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Evolution And Speciation

A few months ago I went on a date with a lady I was really interested in who seemed to be an intelligent, caring person not to mention quite beautiful. On our date I found out she was a Christian, as I said previously I  am not anti-Christianity so that didn’t bother me since most people where I live are Christians because they are raised as such. Then she said something extremely surprising to me [made worse because she actually worked in a lab so had some education]. She said one day her son came home from school and told her the teacher taught him we evolved from monkeys and she yelled at him telling him not to believe that lie since god created us and if we descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys. Not such a great thing to say to me.I told her evolution says no such thing. Evolution says we share a common ancestor with chimpanzees but does not say we descended from them. She looked at me with a puzzled look and asked me if I believe in evolution and why is that different from her belief in god? I told her that her belief is based on faith while my belief in evolution is not based on faith but on evidence and that evidence shows evolution to be true. Almost as if she was following a script she led right into my next point by asking the question, “isn’t your belief that evolution is true based on faith though, you can’t be certain it is an absolute truth”? I couldn’t believe she asked that since I had thought about that some months earlier yet never had the opportunity to speak my thoughts. I told her a scientific truth is not an absolute truth. It is a truth that has so much evidence in support that it would  only be a ‘perverted’ mind that could deny it. Of course some philosophical types would deny most anything. I rapped on the table, we were in a restaurant, and said there are some people that would deny this is real, wouldn’t you agree that is a ‘perverted’ mind? I mentioned bacteria that cause disease as one scientific truth that isn’t an absolute truth [in the philosophical position] and explained there are many more but listing them would be useless.

I asked her how she came to the mistaken belief that evolution says we evolved from monkeys. She said her parents, Sunday school teachers, pastors all taught that and her teachers in school never denied it. I told her  once again it is wrong and I gave her a very short synopsis of what evolution is.

1. Evolution happens as populations change over time.

2. Evolution happens gradually. (over 10s to 100s of million years)

3. Speciation happens. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a tree of life but a twig.

Sure enough she asked me what I meant by the tree and twig. I told her life, as far as the evidence shows, began from one species to what we see now is over 50 million. That would be impossible without speciation. Without speciation we wouldn’t see a tree with branches but a single branch or tree and there would only be on species now. Maybe that wasn’t the best explanation but I wasn’t really prepared to answer that question. Her response stunned me for an instant, I must admit I didn’t expect it, she quoted Galatians 3:28 to me which says

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Archaeopteryx lithographica, specimen displaye...

Archaeopteryx

I didn’t mean to be rude but I couldn’t help but chuckle at that. She did ask me if evolution is true what evidence is there for speciation, how do we know god didn’t just create the different species. I asked her if she ever read the story of Noah’s ark. How could that ark actually hold 50 million species? Of course she didn’t answer so I went on. I told her that since evolution happens so gradually, it is hard to find fossil records of speciation in progress although there are a few such as Archaeopteryx and Tiktallik to name two of them. Yet there are many records found in marine fossils due to the somewhat lucky fact that as marine life, in this case microscopic, dies it just floats to the bottom, lies there and gets covered by sediment leaving a perfect fossil.

Life restoration of

Such is what happened with Diatoms, since they have casing of silica, they left perfect fossils to study. Diatoms are algae, for the most part single celled and looking at their fossil record was a simple matter of drilling a sample from the marine bed and slicing it up to look at the individual layers. What was seen was the evolution of Diatoms over a few million years but what is most noticeable is that a split into two separate species was clearly seen. She interrupted me and said that is really interesting but that is a microscopic cell, what about mammals? This she asks me and my first though was one of the distinguishing characteristics of mammals is mammary glands and hers were pretty ample so I smiled but went on.

How about horses I asked, are those good enough mammals? She said yes so on I went. The first horse we find in the fossil record is the Hyracotherium about 55 million years ago.  The Hyracotherium was about the size of a small dog. Evolutionary the changes were not major and mostly centered around the toes and teeth. I am not going to bore you about their teeth but I will talk about their toes [yes, I am leading to a creationist bashing joke]. This diminutive horse had 4 toes [3 on the hind feet so let’s focus on the front]. Skipping 25 million years ahead which were mainly evolutionary changes of the teeth and a minor change in size we come to the Miohippus. Miohippus was larger than Hyracotherium and much less dogish. The most notable change to point out is there were now 3 toes, the 4th [which is really the 5th] migrated up towards what is now the horses fetlock joint and is now seen as the ergot or chesnut. Now we jump ahead to 17 million years ago and come to Merychippus. We still have a horse with three toes but we definitely find the beginnings of the familiar horses hoof. This horse is now fully twice the size of a large Hyracothrium. Various changes in appearance are very evident as the animal is beginning to look much like a horse. Skipping ahead once again to about 4 million years we find Equus which is the genus all modern horses come from.  Now the other two toes are gone leaving only the middle toe with its hoof. The appearance is unmistakably that of a horse with all the classic skeletal structures. One thing I would like to point out is that the genes for making all the toes are still present in the horse yet not active. Why would they remain if there was no evolution. From the differences seen in just this one example of horse evolution over 50 million years it is clear and undeniable that Hydracotherium and Equus are different species and evidence that speciation occured.

I intended to illustrate my joke only to my date in an unoffensive way but I noticed a few patrons in the restaurant were watching our discussion and listening intently so the showman in me could not resist. I held up my hand, thumb hidden behind my palm and said here is Hyracoterium with it’s  toes, 2,3,4 and 5. I folded my 5th finger over and said we have speciation changing that and leaving toes 2 ,3 and 4. And finally as if horses were sending a message to creationists toes 2 and 4 disappeared and I folded fingers 2 and 4 over leaving only my middle finger. Considering I was in a mainly Christian location I figured either I was in for quite a few rude remarks or lots of laughter. I was happy, not only was there laughter but one guy was clapping.

Anyway, this lady still calls me. She has not mentioned evolution but has questioned my atheism but I know she will never forget the message horses send to creationists.

[tweetmeme source=”noreligionblog” only_single=false https://noreligionblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/evolution-and-speciation%5D

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2 Responses

  1. Hi, reading your blog for a few days (since your post on the blog of Christopher .L. Benett)
    Educative AND funny, that’s a great blog keep on the good work
    (^_-)

    PS : I might use the ‘horse’ joke (that i didn’t know about before) with a few friends this weekend !lol!

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