From Wikiquote
Jump to: navigation, search
I see the triumph of good over evil as a manifestation of the error-correcting process of evolution. ~ Jonas Salk

Evolution means a process of change or transformation, and is commonly used to refer to biological, genetic or organic evolution, the changes in populations of organisms over generations, the processes by which such changes occur, and theories regarding them. Offspring differ from their parents in various ways. When these differences are helpful, the offspring have a greater chance of surviving and reproducing, making the differences more common in the next generation. In this way, differences can accumulate over time, leading to major changes in a population. Major scientific theories of evolution state that all living things on Earth are descended, at some point in the distant past, from a single common ancestor, and others posit the possibility of extraterrestrial genetic material delivered through asteroids and comets. Since the beginnings of life, divergent evolution has produced numerous different species as life has found a variety of ways to survive and flourish.


Alphabetized by author
  • The world has arisen in some way or another. How it originated is the great question, and Darwin's theory, like all other attempts to explain the origin of life, is thus far merely conjectural. I believe he has not even made the best conjecture possible in the present state of our knowledge.
    • Louis Agassiz, Evolution and Permanence of Type (Atlantic Monthly, January 1874)
  • There are many aspects of the universe that still cannot be explained satisfactorily by science; but ignorance only implies ignorance that may someday be conquered. To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.
  • Molecular evolution is not based on scientific authority. . . . There are assertions that such evolution occurred, but absolutely none are supported by pertinent experiments or calculations. Since no one knows molecular evolution by direct experience, and since there is no authority on which to base claims of knowledge, it can truly be said that . . . the assertion of Darwinian molecular evolution is merely bluster.
    • Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (1996)
  • The evolutionary vision is agnostic in regard to systems in the universe of greater complexity than those of which human beings have clear knowledge. It recognizes aesthetic, moral, and religious ideas and experiences as a species, in this case of mental structures or of images, which clearly interacts with other species in the world's great ecosystem.
  • A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg.
  • Anthropological, biological, and genetic evidence all put the origin of modern humans at between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago, probably in Africa. There is also much data that show an outburst of cultural behavior occurring around 50,000-40,000 years ago in Europe. That's when archaeologists date the oldest evidence of burial ceremonies, body ornaments, and cave paintings.
  • Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual. When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled.
  • I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection.
  • The expression often used by Mr. Herbert Spencer of the Survival of the Fittest is more accurate, and is sometimes equally convenient.
  • Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered ... has no purpose in mind. ... It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.
  • In any developing science there are disagreements. But scientists — and here is what separates real scientists from the pseudoscientists of the school of intelligent design — always know what evidence it would take to change their minds. One thing all real scientists agree upon is the fact of evolution itself. It is a fact that we are cousins of gorillas, kangaroos, starfish, and bacteria. Evolution is as much a fact as the heat of the sun. It is not a theory, and for pity’s sake, let’s stop confusing the philosophically naive by calling it so. Evolution is a fact.
  • There can be no question that Darwin had nothing like sufficient evidence to establish his theory of evolution. ... Darwin’s model of evolution ... , being basically a theory of historical reconstruction, ... is impossible to verify by experiment or direct observation as is normal in science ... Moreover, the theory of evolution deals with a series of unique events, the origin of life, the origin of intelligence and so on. Unique events are unrepeatable and cannot be subjected to any sort of experimental investigation. ... His general theory, that all life on earth had originated and evolved by a gradual successive accumulation of fortuitous mutations, is still, as it was in Darwin’s time, a highly speculative hypothesis entirely without direct factual support and very far from that self-evident axiom some of its more aggressive advocates would have us believe. ... The evolutionary paradigm ... is more like a principle of medieval astrology than a serious twentieth century scientific theory. ... One might have expected that a theory of such cardinal importance, a theory that literally changed the world, would have been something more than metaphysics, something more than a myth.
    • Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1986) pages 69, 75, 77, 306, 358
    • (If it were true that "a theory of historical reconstruction ... is impossible to verify", then this truth would invalidate not only evolution, but also all of forensic science.)
    • (It took Darwin twenty-one years (from 1838 to 1859) to develop the core of the theory of evolution, and the theory keeps developing even to the present day. No one considers it "self-evident".)
  • God is an unnecessary hypothesis for explaining the natural world. But ... this is not something that needs to be ascribed to God anyway, so it hardly implies that evolution and religion are incompatible, any more than showing that God is not needed to explain plumbing makes plumbing incompatible with religion.
  • The old "red in tooth and claw" view of the natural economy has to be updated. We need a new metaphor for the forest, one that helps us visualize plants both sharing and competing. ... Evolution's engine is fired by genetic self-interest, but this manifests itself in cooperative action as well as solo selfishness. The natural economy has as many trade unions as robber barons, as much solidarity as individualistic entrepreneurship.
    • David George Haskell, The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature, "December 3rd — Litter," pages 228-229 (2012)
  • The antagonism between science and religion, about which we hear so much, appears to me to be purely factitious — fabricated, on the one hand, by short-sighted religious people who confound a certain branch of science, theology, with religion; and, on the other, by equally short-sighted scientific people who forget that science takes for its province only that which is susceptible of clear intellectual comprehension; and that, outside the boundaries of that province, they must be content with imagination, with hope, and with ignorance.
  • Asking general questions led to limited answers, asking limited questions turned out to provide more and more general answers.
  • I wouldn’t get out of bed for 25,000 genes, and we don’t find form in the genome. We share most of our DNA with chimpanzees, but nowhere in the genome have we found what it is that makes us so different from chimps.
  • Why don't we see gradual transition in the sequences of fossils? According to Darwin, and the current neo-Darwinists, the fossil record has gaps in it because of the haphazard way in which fossilization occurs — it is bound to be an imperfect record of the history of life. But is it? Is the jerky and abrupt nature of the record really just due to 'gaps', or does it reflect the way evolution actually happened? There is a strong feeling among leading palaeontologists that the punctuated history shown by fossils reflects the way life has evolved — in leaps and bounds rather than in gradual transition. There is also a growing sense that there is much more to understanding 'macroevolution' — the large-scale picture one gets from the fossils — than the simple idea of natural selection can alone explain.
    • Brian Leith, The Descent of Darwin: A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinism, (Collins: London, 1982) page 23.
  • Ever since language allowed human cultural evolution to impinge upon age-old processes of biological evolution, humankind has been in a position to upset older balances of nature in quite the same fashion as disease upsets the natural balance within a host's body. Time and again, a temporary approach to stabilization of new relationships occurred as natural limits to the ravages of humankind upon other life forms manifested themselves. Yet, sooner or later, and always within a span of time that remained miniscule in comparison with the standards of biological evolution, humanity discovered new techniques allowing fresh exploitation of hitherto inaccessible forms of life.
  • Another curious aspect of the theory of evolution is that everybody thinks he understands it. I mean philosophers, social scientists, and so on. While in fact very few people understand it, actually, as it stands, even as it stood when Darwin expressed it, and even less as we now may be able to understand it in biology.
    • Jacques Monod, On the Molecular Theory of Evolution (1974,) reprinted in Mark Ridley (editor) Evolution (1997) page 389
  • We conclude — unexpectedly — that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak, and there is no doubt that mutations of large effect are sometimes important in adaptation. We hasten to add, however, that we are not "macromutationists" who believe that adaptations are nearly always based on major genes. The neo-Darwinian view could well be correct. ... We hope to encourage evolutionists to reexamine this neglected question and to provide evidence to settle it.
    • H. Allen Orr [Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis], & Jerry A. Coyne [Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago], "The Genetics of Adaptation: A Reassessment," The American Naturalist, Vol. 140, No. 5 (November 1992), pages 725-742 (at page 726)
    • (The first sentence is sometimes quoted in isolation by creationists to suggest incorrectly that "there is little evidence" for evolution. In fact, the "neo-Darwinian view" under question is the relative importance of many small changes versus a few large changes.)
  • Development of an organism from a single germ cell into a multicellular entity is a self-organizing system from any point of view and I wish to contend that this self-organizing system is a subsystem of the self-organizing system called 'evolution'.
    • Gordon Pask An Approach to Cybernetics (1961) p.103-104
  • When things get bad enough, then something happens to correct the course. And it is for that reason that I speak of evolution as an error-making and error-correcting process. And if we can be ever so much better — ever so much slightly better — at error correcting than at error making, then we'll make it.
  • I judge things from an evolutionary perspective — "How does this serve and contribute to the process of our own evolution?" — rather than think of good and evil in moral terms. I see the triumph of good over evil as a manifestation of the error-correcting process of evolution.
    • Jonas Salk, in Academy of Achievement interview, in San Diego, California (16 May 1991)
  • I speak about universal evolution and teleological evolution, because I think the process of evolution reflects the wisdom of nature. I see the need for wisdom to become operative. We need to try to put all of these things together in what I call an evolutionary philosophy of our time.
    • Jonas Salk, in Academy of Achievement interview, in San Diego, California (16 May 1991)
  • If I did not think you a good tempered & truth loving man I should not tell you that... I have read your book [On the Origin of Species] with more pain than pleasure. Parts of it I admired greatly; parts I laughed at till my sides were almost sore; other parts I read with absolute sorrow; because I think them utterly false & grievously mischievous— You have deserted—after a start in that tram-road of all solid physical truth—the the true method of induction. ... I have written in a hurry & in a spirit of brotherly love.
    • Adam Sedgwick, letter to Darwin (24 November 1859); reprinted in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin volume 7, page 396
  • Thus life by life and love by love
    We passed through the cycles strange,
    And breath by breath and death by death
    We followed the chain of change.
  • Evolution is a change from an indefinite, incoherent, homogeneity to a definite, coherent, heterogeneity, through continuous differentiations and integrations.
    • Herbert Spencer, First Principles (1862)
    • Evolution is a change from a no-howish untalkaboutable all-alikeness by continous sticktogetheration and somethingelsification.
      • A parody of the above quote, often attributed to William James, 1880 (Lecture Notes 1880-1897), but see [1]
  • Organic evolution has its physical analogue in the universal law that the world tends, in all its parts and particles, to pass from certain less probable to certain more probable configurations or states. This is the second law of thermodynamics. It has been called the law of evolution of the world; and we call it, after Clausius, the Principle of Entropy, which is a literal translation of Evolution in Greek.
  • Aristotle especially, both by speculation and observation... reached something like the modern idea of a succession of higher organizations from lower, and made the fruitful suggestion of "a perfecting principle" in Nature. With the coming in of Christian theology this tendency toward a yet truer theory of evolution was mainly stopped, but the old crude view remained...
  • Just as the line of astronomical thinkers from Copernicus to Newton had destroyed the old astronomy, in which the earth was the center, and the Almighty sitting above the firmament the agent in moving the heavenly bodies about it with his own hands, so now a race of biological thinkers had destroyed the old idea of a Creator minutely contriving and fashioning all animals to suit the needs and purposes of man.
  • Of course, like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised.
  • And hear the mighty stream of tendency
    Uttering, for elevation of our thought,
    A clear sonorous voice, inaudible
    To the vast multitude.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 241-42.
  • The stream of tendency in which all things seek to fulfil the law of their being.
  • Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them.
  • The rise of every man he loved to trace,
    Up to the very pod O!
    And, in baboons, our parent race
    Was found by old Monboddo.
    Their A, B, C, he made them speak,
    And learn their qui, quæ, quod, O!
    Till Hebrew, Latin, Welsh, and Greek
    They knew as well's Monboddo!
    • Ballad in Blackwood's Magazine referring to the originator of the monkey theory, James Burnett (Lord Monboddo)
  • A fire-mist and a planet,
    A crystal and a cell,
    A jellyfish and a saurian,
    And caves where the cavemen dwell;
    Then a sense of law and beauty,
    And a face turned from the clod—
    Some call it Evolution,
    And others call it God.
  • There was an ape in the days that were earlier,
    Centuries passed and his hair became curlier;
    Centuries more gave a thumb to his wrist—
    Then he was a MAN and a Positivist.
  • Till o'er the wreck, emerging from the storm,
    Immortal NATURE lifts her changeful form:
    Mounts from her funeral pyre on wings of flame,
    And soars and shines, another and the same.
  • Said the little Eohippus,
    "I am going to be a horse,
    And on my middle fingernails
    To run my earthly course!
    * * *
    I'm going to have a flowing tail!
    I'm going to have a mane!
    I'm going to stand fourteen hands high
    On the Psychozoic plain!"
  • A mighty stream of tendency.
  • Or ever the knightly years were gone
    With the old world to the grave,
    I was a king in Babylon
    And you were a Christian Slave.
  • Children, behold the Chimpanzee;
    He sits on the ancestral tree
    From which we sprang in ages gone.
    I'm glad we sprang: had we held on,
    We might, for aught that I can say,
    Be horrid Chimpanzees to-day.
  • We seem to exist in a hazardous time,
    Driftin' along here through space;
    Nobody knows just when we begun,
    Or how fur we've gone in the race.
  • Pouter, tumbler, and fantail are from the same source;
    The racer and hack may be traced to one Horse;
    So men were developed from monkeys of course,
    Which nobody can deny.
  • I was at Euphorbus at the siege of Troy.
  • Equidem æterna constitutione crediderim nexuque causarum latentium et multo ante destinatarum suum quemque ordinem immutabili lege percurrere.
    • For my own part I am persuaded that everything advances by an unchangeable law through the eternal constitution and association of latent causes, which have been long before predestinated.
    • Quintus Curtius Rufus, De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Magni, V, 11, 10
  • When you were a tadpole and I was a fish, in the Palæozoic time
    And side by side in the sluggish tide, we sprawled in the ooze and slime.
    • Langdon Smith, A Toast to a Lady (Evolution); printed in The Scrap Book (April, 1906)
  • Civilization is a progress from an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity toward a definite, coherent heterogeneity.
    • Herbert Spencer, First Principles, Chapter XVI. Par. 138; also Chapter XVII. Par. 145. He summaries the same: From a relatively diffused, uniform, and indeterminate arrangement to a relatively concentrated, multiform, and determinate arrangement
  • This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called "natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life."
  • Out of the dusk a shadow,
    Then a spark;
    Out of the cloud a silence,
    Then a lark;
    Out of the heart a rapture,
    Then a pain;
    Out of the dead, cold ashes,
    Life again.
  • The Lord let the house of a brute to the soul of a man,
    And the man said, "Am I your debtor?"
    And the Lord—"Not yet: but make it as clean as you can,
    And then I will let you a better."
  • Is there evil but on earth? Or pain in every peopled sphere?
    Well, be grateful for the sounding watchword "Evolution" here.
  • Evolution ever climbing after some ideal good
    And Reversion ever dragging Evolution in the mud.

Popes on Evolution[edit]

  • The Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter.
  • New knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.
  • Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called "creationism" and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favour of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man?

Evolution and Randomness[edit]

There is a widespread misconception that biological evolution is a process of "total randomness" or "a blind accident of chance" or "mere luck". Scientists have carefully shown this misconception to be false, yet it persists. This collection illustrates both the misconception and attempts by scientists to correct it.
  • Mere chance ... alone would never account for so habitual and large an amount of difference as that between varieties of the same species and species of the same genus.
  • This belief, that Darwinian evolution is "random", is not merely false. It is the exact opposite of the truth. Chance is a minor ingredient in the Darwinian recipe, but the most important ingredient is cumulative selection which is quintessentially non-random.
  • Evolution no longer looks like a random process to me.
    • Michael Behe, Cleveland Plain Dealer, "Evolution of a clash", 20 August 2005
  • Most of us make one of two basic assumptions: we view the universe as a result of random events and life on this planet a matter of chance; or we assume an Intelligence beyond the universe who gives the universe order, and life meaning.
  • These odds [50,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1] are roughly the same as you could give to the idea of just one of our body's proteins having evolved randomly, by chance. ... A junkyard contains all the bits and pieces of a Boeing 747, dismembered and in disarray. A whirlwind happens to blow through the yard. What is the chance that after its passage a fully assembled 747, ready to fly, will be found standing there?
    • Fred Hoyle, The Intelligent Universe, 1983, pages 12, 19
  • This argument [that life is too improbable to have arisen by chance] comes up repeatedly: its latest manifestation is Hoyle's discussion of the likelihood of a wind blowing through a junkyard assembling a Boeing 707 [sic]. What is wrong with it? Essentially, it is that no biologist imagines that complex structures arise in a single step.
  • The cosmology of scientific materialism ... considers the cosmos an absurd accident, and life within it to be no more than another accident.
  • The secular picture ... proposes a purely physical and purposeless universe, inhabited by evolutionary accidents whose sense of self is probably illusory.
  • Look, you pinheads who attack me for this, you guys are just desperate. ... How did that little amoeba get here, crawl out there? How'd it do it? Come on. ... Okay, if we have existence, if we have life on earth, how come they don't have it on the other planets? Were we just lucky? Some meteor do this? Boom. Come on. You know, I see this stuff, it's desperate. As I've said many times, it takes more faith to not believe and to think that this was all luck - all this human body - the intricacies of it and everything else, all luck --- than it does to believe in a deity. There yah go.
  • The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
    • Bible, Ecclesiastes 9:10-12

See also[edit]

The following pages include extensive additional material on this subject:

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:
Look up evolution in Wiktionary, the free dictionary