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In a larger sense, evolution is also not goal directed. Species do not become “better” over time; they simply track their changing environment with adaptations that maximize their reproduction in a particular environment at a particular time. Evolution has no goal of making faster, bigger, more complex, or even smarter species. This kind of language is common in popular literature. Certain organisms, ourselves included, are described as the “pinnacle” of evolution, or “perfected” by evolution. What characteristics evolve in a species are a function of the variation present and the environment, both of which are constantly changing in a non-directional way. What trait is fit in one environment at one time may well be fatal at some point in the future. This holds equally well for a species of insect as it does the human species.

Evolution is controversial among scientists

The theory of evolution was controversial when it was first proposed in 1859, yet within 20 years virtually every working biologist had accepted evolution as the explanation for the diversity of life. The rate of acceptance was extraordinarily rapid, partly because Darwin had amassed an impressive body of evidence. The early controversies involved both scientific arguments against the theory and the arguments of religious leaders. It was the arguments of the biologists that were resolved after a short time, while the arguments of religious leaders have persisted to this day.

The theory of evolution replaced the predominant theory at the time that species had all been specially created within relatively recent history. Despite the prevalence of this theory, it was becoming increasingly clear to naturalists during the nineteenth century that it could no longer explain many observations of geology and the living world. The persuasiveness of the theory of evolution to these naturalists lay in its ability to explain these phenomena, and it continues to hold extraordinary explanatory power to this day. Its continued rejection by some religious leaders results from its replacement of special creation, a tenet of their religious belief. These leaders cannot accept the replacement of special creation by a mechanistic process that excludes the actions of a deity as an explanation for the diversity of life including the origins of the human species. It should be noted, however, that most of the major denominations in the United States have statements supporting the acceptance of evidence for evolution as compatible with their theologies.

The nature of the arguments against evolution by religious leaders has evolved over time. One current argument is that the theory is still controversial among biologists. This claim is simply not true. The number of working scientists who reject the theory of evolution, or question its validity and say so, is small. A Pew Research poll in 2009 found that 97 percent of the 2500 scientists polled believe species evolve. Pew Research Center for the People&the Press, Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public, Media (Washington, DC, 2009), 37. The support for the theory is reflected in signed statements from many scientific societies such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which includes working scientists as members. Many of the scientists that reject or question the theory of evolution are non-biologists, such as engineers, physicians, and chemists. There are no experimental results or research programs that contradict the theory. There are no papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals that appear to refute the theory. The latter observation might be considered a consequence of suppression of dissent, but it must be remembered that scientists are skeptics and that there is a long history of published reports that challenged scientific orthodoxy in unpopular ways. Examples include the endosymbiotic theory of eukaryotic origins, the theory of group selection, the microbial cause of stomach ulcers, the asteroid-impact theory of the Cretaceous extinction, and the theory of plate tectonics. Research with evidence and ideas with scientific merit are considered by the scientific community. Research that does not meet these standards is rejected.

Other theories should be taught

A common argument from some religious leaders is that alternative theories to evolution should be taught in public schools. Critics of evolution use this strategy to create uncertainty about the validity of the theory without offering actual evidence. In fact, there are no viable alternative scientific theories to evolution. The last such theory, proposed by Lamarck in the nineteenth century, was replaced by the theory of natural selection. A single exception was a research program in the Soviet Union based on Lamarck’s theory during the early twentieth century that set that country’s agricultural research back decades. Special creation is not a viable alternative scientific theory because it is not a scientific theory, since it relies on an untestable explanation. Intelligent design, despite the claims of its proponents, is also not a scientific explanation. This is because intelligent design posits the existence of an unknown designer of living organisms and their systems. Whether the designer is unknown or supernatural, it is a cause that cannot be measured; therefore, it is not a scientific explanation. There are two reasons not to teach nonscientific theories. First, these explanations for the diversity of life lack scientific usefulness because they do not, and cannot, give rise to research programs that promote our understanding of the natural world. Experiments cannot test non-material explanations for natural phenomena. For this reason, teaching these explanations as science in public schools is not in the public interest. Second, in the United States, it is illegal to teach them as science because the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts have ruled that the teaching of religious belief, such as special creation or intelligent design, violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits government sponsorship of a particular religion.

The theory of evolution and science in general is, by definition, silent on the existence or non-existence of the spiritual world. Science is only able to study and know the material world. Individual biologists have sometimes been vocal atheists, but it is equally true that there are many deeply religious biologists. Nothing in biology precludes the existence of a god, indeed biology as a science has nothing to say about it. The individual biologist is free to reconcile her or his personal and scientific knowledge as they see fit. The Voices for Evolution project (http://ncse.com/voices), developed through the National Center for Science Education, works to gather the diversity of perspectives on evolution to advocate it being taught in public schools.

Section summary

The theory of evolution is a difficult concept and misconceptions abound. The factual nature of evolution is often challenged by wrongly associating the scientific meaning of a theory with the vernacular meaning. Evolution is sometimes mistakenly interpreted to mean that individuals evolve, when in fact only populations can evolve as their gene frequencies change over time. Evolution is often assumed to explain the origin of life, which it does not speak to. It is often spoken in goal-directed terms by which organisms change through intention, and selection operates on mutations present in a population that have not arisen in response to a particular environmental stress. Evolution is often characterized as being controversial among scientists; however, it is accepted by the vast majority of working scientists. Critics of evolution often argue that alternative theories to evolution should be taught in public schools; however, there are no viable alternative scientific theories to evolution. The alternative religious beliefs should not be taught as science because it cannot be proven, and in the United States it is unconstitutional. Science is silent on the question of the existence of a god while scientists are able to reconcile religious belief and scientific knowledge.

Questions & Answers

what makes golgi body in plants
Abdulkareem Reply
name the membrane of the plants
Abdulkareem
how can turners syndrome be corrected before birth
Balinda
which animal survive from being preyed just because of being humble, slow, and not aggressive
Balinda
During organs transplantation, the organs cannot be taken from just anybody since the graft would be rejected sooner or later due to
Liter Reply
Non-MHC compatibility on the organ and an attack from the patient's immune system.
Eric
what makes golgi body in plants
Abdulkareem
what is integument system
Joy Reply
Cellular respiration
Lucy Reply
what are the characteristics of living things
Ruth Reply
Movement Respiration Nutrition/Feeding Irritability/Sensitivity Growth Excretion Reproduction Deat/Life span
Hashim
What makes children from the same father and mother sometimes don't look alike?
Hashim
identification of problems
Nana Reply
what happens in the process of raising the human arms
Nana
what is biology
Brandi Reply
first step in scientific method
Brandi
In an investigation the pancreatic duct of a mammal was blocked.It was found that the blood sugar regulation remained normal while food digestion was impaired.Explain
Mac Reply
To begin with, obstruction of pancreatic duct will alter the blood sugar level as the juices responsible for glucose regulation will be rendered inconsequential. This will in turn affect the rate of digestion and absorbtion of digested food substances by the Villus .
Muktar
characteristics of algae
OMIME Reply
Algae are eukaryotic organisms. Algae do not have roots and stems. Algae have chlorophyll and helps in carrying out photosynthesis.
Aditi
Cell wall is the rigid layer enclosed by membranes of plants and prokayortic cell, it maintains the shape of the cell and serve as a protective barrier.
chizoba Reply
ECOLOGY: is a branch of biology that studies the interactions among organisms and their biophysical environment, which includes both biotic and abiotic components. 
chizoba
via nutrient cycles and energy flows. For instance, the energy from the sun is captured by plants through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a biological process through which plants manufacture their own food with the aid of light from the sun and frc sources (e.g. cabon dioxide and water)
chizoba
What is cell wall
Taiwo Reply
cell wall is the outemost rigid covering of the plants ,that provides protection to the plants.
Aditi
what is integument system
Joy
The integument system is your skin and the largest system in the body.
Eric
what is protoplast?
Liter
The cytoplasm is inside of the cell, minus the nucleus. The protoplasm is the inside of the cell and the nucleus.
Eric
Out line of cell
Salma
what is ecology, ecosystem?
Nkeng Reply
what is digestive system
Lucky Reply
digestive system is the human syman system that icludes esopuges stomach o braking down of food in to useful substance to our body
samrawit
definition of biology basics
Ritu Reply
the potential energy of a molecule can be inquired by their number of?
Jesus Reply
note on the structure of DNA
bernadette
The chemical potential of a species in a mixture is defined as the rate of change of free energy of a thermodynamic system with respect to the change in the number of atoms or molecules of the species that are added to the system. 
Eric

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11487/1.9
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