Man was not created by God, but was evolved from apelike ancestors; declared the evolutionist. Most of the religions became uncomfortable with this statement because it was against their stories of a creator and creation. It was against their belief that every living thing in the world was created individually by an intelligent creator. But scientists have claimed that beliefs of religions are incorrect and that every living organism in the world has been subject to changes happening in a very slow manner, and continuing through millions of years. Evolution is the name for the sum total of such changes. Among the different theories proposed by experts, the Theory of Evolution proposed by Charles Darwin is the most popular one and the basis of all modern theories of evolution.

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

Charles Darwin, an English naturalist, was the person behind the theory of evolution. Greatly interested in the study of nature and living things, Darwin observed different species by travelling different regions of the world by a voyage for five years. After gathering data and doing research for twenty years, in 1859, Darwin published his famous book: The Origin of Species – by means of Natural Selection; and it revolutionized the human history.

As per Darwin’s theory of evolution, different species were originated from shared ancestors. Species are a population of organisms of similar individuals capable of interbreeding or exchanging of genes. Organism coming under the same species will have similarities of traits shared from a common ancestor. The species living today differ in appearance and characteristics from those lived in the past. These variations are due to adaptations to different environments. In the process known as “natural selection”, nature selects the species that are best fit to survive, depending on the combination of the traits most suitable for that environment. Only those species that have adapted to the environment and having the ability to reproduce in a particular environment produce more offsprings to which the beneficial traits are transferred. “Survival of the fittest” is the term used to refer it. The fertile species created more broods than the environment can support. Due to limited resources there was competition between the organisms to survive. Those who cannot adapt to the environment did not survive.

Evolution is a gradual and slow process and will take a long time to effect the changes in the traits, physical structures and the behavior pattern resulting in the formation of new species, a distinct one from their ancestors. This is the fundamental thing what we know about the Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

The Process of Evolution

During the process of biological evolution, a series of natural changes take place in the species, starting from their origin, adapting to the environment, reproducing fertile offsprings, survival and becoming extinct. These species are classified with some unique scientific names; and Homo Sapiens is the name given for modern humans.

At the time when Darwin propounded the theory, nothing was known about genes and its effects on hereditary traits. But, after few decades, with the evolution of molecular biology, more information were available regarding genes and DNA. It was discovered that the variations in species were due to genetic changes. Genes, the segments of DNA, carry the chemical codes for producing proteins and are responsible for the specific building of an organism. Genetic variations occur due to a process called mutation and also due to the change in combination of genes during the reproduction stage. Genetic changes are passed on to the next generations, resulting in variation of the species.

Changes of the inherited characteristics occur in a group of organisms of the same species in a particular environment, rather than a single individual. The adaptive genetic changes are passed from parents to offsprings and become common throughout that population, and become their way of life, which increase their chances of survival and fertility, and continue till the environment changes.

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Human Evolution

Human beings belong to primate species. It is believed that human beings are evolved from apes, another group of primate species, over a period of about six million years. The ability to walk on two legs is a human trait evolved over 4 million years ago. Evolution of large complex brain, usage of tools, expression of language and the traits of art and culture were evolved subsequently. The modern human species called, Homo Sapiens, and the large apes of Africa (chimpanzees and gorillas) share a common ancestor that lived between the period of 8 and 6 million years ago. It is believed that Africa has much to do with the first human evolution, because the fossils of very early humans lived between 6 to 2 million years ago were found from Africa. Human migration to Asia started 2 million years ago, to Europe 1.5 million years ago and to the other parts of the world in a much later period.

Misconceptions about Evolution

Since its introduction, there were many criticisms against the theory of evolution, both scientific and religious. Some of the common misconceptions about evolution are summarized below.

Evolution is against the Second Law of Thermodynamics 

As per the Second law of thermodynamics, the disorder (entropy) of a closed system will always increase over time. But as per evolution, it is seen that things become more organized and complex as time passes.

It seems here the misconception is about the law. The Second law is applicable for closed system; but life is not a closed system. Living organisms receive energy from sun. Hence the Second law is not applicable to evolution. 

"Evolution is just a Theory without Valid Proof

This misconception is due to the confusion regarding the meaning of theory. Scientific theories are explanations of certain phenomena based on valid proofs. Evolution is a powerful theory about the development of living beings with a lot of valid evidence. It is supported by valid observations in the field of genetics, animal behavior patterns, ecology and many other areas.

Life originated and Evolution followed by Random Chance"

Chance does play an important part in evolution, but this argument is raised without considering the role of natural selection in evolution. Mutation is a chance that is responsible for genetic variation and is inevitable for natural selection to work. And it is natural selection that leads to formation of different species.

Origin of life can be due to spontaneous arrangement of atoms as a result of their chemical properties, rather than purely due to chance.  The self-replicating complex molecules, but not necessarily as complex, can influence each other to form more complex molecules. Natural selection will help formation of more efficient replicating molecules.

Evolution is Never Observed

Evolution is long process and it may not be possible to observe the variations happening in front of our naked eyes. But it is a fact that the different stages of evolution of species have been observed in laboratories and in nature. Evolution is not a rapid process of converting of one animal into another.

Some Philosophical Thoughts

Lastly, let us look at the realm of evolution under the philosophical ideology.

Patanjali, the compiler of Yoga sutras and the great ancient philosopher of the Samkhya system of philosophy, declared in his yoga aphorisms, as follows:

Good and bad deeds are not the direct causes in the transformations of nature, but they act as breakers of obstacles to the evolution of nature, as a farmer breaks the obstacles to the course of water, which then runs down by its own nature.”   (Raja Yoga, IV.3; translation by Swami Vivekananda).

Patanjali declares that perfection is already in every being; and evolution is the manifestation of the perfection. Perfection, the tremendous power within us, is struggling to express itself, but the circumstances are preventing it. All these competitions and fights are unnecessary things and are the results of our ignorance, which we can avoid once we know how to open the gate and let the water in. Our education, knowledge and advancement will remove all obstacles and the perfection will manifest itself. Competition is just a thing on the way, but not necessary for evolution. Wars cannot push human progress an inch forward but will throw it back by hundreds of years!

Conclusion

Biological evolution is a very slow process extending to billions of years. It is more than 3.5 billion years since life originated on our planet spontaneously. Starting from the single cellular being in the beginning it took 2.5 billion years to evolve to the multicellular beings. Again it took about one billion years to evolve from the fish type species in water to the mammals on the earth, after passing through the various intermittent stages. Evolution from the early stage mammals to the modern humans took place in a less than hundred million years.

There have been major developments in the study of genetic engineering, DNA and in all sectors of science and technology that provide us with an infinite source of information with an amazing knowledge base. Soon a time will come when we will be able to control the genes that control human intelligence and we will be able to ‘design’ human beings of super intelligence. With the introduction of super humans, if the same Darwinian theory is true, the competition will result in the survival of the fittest, by which the race of super humans will survive and the other humans will perish; it will be going to be a race of superhuman intelligence at the end. Then there will be no more obstructions, no more competitions and no more evolution?!.... Once the perfection is reached, what is the necessity of evolution??

So, in the beginning there was perfection that was involved in the earliest form of life, the single cellular organism;…. striving to express itself, it got evolved gradually through millions and billions of years surviving all obstructions and struggles;…. and finally appeared as the super humans, the perfect beings, the fullest manifestation of perfection!!…. Yes, …evolution is the expression of perfection !!

Image Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Evolution-des-wissens.jpg


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