It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. ~ Thomas Jefferson


C himunthu Banda, Hetherwick Ntaba, Vuwa Kaunda - government's spokesmen muddying human rights with the gay issue

Monday, April 11, 2011

Science & Critical Thnking - Sunday Times column April 10, 2011

Quote: Religion will not regain its old power until it can face change in the same spirit as does science. ~ Alfred North Whitehead
Great men think outside the box and one such man is Charles Darwin, the proponent of Evolution. The pious have hated evolution. However, evolution is accepted as a fact by informed persons including some theologians. Darwin was a Christian with an inquisitive mind. He observed the world and was convinced that there are better explanations for the origin of life than creation. He said: Nature is a ruthless system of hunting, killing, devouring, fleeing, starving, misery and too much suffering. I cannot persuade myself that such occurrences come from a loving creator and omnipotent deity”
Darwin was trained in medicine and theology intending to become a cleric. As he grew older, he abandoned Christian views and became an agnostic. While at Cambridge, he accepted a job as a naturalist. This happenstance changed history forever. For five years, he roved the seas, observed animals, plants and fossils, the differences in species isolated from each other on remote islands.
With this experience at sea, he hit upon the idea of natural selection; the endless struggle for survival; leading to the theory of the evolution of species. Like the work of Copernicus that revealed that the earth revolves, Darwin's idea shook the foundations of religion and altered humanity's view of its place in the universe. To this day, the storm he created has not abated. Evolution is opposed to the biblical account of creation where species were created by a deity.
Evolution is the unifying force in modern biology. It states that all living things are inter-related; that higher organisms including man have evolved from simpler life forms. Support for evolution comes from different areas.
1.    Fossils of animals, plants belonging to different periods of time. Fossils show that species converge toward ever simpler forms and common ancestors.
2.    The protein structure of man and rhesus monkey are similar.
3.    The human embryo possesses gill-like organs, eyes on the sides of the head   and vertebral column showing the extension the tail of amphibians- all indicating fishes and amphibians as our ancestors.
4.    Existence of vestigial organs; that are of no major current use to an organism but are a remnants of an earlier form from which the organism evolved, i.e. small vestigial hind legs in Boa snakes; useless tails in crabs.

The time scale of evolution is enormous.  In slowly evolving organisms the changes took vast amount of time to occur. In the case of the reproductive cell in humans or in some bacteria, the period is short.
Evolution does not talk about the origin of life. But how did life begin? That body of discovery is left to the discipline of study called abiogenesis. Scientists have done some experiments in that area with remarkable findings. Evolution is evidence-based, shows what actually occurred and is therefore a fact. Creation remains an opinion without evidence or established by observation. Anybody who denies evolution is a history denier says R. Dawkins. Celebrate Darwin on 12 February!

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