Sunday, May 13, 2007


I've been reading the God Delusion recently, Richard Dawkin's book about... well the title says it all, of course, and I have various conclusions that I have reached which I shall come to in due course in the next few days. Regardless as to whether I agree with Dawkins on every point (and I tend to agree with him), I think he is very much deserving as his position as a well regarded intellectual. Still, I have more to say about this, I'm just going to argue about one particular thing.

Dawkins talks, and has always talked, about how amazing evolution is as a scientific explanation of how we came to be, and I have to agree. I approach evolution with the knowledge of only a layman- I know a little more than the average layperson, but my perception of evolution, particularly how it works is undoubtedly flawed. Still, I like to think I have the basics right.

I was introduced to evolution in GCSE biology, and I found it to be the most exciting thing about the subject. A lot of what we got taught in biology, at least at that point, wasn't really a theory at all- it was merely observation, that cells had this bit and that bit, so evolution has always stuck out in my mind. Why? Because it makes so much sense!

It's a very simple principle. We know creatures can inherit characteristics from their parents. The creatures that are most likely to get to breed are those that are fittest to survive in their environment, and so they pass on those characteristics to their children. Coupled with random mutations of genes over a time scale of billions of years, this allows us to see how we got from simple unicellular organisms to us. And thats awesome, that is absolutely awesome, that something so simple, that feels so RIGHT, turns out to be the way things seem to work.

Obviously there is always a chance that we will falsify the theory of evolution, because thats how scientific theories are designed- they can never be proven, only disproven. It would be disappointing indeed to see that a theory that makes so much sense would be incorrect, but of course I, as would all scientists, would be forced to not accept it.

I kind of feel sorry for people who are convinced this theory is wrong, for whatever reasons they have. How dull the world would be if it turned out to be only 6,000 years old, and all the creatures to have spontaneously appeared one day, and all those fossils, and the structure of the earth, was just thrown there by God to test us. What a boring world, what a less wonderful world for that difference.

Of course even more baffling are the intelligent design people, who say, "well alright we reckon the earth IS that old, and for the most part evolution worked... but sometimes, you know, God gave a push". They point at places that scientists have yet to explain how evolution could have produced it, and they say that it is irreducibly complex. In other words, God set evolution to work, and midway through thought- "Hey, those bacteria probably need some flagellum," and BAM it was so. I don't think I really need to elucidate further on way this is an incredibly silly idea, yet this is what some people want taught in schools.

Now evolution by itself does not, of course, argue for or against the existence of God, although it does tend to make the idea of a God that created the world in 7 days extremely unlikely. My point at this moment in time is not to prove or disprove, just talk about a marvelous scientific theory. I think an incredible amount of beauty can be derived from science, simply because it explains how wonderfully the natural world works, adding another level of beauty to what is already a beautiful landscape.


At 12:41 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get over it.

At 12:48 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like revision is giving you too much time on your hands...

I bought some bouncy balls and a ping pong set to 'aid' MY revision...

In mathematical science things can be disproved, so you're wrong by a translation there...

From now on every sentence I write will be followed by '...'

At 12:49 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way I meant that in mathematical science things can be PROVED!

What a blow to my point!

At 2:11 pm, Blogger Mr K said...

Indeed. Yeah, but thats cause maths is absolutely awesome.


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