Today is the 207th birthday of both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln, two people who were condemned for their great works. One changed the way we treat other members of our species, while the other changed our entire understanding of species.
Lincoln held America together in spite of attempts to divide America into those who used the law to support equal treatment of Americans and those who would start their own country to be able to expand what may be the worst economic system ever seen in America – slavery. We don’t like communism, but when we condemn communism, we use slavery as a metaphor for how bad communism really is. We used to be worse than the communists. Some of us were willing to kill Americans to avoid having to deal with the possibility of giving up the horror that is slavery.
Darwin explained how life evolved into the many different species that exist and into those that no longer exist. The connection among those seemingly unconnected species of animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, . . . is DNA (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid). We can use DNA in a court room to demonstrate that one person is the parent of another person, or that one person had direct (or occasionally indirect) contact with another person and thus may have had the opportunity to commit a crime. Criminal DNA evidence is just a tool and its appropriate use does require judgment, just as with any other evidence. If used without judgment, DNA evidence can be just as unreliable as eyewitness testimony.
DNA is able to tell us how people and species are related. DNA is able to tell us that we are very closely related to other apes. When we trace our ancestry back far enough, we have the same ancestors. If we trace our ancestry back even farther, we have the same ancestors as snails. We have all evolved, over billions of years, to exist in our current temporary state of evolution. Will we humans split into several species or remain just one species until we become extinct?
DNA had not even been identified at the time that Darwin explained evolution in On the Origin of Species, so he did not have the ability to explain how these changes were taking place, but he could show that the changes were taking place and that the changes favored adaptations that increased the probability of survival of the species. He wasn’t right about everything, but science is not perfection. Science is a method of increasing our understanding and Darwin is one of a handful of scientists who dramatically changed the way we understand biology.
Medicine is a branch of biology. We can go practice monkey see, monkey do medicine, but we will cause a lot of harm with our lack of understanding. We can try to understand as much as possible or we can make excuses for rejecting science.
As we learn, science changes. The same is true for everything else. As we learn, we change. Change is unstoppable.
Could over 99% of biologists be wrong about evolution?
Go see the rest of How Gavin Smythe Broke Science here.
If you understand science, Tell Congress to Support Darwin Day 2016.