Saturday, April 2, 2011

Common Misconceptions About Evolution

Biological evolution does not address the origin of life; for that, see abiogenesis. The two are commonly and mistakenly conflated. The theory of evolution explains the changes in successive generations of organisms, due to differences in genes and gene frequencies that occur in populations of living organisms over time. Thus evolution presupposes that life already exists. Biological evolution likewise says nothing about cosmology, the Big Bang, or the origins of the universe.

The word theory in the theory of evolution does not imply doubt from mainstream science regarding its validity; the concepts of theory and hypothesis have specific meanings in a scientific context. While theory in colloquial usage may denote a hunch or conjecture, a scientific theory is a set of principles that explains observable phenomena in natural terms.Evolution is a theory in the same sense as germ theory, gravitation, or plate tectonics.

Evolution does not claim humans evolved from monkeys,chimpanzees or any other modern-day primates. Instead, fossil evidence has shown that humans and monkeys share a common ancestor that lived about 40 million years ago.[128] This common ancestor diverged into separate lineages, one evolving into so-called New World monkeys and the other into Old World monkeys, apes, and humans.[129] Similarly, the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees, which lived between 5 and 8 million years ago, evolved into two lineages, one eventually becoming modern humans and the other splitting again into chimpanzees and bonobos.[126] Thus, one cannot consider any present-day monkeys or apes as reflecting how humans “used to look” or behave. All extant animal groups have evolved over the same amount of time.

Evolution is not a progression from inferior to superior organisms, and it also does not necessarily require an increase in complexity (see evolution of complexity). A population can evolve to become simpler, having a smaller genome, but devolution is a misnomer.

It is a common misconception even among adults that humans and dinosaurs (in the ordinary sense of the term) coexisted. According to the California Academy of Sciences, around 41% of U.S. adults mistakenly believe they co-existed.[132] The last of the dinosaurs died around 65 million years ago, after the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, whereas the earliest Homo genus (humans) evolved between 2.3 and 2.4 million years ago

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