Evolution is one of the fundamental underlying concepts of modern science.
This powerful theory explains such phenomena as the history of life preserved
in the fossil record; the genetic, molecular, and physical similarities and
differences among organisms; and the geographic distribution of organisms today
and in the past. Indeed, evolution forms the foundation of modern biology and
paleontology and is well documented by evidence from a variety of scientific
Evolution is also one of the most misunderstood and controversial concepts
in the eyes of the general public. This situation is unfortunate, because the
controversy surrounding evolution is unnecessary. Resistance to evolution stems
in part from misunderstanding science and how it is distinct from religion.
Science and religion provide different ways of knowing the Earth and universe.
Science proceeds by testing hypotheses and thus is restricted to natural, testable
explanations. By definition, science is unable to confirm or deny the existence
or work of a Creator; such questions are beyond the realm of science. As a scientific
concept, evolution therefore can make no reference to a Creator. Many people
of faith, including scientists, find no conflict between evolution and their
religion; in fact, many religious denominations have issued statements supporting
evolution. Science and religion need not conflict.
Numerous lines of evidence show that life has changed through time. Evolution
is the best scientific explanation for this change. This booklet describes a
small portion of the evidence for this change, especially as documented
by the fossil record, and outlines the processes involved in evolution. Many
fascinating questions remain concerning the history of life and the process
through which it has developed. As we continue to learn about life on Earth,
the theory of evolution will itself evolve. That is the strength, adventure,
and excitement of doing science!
Patricia H. Kelley
Paleontological Society President,