Using the link (https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/misconceptions_faq.php), explain why each of the following statements is incorrect with regards to evolutionary theory and the process of natural selection: "Evolution tells us how life began"; "Evolution results in progress; organisms improve through evolution"; and "Evolution requires millions of years to occur." 

Expert Answers

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The first statement is incorrect, because evolutionary biology tends to focus on how life changed after it began. Evolutionary theory does incorporate ideas about the origin of life, but evolutionary studies emphasize changes that can be supported through experimentation and/or evidence.

The second statement is a rather common misconception of evolutionary theory. The reason for that is that people tend to think that change, by definition, is beneficial. Certain parts of evolutionary theory help perpetuate that kind of thinking. The notion that evolutionary changes occur because of nature naturally selecting the fittest organisms seems to indicate that the "best" organisms are the ones that are surviving. An organism might be better suited for a particular environment, but an organism is never perfectly suited for an environment. That imperfection is compounded by the fact that environments are dynamic. The beneficial adaptation could become a hindrance in a different environment or an environment that goes through a rapid change.

Finally, some evolutionary changes result in changes that are actually harmful to organisms. For example, the Florida panther has been subjected to extremely low population numbers that have caused inbreeding. The results have been undescended testicles in the males and kinked tails throughout the population. In the overall time scale of life, those changes developed quite quickly, due to the rapid fall in overall population numbers, and that serves as evidence against evolution needing long periods of time.

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