Why you should stop believing in evolution
You don’t believe in it — you either understand it or you don’t
When people joyously discover on Ancestry.com that they’re related to, say, a medieval archduke or a notorious Victorian criminal, evolutionary biologists may be permitted to snicker. Because in actuality, we are all related: Humans all share at least one common ancestor if you go far enough back. You are related to every king and criminal who ever lived, to Gandhi and Paris Hilton and Carrot Top. You are even related to me. But buckle up — that’s only the beginning. Humanity, after all, is but one ugly branch on the big tree of life. Go back far enough, and you’ll find an ancestor common to you and to every creature on Earth. You are related to your cat — which may help explain why you get that stare all the time. You are related to a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and to the mosquito you just murdered, and to your houseplants. At any given meal, you may eat all or part of a dozen extremely distant relatives. It’s remarkable how poorly understood evolution is today — how easily “debated” it is — given that its rules have been in place at least since life on Earth began, and that the truth of it is easily demonstrated. In fact, the basic theory has been in a state of continuous reconfirmation since Darwin proposed it in 1859, with geology, biology, anthropology, carbon dating, Pangaea, and every dinosaur bone ever found providing a nonstop barrage of additional proof points.
Here are the rules, in a nutshell:
• Genes, stored in every cell, are the body’s blueprints; they code for traits like eye color, disease susceptibility, and a bazillion other things that make you you.
• Reproduction involves copying and recombining these blueprints, which is complicated, and errors happen.
• Errors are passed along in the code to future generations, the way a smudge on a photocopy will exist on all subsequent copies.
• This modified code can (but doesn’t always) produce new traits in successive generations: an extra finger, sickle-celled blood, increased tolerance for Miley Cyrus shenanigans.
• When these new traits are advantageous (longer legs in gazelles), organisms survive and replicate at a higher rate than average, and when disadvantageous (brittle skulls in woodpeckers), they survive and replicate at a lower rate.
That’s a little oversimplified, but the general idea. As advantageous traits become the norm within a population and disadvantageous traits are weeded out, each type of creature gradually morphs to better fit its environment.