Taking a Stand.
Regardless, you can imagine my surprise when I saw the cover of the most recent issue of National Geographic and read the headline: "Was Darwin Wrong?" Was Charles Darwin wrong? This was a serious article in a serious magazine devoted to science? I was, to say the least, shocked and appalled. Has this pseudo-scientific doubt of evolution grown so powerful that it has spread even to the bastions of rational science? I quickly snatched up my copy of the magazine and flipped to the relevant page with frenzied speed. "Was Darwin wrong?" the headline asked- the sub-title provided my answer:
No. The evidence for Evolution is overwhelming.
What follows is, quite possibly, one of the most beautiful descriptions of the scientific process that I have ever seen. Let me quote:
Evolution by natural selection, the central concept of the life's work of Charles Darwin, is a theory. It's a theory about the origin of adaptation, complexity, and diversity among Earth's living creatures. If you are skeptical by nature, unfamiliar with the terminology of science, and unaware of the overwhelming evidence, you might even be tempted to say that it's "just" a theory. The notion that Earth orbits around the sun rather than vice versa, offered by Copernicus in 1543, is a theory. Continental drift is a theory. The existence, structure, and dynamics of atoms? Atomic theory. Even electricity is a theoretical construct, involving electrons, which are tiny units of charged mass that no one has ever seen. Each of these theories is an explanation that has been confirmed to such a degree, by observation and experiment, that knowledgeable experts accept is as fact. That's what scientists mean when they talk about a theory: not a dreamy and unreliable speculation, but an explanatory statement that fits the evidence. They embrace such an explanation confidently but provisionally- taking it as their best available view of reality, at least until some severely conflicting data or some better explanation might come along.
The rest of us generally agree. We plug our televisions into little wall sockets, measure a year by the length of Earth's orbit, and in many other ways live our lives based on the trusted reality of those theories.
With that, David Quammen, the article's author, proceeds to fire what can only be called a devastating broadside in defense of evolution. Mr. Quammen, I salute you. Such a firm position in favor of what has become scientifically unavoidable fact has become distressingly uncommon. Sometimes, it's necessary to take a stand, and you have done so in a stunningly effective way.