From metawiki
Don't worry genetic engineering will fix it

Evolution is central to the scientific creation story. Understanding how evolution works is a necessary prerequisite to a working understanding of the scientific universe.

To see how major evolutionary milestones are inevitable, even as the particular form they take is variable, and how this applies to religion, society and other self-organizing systems, see the march of progress.

Why Some People Fail to Understand Evolution

The failure to see how evolution can happen without intelligent design happens due to the lack of understanding one or more specific concepts. Rather than debating the validity of scripture or the existence of the supernatural, it is much more effective to identify the specific gap in knowledge and fill in the necessary prerequisites. These typically boil down to three simple things.

  1. No knowledge of self-organizing systems or the principles of complexity
  2. Thinks evolution must be gradual when Punctuated Equilibrium is the norm
  3. Insists on interpreting scripture literally instead of as allegory

Many who are not fundamentalists still believe in intelligent design because they don't understand #1 or #2. Addressing these basic facts can change the perspective from "god used divine intervention to create intelligent life" to "god used evolution to create intelligent life". Despite the presence of the word god, the second statement is no longer in conflict with scientific observability.

If only theological arguments are acceptable to someone, then this list of statements from religious organizations in support of evolution will likely be more persuasive.

Fractals Help You Understand Evolution

Although the principles of self-organizing systems are not typically taught in biology classes and are not a prerequisite for understanding evolution, it can really bridge the knowledge gap for people who can't grasp complex order arising from randomness.

A common metaphor used by creationists is a tornado blowing through a junkyard and building a house.[1] Given the huge number of improbable events that led to the evolution of intelligent life, it seems like the overall probability of either event would be similar. But a more appropriate metaphor would be a billion tornados blowing through a junkyard, and every time it gets a step closer to building a house, that part remains. Most tornados do nothing useful, but every once in a while one leaves a board in just the right place or drives a useful nail. After billions of tornados, you will eventually construct a house.

Fractals help bridge this gap in understanding and allow anyone to see how complex order can arise from simple, random processes over time.

  • Life is based on self-replication. This is meta principle of feedback loops, recursion, fractals, etc.
  • Fractals have infinite complexity, amazing symmetry and patterns, but come from simple equations repeated billions and billions of times. Evolution is the simple principle of replication and survival repeated over billions of generations.
  • Living systems use fractal patterns to create complex structures like our nervous and circulatory systems, or the structure of trees, with simple patterns, repeated.
  • DNA is like the generating equation for an organism. Like a fractal, small changes in the generating equation create significantly different patterns once the calculation has been performed billions of times. This explains why we share so much common DNA with our ancestors, and how a few random mutations can create a new species.
  • Fractal geometry is the mathematics of growth and natural systems. Euclidean geometry is the mathematics of the man made. When Euclidean geometry is all you know, living systems appear impossibly complicated and could only be the result of design by a much higher intelligence. Once fractal geometry is learned, and the underlying simplicity of living systems is revealed, the evolution of intelligent life becomes an inevitability instead of a one in a quintillion random accident.

Punctuated Equilibrium

The concept of Punctuated Equilibrium is also an important prerequisite to the understanding of evolution. The natural tendency is to assume that change over time is gradual and consistent, which would produce a large number of transition fossils that clearly show how one species becomes another. However, this is not what we see in the fossil record, causing creationists to point to this as evidence against evolution.

Understanding Punctuated Equilibrium solves the cognitive dissonance caused by the lack of transition fossils and makes the acceptance of the reality of evolution much easier.

A favorite allegory for this process is a boulder in a river. The boulder might stay lodged tightly against some other rocks for thousands of years, when finally the water erodes a gap just big enough to dislodge it. At that point it may tumble and stop and tumble and stop many times over the next few days or years until it reaches another stable point where it will stay for the next thousand years. Punctuated Equilibrium is the same principle applied to evolution.

Process of Evolution: Gradualism versus Punctuated Equilibrium

Everything Evolves

The notion of change over time in response to the environment is part of the universal feedback loop that impacts everything we do. The march of progress is inevitable.

Evolution, Not Revolution

It is not practical nor desirable to tear down the institutions of an advanced society and attempt to rebuild them from scratch using some ideological or utopian model. Social change should be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Evolution of Music

Every so often there comes a musician that mutates a new sound. And if that sound is groovy, it will be successful and other musicians will copy it. If the new sound is truly unique and groovy, a new genre has evolved.

Pearl Jam - Do the Evolution