In this video conversation, Jeff Schloss discusses some things we should be mindful of when we discuss evolution. He begins with the observation that when we use the term “evolution”, it is not always exactly clear what we are actually discussing unless we denote the intended usage.
For example, the evolution of genetic change over time is not even an idea or a theory, it is simply an observation—we see it.
The evolution we discuss when we consider whether that change over time has resulted in the diversity of species we see now—that is an idea and an interpretation. But, Schloss emphasizes, it is an idea that is accompanied by overwhelming scientific evidence—ranging from biogeographic evidence to the more recent discovery of profound examples of genetic fossils. Further, he notes that this idea—that evolution results in the diversity of species—is firmly established and it is central to our understanding of how organisms work and how they are structured.
The last part of evolution, however, is really a theoretical aspect—and one that is not fully settled—even among scientists themselves. This part of evolution asks what the causes are that drive the evolutionary process. While the synthetic theory of evolution, which suggests that evolution results from a twin process of mutation and natural selection, is the dominant theory, scientists are not fully in concordance with regard to the extent that other factors play a significant role in evolutionary change.