Misunderstanding the theory of evolution
Dyna Rochmyaningsih , Jakarta | Thu, 03/25/2010 9:33 AM | Opinion
One year after its bicentennial celebration, there are still many people who
regard the theory of evolution as propaganda to spread anti-religious thought.
I suspect that it is due to the misperception of the theory in the mind of
common people. Most of them perceive the theory of evolution only as the
gradual change from monkey to human which is insulting to their faith.
They grasp the theory only on a superficial level without understanding the
mechanism of the theory itself.
Given the comment made by Prof. Boedi Hartono from the University of Indonesia
in The Jakarta Post this month, commenting on an article by Michael Casey, he
said that the finding of Homo floresiensis as a new species did not challenge
the theory of evolution.
I agree with him since the concept of the Hobbit as a new species is an
interpretation that may only affect the theory of human evolution. It has
nothing to do with the evolution of cats, dogs, or orchids.
But what has happened in the mind of many people is that the theory of
evolution is only applied to humans. So the article by Michael Casey is enough
for them to deny the controversial theory. Of course this is a shallow view.
The theory of evolution itself is the explanation of how the diversity of all
living things on earth came into existence. It is a fact that there are other
kinds of organisms besides human on this earth such as cats, trees, dogs etc.
But how did those diverse organisms come into existence? We can accept the
explanation of how a volcanic rock can exist in this world by inferring that
the rock is the result of an eruption of a mountain hundreds of years ago.
So why can't we accept the explanation of how a living thing comes into
Every living thing is the product of their progenitor. For instance, we are the
product of the mating of our parents. We inherit their genes in a new
combination that shapes our physical and physiological characteristics.
No one would say that they come into the world out of nothing; they must have
biological parents to exist in the world.
And so is with our cats, dogs, trees, they all originated from their parents.
One important piece of evidence for the theory of evolution comes from this
very fact: Every living thing has genetic material and they get it from their
And their parents, as living things, get their genetic material from their
grandparents, and so on and so forth until we meet the ancestors.
But the problem is the genetic material in every organism may change in a
random pattern called mutation. Since the genes are the blueprint of an
organism, mutation often affects the physical and physiological characteristic
of an organism.
If the change is good and suitable for the environment, the mutant organism may
survive and pass the mutant gene to their children, which will finally replace
the dominancy of the normal one.
The mutant individuals may become a new species. Thus, we can infer that the
new species is the descendant of the previous species. I think it is reasonable
for us to accept this explanation.
The same mechanism can be applied in all organisms which procreate through
Their existence can be explained by the changing of genetic material of their
ancestors, correlated with its suitability with the environment. But, of
course, as a scientific theory, this mechanism is not the ultimate truth of
Recently, scientists have found another way for an organism to acquire new
genes: horizontal genetic transfer (HGT). Unlike normal genetic inheritance,
which is passed from parents to the offspring, HGT is the mechanism where the
genetic material can be transferred from one individual to the other without
This finding means that the genomic pattern in one organism may not be used to
determine its ancestors. The theory of evolution is confounded here.
This confounder makes me think that we should not consider the theory of
evolution as a threat to our faith.
It is a scientific theory that can be either confounded or corroborated. We
should not place it as something that is equal to the ultimate truth in which
we may believe.
The author is a science writer.
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