Home > Religion, Science > Misunderstandings of evolution

Misunderstandings of evolution

You often see creationists attacking abiogenesis as too improbable to have happened. P.Z. Myers points out that their view is often an extremely simplified version of it, a version that does seem improbable. In fact, it’s why I considered myself a deist up until a few years ago. I was under the impression that a one-celled organism had to pop into existence, which is a gross misunderstanding of abiogenesis. I was set straight (or pushed in the right direction, at least) on Daily Kos of all places. I read the Talk Origins article on the subject and gained a whole new understanding. Suddenly the idea was much more conceivable and I was on my way to considering myself a full blown atheist.

Contrary to the above paragraph, the point of this post isn’t my deconversion story. I don’t really have one of those, as I can’t remember why I stopped being Christian. Not that I ever really was. I went to church, but God never really seemed real. It felt like I was praying to my ceiling. So somehow I went from half-ass Christian to deist to agnostic to atheist. I just don’t remember exactly how that happened. I remember considering myself a Christian as a sophomore in high school and a deist as a senior.

I digress. Awhile back I had a discussion about abiogenesis with a kid in my old high school who had essentially the same misunderstanding that I had. In high school, if you learn about evolution at all, you almost never learn anything about abiogenesis. That may be the right way to go, but I think it breeds misunderstanding. That misunderstanding can lead to deism, at a minimum. The general idea about evolution is that it explains how we got here. It explains the history of life on this planet. If you’ve heard about evolution, you understand the significance of it. That leads to the misapprehension that it completely explains the origin of life. Naturally, that extends to the earliest forms and their chemical precursors. Natural selection, variation, and mutation are at a loss, for the most part, to explain what goes on at that stage. So when you put the two together, that evolution is our explanation for life and that its mechanism appears to be inadequate at a certain stage of the origin of life, you find a gap. A little creationist probability misinformation and you get an seemingly solid argument against a natural explanation. “God of the gaps” is intuitively appealing, so you have a reason to believe in God.

How do we fix this misunderstanding? More than a cursory look at abiogenesis is probably not a good idea for high school students. But maybe a cursory look is enough. An explanation of the problem would probably be good enough to correct honestly misinformed people like me and the kid from my high school.

Categories: Religion, Science
  1. April 4, 2006 at 11:35 pm

    Exactly, abiogenesis does not require the spontaneous formation of a bacterium. Just as high-level complex lifeforms evolved from single-cellers, those single-cellers would likely have evolved from even simpler structures.

    It even becomes unclear where to draw the line between living and non-living. Trace back the ancestors and they would become very simple in terms of their biological structures.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: