Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

First post - and I was never good at science.

  1. May 21, 2009 #1
    Ok...I was never good at science b/c I am religious and I do have a hard time with evolution and I had problems with most things that i was taught. So I turned science off. however, i am a logical thinker. So someone tell me in logical terms and in a way that I can understand considering I am not familiar with all the things you are familiar with, why do things evolve? In my mind, either things are built to survive, or they're not. If a single cell organism was the first living thing, how did it evolve? First of all? What caused it to form "societies"? Were they not happy the way they were? Were they bored? Do single cell organisms have feelings? Do they want to survive and are willing to do what it takes to survive? And if they don't have these "feelings" then what caused it to group together? Why would these organisms not be perfectly content the way they were? Was their existance in jeopardy? If so, why did they just not die? They exist, conditions no longer allow them to exist, they die. And birds or monkeys or whatever, if conditions became too harsh for them, how did they take millions of years or thousands or whatever to change so they could survive? Woudn't they have died in the process?? I was told in classes that they needed a different type of wing to do this or a bigger nostril to breathe or darker feathers to not get eaten. Does this make sense? Who can give me a clear and easy way to understand answers to these questions? And these theories. WHy are they so widely accepted when they can't be proven? We have the finished product which is us, and then bits and pieces of this puzzle that supposedly come from millions or billions of years?? Such small pieces of evidence of what really happened in this whole creation thing. I just have troubles with it! Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 21, 2009 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    The philosphy behind accepting evolution as a framework is that science can never distinguish between all possible theories. For example, it cannot demonstrate that everything wasn't created one nanosecond ago, with everyone's memories intact. However, using the known laws of physics we can consistently construct a framework in which everything was not created one nanosecond ago, and that the second world war really did take place. We can use that same framework to say that the American civil war really did take place. The idea that evolution occurred is the application of that framework across even longer stretches of time. We are pretty sure that the framework works waaaay before evolution started, because applying it other galaxies we have observed indicates that they existed a very long time ago. Of course there are things that are not understood, such as the emergence of life. However, given that so many other things fit into a single framework, we believe that rather than discarding the framework, it is more profitable to work at understanding how the things we don't understand fit into this framework. This is a belief, not fact, and perhaps new evidence will indicate that some idea that currently seems improbable, such as that we were all created one nanosecond ago, is actually a simpler explanation for all our observations.
  4. May 21, 2009 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Welcome to PF!

    Hi kennyb78! Welcome to PF!! :smile:
    The classic experiment is observation of moths on trees near a city (I think somewhere in Scotland) …

    the moths used to be mostly grey and a few black, but when the trees became black (because of soot from the city), it was noticed that the moths were mostly black and a few grey.

    This was because grey moths resting on black trees were more visible, and so more likely to be eaten by birds.

    But grey moths weren't certain to be eaten, so some survived and reproduced.

    This is how evolution by "survival of the fittest" usually works … not by some creatures being unable to survive and reproduce, but only by being less likely to do so.

    And both the "old version" and the "new version" (of birds, monkeys or whatever) continue to exist at the same time (sometimes the "old version" goes extinct, like the mammoth, and sometimes it doesn't).
  5. May 21, 2009 #4
    We are a "finished product"?! :rolleyes:

    There is no such thing as a "finished product" in evolution. We don't even have to look back very far to see how much we have changed as a species in a "blink of the eye" in comparison to evolutionary timescales.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2009
  6. May 21, 2009 #5
    Do you know wikipedia? It is the greatest single resource for physics, and yet just anybody can edit it; many people think such a thing is impossible. Each time someone edits (or mutates) an article, there is a chance that the article will be improved, but also a strong chance that the article has merely been vandalised. But worsened articles naturally die out (as readers are more likely to revert them quicker). Piece by piece, over time, many articles have evolved to a very high quality.

    It isn't hard to imagine: compare http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSetwEObOoc", or birds. But then, you don't need to imagine because you can study the actual genetic lineages and fossil records, or observe new experiments.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  7. May 21, 2009 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Unfortunately, your questions are laden with misconceptions about evolution that are based in your religious background, making it hard to answer them. The thing that is missing from all of them is an understanding that nothing CAUSED things to change in any one particular direction or another. Mutations happen all the time, some good, some bad, many neutral, and they accumulate. The ones that are good or bad at the time they develop might give an organism with those traits an advantage or disadvantage, and that might determine if they live or die before reproducing. The neutral ones just accumulate and contribute to variation in the species unless something else in the environment changes that makes one of those variations now beneficial or detrimental.

    Take some time to read through the many other threads in this forum about evolution, and hopefully that will start to fill in some more details for you and help you gain more understanding of the scientific viewpoint and why it is a logical and evidence-based theory.
  8. May 22, 2009 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Hi kennyb78! :smile:

    (btw, it would have been a lot easier if you'd started lots of different threads, instead of trying to cram a lifetime of questions into one thread! :wink:)
    Yes, you've obviously found from your reading that single-cell prokaryotes are generally regarded as the first living thing

    There are various theories as to what they evolved from … see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_life#From_organic_molecules_to_protocells
    No, "feelings" (as in desires, rather than eg feeling hot) need a brain, and brains didn't evolve until the chordata.

    So what caused them to group together? Random chance, just like the rest of evolution … some groupings were "fitter" than others, and they were the ones that survived and prospered.

    (The "ungrouped" ones would also have survived for a time, but they wouldn't have reproduced so fast, and they wouldn't be so good at getting the limited available "food" when the "grouped" ones started to take most of it)
  9. May 22, 2009 #8
    How many people use evolution and religion together? Would you say most people that post here are like the guy from Nacho Libre and believe in science as opposed to God? Is it not a huge leap however for that first single celled organism to group with another? Would some sort of supreme being not answer so many questions? someone that can command the elements? A supreme being that follows natural laws? Who is even subject to those laws? I don't know how the earth was created, I don't know how man is created. I do believe there are many theories that are more accepted than others but in the end they are theories. Like how I said we have the "finished product". I hope it's close to being finished b/c I don't really care to turn back into a monkey or a slug. If my nostrils grow a bit wider so I can breathe easier that's fine but not much more than that! But going back to my question, do most of those involved in the field of science believe that someone out there that got the ball rolling? Someone that told the organisms to combine? Why else would they? They're little stupid things that sit there and do nothing but exist. WHY!!! WHY!!! would they want to do anything else??? What are the odds that these things would work together after billions of years of not working together?? Are there odds for this?? Thanks for all the comments. I won't make a good debater on this subject b/c I don't have anything but a few thoughts about it in my head. Not much research to contradict you or anything like that.
  10. May 22, 2009 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    (you need to ask shorter questions, and one question at a time! :wink:)
    The odds are really really small

    that's why it took so long! :smile:
  11. May 22, 2009 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Tthe big gap in our understanding is from non-life to life. Once we have a single celled organism, like a prokaryote (like bacteria), then an extremely simplified view as to how eukaryotes (like amoebae) arose is that they come from one one prokaryote engulfing another. The mitochondria in your cells and the chloroplasts in plant cells have their own separate DNA, which suggests that they were once independent organisms. In evolution, what "survives" is what reproduces. In a particular environment, a chance event like one prokaryote engulfing another may lead to the organism being able to reproduce more than other prokaryotes, giving that prokaryote an advantage. In another environment, that chance event may lead to a reproductive disadvantage and the organism will not survive. Because the environment is not uniform, and is constantly changing, this gives rise to many different types of organisms that survive well in some environments and not others.
  12. May 22, 2009 #11
    well what about the supreme being idea? does this simply not make sense? I heard a quote once that a religious guy probably made up about some really smart guy. it was something like, the smarter you get the further away from God you become. But then there's a second part that says something like, once you get smarter than that you start coming back to God. Is this true? How does someone accept all this as chance when the odds are so great? There are too many unknowns. That's what religion gets hit on, you can't see God, we weren't around when Moses parted the red sea, etc. But you can say the same of science, there are too many leaps, and too many things you have to take on faith! you don't know all of the why's and how's. I'm sure I'm one of many religious guys that have visited this site arguing this but i can't help but think a supreme being who is subject to this laws yet knows every single one would explain so much.

    a funny thought i just had, I could be talking to a bunch of baptists right now who are just good in science. I'm assuming that if you believe in evolution you don't believe in God. I'm pretty sure evolution existed but i refuse to believe we came from monkeys. as this most recent find points out, there is a missing link. maybe it's not missing b/c there is no link! similarities yes but no link! that's my opinion at least.

    this has been fun! thanks for continuing to comment.
  13. May 22, 2009 #12


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    The problem with the supreme being idea is that it is ill-defined. For example, couldn't the supreme being be "the laws of physics" or "natural selection"? Yes!
  14. May 22, 2009 #13
    I find science more interesting than religion! science is dynamic, you can change it! but religion is static! it talks about the past, one day it will definitely contradict itself. but science will always alter itself to suit new laws! these laws are proven!

    evolution is completely random!

    when you talk about societies being formed, then you should think that being in group has more advantages than being alone. That is why it got naturally selected.

    You take 2 sets of the same animal. one where the animals live in a group, and the other where the animals live alone from each other. Now a predator comes. The animals living alone are more likely to be killed than for the animals living in a group.

    Then logically, the set of animals living in 'society' will keep on thriving, while the set of animals living alone will eventually die. Everyone will forget about them, nobody would even know they ever existed.

    Only what is best will therefore occur!

    lol i don't think we come from monkeys. It's only that monkeys and us have i think the same evolutionary ancestors.

    Think about how much time has elapsed from the beginning of life with the appearance of the first cells!
  15. May 22, 2009 #14
    The answers are all out there for you to find if you are truly sincere about wanting to learn them. You just need to start reading...

    It is quite clear that your confusion about the subject of evolution is due to lack of knowledge about how it works.

    In the end, we all just believe whatever we want to believe, but the evidence of the real truth is out there... whether you choose to accept it or not, is up to you.

    EDIT: FYI, I am not trying to be rude in any way, so don't take it personally. ....peace! :)
    Last edited: May 22, 2009
  16. May 22, 2009 #15
    Bit of a superiority complex there?
    Why don't you http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Chimpanzee" [Broken] about some of the evidence?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  17. May 22, 2009 #16


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    There's no reason that one cannot accept the theory of evolution as correct and believe in a god at the same time. While the beliefs of some specific religions are incompatible with science, science is not incompatible with belief in a god. There are a lot of people, scientists included, who are comfortable with the belief that a God got the universe started and was then content to sit back and watch it develop from there.

    Then you'll be very happy to learn that evolutionary theory does not propose we came from monkeys, but rather supports that both we and monkeys, at some time long long ago, had a common ancestor.
    Calling it a missing link is more a part of advertising the find and raising awareness than what it necessarily is. There are always going to be gaps in the fossil record. It is not commonplace or every organism that manages to die in a manner and location that any part of them is preserved as a fossil. That we can see so much of a trend or pattern in development from the species we do have records of is by itself pretty amazing.

    I hope you're learning something in the process. Maybe you should try taking a course on evolutionary biology at some time. I think you have a lot of misunderstandings about what evolutionary theory really states and what the evidence is, and given your background, that's understandable. Still, you might find it easier to appreciate what it's all about if you learned more accurate information about it. You don't have to take the course with the notion that you're going to have to give up your religion, or that you have to believe what is taught, just take it to learn what the scientific views are about it. Think about it the same way that an atheist might take a course on the Bible, not to be converted or start believing it, but just to understand and appreciate something that is important to many other people.
  18. May 24, 2009 #17
    I'm done with school!! no way will I ever go back! I went the finance route.

    One more thing....with randomness being so huge with evolution does it ever amaze anyone that the randomness has got us to where we are today. it seems this randomness always chooses progression as the route to go. why do we not see this randomness take another course? One that would lead to the destruction of mankind, plants, animals, etc?? If it's all random, then we sure are lucky folks!! would you agree??
  19. May 24, 2009 #18
    yes it does amaze me, that's why i'm doing a career in biology/biomedicine!

    destruction of mankind could also be a sort of progression! look at what all other organisms have to go through because of us! polluted lakes, melting of ice caps, slaughtering! If you remove human impact, all other species would be having a much better life.

    What would destroy human beings will most probably destroy other organisms, except for viruses which attack only humans. but again life may appear, after a long long ver long time! human beings wont be there and other organisms may appear!

    this will go on and on until life ceases to exist, like on planet mars.

    look back at the dinausaurs, they were most probably the mightest creatures of their time. eventually they got extinct. Now, human beings can boast to be the mightiest. And, maybe one day humans will get extinct and some other species will take other! :S
  20. May 24, 2009 #19
    Let me give you an analogy of how evolution and selection could work in finance, then.

    Suppose you want to design an automated strategy for trading stocks in a way that maximizes profit. You can define several numerical parameters (when to buy, when to sell, when to take a loss, when to be safe and just take your current earnings, etc.).

    To start, you could generate 100 different trading strategies with completely random values for these parameters. Then, you let each of your strategies trade stocks for, say, 5 years. At the end of that period, you look at your strategies and select the "best" 20 (i.e., those that you gave you maximum profit).

    Now comes the critical part. You once again generate 100 strategies randomly, but you restrict your parameter values such that they are similar to those of the "best 20" in your previous trials. Therefore, your new generation of 100 strategies will tend to do better than the previous one, because it is similar to the best ancestors.

    Imagine you repeat this process 1,000 times. Although each generation is generated randomly, you are selecting the best strategies at every turn and using them to "breed" the next generation. So after the process has been going on for a long time, your strategies will be much, much better than your initial generation. This is how natural selection works, except that the agent of selection is the environment, and the most successful organisms are the ones that reproduce the most.

    Notice that all your strategies were always generated randomly, but a selection process filtered out the randomness and your strategies were able to become better with every generation. This is the essential concept behind evolution.
  21. May 24, 2009 #20
    and i would like to point out all those siamese babies and the rare cases of abnormally born babies, these are concrete examples!

    When an indian baby girl was born with four arms and four legs!


    now this is not something favourable today. we would call that a genetic error! But these errors are what give rise to evolution!
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  22. May 24, 2009 #21


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Evolution is not fundamentally random, because it can be explained by classical or semi-classical physics, which is deterministic. Evolution is random in the sense that a gas of particles is random. The particles' motion is deterministic, being governed by Newton's equations, but we are usually only interested in pressure, volume, temperature, etc, which we imagine to be the probabilistic motion of the gas particles. We introduce probability because we cannot keep track of all the underlying variables.

    As a whole however, a standard view in physics is that we are very lucky. Is the second law of thermodynamics a fundamental law? Well, for all practical purposes, you will never see it violated at the macroscopic level. Yet, a common view is that the second law of thermodynamics is not fundamental, and has to do with the initial conditions that started the universe. There is no law that governs the initial conditions, and one could say that it is luck (or god or whatever) that determined the initial conditions. Even if string theory or whatever theory of everything turns out to be correct, there will still be no explanation of why those particular laws instead of some other.
    Last edited: May 24, 2009
  23. May 24, 2009 #22


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    See the discussion on the "coincidence problem" for another piece of "good luck".
  24. May 26, 2009 #23
    so there is room for some sort of god??!! I haven't clicked on the link yet but from your first response it sounds like there is room. it seems science is much like religion in this way. Christians claim to believe in one God, one bible, one truth, etc. Yet you have thousands of churches that teach different things. If there's one truth, then why so many churches that have all these differences, whether their small or large differences. those that are involved with educating themselves in science are similar in that there is one truth when it comes to science yet people have different ideas on the exact details of how everything actually works.
  25. May 26, 2009 #24


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    This has turned into nothing but a discussion of religion.

Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook