Evolution is a funny word that gets bandied about. Saying it in different context evokes different responses, sometimes laughter and sometimes justified anger. In fact, I’ve been in conversations where a person is using evolution in one sense and me in a completely different sense and both of us have gotten riled up until we pinned down our terms.
- Evolution as major, random, improbable and favorable mutations. I don’t think many (any?) agree with this. It’s basically favorable mutations that define one species to the next. Ridiculously oversimplifying this is your fish having a mutation of wings and leaving the water to fly south for the winter.
- Evolution as minor adaptation to environment. This is basically the adaptation of a species to its surroundings. For example, the dogs in a particularly cold region of the world having thicker coats, oilier skin, maybe bigger paws and being smaller while the dogs in a very tropical area being hairless, etc. Many Christians, once the terms are defined, are fine with this. A Dog remains a Dog just furrier.
- Evolution as improbable minor adaptation to environment leading eventually to a new category of species. This is a minor mutation or adaptive change or whatever that allows the particular species to survive in a particular environment whereas the others die out. Multiply that over billions of years and fish would adapt to different environments until it finally can be a bird. Oversimplifying: it’d start with something small, able to take puffs of air out of the water, eventually able to come out to the land (like the mudskipper) then eventually extending itself to catch prey that is higher up and so on and so on and so on. Loads of Christians disagree with this and have embraced Michael Behe’s term “irreducible complexity”. That’s just a fancy way of saying that the parts that make up the current species have to all be there at once to allow it to survive. Admittedly, there are Christians who believe this happened but think it was controlled by God (not by random, improbable mistakes that nature favored).
- Evolution as change. This is the term that’s sometimes used in business climates to say “we’re going through changes” without specifying if those changes are good or bad. “The company is evolving” is how they’d say it. In the use of the term it seems to imply that the evolution is a Good Thing even if the upper management knows its not. They’re manipulating terminology to assuage fears by conflating the meaning with that below.
- Evolution as positive, designed and directed change. This one is used so often that people don’t notice it until they focus on it. The new Toyota Camry has Evolved. What by random improbable mutations that are favored by the natural environment? Goodness, I hope not. Rather it evolved by a team of engineers, marketers, designers, quality assurance testers, focus groups and so on. Every single part of the vehicle was seen over and handled and finally brought to make the perfect vehicle before us. The Apple Evolution was a designed process with minor and major changes beneath the header of Apple finally bringing it to a better position today. No one disagrees with this meaning of evolution but then people might wonder why it’s being used interchangeably with the natural selection one. Maybe it’s making the vehicle have a life of its own, like a beast who is now really knowing how to walkâ€”but then, we designed it.
- Evolution as immoral self-justified animalistic behavior. This one is rarely used and some might know it from Pearl Jam’s Do The Evolution: “I am ahead, I am advanced; I’m the first mammal to make plans. I crawled the earth but now I’m higher: twenty ten watch it go to fire. It’s evolution baby.” Eddie’s lyrics are painting a horrid picture of 20th century man and the man portrayed is justifying all of his duplicity, his immoral suppression of all and his callousness because he’s the highest of the food-chain.