What does Evolution Mean?
For many people, the idea of biological evolution carries philosophical baggage. Did we evolve just by chance, as a consequence of random events? Dr. Dan Kuebler, molecular and cell biologist, has asked these questions too. In this award-winning video, Dr. Kuebler reveals how he has personally grappled with these questions. Having always had a strong sense of purpose in his life, he wondered how purpose could be compatible with evolution, a seemingly meaningless biological process.
Is Evolution Random?
Interestingly, the more he learned about evolution, the more Dr. Kuebler was amazed by how much order can be observed in the processes of evolution. Evolution did not seem to be random in nature. By understanding the broad concepts as well as molecular intricacies of evolution, he learned that while chance certainly plays a role in evolution, evolution also only works because it operates within a system of complex, ordered, and nuanced laws. One such system of evolution is convergent evolution.
What is Convergent Evolution?
Convergent evolution is an example of profound order in the evolutionary process. The human camera-like eye has evolved in several other lineages of animals, including some cephalopods and gastropods. Since the spectrum of light wavelengths in nature is fixed, vastly different animals separately evolved to take advantage of that light and harness it in a useful way for their species. Another example of convergent evolution is how animals like bats and dolphins evolved to use echolocation to hunt prey despite difficult environmental challenges.
Does Evolution Show Purpose in the Universe?
Evolution is built on a foundation of order. This is a curious phenomenon, and raises philosophical questions that science alone cannot answer. Why is there order in evolution? Why do we have a universe with structured laws?
Science is an amazing and powerful gift to help us learn more about the universe we live in, but there are certain questions that are outside the realm of science. It is a gift to be able to observe and understand the world around us as conscious beings, and wonder about the purpose behind it all.
“The universe is filled with order from top to bottom. It is a beautiful order…and an order that we can actually comprehend. It’s almost as if we’ve been made to comprehend that order in the universe, to be able to contemplate it, so that we can see, maybe, that purpose behind it.” — Dr. Dan Kuebler