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Evidence for Proof of Evolution

QUESTION: What is some evidence for proof of evolution?


In his pivotal opus Origin of Species (1859) Darwin presented various evidences for proof of evolution. Among these he sited domestic breeding, anatomical similarities among species (“homology”), the sequential order of fossils, the presence of “vestigial” organs, and the natural phenomenon which he dubbed “natural selection.”

In the century-and-a-half since Darwin published his work, advances in science have made some of these various evidences for evolution dubious. For example, in Darwin’s day it was believed that there were dozens of vestigial organs in the human body. Estimates have ranged from 80 to 200. Scientists at the time did not know what purpose these organs served so they assumed that they were useless vestiges from our evolutionary past. One-hundred fifty years later, only a handful of so-called vestigial organs remain. Scientists have discovered biological functions for the rest. Moreover, critics of Darwin’s theory point out that if vestigial organs are truly useless, the progression is towards a loss of function, not new function. Darwinian evolution requires biological innovation.

Advances in genetics have also shown new light upon the dynamics of homology (anatomical similarities among species) and domestic breeding (the ability of breeders to produce dramatic changes in domestic animal populations by selecting individuals to breed, thereby suppressing and emphasizing traits gradually over time). It is now known that structural similarities do not necessary equal genetic relationship and there appear to be genetic limits to the potential for biological change. A bird can adapt to its environment to a certain degree but it is doubtful that it could cross genetic boundaries to evolve into a reptile, for example.

Advocates for Darwinian evolution believe that genetics have provided a new mechanism for biological innovation in the form of genetic mutation. The incorporation of genetics into Darwinian evolution has produced what is now known as the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis. Nevertheless, the debate rages on whether or not mutations simply destroy existing genetic structure or whether they can provide new genetic information, which Darwinian evolution requires. While Darwinian evolution remains the dominant biological paradigm, there is a growing minority of scientists who “are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” (From A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism, signed by over 680 Ph.D. scientists.)

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