Once scientists started noticing that the best organisms were surviving and the weak were dying, they called this natural selection. This part was clear to all scientists, as natural selection happened in all parts of their daily lives. What scientists did not agree upon, though, was how organisms got more advantageous characteristics, like long necks, specially adapted noses, or short beaks.
There is now a lot of evidence for the type of evolution that Darwin\"');" onmouseout="tooltip.hide();">Charles Darwin first proposed. It is not a fact that evolution happens this way, as the theory is always changing very slightly. Unlike natural selection, evolution is actually a fairly complicated theory that takes some time to truly understand. However, evolution takes into account all of the current evidence that scientists have brought to light.
Evolution basically means that groups of organisms change over time. These groups, or populations, get more and more advantageous characteristics for their environment over the course of many generations. Short-trunked elephants were not suddenly taken over by one mysterious long-trunked elephant. What most likely happened with elephants is that the elephants in each generation with the longest necks were the ones to survive.
Evolution does not happen to individual organisms. Individual organisms can change, but unless that change gives them an advantage and they can pass it on to their offspring, it will not matter. If the male elephant with a longer neck is unattractive and smelly, then it’s possible he won’t be able to find a lady elephant and will never pass on his longer neck to any offspring. How sad!
Evolution is not just a series of accidents. Unless a change has some advantage, the organism will not survive as well and die. It is also not a series of events to get to some end animal. Evolution didn’t happen to elephants because elephants were destined to have long trunks.
Evolution happens for a reason: The changes in the population help the organisms survive better. Since there can be millions of different possible changes, there is no “correct” change that has to happen. Nobody can predict how evolution will change bacteria, elephants or even humans over the next million years.
Evolution is not just a theory about humans, it’s about all living things. Evolution is also not a system of beliefs! Evolution just happens to be the best explanation for what scientists can observe about the world. Therefore, evolution says nothing about the presence or absence of God, or about what you should or should not believe.
There are many misconceptions about evolution. Scientists do not think that humans evolved from monkeys; rather, humans and monkeys are thought to have a common ancestor some many millions of years ago. This ancestor was not necessarily like today’s monkeys and also not exactly like a human. But because evolution means that organisms are constantly improving themselves over time, this ancestor of ours does not exist any more because some of their offspring evolved into monkeys and some into humans.
Another misconception about evolution is that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. Well, it is true that ancient ancestors of humans, about the size and shape of a large mouse, lived at the same time as dinosaurs. However, it took millions of years after dinosaurs went extinct for most of the mammals that are around today to evolve, including humans!