Charles Darwin, who effectively began the study of evolution and the scientific field of evolutionary biology, was one of the most influential scientists who ever lived. His many works, most notably The Origin of Species, fueled a debate that continues to rage even today between those who understand the theory of evolution and those who insist that a religious creation myth is the truth behind Earth as it exists now.
The study of evolution is a fascinating one; evolution has opened up innumerable avenues of scientific inquiry and led to extraordinary strides forward in social and scientific fields. The study of human ancestry was jump-started by Darwin’s work, and the fundamental ancestral connection of all races of people is more clearly understood; the study continues today, with new developments occasionally making global headlines. Scientists are also better able to understand the progression, causes and mutations of diseases; as a result, they are also able to prevent and cure those diseases. Evolution has also opened a wide arena for critical thought and debate.
While on a day-to-day basis, most people are unaffected by evolution except as a by-product of being alive, the benefits of evolution are everywhere to be seen. The biological fields of science are constantly changing and becoming more complex and defined; these changes mean that people have access to advanced medical technologies that would not have existed but for the study of evolution.
Genetically modified foods and plants, while controversial, would also be nonexistent if not for the knowledge gained from the study and understanding of evolution. Plants that can be grown in adverse conditions and still produce high yields are an immensely positive opportunity for those seeking practical to world hunger and famine conditions. Without the theory of evolution, such an opportunity would not exist.
Studying evolution also provides a clearer, more feasible and more rational understanding of how and why plant and animal life came to look as it does today. Scientific examination of fossil records in comparison to geological records and the movement of tectonic plates paints a beautifully complex picture of life on Earth. Without the study of evolution and geology (a form of evolution itself in some ways), the planet would appear to be as mysterious as the farthest reaches of the universe still remain.
Evolution also offers the possibility of intense and reasoned debate. However, there are numerous misunderstandings and misrepresentations surrounding evolutionary debate that negatively affect those who discuss it. First, many people claim that because evolution is “just a theory” it lacks validity and scientists are just taking shots in the dark. Within the context of science, a theory is something for which no contradictory evidence has ever been produced; it is not a vague idea or set of unspecific thoughts that cannot be determined to be conclusively true. A scientific theory is accepted among scientific communities as nearly equal to scientific laws, like the law of gravity.
This is not to say that evolution can’t be disproved; scientific experiments must be falsifiable in order to be valid. This leads to other issues with creationist arguments: creationism, which relies on the existence of a creator, and is therefore not scientifically valid. There is no way to scientifically test whether or not a god or creator exists, meaning that religious arguments for creation that use scientific evidence are fundamentally and logically flawed; as a result, religious arguments against evolution are not considered solid arguments by scientists.
While evolution is a scientifically, socially and globally positive force in many ways, it does cause some hostility and resentment in those who subscribe to religious creation myths. However, apart from the negativity surrounding evolutionary debate, the theory of evolution has incredibly positive effects in medical, agricultural, social and scientific fields.