email - May 2016

The Definition of Evolution

Just what is, “Evolution?”

One of the common criticisms we get is that our definition of “evolution” is wrong. What is the correct definition? That brings us to this month’s email from William Herath.

Reading journals, watching documentaries, and chatting with evolutionary professionals I realized that there is a mountain of scientific evidence and research when it comes to the subject at hand.  There is a great deal of science that goes into evolutionary research!  With that said, I discovered a seemingly small inconsistency across the sources I had found.  No journal, publication, book, documentary, or professor of evolutionary biology offered a consistent definition of the term.  In fact, some descriptions I found were in oblate contrast to other descriptions of evolution.  Yes, even professors at prestigious universities (of which I will leave name-less) would send me their favorite or personal definition(s) of evolution and many would conflict and/or minimally coincide with another professor's idea of evolution.  In all of my research I had NEVER found the same definition of evolution twice.

Knowing that evolution is a compulsory subject in U.S. public schools, I decided to contact some educational agencies.  The federally funded Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) has created an educational frame work from which many states have adopted.  The NGSS does not offer a definition of biological evolution at all.  So, I contacted the California Department of Education and received the same response.  Next, I contacted the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which is the second largest school district in the United States to the New York City Unified School District.  Not surprising, LAUSD does not offer a definition of biological evolution.  If a definition is taught in the classroom, it comes from one of the many various definitions provided by the current textbook of choice for that district.  Many teachers have the freedom to create their own curriculum which allows them to teach their favorite definition of biological evolution, even if it is their own.  Yikes!  Although the percentage of science teachers is more than likely a different number, 34% of Americans do not subscribe to evolution.  Imagine a science teacher that does not subscribe to evolution, yet has the freedom to create their own curriculum and define evolution as they please.  Sure, evolution is part of the required educational framework, but without a standard definition; where does this reality leave the future of science education?

Being completely baffled, I turned to high profile court cases surrounding the evolutionary contention.  Reading court transcripts going all the way back to the 1925 Scopes trial, I thought that I would absolutely find a definition of evolution.  Not a single case in the United States has ever offered a consistent definition of biological evolution that could be cross referenced with another case.  In essence, the legal battle that has been raging over evolution has failed to produce or outline a consistent, scientific, and legally agreed upon definition.

How could such a contentiously debated idea have become part of our nation's required science curriculum, yet been left ambiguous?  The reality of failing to define biological evolution is far from being deemed just for those who oppose it, and frightening for the future of science education.

Leaving evolution as an ambiguous term must come to an end and I have addressed this in my book, What Is Evolution?"

My blog is located at: and I use it to give insight as to what my book is about.  There are zero references to alternative ideas, nor are there references to the validity of the supernatural realm.  This book is solely about questioning the scientific validity of evolution, but asking what evolution is beforehand.  I would be more than happy to go into more detail with you if you are interested.

Thank you for your time!

William Herath

We have not read William’s book, so we neither approve nor disapprove of it; but we have obviously read his email. The points he makes in his email are valid. We do need to define what we are talking about before debating the merits of any idea.

When we talk about "evolution," we don't mean, "any kind of change." Nor do we mean minor variations that result from natural selection. There is no disagreement about that. There are limits to those variations, as Nyquist proved in the Kentucky Derby again this year. 1 Breeding has been well-established scientifically—but breeding isn’t the kind of evolution we are discussing.

We use the term "evolution" to mean,

“The doctrine that unguided natural forces caused chemicals to combine in such a way that life resulted; and that all living things have descended from that common ancestral form of life.”

That kind of evolution is unscientific, and untrue.

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1 Disclosure, June 1999, “The Kentucky Derby Limit”,