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Evolutionary Theory Project Essay

By Kevin Asirvadam

Science and its community are and always have been looking for better ways to explain
the world around us. Despite this, practically every new revolutionary idea in science goes
through a period of either intense debate or outright rejection, from Galileos observations about
the orbit of Earth to Einsteins theory of relativity, but no theory has endured as much debate as
that of evolution. Evolution is a theory describing how life on Earth got to where it is today from
its humble beginnings through a series of mutations and natural selections. Since the theorys
origin in the mid-19th century, many people have been unwilling to accept it, most notably
religious groups whose doctrine evolutionary theory seems to contradict. However, debate also
exists within the scientific community itself, and arguments both for and against evolution can be
backed by strong science, as the seemingly endless debate has clearly shown.
First, we must explain what we mean by evolutionary theory: contrary to some popular
belief, evolution is not a theory about the origin of life or the universe; it is simply about how life
has been modified since that origin, however that came about. Charles Darwin pioneered the
field of evolutionary theory in the mid-19th century on a trip to the Galapagos Islands, where he
noticed that several species of finches, each one located on a separate island, all had beaks that
were shaped to be ideal for their main food source; this became the basis for his theory, which he
published in his 1859 book, On the Origin of Species. Darwin proposed that life evolved through
natural selection, in which organisms with traits better suited to their environment would be more
likely to survive and pass on their useful traits, and those less suited to their environment would
be more likely to die before reproducing, removing their undesirable traits from the population.
New traits are gained through random mutation (Brain, 2001), and since mutations are neutral
the vast majority of the time, and often lethal, this can lead to a very long timescale required for
evolution to occur. The main idea of evolution is that series of random mutations and natural
selections result in the diversifying of existing and the creation of new species.
In the evolutionary debate, misconceptions about the theory are very widespread
(Misconceptions about Evolution), and these must be debunked in a discussion over the theory.
One common misconception is that evolution describes the origin of life, which, as mentioned
above, it does not. Another commonly used argument that stems from a misconception in
terminology is that evolution is just a theory; this is a result of confusion between the
colloquial and scientific definitions of theory. Colloquially, a theory has a meaning similar to a
guess or hypothesis, whereas scientifically, a theory is an explanation or a model based off
observations and evidence, which can then be used to predict future occurrences. These, as well
as many others, can be found in many places, but one place that usually is not burdened by them
is the scientific community. The scientific community originally rejected evolution, and many
still do, but it has become somewhat standard in textbooks and very widely accepted in many
First World countries (excluding the USA). The problem that many see in evolutionary theory is
macroevolution; microevolution is the short-term adaptation easily observable in the natural

world, and is practically undisputed, but macroevolution is the long-term change between two
largely different organisms, and it is what the evolution debate debates. There is compelling
scientific evidence for both sides, but this paper will focus mainly on the critiques of
evolutionary theory.
The first critique is irreducible complexity, which is the idea that certain structures in the
body cannot be broken down without becoming useless to the organism. Charles Darwin once
said, If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have
been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break
down." One analogy that anti-evolutionists sometimes use to show irreducible complexity is the
Mousetrap Analogy (Behe, 2006): every single component of a mousetrap is vital for that trap to
be able to function. If anything were taken from it, it would be a useless mass of parts; this is
analogous to the human knee joint, which is a four bar hinge joint, and, similar to the mousetrap,
if any of its 16 parts were not there, it would be unable to function, which leaves the question of
how it may have evolved if it cannot be less complex. As of today, there has been no discovery
showing any signs of a knee joint that may have evolved from another type of knee into ours
(Burgess, 1999). A very important molecule that supports irreducible complexity is adenosine
triphosphate (ATP), which is the energy molecule of all cells, vital to all life; there is simply no
way life could have existed before it had structures that could make use of ATP. This challenges
the very earliest stages of life on Earths evolution, as it is a complex molecule: "The ATP
molecule is a machine with a level of organization on the order of a research microscope or a
standard television (Darnell, Lodish, and Baltimore, 1996).
Another critique is the question of organisms acquiring new organs and structures:
nascent organs are organs that are still in evolutionary development (Conn 2014), but evidence of
them is lacking. Darwin evaluated many different eyes by organizing them by complexity
(Bergman, 2005), but was unable to find any signs of a nascent eye or an eye that seemed
intermediate between the other eyes (Lamb 2011). An organism that shows a lack of nascent
organs is the firefly: every firefly has a way to illuminate itself, but there is, again, a lack of
intermediate forms of firefly lights known to us currently (Bergman 2005). Nascent organs seem
to be rather important in Darwins theory; however, they also seem to be rather conspicuously
missing from everywhere.
Human loss of hair in comparison to other primates is another critique of evolution: there
seems to be no logical explanation for the fact that humans have significantly less hair than their
cousins do. One reason that evolutionists often give for human hair loss is that we shed it in
order to keep ourselves cool during the hot day in Africa where humans are supposed to have
originated, but the problem with this answer is that it would leave us very vulnerable to the cold
African nights, and that there are far less hairy mammals (walruses, whales, etc.) that live in
much, much colder climates (Ukaha, 2010). Another common reason given for hair loss is that it
might reduce the amount of parasites a person gets; however, this is flawed because although it
might protect us from some specific parasites, it makes us more vulnerable to other parasites, as
well as increases our vulnerability to plants such as poison ivy (Harrub, 2003). Another thing to
note is that hair is another example of a structure that developed without and signs of any

intermediate forms whatsoever, despite its being an exceptionally well-preserved structure


(Bergman, 2004).
"The Endosymbiosis Theory is the accepted mechanism for how eukaryotic cells evolved
from prokaryotic cells (Scoville 2015). This is because of a significant similarity between
prokaryotes and mitochondria: they have quite similar structures (Demick 2006), and
mitochondria contain some of their own DNA, which is typically found inside of the nucleus
(Unknown, 2015). Despite these similarities, however, there is no clear way for prokaryotes to
have become mitochondria based on evolutionary theory (Demick 2006).
The fifth and final critique is the total lack of insect evolution: insects have very short
lifespans, meaning their generations pass by faster, which should result in more chances for
mutation in shorter periods of time, resulting in a rapid rate of evolution (West, 2009). This,
however, is not the case- dragonfly fossils have been found that are millions of years old, and
those dragonflies are almost identical to modern dragonflies, which seems extremely unlikely.
Insect wings are a sophisticated trait that also appears abruptly in the fossil record without any
ancestor with intermediate or transitional traits (Esperante, 2013). Folding insect wings present
evolutionary theory with yet another challenge: they are perhaps the most morphologically
complex joint in the animal kingdom, and require a complex nervous system to use (Bergman,
2004), yet they appeared in the fossil record simultaneously with non-folding wings.
Despite all these flaws with the theory of evolution, I do still believe that it is a correct
and valid scientific viewpoint; while doing research for this paper, I came across countless
arguments for and against all aspects of evolution, and although it may be my subconscious
biases, I feel like although there are more arguments against evolution than creationism, they
dont disprove it for me. There will always be more arguments against evolution because
creationism is based entirely on faith, but for the same reason I feel there will always be more
ways to support evolution as well. The research I have done along with the opposing viewpoints
of my group members have led me to think that perhaps evolution is not yet a perfect theory, and
still needs to be expanded somewhat, but I still think that the core elements of evolution are
completely logical. In the end, I believe that in order for me to disbelieve evolution, I would need
a new theory to replace it with, since as I am not religious, I cannot follow creationism, but until
such a theory exists, I will support Darwin and his theory.

Works Cited
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