Originally posted by josephw
No doubt this has been debated before, but I was wondering if someone could tell me why you believe evolution is true.
I'm tired of trying to prove God exists, so I thought this might be refreshing.
Also, my scientific background is limited so please keep it in layman's terms.
Evolution has left numerous signs of the histories of different species. Fossils, along with the comparative anatomy of present-day organisms, constitute the morphological, or anatomical, record. By comparing the anatomies of both modern and extinct species, paleontologists can infer the lineages of those species.
The development of molecular genetics, and particularly of DNA sequencing, has allowed biologists to study the record of evolution left in organisms' genetic structures. The degrees of similarity and difference in the DNA sequences of modern species allows geneticists to reconstruct their lineages. It is from DNA sequence comparisons that figures such as the 96% genotypic similarity between humans and chimpanzees are obtained.
Other evidence used to demonstrate evolutionary lineages includes the geographical distribution of species. For instance, monotremes and most marsupials are found only in Australia, showing that their common ancestor with placental mammals lived before the submerging of the ancient land bridge between Australia and Asia.
Scientists correlate all of the above evidence, drawn from paleontology, anatomy, genetics, and geography, with other information about the history of Earth. For instance, paleoclimatology attests to periodic ice ages during which the world's climate was much cooler, and these are often found to match up with the spread of species which are better-equipped to deal with the cold, such as the woolly mammoth.
Fossils are critical evidence for estimating when various lineages originated. Since fossilization of an organism is an uncommon occurrence, usually requiring hard parts (like teeth, bone, or pollen), the fossil record provides only sparse and intermittent information about ancestral lineages.
The fossil record provides several types of data important to the study of evolution. First, the fossil record contains the earliest known examples of life itself, as well as the earliest occurrences of individual lineages. For example, the first complex animals date from the early Cambrian period, approximately 520 million years ago. Second, the records of individual species yield information regarding the patterns and rates of evolution, showing whether, for example, speciation occurs gradually and incrementally, or in relatively brief intervals of geologic time. Thirdly, the fossil record is a document of large-scale patterns and events in the history of life. For example, mass extinctions frequently resulted in the loss of entire groups of species, while leaving others relatively unscathed. Recently, molecular biologists have used the time since divergence of related lineages to calibrate the rate at which mutations accumulate, and at which the genomes of different lineages evolve.
Phylogenetics, the study of the ancestry of species, has revealed that structures with similar internal organization may perform divergent functions. Vertebrate limbs are a common example of such homologous structures. The appendages on bat wings, for example, are very structurally similar to human hands, and may constitute a vestigial structure. Vestigial structures are idiosyncratic anatomical features such as the panda's "thumb", which indicate how an organism's evolutionary lineage constrains its adaptive development. Other examples of vestigial structures include the degenerate eyes of blind cave-dwelling fish, and the presence of hip bones in whales and snakes. Such structures may exist with little or no function in a more current organism, yet have a clear function in an ancestral species. Examples of vestigial structures in humans include wisdom teeth, the coccyx and the vermiform appendix.
These anatomical similarities in extant and fossil organisms can give evidence of the relationships between different groups of organisms. Important fossil evidence includes the connection of distinct classes of organisms by so-called "transitional" species, such as the Archaeopteryx, which provided early evidence for intermediate species between dinosaurs and birds, and the recently-discovered Tiktaalik, which clarifies the development from fish to animals with four limbs.
is this good. or do you need more?