What is evolution?
In its original sense, evolution meant “unrolling”, as if a papyrus scroll were being unrolled to reveal its contents. We may talk about the “evolution” of many things, from an individual’s lifetime to the evolution of the universe. In the most general sense, evolution means “change”.
Biologists are very specific about the kinds of processes that qualify as “evolution” in the biological sense. Biological evolution is genetic change in a population over time. Populations and individuals change in many ways, but only some changes are evolution.
Here’s a list of seven things about evolution. It’s not comprehensive but it hits on several important issues that help to understand how evolutionary biologists think about the process of evolutionary change.
John Hawks gives a good primer on some common misconceptions about evolution. One that I run into a lot among creationists, is that they assume that Darwin’s writings are a sacred scripture of sorts for people who accept evolution.
I’ve done a modest amount of reading on evolution and have never felt the need to read ‘On the Origin of Species’ or ‘Descent of Man’, any more than I’ve ever felt to need to read books on computer programming from the 1950s. Scientific theories are constantly being improved and reading 19th century versions might be inspiring for some, but usually isn’t required for understanding.
- Palaeo Updates: Call for Palaeoanthropologists to Study Rising Star Hominin Remains and Start of John Hawks Human Evolution MOOC (thesebonesofmine.wordpress.com)
- How Evolution works (The mechanisms of evolution explained in one video) (bluesyemre.com)
- Evolution! (phileolove.wordpress.com)