By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

Though I study history, which is undoubtedly the ‘softest’ of the social sciences, I enjoy reading about and keeping track of ‘harder’ sciences. Yes, even physics.  But, to be honest, most physics of today I just barely grasp.  It is just too complex, specialized, and my eyes, arcane.  It is intriguing to ‘learn’ about the newest discoveries in the world of quanta, or the most exciting theories about ‘multiverses’, but it is really to, excuse the pun,universe-multiverse-1024x768 ‘far out’ for me.  I took physics in high school, and an introductory astronomy class in undergrad, and even at that rudimentary level the mathematics and scientific jargon were just too complex for my liberal arts brain.

dog_wolfOn the other hand, I can wrap my head around biology.  Now, don’t get angry all you biologists/biology students.  I am not saying I could easily become a specialist in your field. I most definitely could not.  However, biology is much more understandable to a layman like me.  Maybe this is simply because I can see my role, as a human lifeform, in the biologist’s world more than the physicist’s world.  Or, maybe it is because of biology’s founder, Charles Darwin, and his theory of natural selection.

Darwin’s incredibly important, and influential theory is explainable, in a very rough and ready way, within minutes to even the most science-phobic folk.  The theory itself makes sense on a rational level. We, as human beings, can imagine evolutionary theory even if we don’t completely understand the process.  Look at a wolf, then look at a dog.  See the similarities?  Yeah, that is because they are related. Wolf evolved to dog.  When?  Well, we are still trying to figure that out.  Why? Yeah, that is still a question too. But, wolf slowly evolving into a dog is imaginable, even to a child.  Now,  try to quickly illustrate Newtonian, Einsteinian, or quantum physics to said child.  On second though, don’t.  It’s just not gonna work.  

HeliocentricWe live in a strange world, where up is often down, and black is often white.  The world of astrophysics, no matter how immensely strange, foreign and arcane, is blindly accepted by most anyone who calls themselves sane.  Just imagine the heliocentric solar system.   The vast majority of Americans faithfully argue that the Sun is at the center of our world. Only the crackiest of crack-pots would take the opposite stance.  Yet, why is this so?  Can Americans prove we live in a heliocentric system in which our planet is spinning in an elliptical orbit at an enormous rate of speed around a giant ball of burning gas?  Have they seen the Earth revolving?  No, they have not.  So, why believe? Well, because scientists tell us so, and they’re the experts. 

Antithetically, Darwin’s much more obvious theory of evolution by natural selection is always fighting an uphill battle for acceptance throughout the world, but especially in America. This is doubly true when it comes to the touchy subject of human evolution. A very large minority of Americans believe with all their might that humans were created in our present state, and have no relation to other primates.  98.7 % DNA shared with chimps be damned! Same physiological features be damned! Constantly growing fossil record be damned!  For those Americans, it doesn’t matter what biology or Ockham’s Razor says.  They just aren’t buying it.

Obviously the reason for this distaste of Darwin’s incredibly well documented theory are complex, and controversial, and I really don’t want to touch on them in this post. What I do want to illustrate is the exciting news these people are missing. I want to let them in on some recent findings in the field of human evolution that are blowing collective scientific minds. The seemingly daily breakthroughs, theories and discoveries in the world of anthropology, paleontology and human genetics is, to put it mildly, awe-inspiring. See here:

These are simply a few stories about human evolution to appear in the last couple months.  Yes, you read that correctly: MONTHS. Not accepting Darwin’s theory, and hence, most likely human evolution, makes all these stories moot.  To put in bluntly, if you are in that large minority of Americans, you are really missing out on a great deal of our  amazing world. I suggest you celebrate Darwin’s 205th birthday by reading these attached articles, and then, analyze your worldview.

Go on. Darwin will wait.

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Comments
  1. tcrane918 says:

    Physics can be easier understood if you can see it as basic grasp of mathematical logic applied to real life. There are easy ways to express physics if you break it down to arithmetic patterns. String theory can be explained very simply, for example..

    Thank you, Dr. Hawking.

    But since you are talking about your interest in biology, get this. A brand new take on human evolution: a study recently published in Nature (the same journal that published Darwin’s Origin of Species paper 155 years ago) suggests that there are very few Neanderthal genes located on the X chromosomes or expressed in the testicles. Neanderthals bred with early Homo sapiens but their children were sterile because of interbreeding. Therefore, early humans faced significant pressure to selectively breed out Neanderthal genes in order to adapt and survive. We could literally be extinct without evolution.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature12961.html

  2. Gary Baker says:

    I agree Michael! I think we are often satisfied with what is there. A lot of us are not willing to do our own research so we settle with the results of others. Also what you said about scientist being the experts, we figure we can’t possibly find different results if they are the expert. Looking at some of the recent articles you found it is crazy how often evolution seems to change and how new things are discovered daily, but yet the questions you posed are still unanswered.

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