Human ancestor

Evolution – How it works

Q: What proofs of evolution are there?
I wish I could just answer in Bulgakov style: “There’s no need for any proofs”. Because it’s most true. Take every paleontological piece of evidence away, all knowledge of DNA, all observations – evolution’s still there. It’s just how our world works.

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution (с) Т. Добржанский

Honestly, it’s always been a mystery to me why evolution faces such a resistance. All things in the world change, everything. Stones dissolve, mountains change their shapes, stars grow and turn colour. Organisms grow, then wither and die. But from generations to generations they would stay the same, in our changing word. Most weird.

Q: So, why it works?
It’s a fact from two universally accepted truths:

  1. Every organism is born similar to its parents. Children are born with their parents’ skin colour. Facial traits are similar to such of parents. Let alone that horses are born to horses, and tigers are born to tigers. Anyone to argue this? I think no. So we together have just accepted the process of inheritance.
  2. Organisms are never the same as their parents. Children look like parents, but are not them. Eye colour, height, birthmarks may vary. People with special traits (e.g., gigantism, albinism) are often born to parents without such traits. Anyone disagree? No? Then we have the process of variation.

Inheritance – the ability of organisms to pass their traits on.
Variation – the ability of organisms to aquire new traits.

That’s it. Inheritance and variation are necessary and enough for evolution to happen, and we’ve just proved its existence. How so?

If there’s only inheritance, then evolution won’t happen: Africa would be roamed by herds of exactly the same zebras and exactly the same lions. Organisms would have been built using exactly the same blueprint.

If there’s only variation, then evolution wouldn’t be possible either. Organism would be born with spontaneous traits: giraffes would be born to crocodiles, sheep – to tigers, dinosaurs – to fishes, unicorns – to hens. Blueprints would have been randomly generated. A funny world to live, I must say!

But together, inheritance and variation allow to change the blueprint from generation to generation. Variation gives rise to new traits, inheritance provides it with a template and allows accumulation of variation, but doesn’t allow too radical changes. In hundreds of generations inheritance is obvious, but there are new traits in every particular generation.

Taken from http://www.horsecollaborative.com.

Taken from http://www.horsecollaborative.com.

Agreeing on inheritance and variation, but denying evolution — is the same as agreeing that your friend Tony is a male, but denying that he has an Y-chromosome.  It’s not that one is the consequence of the other. It is that the two are the same thing!

An example:

There is a tradition of coin collecting in some dynasty. Collection can be just passed on ‘as is’. Collection can be thrown away by each generation, so that a heir of the tradition could start afresh. Or it could be passed on to be improved by the heir!

In that case the collection will evolve: some items will be sold away, some – added. But in general it will change, and most likely, grow. Collection of father and son will be similar, but collection of great granddad and great grandson will be quite different.

Evolution is everywhere. It’s not even biological term – it’s universal process that is intrinsic to everything around us.

What interesting examples of non-biological evolution do you know? Write in comments

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Further reads

Next article: Evolution on Numbers
List of all articles about evolution

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