Belief v. understanding - Macleans.ca

Belief v. understanding

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Scientists assess Gary Goodyear’s views on evolution.

Elizabeth Elle, a biology professor at Simon Fraser University, said it’s good to hear the minister accepts the theory of evolution, but she was concerned about the example he provided.

“I think it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how evolution by natural selection works,” she added.

The fundamental premise is that genetic variation among organisms results in differences in their “fitness” — a biological term referring to the number of offspring they have. That ultimately leads certain characteristics to become prevalent among their descendents. However, the types of characteristics that result in more offspring change over time as the environment changes.

Elle acknowledged that humans are evolving every day, being naturally selected for characteristics such as resistance to certain diseases.

“The kind of shoes that you wear and the surfaces that you walk on — I don’t understand how that would translate into differences in fitness from a biological sense,” Elle said.