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Darwin's fantastic legacy

Published April 25. 2011 08:35AM

Dear Editor:

Charles Darwin died on April 19, 1882. What a fantastic legacy he left behind as the greatest thinker of the 19th century. He was also deemed as one of the greatest thinkers of the millenium. His contribution to science is the discovery of organic evolution. If the universe is composed of matter acted upon by energy throughout eternal time, it is obvious that evolution truly exists everywhere. After all, kinetic energy is always on the move. lf its direction is random coupled with infinite time, anything can happen eventually. Change is always present, and its speed varies from instantaneous to eons. The process of organic evolution is difficult to experience because it involves time that exceeds historical times. We have to rely on fossils to observe its sequence. We are like ants with life spans of three or four weeks trying to describe the life of a giant sequoia whose life span is two millenia.

Darwin's contribution to biology is the process of evolution. This new concept has expanded learning immeasureably. In the field of anatomy, study is not only concerned with the naming of organs and structures, but also how they evolved. Lower forms have the same organs in primitive construction. The study not only illustrates body organs, it also illustrates trends of development of those organs. Karl von Linne classified plants before Darwin's time. Linne's classification system was artificial and poorly accounted for relationships. After Darwin, the botanical classification system, based upon evolution, is a phylogenetic system and expresses relationships among the plants. It is a valuable tool in taxonomy, and the foundation for paleontology.

For how valuable and useful the concept of evolution is, unfortunately, a large population of Americans deny its existence. lf scientists should ignore evolution, they would become just as inept as the army surgeons during the Civil War who were incognizant of microbes. Their unsanitary procedures killed more soldiers than the bullets did. Denial of evolution contributes to dumbing of America. There was a previous LTE submitted with the same title as this one. l changed the title only by changing the period to a question mark. Someone from Orwigsburg declared evolution theory is flawed science. lt is not a science. lt's a process in science that seems to be universal. Change is everywhere. The very word evolution means the act of changing.

The author of the other LTE gave various reasons for flaws in evolution. The first was no one has demonstrated that life can be created from non-life. This is irrelevant. Even if we never discover the physical origin of life, it still changes. There is a physical cause out there somewhere. To think that divinity was involved is superstition.

His second reason was that no one has demonstrated that a new "sexual species'' can evolve. Yes it can in reticulated evolution where hybrids form and the hybrids form hybrids. Man has learned how to cross two sexual taxa of plants, then double the chromosome numbers of the hybrids, and then they become sexually reproducing species. This also commonly happens in nature. Clinton's Wood Fern is just one example of a naturally occurring trihybrid. Divergence of species into new species in animals takes an incredible amount of time, much much longer than the 6000 years fundamentalists accept. Lions and tigers are different species, but they have only diverged perhaps 3 or 4 million years ago. They are still able to hybridize. Dogs and cats have diverged 10 million years ago and are unable to hybridize. Cats are more closely related to hyenas. lt would be interesting to see if a hybrid is possible in that cross.

His third reason involves the human brain. He believes it was created by divinity. l believe it evolved by natural physical processes during evolution. Either way, life still evolves. The breeding of domestic animals manifests evolution in high gear. It is irrelevant that we have yet to conjure up a computer that comtemplates its own existence. And believing in an afterlife is only superstition. There is no physical prove for it.

This is a physical world that we live in. It is made of matter acted upon by energy throughout eternal time. There are two kinds of energy: potential and kinetic. Kinetic energy is energy in action (not stored) and wherever it occurs, some kind of change occurs with it. This energy does not stand still. The change may be instantaneous, like the detonation ot TNT, or take eons like the drifting of continents. The opponents of evolution argue that on one has ever seen a species evolve. No one has ever seen a continent drift, but we know they do. No one has ever seen a redwood germinate from a seed and grow to maturity and expire. We know that they do. No one has ever seen a species evolve. On what logic do they deny that they do? The word of the Bible. The Bible may be adept in philosophy, but it pales in accounting for the physical world. Life, as the biosphere, is part of the physical world. Its ability to evolve is truth. If we deny the presence of evolution under the auspices of God, then our concept of God is fantasy.

A few years ago in Dover, PA the school board tried to impose the teaching of creationism in biology classes. lt was voted out because it was not science. It is dogma. The story of Adam and Eve is just a fantasy conjured up by an ordinary man who knew next to nothing of the physical world. That is why it is not compatible with the fossil evidence. And furthermore, acceptance of the theory of evolution is not atheism. Clarence Darrow at the Scopes Monkey Trial stated that man's attempt to rationalize the function of the real world to what is stated in the Bible is due to man's reluctance to think. To those who reject evolution, their concept of God is a fantasy. To those who accept it, their concept of God is truth.

J.A. Lankalis

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