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Old 11-05-2011, 07:37 PM   #1
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Why is evolution so hard to accept?

I hope I don't sound too arrogant. I'm a biology major, and have read several books on evolution and have taken genetics classes, so I think I have a pretty decent idea how it works. And it's incredibly simple. So my questions are:

1. How on earth did it take humanity so long to figure out evolution is the reason we are all here? I know people thought about it a little before Darwin, but he made the first solid explanation of it.

2. Why do people today still not accept it (I think more than 50% in the US don't)?

Here is how simple evolution really is. Let's say we have 103,208 colorblind people in the world. Colorblind is heritable btw. One colorblind person dies. Now we have 103,207 colorblind people in the world. That's it. That's evolution. That's the same thing that turned a one celled organism into humans over several billion years.

If traits are heritable, traits affect survival, and more organisms are born that survive to reproduce, then it's impossible for evolution not to occur. It's not magical or anything, it's extremely simple. So why do people reject it? IMO, it must be either extreme ignorance or extreme denial. But why do these same people easily accept other theories, like the theory of gravity and the theory that planets revolve around the sun?

Maybe, since I'm a bio major, it's so easy for me to grasp, but do you non-biology people here also grasp it? It's extremely easy for me to imagine one cell evolving to what we see today over a long time.

Also, why did it take so long to figure evolution out? Did people before Darwin not notice that traits are heritable and mutations can happen? Did not a single person stop and say, "hey, I had curly hair and my wife has curly hair, and all our children have curly hair! There must be some kind of link here" or "it must suck to be an animal. Most of them die in nature pretty easily". We figured out much more complex things before evolution, like physics from Newton...

Honestly, I think I could have gone my whole life NEVER hearing the term evolution or Darwin, then taken a genetics class (in which the professor never mentions evolution), then used common sense to conclude that evolution occurs. Also, a common misconception that anti-macroevolutions say is it's impossible to add information to a genome. This is 100% false and shows they don't know the basics of genetics. Addition mutations in the DNA occur all the time. Nucleotides are added, which results in a potentially longer coding for a protein and therefore more complex proteins. Also, mutations in meiosis can result in larger numbers of chromosomes being added. This is seen in people w/ down syndrome who have an extra (or part of) the 21st chromosome. They have more genetic information than their parents.

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Old 11-05-2011, 08:11 PM   #2
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

I just don't care that much, once I'm dead I'm ****ing dead & this **** allegedly happens over millions/billions of yeas. It's just not particularly relevant to a lone human just trying to get by in one life. Fitting in & being liked socially is more important in that context (including for reproduction and access to sex), hence the religious nuts.

Remember even if evolution is "true", evolution also spawned religion (and skepticism over evolution). So that stuff is there for some sort of evolutionary purpose.
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Old 11-05-2011, 08:18 PM   #3
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

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2. Why do people today still not accept it (I think more than 50% in the US don't)?
This is purely US phenomena. In the rest of the civilized world evolution deniers are both rare and treated as loons by rest of public debate.

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Maybe, since I'm a bio major, it's so easy for me to grasp, but do you non-biology people here also grasp it?
I think it's even easier to grasp for computer scientists and mathematicians, especially after you implemented some genetic algorithms yourself

As to your question about reasons. As Europe is different than US it can't be anything about human nature but something about culture/politics specific to USA.
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Old 11-05-2011, 08:22 PM   #4
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

You seem to be confusing natural selection with the theory of evolution. Nobody disputes natural selection.

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Old 11-05-2011, 09:14 PM   #5
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

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You seem to be confusing natural selection with the theory of evolution. Nobody disputes natural selection.
No, natural selection is what causes the one colorblind person to die in my example. If a human killed him, then it's artificial selection. If the colorblind person was taking a walk in the woods, saw a snake and wasn't able to notice it's bright yellow color (representing it's poisonous), then it's natural selection.

The colorblind person dying changes earth's gene pool, which is evolution.
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Old 11-05-2011, 09:33 PM   #6
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

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So that stuff is there for some sort of evolutionary purpose.
teleological language when talking about the ToE..
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Old 11-05-2011, 09:53 PM   #7
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

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Originally Posted by yodachoda View Post
I'm a biology major, and have read several books on evolution and have taken genetics classes, so I think I have a pretty decent idea how it works. And it's incredibly simple.
Maybe you should define what you think "evolution" is. I think it's "incredibly simple" because you're using a trivial definition of it.

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Let's say we have 103,208 colorblind people in the world. Colorblind is heritable btw. One colorblind person dies. Now we have 103,207 colorblind people in the world. That's it. That's evolution.
Let's say that there is one bacterium in the world and that bacterium has *some* heritable trait. The bacterium dies and now there's no more bacteria.

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The bacterium dying changes earth's gene pool, which is evolution.
That's evolution?
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Old 11-05-2011, 10:24 PM   #8
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

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Maybe you should define what you think "evolution" is. I think it's "incredibly simple" because you're using a trivial definition of it.



Let's say that there is one bacterium in the world and that bacterium has *some* heritable trait. The bacterium dies and now there's no more bacteria.



That's evolution?
Sure, here's two pretty good definitions. They are slightly different, but not enough to cause any problems I think.

1. Any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations (taken from wikipedia)

2. Change in the allele frequency in a population.

When one colorblind person is removed from the population, he can't have any more colorblind children, therefore his own colorblind gene stops passing into the future the moment he dies. His death changes future human populations because he makes colorblindness a little less common (maybe .0000000000001% less common).

This fits both definitions. And no, your single bacteria example is not evolution because that's a change in an individual, not a population. Let's say we have two bacteria, one blue and one red. Color is heritable. Bacteria can reproduce assexually btw. If one bacteria dies, say the blue one, then evolution has occurred. The bacteria population has evolved from 50% red, 50% blue to 100% red.
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Old 11-05-2011, 11:26 PM   #9
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

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Originally Posted by yodachoda View Post
And no, your single bacteria example is not evolution because that's a change in an individual, not a population. Let's say we have two bacteria, one blue and one red. Color is heritable. Bacteria can reproduce assexually btw. If one bacteria dies, say the blue one, then evolution has occurred. The bacteria population has evolved from 50% red, 50% blue to 100% red.
You also don't have a population after that happens. What does that mean for the gene pool of your bacteria population?

By the way, I'm just playing around as devil's advocate here. You're really kind of arguing against a strawman and thinking that you're making some salient point that is actually relevant to those who don't accept "evolution" (which means different things to different people in the general population). As far as I can tell, you really aren't. Maybe in this conversation, you'll see why.

Let's take a different example:

Let's say you have a large population (to avoid the problem of "not a population") of red and blue bacteria. And let's say that the population naturally cycles between 60/40 and 40/60 red/blue ratios, but otherwise stay GENETICALLY IDENTICAL.

Under the first definition:

Quote:
1. Any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations
I would say that this actually isn't evolution under this definition. The heritable characteristics (the colors red and blue) have not actually changed. What do you say?

Under the second definition:

Quote:
2. Change in the allele frequency in a population.
Indeed, we would have evolution.

But under this concept, if you were to take some random person who accepts "evolution" (not giving any particular definition -- just someone who doesn't reject it), and told them that the genetic makeup of both bacteria have not changed ever, would that person think that you're talking about "evolution"? I would think not, because the way that evolution is portrayed, you're seeing some sort of change from one individual of one generation to another (the beaks of the next generation are "slightly longer"), and not talking about population ratios.

I don't think it's quite as trivial as you want it to be, or that the observation you're making is trivial and it's the implication that you're trying to get to is not.
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Old 11-05-2011, 11:27 PM   #10
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

The presumed devastation to the structure of the society, as predicted by the prophets of the religions, and the fear of an eternity burning and being torn to shreds over and over keeps them involved. This core belief shared by many Americans was engrained from their birth. Indoctrination comes from all sources of media and is linked to almost every holiday or otherwise functional dictates for society. Daniel Quinn calls it the "hum" of "mother culture," but regardless it's there and it's virtually inescapable. The message defending religion had been molded, shaped and justified for hundreds of years, such that every aspect of life can be detailed and defined by it's congruence with the program of the god (Like the idea that lightning bolts come from Zeus, etc...). The voice speaking the fact of evolution is just one more voice like the thousands of blasphemers of history that have been silenced by the power of sewn-in belief. This is why education is so very important going forward, especially physics and quantum physics, which should be made an integral part of education in elementary schools nationwide imo.
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Old 11-05-2011, 11:31 PM   #11
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

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Originally Posted by yodachoda View Post
And no, your single bacteria example is not evolution because that's a change in an individual, not a population.
Alternatively, let's say you have two blue bacteria and they both die out. It's a certainly a change in the heritable characteristics (the number of heritable characteristics changes... to zero), and in some sense it's a change in the allele frequency (there's no more blue, although there's a division by zero error).

Is that evolution?
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Old 11-05-2011, 11:31 PM   #12
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

Its not remotely hard to accept. Some people are just very determined
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Old 11-05-2011, 11:56 PM   #13
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

My point was evolution can't happen if you have just one individual and it dies out, that's extinction. In my red/blue bacteria example, although after one of them dies only one individual remains, he can keep reproducing assexually and produce future generations.

And I would say there's a correct definition of evolution and that's it. If you don't understand how changing just one allele in a gene pool is evolution, then you don't understand how evolution actually works. There are some people out there who argue strongly against evolution, and it turns out they believe that in one organism there was no eye, and in just one lucky mutation an eye formed. And some think evolution occurs when two different species mate and produce an intermediate new species.

As for stable fluctuations in evolution, I don't think that is that common. There are species that don't evolve at all for a very long time, such as the coelacanth because there's no selective pressures for it. Anyway, if something like your example happened, I would say it is evolving. If you look at generation 1 compared to generation 2, there's a change in the gene pool. Also, if you happened to compare generation 1 with say generation 10, then evolution has occurred by both definitions.

Another misconception is evolution has to advance, which isn't true. An example is fish living in dark caves evolving from eyes to eyeless.
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Old 11-06-2011, 12:08 AM   #14
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Religion is the answer here (as it is everywhere...). Nearly all, if not all, anti-evolutionists feel as they do due to their religious beliefs, no matter how much they insist their objections are based in science.

Evolution took a while to be thought of for 2 reasons, imo. First is that there was no need for evolution when religion was much more prevalent -- the origin of species was known to be God, so who would look for another explanation?

The second reason is that it isn't as easy to come up with this idea as you think. It's easy for you to sit here knowing what you know and saying that it's obvious. We know so much more than they did back then, and with our education system, tv, zoos, internet, etc, you can be exposed to so much of this information. It's not fair to judge these old people based on what you do know and how smart you think you are.
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Old 11-06-2011, 12:11 AM   #15
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Re: Why is evolution so hard to accept?

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And I would say there's a correct definition of evolution and that's it. If you don't understand how changing just one allele in a gene pool is evolution, then you don't understand how evolution actually works.
The second sentence is probably true. The first sentence might be true, but it's questionable from the perspective of how the science actually developed.

Let's go back to the 40/60 red/blue bacteria situation. What reason would there be to introduce "evolution" to describe this system, where "evolution" is defined as you've presented it. It's trivially true that the population is changing. But what sort of (Edit: evolutionary) biological study of interest would it be if the genetic code of these bacteria happened to be static for all time?

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As for stable fluctuations in evolution, I don't think that is that common.
That's not the point. It's not about whether it's common or uncommon, it's a matter of trying to parse what you're talking about.

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There are species that don't evolve at all for a very long time, such as the coelacanth because there's no selective pressures for it.
Methinks you're already starting to conflate ideas here. Do all the coelacanth share completely identical heritable traits? (Edit: Would this imply that their genetic codes are 100% identical? It seems like it, but I don't know.) If not, then the death of ANY ONE of them is evolution, right?

Edit: So what do you mean that they don't evolve "at all for a very long time" and the introduction of "selective pressures" to try to explain something?

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Another misconception is evolution has to advance, which isn't true. An example is fish living in dark caves evolving from eyes to eyeless.
This is a random observation that is not relevant to the point I'm making.
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