The Theory of Evolution

In 1859, Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species which formed the foundation for one of the most controversial theories in the history of mankind. Darwin argued and provided substantial evidence to the effect that all organisms had originated from the same source. Although Darwin did not refer to the phenomenon as evolution, referring to it as ‘common descent with modification’ instead, Darwin explained how organisms had originated from simple creatures to evolve to the complex creatures seen today in a process that took million of years (Ayala, 2008: 322).

Darwin based his evidence of evolution on his discovery of what is today referred to as natural selection which seemed to hold true of all species. The lives of organisms are normally characterized by competition against other members of the species for food, water and other resources, and against an ever-changing environment. Darwin observed that to ensure their survival, organisms constantly adapted their structural, behavioral and psychological characters to the prevailing conditions. This adaptation “refers to the process by which natural selection modifies the phenotype and generates traits whose effects facilitate the propagation of genes” (Andrews, Gangestad & Matthews, 2002: 491).

According to Darwin, evolution by natural selection was the result of some members of the species developing “fitter phenotypes” which helped them adapt better to their environment. Organisms which could not adapt to their environments died off or disperse, leaving only those which could adapt (Kikvidze & Callaway, 2009: 402; Fowler, T. & Kuebler, D. 2007; 57). This was referred to as survival for the fittest, the fittest being not necessarily the strongest or the largest members of a species but the one which was able to adapt to its environment as it changed. Darwin’s discovery of natural selection has been employed by plant and animal breeders to produce ‘sports’ through selective breeding. By controlling the breeding process of the plants and animals to ensure that fertilization occurs only between members with the desired qualities, breeders have been able to produce mutations of the original breeds which bear the desired traits.
Darwin noted that one of the consequences of the natural process of selection is that organisms tend to develop “adaptive organs and functions” which help the organisms to fit better into their environments. In short, these “organisms exhibit design” which tips chances of survival in their favour, making them more adaptive than organisms which do not develop these variations (Ayala, 2008: 324; Kikvidze & Callaway, 2009: 401). A classic example of design is the separation of the thumb from the other fingers on the human hand and among some of the higher primates. The stronger thumb helps the organisms to grip things better than primates whose hands lack the thumb. According to Darwin, design occurs “gradually and cumulatively, step-by-step, promoted by the reproductive success of individuals with incrementally more adaptive elaborations” (Ayala, 2008: 324). However, the design of actual living things is rarely perfect as the process of developing these adaptive features takes thousands or millions of years, yet the environment changes frequently and mostly unpredictably. This means that while an organism is developing features to help it adapt to a particular environmental change, more changes occur in the environment.

Among the most unrelenting critics to the Darwinian thheory of evolution are Christian who believe that the universe was created by a Supreme God. Among the Christians are those who see no conflict between the Darwinian theory of evolution and creationism. In short, there are those who accept both theories. This group of Christians has faulted the theory of evolution because it is based on the notion that creation comes with “interference with, or dispensation of, natural laws, and that ‘creation’ must be accompanied by arbitrary or unorderly phenomena” (Mivart, 2009: 4). These Christians have argued that the basis on which the conflict between creationism and evolution is founded is based not on factual information.
Critics have also pointed that even after moving the theory, Charles Darwin was noted to doubt it and its applicability, suggesting that he may not have been sufficiently confident of his own work. Darwin was noted saying:
But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which

has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? (Darwin, 1881).
Darwin’s critics have pointed to this ‘doubt’ as part of the evidence that the theory is unable to either explain some of the phenomena it should, or  Darwin had reasons not to explain some of the phenomena.


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