Evolution underpins Biology, right? It seems to me that without the Theory of evolution, there is little point in studying biology as a serious science - it's that important.


I hope we all agree on that, but since my dictionary seems to concern itself almost entirely with biological evolution, I found myself wondering why the word is so underused in general parlance. Most scientists are, I assume, fully conversant with the phrase (outside of biology) but when I use it outside of my educated circle of friends I am often met with anything from confusion to incredulity.


If we forget about the complications of how evolution works and just accept that things change over time, guided by an (often intangible) pressure, then evolution can apply to a whole host of things - from the formation of rock strata to the changes in society. Some of these things happen slowly, others almost in the blink of an eye. Many of evolution's treatises (if that's the right word) are directly applicable often with little or no modification.


Can we address this problem? Should we even try?


My own view at this time is that we need to embrace all forms of evolution and demonstrate it outside of biology whenever we can, because in so doing, we show the beautiful, blind mechanism that drives so much of our world.


Telling a non-scientist who has little interest in religion about evolution in biological terms may make their eyes glaze over, but if we can find something that interests them and apply evolution to that, we can get them to see what we see and (far more importantly) why we do.


The snotty kid down the street might not be in the least bit interested to learn that he evolved from a common ancestor with an ape, but he might be interested in how his favourite soccer team evolved by subsuming better players to make a stronger team which beat the competition.


One of my favourites is a discussion of how language and cultures evolve (often very rapidly) as society ages.  This is something we can actually demonstrate very easily by picking up a book no more than a few decades old and studying plot points and cultural observations. Societal: In Bram Stoker's Dracula - 1897 - see how women are fawning little creatures with a single purpose to snag a man! By WWII they are already becoming far more valued "manning" munitions factories during the war... and today almost equal in power and position to men. (Almost).


When people see evolution applied to something they care about and understand they will, I expect, find the world less geeky and be able to apply it themselves. We don't have to explain how primitive bacteria were subsumed into early cells, that doesn't matter to the mechanic - but how car design evolved from horse-drawn carts to modern supercars almost certainly will; understand one and they other is almost obvious.


And the point to all of this? Evolution needs to be something everyone can understand because that makes it less geeky and that makes it very hard for creationists to gain a foothold.

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Darwin's actual phrase.."Descent with Modification," or "Evolution by Natural Selection Through Repeated Struggles for Existence."


Parse out the phrase and use analogies;


Good point Bob, I think the trouble with the first phrase is with decent. Ordinary joes just don't "get" the "arrow of time" in the same way as we do. Similarly, the second quote also ties it to biology.

My point is that we should divorce biology from this discussion entirely unless the person we're talking to suddenly has an epiphany, ahem, about how it works.

Evolution, it seems to me, should become a word as common and understood as Asprin or computer. We may not know how these things operate, but we know that they do and don't question it. Evolution is misunderstood outside of a small percentage of people who have bothered to learn the basics.

Folk use words like "developed" when they really mean evolved.

No one in their right mind thinks that software appears out of thin air - people know almost instinctively that it is developed. They do not, it seems, understand that it also evolves; as does the market in which it lives.

Microsoft Windows has evolved, beating off stiff competition from a number of fine contenders... And those contenders provide the pressure that forces microsoft to develop Windows further. Without that pressure, Bill Gates would have been richer earlier and we'd still have a 640K limit and work on 16 colour displays or perhaps worse.

Swap develop for evolve and the meaning remains the same - although ironically, evolution is a more accurate description because evolution drives development.
I think you explained it very well for people who really aren't interested in Biology. The problem that we may still have with people and evolution is that they may agree with the concept, but think God designed it that way (I went to Catholic school and we were taught evolution...but God had a hand in it). I am a nontheist now.
Dawkins' analogy of using a fictional place, Mt. Improbable", to explain a step by step process; where one side of the mountain is very steep but the other side gradually rises from the valley; ascending from the valley as it were, changing and modifying as the surroundings change and situations and circumstances "favors or selects" those who can adapt to these changing surroundings, situations and circumstances..The favor is,..because of adequate adaptation, the way of life and reproduction .and the process go on...through repeated struggles for existence
I love the way Dawkins explains evolution...he makes it very understandable in the God Delusion. I have his latest book, but haven't had a chance to read it. He also had a small video clip on his website explaining the evolution of the eye-so simply explained. I wish I would have had him as a biology prof!

Ah, I see we've fallen in the Dawkins trap - we love biology, yes, but the cretins don't get it. My point is that we should, at all costs, avoid connecting evolution with biology or even life!


If we divorce one from the other, it is less threatening, easier to accept & adopt - and that makes it more difficult to demolish.

Hey guys, I am a 'ordinary joe' with no college education. While I don't understand everything about biological evolution, I am pretty sure I get the basics. (I think) I understand adaptation, mutation, natural selection, descent with modification, the very basics of evolution, but some things still confuse me (allele frequencies and genetic drift). The only reason I even know the basics is because of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, Dawkins, a little Gould,  sites like talkorigins and youtubers like Aronra. (which is my own fault, I goofed off way too much in high school I'm sad to say).



I became a non-believer out my own skepticism of the existence of God, before I ever learned about the creationism/evolution debate and before I became computer literate enough to use the internet. (14-15ish years ago). My first inkling that I needed to know more about the reality around me came from a childhood interest in astronomy, which over time :D developed into an eagerness to learn as much as I could about all subjects of science (math is moving a little slower than the rest).  I have heard creationists endlessly using the non-word 'evolutionists' out of their own ignorance trying to make all pro-science folks, whether or not they are evolutionary biologists, out to be boogiemen of the devil and the responses of reasonable people pointing out that in the sciences, there are distinct disciplines that cannot be mashed together. So sometimes I'm nervous to even bring up evolution in other systems or areas of interest.



However, The layman in me wants to say this: Evolution is of course not just limited to biology. The cosmos, and everything in it, has evolved to it's current state. Everything man touches whether it's music, culture, law, machines, homes, ideas, governments, computers, even freaking guitar picks, in some way, they have been adapted, mutated, and selected.  They've all evolved and are a direct result of our evolution as a species, and more broadly evolution of the cosmos.

I don't know if that's a legitimate way to look at 'everything' or not. I'm not saying that the mechanisms are the same, just that evolution is a common process in the universe.

Am I wrong?



I agree with this. To counter the creationists,who for the most part are silenced by it,is the ''Evolution'' of money.A lot of people understand money,but haven't a clue that this evolved from the use of agricultural,or mineral goods as a currency to exchange for other goods. When explained to them, and also linking this process to bio-evolution,they are given some mental meat to chew on.




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