What People Believe About Evolution, Human Origins, and the Beginning of Life

THE HUMAN QUESTION – Chapter 11, Pages 255 – 257

What is the answer - chapter 11 of the Human Question

“I hate quotations. Tell me what you know..” [Ralph Waldo Emerson]

Here’s the truth as I see it.

I. All the hard evidence that has come out of the ground, or has been extracted from test tubes, tells us that life has evolved naturally.
Gaps in the fossil record? What gaps? Detailed fossil sequences in thousands of animals demonstrate the obvious steps of evolution and common descent.

  • Fossil and molecular evidence clearly proves that whales were once four- legged landlubbers related to hippos that decided to take a swim and never looked back. Their bones and genes retain vestiges of that evolutionary journey.

Who says evolution didn’t happen because no one saw it? Today, researchers are watching and documenting evolution.

  • Many organisms including fruit flies, sockeye salmon, insects, and others in the lab and in the wild, can be observed as they develop traits that lead to the emergence of new species.

Not only is all life connected by chemistry, but it also bears the deep scars of parallel development. We see similar patterns of form and function in limb and lung that have been constructed, torn down, and reused over millions of years.

  • The close parallel among evolutionary pathways of all types of eyes has been confirmed with discovery of the pax6 gene, the universal instruction manual for making eyes in all animals. Dissimilar complex organs, such as the eyes of flies and humans, share the same evolutionary pathway.

Don’t listen to the Intelligent Design crowd either. Complexity in evolution can be reduced to its smallest components and explained using well-known chemistry and physics. You just have to look at the evidence and believe the facts.

  • Blocks of developmental genes are strikingly similar in very different animals. Parallels in their action and organization promote limb and rib development in mouse, chick, and snake embryos. Evolution is not only clever, but efficient.

The hidden sources of genetic variation needed to evolve complex organs and features has been found in the accumulated wisdom of our genes. The assault of millions of years of evolutionary pressure has sorted, rearranged, and fine tuned them into efficient machines that act quickly and in concert to produce innovative change. Nature has been the (intelligent) designer, courted by the whims of Evolution– a purposeless, directionless, and unlimited force in our world.

Some evolutionists translate Darwin’s Origin of Species like sacred text. Others delight in tackling exceptions to the rule, expanding and updating the details with 21st century knowledge. Their vigorous challenges have caught the attention of creationists, who hang on every word like media junkies at election time looking for a negative soundbite. But the scientific dissension is normal and healthy. It’s the way science works– questioning, testing, and expanding the evidence and filling in the details.

II. Evidence and sound reasoning point to natural evolution as the architect of all life on Earth– including the evolution of modern humans.

Hold-outs for an answer other than a natural cause for human origins will have a bumpy ride as science continues to peel back the onion of evolution.

  • In 2001 and 2002, fossil finds expanded our knowledge of human evolution three million years further back in time. Fossil sequences are rapidly filling in the picture from Darwin’s missing link to us.
  • Chimps and humans differ genetically by less than 2%. But this small genetic difference belies striking differences in levels of gene activity in the human brain compared to that of chimps. In all other organs gene activity is similar, but genes in the human brain are working at higher levels of protein output indicating different operational dynamics.
  • Overall brain activity in chimps and modern humans also differs in several “hot spots.” These spots correspond with the same areas on the surface of the right side of our brain that show the most differential physical expansion in fossil skulls of human ancestors throughout 2.5 million years of evolution. These areas of heightened activity help us process the subtleties of language– a key factor in that decisive change in culture and behavior known as the Great Leap Forward that appeared with the arrival thirty-five thousand years ago of fully modern humans.

The emergence of modern humans was an arduous journey, not a miraculous event. We would have been known as just another ape except for three pivotal forks along our evolutionary trail…