Friday, December 27, 2013

Evolution Made Easy

There are many people out there who deny the existence of evolution. They just flat out deny it, and then cite the Bible as the reason why it doesn’t exist. This never has, nor ever will be a valid argument. Evolution is something that we see around us every day. Animals, plants, and the entire earth are evolving every day at all different rates. The fact that we are still alive and breathing on this planet is a testament to our own evolution.

Let me break it down in simple terms that everyone can understand. First, let’s start with the definition of evolution: “a theory that the differences between modern plants and animals are because of changes that happened by a natural process over a very long time” (Merriam-Webster). Just from the definition we can see that this in fact a true process. You can even see the difference between plants and animals now and less than 100 years ago. To survive, living organisms must change to fit in with their environment. Adaptation is key to any survival and there is no denying that.

As far as human evolution goes it is the same. We have evolved from other hominids in order to adapt to our environment. As the years, climate, and environment changes man evolved into what we are now and we are still evolving. Many of you have seen the famous image of the ape gradually changing into a human (the image above). Where that is somewhat true it is much more extensive than that. Evolution isn’t linear. There isn’t just one ape that evolved into a lesser ape, that evolved into a hominid, that evolved into a humanoid, that evolved into the modern day man. It’s like any family tree: there are branches. There are some apes that continued to evolve into other types of apes and we see them today. Others evolved into hominids that quickly died out because they couldn’t survive in the environment. Even others evolved, adapted, and survived to create the humans that we now see every day (Tattersall).

The greatest example of the progress from ape to hominid is ardipithecus ramidus. I use this example mainly because I had the distinct pleasure of being taught by Dr. Alan Walker who was on the team with Tim White who discovered this hominid fossil. “Ardi” as he is referred to, has been hailed as one of the clearest examples of the link between apes and humans. Ardi was a bipedal hominid but he had a “hallux” which is the big toe that apes have for grasping trees. What Ardi shows is that at some point hominids were still in the trees but then adapted to walking on two feet. This reflects the change of environment 4.4 million years ago (which Ardi is dated to): that hominids had to adapt from climbing around in the trees to walking on flat plains (White).

That is of course a very basic explanation of human evolution but you get the point: evolution, even human evolution, is necessary for survival. To ignore or deny it really makes no sense as you are denying your own right to adapt to the still changing environment.

References:

White, Tim D.; Asfaw, Berhane; Beyene, Yonas; Haile-Selassie, Yohannes; Lovejoy, C. Owen; Suwa, Gen; WoldeGabriel, Giday (2009). "Ardipithecus ramidus and the Paleobiology of Early Hominids". Science 326 (5949): 75–86.

www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evolution

“The Fossil Trail” by Ian Tattersall

2 comments:

Stephanie Fox said...

THANK YOU for this. What so many people (even those who have some respect for evolution) fail to remember is that it's not a linear process. Understanding of this would clear up the question, "If evolution is real, then why are there still monkeys?"

Gah, I damn near had a conniption writing that out. LOL

Sam Curtin said...

Nope, not linear at all. It still continues to boggle my mind when there is so much evidence out there. Like literally just look outside your window and watch the leaves change. Then there's the fact that first of MONKEYS are different then APES. That's a whole other issue...

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