The Evolution of Evolution Theory and Its Controversies

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Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published in 1859. In the nearly 150 years since that landmark publication, evolution theory has been under attack from conservative religionists all over the world, particularly in the United States. Three recent books (Kirschner and Gerhart 2005; Thomas 2005; Ruse 2006) take different approaches to explain why evolution theory has been so hard for some to accept, or to expand on “classical” evolution theory to put forward a new explanation for the diversity of life on earth. The context of these three tomes is set in an historical overview of the development of evolution theory, discussions on perceived conflicts between religion and science, and contemporary research that builds on existing ideas and pushes evolution theory forward to a more comprehensive explanation for the morphological variation separating genera, families and phyla, or, what some would call, “macroevolution.” A parallel theme of the three authors is that the conflict between science and religion, as it relates to evolution theory, is very old and the arguments do not seem to change from one generation to another.

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