Fact or Fiction: Evolution Quiz

By: Staff
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About This Quiz

Evolution! Since its inception, the theory has spread both controversy and a new way of viewing our role on the planet. Where do the facts end and the fictions begin?

Scientists consider the theory of evolution a complete explanation of how life developed on Earth.

The world's great thinkers have been pondering evolutionary issues since as early as the 6th century, but scientists are still working out all the holes in our understanding of just how evolution works.

Mutation lies at the heart of all evolutionary theory.

Yes, it all comes down to mutation. An organism's DNA mutates, or changes, over time in response to environmental stimuli. These changes are beneficial, harmful or neutral. Over time, these changes cause organisms to develop into new species.

In 1925, outrage over the theory of evolution and its perceived contradiction of divine creation led the state of Tennessee to publicly try a monkey named Scopes for heresy.

Actually, the Scopes Monkey Trial revolved around Dayton County high school teacher John Scopes and his decision to teach evolution in the classroom. The state of Tennessee argued that this violated the Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach evolution in any state-funded educational establishment in Tennessee.

During the Scopes Monkey Trial, defense attorney Clarence Darrow argued that the theory of evolution does not conflict with the Bible's account of creation. Today, the Catholic Church officially recognizes this notion.

Yes, in February 2009, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture, said that while the Catholic Church had been hostile to Darwin's theory in the past, evolutionary thought could be traced to Catholic saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

Charles Darwin actually refuted the theory of evolution on his deathbed in 1882.

Despite the popular story told by contemporary British evangelist "Lady Hope" (and retold to this day in e-mail forwards), Darwin's own son refuted her account. It seems the naturalist recounted neither his life's work nor his agnostic beliefs as he lay dying.

Darwin's theory of natural selection hasn't been all good. It also led to the philosophy of social Darwinism and the practice of eugenics.

Although there's nothing inherently evil about a scientific theory, evolution was used to promote, in social Darwinism's case, a push for the abandonment of charity and compassion, as these arguably interfered with natural selection. Eugenics advocates took this concept even further, arguing that we should help remove the weak from the gene pool.

Charles Darwin killed off the werewolves.

While Charles Darwin didn't actually set out across the moors with a six-shooter and a bandolier of silver bullets, his theories emphasized the link between man and ape. Consequently, the idea of a man reverting into a wolf became all the more laughable. As a result, the likes of Brian Regal, assistant professor of the history of science at New Jersey’s Kean University, have argued that the spread of Darwin's theory caused a vast decrease in reports of lycanthropy and an increase in global ape-man sightings.

Species in two separate, isolated areas can evolve into nearly identical forms.

Yes, parallel evolution is a reality. Just look at the flying phalanger of Australia. Its physiology is very similar to that of a flying squirrel. Even though the two animals are only distantly related, both creatures wound up taking surprisingly similar evolutionary paths.

Science fiction tales such as "Planet of the Apes" and "The Time Machine" revel in the possibility that man could devolve into more primitive forms. What does science say about the possible future existence of morlocks?

Don't rule out the possibility of a hideous, devolved future for humanity just yet. Human culture has introduced various limiting factors into natural selection. Evidence suggests that the human brain may still be evolving, but the end results of this evolution could be positive, negative or something genuinely posthuman.

Evolution occurs over long stretches of time, not in quick jumps.

There are actually two different lines of thought on the matter. Phyletic gradualism holds that speciation takes place constantly and over long periods of time. Punctuated equilibrium, on the other hand, involves quick jumps and starts, with long periods of time between the changes.

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