by John Pojeta, Jr. and Dale A. Springer 
Geologic time chart
Fossil Record
Change Through Time
Darwin's Theory
Mechanism for Change
Nature of Species
Nature of Theory
Paleontology, Geology & Evolution
Dating the Fossil Record
Examples of Evolution


References Cited

Suggested Readings
About the Authors

Paleontological Society



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 disciplines.

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, 2001-2002

Marcus E. Milling
AGI Executive Director

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Copyright ©2001 All rights reserved. American Geological Institute produced in cooperation with The Paleontological Society.