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"New" Persuasive Evidence for Evolution

Edward E. Max
1998 The American history teacher  
HEN the theory of evolution was first proposed to explain the history of life on Earth, it met with considerable controversy among scientists. That battle among scientists is now over, since professional scientists overwhelmingly accept this theory, and indeed use it as a perspective for viewing many interesting phenomena of biology. While the battle may be over for professional scientists, in many communities the controversy has not disappeared, but has simply shifted to the high school. There
more » ... high school. There biology teachers face the task of presenting evolution to students who may be reluctant to accept this theory because of perceived conflicts with their religion or personal philosophy, often influenced by creationist views. National polls show that high percentages of American citizens do not accept evolution, indicating that secondary school (and college) teachers are achieving only partial success in making a case for evolution. A student who fails to accept evolution may retain a suspicion of science as a "foreign" arcane endeavor whose practitioners are misguided, and may fail to accept the scientific approach as a basis for the objective discovery of knowledge. In this article I would like to discuss some "new" evidence for evolution that might be useful in persuading students who question the scientific basis for evolution. The quotation marks around "new" reflect the fact that the ideas are not really new to scientists active in the field of molecular biology and genetics, where these discoveries were made. However, these findings were not widely publicized as arguments for evolution, simply because their discoverers assumed evolution was so completely accepted as to need no additional support. The new molecular evidence bears on a question that, in my opinion, represents one of the few cases in which a creationist argument had demonstrated logical consistency and had fought the evolutionary position to a deadlock. This is the question of how to interpret the similarities between modem living species, especially the similarities observed at the molecular level. As we will see, the recent discoveries from molecular genetics resolve this deadlock unequivocally in favor of evolution. Edward E. Max, M.D., Ph.D., can be reached at greenmax@ erols.com. A more detailed version of this article, complete with many references, can be found on the World-WideWeb at: http: / / www.talkorigins.org / faqs / molecular%2Dgenetics.html. Comments from readers are invited at greenmax@erols.com.
doi:10.2307/4450577 fatcat:dmt4g4hxebahfhmysmxhrbo37q