How Evolution Is Portrayed In the Popular Media essay

HowEvolution Is Portrayed In the Popular Media


HowEvolution Is Portrayed In the Popular Media

Evolutionis the process that describes the development of life forms as theyare known today by tracing them to common origins. It (evolution)seeks to ascertain a unique ancestral point of origin for the diverselives that are in existence today. For example, the presence of limbsin both animals and human beings is considered a commonality which ishypothesized in assuming their ancestor. Throughout history organismshave been continually changing from simpler forms to more complexforms. This change can be attributed to alteration in their geneticcomposition either through mutations or alterations which occurduring sexual reproduction. Each organism develops in the directionof improving its adaptation to its environment (Ferrell, 2003).According to Darwin (2003), includingthe humans, no species can just be said to have ‘popped up’,every form of life today has an evolutionary history. More so, thehistory is intertwined, and if people fail to understand thecomplexity of the evolution, they will make poor decisions withregard to the future as well as that of other species.

Regardingthe issue of evolution, there is endless theoretical and empiricalliterature on the topic which is in one way overwhelming. Volumes ofdata have been collected in the quest to find ancestral origins ofall life forms in the world. Empirical studies have been conducted inrenowned research institutes in the world to investigate the changesoccurring in life development. This has in turn resulted incontroversies between different findings with contrasting results.The most common conflict is that one group of scientists argues thatlife originated from nothing, while the other links the origin oflife to water and the earth. The large body of knowledge has led thepopulation into believing in different theories, which are influencedby their education system, social, cultural beliefs and the popularmedia (Antonites, 2010). Today, different issues continue to beraised with regard to the issue of evolution. More so, with the vastdevelopment and advancement in the science sector, questions such asis it acceptable to genetically modify human species, what about thefood crops, is it acceptable or not, what are the effects of globalwarming on human biology?, continues to impact people’sunderstanding as they (questions) cannot be analyzed effectivelyunless there is an excellent understanding of the evolutionaryprocess.

Darwinmatters because evolution matters. Evolution matters because sciencematters. Science matters because it is the preeminent story of ourage, an epic saga about who we are, where we came from, and where weare going – Michael Shermer(Riedl et al, 2014)

Evolutionis an active and continuous process as opposed to the view that it isa thing of the past because species are continually evolving. Thedevelopment of drug-resistant cancer cells, pesticide-resistant pestsand new strains of influenza are clear evidence of evolution.However, the question still remains on whether animal forms fromwhich humans originated from will become a man. Also, what willbecome of human beings in the future of evolution? (Dunbar, Knight, &ampPower, 1999). This paper seeks to comprehensively analyze thetheories of evolution and how they are portrayed in the popularmedia. The objective of this paper is to create an understanding ofevolution in its different contexts and clearly evaluate thecontroversies and conflicts that emerge.

Darwin’sTheory of Evolution

CharlesDarwin is one of the most influential scientists in history and he isremembered for his contribution through the theory of evolution basedon natural selection. Born in the year 1809, in Shrewsbury, England,he started school at quite an early age and was already carrying outresearch on evolution by the time he was an undergraduate. At the ageof twenty-two, Charles graduated from the University of Cambridgewith a B.A., having successfully published the first volume ofCharles Lyell’s Principles of Geology. He was subsequently activelyinvolved in the scientific realm where he assumed various leadershipdockets and continuously released a series of publications.

In1859 Darwin’s greatest work was released in his book the Origin ofSpecies by Natural Selection, whereby the idea of Natural Selectionis one of the greatest discoveries in biology and science as a whole.According to Darwin, natural selection explains the process ofadaptation by the various species. Adaptation is the process whichmakes an organism suitable for survival or reproduction. This meansthat natural selection causes an organism to alter itscharacteristics to suit well in its environment or changes throughthe reproduction process. The survival of species is thus dictated bytheir ability to adapt and the weaker organisms are eventually wipedfrom the population. The term “survival of the fittest” wastherefore coined. For example, birds have wings to enable them tomove swiftly across the atmosphere and the fish maneuver smoothlythrough the water (Darwin, 2003).

Thus,from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exaltedobject which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production ofthe higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this viewof life, with its several powers, having been originally breathedinto a few forms or into one and that, whilst this planet has gonecycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple abeginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been,and are being, evolved”(Darwin, 2003)

Thenature of Darwin’s observation of evolution was shallow in that hedid not understand the mechanisms behind natural selection. Rather,Darwin based his findings solely on observations. This does notnullify his theory as it created a hypothesis from which scientificresearch is founded. Scientists have linked the physical andbehavioral adaptations of natural selection to the geneticcomposition of organisms. These occur when the genes or the DNAmutate randomly or during the reproduction process (Pollet &ampVugt, 2016).

Naturalselection is not the only explanation for evolution, but it is one ofthe most popular theories. Almost all education systems in the worldhave incorporated this theory into their syllabus. This is because ofits ability to accommodate for further research and the strongfoundation laid by its presumptions. Charles Darwin is thus legendaryfor his ability to have initiated a momentum of thought processeswhereby scientists are constantly looking deeper into hispropositions creating a wealth of evidence. With the advent of moderntechnology, Darwin’s findings will continue being built on tobetter understand the dynamic nature of evolution. One of the majoraspects with regard to the issue of evolution is the battle betweenscience and faith, two of the major aspects that has in some waycontributed to the shaping of how people understand evolution.

Creationor Evolution

Didthe earth evolve over billions of years or was it created in aninstant by God? This is one of the great debates among scholarsregarding the existence of the universe and the development of themany life forms. The creation story gives two accounts of thecreation of the earth. The first one gives a comprehensive account ofall life forms in seven days. This includes the heaven and the earth,the sun and the moon, water bodies and their creatures, plants andanimals and eventually the creation of the first human being Adam.The second account gives the creation of man in detail, pointing outthat he was made in the image God the creator and was made from soiland water. This is in agreement with some of the scientific viewswhich link the origin of life to water and soil (Zondervan, 2010).

Conversely,the evolution theory seeks to find a single creature from which allother life forms originated from. Additionally, the age of evolutionis very different from that of creation. The great difference in thetime frames insinuates that the story of creation covers only afraction of life existence. While some scholars argue that creationand evolution accounts complement each other it is of ignorantcharacteristic to assume the differences (Sugunendran, 2015).

Thegeneral masses are once again caught in a dilemma on which side ofthe coin to bet on. On one hand the creation story requires beliefbased entirely on faith, though the reliability of the source of thesaid information is questionable. On the other hand, evolutionaryaccounts are relatively more recent but the credibility of the datesis also questionable. Both accounts are lacking in their own capacityto ascertain the exact time frame spanned. The avenue where any ofthe above is advocated for being dependent on the socio-culturalaffiliation of the platform. Some scholars specifically linkevolution to atheism while others stipulate that having to choosebetween evolution and creation is a false dilemma. One aspect of theissue of evolution is that it is a fact that every organism in oneway to another undergoes genetic changes over time. This means thatover time an organization can evolve into a different creature withthe differences being contributed by factors such as DNA and theenvironment. On the other hand, another aspect of evolution isgradualism, which implies that, for a substantial evolution to occur,it will take numerous generations of a species for the changes to bedenoted, i.e. the evolution of reptiles to birds. Through scientistsas well as the numerous approaches to the issue of evolution, therehas been a vast wealth of evidence regarding human evolution. Theevidence, however, comes in different forms, the hence the media playan important role towards the way the people understanding thetheories. The media directly contribute to the deeper knowledge ofhuman evolution.

TheBig Bang Theory

TheBig Bang Theory is the most popular explanation of how the universecame into existence. It is especially famous outside the scientificfield because of the development of a CBS comedy show named the BigBang Theory which began in 2007. This show incorporates a cast ofastrophysicists who are similarly credited for the theory’sassumptions. This theory asserts that the universe is 13.8billionyears old. This theory has been accepted by scientists and has been agreat area of study for further research the world over. This theorybeing another approach to the aspect of how the universe came to be,it has in one way proved through physics and astronomy that thecurrent universe had a beginning. However, despite the vastexplanation that has been adopted to explain the universe’sexistence, it has been faced with misconceptions. For example, thetheory tends to focus on an explosion, however, experts, on the otherhand, shows there was an expansion instead.

Indetails, this theory utilizes various structured and complexscientific methods to accredit its findings. In particular, thetheory maintains that the universe formed out of nothingness. Theuniverse had nothing in the beginning and the gasses in itsatmosphere converged to form protons, electrons, and neutrons. Thefree electrons diverged and then converted to form what is referredto as the cosmos. This cosmos eventually became what is now known asthe earth and other stars that revolve around the sun. According tothis theory initially after the Big Bang, the temperatures were at5.5Billion degrees Celsius. Cooling of the atmosphere is whatprovided for the convergence of the electrons to form atoms and thisis estimated to have taken about 380,000 years (Singh, 2005).

Aninteresting stipulation of the theory is that the Big Bang is acontinuous process, in that the universe continues to expand. Also,the universe increases in its speed and therefore other galaxies arecontinually moving faster and can reach the speed of light. Thetheory also suggests that there are other universes and therefore theexistence of infinite space for expansion. This inflationary theoryis, however, vague in explaining how this space and the gasses cameinto existence. Additionally, although the theory talks of theformation of atoms to form the matter, it says little about how theseatoms converged to become the various life forms. Therefore, the BigBang theory is largely a theory of the evolution of the earth and notof the life forms in the universe (Singh, 2005).


Withthe many evolution theories developed, there still exists a gap inthe knowledge of the exact time period in which the earth and alllife in it have been in existence. The lack of a harmoniouschronological order of the evolution events is a point of critiqueamong scientists. The existence of life is believed to be dated fromthe 8th Century BC according to the Bible’s creation account. Thisis the dating of the manuscripts discovered which comprise of the oldtestament in the Bible. Another time frame is defined by the historyof Egypt, which is believed to have been a very distinct form ofancient civilization. Literature suggests that the Egyptians were inexistence 5000BC. This is before the existence of other dynasties inthe world such as the Babylonian dynasty (Dawkins, 2005).

Onthe other hand, scientists date the existence of the first forms oflife around 4billion years ago. This estimate is done by radiocarbondating which analyses the radioactive carbon in the remains ofplants, animals and rocks estimate the time. The scientific realmseems to agree on this time estimate approximating almost similartime span. However, their archeological dating differs from those ofother fields. Note also there are many other theories of evolution,especially in distinct cultural settings with varying time periods.Again, this leaves the population at free will to believe the timeframe based on their socio-cultural background (Ferrell, 2003). Theincorrectness with archeological dating has on one side resulted intoinaccuracies and confusions in some of the archeological work. Thishas, in turn, led to a disregard of this approach to evolution.However, the archeology perspective has remained a source of clearand useful information about the ancient times, hence allowing tounderstand the issue of evolution. According to Riedl et al, (2014),“the fossil record is fundamental to an understanding of evolution.Fossils document the order of appearance of groups and they tell usabout some of the amazing plants and animals that died out long ago.Fossils can also show us how major crises, such as mass extinctions,happened, and how life recovered after them. If the fossils, or thedating of the fossils, could be shown to be inaccurate, all suchinformation would have to be rejected as unsafe.”


Apartfrom the many scientific research studies continually beingdeveloped, the socio-cultural organization of society has meantvarying beliefs for different groups. There are many fiction talesexplaining the theory of evolution in the different parts of theworld. Some of these tales talk about the initial formation of theuniverse while others seek to explain the various adaptations of thedifferent species. For example, tales about why the giraffe has along neck, and why the elephant has a long nose. The different taleson the origin of the human species link each group as the ancestralbeings from which other human beings sprouted. For example, theChinese and Africans link the evolution of the entire human race totheir forefathers (Everett &amp Shanks, 2015). The variousscientific theories of evolution have gone a long way in explainingevolution. The tales of the many communities around the world give arather primitive approach to evolution. Additionally, the creationstory suggests the world was formed as it is. However, each of theseaccounts has been flawed due to the many missing gaps in the variousevents. However, the Darwinian Theory and the creation story stillremain the most common versions of evolution. There is room forimprovement of these theories by scientists and scholars in theirvarious domains. The numerous theories have greatly contributed tothe varying aspects or perspective as to which people view the issueof evolution. Despite some leaving a long impact among peoplesthinking, the evolution theory has immensely contributed tounderstanding that people hand over time with regard to evolution.

Thedilemma still remains as to which account our existence ought to bebased on. Should we focus on our place of origin or should we focuson the future? Does the past define our future? What changes shouldwe expect in our existence? How significant are these changes to oursurvival? These are just some of the questions which one comes acrosswhen studying the theories of evolution. The mystery still remains onwhether the various schools of thought will find a common point ofreference regarding evolution. To bring about a consensus, scholarsshould work together to bring about an agreement and finally solvethis old-age mystery. The media are hence tasked with theresponsibility to highlight such findings to educate the masses. Withthe numerous theories explaining the aspect of evolution, the mediahas led to an increased aspect of misconception. For example,students have had misconceptions about evolution, such as the ideathat develop in the course of learning others may entail thecomparison between public understanding of the issue, and what isbeing taught.


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