I’ve heard many people say to me that they doubt evolution is real, mostly because it seems to them to have happened long ago. If it is real, they say, then why is it not happening now? If people evolved, then why are we not still evolving? Well, the truth is that we are still evolving.
In the past, humans did not grow to be very tall. Ancient artifacts were all created for people of a very small stature. Even a few generations ago, it was uncommon to find someone six feet tall. Of course, now, this is not as uncommon. Also, generations ago, people didn’t need their wisdom teeth removed. Those teeth did not impact those in front of them. Now, almost everyone needs the procedure, and there are even some people born without them at all. We are getting taller, and our jaws are getting smaller.
The reason for this might be alluded to by the presence of the appendix. In very ancient times, our ancestors ate raw foods. These needed an additional digestive organ to break them down and also additional molars. Once humans began to cook their food and prepare it in different ways, these were no longer needed. But implying that our bodies made a conscious decision to do away with them is misleading and untrue.
It comes down to understanding gene replication. Every time genes replicate, there are errors. Sometimes these errors are harmless and do nothing to cause any harm to the organism. However, other times, it can cause something that makes the organism more susceptible to natural selection. For example, the peppered moth underwent a very famous change toward the end of the Industrial Revolution in England. Prior to the end of the 19th century, black peppered moths were rarely seen, and the speckled variety was most common. However, when pollution rendered many of the host trees darkened with soot, the black peppered moths were prevalent. When the pollution was no longer as widespread, the moths became speckled again. The moths didn’t decide to turn black, obviously. There were peppered moths affected with melanism before the change, but they were highly visible to predators and were picked off. When the black wings became an advantage, the black moths were no longer as vulnerable to predation and were able to reproduce. The speckled moths were more visible against the dark tree trunks and were then the vulnerable population.
Another example is the vampire finch, which lives on Wolf and Darwin Islands in the Galapagos. When the finches first arrived on the named islands, there was a relative scarcity of fresh water for them to rely on. Therefore, they found other sources. Although they do eat eggs and other foods, they also began to drink the blood of the boobies that lived on the islands as well, taking advantage of open wounds. However, scientists watched the later generations of finches becoming more and more aggressive, until they began to actually pick at the skin of the birds to draw blood. As this happened, their beaks became more and more curved, like a predator’s beak. This is, again, not because the birds needed it, but because it was no longer a disadvantage to have such a beak should a finch be born with a deformed one. As it actually served their purposes better, these finches were more successful in the environment and were able to reproduce.
Also, I should point out that the term “evolved” implies an adaptation to a particular environment and does not imply any superiority. People often misuse the term to say that the “evolved” are somehow “better”. This is ignorance of the term and the theory of evolution in the first place. Please don’t do that.
Charles Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species before the discovery of DNA or the proposed theory of plate tectonics, but even then, he knew something would be discovered later to explain it. The book is actually very enlightening, if you haven’t read it. But of course, later scientists were able to expand on the theory and offer more thorough explanations.
Personally, I’m fascinated by it, and especially with the subject of archaeology and anthropology in relation to it. Yes, I was an art major. But my academic courses were the easiest to me, especially if I was interested in the subject. My sister and I had the highest averages in our archaeology classes (both 104) and we were the only non-archaeology majors in the classes. To explain their lapses, the other students put us down, saying we should only take “easy” classes if we were art majors (I hate to tell them, but that was easy to me), and they said the professor was going easy on us because he knew we weren’t archaeology majors (he actually begged us to change our majors and said we were “wasting our talent”, so no, he wasn’t going easy on us).
Anyway, I’m not expecting to convince anyone, but do further reading on the subject of evolution if you are interested. I could probably write a whole book on it as I’m so in love with it, but I’ll stick with science-fiction. Don’t worry.