same characteristics in meme complexes that we observe in organisms as well, and meme complexes follow that same general rules of Darwinian evolution: Descent with modification, competition, and "natural selection". This is also why societies, i.e. the collections of vectors that express the traits of memes, act very similar to organismic life itself.

Just as life is a highly competitive struggle for survival, in which we see many examples of aggression and conquest, so too do memes propagate the traits of aggression and conquest. Memes that induce their vectors (humans) to be aggressive, militant, and evangelical will naturally out-compete other memes that induce their vectors to be peaceful and forgiving. When looking at the history of religion, what we see is that the religions that are the most successful today are religions, i.e. meme complexes, that have historically exhibited aggression, militancy, strong devotion, engendered a willingness to fight and die on to spread the beliefs, and been highly evangelical.

The process of natural selection dictates that aggressive memes will naturally out compete passive memes, but memes can be aggressive without inducing physically aggressive behavior. Aggressive just means memes that compel their own replication, by whatever means.

For more on memes see:

Memes - wikipedia

Memes - Introduction

The Darwinism of Laissez- faire Capitalism:

Laissez-faire capitalism is an economic model that follows the Darwinian model of "descent with modification", competition, and "natural selection" in an "undirected" environment. Although Adam Smith was not a "capitalist", and the term "capitalism" did not exist during Adam Smith's life, elements of Smith's market concepts clearly foreshadowed Darwinian ideas. In addition, Charles Darwin himself was highly influenced by the 19th century economist Thomas Malthus. Indeed parallels between the study of human economy and the "economy of nature" have long been observed and studied. Economics actually deals with many of the same fundamental concepts as biology and ecology.

"In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic inquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long- continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The results of this would be the formation of a new species. Here, then I had at last got a theory by which to work".
- Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1876

Like Darwin, Smith was a materialist thinker, who developed a materialist economic model based on ideas of competition, self-interest, and natural selection, arguing that an "undirected" economy could perform fine because of the principles of natural selection and self-interest, however Smith argued that self-interest was only viable as long as it served the greater social good.

Smith's ideas on economics were further extended by others during the 19th and 20th century to develop an even more Darwinian economic model - laissez- faire capitalism, in which the concept of "social good" was abandoned. What is important to note here is that Darwin's evolutionary model was intended to explain the facts of nature, and Darwin was not fond of many of the qualities that he found in nature. Darwin was not an advocate of using his evolutionary models as value systems.

The economic model of laissez-faire capitalism is that of an undirected economy, where economic actors compete for resources and compete to develop the most effective means of gaining a profit. Those actors that are most successful at gaining a profit survive to pass on their capital and characteristics. Laissez-faire capitalism essentially proposes that economies be allowed to evolve through naturalistic processes.

It is important to note, however, that evolutionary models demonstrate that many "negative" characteristics naturally arise through Darwinian processes. The Darwinian model of evolution is a model of how the natural world operates, and it explains why there are so many negative aspects of the natural world, such as brutality, domination, competition, struggle, etc. The Darwinian model does not in any way justify these things, or make comments about them, it only explains why they exist.

Basing social or economic models on Darwinian principles, as laissez- faire capitalism does, inevitably leads to the expression of the same types of traits that are the products of Darwinian evolution, which include both "positive" qualities and "negative" qualities.

Understanding Human Cognition and Behavior

Not only have the physical structures of organisms evolved over time, but the behaviors of organisms are products of evolution as well, and that includes human behavior. Evolution provides powerful explanations for various aspects of human behavior and cognition.

Before approaching evolutionary explanations for human behavior, however, one must first understand the material basis of reality and how the human brain perceives reality.

Perception and the Senses

We do not directly perceive reality, what we experience is a model of reality that is constructed in the mind. There is a real material reality that is external to the mind. Our sensory organs detect various aspects of the material world and then create signals that are sent to the brain, which the brain uses to construct a model based on the signals. The model that the brain constructs is generally in sync with the external reality, so that we are capable of interacting with the external world through our mental model.

Color, sound, smell, taste, and sensation are not "real". These are not things that exist in the material world outside of the mind. No object has color, or smell, or taste, etc. There is no such thing as "sound". "Sound" does not travel at all, what travels are compression waves in a medium, such as air or water. The molecules of the medium get compressed and move based purely on the laws of nature in deterministic ways. The waves do not "have a sound", our brains create the sound. Different people and different organisms can, and do, model these waves in completely different ways.

There is significant evidence that dolphins and bats visually model their sonar, so that they perceive visual images from the reception of their sonar sound waves.

The same is the case with all of our other senses. Color is a purely mental construct, it is not objectively real. There are many different electromagnetic waves traveling throughout the universe and bombarding the material world. Our eyes are capable of detecting a small rage of these waves. A certain range of waves, which we call the "visible spectrum", triggers a response in the cells of human eyes, which then send electronic signals to the brain, which then uses those signals to create a model. Every individual organism detects a slightly different range of electromagnetic waves.

The brain uses "color" to represent different wavelengths, but what really exists is not color, it is just different frequencies of electromagnetic waves bouncing off objects. The image below is a picture of a dog taken using a typical visible light camera. Below that is a picture of the same dog taken using an infrared camera. The infrared image uses "visible light colors" to represent infrared wavelengths.

The image below is an image of a man holding a trash bag taken using a typical visible light camera. Below that is an image of the same man taken using an infrared camera. Again, visible light colors are used to represent the infrared wavelengths. Both of these images are equally valid models of the same reality.

The image below shows the same flowers as seen using visible light and as seen using ultra violet light. The ultraviolet image, like the infrared image above, has been transformed into a visible light representation. Most insects can see ultraviolet wavelengths.

What is important to understand here is that all "color" that we visualize is just a mental representation of a wavelength. Take the image of the man's hand in a bag above. In that image a wavelength of 900 nanometers is converted to about 640 nanometers so that we can see it. In that same image 825 nanometers is converted to about 700 nanometers. By using a lower wavelength to represent the infrared wavelengths it allows us to visualize infrared information.

Does ultraviolet light have a color? No. No light has any color. If we suddenly became capable of seeing ultraviolet light our brains would have to invent a new color to represent it if we were to be able to distinguish it from other wavelengths. Color is not a property of the real world, it is only a creation of the mind, that our mind uses to create a model of reality.

"Taste" and "smell" are ways that our brains model chemical properties of the environment. Taste and smell, like color and sound, are purely fabricated by the mind. Nothing has an inherent taste or smell. Taste and smell are not real, they are literally figments of our imagination.

olfactory system

Humans can differentiate about 10,000 different chemicals using smell. Molecules that are present in the air enter our nose and bind to receptors in our nasal cavity. If our cells have receptors for these molecules then signals are transmitted to the brain indicating which receptors have been triggered. The brain then creates a sensation to register the signal.

How we perceive smells is somewhat instinctive and somewhat learned. In other words, how we perceive chemicals can change in relation to our experiences.

The important thing to understand is that nothing has an inherent smell. The world is composed of chemicals and our olfactory system is a system that informs us about chemicals that it comes into contact with. Different people can perceive completely different smells in response to the exact same chemicals. In most cases, however, there is a high degree of similarity between how all people perceive to the same chemicals. A high degree of correlation between how different people perceive a smell is an indication of a common genetic basis for the perception of that smell.

Taste works in basically the same way that smell does.

taste bud

Our tongues contain five basic types of chemical receptors, which we call "taste buds". We say that these taste buds can taste "sweet", "sour", "salt", "bitter", and "umami" (savory). The taste buds are not really detecting these "flavors", however, what they are detecting is the presence of certain chemicals, our brain then creates the flavor in our imagination.

The "sour" taste buds, for example, detect the presence of acidity by detecting free H+ ions. When hydrogen ions come in contact with the sour taste buds on the tongue those cells send a signal to the brain indicating that they have been triggered.

Umami, a taste bud classification that is less well known in the West, is a receptor for amino acids (proteins), and is triggered by meats. In the West we usually refer to this taste as savory.

For more on taste see: The Physiology of Taste

Understanding the material basis of perception is critical for understanding the evolution of thought, behavior, and perception.

By understanding that the qualities that we attribute to our experiences are not products of the external world, but instead are the products of our minds, we can then understand why we perceive things the way that we do.

For example, why do certain things stink and other things smell good? You have to understand that nothing has an inherent smell before you can understand why something smells good or bad to us. How we perceive smell is a product of evolution. For example, why does feces, especially human feces, smell bad to us?

It's not because feces inherently stinks, it's because our brains have evolved to perceive certain chemicals in feces negatively.

Volatile chemicals emanate from feces and become airborne, where those chemicals are detected by our nose. Feces, especially human feces, is a very common carrier of diseases that can affect humans. Coming into contact with feces dramatically increases an individual's chance of contracting diseases and therefore dying. A negative perception of the chemicals commonly found in feces results in affecting an individual's behavior so that they shun feces. The process of evolution selects for individuals who have a negative perception of feces because these individuals have a higher rate of survival as compared to individuals who do not have a negative perception of feces.

Individuals who either don't smell the chemicals in feces, or who find those chemicals to be attractive, would be more likely to come in contact with feces, and thus they would be more likely to contract a disease and die.

Now, if we compare the human perception of the chemicals in feces to the perception of these same chemicals by flies, then we can conclude that feces probably smells good to flies. When a fly detect the chemicals in feces it most likely creates a pleasurable perception to the fly. This is because feces is a source of food for flies. Flies, since they are insects, are not generally vulnerable to mammalian diseases, so mammalian feces poses no health risk to them. Instead, the organic molecules in feces are a source of nutrition for flies.

Perceptions drive behavior. The ways in which aspects of the material world are perceived have been produced and selected for through the process of evolution. Negative perceptions discourage individuals from interacting with an object or encourage individuals to take action to remove an object from the vicinity, etc. If something smells bad, tastes bad, sounds bad, or looks ugly, then an individual will tend to remove him or her self from its presence, kill the offending animal (in the case of spiders, bugs, etc. for humans), or spit the object out and not eat it, etc.

If an object looks appealing, tastes good, sounds pleasant, smells good, etc., then an individual will tend to seek that object out, eat that object, encourage the growth of the object, live in proximity to that object, etc.

So, our perceptions and our tastes have been shaped through a process of natural selection. Nothing is objectively ugly, pretty, pleasant, or unpleasant, etc. There are, however, certain commonalities in how we perceive things because we have a common evolutionary history and because we are all generally subjected to the same evolutionary pressures. There is always variation however, so every individual's tastes are not completely shaped by natural selection. Our tastes are generally shaped by evolution, but there is also on-going variation so that some individual's tastes will have recent "mutations", which have not yet been selected for or against. Additionally, tastes can also be impacted to some degree be experience. Cigarettes may initially smell bad to a person for example, but once they get addicted to them then they will begin perceiving the smell of cigarettes as pleasant.

Aspects of perception that we commonly agree on are typically things that are either very old in evolutionary history, and/or things that have been strongly affected by selective pressure.

For example, people, and almost all animals, tend to view symmetry as aesthetically pleasing and asymmetry as "ugly". This is because animals are generally symmetrically constructed. Virtually all animals are either radially symmetrical, such as starfish, or bilaterally symmetrical, such as chordates, arthropods, and other "higher order" animals. Symmetry not only facilitates utility, but it is genetically efficient as well, because you don't have to have a gene for the left side and ride side of your body, you just have one set of genes that gets duplicated. We don't have genes that code for our left arm and right arm, we have one set of genes that codes for an arm and that set codes for both sides.

Due to the symmetry of animals we perceive symmetry as healthy, and we also recognize symmetry as a pattern of living things. Therefore, when we detect symmetry in the environment our brain assumes that it represents an organism and tries to distinguish what it is. In other words, symmetry is an indication that something is more than just a "random" object like a rock or other feature of the landscape.

When the brain detects symmetry it is alerted and pays special attention to the symmetrical pattern. An example of this can be seen in the ink blots below:

If you cover the image on the right and just look at the image on the left, it doesn't look like much of anything, it just looks like a blob. Your brain does not make any assumptions about this image. If you look at the image on the right, however, it looks like something. Your brain tries to make sense of it and match it to a known pattern because your brain assumes that this is some kind of organism (this is a gross generalization).

Symmetry in organisms is a general indicator of health and fitness, which is why we find symmetry aesthetically pleasing. Because we find symmetry aesthetically pleasing we are more attracted to symmetrical mates. By being attracted to symmetrical mates we tend to find healthy mates. Those people who find symmetry aesthetically pleasing will be more likely to find healthy mates and therefore more likely to successfully pass on their genes, therefore attraction to symmetry has been selected for through natural selection.

individual with Neurofibromatosis

individual with Neurofibromatosis

individual with Proteus Syndrome

John Merrick, the "Elephant Man"

Physical asymmetry in animals is heavily associated with detrimental genetic conditions and infectious diseases which is why finding physical asymmetry repulsive has been selected for. Those individuals who are repulsed by physical asymmetry are more likely to shun asymmetrical individuals, and are thus less likely to contract diseases or mate with someone who has a genetic "defect".

What about taste? Why do certain things taste good to us and other things taste bad to us? Again, like has been said before, the taste of a substance is in our head, it is not an objective quality of the substance. Our tastes have been heavily affected by natural selection to guide our behavior in beneficial ways. It is important to understand, however, that our senses are really quite limited.

The three main attractive tastes that we have are sweet, salty, and unami (savory). The two negative tastes that we have are bitter and sour. Sour is actually a complicated taste because sour is a taste response that results from the detection of acidity.

There are two basic cases in which we come into contact with acidity, either in fruits or in spoiled meat. Therefore, the detection of acidity has to generate two different responses in people depending on the context. When acidity is detected in the presence of sugars then we have a positive attraction to sour. When acidity is detected by itself, however, without any sugar present, then we have a negative reaction to sour.

We react positively to sour when it is accompanied by sweet because this combination is associated with fruits, but sour (acidity) by itself, without the presence of sugars, is a common indicator of rotten food. When fruits rot the sugars are consumed by bacteria leaving only the "sour taste". When meats rot the acidity also increases. In addition to rotten foods, sour by itself is also an indicator of unripe fruits as well, because the sugars in the fruit have not yet developed. Fruits do not become less acidic as they ripen, they just develop more sugars, which changes the perception of sour in humans, and other animals.

We react negatively to bitter because the compounds that trigger the bitter taste buds are commonly found in poisonous plants, thus our ancestors who had a negative perception of bitter were selected for because they shunned many poisonous foods.

One of the most influential flavors on our behavior is, of course, sweetness. Our sweet taste buds detect sugars, and the main sources of sugars in the natural world are fruits. Sugars are also commonly found in honey. Sugar is found in both fruit and honey because sugar is an energy storing compound, similar to fat, so sugars are common in substances that are used for feeding the offspring of plants and insects.

A fruit is basically a plant placenta. Fruit is the substance that surrounds the seeds of a plant. Plants produce fruits because they provide nutrients and energy for the seeds that they contain, basically acting as a type of fertilizer. The fruit allows the seeds to germinate and grow faster than a bare seed alone. This gives the seeds of trees that produce fruits a selective advantage over trees that do not produce fruit. The fast growing and highly competitive nature of trees in the tropical areas is one of the reasons why there are so many tropical fruits, because seedlings in the tropics have to be able to grow very fast if they are to survive.

Bees produce honey for basically the same reason that plants produce fruits. Honey is an energy and nutrient rich substance that bees feed to their offspring to promote growth. Bees produce the honey from plant products, so the sugars and nutrients in the honey originate in the plants.

Fruits and honey don't just contain sugar, they also contain many different vitamins and minerals. Our taste buds cannot detect the vitamins and minerals, but in the natural world virtually every sugary substance is also rich in vitamins and minerals, because every sugary substance in the wild is produced by an organism to be a food source for its offspring. Sweet products in nature are basically the plant and insect equivalent of milk. Fruit is basically the milk of the plant. It's a highly nutritious substance that is provided to offspring that are not yet capable of collecting their own nutrients.

Our brains, through millions of years of evolution, have associated sweetness with nutrition. This is somewhat of an anthropomorphic description of what has happened, because there is no conscious association between sweetness and nutrition, but individuals who were able to detect sugars and were heavily attracted to them tended to seek out and eat fruits and honey, which gave them more energy and nutrition, which increased their chances of survival. So, a "sweet tooth" evolved because it encouraged beneficial behavior in the natural environment in which our ancestors evolved.

"Sweetness" is only a detection of sugar, but it also indirectly guided individuals to consume other nutritious substances, such as vitamins and minerals.

The "sweet tooth" is a very crude mechanism. The "purpose" of the sweet tooth is to direct the behavior of individuals to eat nutritious foods, but we are not really capable of actually determining how nutritious a substance is. The "sweet tooth" mechanism only worked in a beneficial way in the natural environment because sweet foods in nature are also nutritious foods. In our modern world, however, sugar is used to make non-nutritious foods more attractive. Our taste mechanisms are crude, so we can't really tell if something is actually good for us or not, all we can do is detect sugar. As far as our brains are concerned, a sweet food is a healthy food. Our instincts basically work on the premise that the sweeter something is the better it is for us, but that is not true when people specifically engineer sweet foods that have no nutritional value.

Desires and Emotions as Behavior Modifiers

This gets to the heart of a major issue that has created conflict for humanity for thousands of years, and that is the issue of desires. Traditionally, virtually all religions have viewed human desires as something negative. The Christian religion explains desires as "temptations by the devil".

Actually, however, our desires have evolved over millions of years, being shaped by natural selection. Desires affect behavior. Our desires have evolved to direct an individual's behavior in ways that increases their chance of survival and procreation, thereby passing on their genes.

The problem with human desires, however, is that they have evolved in a completely different context than the world that civilized humans have lived in for the past 10,000 years. Many of our behavioral desires are deeply ingrained behavioral mechanisms that have been a part of our ancestral psyche for millions and millions of years, going far back in our evolutionary history to the time when our ancestors were fish and even before. Some of our strongest desires, of course, relate to food and sex, because behaviors related to these things are completely fundamental to life.

Animals desire to eat because eating sustains the body. Certain things "taste good" because, through a process of undirected mutation, some of our ancestors had desires for things that happened to be healthy for them. These ancestors survived the best, and were thus selected for, passing on their taste preferences.

Sex is, of course, one of the most essential aspects of life. Without reproduction the chain of life ends and genes don't get passed on. Those individuals with strong sex drives engage in more sex, and therefore have more progeny, passing on their genes.

There are interesting implications to this. Humans historically evolved in small family groups millions of years ago and remained in these groups basically until the dawn of civilization. One of the earliest beginnings of "civilization" was the coming together of larger groups of people, who spanned more than single family units. When multiple family units began living in close contact with one another then sex became more complicated.

When people only lived in small family groups sex drive created very few conflicts because potential mates were fairly rare and people didn't live in a state of long term mate "ownership" among other individuals who had different "ownership". Early human groups were likely similar to lion prides today, large groups of females with one dominant male. An entire lion pride is basically one extended family, where everyone is closely related.

When larger groups of people began living together, however, people were exposed to multiple potential mates on a constant basis, and conflict over mates increased.

This created the need for regulation of sexual desires in order to protect the collective interests of the group.

One of the ways that sex was regulated in some cases was that sexual features were covered up. Some of the primary sexual features of people are the breasts and hips of women. We distinguish males from females in part by the recognition of the female breast. When the male brain views female breasts chemicals are released in the brain and a pleasure sensation actually occurs. The fact that men get pleasure from viewing the female form causes men to seek out females. This desire mechanism was pretty effective when people lived in small groups in the wilderness, but when people began living in large groups, and were thus surrounded by people at all times, these desire stimulators became problematic. In some civilizations, therefore, they covered the breast and other sex organs, which actually removed the features that triggered the pleasure stimulators in the male brain, thereby reducing the stimulation of those pleasure centers in the brain.

This caused another problem, however. The human brain, and other animal's brains for that matter, works in such a way that when a needed "resource" is scarce, the desire for that resource increases. The evolutionary advantage of this is quite easy to see. If a person has a diet that is deficient in protein, then their desire for protein will increase, causing them to seek out protein. Likewise, if a male's "female form" detectors are rarely triggered, then the brain will "assume" that there is a rarity of females, and thus when the brain does see a female form the desire to "have that female", i.e. the desire to mate, will be even stronger.

The result is that by covering the sex organs in some civilizations the desires for sex actually increased, leading to further social problems and causing a never ending escalating loop in those societies, who then sought to cover the female form more, which causes stronger desire buildup, which creates more need to remove the females from the males, etc., as the sexual desires just continue to escalate.

What is important to understand is that our desires today are still largely psychological vestiges from millions or hundreds of thousands of years ago. As humans we have dramatically changed our environment, so that our desires no longer correspond, necessarily, to the beneficial behaviors which they initially evolved to promote. The human desire for sweet food, for example, was highly beneficial before humans began engineering their own foods. Now, however, our desires don't serve the purpose of leading us to healthy food, now we create sweet food simply for the purpose of satisfying our desires, and the food that we create is not necessarily healthy because it is cheaper to simply create food that has high quantities of sugar and nothing else, or to create food with a high volume of fat, etc. By doing so we satisfy our desires, but we don't serve the purpose of the desires.

Evolutionary theory and research helps us to understand many other aspects of human behavior as well.

Emotions are the most basic types of behavioral mechanisms. Emotions are hormone based systems that generally work by creating strong desires, which indirectly affect behavior. When organisms act on emotions they are not consciously acting in direct relation to outside circumstances, they are acting in relation to internal hormones, which have been triggered via relatively crude mechanisms in response to some stimulus.

Take the emotion of fear for example. Fear is a very basic emotion. When an organism, such as a mouse, goes out into an open space in the daylight, their brain detects the surrounding conditions, and a certain hormone is automatically produced that causes the animal to have an unpleasant feeling. In reaction to the unpleasant feeling the animal moves to a location where they no longer have the unpleasant feeling.

Mice have now been genetically engineered to be fearless. The genes that produce the essential hormone for the fear reaction were disrupted and the mice no longer have any fear. Instead of avoiding open spaces they will happily go into open spaces and feed or sleep there, with none of the normal fear. Of course, in the wild such mice would quickly be eaten, i.e. naturally selected against.

For more on fearless mice see:

 Gene turn-off makes meek mice fearless

Emotions work the exact same way in people.

Love is another emotion that has recently been studied, both in animals an people. Studies of the hormone oxytocin show that oxytocin is instrumental in love and trust emotions. How strongly people feel love is based on how much oxytocin they produce, and likewise, how much they trust someone is based on how much oxytocin their body produces. Experiments show that the administration of oxytocin via nasal spray significantly increases how much individuals trust what they are told and put confidence in others.

Oxytocin is also released to the brain after having sex and after giving birth. It is an important hormone for emotional bonding.

For more on oxytocin see:

Scientists create 'trust potion'


Hormones that induce individuals to find pleasure in the company of others, i.e. love, have been selected for because they increase the chance of sexual intercourse and further increase the chance that sexual partners will work together to successfully raise their progeny. Likewise, love for progeny increases the chance that the parent will protect and care for the progeny, leading to the successful propagation of their genes. Love for other members of your "group" evolved when our ancestors lived in family units so that forming love bonds to others in the group increased the likelihood of spreading your genes by helping others who shared the same genes.  Now, however, we are able to induce that same love response for non-family members, typically through a number of social "tricks".

In the past individuals identified "members of their genetic group" subconsciously by their appearance, sound, and behavior. People recognized their family members as the people who looked the most like themselves, sounded the most like themselves, and acted the most like themselves.

Today, people still tend to naturally trust those people who look, sound, and act like themselves, a product of our ancient evolution. Some techniques that can stimulate trust and harmony are to use uniforms so that everyone looks similar, to speak with a similar accent, and to share common activities.

These things trigger the evolved mechanisms that identify people genetically close to ourselves, whom we then naturally trust and love. This is one reason why uniforms are so effective in developing highly cooperative units, because the uniforms create a natural sense of "family" since everyone looks similar.

Trust can be beneficial because there can be advantages from cooperation, but cooperation requires trust so that one is not taken advantage of. The brain subconsciously detects various behaviors of others and releases oxytocin based on certain evolved criteria and patterns, such as eye movements, perspiration, pulse rate, body language, etc. People also naturally trust individuals who are more similar to themselves than individuals who are less similar, again because historically individuals who were more similar were more closely related genetically.

Intelligence, Superstition and Religion

Various superstitions and religions are not products of biological evolution, but the capacity for or tendency towards superstitions and religious beliefs are products of biological evolution, similar to the way that languages are not biologically evolved, but the capacity for language is.

A recent study compared how both humans and chimpanzees learn. The study found that humans learn by imitation, while chimps learn more by understanding motivations. The study showed that humans imitate behaviors to achieve a result even when those behaviors are unnecessary, while chimps do not imitate such behaviors. Chimpanzees will understand which behaviors are necessary and only imitate behaviors that are necessary. If they can determine that the behaviors are not necessary then they will not copy them.

These results contradicted the expectations of the researches, who believed that humans would be more capable of determining how to perform actions, but not only does evolutionary theory provide an explanation for this behavior, the evolution of this behavior may explain many aspects of human social behavior.

More about this study here: Children Learn by Monkey See, Monkey Do. Chimps Don't.

As humans began engaging in increasingly complex behaviors, such as tool making, the benefit of strict imitation increased. With complex behaviors it became increasingly difficult to determine the intent of behaviors and difficult determine which behavior were necessary and which ones weren't.

As a result, those individuals who imitated others were able to learn more new techniques and be more successful.

This learning mechanism created a problem though, because humans began simply associating actions with outcomes instead of understanding cause and effect relationships. This mechanism is likely to be largely responsible for the development of superstition in humans beings.

Superstition is defined as follows:

su·per·sti·tion n.

1. An irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome.
2. A belief, practice, or rite irrationally maintained by ignorance of the laws of nature or by faith in magic or chance.

This exactly describes the behavior exhibited in the learning study. The chimpanzees did not display superstitious behavior, while the human children did. The human children continued to follow practices that had no impact on the outcome of events just because they saw others perform those actions. This can be seen as the origin of ritual and superstition.

It is easy to see how the association of sequences of events to outcomes results in ritual and superstition. If, for example, one early human watched another human making a tool, and during the process of making the tool the other person stood up and turned around in a circle then sat back down and continued, then the watcher would likely integrate that behavior into his tool making process.

Of course turning around in a circle has no impact on the outcome of making a tool, but because humans learn by imitation this type of practice would become integrated into the tool making process and believed to be critically important. As counter intuitive as it seems, humans may actually be more irrational than other animals. Humans certainly have greater problem solving abilities that other animals, but humans also show a greater propensity for misdirected behavior as well. The propensity of humans to find patterns and learn behaviors expresses itself in many different ways, not all of which are advantageous or logically correct.

Humans are much more likely to make associations between events than other animals are, but the associations that humans make are both correct and incorrect. In other words, humans are also more likely to make incorrect associations between events than other animals are. While an animal may not make any association between two events at all, a human is more likely to make an association, but the association made by the human will not necessarily be correct.

The human mind searches out for all kinds of patterns, correlations, and associations, sometimes drawing correct conclusions, and sometimes drawing incorrect conclusions.

The evolution of human intelligence is also very much a subject of study. A commonly asked evolutionary question is: "How has human intelligence developed beyond what is needed to out-compete other animals?"

There is a very strong correlation between social animals and intelligence. This is because the basic role of intelligence is predicting future events, and predicting future events in a social setting requires understanding the behavior of the other individuals in your social group as well as predicting group behavior as a whole.

Furthermore, one of the main points that Darwin made was that individuals are not only in competition with "other species", but they also compete with members of their "own species". The biggest competition for humans are other humans, and therefore there is very strong selective pressure on human intelligence to select for increasingly intelligent individuals.

In fact it could be said that humans compete against members of their own species more than any other species does. Humans literally prey upon one another, and the most significant determinant in the predator prey relationship among humans is intelligence. One of the most intellectually challenging cognitive processes is deception, because deception requires making significant determinations about the intentions, understanding, and behavior of the one that your are deceiving.

Deception is so challenging because it requires putting one's self in another individual's position, and then predicting how they will predict your behavior. One has to predict someone's perceptions and then predict their predictions in order to engage in behavior that will cause the other individual to perceive the things that you want them to perceive.

Cooperation is also intellectually challenging for similar reasons. Cooperation requires taking more factors into consideration than simply your own persona factors. This is why there is a very strong correlation between intelligence and social animals. All of the most intelligent animals are social animals.

What is important to understand is that much of human intelligence and behavior has evolved in the social context.

Many aspects of human behavior evolved while our ancestors lived in smaller family based groups that were in intense competition with each other. In this context we can understand why people today still retain so many conflict based behaviors.

Science vs. Religion

In the debates over evolution the roles of science and religion are often discussed. It is commonly claimed by many, mostly by those supporting religion, that science and religion play two completely different roles and answer questions in two different domains. Proponents of this line of thinking state that there are certain questions that "science can't answer", and they state that these are the questions that fall under the domain of religion.

This line of reasoning is factually incorrect. First of all, most religions have historically promoted themselves as complete worldview systems, that answer all questions. The Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have certainly positioned themselves historically as religions that answer all questions, including questions about history, the nature of existence, life, morality, the future, and "life after death".

It has only been within the past 200 years or so that Christians have begun stating that there is a separate role for religion and empirical observation. The challenge to the role of religion, in Western Civilization, as an institution that could correctly answer questions about reality began, of course, with Galileo during the Renaissance when he advocated the teaching that the Earth revolved around the Sun, instead of the Christian teaching that the Earth was the center of the universe.

Over the years thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured, and/or killed for upholding or promoting empirical observations that contradicted Christian scripture.

As scientific observations have continued to demonstrate beyond any doubt that many religious claims are false, some advocates of religion have reformed the claims of religion and attempted to separate religion from claims that have the potential of being proven false by science.

As humans we try, by various means, to understand the world around us and answer questions that we have about it.

Religion, philosophy, and science all purport to be means by which people can answer questions about life and understand the world.

What exactly are the means by which these different institutions answer questions and inform us about life?


  • Divine revelation
  • The study of information that was divinely revealed to someone else


  • Through logic and argumentation


  • Empirical observation
  • The testing of hypotheses
  • Peer review of methods, data, and conclusions

The basis of religion is divine revelation. Arguably not all religions rely on divine revelation, but most traditional religions do claim that divine revelation is the basis for their knowledge.

This presents several problems. First of all, no one has ever shown that there is such a thing as divine revelation. There is not any religion whose claims of divine revelation present information that could not have been known by other completely natural means. In addition to that, many statements that are claimed to be knowledge from divine revelation have been proven dramatically false.

One of the primary "proofs" of divine revelation that has been embraced by many different religions is "the fulfillment of prophecies".

The problem with using so-called "prophecies" to prove that "a religion is true", is that: #1 people can make correct predictions by purely natural means, #2 people can make predictions that later come true purely by chance, #3 many prophecies are vague and can be interpreted in many different ways, #4 many prophecies that are claimed to have come true are in fact fake and were either written after the fact, or the supposed predicted event never really happened.

In addition to all of these things, a prophecy can never prove an unrelated statement correct. Many religionists, for example, state that because prophecy A came true, now they believe in all of the other claims made by the religion or "prophet", even though those statements have no relationship to prophecy A. In this case, people simply believe that some person or religion "has the power of divine knowledge", and thus believe everything that that person or religion says.

Beyond the issue of whether or not so-called "divine revelation" is even valid, the next problem for religion comes from the fact that it relies purely on an external input for information, which is beyond the control of those asking the questions.

How does religion answer new questions? Theologians can study ancient texts and look for clues, or they can pray for more "divine revelation", but there isn't anything they can actively do to find an answer themselves, without deferring to philosophy or science. Either "God tells you the answer", or else you are just exercising human reasoning to answer the question. You might do this within a framework that is defined by the religion, but the conclusions are still completely human drawn conclusions that have no merit beyond other conclusions made by other people. In fact, religious frameworks have historically been shown to limit people's thoughts and prevent them from correctly answering questions.

Philosophy and science, on the other hand, are acknowledged as purely human endeavors. We view philosophy today somewhat differently than the ancient Greeks and Romans did. The ancient Greeks did not have the word science. For them "philosophy" included the concepts that we label as science today. For the ancient Greeks philosophers were both abstract thinkers as well as people who made empirical observations and performed tests.

Today, however, we relegate philosophy purely to the realm of logic, argumentation, and abstract thinking. Philosophy is used to answer questions by thinking about them logically and discussing the conclusions with others to see if they agree.

Science is a methodology that is used by people in an attempt to answer questions through empirical observation and naturalistic reasoning. The scientific method has been developed based on a few major premises:

  • We can only know what we can observe
  • People's powers of observation are imperfect
  • There are laws of nature that are consistent throughout space and time, and thus conclusions drawn from experiments or observations in the present can be used to develop explanations for things that occurred in the past and can be used to make predictions about the future

These premises are significant. Science acknowledges that we can only know what we can observe, but by the same token we can never fully trust our observations. This makes science a necessarily social endeavor. Science requires the verification of one person's observations by other people. If multiple people can agree that they observe the same thing, then we agree that the observation may be classified as "objectively real". Science acknowledges that people are flawed and seeks to work around this problem by requiring that observations and conclusions be agreed upon by more than one person.

Religion, on the other hand, often places extreme importance on claims made by individuals that are incapable of being verified by anyone else. Religionists often see the fact that other people are not capable of verifying a claim as proof that the claim is "divine" or "supernatural".

The question now becomes, do science and religion play two different roles and answer two different types of questions?

Actually no, this is not the case. Religions have traditionally claimed that they are holistic systems that answer all of the types of questions that humans can ask. Furthermore, in order for a religion to answer any questions it has to demonstrate an ability to answer some questions.

The common claim now is that "there are some questions that are too big for science", or that "there are some questions that science will never be able to answer", and that these question are the questions that "only religion can answer".

This is quite significant because people who hold this view are basically admitting that religion can never compete with science as an authority in answering questions. By stating that religion can answer questions that science is not capable of answering, what is being said is that religion can make claims as long as we don't think those claims will ever be capable of being proven false by science.

The reality of this claim is even more dubious though. How can an institution answer "the big questions" when it has not even proven that it can answer small questions?

Exactly what questions has any religion provided definitive answers for? People have been fighting over the meanings of religions for thousands of years, there is still no agreement even among religious people of the same religion, and many religious claims have been proven definitively false. Scientific claims, on the other hand, reach increasable levels of agreement, are consistent across cultures and nationalities, and people do not fight over them.

As has been said, the basis of religion is divine revelation. The supposed key revelations of most traditional religions have occurred hundreds or thousand of years ago. If the truth was correctly revealed thousands of years ago, then why do these questions still persist, and in what way can people today come to a better understanding of a truth that was revealed thousands of years in the past, of which we have only indirect knowledge today and are unable to verify by any means?

Quite simply, answers are not going to be provided in such a way.

Furthermore, the idea that "some questions cannot be answered by science" is also dubious. What are we really talking about here? "Science" is just a process that is used by people. The real way to state this proposition is that "there are some questions that cannot be answered by people."

This may indeed be true, but we will never know what types of questions we can't answer until we try to answer them, and even then there is always the prospect that we will be able to find answers in the future.

Many people try to define a boundary between "science" and "religion". People commonly state that religion deals with questions of morality and meaning, whereas "science" can only answer questions about structures and materials. This view presupposes that morality and meaning are not structures and materials. The reality, however, as we are discovering with science, is that things like morality and meaning and values can be greatly elucidated with science. From a material basis we are learning about how the mind works, how people perceive and assign value, and how morals evolve, and facts about these things are being established in the same way that we establish facts about planetary orbits and chemical reactions.

People are organic material beings, and as such we can be studied on an organic material basis. There are no questions that are "beyond science" that are not also beyond every other means of inquiry. If a question cannot be answered by science then it simply cannot be answered in any objective way, and indeed there are such questions, but these questions are no more capable of being "answered" by religion.

The idea that there is some boundary between "science" and "religion" is a false claim that is perpetrated either by scientists who wish to avoid controversy by appeasing religionists or by religionists who wish to try and define some region into which they can hide from the illumination of scientific inquiry.

The power of religion comes from the unknown. As long as there is an unknown then there will be some source of power that religions can exploit to claim superiority of knowledge over others. If no one understands something then you are free to claim that you do understand it, and if your understanding comes "from God" then you can't explain it, you can only hold it as a source of authority that remains out of reach to the "common people".

The power of science, however, comes from its openness, and its ability to transform public understanding, and to help illuminate the world for everyone. Likewise, science presents the possibility that any person can participate in finding answers to questions.

Today, because of science, we have answers to questions that people were not even able to ask 200 years ago, much less 2,000 years ago or more. We will continue to find more answers and continue to ask more questions, and that process will go on at least as long as people exist.

The Christian Worldview vs. Naturalistic Worldviews

Today the actual worldview of Christianity has been greatly distorted because of the fact that so much of the fundamental Christian worldview is in direct conflict with what are now scientifically established facts.

A fundamental claim by people of faith, however, remains that the Christian religion is a source of "divine knowledge", which is beyond mortal challenge because this knowledge has come directly to humanity from God himself. Today most Christians restrict these claims of divine knowledge to issues of morality and values, but there are still a significant number of people who believe that elements of Christian mythology, such as the story of creation and the "Great Flood", contain factual truths that have been passed on to people by God. Many people either take these stories literally or see them at least as a framework for factual events.

Perhaps, some people believe, the world was not created exactly like the account in Genesis, but the world and life was still created by God in a way that reflects the theme of the creation story in Genesis.

Let us compare the actual views of Christianity about the world to naturalistic views of the world.

Claims about truth and the world that are fundamental to Christianity are listed below with a few examples. In all cases the examples listed as just a small sample from Christian literature:

The greatest and most reliable source of knowledge is divine revelation. A source of divine revelation is proven to be accurate by virtue of prophecies.

Numbers 12:
5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, 6 he said, "Listen to my words:
       "When a prophet of the LORD is among you,  I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams."

Note: Compare this to the views of Epicurus:

"Dreams have no divine character nor any prophetic power, but they originate from the inflow of sensory images."
- Epicurus of Samos, 342-270 BCE

James 3:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

"Where, then, is wisdom? It consists in thinking neither that you know all things, which is the property of God; nor that you are ignorant of all things, which is the part of a beast. For it is something of a middle character which belongs to man, that is, knowledge united and combined with ignorance. Knowledge in us is from the soul, which has its origin from heaven; ignorance from the body, which is from the earth:"
- Divine Institutes, Book III; Lucius Lactantius (~250-325 CE) (Early Christian founder)

"I will therefore set forth the system of the world, that it may easily be understood both when and how it was made by God; which Plato, who discoursed about the making of the world, could neither know nor explain, inasmuch as he was ignorant of the heavenly mystery, which is not learned except by the teaching of prophets and God;... But since God has revealed this to us, and we do not arrive at it by conjectures, but by instruction from heaven, we will carefully teach it, that it may at length be evident to those who are desirous of the truth, that the philosophers did not see nor comprehend the truth; but that they had so slight a knowledge of it, that they by no means perceived from what source that fragrance of wisdom, which was so pleasant and agreeable, breathed upon them."
- Divine Institutes, Book VII; Lucius Lactantius (~250-325 CE) (Early Christian founder)

"For Scripture, which confirms the truth of its historical statements by the accomplishment of its prophecies, teaches not falsehood;"
- The City of God; Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) (Early Christian founder)

"Nor, however, are we so arrogant as to boast that the truth is comprehended by our intellect; but we follow the teaching of God, who alone is able to know and to reveal secret things. But the philosophers, being destitute of this teaching, have imagined that the nature of things can be ascertained by conjecture. But this is impossible; because the mind of man, enclosed in the dark abode of the body, is far removed from the perception of truth: and in this the divine nature differs from the human, that ignorance is the property of the human, knowledge of the divine nature."
- On the Anger of God; Lactantius (3rd century EC) (Early Christian founder)

The earth is stationary and does not move around the sun.

Psalms 93:
1 The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed in majesty
and is armed with strength.
The world is firmly established;
it cannot be moved.

Psalm 19:
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

"This fool [Copernicus] wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth."
- Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, in opposition to the teaching that the earth moves around the sun

"[Galileo Galilei is commanded] in the name of His Holiness the Pope and the whole Congregation of the Holy Office, to relinquish altogether the opinion that the sun is the centre of the world and immovable, and that the earth moves, nor henceforth to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatsoever, verbally or in writing."
- Cardinal Bellarmin; Inquisitional decree to Galileo Galilei, 1616

"Galileo, by reason of these things which have been detailed in the trial and which you have confessed already, have rendered yourself according to this Holy Office vehemently suspect of heresy, namely of having held and believed a doctrine that is false and contrary to the divine and Holy Scripture: namely that Sun is the centre of the world and does not move from east to west,..."
- Papal Condemnation of Galileo Galilei, 1632

Things were created by God for the benefit of man.

Genesis 1:
28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so.

All life on earth is the product of distinct acts of creation.

See Genesis 1 and 2, as well as many other Christian writings.

God has directed the life and history of mankind.

Acts 17:
24The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

God's creation is perfect and well-ordered.

James 1:
16 Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

2 Samuel 22:
31 As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

Deuteronomy 32:
4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

"And to you I am become an adviser, inasmuch as I am a disciple of the benevolent Logos, and hence humane, in order that you may hasten and by us may be taught who the true God is, and what is His well-ordered creation. Do not devote your attention to the fallacies of artificial discourses, nor the vain promises of plagiarizing heretics, but to the venerable simplicity of unassuming truth. And by means of this knowledge you shall escape the approaching threat of the fire of judgment, and the rayless scenery of gloomy Tartarus, where never shines a beam from the irradiating voice of the Word!"
- Refutation of All Heresies; Hippolytus (~230 CE) (Early Christian founder)

See also: The book of Genesis and other Christian writings

God's creation was perfect, but has since been in decay (often attributed to the corruption of sin).

Romans 8:
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Things can only exist on the top side of the earth because things would fall off the bottom side. There could not be people on the other side of the earth.


How is it with those who imagine that there are antipodes opposite to our footsteps? Do they say anything to the purpose? Or is there any one so senseless as to believe that there are men whose footsteps are higher than their heads? or that the things which with us are in a recumbent position, with them hang in an inverted direction? that the crops and trees grow downwards? that the rains, and snow, and hail fall upwards to the earth? And does any one wonder that hanging gardens are mentioned among the seven wonders of the world, when philosophers make hanging fields, and seas, and cities, and mountains? The origin of this error must also be set forth by us. For they are always deceived in the same manner. For when they have assumed anything false in the commencement of their investigations, led by the resemblance of the truth, they necessarily fall into those things which are its consequences. Thus they fall into many ridiculous things; because those things which are in agreement with false things, must themselves be false. But since they placed confidence in the first, they do not consider the character of those things which follow, but defend them in every way; whereas they ought to judge from those which follow, whether the first are true or false.

What course of argument, therefore, led them to the idea of the antipodes? They saw the courses of the stars travelling towards the west; they saw that the sun and the moon always set towards the same quarter, and rise from the same. But since they did not perceive what contrivance regulated their courses, nor how they returned from the west to the east, but supposed that the heaven itself sloped downwards in every direction, which appearance it must present on account of its immense breadth, they thought that the world is round like a ball, and they fancied that the heaven revolves in accordance with the motion of the heavenly bodies; and thus that the stars and sun, when they have set, by the very rapidity of the motion of the world are borne back to the east. Therefore they both constructed brazen orbs, as though after the figure of the world, and engraved upon them certain monstrous images, which they said were constellations. It followed, therefore, from this rotundity of the heaven, that the earth was enclosed in the midst of its curved surface. But if this were so, the earth also itself must be like a globe; for that could not possibly be anything but round, which was held enclosed by that which was round. But if the earth also were round, it must necessarily happen that it should present the same appearance to all parts of the heaven; that is, that it should raise aloft mountains, extend plains, and have level seas. And if this were so, that last consequence also followed, that there would be no part of the earth uninhabited by men and the other animals. Thus the rotundity of the earth leads, in addition, to the invention of those suspended antipodes.

But if you inquire from those who defend these marvelous fictions, why all things do not fall into that lower part of the heaven, they reply that such is the nature of things, that heavy bodies are borne to the middle, and that they are all joined together towards the middle, as we see spokes in a wheel; but that the bodies which are light, as mist, smoke, and fire, are borne away from the middle, so as to seek the heaven. I am at a loss what to say respecting those who, when they have once erred, consistently persevere in their folly, and defend one vain thing by another; but that I sometimes imagine that they either discuss philosophy for the sake of a jest, or purposely and knowingly undertake to defend falsehoods, as if to exercise or display their talents on false subjects. But I should be able to prove by many arguments that it is impossible for the heaven to be lower than the earth, were is not that this book must now be concluded, and that some things still remain, which are more necessary for the present work. And since it is not the work of a single book to run over the errors of each individually, let it be sufficient to have enumerated a few, from which the nature of the others may be understood."
-  Divine Institutes, Book III; Lucius Lactantius (~250-325 CE)

"As to the fable that there are Antipodes, that is to say, men on the opposite side of the earth, where the sun rises when it sets on us, men who walk with their feet opposite ours, there is no reason for believing it. Those who affirm it do not claim to possess any actual information; they merely conjecture that, since the earth is suspended within the concavity of the heavens, and there is as much room on the one side of it as on the other, therefore the part which is beneath cannot be void of human inhabitants. They fail to notice that, even should it be believed or demonstrated that the world is round or spherical in form, it does not follow that the part of the earth opposite to us is not completely covered with water, or that any conjectured dry land there should be inhabited by men. For Scripture, which confirms the truth of its historical statements by the accomplishment of its prophecies, teaches not falsehood; and it is too absurd to say that some men might have set sail from this side and, traversing the immense expanse of ocean, have propagated there a race of human beings descended from that one first man."
- The City of God; Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE)

All of civilized humanity was united at one time, until "God confounded their tongue" and scattered them across the lands in order to prevent them from building a tower that could reach into heaven. (Languages are separately created, they did not evolve)

Genesis 11:
1 Now the entire earth was of one language and uniform words. 2 And it came to pass when they traveled from the east, that they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and fire them thoroughly"; so the bricks were to them for stones, and the clay was to them for mortar. 4 And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make ourselves a name, lest we be scattered upon the face of the entire earth". 5 And the Lord descended to see the city and the tower that the sons of man had built. 6 And The LORD said, "Lo! [they are] one people, and they all have one language, and this is what they have commenced to do. Now, will it not be withheld from them, all that they have planned to do? 7 Come, let us descend and confuse their language, so that one will not understand the language of his companion". 8 And the Lord scattered them from there upon the face of the entire earth, and they ceased building the city. 9 Therefore, He named it Babel, for there the Lord confused the language of the entire earth, and from there the Lord scattered them upon the face of the entire earth.

There is no such thing as atoms. Claiming that the universe is made up of atoms is heresy against God.

"For even granting that there are atoms, and that these strike and shake each other by clashing together as chance may guide them, is it lawful for us to grant also that atoms thus meeting in fortuitous concourse can so make anything as to fashion its distinctive forms, determine its figure, polish its surface, enliven it with color, or quicken it by imparting to it a spirit? -- all which things every one sees to be accomplished in no other way than by the providence of God, if only he loves to see with the mind rather than with the eye alone, and asks this faculty of intelligent perception from the Author of his being. Nay, more; we are not at liberty even to grant the existence of atoms themselves, for, without discussing the subtle theories of the learned as to the divisibility of matter, observe how easily the absurdity of atoms may be proved from their own opinions. For they, as is well known, affirm that there is nothing else in nature but bodies and empty space, and the accidents of these, by which I believe that they mean motion and striking, and the forms which result from these. Let them tell us, then, under which category they reckon the images which they suppose to flow from the more solid bodies, but which, if indeed they are bodies, possess so little solidity that they are not discernible except by their contact with the eyes when we see them, and with the mind when we think of them. For the opinion of these philosophers is, that these images can proceed from the material object and, come to the eyes or to the mind, which, nevertheless, they affirm to be material. Now, I ask, How these images flow from atoms themselves? If they do, how can these be atoms from which some bodily particles are in this process separated? If they do not, either something can be the object of thought without such images, which they vehemently deny, or we ask, whence have they acquired a knowledge of atoms, seeing that they can in nowise become objects of thought to us? But I blush to have even thus far refuted these opinions, although they did not blush to hold them. When, however, I consider that they have even dared to defend them, I blush not on their account, but for the race of mankind itself whose ears could tolerate such nonsense."
- Saint Augustine to Dioscorus (410 CE)

"In the Beginning God made the Heaven and the Earth.

1. IT is right that any one beginning to narrate the formation of the world should begin with the good order which reigns in visible things. I am about to speak of the creation of heaven and earth, which was not spontaneous, as some have imagined, but drew its origin from God.


Some had recourse to material principles and attributed the origin of the Universe to the elements of the world. Others imagined that atoms, and indivisible bodies, molecules and ducts, form, by their union, the nature of the visible world. Atoms reuniting or separating, produce births and deaths and the most durable bodies only owe their consistency to the strength of their mutual adhesion: a true spider's web woven by these writers who give to heaven, to earth, and to sea so weak an origin and so little consistency! It is because they knew not how to say "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Deceived by their inherent atheism it appeared to them that nothing governed or ruled the universe, and that was all was given up to chance. To guard us against this error the writer on the creation, from the very first words, enlightens our understanding with the name of God; "In the beginning God created." What a glorious order!"
- Hexaemeron Homily I; Basil of Caesrea (4th Century) (Early Christian founder)


Is the universe one coherent whole, as it seems to be in our own judgment, as well as in that of the wisest of the Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Pythagoras, and the Stoics and Heraclitus? or is it a duality, as some may possibly have conjectured? or is it indeed something manifold and infinite, as has been the opinion of certain others who, with a variety of mad speculations and fanciful usages of terms, have sought to divide and resolve the essential matter of the universe, and lay down the position that it is infinite and unoriginated, and without the sway of Providence? For there are those who, giving the name of atoms to certain imperishable and most minute bodies which are supposed to be infinite in number, and positing also the existence of a certain vacant space of an unlimited vastness, allege that these atoms, as they are borne along casually in the void, and clash all fortuitously against each other in an unregulated whirl, and become commingled one with another in a multitude of forms, enter into combination with each other, and thus gradually form this world and all objects in it; yea, more, that they construct infinite worlds. This was the opinion of Epicurus and Democritus; only they differed in one point, in so far as the former supposed these atoms to be all most minute and consequently imperceptible, while Democritus held that there were also some among them of a very large size. But they both hold that such atoms do exist, and that they are so called on account of their indissoluble consistency.


Well, but I suppose they will reply that the varying conjunctions of the atoms account fully for differences so great in the matter of duration. For it is maintained that there are some things that are compressed together by them, and firmly interlaced, so that they become closely compacted bodies, and consequently exceedingly hard to break up; while there are others in which more or less the conjunction of the atoms is of a looser and weaker nature, so that either quickly or after some time they separate themselves from their orderly constitution. And, again, there are some bodies made up of atoms of a definite kind and a certain common figure, while there are others made up of diverse atoms diversely disposed. But who, then, is the sagacious discriminator, that brings certain atoms into collocation, and separates others; and marshals some in such wise as to form the sun, and others in such a way as to originate the moon, and adapts all in natural fitness, and in accordance with the proper constitution of each star? For surely neither would those solar atoms, with their peculiar size and kind, and with their special mode of collocation, ever have reduced themselves so as to effect the production of a moon; nor, on the other hand, would the conjunctions of these lunar atoms ever have developed into a sun.


But even though men like these--and miserable men they are, however they may believe themselves to be righteous--may choose not to admit it, there is a mighty Lord that made the sun, and gave it the impetus for its course by His words. O ye blind ones, do these atoms of yours bring you the winter season and the rains, in order that the earth may yield food for you, and for all creatures living on it? Do they introduce summertime, too, in order that ye may gather their fruits from the trees for your enjoyment? And why, then, do ye not worship these atoms, and offer sacrifices to them as the guardians of earth's fruits?"
- Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria (3rd century) (Early Christian founder)


But you will say, according to the opinion of Epicurus, that successions of atoms coming in a ceaseless course, and mixing with one another, and conglomerating through unlimited and endless periods of time, are made solid bodies.



Then, in the next place, if they are ceaselessly borne about, and always coming, and being added to things whose measure is already complete, how can the universe stand, when new weights are always being heaped upon so vast weights? And this also I ask: If this expanse of heaven which we see was constructed by the gradual concurrence of atoms, how did it not collapse while it was in construction, if indeed t the yawning top of the structure was not propped and bound by any stays? For as those who build circular domes, unless they bind the fastening of the central top, the whole falls at once; so also the circle of the world, which we see to be brought together in so graceful a form, if it was not made at once, and under the influence of a single forth-putting of divine energy by the power of a Creator, but by atoms gradually concurring and constructing it, not as reason demanded, but as a fortuitous issue befell, how did it not fall down and crumble to pieces before it could be brought together and fastened? And further, I ask this: What is the pavement on which the foundations of such an immense mass are laid? And again, what you call the pavement, on what does it rest? And again that other, what supports it? And so I go on asking, until the answer comes to nothing and vacuity!



Thus it is sufficiently shown that the bodies of the world are not consolidated by the union of atoms; and that insensible bodies, even if they could by any means concur and be united, could not give forms and measures to bodies, form limbs, or effect qualities, or express quantities; all which, therefore, by their exactness, attest the hand of a Maker, and show the operation of reason, which reason I call the Word, and God."
- Recognitions Book VIII; Pope Clement of Rome (2nd century) (Early Christian founder)


Epicurus, however, advanced an opinion almost contrary to all. He supposed, as originating principles of all things, atoms and vacuity. He considered vacuity as the place that would contain the things that will exist, and atoms the matter out of which all things could be formed; and that from the concourse of atoms ... derived existence, and all the elements, and all things inherent in them, as well as animals and other (creatures); so that nothing was generated or existed, unless it be from atoms. And he affirmed that these atoms were composed of extremely small particles, in which there could not exist either a point or a sign, or any division; wherefore also he called them atoms.


The opinions, therefore, of those who have attempted to frame systems of philosophy among the Greeks, I consider that we have sufficiently explained; and from these the heretics, taking occasion, have endeavored to establish the tenets that will be after a short time declared.


I consider, however, that at present it is enough to elucidate those causes of which the Greeks, not being aware, glorified, in pompous phraseology, the parts of creation, while they remained ignorant of the Creator. And from these the heresiarchs have taken occasion, and have transformed the statements previously made by those Greeks into similar doctrines, and thus have framed ridiculous heresies."
- Refutation of All Heresies; Hippolytus (2nd century CE) (Early Christian founder)

Desire and irrationality are produced by the devil to tempt people into sin.

James 1:
13 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Ephesians 4:
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

1 John 3:
8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

"Now from the devil proceeds the incentive to sin. All sin, however, is irrational: therefore the irrational proceeds from the devil, from whom sin proceeds; and it is extraneous to God, to whom also the irrational is an alien principle. The diversity, then, between these two elements arises from the difference of their authors."
- A Treatise on the Soul; Tertullian (2nd century CE) (Early Christian founder)

Diseases are caused by demons or from a corruption of the soul by sin, and are treated spiritually.

Acts 10:
37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

Matthew 8:
1 When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean."

3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. 4Then Jesus said to him, "See that you don't tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."


16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases."

Matthew 9:
32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel."

Matthew 10:
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

"Let us pray for our brethren exercised with sickness, that the Lord may deliver them from every sickness and every disease, and restore them sound into His holy Church."
- Apostolic Constitutions -Book VIII (4th century CE)

"For if every sickness and every infirmity, which our Saviour then healed among the people, refers to different disorders in souls, it is also in accordance with reason that by the paralytics are symbolised the palsied in soul, who keep it lying paralysed in the body; but by those who are blind are symbolised those who are blind in respect of things seen by the soul alone, and these are really blind; and by the deaf are symbolised those who are deaf in regard to the reception of the word of salvation. On the same principle it will be necessary that the matters regarding the epileptic should be investigated. Now this affection attacks the sufferers at considerable intervals, during which he who suffers from it seems in no way to differ from the man in good health, at the season when the epilepsy is not working on him. Similar disorders you may find in certain souls, which are often supposed to be healthy in point of temperance and the other virtues; then, sometimes, as if they were seized with a kind of epilepsy arising from their passions, they fall down from the position in which they seemed to stand, and are drawn away by the deceit of this world and other lusts. Perhaps, therefore, you would not err if you said, that such persons, so to speak, are epileptic spiritually, having been cast down by "the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,"
- Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew - Book XIII; Origen (2nd century CE) (Early Christian founder)

"And Thaddaeus said: No doubt you have heard of what has taken place in Jerusalem about Jesus Christ, and we are His disciples, and witnesses of the wonderful things which He did and taught,... And He sent us in His name to proclaim repentance and remission of sins to all the nations, that those who were baptized, having had the kingdom of the heavens preached to them, would rise up incorruptible at the end of this age; and He gave us power to expel demons, and heal every disease and every malady, and raise the dead.

And the multitudes having heard this, brought together their sick and demoniacs. And Thaddaeus, having gone forth along with his disciples, laid his hand upon each one of them, and healed them all by calling upon the name of Christ."
- The Acts of Thaddaeus (250 CE)

When Christianity emerged as a religion it presented itself as a complete explanation for everything in the world. The Christians claimed that they knew more than anyone else about how the universe operated, and they knew it because they were told by God. The Christians claimed to have divine knowledge about how the universe worked, and they claimed that they based their understanding of the universe on divine scripture.

When the Christians eventually took power in Rome they closed the schools that contradicted Christian teachings, they burned books and libraries, and they imprisoned or otherwise punished those that taught things that contradicted their beliefs.

The traditional view that the Bible represents the extent of knowledge that exited in the world at the time - that the beliefs of Christians were no less advanced than anyone else at the time - is completely false. At the time that Christianity rose to power Greece and Rome were highly civilized places with a level of knowledge that would not again be known in Western Civilization until the 17th to 20th centuries (after works of the Greeks had been rediscovered and disseminated).

The Christian religion makes many fundamental claims, and constructs a very well defined model of the universe. We can observe and test this model to see if it is correct or not.

The Christian view of the world tells us that the material world is evil and corrupt, and that humans cannot learn from observing the material world. We can only learn by spiritual means, by revelation or the study of divine scripture, which is an infallible source of knowledge. The divine scripture tells us that sickness is caused by demon possession, the earth is fixed and immovable, that God designed and created all things, and that the languages of man have been divided by God.

Furthermore, the Christians used scripture and "Christian logic" to denounce the idea that the earth was round, that the earth existed in a vacuum, and that the universe is made up of atoms. The Christians claimed that it would be impossible for there to be people "on the other side of the earth".

Naturalistic views of the world, however, are very different from Christian views of the world. The scientific understanding of the world that we have today validates the fundamental views of the ancient Greeks whom the Christians denounced. The Greeks and Romans determined, through careful study, that the world is indeed made up of atoms ("small invisible particles of different weights that combine in various ways to makeup the form of the material world"). Since the Greeks that developed atomic theory denied that the universe was created by a god, and proposed natural explanations for the development of the universe and life, their teachings were all classed as heresies by the Christians.

Looking at the real world, however, leaves a lot to be answered by the Christian belief system. In addition to traditional Christian beliefs, the Christian based "Intelligent Design" movement in America proposes a pseudoscientific explanation for the development of life which claims that life is too complex to have arisen naturally on its own through an unguided process, therefore it must have been "designed" by "some " creator. This movement actually presents more philosophical challenges to explaining life than does the traditional Christian system.

Traditional Christianity explains negative aspects of life through concepts such as original sin and the devil. Christians claim that God is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving,  but it is obvious that there is much strife in the world, so Christians explain this away by claming that humans brought these troubles onto themselves when Eve ate forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Other Christians see the problems in the world as being created by the devil.

This is extremely important in relation to the Christian explanation of disease, because Christians believed that everything that God created was good, and that disease was not a part of God's creation, but rather that it was an affliction of the soul. We now know, however, that disease is caused by organisms such as viruses and bacteria. The belief that God created all things then would require that God created these diseases.

Intelligent Design, however, claims that it is a scientific view, separate from religion; but without religion it offers no way to explain the many negative aspects of life. If life were "intelligently designed", then the designer would either have to be a sadistic, perverted, malicious designer that intentionally created a horrifying system that depends on suffering for its perpetuation, or the designer would have to be not very intelligent, or one has to fall back on mythology in order to explain the strife of the world.

Naturalistic worldviews, however, are fully capable of explaining the strife that we see in the world without resorting to mythology or jumping through philosophical hoops.

Let us observe the real world and examine both Christian and naturalistic explanations for the strife that we see.

Do 20,000 people die from starvation each day because God does not love them? Do they die because Eve ate forbidden fruit thousands of years ago and God is punishing every generation of man because of that? Is the devil causing starvation? Do these people deserve to starve because they don't love God? If starvation has some religious cause, then why do animals also starve for all the same reasons that people starve? Are animals sinners also? Is God bringing wrath to animals, which, as far as Christian theology is concerned, don't even have souls?

The naturalistic explanation for mass starvation is, of course, the fact that, as Malthus and Darwin explained, organisms tend to produce more offspring than can survive. There is no God that is looking out for life on earth, life struggles for survival.

What about "strange freaks of nature", such as those people who are born with a rare trait that cause them to grow hair all over their head or body? Prior to Darwin, people explained this by saying that it was either random or it was punishment from God. Darwin, on the other hand, argued that these traits were the result of undirected mutation and, critically, that they were inheritable.

What of hideous birth defects such as these, are these the work of God or an intelligent designer? It is still commonly said by many people today that "everything happens for a reason", and that deformed people are put on earth by God to teach some kind of lesson. What lesson is there to be learned from these birth defects? Does God really make some women gorgeous so that they can become successful porn stars or  easily marry millionaires, and also decide to make some people hideously deformed in order to teach the beautiful people to be thankful that they aren't ugly and despised by society? Is God trying to make us more tolerant by producing severe deformations?

What about the fact that many birth defects result in death of the infant? A recent study found that 6% of all babies born worldwide have sever genetic birth defects. 3.3 million infants die each year from genetic birth defects. These figures do not include miscarriages, which would more than double these numbers.

Source: Millions born with birth defects

Is God punishing the parents or the infants? This has been going on throughout history, have we learned the lessons yet? If God makes deformed people to "teach us lessons", then why do we see the same patterns of deformities in animals? What lessons are the animals supposed to learn from birth defects?

The evolutionary explanation for birth defects is that undirected genetic variation results in a wide range of traits, some of which end up being beneficial to individuals and some of which are detrimental. This process is unguided and these traits are inheritable. Those with detrimental traits tend to have fewer offspring, while those with beneficial traits tend to have more, resulting in the fact that the majority of people have beneficial traits, but there is constant variation, resulting in the on-going expression of detrimental traits.

Furthermore, the repulsion that we tend to have towards these birth defects is itself an evolved behavior. Being repulsed by "deformation" decreases the integration of maladaptive traits into the gene pool. As we have also developed compassion and, through science and technology, the ability to treat and care for such individuals, we now recognize that we can safely care for these individuals and are learning to help them instead of being repulsed by them, as is the biological instinct.

Birth defects are fairly rare, but what about the fundamental and pervasive aspects of life?

tongue parasite that consumes fish from the inside out

amoeba attacking a paramecium

From the "lowest order" to the "highest order", life is fundamentally based on killing and consuming other organisms. Is this a system created by a loving God or an "intelligent designer"? Plants are essentially the only organisms that don't depend on killing others for their survival, but even plants are in fierce competition. Many different types of plants produce toxins, not only for self defense against animals and fungus, but also in order to kill other plants. Many types of trees have toxins in their leaves that retard the growth of plants that are of a different "species".

The fact of the matter is, however, that life is fundamentally based on, not just killing, but theft. The way that life works, at the cellular level, is that cells do work to collect organic molecules, which are needed, ultimately, to make copies of DNA. The cells also need organic molecules to build their own structures, which are support systems for the copying of DNA. Acquiring organic molecules from the environment requires work, i.e. metabolic activity.

The primary root source of organic molecules on earth today is plants, which are able to produce organic molecules through the use of solar energy. The plants use photosynthesis to do work to combine carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and other elements into the molecules needed to create their bodies and make copies of DNA. Non-photosynthetic organisms are not capable of collecting enough raw organic molecules from the environment on their own, so they rely on stealing the products of the work done by the plants. An entire chain of non-photosynthetic organisms has evolved that kill other organisms because it is chemically more efficient to steal the organic molecules from them than it is to collect them themselves. In fact it would be impossible for animals to exist without this theft.

In other words, every organism is a package of organic molecules. Each one of those packages of molecules has been assembled through the work needed to acquire the molecules. When an organism consumes another organism what it is doing, chemically, is taking the work that has been done by that organism.

Life is fundamentally constructed on this process. To claim that a loving god, or an "intelligent designer", created this system is itself beyond belief, unless you believe that the designer of the system is sadistic, cruel, and places no value on life.

Observation of the natural world reveals that the system of life places no value on life. Individuals place value on life. Primarily, individuals place value on their own life, which itself is a product of evolution because individuals that value their own life are most likely to survive and produce offspring, thereby making more copies of their DNA.

The naturalistic worldview simply acknowledged life as we see it. We did not create life; we did not chose the nature of life. We simply exist in a system that is ultimately outside of our control. Acknowledging the realities of life does not mean that one likes those realities, or that one glorifies those realties; it is simply recognition of reality as it is.

Religions attempt to create an illusion of life that presents life as something more desirable to the believer. Religions tell people what they want to believe about life, not the truth about life.

The Christian view of the world is that the world is constant, well-ordered, and controlled by God. The Christian view of nature has been used to provide support for Christian views on law and morality. Christians have always claimed that the constant and fixed quality of the natural world is evidence of the constant and fixed quality of all of God's systems, including God's laws and moral codes.

What we have learned in the past 200 years is that the world is not fixed at all, but rather the world is constantly changing. Not only is life evolving, but the continents are shifting, sea levels rise and fall, and the world used to be vastly different than it is today, populated by largely different life forms, with largely different environmental conditions. The universe is expanding, galaxies are forming and being destroyed, the earth is orbiting around the sun, which is itself flying through space inside our galaxy, which is itself spinning and changing and flying through space.

Every new discovery in the past 150 years, since Darwin proposed that life developed through an undirected process, has indicated that the world is even less directed than had previously been imagined. New discoveries and models constantly show that natural systems are more complex than previously thought. Every time people attempt to define the boundaries of life or of systems we later learn that the boundaries are not so simple to define and that there are many different ways in which systems can naturally develop.

Biological evolution is a perfect example. For the first 100 year after Darwin evolution was seen as a fairly straight forward process. Organisms mate, they produce offspring, and their traits get passed on to the next generation. The "evolutionary tree of life" was seen as a fairly simple ladder.

The more that we learn the more we see that the tree of life is extremely complex, there are many side branches that went extinct, and the path "to humans" is convoluted and layered.

In addition we see that there are many different ways for DNA to be changed and passed on. Not only is DNA passed on to organisms through reproduction, but there are many different ways that DNA "travels" through populations, including viruses,  cell to cell transfers, and acquisition of DNA floating out in the environment.

Life is not a "simple" or "well-ordered" system, it is a complex and undirected system. Naturalistic worldviews take life as it really is. The Christian worldview imagines life as some people wish it to be.

Criticisms of Evolution

Many of the opponents of evolution claim that evolution is not supported by science or that evolution is provably false. Some also claim that Biblical scripture is superior to scientific observation for determining facts, or that there can be no facts which contradict scripture, so if a conclusion is drawn from observation that contradicts scripture then the conclusion must be wrong. Many of these people want "criticisms of evolution" to be taught in schools. The problem, however, is that there are not any legitimate criticisms of evolution. We cannot teach children things that are provably incorrect just to try and undermine a science that some people feel contradicts their religious beliefs.

Some of the most significant or commonly heard criticisms of evolution are listed below and addressed:

The theory of evolution contradicts the story of Genesis in the Bible, but science supports the story of Genesis. Genesis is compatible with science, it is evolution that is incompatible with science.

Source: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2006/0404order.asp

Though many Christians claim that science and the Bible are compatible, literal creationists correctly recognize that the story of creation in the Bible is fundamentally incompatible with our current knowledge of the universe and life on earth.  These creationists correctly point out that there is no way to harmonize the Biblical story of creation with scientific knowledge.

As the article linked above demonstrates, even if one assumes that the "days of creation" mentioned in the Bible equate to millions of years in reality, the description of creation still radically contradicts accepted scientific explanations. For example, the Bible states that a water covered earth is the first thing that God created, and that the sun, moon, and stars were not created until the fourth day.

Scientific vs. Biblical account

No matter how many years you stretch the days out to, the Biblical story of creation still contradicts scientific knowledge. In fact, if you assume that each day of creation can be equated to millions of years, then you have to explain how it is that plants survived for millions of years on earth before the sun existed. Clearly, the story of creation in the Bible is simply irreconcilable with modern science.

Literal Creationists, however, acknowledge that the story of creation is irreconcilable with science, but thy claim that the Bible trumps empirical observation, a claim that goes back to the origins of Christianity, and a view that directly led to the downfall of Western Civilization after the Christians came to power in Rome.

Evolution is scientifically impossible because it violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Evolution does not, in any way, violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The origin of this claim comes from Scientific Creationism, published by Henry Morris in 1974. In Scientific Creationism Morris stated:

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is particularly important in this discussion, since it states that there exists a universal principle of change in nature which is downhill, not uphill, as evolution requires. (p 38)

For the evolution of a more advanced organism, however, energy must somehow be gained, order must be increased, and information added. The Second Law says this will not happen in any processes unless external factors enter to make it happen. (p 40)

Because this claim has been so thoroughly refuted it has become less popular among anti-evolutionists over the past few years, but it is still widely used, as can be seen on this prominent anti-evolution website: http://www.darwinismrefuted.com/thermodynamics.html

The Second Law of Thermodynamics specifically states:

The entropy of any totally isolated system not at thermal equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value.

Entropy is basically the amount of unavailable energy in a system. Entropy has also been interpreted as "disorder" in some cases. What the Second Law of Thermodynamics is essentially stating is that differences in energy in a closed system tend towards equilibrium. Basically, if you took a completely thermally sealed box that had an internal air temperature of 50 degrees and you placed a hot piece of metal into the box, the Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the temperature of the air and the metal will tend towards equilibrium until they reach the same temperature, at which point no more work can be done in the system without outside input.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics does not say anything about downhill or uphill and it doesn't say anything about information. Most importantly, however, the Secondly Law of Thermodynamics discusses closed systems, and the earth is not a closed system. The energy from the sun provides a constant external source of energy to the earth, without which life would indeed not be possible on earth.

The earth is not a "totally isolated system" and therefore this argument based on the Second Law is completely warrantless, but the problems with this claim really go beyond the fact that the sun supplies energy to the earth, because the Second Law really does not have anything to do with how molecules are organized, which is one of the other major claims of the anti-evolutionists.

In fact, most things become "more organized" as they lose energy, not less organized. Almost all solids are more organized than gases of the same matter. Cooling water vapor from a gas to a solid results in the development of a "more organized" structure. Indeed, many anti-evolutionists go so far as to claim that everything in nature can only get less organized, i.e. that decay is the only natural process. This seems like quite a bizarre argument if one wishes to defend a supreme creator, as this would indicate that God created a highly flawed and degenerative universe.

If you leave a car out in natural conditions, it will rust and decay. In the same way, without an intelligent organization all the systems in the universe would decay. This is an incontrovertible law.
- http://www.darwinismrefuted.com/thermodynamics.html

If this were true then it would mean that the formation of snowflakes from water vapor requires the on-going supernatural intervention of God to create each snowflake, and that the formation of snowflakes, crystals, bubbles, etc., all violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Obviously, this is not the case.

The most amusing fact about this argument, of course, is that all "supernatural" activity would not only violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but every natural law.

It is mathematically impossible for life to have naturally formed without intelligent guidance.

This is one of the more common claims against evolution - that the "spontaneous formation of life" (ambiogenesis) is so mathematically improbable as to be considered impossible.

There are many sources for this claim, some include:




The first big problem for this claim is that it doesn't do one single thing to undermine The Theory of Biological Evolution, because The Theory of Biological Evolution is not about how life originated, it is about how life developed from the first living cells. Nothing about this claim challenges the evidence for evolution. Even if one were to suppose some "supernatural" origin of life, one would still have to conclude that life evolved from that starting point based on the existing evidence for evolution (comparative morphology, comparative genomics, embryology, the fossil record, etc.).

Having said all of that, the so-called mathematical calculations used to "prove" that it's impossible for life to naturally form are completely worthless, as shall be demonstrated.

All claims about the probability of certain organic structures developing "by chance" completely leave out all of the facts about reality and instead treat atoms like simple numbers. The most common phrase used to describe the improbability of life developing on its own is the question: "What is the chance that monkeys banging on a typewriter are going to produce Shakespeare?"

Monkeys banging on typewriters have nothing in common with the chemical processes that give rise to structures however. Nature does not operate randomly, it operates according to constant laws, which always dictate behavior.

Assuming that monkeys bang at "random", there would be no greater chance that a money would hit the letters ABC in sequence than that they would hit JDW in sequence, but the chemical world does not work that way. Atoms have properties. What are the chances that the following atomic structure would form "randomly", H2O? No different that the formation of HCN or N3 or O3 or H3 or C2H if you consider atoms to operate randomly, but atoms do not operate randomly, and the formation of water is not only more likely than the formation of those other chemicals under certain conditions, but some of those combinations aren't even possible (at least without the proper ionic notation). This is because atoms have properties, they don't operate "at random".

Furthermore, probabilities change based on conditions. For example, the "odds of being struck by lightening" are 576,000 to 1, but these odds go up if you are in a lightening storm, and they go up even further if you are outside in a lightening storm, and they go up even further if you are touching a metal flag pole in a lightening storm.

The chances of "getting attacked by a shark" are low, but they are impossibly low if you are on top of a mountain, while they are very high if you are swimming off the coast of South Africa in the middle of bloody water. Simply stating that the chance of X occurring in the universe is Y is, for the most part, a completely useless statement.

Anti-evolutionist claims of probabilities demonstrate the uselessness of their own calculations. For example:

Some example probabilities:
1. SETI Message in the movie Contact - 1 in 10^339
2. Single ticket winning a 6 number lotto - ~1 in 10^7
3. Formation of the minimum set of the required 239 protein molecules for the smallest theoretical life - 1 in 10^119,879 (Rough Estimate)

source: http://www.newcreationism.org/Discerning_Intelligent_Design.html

Interestingly, the linked article discusses physical laws when talking about contingency and then throws out the effect of physical laws when discussing complexity.

This example treats the formation of a set of protein molecules like a lottery number, however lottery numbers and chemicals are nothing alike. Numbers do not have properties. Lets say that my 6 digit lottery number is 123456. If the number 1 is drawn then the chance that the next number will be 2 is the same as the chance that it will be 0,1,3,4,5,6,7,8, or 9. However, when a chemical reaction takes place the formation is not random at all. When carbon comes into contact with other atoms, such as oxygen or nitrogen or hydrogen, it will react with those atoms in a set way, and if a carbon ion comes into contact with water it will form CH4 every time. As chemical reactions proceed, the chance of the next step in the reaction being X is never random, which is exactly why we have a science of chemistry.

The chance specified in the example above for the "random" formation of 239 protein molecules is simply a mathematical calculation that treats every atom in the equation like a simple number, as if molecules were lottery tickets.

What are the chances of a snowflake "randomly" forming?

Trillions and trillions of snowflakes spontaneously form every year, without the need of any supernatural intervention. Why? Because the properties of water are such that under the right conditions snowflakes will inevitably form. What is the chance that the structure above would be formed naturally without any "intelligent design"? If one calculates the odds of this occurring the same way that anti-evolutionists calculate the odds of life forming then one would come up with an equally impossible number. The calculation would take the number of atoms in the snowflake, and then take the number of atoms in the universe, and then use a constant to determine the number of chance interactions these atoms have, and then calculate the chance that these random interactions would result in this near perfectly symmetrical pattern. The anti-evolutionist calculations basically ask, "What is the chance that if I threw a handful of sand grains on the floor that they would happen to fall into a pattern that resembles a snowflake?"

But that's not how snowflakes form, they aren't the products of simple random arrangements of atoms; they are the products of atoms whose properties dictate that under the right conditions these patterns will arise. The conditions under which snowflakes form are rare. They require that there must be vaporized water in an existing cloud system, a certain density and composition of air, and temperatures in which vaporized water will directly crystallize. Snow does not fall on the other plants in the solar system any more than life exist on the other plants in the solar system (that we know of), does this show that there has to be a supernatural reason for the formation of snow on earth? Of course not, it just means that the conditions for snow are right on earth, while they are not right on the other plants.

What are the chances of a snowflake forming anywhere in the universe? Low, but at present on earth a limited set of conditions persists so that snowflakes form trillions and trillions and trillions of times. The occurrence of phenomena is all about the right conditions. If those conditions exist then the "chance" of a phenomenon occurring approaches 100%.

Snowflakes are examples of forms that appear to have been designed, which nevertheless have formed without intelligent guidance an almost infinite number of times on earth, with each formation being independent of the others. In the case of life, the unguided formation of life only had to happen one time, and from that point on it was self perpetuating. Snowflakes don't self-perpetuate, each one has to develop independently. If one is to look at chance the way that anti-evolutionist do, the chance that trillions upon trillions of snowflakes would form is much lower than the chance that just one cell would form. But, of course, this itself is an absurd game, because, as we know, the real world doesn't work that way. Molecules and chemical structures are not numbers and lottery tickets, and the chance of the "random" formation of any given protein or component of life cannot be calculated with any mathematical equation that we can develop, because knowing the chance of something happening requires knowing the variables that have to be fed into the equation, and right now we simply don't know enough to accurately perform such a calculation.

Furthermore, snowflakes are the products of near spontaneous formation, but life is not. The formation of life is the product of a process, in which each step in the process provided the basis for the next step. The formation of spherical rocks can be used as an example of processes in nature.

The almost perfectly spherical rocks above were all formed naturally, without any "intelligent design", yet what are the chances of this "randomly" occurring? The chances of this randomly occurring are next to zero, but there are millions of such round rocks on earth because they don't randomly form. Spherical rocks do not spontaneously form, and they only form under the right conditions. The formation of a spherical rock is a process that can take thousands of years in nature. A spherical rock is not the product of atoms randomly coming together in a spherical shape. Spherical rocks on earth come from parts of the earth's crust, which then have to be broken up into a smaller rough chunks, and those rough chucks have to then be shaped through a process to become round.

A spherical rock is vastly simpler than a cell, but it is nevertheless an example of the formation through a natural process of an object that appears to have been designed. Calculating the chance that various mineral atoms would come together to create a round rock completely misses the understanding of how round rocks actually form.

More claims by anti-evolutionists that it is mathematically impossible for life to have formed naturally:

"10 to the 18th seconds = 31.7 billion years, assuming 31,536,000 seconds per year. Even if an awesome 1,000 trillion random combinations could be tried every second each year for 30 billion years (i.e., 10 to the 33rd trials), the remaining odds would still be an enormous 10 to the 39,967th to 1 against the formation of the necessary genes, based on Hoyle's 10 to the 40,000th figure."

"The notion that not only the biopolymers, but the operating program of a living cell could be arrived at by chance in a primordial soup here on the Earth is evidently nonsense of a high order… Quite a few of my astronomical friends are considerable mathematicians, and once they become interested enough to calculate for themselves, instead of relying on hearsay argument, they can quickly see this point."

"By adding up the energy content of all the chemical bonds in a 'simple' bacterium and comparing this to the energy content at equilibrium of the constituent atoms from which it was formed, Morowitz calculated the probability of this cell to be 10 to the -10 to the 11th, that is, one chance out of a number formed by writing the number one followed by 100 billion zeroes! That number is so large that it would require 100 thousand volumes of 500 pages each just to print! Yet, the improbability of the existence of a single-celled organism, in comparison to inanimate matter, is of that order of magnitude. Are there natural processes at work that could enable this monstrous improbability to be overcome? Of course not. In fact, increase the probability a quadrillion times (one followed by 15 zeroes) and the probability would still be only one out of one followed by 99 billion, 999 million, 999 thousand, 985 zeroes!"

source: http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/origin-of-life-ref.html

The above examples demonstrate how absurd the calculations performed by anti-evolutionists are. Mathematicians and astronomers are not biologists or chemists. What are the formulas that they used?  Who are these mathematicians and where is their published work? If they are already professional scientists then they would have published other papers and would positioned to publish a paper demonstrating this mathematical impossibility. How can they possibly calculate the chance of something occurring when we don't even know the conditions in which it would occur?

For example, how do we arrive at the raw chance that a person will get struck by lightning? We do this using the number of observed lightning strikes per year, the number of observed people struck by lightening per year, and the number of observed people on the planet. Performing this calculation requires knowing the rate at which the lightning strikes occur. Since we don't even know what the conditions were on earth billions of years ago it's impossible to perform any calculation about the chance that life formation would naturally occur.

Without taking into consideration all of the physical properties of atoms it is impossible to make a blind calculation about the chance that certain structures would form.

How does adding up the energy content of chemical bonds and then comparing that to the energy content of the separate atoms "at equilibrium" tell us anything? It doesn't. That's a completely futile exercise. All that tells us is the amount of work that has to be done in order to form the cell, it tells us nothing about the chance that the cell would form, and even if it did do that, no one is claming that a modern bacterial cell spontaneously generated at any time.

Despite all of their attempts to sound scholarly and technical, what all of the people making these calculations prove is how very little they understand science or reality. These people either genuinely have no comprehension of how the world works, or they are being intentionally deceptive and trying to concoct statements that they believe will impress people of lesser education.

In any case, these calculations demonstrate an extreme failure to address the facts of evolution. Even if these calculations were true, which they are not, they do nothing at all to address the observed evidence in support of evolution.

Darwin predicted that we would find thousands of transitional fossils if his theory was true, yet we have found few or none.

This statement, while frequently made by anti-evolutionists, is false on two counts. Firstly, we have found thousands of transitional fossils that fall into the lineages of hundreds of different transitions, and secondly Darwin never claimed that we would find many transitional fossils in the first place. In fact, Darwin went to great lengths to explain why he thought that the fossil record would not contain many of the transitional forms that his theory presumes to have existed.

Here is what many anti-evolutionists claim:

The main point: If evolutionary theory is true, we should find the innumerable transitional forms Darwin predicted would be in the geologic record. We shouldn't find just a handful, but billions of them.

source: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=21776

Darwin predicted innumerable transitional forms between major groups of organisms, yet the few transitions that are suggested are surrounded in controversy.

source: http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/darwin.html

The most interesting thing about these claims is that it is very easy to verify what Darwin said about the fossil record:

But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?


[L]ooking not to any one time, but to all time, if my theory be true, numberless intermediate varieties, linking most closely all the species of the same group together, must assuredly have existed; but the very process of natural selection constantly tends, as has been so often remarked, to exterminate the parent forms and the intermediate links. Consequently evidence of their former existence could be found only amongst fossil remains, which are preserved, as we shall in a future chapter attempt to show, in an extremely imperfect and intermittent record.


The main cause, however, of innumerable intermediate links not now occurring everywhere throughout nature depends on the very process of natural selection, through which new varieties continually take the places of and exterminate their parent-forms. But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.

In the first place it should always be borne in mind what sort of intermediate forms must, on my theory, have formerly existed. I have found it difficult, when looking at any two species, to avoid picturing to myself, forms directly intermediate between them. But this is a wholly false view; we should always look for forms intermediate between each species and a common but unknown progenitor; and the progenitor will generally have differed in some respects from all its modified descendants.


On the poorness of our Palaeontological collections. That our Palaeontological collections are very imperfect, is admitted by every one. The remark of that admirable Palaeontologist, the late Edward Forbes, should not be forgotten, namely, that numbers of our fossil species are known and named from single and often broken specimens, or from a few specimens collected on some one spot. Only a small portion of the surface of the earth has been geologically explored, and no part with sufficient care, as the important discoveries made every year in Europe prove. No organism wholly soft can be preserved. Shells and bones will decay and disappear when left on the bottom of the sea, where sediment is not accumulating. I believe we are continually taking a most erroneous view, when we tacitly admit to ourselves that sediment is being deposited over nearly the whole bed of the sea, at a rate sufficiently quick to embed and preserve fossil remains.


One remark is here worth a passing notice. During periods of elevation the area of the land and of the adjoining shoal parts of the sea will be increased, and new stations will often be formed; all circumstances most favourable, as previously explained, for the formation of new varieties and species; but during such periods there will generally be a blank in the geological record. On the other hand, during subsidence, the inhabited area and number of inhabitants will decrease (excepting the productions on the shores of a continent when first broken up into an archipelago), and consequently during subsidence, though there will be much extinction, fewer new varieties or species will be formed; and it is during these very periods of subsidence, that our great deposits rich in fossils have been accumulated. Nature may almost be said to have guarded against the frequent discovery of her transitional or linking forms.


It should not be forgotten, that at the present day, with perfect specimens for examination, two forms can seldom be connected by intermediate varieties and thus proved to be the same species, until many specimens have been collected from many places; and in the case of fossil species this could rarely be effected by palaeontologists. We shall, perhaps, best perceive the improbability of our being enabled to connect species by numerous, fine, intermediate, fossil links, by asking ourselves whether, for instance, geologists at some future period will be able to prove, that our different breeds of cattle, sheep, horses, and dogs have descended from a single stock or from several aboriginal stocks; or, again, whether certain sea-shells inhabiting the shores of North America, which are ranked by some conchologists as distinct species from their European representatives, and by other conchologists as only varieties, are really varieties or are, as it is called, specifically distinct. This could be effected only by the future geologist discovering in a fossil state numerous intermediate gradations; and such success seems to me improbable in the highest degree.


One other consideration is worth notice: with animals and plants that can propagate rapidly and are not highly locomotive, there is reason to suspect, as we have formerly seen, that their varieties are generally at first local; and that such local varieties do not spread widely and supplant their parent-forms until they have been modified and perfected in some considerable degree. According to this view, the chance of discovering in a formation in any one country all the early stages of transition between any two forms, is small, for the successive changes are supposed to have been local or confined to some one spot. Most marine animals have a wide range; and we have seen that with plants it is those which have the widest range, that oftenest present varieties; so that with shells and other marine animals, it is probably those which have had the widest range, far exceeding the limits of the known geological formations of Europe, which have oftenest given rise, first to local varieties and ultimately to new species; and this again would greatly lessen the chance of our being able to trace the stages of transition in any one geological formation.


I have attempted to show that the geological record is extremely imperfect; that only a small portion of the globe has been geologically explored with care; that only certain classes of organic beings have been largely preserved in a fossil state; that the number both of specimens and of species, preserved in our museums, is absolutely as nothing compared with the incalculable number of generations which must have passed away even during a single formation; that, owing to subsidence being necessary for the accumulation of fossiliferous deposits thick enough to resist future degradation, enormous intervals of time have elapsed between the successive formations; that there has probably been more extinction during the periods of subsidence, and more variation during the periods of elevation, and during the latter the record will have been least perfectly kept; that each single formation has not been continuously deposited; that the duration of each formation is, perhaps, short compared with the average duration of specific forms; that migration has played an important part in the first appearance of new forms in any one area and formation; that widely ranging species are those which have varied most, and have oftenest given rise to new species; and that varieties have at first often been local. All these causes taken conjointly, must have tended to make the geological record extremely imperfect, and will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps.
- The Origin of Species; Charles Darwin

It is obvious from Darwin's writing that he never predicted that we would find lots of transitional fossils. Darwin actually dedicated an entire chapter of The Origin of Species to the discussion of why we should not expect to find transitional fossils. In fact, it can very safely be argued that we have found many more transitional fossils than Darwin predicted we would find, so indeed the very opposite of this anti-evolutionist claim is true.

We have found more transitional fossils than Darwin predicted, not less.

There are no transitional fossils. Archaeopteryx is just a different kind of bird.

Anti-evolutionists commonly claim that there simply are no fossils of transitional forms at all. They state that all fossils are of "distinct species", believing that a transitional fossil should be some kind of incompletely formed animal. This is not what transitional forms are though. There are actually two types of transitional forms, specific features that are physically intermediate between other features, and whole organisms that contain a mix of features from different taxa.

An example of the first case are the transitional forms that support the evolution of the mammal ear.

Starting with the ends of the spectrum we have reptiles and mammals. Reptiles have a jaw bone with three bones and a single ear bone, while mammals have a single jaw bone with three ear bones. Fossils of cynodonts, for example, provide us with an example of jaw and ear structures that are half way between those of mammals and reptiles.

The second type of transitional form is an organism that possess a mix of traits from different taxa, such as Archaeopteryx. Of course, both types of transitional forms can be present in one specimen. A specimen may contain a mix of traits that look the same as examples found in different taxa, as well as traits that are themselves intermediate between traits found in different taxa.

The difficultly in drawing relationships between organisms via transitional forms can easily be demonstrated with the use of currently existing animals that we know for a fact are related. Dogs make the perfect example.

We know for a fact that all domestic dogs are genetically related to one another, i.e. that they all have a common ancestry (the common point of ancestry may go back prior to domestication).

Let us take a look at the skulls of some modern dogs (Note that these skulls are not to scale):

Saluki - 5,000 YO breed from Arabia

Great Pyrenees - 4,000 YO breed from France

Rottweiler - 2,000 YO breed from Germany

Pekingese - 2,000 YO breed from China

Pug - 500 YO breed from China

Cocker Spaniel - 500 YO breed from China

Collie - 500 YO breed from Europe

French Bulldog - 200 YO breed from France

Boxer - 200 YO breed from Germany

Boston Terrier - 200 YO breed from America

We know for a fact that all of these animals are related, and we know the general ancestry of all of these breeds, yet even within this one species, i.e. the domestic dog, we are not capable of putting together a completely smooth transitional sequence of individuals from 5,000 years ago to today that shows a smooth progression of a skull like that of the Saluki to one like that of a Pug or Boston Terrier. Why? For one thing it's because no such progression ever existed. Some evolutionary changes result in significant physical transformation, for which their was no physiological transition. A small change to DNA and result in a large change to morphology.

Arguably, the fossil Hominid skulls that we have collected spanning the last 6 million years bare a closer resemblance to each other, and show a more clear progression, than what we can even piece together today to show the lineages of the domestic dog.

If we cannot put together a clear transitional sequence to the finest detail showing the transitional forms from Wolf to Chihuahua, animals that we know are related to each other with 100% certainly, then how can we be expected to put together even more finely tuned sequences that span millions of years? Using transitional fossils to support The Theory of Biological Evolution does not require that level of detail, and it will never be capable of being attained.

Look at the level of change that has occurred in dogs over the past 5,000 years. In many cases, we are lucky to find fossil specimens of suspected relatives that are within a million years of each other. In such an amount of time a tremendous amount of change can take place.

Here is what anti-evolutionists have to say about transitional forms:

"Nowhere do we see animals with partially evolved legs, eyes, brains, or various other tissues, organs, and biological structures."
- Ranganathan, B.G. Origins?, 1988

What exactly does one expect a "partially evolved" brain, "partially evolved" eye, or "partially evolved" leg to look  like? By all accounts we can look out among the currently living creatures of the planet and find examples of "partially evolved" eyes, brains, and legs.

Partially evolved leg

Series of partially evolved eyes

Partially evolved brain in earthworm

"There is no evidence in the fossil record of one kind of creature becoming another kind. No transitional links or intermediate forms between various kinds of creatures have ever been found." For example, "the evolutionist claims that it took perhaps fifty million years for a fish to evolve into an amphibian. But, again, there are no transitional forms. For example, not a single fossil with part fins...part feet has been found. And this is true between every major plant and animal kind."
- Ranganathan, B.G. Origins?, 1988

The blanket statement that no transitional links or intermediate forms have been found is just plain false, and has been false since the time that Darwin originally published The Origin of Species. The recent finds of various specimens including Tiktaalik roseae provide examples of fossils with part fins and part feet. There are now over a dozen different kinds of specimens from the Devonian period that show various transitional forms between fish and land animals.

Diagram of Tiktaalik roseae limbs

"The occasional suggested examples of missing links (such as the famous archaeopteryx - supposedly linking the birds and reptiles) can usually be recognized on closer study to represent merely another type of one of the basic kinds it supposedly links (the archaeopteryx was a true bird, by any reasonable definition, with feathers and warm blood)."
- Morris, Henry M. Evolution and the Modern Christian

"Another alleged reptilian feature of Archaeopteryx was its possession of teeth. If this is a feature derived from a reptilian ancestor, and toothed birds subsequently evolved into toothless birds, then the fossil record should produce intermediates documenting the gradual loss of teeth in birds. Not one single intermediate has ever been discovered. Some fossil birds have teeth some did not. That this should be true is not surprising since this is true of all other classes of vertebrates - fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Furthermore, following the notion that the absence of teeth denotes a more 'advanced' state, then the duck-billed platypus and the spiny anteater, mammals that do not have teeth, should be considered more advanced or highly evolved than man, yet in many other ways, as previously mentioned, the duck-billed platypus and spiny anteater could be considered the most primitive of all mammals. Thus, the possession or absence of teeth proves nothing about ultimate ancestry."
- Gish, D. T.  Evolution: Challenge of the Fossil Record, 1985

The only way that someone can call Archaeopteryx a "true bird" is if one bases the definition of a bird purely on the existence of feathers and nothing else. The skeleton of Archaeopteryx is more reptilian than bird like by far. In fact we now know that other Archaeopteryx fossils that lacked feathers, which were found prior to the 1861 find that had the feather impression, were originally classified as reptiles. A comparison of the skeleton of Archaeopteryx to those of birds and dinosaurs shows that Archaeopteryx does not look skeletally like a present day bird.

Comparison of Archaeopteryx to dinosaur and chicken.

To claim that the presence of teeth in Archaeopteryx "proves nothing about ultimate ancestry" is simply ridiculous. Present day birds do not have teeth. This feature is neither more "advanced" nor "primitive", it is simply representative of the current form that birds have. The lack of teeth has likely been selected for in birds because a beak weights less than a jaw with teeth.

As far as fossils showing a "gradual loss of teeth" is concerned, first of all, the fossil birds and birdlike creatures that we have found with teeth certainly have smaller teeth than their other dinosaur kin, and secondly of all, teeth were probably lost through mutations that resulted in the lack of tooth expression. In other words, out of a batch of offspring some of them simply never developed teeth at all, loosing teeth in a single generation. This is highly likely because present day birds still have genes that code for the production of teeth, but these genes do not get expressed because some trigger mechanism to initiate tooth development does not occur in birds. This type of mutation typically occurs as a single disruptive mutation that happens in one generation.

Toothless individuals would be selected against in many populations, but in certain situations, like among anteaters or birds, these mutations were selected for because they had an advantage. The loss of teeth could have occurred independently multiple times among the early bird ancestors, or all modern birds could be descended from one branch where teeth were lost.

To claim that Archaeopteryx only displays a mix of "fully formed" features from different classes, such as the fully formed feathers of birds and  fully functional teeth of reptiles, is also ridiculous. The forelimbs of Archaeopteryx are clearly neither fully like the wings of modern birds nor fully like the arms of dinosaurs. The forelimb structure itself is transitional between a dinosaur limb and a bird wing.

Anti-evolutionists make further arguments, typically based solely on the Archaeopteryx fossils, that there is no fossil evidence for the evolution of feathers, claiming that there are no "transitional feathers" in the fossil record.

A major problem with this claim is that Archaeopteryx isn't the only fossil specimen with feathers. In fact, over the past 10 years hundreds of different "feathered dinosaurs" have been found in China. In fact, many of the specimens found in China show that many types of dinosaurs which had previously not been thought to have had feathers, actually did have feathers. Feathers were much more common among a wide range of organisms than previously thought.

The China finds highlight a critical issue with the fossil record, which is how fickle and unclear the fossil record can be. The feathered specimens found in China all come from one major sight that was produced because of a volcanic eruption. This goes to the heart of how selective and fickle the fossil record is, because many of the same "species" of dinosaurs have been found in other places all over the world, but their feathers were never preserved at these other locations.

Fossilization takes place in a variety of different ways. The common type of fossilization that takes place via mineral replacement or via impressions in heavy mud or sand is not sufficient to preserve delicate features such as feathers. Hence the reason that many features, such as feathers, seem to appear out of nowhere in the fossil record.

The feathers of Archaeopteryx were also preserved in a rare find-grained sandstone formation in Germany. Many other fossils of Archaeopteryx have been found without the feathers preserved. Adding to the problem of tracing the evolution of feathers through the fossil record is that it's highly likely that many of the early stages of feather development were probably more delicate and even less likely to be preserved.

According to The Theory of Biological Evolution we do expect to find fossils that that bridge morphological gaps between taxa, but because of both the imperfections of the geologic record and the fact that some morphological changes are not gradual, we do not expect that we will ever be able to fully construct a smooth transitional series linking every modern species to fossil ancestors.

The existence of transitional fossils is exactly what evolutionary theory predicts, but the existence of any such fossils contradicts creationist expectations. Clearly, fossils of birds with teeth is in line with evolutionary predictions, but not in line with creationist expectations.

Darwin was a racist and evolutionary theory supports racism, exploitation, violence, and the idea that might makes right.

This is one of the more complex claims made by many opponents of evolution that gets into a variety of social and historical issues that are far beyond the scope of biology and evolution.

Claims have been made that everything from racism to the Holocaust are products of "evolutionary thinking". The claim has also been made, erroneously, that Darwin was a "racist".

The following view is representative of many anti-evolutionist views on what they believe is implied by the theory of evolution.

Socially, natural selection argues that the best and fittest society would be one where its' individuals look out only for themselves and would advance themselves, if possible, at the expense of others. It would even destroy others if possible. Thus barbarianism is demanded by natural selection with the destruction of the weak and the free domain of the powerful. It demands total annihilation of anything weaker than necessary and the ruling of anyone more powerful than others. People exhibit mercy, pity, and morality, all of which inhibit natural selection.
source: http://emporium.turnpike.net/C/cs/evid7.htm

Actually evolutionary theory comes to the opposite conclusion, which is that societies with the most cooperation will flourish and perform the best. Evolution offers a valuable model for understanding why it is that self interest often conflicts with social interests.

All that The Theory of Biological Evolution can do is seek to explain the world as it is. The theory of evolution is not a value system nor do evolutionary biologists claim that social systems should be based on natural systems. There was a movement in the early 1900s called "Social Darwinism", which did claim that certain groups or individuals were entitled to dominate society, but Darwin had nothing to do with this and in fact these views are not at all supported by evolutionary theory.

From a social perspective evolutionary theory explains why we see conflict, competition, domination, and hierarchy in social groups, as well as why we see cooperation, compassion, and altruism. Evolutionary theory does not put forward any values, it does not claim that competition is good or bad, it just observes its existence and reports the results of it.

Most significantly, though, what Darwin and many other evolutionary theorists have observed is that the processes of nature often produce what we consider to be negative attributes, such as aggression, violence, and domination. In understanding why these traits exist we can be better prepared to mitigate them.

The irony of this criticism of evolution is that evolutionary theory is what informs us about these negative qualities so that we can learn how to overcome them. Why do people fight? Why do we have wars? Why have we had slavery? Why have a few people dominated societies for the past thousands of years? Why are people instinctively repulsed by people with deformities?

These are all questions that religions have sought to answer for years. The Christian explanation for these negative traits is that they have been caused by a mythological event that took place in the Garden of Eden, when Eve ate a fruit, thereby defying the commandments of God, and leading to a curse on humanity for the rest of time.

Such an explanation does nothing to help us learn about things such as social conflict and understand how to overcome it.

Nature is not a model for society, that is one of the things that we learn the most from evolutionary theory. We learn, through evolutionary theory, that many of the problems that have long been associated solely with human society are in fact ubiquitous in nature, that indeed natural processes propagate these problems.

In the social sense evolutionary theory reinforces the belief of many religions, including Christianity, that as humans we are in a struggle to overcome the products of our inherent nature. People do have an inherent nature that is a product of our natural evolution, which took place in a very competitive and hostile environment of scarce resources.

Evolutionary studies provide us with many examples of how natural selection leads to qualities that we don't like. A recent study showed that sexual competition in bats can lead to lower brain sizes because as sexual competition increases natural selection selects for bats that have larger testicles, and therefore higher sperm counts. The increase in sperm production comes at the expense of brain size, as both use the same types of proteins. This is a prime example of how evolution does not always produce traits that we value.

As well as helping to understand the negative aspects of life, Darwin also sought to explain the cooperative and beneficial aspects of nature. Darwin dedicated whole chapters of his works to the discussion of cooperation in social animals and people. For example:

With mankind, selfishness, experience, and imitation, probably add, as Mr. Bain has shown, to the power of sympathy; for we are led by the hope of receiving good in return to perform acts of sympathetic kindness to others; and sympathy is much strengthened by habit. In however complex a manner this feeling may have originated, as it is one of high importance to all those animals which aid and defend one another, it will have been increased through natural selection; for those communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.
- The Descent of Man; Charles Darwin, 1871

It has further been suggested that Darwin was a racist and that Darwinian ideas are responsible for the rise of extreme racism in the 20th century, including the racism of the Nazis.

In 2001 the Louisiana State Legislature put forward a bill to reject the teaching of "Darwinism" based on the claim that Darwin and his teachings are racist and that they led directly to the ideology of Nazism.

See: Louisiana Calls Darwin a Racist

WHEREAS, empirical science has documented an indisputable commonality among all people groups, or races, and has demonstrated that normal variations in the human gene pool account for our differences, of which racial differences are a trivial portion; and

WHEREAS, the writings of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, promoted the justification of racism, and his books On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life and The Descent of Man postulate a hierarchy of superior and inferior races; and

WHEREAS, Adolf Hitler and others have exploited the racist views of Darwin and those he influenced, such as German zoologist Ernst Haekel, to justify the annihilation of millions of purportedly racially inferior individuals.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of Louisiana does hereby deplore all instances and ideologies of racism, does hereby reject the core concepts of Darwinist ideology that certain races and classes of humans are inherently superior to others, and does hereby condemn the extent to which these philosophies have been used to justify and approve racist practices.


These claims are based on major historical distortions and outright fallacies.

Charles Darwin actually combated many of the racist views of his day with scientific evidence, showing that both the popular beliefs about race and those held by many other scholars were wrong.

Common beliefs about humans during the 1800s included the beliefs that:

  • Whites, Blacks, American Indians, and Asians are all different species
  • The races are static and created by God, and should thus never be mixed
  • There are superior and inferior races and the superior whites have the right to dominate the inferior blacks and Indians
  • There are distinct delineations between the races
  • Different races are not related to each other
  • Interbreeding of races leads to degeneration
  • God originally created civilization, and that whites have stayed true to God, and thus maintained civilization, but the darker races have degenerated and lost civilization as they have become more savage and further from the word of God (This was published by Archbishop Whately and the Duke of Argyll )

Regarding this last item, the view was advanced among Catholics during the 1800s that mankind can never raise himself up, so it must mean that we started out civilized and have degraded.

source: Cornell University Archive

One must be struck with the similarity between the discussion above, from 1869, and the current discussions of intelligent design.

In contrast to these views on race Darwin showed that:

  • People cannot be classified as different species
  • All races are related and have a common ancestry
  • All people come from "savage" origins
  • The different races have much more in common than was widely believed
  • The mental capabilities of all races are virtually the same and that there is greater variation within races than between races
  • Different races of people can interbreed and there is no concern for ill effects
  • Culture, not biology, accounted for the greatest differences between the races
  • Races are not distinct, but rather they blend together

An initial point of misconception about Darwin's views on race comes from the full title of his famous book, On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection: Or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. It is important to note here that "race" was a term that was more often used to discuss plants and animals at this point in history than it was to describe people. In fact, Darwin avoided much discussion of people in The Origin of Species and only used the word "race" a few times, in each of these cases referring to plants or animals.

Having alluded to the subject of reversion, I may here refer to a statement often made by naturalists-namely, that our domestic varieties, when run wild, gradually but certainly revert in character to their aboriginal stocks. Hence it has been argued that no deductions can be drawn from domestic races to species in a state of nature. I have in vain endeavoured to discover on what decisive facts the above statement has so often and so boldly been made.


Nevertheless, as our varieties certainly do occasionally revert in some of their characters to ancestral forms, it seems to me not improbable, that if we could succeed in naturalising, or were to cultivate, during many generations, the several races, for instance, of the cabbage, in very poor soil (in which case, however, some effect would have to be attributed to the direct action of the poor soil), that they would to a large extent, or even wholly, revert to the wild aboriginal stock.


When we look to the hereditary varieties or races of our domestic animals and plants, and compare them with species closely allied together, we generally perceive in each domestic race, as already remarked, less uniformity of character than in true species. Domestic races of the same species, also, often have a somewhat monstrous character; by which I mean, that, although differing from each other, and from the other species of the same genus, in several trifling respects, they often differ in an extreme degree in some one part, both when compared one with another, and more especially when compared with all the species in nature to which they are nearest allied.
- The Origin of Species; Charles Darwin, 1858

It is often pointed out that Darwin frequently used the term "savages" when discussing the tribal people whom he wrote about. In his use of the term savages, however, Darwin was simply using the standard lexicon of his time. To claim that Darwin or evolutionary theory had anything to do with racism, or that racism didn't exist prior to evolutionary theory, is a major distortion of the facts. Prior to Darwin many Europeans viewed themselves as somehow different from all other peoples. The belief that Europeans were the direct descendants of Adam and Eve, while all other races were descended from Cain, was popular. This belief is still doctrine in some Christian faiths, though most people no longer believe it. Many Europeans also believed that Africans and Native Americans were separate "subhuman" species. Darwin argued against the popular belief that different "races" had different origins, or that the different races were separately created, or that whites were created superior by God. Darwin showed that all people are related, a remarkable statement for his time. He also freely admitted to having had sexual relations with a black women, something else unheard of in his time.

Although the existing races of man differ in many respects, as in colour, hair, shape of skull, proportions of the body, &c., yet if their whole structure be taken into consideration they are found to resemble each other closely in a multitude of points. Many of these are of so unimportant or of so singular a nature, that it is extremely improbable that they should have been independently acquired by aboriginally distinct species or races. The same remark holds good with equal or greater force with respect to the numerous points of mental similarity between the most distinct races of man. The American aborigines, Negroes and Europeans are as different from each other in mind as any three races that can be named; yet I was incessantly struck, whilst living with the Feugians on board the "Beagle," with the many little traits of character, shewing how similar their minds were to ours; and so it was with a full-blooded negro with whom I happened once to be intimate.

He who will read Mr. Tylor's and Sir J. Lubbock's interesting works can hardly fail to be deeply impressed with the close similarity between the men of all races in tastes, dispositions and habits. This is shown by the pleasure which they all take in dancing, rude music, acting, painting, tattoing, and otherwise decorating themselves; in their mutual comprehension of gesture-language, by the same expression in their features, and by the same inarticulate cries, when excited by the same emotions. This similarity, or rather identity, is striking, when contrasted with the different expressions and cries made by distinct species of monkeys. There is good evidence that the art of shooting with bows and arrows has not been handed down from any common progenitor of mankind, yet as Westropp and Nilsson have remarked, the stone arrow-heads, brought from the most distant parts of the world, and manufactured at the most remote periods, are almost identical; and this fact can only be accounted for by the various races having similar inventive or mental powers. The same observation has been made by archeologists with respect to certain widely-prevalent ornaments, such as zig-zags, &c.; and with respect to various simple beliefs and customs, such as the burying of the dead under megalithic structures. I remember observing in South America, that there, as in so many other parts of the world, men have generally chosen the summits of lofty hills, to throw up piles of stones, either as a record of some remarkable event, or for burying their dead.

Now when naturalists observe a close agreement in numerous small details of habits, tastes, and dispositions between two or more domestic races, or between nearly-allied natural forms, they use this fact as an argument that they are descended from a common progenitor who was thus endowed; and consequently that all should be classed under the same species. The same argument may be applied with much force to the races of man.

As it is improbable that the numerous and unimportant points of resemblance between the several races of man in bodily structure and mental faculties (I do not here refer to similar customs) should all have been independently acquired, they must have been inherited from progenitors who had these same characters.
- The Descent of Man; Charles Darwin; 1871

Genocidal wars against the Natives of the Americas had been taking place since the 1500s. Slavery existed long before Darwin, and America's race based slave system was well entrenched before Darwin was even born. Darwin was an ardent abolitionist in fact. He was a member of several abolitionist organizations, and he wrote frequently about the injustices of slavery and defended the intelligence of blacks on several occasions.

I will not even allude to the many heart-sickening atrocities which I authentically heard of; -- nor would I have mentioned the above revolting details, had I not met with several people, so blinded by the constitutional gaiety of the negro as to speak of slavery as a tolerable evil. Such people have generally visited at the houses of the upper classes, where the domestic slaves are usually well treated, and they have not, like myself, lived amongst the lower classes. Such inquirers will ask slaves about their condition; they forget that the slave must indeed be dull, who does not calculate on the chance of his answer reaching his master's ears.


It is often attempted to palliate slavery by comparing the state of slaves with our poorer countrymen: if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin; but how this bears on slavery, I cannot see; as well might the use of the thumb-screw be defended in one land, by showing that men in another land suffered from some dreadful disease. Those who look tenderly at the slave owner, and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter; what a cheerless prospect, with not even a hope of change! picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children -- those objects which nature urges even the slave to call his own -- being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one's blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty:
- The Voyage of the Beagle; Charles Darwin, 1839

In a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who formed and led the first black regiment in the American Civil War, Darwin wrote:

My wife has just finished reading aloud your 'Life with a Black Regiment,' and you must allow me to thank you heartily for the very great pleasure which it has in many ways given us. I always thought well of the negroes, from the little which I have seen of them; and I have been delighted to have my vague impressions confirmed, and their character and mental powers so ably discussed.
- Letter from Darwin to Thomas Higginson,  February 27, 1873

While on the voyage of the HMS Beagle Darwin wrote:

I was told before leaving England that after living in slave countries all my opinions would be altered; the only alteration I am aware of is forming a much higher estimate of the negro character. It is impossible to see a negro and not feel kindly towards him; such cheerful, open, honest expressions and such fine muscular bodies. I never saw any of the diminutive Portuguese, with their murderous countenances, without almost wishing for Brazil to follow the example of Hayti; and, considering the enormous healthy-looking black population, it will be wonderful if, at some future day, it does not take place.
- Letter from Darwin to J.S. Henslo, March 1834

When Darwin was eighteen he recorded his acquaintances with a black man in England, whom he spent time with. His notes were later published in his autobiography.

By the way, a negro lived in Edinburgh, who had travelled with Waterton, and gained his livelihood by stuffing birds, which he did excellently: he gave me lessons for payment, and I used often to sit with him, for he was a very pleasant and intelligent man.
- Autobiography of Darwin, 1887

Darwin did objectively document many cultural aspects of various primitive societies, and these writings are often referred to today as "racist". It must be remembered that Darwin traveled to some of the most remote areas of the world, and he came into contact with more different primitive cultures than just about any human being that ever lived. He traveled around the world at a time when there were still many tribes on the earth that had never come into contact with Europeans, and Darwin was in many cases the only white person these people had ever seen, and in others he was the only white person who had ever come to live among them and study them. Unlike other Europeans of his time, who took positions of domination over the natives that they came into contact with, Darwin lived among dozens of different groups of natives throughout South America and Australia. This was unheard of, and many people considered him unwise to put himself in what they believed to be such danger, and indeed it was dangerous. Some of these tribes were cannibals and many of them regularly killed outsiders.

Tribal cultures are often idealized today, but Darwin was simply documenting the facts about the tribes that he lived among. Darwin did have a generally positive view of civilization and a negative view of tribal culture. The things that he did not like about tribal culture were his observations that tribal people were more likely to enslave women, be distrustful of outsiders, have wars amongst each others, practice cannibalism, torture animals, torture people, engage in self mutilation, and not show kindness to those outside of their own family group.

Darwin did objectively document these facts about the cultures that he lived among, and he also made special note of cultures that had what he considered to be positive qualities as well, such as openness, honesty, and love of others. In fact, Darwin noted that cultures were more different than races were, something astonishing for his time. Darwin's views and interactions with primitive tribes can perhaps best be summed up by his closing remarks from The Descent of Man:

The main conclusion arrived at in this work, namely, that man is descended from some lowly organised form, will, I regret to think, be highly distasteful to many. But there can hardly be a doubt that we are descended from barbarians. The astonishment which I felt on first seeing a party of Fuegians on a wild and broken shore will never be forgotten by me, for the reflection at once rushed into my mind—such were our ancestors. These men were absolutely naked and bedaubed with paint, their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed with excitement, and their expression was wild, startled, and distrustful.

They possessed hardly any arts, and like wild animals lived on what they could catch; they had no government, and were merciless to every one not of their own small tribe. He who has seen a savage in his native land will not feel much shame, if forced to acknowledge that the blood of some more humble creature flows in his veins. For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper, or from that old baboon, who descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs—as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practises infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.

Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hope for a still higher destiny in the distant future.
- The Descent of Man; Charles Darwin; 1871

Darwin did make distinctions between race and culture, and in The Descent of Man Darwin made it clear that he was discussing both biological evolution and cultural evolution. Darwin discussed the evolution of human cultures and used primitive tribes to discuss how man developed from a "savage" to a civilized state, but he actually refuted the belief that people from savage tribes were biologically inferior, which was the common belief of his day.

Today many people read Darwin's books out of context, so when terms like savages or negroes are used it seems as if Darwin was racist, however it is instructive to put Darwin in context. A perfect example would be to compare the words of Darwin to his contemporary Abraham Lincoln. Both Darwin and Lincoln were born on the same day, and Lincoln was elected president two years after Darwin published The Origin of Species. The Lincoln - Douglas debates offer an excellent look into views on race that were held in America at the time because race was so often discussed in the debates, and these debates offer an example of what the highest representatives of American culture had to say about race at the time.

"While I was at the hotel today, an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the negroes and white people. [Great Laughter.] While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied every thing. I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter.]"
- Abraham Lincoln; Fourth Presidential Debate with Stephen Douglas, September 18, 1858

It is important to note here that the views of Stephen Douglas were even more racist than Lincoln's, and that both men enjoyed popular support for their racist views. Note that Lincoln received applause for his remarks. The fact is that essentially all Europeans were racist in the 1800s by today's standards.

"For one, I am opposed to negro citizenship in any and every form. [Cheers.] I believe this Government was made on the white basis. ["Good."] I believe it was made by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men, men of European birth and descent, instead of conferring it upon negroes, Indians, and other inferior races. ["Good for you!" "Douglas forever!"]


Now, I do not believe that the Almighty ever intended the negro to be the equal of the white man. ["Never, never!"] If he did, he has been a long time demonstrating the fact. [Cheers.] For thousands of years the negro has been a race upon the earth, and during all that time, in all latitudes and climates, wherever he has wandered or been taken, he has been inferior to the race which he has there met. He belongs to an inferior race, and must always occupy an inferior position."
- Stephen Douglas; First Presidential Debate with Abraham Lincoln, August 21, 1858

To claim that Darwin and evolutionary teachings are responsible for racism or the belief that whites are superior to blacks is completely inconsistent with the historical facts. Darwin, in fact, was on the leading edge of the opposition to racism.

Compare the comments of Lincoln and Douglas to those of Darwin:

As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures. Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is, humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions. It is apparently unfelt by savages, except towards their pets. How little the old Romans knew of it is shewn by their abhorrent gladiatorial exhibitions. The very idea of humanity, as far as I could observe, was new to most of the Gauchos of the Pampas. This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in public opinion.

The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognise that we ought to control our thoughts, and "not even in inmost thought to think again the sins that made the past so pleasant to us." Whatever makes any bad action familiar to the mind, renders its performance by so much the easier. As Marcus Aurelius long ago said, "Such as are thy habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of thy mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts."
- Charles Darwin; The Descent of Man, 1871

Here, of course, we see the use of the term "savages" by Darwin, but it is obvious that what Darwin was saying was that the greatest moral good is the development of inclusiveness, an advanced humanist view that went well beyond the popular beliefs of his day. Darwin was saying that the highest moral code is to break down social barriers between the races, between the nations, and even between man and animal. He noted that this was not something that was originally natural among people, but that this view tended to increase with advances in civilization.

Darwin made it clear in his work that culture in many cases transcended biology. Contrary to the popular opinion of his day, Darwin stated that all people were much more a like than what it initially appeared, and that "savages" were only savages because of culture, not because they were biologically inferior.

To claim that such a man was a defender or promoter of racism is truly abhorrent. Furthermore, to claim that evolutionary theory is responsible for the ideologies of Nazism and the Holocaust is a claim of grave historical revisionism.

Violent and institutional discrimination against Jews dominated European society ever since the first days that Christians came to power in Rome. Starting with the Emperor Constantine, laws against Jews were enacted and the Christian Emperors, as well as the influential Christian theologians such as Saint Augustine, blamed Jews for the ills of society and called Jews the "killers of Christ".

315: Constantine published the Edict of Milan which extended religious tolerance to Christians. Jews lost many rights with this edict. They were no longer permitted to live in Jerusalem, or to proselytize.

325: The Council of Nicea decided to separate the celebration of Easter from the Jewish Passover. They stated: "For it is unbecoming beyond measure that on this holiest of festivals we should follow the customs of the Jews. Henceforth let us have nothing in common with this odious people...We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews...our worship follows a...more convenient course...we desire dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews...How, then, could we follow these Jews, who are almost certainly blinded."

337: Christian Emperor Constantius created a law which made the marriage of a Jewish man to a Christian punishable by death.

339: Converting to Judaism became a criminal offense.

343-381: The Laodicean Synod approved Cannon XXXVIII: "It is not lawful [for Christians] to receive unleavened bread from the Jews, nor to be partakers of their impiety." 5

367 - 376: St. Hilary of Poitiers referred to Jews as a perverse people who God has cursed forever. St. Ephroem refers to synagogues as brothels.

379-395: Emperor Theodosius the Great permitted the destruction of synagogues if it served a religious purpose. Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire at this time.

380: The bishop of Milan was responsible for the burning of a synagogue; he referred to it as "an act pleasing to God."

415: The Bishop of Alexandria, St. Cyril, expelled the Jews from that Egyptian city.

415: St. Augustine wrote "The true image of the Hebrew is Judas Iscariot, who sells the Lord for silver. The Jew can never understand the Scriptures and forever will bear the guilt for the death of Jesus."

source: Jewish Persecution 70-1200 C.E.

In 1543 Martin Luther, the German founder of Protestantism, published a book titled The Jews and Their Lies, in which he advocated the complete expulsion of Jews from Europe. In this book Martin Luther stated:

"First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly ­ and I myself was unaware of it ­ will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.

Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. (remainder omitted)

Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor Jews captive with the saying of Moses (Deuteronomy 17 [:10 ff.]) in which he commands them to obey their teachers on penalty of death, although Moses clearly adds: "what they teach you in accord with the law of the Lord." Those villains ignore that. They wantonly employ the poor people's obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy. In the same way the pope also held us captive with the declaration in Matthew 16 {:18], "You are Peter," etc, inducing us to believe all the lies and deceptions that issued from his devilish mind. He did not teach in accord with the word of God, and therefore he forfeited the right to teach.

Fifth, I advise that safe­conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let they stay at home. (...remainder omitted).

Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God's blessing in a good and worthy cause.

Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen 3[:19]}. For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants."
- The Jews and Their Lies; Martin Luther, 1543

When the Nazis came to power they taught in school that Jesus was not a Jew because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that therefore it was appropriate to be a Christian and still hate Jews. The Nazis made wide use of religious references in their program, and they made appeals to racism on a religious basis.

"Everybody who has the right kind of feeling for his country is solemnly bound, each within his own denomination, to see to it that he is not constantly talking about the Will of God merely from the lips but that in actual fact he fulfils the Will of God and does not allow God's handiwork to be debased. For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties. Whoever destroys His work wages war against God's Creation and God's Will.


The consequence of this racial purity, universally valid in Nature, is not only the sharp outward delimitation of the various races, but their uniform character in themselves. The fox is always a fox, the goose a goose, the tiger a tiger, etc., and the difference can lie at most in the varying measure of force, strength, intelligence, dexterity, endurance, etc., of the individual specimens.


The result of all racial crossing is therefore in brief always the following:
  • Lowering of the level of the higher race;
  • Physical and intellectual regression and hence the beginning of a slowly but surely progressing sickness.
To bring about such a development is, then, nothing else but to sin against the will of the eternal creator.


With satanic joy in his face, the black-haired Jewish youth lurks in wait for the unsuspecting girl whom he defiles with his blood, thus stealing her from her people. With every means he tries to destroy the racial foundations of the people he has set out to subjugate. Just as he himself systematically ruins women and girls, he does not shrink back from pulling down the blood barriers for others, even on a large scale. It was and it is Jews who bring the Negroes into the Rhineland, always with the same secret thought and clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily resulting bastardization, throwing it down from its cultural and political height, and himself rising to be its master.
For a racially pure people which is conscious of its blood can never be enslaved by the Jew. In this world he will forever be master over bastards and bastards alone."
- Mein Kampf; Adolf Hitler, 1925

Life comes from God and returns to God. All life and all races follow God's ordinances. No people and no race can ignore them. We want the German youth to again recognize the religious nature of life. They must realize that God wants the individual as well as the whole people, and that they lose contact with life when they lose contact with God! God and nation are the two foundations of the life of the individual and the community. We want no shallow and superficial piety, but rather a deep faith that God guides the world, that he controls it, and a consciousness of the relationship between God and each individual, and between God and the live of the people and the fatherland. The National Socialist state will promote such a deeply religious educational system. We want parents to support and strengthen this by honesty and by good example.

Race, military training, leadership, religion! These are the four unshakable foundations of the new German National Socialist education!
- Educational Principles of the New Germany; What Schools and Parents Need to Know About the Goals of National Socialist Education, 1937

All of these ideas are in direct contradiction to evolutionary theory and to the views of Darwin. Not only did the racist ideology of the Nazis not have anything to do with Darwin, but the ideology was in fact based on the very views that Darwin had taught against and refuted with scientific evidence.  Nazism represented everything completely the opposite of Darwin's personal beliefs and the opposite of evolutionary theory.

Contrary to the belief that there is such a thing as "fixed" or "distinct" races, Darwin showed that there are no such clear distinctions between people at all:

Our naturalist would likewise be much disturbed as soon as he perceived that the distinctive characters of all the races were highly variable. This fact strikes every one on first beholding the negro slaves in Brazil, who have been imported from all parts of Africa. The same remark holds good with the Polynesians, and with many other races. It may be doubted whether any character can be named which is distinctive of a race and is constant. Savages, even within the limits of the same tribe, are not nearly so uniform in character, as has been often asserted. Hottentot women offer certain peculiarities, more strongly marked than those occurring in any other race, but these are known not to be of constant occurrence. In the several American tribes, colour and hairiness differ considerably; as does colour to a certain degree, and the shape of the features greatly, in the Negroes of Africa. The shape of the skull varies much in some races; and so it is with every other character. Now all naturalists have learnt by dearly bought experience, how rash it is to attempt to define species by the aid of inconstant characters.

But the most weighty of all the arguments against treating the races of man as distinct species, is that they graduate into each other, independently in many cases, as far as we can judge, of their having inter-crossed. Man has been studied more carefully than any other animal, and yet there is the greatest possible diversity amongst capable judges whether he should be classed as a single species or race, or as two (Virey), as three (Jacquinot), as four (Kant), five (Blumenbach), six (Buffon), seven (Hunter), eight (Agassiz), eleven (Pickering), fifteen (Bory St. Vincent), sixteen (Desmoulins), twenty-two (Morton), sixty (Crawfurd), or as sixty-three, according to Burke. This diversity of judgment does not prove that the races ought not to be ranked as species, but it shews that they graduate into each other, and that it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them.
- Charles Darwin; The Descent of Man, 1871

Darwin successfully refuted the many claims of his day that people were composed of separate species, he refuted the belief that there were distinct races, and he showed through careful observation that there was a great deal of variety among all people, despite the fact that most whites believed that "all negroes look the same".

Darwin concluded that all people have a common ancestry, that we are all more alike than we are different, and that even the "savages" of the world were greatly underestimated in their abilities by whites.

Yes, the language of some of Darwin's work on race is crude by today's standard, but it was revolutionary in its opposition to the established ideas of the day, which held that the "savages" were inferior and had no hope of ever living in a state of equality with whites.

Instead of being criticized as a racist, Darwin should rightfully be honored as one of the leaders of opposition to racism, who showed through his careful study, and through his theory of evolution, that we are indeed all related and that the key to social success as a species lies in extending our cooperation, love, sympathy, and assistance to people of all races and all nations. If Darwin had any social message, that, certainly, was it.

Popular Comments On Evolution

Below are quotes from opinion pieces about evolution taken from various sources over the past year. The quotes presented are generally in opposition to the idea of evolution.

If evolution were true, how could there be morals? People should be able to do what they want when they want to. What is the purpose of life if evolution were true? Our sole reason for existence would be to better the human species, but that doesn’t do anything good for us. We just die, and most people will be forgotten in a few hundred years anyway. We wouldn’t enjoy the benefits of evolution, if there were any.

Thankfully, as Hovind proved, there had to be a creator, and he made all life for a purpose: humans, plants, the earth and animals. Man was made for the glory of God, and no one’s life is useless or pointless. It is up to people whether or not they choose to believe that, but it is still truth nonetheless.

Source: http://www.collegiatetimes.com/news/2/ARTICLE/6608/2006-03-02.html

Here we see one of the main arguments against evolution. This argument against evolution really has nothing to do with the evidence or with facts, instead it has everything to do with what a person wants to believe to fulfill their beliefs about life. Interestingly, as is common with religions, the individual claims that improving life on earth "doesn't do anything good for us."

I would like both Ralpha R. Weigand and Darren Allen to tell me the meta-purpose that is to be derived from evolution.

In addition, if life is nothing more than progressive mutations, as implied in Stephen Jay Gould's work, then how is value determined? From within or from without?

Intelligent design or creationism, that is, the belief in a God-centered universe, has purpose and value inherent within a God who is sovereign.

And for those who may question my last statement, may I suggest that you read His Word and perhaps Revelations may reveal the truth to aforementioned conclusion.

Source: http://www.rutlandherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051130/NEWS/511300319/1037

Like the individual above, this person chooses not to believe in evolution because it challenges their value system, not because of the evidence. While religionists often lament "relativism", nothing can be more relativistic than thinking that truth is determined by what you want to believe.

Since long before Galileo ran afoul of the church for suggesting Copernicus was right about planets and motion, and in many famous cases afterwards, science and religion have been at odds. Calm spirits and secure intellects, of course, understand there need not be an argument. Science and religion are different creatures on different missions - science trying to uncover what things are and how things work, religion trying to answer why anything is here to uncover at all.

Source: http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051130/OPINION01/511300305/1014

This is a popular fallacy that is espoused by many people who try to minimize or eliminate the conflicts between science and religion. These people erroneously claim that there is no conflict between science and religion, or that they both serve completely different purposes for society.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Religions have always viewed answering questions about "what things are and how things work" as an integral aspect of their purpose. It has only been since Galileo proved the Church wrong beyond a shadow of any doubt that religion began retreating from this role in Western Civilization. The Christian religion, however, like most other religions, based its authority to answer questions about "the afterlife" on its ability to prove that it was correct about this life.

If a religion is incapable of answering questions that we can observe here and now, why on earth would anyone presume that the same religion contains answers to questions about things we can't observe?

I think both Creationism and Evolutionism should be taught in both public and private/religious schools. Classes like history are trying harder and harder to eliminate bias and teach both sides of a story, why shouldn't science do the same? Students have the right to be informed on sides of an issue and then to choose which one to believe. School systems and religious leaders shouldn't fear the teaching of two viewpoints when we have come so far in embracing our diversity.

Source: http://www.charlotte.com/mld/observer/news/opinion/13277678.htm

Yes, it would be perfectly fine to teach about creationism, intelligent design, and evolution in school; the problem, however, is the way in which these subjects could be taught. The people who want creationism and intelligent design taught in school would only  be happy if they were taught as factually correct. The biggest reason that creationism is not discussed in schools is not because we don't want to introduce religion into schools, but rather it is because many parents would sue schools and raise hell if their children were taught direct criticisms of creationism.

The safest thing for any school to do is simply to avoid the subject of creationism. If creationism is brought up, then it would have to be addressed academically, in which case, you are going to have to criticize it, in which case you are going to get sued for infringing on people's religious beliefs. Parents would start pulling their children out of the pubic schools and would rebel against the school system if the school system taught the truth.

Nothing would suit biology teachers more than to be able to honestly discuss creationism in schools, but the problem is that this would be too controversial. What the opponents of evolution want is for schools to teach criticisms of evolution and teach creationism or intelligent design as if they were true, without criticizing them. They don't want equal treatment, they want unequal treatment - criticism of evolution and advocacy of creationism. Every school board that proposes changes to the curriculum to encourage criticism of evolution, should also require criticism of intelligent design and creationism.

"We as a nation have been deceived," said Cartwright, who teaches her sons that "there is no proof for evolution." Cartwright wishes local schools would take a cue from the school board in Kansas.


Personally, she said, "I believe in the creation as it is in the Bible."

The Cartwrights' two oldest sons, Tanner, 14, and Tyler, 12, have taken their mother's lesson a step further.

In July, the boys started their own ministry called Soldiers of the Cross. Their mission is to disprove the theory of evolution to other children.

"We prove to them that the dinosaurs haven't been here for millions of years," Tanner said. They even use model dinosaurs during their presentations. "When we talk about dinosaurs, that really gets the little kids going."

Tanner said he just wants other children to know the truth. If they are being taught the evolution theory in public school, "I would advise them to look at all the angles before they make their own conclusion," he said.

Source: http://www.jacksonsun.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051129/NEWS01/511290304/1002

How does a public school system in a democracy deal with a situation where there are people who hold these views? A major problem that our public schools have is that teachers have their hands tied behind their back on issues of religion. If students convince other studies that the Bible is literally true, what can a teacher do to address the issue? Not much really, unless they want to get sued. With many parents on school boards and in PTA committees who believe that the Bible is the ultimate source of knowledge, there is constant pressure on schools to bow to religious beliefs.

The writer does not know what is happening in the study of science today. It is evolution that is on shaky ground. Evolutionists are so "one track minded" that they refuse to recognize the new findings in the scientific world. The writer states that in the past "brave thinkers made observations and did experiments to prove their theories." That is what is happening with scientists today who are Christians. They are showing that evolution is just a theory and not a fact. Evolution cannot be proven and neither can creation. However, the new findings and evidence today tend to show that the world is young and not old and evolutionists need even more faith than creationists because the facts do not prove evolution.

The writer does not know about the many new discoveries by scientists who are Christians. Many books, tapes and DVDs are available, and if the writer has viewed any and apparently still maintains his position, then he is typical of "one track minded" evolutionists. All we Christians are asking is that the findings and evidence be presented, then let the student make up his or her mind as to which is believable. Isn't this the scientific way? And please, don't let your anger lead you to use labels such as "fanatics."

Source: http://heraldnet.com/stories/05/11/28/100let_20051128003.cfm

Again, how does a free society deal with a situation such as this, where millions of people are led to believe things which are provably false? One thing is for certain, one of the largest money making industries in the world is religion and religion related industries - book publishing, "creationism DVDs", and the like. There really is little or no profit motive to teaching evolution. Factual understanding of the world provides a public benefit that can have real economic benefits for a nation, but supporting religion provides immediate private profits to churches and the peddlers of religious memorabilia. Businesses are able to generate billions of dollars a year in revenue by feeding on the religious mindset, as this religious customer demonstrates. There is certainly a much stronger profit motive for promoting Biblical beliefs than there is for promoting scientific understanding.

Fifth, human intelligence is far beyond what is need to hunt and gather in a jungle or savannah. The intelligent design concept is compatible with evolution, since once DNA exists, it can evolve as it mutates while species come and go via natural selection. ID should only claim that some particular mysteries cannot be plausibly answered by pure evolution. ID claims that human DNA was deliberately manipulated to create super-intelligence. PE claims that this intelligence evolved, although we don’t yet know why evolution created enough intelligence for human beings to be able to solve quadratic equations.

We don't know any of these explanations, so the truly scientific stance is to acknowledge our ignorance. Those who claim that only PE or ID can be true go beyond what is warranted by logic and evidence. It seems to me that the controversy over what to teach can be resolved by admitting ignorance and the possibility of either set of hypotheses.

Perhaps the biggest mystery of all is why human beings have not recognized the universal ethic by which we would live in harmony, equally sharing the bounty of nature while respecting the individual sovereignty of each person. Will pure social evolution lead to peace, or would this require Intelligent Intervention? If it never comes about, is humanity doomed? This is the greatest mystery of all.

Source: http://www.progress.org/2005/fold431.htm

Talk about hubris. Here we have an editor claiming that certain things are known or unknown and waxing philosophical about issues that are actually well explained by evolutionary theory. The thing about people like this is that they don't like the answers that evolution presents, so they claim that we don't have the answers.

Human intelligence has evolved beyond what is needed by people to compete with other animals because, as Darwin pointed out 150 years ago, members of the "same species" are in competition with each other. Humans literally prey on each other. We are social animals whose greatest competition is with other humans, and our competition with each other is what has provided the context for selective pressure for intelligence beyond what is needed simply to hunt and gather.

Furthermore, the level of intelligence of people from the most advanced civilizations and people who are still living naked in the jungles of South America is basically the same. The vast differences that we see in civilizations are not a product of biological differences, they are a product of social differences. Even in the most advanced civilizations only a small fraction of people are actually "very intelligent". The vast majority of people do not understand how 99% of the technology that we have works, nor do they understand the fundamental principles upon which the world operates. Even among the most intelligent people no individual can explain how more than a small fraction of our technology actually works. Most people in the world can't solve quadratic equations (not that that is a particularly difficult math problem).

As for the issue of why people "have not recognized the universal ethic": First of all, it's because there is no universal ethic. Second of all, the reason that people don't live in peace and harmony is because we have evolved, like all other animals, to be competitive. Our evolutionary development is the reason why we have conflict. Evolution produces a context of competition and struggle, that is the point of what we learn about ourselves from understanding evolution.

The things that he brings up are not great mysteries at all. There are completely obvious explanations for them if you understand evolution. There is a difference between answers that you want to hear and answers that are the truth. The truth is often not what you want to hear, but it is nevertheless impossible to change, and it is the only basis for understanding the world and using that understanding to make improvements.

By contrast, Darwinist theory claims that the design in nature is not real but only apparent, a product of blind, mechanical forces. As arch-Darwinian Richard Dawkins said in a recent Salon interview, evolution produces "the illusion of design." The implication for science, as Richard Rorty elaborates so clearly, is that truth is not "out there" to be discovered but is merely a social construction. Such postmodernist notions threaten to undercut the scientific enterprise.


Fourth, ID will win because it recovers the unity of truth. Edward Purcell in The Crisis of Democratic Theory: Scientific Naturalism and the Problem of Value explains how Darwinism led to a naturalistic worldview--one in which the natural sciences were elevated to the only form of objective knowledge while "theological dogmas and philosophical absolutes were at worst totally fraudulent and at best merely symbolic of deep human aspirations." In other words, Darwinism lent scientific support to the fact/value dichotomy, where religion and morality are dismissed as merely subjective and private, or even outright false.

Source: http://www.humaneventsonline.com/article.php?id=10570

I'm not sure what an "arch-Darwinian" is, but the idea that either science or evolutionary theory support postmodernism is a complete reversal of the facts. Darwinian evolution is a "modern" idea. Postmodernism is in large part a reactionary ideology against science and evolutionary theory, which claims effectively that there is no objective reality. That there is an objective reality is a fundamental underpinning of science. Dawkins is certainly not a postmodernist, nor has he ever argued that there is not an objective truth. If Dawkins didn't believe in an objective truth then he wouldn't bother discussing evolution in the first place. His statement about the "illusion of design" does not in any way contradict science.

Secondly, Darwinism didn't lead to a naturalistic worldview, naturalistic worldviews existed for thousand of years before Darwin and had been regaining acceptance in Western Civilization during the 200 years prior to Darwin. The single biggest contributor to naturalistic worldviews is atomic theory. Yes, however, evidence of evolution did provide more evidence that the Christian worldview was fundamentally flawed and incorrect, and indeed evolutionary theory, along with other scientific and historical evidence, now explains the very nature of religion itself and how religion itself has evolved and is indeed "outright false".

Morals and religion are not, however, "private", they are explicitly social, and their evolution can only be explained via social mechanisms. Relegating religion to the private sphere is an attempt to limit its harm to society, not a claim that it is a personal phenomenon.

The notion that the origin of the universe has a naturalistic explanation is a fairly recent development, and one that is not supported by the evidence. Science should follow the evidence wherever it leads, rather than ruling out the possibility of an intelligent designer because of an anti-supernatural bias.

Source: http://morningsentinel.mainetoday.com/view/letters/2233142.shtml

This statement is completely false, as has been demonstrated throughout this document. The notion that the origin of the universe has a naturalistic explanation preceded Christianity. The fact that so many people in America and the world today fail to understand this is a testament to the degree to which Western society is still unable to come to grips with the facts of history. If our schools taught the truth about history and science then these types of misconceptions would be eliminated, but the truth is politically unacceptable in America.

The topic of evolution vs. creation today should be a real concern, weighing on the minds of every God-loving Christian. But, sadly, I have found that most Christians and non-Christians alike have fallen victim to the propaganda and lies used in the teaching of evolution. First, I would like to point out that not all scientists believe in evolution. Nor do they all believe that evolution is the foundation on which science itself should be based. Evolution is simply a theory. What bothers me is that the constant bombardment of this theory as fact has changed the way Christians must think in order to believe in the Bible. I, as a Roman Catholic, have learned that even my own religion has accepted this theory and has incorporated the idea that God guided evolution to where it is today. I am here to tell all Christians that there is no sound evidence that would suggest that the King James version of the Bible is not literally true and accurate, and to let them know that we don’t need to incorporate the evolution theory into our beliefs any longer. I believe that every good Christian should defend the fact that God made things perfect from the very beginning.

Source: http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/newssentinel/news/editorial/13301845.htm

I find it interesting that a Catholic is claiming that the King James Bible is the source of ultimate truth. One has to wonder, is this person aware that the King James Bible is a Protestant revision of Catholic scripture that was written in part to strengthen opposition to Catholicism in England?

At any rate, this is, I would guess, a voting citizen. How can we function in a democracy with people like this? Every poll tells us that there are more people in America who share the beliefs of this person than there are who believe in Darwinian ("unguided") evolution.

Bravo, Charley Reese ("Both evolution and intelligent design are theories of how life began." Nov. 21). Finally, someone with nationwide exposure has the guts to tell the truth!

The theory of evolution is a secular fairy tale. There is no scientific proof of evolution whatsoever. There is no proof that the universe evolved naturally by chance over time.

Since creation cannot be observed or replicated in a laboratory, science is not a trustworthy place to seek answers about the origin of humanity.

Evolution is a mere theory, and a constantly changing one at that. If accepted at all, it must be taken by sheer faith.

Source: http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051201/OPINION/512010308/1009

Again, we have a likely voter. How does an open society deal with such people? This does reveal a common theme among opponents of evolution however, which is not to address the evidence for biological evolution, but rather to jump to the origin of the universe. The Theory of Biological Evolution makes no claims about the origin or development of the universe.

This ladies and gentlemen begs the question of President Tilghman: Has the theory of evolution ever been proven any more than that other theory – of intelligent design?


Because love simply cannot be scientifically defined, or formularized, or analyzed, is no reason to try to deny its existence.

Source: http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=47999

Yes, the theory of evolution has volumes of facts that support it, while intelligent design has only a claim that certain things are too complex to have evolved.

As for love, it actually can be defined, formularized, and analyzed, and it has been. Love is an emotion that has been studied, is understood, and now the biological pathways for the love emotion are being documented and analyzed at the chemical level. Evolutionary theory explains love and allows us to understand what it is and why it exists. Love is a bonding emotion that evolved because it increases the likelihood of procreation and successful raising of offspring, and love is an emotion that is likely shared among all organisms that form pair bonds and care for their offspring. As we isolate the genes that code for the biological pathways that are essential to the love emotion in humans, we will be able to compare those genes to the genes found in other animals and verify which other animals also feel love.

I enjoy the debate in your Opinion section concerning intelligent design and its role in the science class. The real issue, however, is not whether intelligent design should be taught in science.

Rather, the debate should focus on how evolution has been placed alongside physics, genetics, chemistry and the other credible sciences that have met the burden of proof of the scientific method.

Evolution has not come close to meeting the requirements of science.

Many of its assumptions and conclusions must be accepted by faith to have any scientific credibility. It is not, as in the manner of real science, observable and measurable.

Source: http://www.rrstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060103/OPINION05/101030007/1139

This is another of the growing claims against evolution, that evolution is a faith based concept for with no evidence to support it. This is an attempt by religionists to try and put the theory of evolution on common footing with the story of Genesis or other creation myths.

In fact, no one knows if evolution is in irreconcilable conflict with the Biblical account of Earth's creation. On the surface, conflict seems apparent. But because religion teaches that the ways of God are unknowable, it's quite possible that science eventually could fill in the gaps. Again, nobody knows.

Source: http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060102/NEWS/601020307/1036

Yes, people on both sides of the issue are aware that the theory of evolution is incompatible with the Biblical account of creation. People who claim otherwise are just kidding themselves to try and make it possible to continue believing in Christianity while also accepting scientific facts. Any respectable study of the issue, however, shows that the assumptions that are drawn from the Genesis model are completely at odds with the assumptions of evolution, hence the reason that this has been an issue of controversy for 2,000 years. Ever since the Christians took over in Rome 1,700 years ago they have been using force, both physical and social, to enforce their view on society.

Supporters said exposing students to different viewpoints will create lively classroom debate.

"Do you think you come from a monkeyman?" said Rep. Tad Jones, R-Claremore. "Did we come from slimy algae 4.5 billion years ago or are we a unique creation of God? I think it's going to be exciting for students to discuss these issues."

Source: http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/14002872.htm

This is a typical approach for many opponents of evolution. The appeal is to people's emotions and desires, not to the facts. To claim that an appropriate way to teach children is to ask them if they believe that they are descended from slime or from God is ridiculous. Asking children what they want to believe is not educating at all. Education involves passing on knowledge, not postmodernist nonsense.

There are other interesting aspects of this comment however. It seeks to play on an evolved human desire to link one's heritage to a powerful member of society. God, obviously, is considered the highest member of society by many people. One could ask people if they would rather believe that their great great grandparents were British royalty, or if their great great grandparents were chimney sweeps. Most people would rather believe that they are related to royalty.

It is quite possible, however, to present the story of human evolution from "slime" in a much more positive and compelling light. Not that doing so proves one thing or another, but if the tactic of evolution opponents is to try to influence people with stories, then the true story of human evolution can only be described as "truly the greatest story ever told".

Yes our ancestors do include "monkeymen", "fish", and "slime". We are alive today because our ancestors struggled to survive and propagate against the odds, and the story of how we have developed over billions of years of struggle is perhaps the most compelling and fascinating story that ever could be known.

Richard Dawkin's recent book, The Ancestor's Tale is one example of a book that attempts to tell the story of the rise of humans from "slime": The Ancestor's Tale

Conclusion and Summary

The Theory of Biological Evolution is supported by a tremendous amount of evidence. Opposition to evolutionary theory is primarily driven not by scientific principles, nor from any attempt to explain the origins of life, but rather by the desire to support a system of values and morals. Many opponents of evolution believe that their religion is essential to providing them with a purpose in life and that religion is essential for the support of morality and the rule of law, despite the fact that the overwhelming evidence shows that the rule of law and human rights are more highly adhered to in less religious societies.

Religionists also correctly recognize that the validity of a religion is tied to its ability to correctly provide answers about life. If a religion is wrong about many of the fundamental claims that it makes then its credibility is undermined.

The Theory of Biological Evolution does significantly undermine the credibility of the Christian religion because it is fundamentally contradictory to the Christian explanation of origins.

Attempts to reconcile Christian theology and science only serves to undermine science and lend continued support to a system of theology that is provably false.

The majority of people in Western society are largely unaware of how much the fundamental assumptions of Western society have been influenced by Christianity, and the fact that many other cultures today, as well as many of the cultures of the past, do not share the same assumptions that Western society does.

Many of the traditional assumptions of Christianized Western society, that the earth is unchanging, that people are distinctly separate from animals, that the earth was created a few thousands year ago, that people are fundamentally "sinful", etc., are not held by the cultures from Asia, Africa, or the Natives of the Americas. It is ironic that The Theory of Biological Evolution came from Western society, because the fundamental assumptions of Christianized Western society are the most at odds with evolutionary theory.

Evolutionary theory has been readily accepted in Asia because it does not conflict with the fundamental beliefs of most Asian cultures. Evolutionary theory is actually more compatible with just about every culture than it is with Christian culture.

The pre-Christian Greek and Roman basis of Western Civilization is ultimately what provided the framework for the development of science, atomic theory, and evolutionary theory in the West during The Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment eras. As the ideas that were developed by the Greeks began to re-emerge in the West they influenced whole new generations of people, thousands of years later, who once again began developing an understanding of the world from a material basis.

The Greek materialism that had been almost completely erased by the Christians was rediscovered and reconsidered during The Renaissance, which led to a revitalization of society and a re-embracing of rationalism, materialism, and empiricism, leading to the development of modern science.

Modern science is based fundamentally on the Greek principles that were explicitly declared heretical by the early Christians, which is why there has been such conflict between science and Christianity, and why science has seemed to reveal so many things that contradict Western assumptions.

The Theory of Biological Evolution is one of the most comprehensive of all scientific theories. It incorporates many different lines of evidence from many different disciplines and relies on an almost infinite number of pieces of evidence. There are many questions that remain about the specifics of how evolution on earth has historically proceeded, but there is no question among scientists that evolution has occurred, is occurring, and fundamentally explains the diversity and characteristics of all life on earth.



Origin Mythology
Baldick, Julian. Animal and Shaman - Ancient Religions of Central Asia. Washington Square: New York University Press, 2000.
Rosenberg, Donna. World Mythology - An Anthology of the Great Myths and Epics. 3rd edition. Lincolnwood, Illinois: NTC Publishing Greoup, 1999.
Warner, Rex Intro. Encyclopedia of World Mythology. New York, New York: Galahad Books, 1975

Mesopotamian and Mediterranean Origin Belief
Rosenberg, Donna. World Mythology - An Anthology of the Great Myths and Epics. 3rd edition. Lincolnwood, Illinois: NTC Publishing Greoup, 1999.
Wasilewska, Ewa. Creation Stories of the Middle East. United Kingdom: Jessica Kingsley, 2000.

Evolutionary Concepts in Ancient Greece
Mayor, Adrienne. The First Fossil Hunters - Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.
Russo, Lucio. The Forgotten Revolution - How Science was Born in 300 BC and Why it Had to Be Reborn. Roma, Italy: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, 1996.
Lloyd, G.E.R. Ancient Worlds, Modern Reflections - Philosophical Perspectives on Greek and Chinese Science and Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

The Early Christian Fight Against Naturalism
Knight, K. The Fathers of the Church. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/.
Russo, Lucio. The Forgotten Revolution - How Science was Born in 300 BC and Why it Had to Be Reborn. Roma, Italy: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, 1996.

Glick, Thomas F. editor. The Comparative Reception of Darwinism. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1974, 1988.

Current Theory of Biological Evolution
Coyne, Jerry A., Orr, H. Allen. Speciation. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2004.
Culver, David C. Adaptation and Natural Selection in Caves - The Evolution of Gammarus minus. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.
Dennett, Daniel C. Darwin's Dangerous Idea - Evolution and the Meanings of Life. New York, NY: Simon &Schuster, 1995.
Glassman, Bruce editor. Evolution. Farmington Hills. MI: Thompson Gale, 2005.

Evolution Beyond Biology
Dennett, Daniel C. Darwin's Dangerous Idea - Evolution and the Meanings of Life. New York, New York: Simon &Schuster, 1995.

Note: Bibliography only includes resources that were not already linked or referenced within the body of the article.

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