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It's fascinating just how powerful even the smallest ideas are. Go from the discovery of natural selection to the attempt at controlling selection with eugenics. Frankly, I say keep revealing the truths of this world and of life.

Herbert Spencer was not a Darwinian evolutionist. Which isn't even close to the modern synthesis that is understood today. For fill in the lord's sake, the guy was at least partially a Lamarckian. Darwin explicitly denounced social darwinism. The name is a misconception and flat-out wrong. Evolutionary theory posits that some critters leave more living offspring. Mis-named "Social Darwinism" is all about human class standing. More money equals more value. It's just prejudice pretending to be sciency, but failing.

A lot of things can and do become a secular religion: politics, the military, guns, economic growth, to name a few. Forty-seven incoming Republican members of congress do not believe man has had any role in global warming. I hope you will explain where you are going with this because Darwin lived a century and a half ago. The world has had plenty of time to take his ideas apart since that time. When you ask if evolution has become a secular religion, it sounds as if you are dismissing it in a rather cheap fashion.

Evolution is a fact (as evidenced by the fossil record, living organisms and DNA) and a theory. Calling it secular religion is redefining the word "religion" so as to make it meaningless. Is geology a religion? Biology? Genetics?

Thanks for the comments, everyone. It sounds like the secular religion post will lead to a spirited discussion.

2 facts about evolution:
1. Microevolution is a proven fact.
2. Macroevolution is not at proven fact, but is supported by factual observations, which is why so many believe in it.

For a more detailed explanation of these two points from a philosophy of science perspective, see http://www.mormonsandscience.com/1/post/2010/10/methodological-smackdown-darwins-tiktaalik-vs-einsteins-1919-solar-eclipse.html

Thanks for the link, Dave C. I visit your blog regularly, of course.

I'm not fond of the micro- versus macroevolution distinction. That is terminology that comes from conservative Christians who reject evolution, not from the science. The presently accepted science describes one natural process (natural selection) that drives evolutionary change over time. The rate of change is responsive to environmental pressure, of course -- rapid climate change or a catastrophic meteorite strike, for example. But there is just one process.

I am sure some of this is covered in later chapters of the book -- I'm not quite finished yet. More posts to follow.

I disagree that natural selection is the driving force in the theory of evolutionary change. This makes it seem that changes needed in a an environment are preselected or guided in some way in which i disagree. Darwinian evolution theory is about selection derived after copy errors and/or mutations in the DNA structure change it to something else. So in reality the mechanism that drives evolution in Darwins theory is a complete random event.

In this theory it is only after a DNA structure is canged that it is selected or dropped. The mere selection process however does not drive the process that brings about a greater change in a species.

Also confusing here is that genetics play a role in the Darwinian selection process but that these varriations in genetic selection may not lead to a new species. In the human population for example certain genes become more dominant in one region or climate than another. But these varriations have not led to a new species, just a greater varriation within our race to accomidate different climates and habitats.

In Darwinian evolution he supposes that these genetic varriations can add up over time to a new species. But this has not proven out and so they couple this with the main mechanism- that of copy errors and mutations.

Therefore, the main cause or drive in Darwinian evolution is random copy errors and mutations. Selection of these copy errors or mutations has not really been identified as leading to a new species let alone being the driving force in evolution.

This is simply a case of putting the cart before the horse.

Thanks for the comments, Rob. It is true that essentially random but small changes in DNA makeup create the variation in the gene pool that gives natural selection something to work on -- if a population were composed of clones, there wouldn't be anything to select. Of course, Darwin did not know about DNA or genes.

I think biologists would disagree that natural selection is a guided process.

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