A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Does the theory of evolution fly in the face of the facts?

January 5, 2000

Dear Straight Dope:

I understand your argument for evolution and it is pretty easy to understand the theory you present. The facts on the other hand tend to disprove evolution as a viable theory.

Let us assume for a second that evolution were true. Most of our evolution would have taken place after the great meteor collision that destroyed all the dinosaurs as well as 95% of all living things on the planet.  Logically we would think that at least some of the dinosaurs would come into existence again through the evolutionary process. Birds returned as well as every other branch of animals that existed prior to the meteor. This in itself is very puzzling but also look at the other animals that did not evolve. The sabertooth tiger, the megaladon, and the giant bear species. I find it more than interesting that the animals that died off and never returned were the biggest strongest and most dangerous to man. If you believe evolution it would point in the opposite direction. The larger, more dangerous predators would not only be the likely successors but would continue to grow today as evolution is an ever continuing process. It would stand to reason that all large carnivores would be growing and becoming better at their jobs through natural selection and the carrying on of the bigger, stronger animals' genes.

Now for the second part of my argument. Following the evolutionary process we could expect to see thousands and thousands of species on our planet that were in the middle of changing from one type of animal into another. There should be birds that were in the process of changing into reptiles, which is the accepted theory as how dinosaurs came into existence. Not only should we see many examples taking place right now but we should also find their fossils throughout history. There should be evidence of birds turning into reptiles on a continuing basis.

SDStaff DavidB replies:

Wow! So little knowledge and yet so much certainty. What a deadly combination. It's hard to know where to begin.

Most of your statements of "fact" simply aren't.  There is no reason to believe the dinosaurs would miraculously come back after dying off. Some dinosaur "relatives" managed to survive in various forms, such as the birds you mention. But they didn't disappear and then come back out of nowhere. They survived the impact and subsequent changes to the planet. That's what "survival of the fittest" is all about — living through changes to the environment.

As far as the tigers and bears and so on, well, I hate to break it to you, but they weren't around during the time of the dinosaurs. The only mammals back then were more like rodents. They only managed to take over the ecosystem and spread out after the dinos died out. Those giant mammals you mentioned were around for quite some time and survived into the dawn of man. Some even think humans helped usher them into extinction.

Your statement that the larger and more dangerous animals should be favored in evolution again shows a lack of understanding of evolution. "Survival of the fittest" doesn't mean "survival of the most dangerous."  It means survival of those with the right stuff — whatever it takes. Sometimes conditions favor smaller species. If the environment is filled with a mix of giant animals and smaller animals, and there is a food shortage, the smaller ones, who need less fuel to keep them going, are going to have a better chance of winning out. Your idea that animals should just get more and more dangerous while they grow bigger and bigger is, well, ridiculous.

As far as seeing all the animals changing into new animals, guess what? You do see that. In fact, every animal around could be considered a transitional species. But since we can't predict the future, we just don't know what they might be transitioning into. Evolution works continually. Genes mutate. Good ones survive; bad ones don't. Have you heard of antibiotic-resistant bacteria? Know how they became antibiotic-resistant? Evolution. It's happening all around you whether you realize it or not.

When you start talking about birds turning into reptiles, we're back at the "ridiculous" stage again. All I can do is urge you to pick up a basic biology textbook before making claims about this topic again.

The best scientific minds in the world have discussed and debated evolution, according to scientific principles, for over 100 years. I really doubt you are going to find a "logical" argument that magically overturns sound scientific principles, especially when you don't even understand the basics.  Birds turning into dinosaurs?!   Come on.

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